Monday, December 13, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The same is true of books. What movies create with body language, props, and dialogue; a book creates with words. Think of your favorite book, and try to recall how you feel when reading it - do you look at the world through the same lens? Jane Austen, a classic, has a very individual way of writing. When I am in the middle of reading one of her books, anyone who speaks to me over that week or so will receive a Pride and Prejudice-esque response, in wording and manner if not content. If you want to tell me about your escapades in the latest bar spot at 4 AM, check what's laying by my bedside - its best to have that conversation with me when I'm reading something by David Sedaris rather than Mansfield Park.
What authors affect you? If you have a few minutes, try this exercise:
Pick a topic, say, going to the kitchen for a glass of milk when you can't sleep. Take this scenario, and try and write it in the style of several different authors - the quieter warmth with a bit of sarcasm like Austen, the clipped staccato of Hemingway.
Once you have tried a few different authors, try the most difficult one - write like yourself.
This will be a difficult exercise! Don't mimic the writer by using their words, but try and write as if you were indeed that writer. How do they differ from your own style?
If you aren't sure of your own style yet, then this exercise of impersonation will help you figure it out - what of those other writers do you see in your writer's voice? How do the writers differ from yourself?
Take a few moments and learn a bit about your own place as a writer, and remember: keep reading!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The answer my friends is scheduling. But what exactly does that entail?
By scheduling I mean break up your work into smaller and more manageable pieces. For example, you can't eat an entire steak in one bite! You have to cut it into smaller pieces and work your way towards finishing the entire piece. Start out tiny! Don't have a topic or unsure about what to write? Designate one night to thinking about what you're going to do or e-mail your teacher for clarification. After that stop. Take a break. Put down your pencil and begin something else. The next night (once you've had time to sleep on it/ time for your teacher to reply to your e-mail) start with your thesis; a single sentence! The next night, compile an outline integrating what you already know about your topic and your sources. Continue breaking your paper up into sections until you have the entire assignment written. And voila, in a week to two weeks you have your paper. Remember though, to win the battle against procrastination you have to fight with heavy armor: allotted time and breaks in between sections.
However, The reason that I, and probably most of us for that matter, put off a paper is because we are uninterested in the topic, hate to write, or have no idea where to start. Allotting yourself a designated time to work on your paper is half the battle. Make sure you are in a distraction free zone and sit down. Literally forcing yourself into a situation where there is nothing else to focus on forces you to do the one thing you are meant to get done. Just remember that the only thing you really need (besides a pencil, paper, sources, etc...) is scheduled time. As long as time is on your side, you can do anything.
Go confidently in your writing and best of luck!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Sometimes teachers are helpful and provide us students with a topic relating to something we've read or discussed in class. However, sometimes they want our creative juices to flow widely and just choose a topic out of thin air!
I have found choosing something to write about is the most difficult part of the writing process, partially because until that start point is identified, you cannot move forward.
Here are some tips for choosing a topic for your next big paper:
- Don't pick something to write about that you hate. It will make the entire process hard and miserable, and the paper won't reflect you in the best light.
- Think about everything you come in contact with on a daily basis. Pick up a copy of the Daily Athenaeum or read it online at http://www.thedaonline.com/. You might find something relevant to your life that would make an interesting paper.
- Go to cnn.com or another nationwide news outlet. A current event or social issue is creative and timely.
- If your paper requires research, make sure the topic you choose is 1. old enough to have research done about it and 2. that research is available and reliable. Check out the databases at the WVU Library's website at http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/ to make sure your topic has academic research.
Here are some tools to help you get started. Another great resource is coming to the Writing Center and having a tutor help you brainstorm. You can come to the Center at any point in the writing process, and we will help you get to the next step!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Sure, the five-paragraph essay format can be a helpful way to organize information, and many professors require that assignments follow such a format. And that’s okay. Do you ever feel stifled, though? Ever need a break from the same old structure? Or maybe you just want to breathe some life into your dusty old essay – the one you’ve been working on since three weeks ago, that you used to be jazzed about but that now is about as exciting as a wool sweater in July.
Don’t worry; there is hope in the world of creative writing. You don’t have to think of yourself as a creative writer to follow this advice. Here are some quick, easy exercises to stimulate your creative side, from Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.
• Fifty phrases that would make good titles for a short story.
• Fifty interesting settings for stories.
• A strange experience in a car.
• An unmerited award.
• A good deed that backfires.
• Verbs that have to do with the ocean.
• Nouns and verbs that have to do with your home landscape.
If you have a little more time on your hands, try some of Johnston’s longer exercises:
Spend ten minutes describing:
• Your boss’s shoes.
• Your boss’s hairstyle.
• The interior of your boss’s car.
• Why you should move someplace else.
• Why you’re living exactly where you should be living.
Spend twenty minutes writing a scene that involves:
• An airport baggage claim.
• A character who steals a pair of fingernail clippers.
• An e-mail sent to the wrong person.
• An adult child trying to convince his or her fifty-something mother not to adopt a baby.
In conclusion (relax, folks – that’s a joke), creative writing is good for you. The next time you are burned out on writing and need a break, do exactly what you don’t want to do: write some more. But write creatively! You’ll be much more prepared to tackle the last paragraph of your five-paragraph essay, and hopefully some of those creative juices will carry over into your everyday writing.
Johnston, Bret Anthony. Naming the World: and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. New York: Random House, 2007. Print.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Everyone has been guilty of the age-old practice of procrastination. This is especially true when stacking 4 or 5 other classes worth of workload onto your already hectic schedule. When placed under the very burdensome and stressful lifestyle that college brings to the plate, students generally focus on their short term writing assignments and otherwise neglect deadlines that are due weeks in advance. In actuality, if a professor gives weeks to complete an assignment, it isn’t because he or she is being courteous, it’s because the assignment should be given sufficient time for research, revisions, etc.!
So, you’ve finally decided to plan ahead and use the next week to your full advantage. What steps should you take when completing a writing assignment due one week from today? Many students use very different methods when planning out their assignments, personal preference is essential. However, taking myself into consideration, I grab my assignment prompt, find a computer, and type away. Think of it as capturing a stream of consciousness and placing it onto paper. Type whatever comes to mind, ignoring grammatical errors (for now). Obviously this technique will produce a rather rough sketch, but the point of this exercise is to get the majority of your content onto paper.
Writing an argumentative research paper on foreign policy? Without hesitating, picture how you want to form your argument. What is your claim? Do you have supporting evidence for that claim? Go ahead and type whatever comes to mind. Once you get a rough idea of the logical structure of your argument, a natural organization will begin to form. Self dialogue may even ensue: “Ok, this is my stated claim. I’ll place this at the end of my introduction…and the rest of these statements will each act as a premise supporting my thesis….I better go ahead and make each premise a topic sentence for the remaining paragraphs within the body of my paper.” Once you get the content down and recorded, you will have more than enough time for sentence refinement and organizational restructuring. This strategy is mainly advantageous when students have a rough time starting their paper.
I have one last suggestion that is not often taken into consideration. Being that you have a week to prepare, I cannot more than stress the importance of meeting with your professor during his or her scheduled office hours. Make an appointment if you have to. Professors enjoy working with students who take a very active role in their assignments. This is an important step for more than one reason alone. It would be wise to verify that you are following the writing prompt accurately, your professor may offer to check over your rough draft, or even make suggestions you hadn’t even considered!
While doing your research, write down each summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, and citation (as it will appear on the Works Cited Page, i.e. in MLA, APA, or other format) on separate note cards. It helps to color-code (i.e. black ink for summary, blue for paraphrase, green for direct quote, and red for citation) and/or to label at the top of the card what sort of material it is (i.e. “Summary,” “Direct Quote,” etc). Be sure to put the page number—if there is one—on which you found the information at the bottom of the note card; this will save you time with your in-text citations.
Label each card with a source number. For example, if you have a summary and direct quotation from a certain textbook, label the summary card, direct quotation card, and citation card with number 1 in one of the top corners. For all material from the next source, label with number 2, for all material from the next source, label with number 3, etc.
Put your citation cards in the order that it will appear on your Works Cited page, and simply type it out. Your Works Cited page is done!
Next, it’s time to organize the information you found. Look at all of your materials: summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations. Group cards of similar topics together; these will go together in paragraphs of your essay. Decide in what order to present these topics, and put the groups of cards in that order.
Now, all you have to do is fill in with your own writing! You already have the information from your sources in the correct order, and since they’re numbered by source, in-text citation will be fast and easy.
I hope this technique helps you as much as it’s helped me! Good luck with your research papers!
Monday, October 11, 2010
The workshop will begin with a short presentation from Dr. Catherine Gouge, a professor of Professional Writing and Editing in the English department and 2009 winner of the West Virginia University Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award. Her presentation will be followed by a workshop where students can generate ideas and get feedback on current personal statement drafts. Students are encouraged to come regardless of where they are in the drafting process, which includes brainstorming. The workshop is open for all WVU students applying to any program that requires a personal statement.
Because space is limited, interested students are encouraged to contact Ben Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Have you ever began your introductory paragraph with a question? Asking a question at the beginning of a paper that relates to your topic of discussion will make the reader feel involved in your piece. These questions could be in the form of a "yes" or "no" answer, or they could be more in depth yielding a longer response. Try to stay away from questions that deal with opinion if you are writing an analytical or professional paper, but rather a question that makes the reader active and interested in your ideas.
"Writing is thinking on paper," William Zinsser, an American writer, once said. When you are trying to think about how to begin your essay, try using a meaningful quotation. If your quotation relates to your argument or discussion that will follow, you are successfully introducing readers to this topic and giving them a glimpse of what is ahead. These quotes can be shocking, funny or of any tone, but just be sure to cite your source as well.
As I did in the beginning of the blog post, using a scenario can be an amusing manner in which to begin an assignment. Scenarios could be personal or general depending on the genre of paper being written but should have significance dealing with the rest of your paper. If you decide to use a scenario, keep it brief and down to a sentence or two so that your reader does not get tired of reading.
No matter what type of introduction you plan on using, there are three points to remember. First, always describe to your reader what you will be discussing. Second, be concise but compelling to gain interest. And lastly, AVOID DEFINITIONS AT ALL COSTS. Dictionary introductions can be very boring, think of a more creative way to start. So the next time you ask yourself, "Where do I even start?" remember these helpful hints and you will be well on your way.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Let’s start out with MLA format for the most commonly used resources.
BOOK WITH ONE AUTHOR:
Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Place of Publication, Year of Publication.
Medium of Publication.
Weinstien, Bruce. The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, And More. New York:
Harper Collins, 1999. Print.
Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal. Volume. Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.
C.N., Heaney, S.T.C. Weatherup, and I.G. Wilson. “The Effect of Ice-Cream-Scoop Water on the Hygiene of Ice Cream.”
Epidemiology and Infection 119.1 (1997): 35-40. Print.
Editor, Author, or Compiler Name (if available.) Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with
the site (sponsor of publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.
Dreyer’s Ice Cream. Nestlé Corporation, 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2010.
NEWSPAPER OR MAGAZINE:
Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper. Day Month Year: pages. Medium of publication.
Lowman, Stephan. “Ever Wondered Why Ice Cream Melts?” Washington Post. 29 June 2009: C10. Print.
Last Name, First Name. Personal Interview. Date Month Abbreviated Year.
Erekaife, Godwin. Personal Interview, 14 Apr. 2010.
*** Few things to remember:
1. Always alphabetize authors last names when citing multiple authors
2. Always alphabetize your cites by the first authors last names
3. Follow the format period for period, comma to comma and you’re good to go!
Now let’s move on to some APA Formats which most commonly uses journal articles. These are most commonly used in the medical field, or specific science research, because they hold some of the most up-to-date information, which is vital in any research paper of proposition.
JOURNAL ARTICLE WITH ONE AUTHOR:
Last Name, First and Middle initials (if given). Publication Year. Full Article Title (only the first word is capitalized). Journal
Name. Journal Volume, Article Page Numbers.
Gladders, P.J. (1965). Dangerous ice-cream vans. The British Medical Journal, 1, 129.
**** It is the same format for when you are using multiple authors, just remember to alphabetize their LAST names when listing.
Hope this helps you all get those Works Cited pages done! Remember that if you need any help just come down to the Writing Center where a tutor can assist you! Good Luck!
1) Bring all relevant material.
While it’s pretty obvious that you should bring the most recent draft of your paper, it’s a really good idea to bring any earlier drafts too, especially ones with your teacher’s comments. Since we are here to help you, it’s good to give your tutor an idea of the things that your teacher looks for in a good paper. In addition, bringing the prompt can be of further assistance. Even if you know what the prompt is about, the tutor probably will not, and it can show exactly how a teacher expects to grade the paper.
2) Think of any questions or concerns about the paper.
When you first sit down for a session, one of the first things that your tutor will ask is if you want to work on anything specific within your paper. Though it’s fine to come in for some general help, speaking up about a special concern can give your tutor directions on where to take the session. Higher order concerns like organization, forming your thesis statement, and working on the introduction, body or conclusion should be spoken about first. Then, lower order concerns like citation and grammar can take the focus. Also, speaking up helps spawn more conversation about the paper, allowing you to make the most of your session.
3) Don’t be nervous about coming in and sharing your work.
Even though everyone can feel a little uneasy about putting their words out there for another person to see, you shouldn’t be scared about coming in for a tutoring session. All of our tutors have been in your shoes before and all of us are students just like you. We have even been to the Writing Center to be tutored ourselves. No one is here to judge your work; we’re here to help you improve your own work.
4) Walk in for a session or call ahead for an appointment.
Anytime during our hours is the perfect time for a walk-in session. Simply, come in and as long as a tutor is available we can start working right then. However, if you have a busy schedule and limited free time, making a session in advance is probably a good plan. Calling in a day or two in advance to make your appointment allows an ample amount of time.
5) Keep in mind our busiest time of the semester: dead week.
Because we all like to use the anxiety of a deadline for motivation, our tutors get booked up full of sessions very quickly during the last week of classes, and sadly, some students hoping for a walk-in session may get turned away. To ensure you get an appointment, it’s always a great idea to call in a day or two in advance to secure a time. Also, although it goes without saying, procrastinating is never the best way to polish a paper, so if you want to finish your portfolio, the best plan would be to come in a few weeks before the end of the semester.
Hopefully these hints have cleared some of the concerns and anxiety you may have had about the Writing Center. Now, you can come prepared to make the most of your first hour of tutoring.
Friday, October 1, 2010
- Currently enrolled as a WVU undergraduate
- Ability to work with students from diverse backgrounds
- Strong oral and written communication skills
- Completion of English 101 and 102 (or their equivalent) with an A. If you are presently enrolled in English 102 or 103 you are welcome to apply.
Applications are available in the Writing Center (located in G02 Colson Hall), or you may request that an application be e-mailed to you (Nathalie.Singh-Corcoran@mail.wvu.edu).
Please e-mail completed applications to Dr. Singh-Corcoran (Word, RTF, or PDF) or submit application materials by October 25th to:
Coordinator, WVU Writing Center
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Each year, right around mid September, I receive a few emails from students asking for letters of recommendation. While I would like to help all of my past and present students, my answer isn’t always “yes.” Sometimes, I don’t know a student well enough to write a really strong recommendation. Sometimes, I receive a request just before a student’s deadline for applications, and I don’t have enough time to put something thoughtful together. Most of the time, I am able to honor a student’s request, but I almost always need more information so that I can write a letter that positions the student as an excellent candidate for graduate or professional study.
The above should offer some indication that acquiring a letter of recommendation is more complex than simply sending a quick email requesting one. Given that the process is more complicated, you might now be wondering how you’d go about getting a strong letter, so I’ve put together a list of quick tips that will help you navigate the process when it comes time for you to apply to graduate or professional school.
1) Plan to ask someone who can really say something about you. If you want a recommendation of substance, you’ll want your letter writer to know something about you -- like your interests, your academic strengths, and your interpersonal skills. It may not make a whole lot of sense for you to request a letter from a professor or an instructor who you didn’t interact with beyond a classroom lecture.
2) Once you’ve identified someone, send a polite note. Reconsider opening lines like “Hey” or “Sup” (as in “Sup Dr. Singh-Corcoran”). Choose instead a polite salutation (e.g. “Dear Dr. Singh-Corcoran:”).
3) Tell the recommender what programs you are applying for, your current areas of interest, and point to areas that you’d like your recommender to emphasize. All of this information will help your letter writer tailor her text. You want your recommender to address skills and abilities that will speak to your desired grad/professional program. For example, when a writing center tutor asks me for a letter, I usually focus on her interpersonal skills--especially if she is applying for a graduate teaching position. In my letter, I might address the degree to which the tutor can explain complicated concepts, engage in dialogue, ask thoughtful questions that advance knowledge, and the degree to which she is reflective of her own practices. These same skills and abilities often translate to good teaching.
4) Use paragraphs in the body of your email. Your email needs to be readable; a long chunk of text is difficult to digest. Consider using bullets or numbers if you want information to stand out.
5) Understand that they might say “no.” Don’t take it personally. Even after you’ve completed steps 1-4, it’s possible that someone might refuse your request for a letter. People say no for many reasons. A faculty member or instructor might feel like they can’t speak well enough to your strengths (See tip #1). He or she might also be really busy and not have enough time. When someone doesn't write you a letter of rec, it does not mean they don’t like you, respect you, or think you aren’t capable of doing graduate-level work.
6) Give the recommender enough lead time. It’s pretty standard to give a letter writer a one month deadline. Again, people need time to reflect, time to write thoughtful, meaningful, and thorough letters.
7) Tell your recommenders where they need to send your letters or how they need to submit them. Provide addresses if they need to send letters directly to programs. It’s common and considerate to provide postage. Provide weblinks and file format (e.g. PDF, Word, RTF) if they need to submit letters electronically. Make it easy on them.
8) List Due dates. Let your recommenders know when your applications are due and/or when the letters are due. Sometimes the dates overlap; sometimes applications are due before letters.
9) Send gentle reminders after a reasonable time. It’s ok to send a quick note reminding your professors and instructors that due dates are approaching. Just remember to be reasonable and polite.
10) Send a thank you note. While not required, it’s certainly nice to receive a thank you note. A note is just one way to show your appreciation for the time and care someone took to write you a letter. It’s also a good way to start networking.
11) Share your success. When the acceptance letters come pouring in, share the good news with your letter writers. They’ll be eager to hear from you!
Monday, September 13, 2010
The following post should provide a brief overview of some commonly agreed upon steps in the writing process so that emerging writers can better understand process-centered writing. For more experienced writers this post can function as encouragement to revisit some of the steps that might have been abandoned over the years.
The very first step, and one that may seem obvious, is to acquaint yourself with the expectations or goals of your writing project.
Some genres of writing, such as personal journals, are incredibly flexible because they have a narrow audience and the freedom to redefine purpose as needed. Most writing, however, needs to strike a balance between personal goals and larger, external expectations. As a student it is important to review the assignment prompt. While the whole document is important, pay special attention to the grading criteria as this section tends to distill the specific aims of the given assignment. If the language seems vague or confusing, attempt to clarify the assignment expectations with your instructor.
The next step is to generate ideas for your writing. This can be done in a variety of ways, and generally, the best result is produced by using a combination of different methods. You might begin by reading examples of other writers who are working in similar genres, who have completed similar assignments, or who have written on a topic similar to your own. Alternately, you might begin by brainstorming and writing everything you know about your subject and the assignment. Brainstorming can work to generate great search terms to find readings, or, alternately, reading before brainstorming can generate more complex ideas. Other early writing strategies include free writing, mapping, and outlining.
Outlining is the step that many take to see how the ideas they have generated can be organized. Refer back to your assignment prompt to get a sense for the length and scope of the assignment. Remember that you are building the puzzle at the same time that you are putting it together. This means that you shouldn't be surprised if you end up with extra pieces or need to create a few more later in the process. Save the ideas you don't use, and repeat a mini-version of the generative stage of the process to get additional ideas.
When you begin the drafting process try to leave yourself enough time so that you can take the work in parts. Hemingway once said, "I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was till something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it." He did this by never stopping at the end of a page or an idea. This prevents writers from staring blankly at a blank page. Again, this does require time management, unless you have a schedule like Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, but the result is that writing becomes infinitely less intimidating because every time you sit down you already have a sense of where you left off and where you are going.
As you write, experiment with what allows you to produce the best product. If you find that silence is louder than music, experiment with classical, jazz, or electronic music to set a tempo for your writing without the potential distraction of lyrics. If these genres sound unappealing, try a genre of music you enjoy, but with lyrics in a language you don't speak. This can work in much the same way as instrumental music, and all these options can be explored for free using Pandora.
Writing can be an aversive activity for many people. As a result, writing tasks are often put off until the last minute, and this actually works to reinforce initial attitudes toward writing. I can't tell you how many self-proclaimed "bad" writers I've met who, upon further inspection, always write at the end of the day. Before you settle upon a negative view of your writing, try to schedule writing at different times of the day in order to figure out what time works best for you.
Finally, even those who love writing acknowledge it is often grueling work. One thing to be aware of is fatigue. For example, staring too long at a computer screen can begin to hurt your eyes, and this, in turn, can cause headaches. Try building short breaks into your writing process. Experiment with lengths of time you dedicate to writing and breaks. Most business guidelines recommend a ten to fifteen minute break every hour. Use this time to stand, stretch, get coffee/tea/water, and check your e-mail or text a friend. Avoid any activity that allows you to become passive (e.g. online videos or television) because, after your brain shuts down, it can take an additional ten or fifteen minutes for it to reboot.
Once you have a draft, the next step is to get a second opinion. While peer review is built into many writing classes, remember that Writing Center tutors are available to work with you at any stage of the writing process. Regardless of where you get feedback on your writing, try to stay active in the process. Depending on the situation, this could be as simple as reading along with someone else and asking questions or, as you look at a peer's draft, taking notes on tricks you see in their writing that you want to use in your own work.
Rewriting should be treated with the same seriousness that you give the initial stages of writing. Try breaking the text into pieces by cutting and pasting sections (a sentence, a paragraph, a page) into a new document. What does this method allow you to notice that looking at the full document does not? What are the limitations of this approach? Having hung on to your pre-writing notes, try using a program like Wordle. If the biggest words in the word cloud match the words on your notes you can be fairly certain you have stuck to your original plan. If you find a discrepancy it might be an indication to revisit your paper to see if you are really accomplishing what you had hoped to accomplish.
Continue to alternate between getting fresh eyes on your paper and rewriting for as long as you can. When it gets close to the date you have to submit your work, reread the post on proofreading. If you are reading this post in order to avoid doing work, you may want to take the extra couple minutes to reread the post on procrastination. Finally, if you are a WVU student and you'd like to work with a tutor, give us a call at 304-293-5788 to set up an appointment.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
To be sure, proofreading can be a daunting task. We often haven’t allotted enough time to allow for careful proofreading and we may feel so burned out with a paper that we would rather eat the essay than read it again. When coupled with the old mantra that “it’s the content that matters most,” we may even convince ourselves to focus only on the “big picture” issues.
Proofreading, though, is an important step of the writing process that helps to make our ideas clear for our readers. Polished writing also makes a good first impression on a reader, helping to ensure that they will follow the essay through to the end (which is, of course, the ultimate goal of any piece of writing).
So, how can we become better proofreaders? Below are some (hopefully) helpful strategies to consider when reaching the proofreading stage of revision:
1. Take a break from an essay: This strategy requires you to start an essay earlier rather than later which is always a good idea. Often writers who take even a 24 hour break from their work come back to the text with a renewed focus and the seemingly uncanny ability to spot errors that were missed previously.
2. Read your paper out loud: Reading a paper aloud to yourself, a friend, or even an enemy can really help to hear proofreading errors. This may be particularly helpful for auditory learners.
3. Work from a paper copy of your essay: Many students find that they are more likely to spot errors and make necessary proofreading revision when working from a hard copy of an essay rather than making corrections on the computer. The downside: trees hate this.
4. Make a note of common proofreading errors: If you notice and document your tendency to make proofreading errors (i.e. tense shifts, fragments, etc.), you’re more likely to avoid these errors in the future. This means less time proofreading/revising and more time for (insert favorite activity here)
For more proofreading tips check out the University of North Carolina’s helpful webpage: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/proofread.html
Extra Credit to those who can spot the 3 proofreading errors in this post.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
At the beginning of the semester, it can be difficult to re-adapt from “summer mode” to “academic mode.” We all know that it can be difficult working up the motivation to write, particularly if it’s mandatory writing. Whether your distraction is brainwashing reality television shows, the start of college football season, or that new package of Halloween Oreos that you promised yourself you wouldn’t eat in one sitting, distractions happen.
Usually, I’m pretty good at motivating myself to write. However, sometimes I’m just not in the mood. What can you do? Well, there are any number of helpful things you can do, but the main thing is to do something enjoyable that doesn’t take a lot of time. I have three defaults:
1. Playing MarioKart: Yes, I know. MarioKart isn’t nearly as cool as it was 10 years ago, but it is an activity that I can do for a short period of time. Working on a tough paper can be intellectually taxing, and taking short breaks can be rejuvenating. However, if you take a break from writing a paper about macroeconomics to read a book about the military strategies of France in 1880, you’re not really letting your mind take a break. Doing something that doesn’t take much effort and can be completed quickly is a nice way to take a break.
2. Baking: I love to bake. The more difficult my writing assignment is, the crazier I get with my baking. Writing a 1-page response paper? Cookies. Writing a 20-page research paper? Cheesecake. Regardless of whether you like baking or not, the same principles apply. Doing something that you love, that you think is super fun, can help supplement a day where you know you need to do a lot of work. When you reflect back on your day, you can be proud that you did something fun but were still able to get something accomplished.
3. Cleaning: All right, I admit that this is one is kind of cheating. I don’t necessarily like cleaning, but I do like the way my apartment looks when it’s clean. Also, doing something like cleaning is productive. After I clean, I feel accomplished and am more ready to accomplish something else that is productive.
With any of these activities, spending a short period time concentrating on one thing (playing 20 minutes of a video game or cleaning out the refrigerator) is way more beneficial than tackling another huge project. Doing something enjoyable prior to writing or taking small breaks while writing can definitely help to aid the writing process, especially during those first few transitional weeks of the semester.
For an additional perspective on beating procrastination and getting motivated, check out this handout created by the University of North Carolina: "Procrastination." It's a great source for identifying your reasons for procrastinating and overcoming those temptations.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
We look forward to seeing you at the Writing Center!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Check John out here:
and, if you'd like to hear any of his podcasts, visit
Friday, May 7, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
For example, for some time now I've been meaning to read The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, but it seems like every time I look there is a new edition that has just been released. One could argue that this semi-episodic release form humanizes writing by further endowing the book with flexible qualities. It takes the static relationship and makes it a dialogue between readers and writers. Still, time and money are limited. If each edition is largely the same information, then what is the incentive for picking up the latest edition?
Well, in answer to that question I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the fourth and fifth editions of The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors by Leigh Ryan and Lisa Zimmerelli. While I found much of information to be the same, there were some notable differences, both good and bad.
In the fifth edition some minor changes in "The Writing Center as Workplace" emphasize the "personal" in terms of how the tutor (to borrow from Burke) catches the tenor of writing center theory and practice. While tutors are still encouraged to learn about writing center history and to keep a personal journal, the fifth edition has opted out of proposing the option of maintaining a group journal. Still, this modification is relatively minor considering that both editions encourage tutors to participate in discussion forums, and we can see how the fourth edition pointed toward this option being eventually merged by acknowledging that much of what was being suggested, if done digitally, would be very similar to the use of an in-house writing center blog.
Other minor changes include reorganizing the information. For example, in the "Tutoring in a Digital Age" section (the new version of "Tutoring and Technology"), you will no longer find a section on face-to-face computer tutoring listed, as the emphasis of this section seems to have shifted toward online tutoring. Don't panic. If you jump over to section four ("Helping Writers throughout the Writing Process") you will see that there is a sub-section titled "Working with a Text at a Computer," and here you will find that much of the fourth edition content has been identically transferred in a numbered layout.
In terms of modifications, one thing I found interesting was the revision of language in the sub-section now titled "The Second Language Writer" (previously "The Writer for Whom English Is a Second Language"). I found the additions of "The Learner" hat for tutors to try on and exercises for the digital tutoring section to be useful expansions.
I was also pleased that the authors have kept the appendix information on presenting at a conference and tutoring or editing outside of the writing center, as these sections help tutors to recognize that the skills they gain through their work have value outside of the center and, with regards to the conference, invite them to contribute to the scholarly work that is being done in the field. For this reason, because I appreciate any attempt to bridge the gap between tutors seeing what they are doing as a job and recognizing that there is a possibility for similar work to be a career, I was disappointed that the annotated bibliography was not kept for the fifth edition.
So, while this review is in no way comprehensive, both guides are incredibly helpful for their breadth, and tutors, writing center directors, and anyone who has a stake more generally in composition will want to pay close attention to the newest edition of The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Here, you'll find profiles our new tutors, answers to some Frequently Asked Questions, end-of-semester tips, and much more. As you read through, please be sure to click on the links to our podcasts and other Web content (including, for those of you interested in infinite recursion, this blog!).
In order to navigate the prezi, simply click the arrow keys at the bottom. We recommend viewing in fullscreen mode by clicking "More" and then "Fullscreen."
Enjoy, and let us know what you think!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The resulting conversations, and the diversity of our choices, made us think we should share our compiled list as a possible reference for those of you who are unsure of what to pick up next.
It is also a way for to find out a little more about all of us here at the Writing Center.
Do you think you can guess who would have picked Freakonomics as one of their top five? What about the Bible? And just how many tutors love 1984?
Do you feel confident you know who has Bill O'Reilly as a top five author? What about the tutor who loves Tobias Wolff? Douglas Adams? Ayn Rand? Kurt Vonnegut? Rita Mae Brown? Jane Austen?
Curious? Check out our list by following the link below. It will take you to our resources page on our website and if you scroll to the bottom you will see "The Official Writing Center Reading List" ready to be downloaded. Have fun reading the list and the books we recommend.
Click here to check out the list.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
My rules for writing are:
1. No internet while writing. Facebook is way too tempting!
2. Have a relaxing spot to sit in, but don't let it be in front of the TV.
3. When writing fiction, remember that the most important part of your story is the characters. Even if you have the best plot or the best writing, it won't matter if the characters are flat and lifeless.
4. When writing any kind of non-fiction, remember who your audience is. Your tone of voice is everything.
5. Edit after you've finished your first draft. Then read it aloud, edit, have someone else read it, edit again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Every sentence, no matter how good, can still be written better.
6. Write in a journal, everyday if you can. You might find yourself writing things you never thought you would, with beautiful phrasing.
7. Write when you feel inspired, and write even when you don't.
9. Write some more.
10. I'm being serious! Writing well is the most important skill you will ever learn. Even if you don't think you're going to use it often. Having the ability to write well gives you the ability to speak coherently and professionally and to know how to read other people when in conversation (re: audience).
Do you agree or disagree with my or any other of the authors rules? What are your rules for writing?
Monday, February 22, 2010
First, before anything else, I have found that it is important to change into comfortable clothes (sweat pants, hoodies, and fuzzy slippers are my favorites). It also helps to have a certain place reserved for writing. This will help with getting into the right mindset before starting. Now the actual writing begins. Depending on the nature of the paper the next step can be one of two things. If the paper is supposed to be specific or persuasive I usually will make an outline or web diagram. This helps to strategically organize my thoughts and points. On the other hand, if I'm telling a story, for example, I prefer to simply start writing without any structure to get all my ideas down on paper. The next step is to organize my ideas into paragraph form. Usually the first draft will be the result of this step. At this point I like to leave the paper for a couple days. When I return I like to have someone else look at my work to give a fresh perspective. Next, it is my turn to proofread the paper and make sure all my ideas are presented thoroughly. This step could take time and include multiple drafts and/or more time putting the paper aside. Finally, it is time for the last draft. Once I am confident and comfortable with the piece I will write one final copy and I'm done!
This was just a brief overview of my personal writing process but each writer may have their own unique steps and different preferences. The important thing is to find whatever works best and to make it a habit to use the process for each piece of work. By doing so writing will transform from daunting to delightful. :)
Tutor Talk Episode #5 - Personal Statements (feat. Dr. Brian Ballentine) is now available for FREE download on the iTunes store. Click here to download this episode from iTunes.
If you don't have iTunes visit the official WVU Writing Center website to stream all 4 podcasts from your web browser.
In this episode, Graduate Assistant Ben Myers interviews WVU's own Dr. Brian Ballentine, on how to write the best personal statement for graduate school applications. Dr. Ballentine offers his insights on how to write a successful personal statement.
We recommend downloading Tutor Talk through iTunes via this link. iTunes is a free download to all users both Mac and PC. If you don't have iTunes, stream any of the podcasts from your browser by clicking HERE.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Aquarius January 20 - February 18
You've never liked staying within the norm, and this month is no exception! Take some time to write in a style you never have before, whether it be slam poetry, play writing, or something you've completely made up! Use your large circle of friends to bounce off ideas and get feedback.
Pisces February 19 - March 20
This month you will avoid writing the every day romantic stuff found on cards; rather, you will write something magical and fantastic - it's your time to shine.
Aries March 21 - April 19
With your creative energy, drive for excellence and penchant for risk-taking, this is the month to get yourself working on that project you've had on the back-burner! You'll have some stabilizing forces coming your way, so use them to actually finish a written piece!
Taurus April 20 - May 20
The coming month will be trying, but you will overcome. Your deep knowledge is complimented by your ability to ask for help from those around you. Don't forget that as you head into your next task, the wall is only intimidating as long as we imagine it is not made up of many, manageable blocks.
Gemini May 21 - June 20
Communication is your favorite thing, and this month that's no exception. This is a good time to write something that speaks to people, but try not to get too serious. Your playful sarcasm is likely to go right over their heads!
Cancer June 21 - July 22
Your home is your sanctuary, no matter where you believe home to be. Host a "potluck" writing party there, with your closest friends bringing inspirational items from their childhood. Make it warm and inviting, or else you are likely to retreat into your shell!
Leo July 23 - August 22
Mighty Lion, it's your time to roar. Write it out, let it out. This is your month to be the center of the stage and the page!
Virgo August 23 -September 22
Many people see you as a stingy perfectionist, but you know that's not (completely) true! This month is a great for showing others how creative you really are by writing something different. Then use your eye for details to revise to make a fantastic piece.
Libra September 23 -October 22
Your desire to be around others is amplified this month, so use that motivation to collaborate with another writer on something truly spectacular. You can harmonize and balance like no other, so the typical problems you would face with collaborating are no where to be seen.
Scorpio October 23 - November 21
Your writing is dark and mysterious, but this month you may also find yourself writing an impetuous note. The consequences could be dire. Think before you act, or better yet, write that note, but come back to it once you've had time to think things through.
Sagittarius November 22 -December 21
You are the best around. Always be mindful of the fact that nothing will ever keep you down. Take this month to gather your strength, study a writer you wish to emulate, practice your basic writing skills, and focus on the tasks ahead. When you are ready, breathe deep, sweep the leg, and take your next writing task down. You are the best around.
Capricorn December 22 -January 19
Although you may feel like everything you write has to have a purpose that will get you somewhere, this month will put you in a position where you have no "work" writing left to do! Use this chance to create a piece solely for you and not for social climbing. If you have difficulty, just remember that writing of any kind will only make you better at it when you really do have work.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
From Lauren O'Connor, WVU Writing Center Tutor 2007-2009
Anyone who knows me, realizes that I come up with these slight off the wall ideas and well, try to execute them. As I said, Dream BIG or go home! Errr, we’ll, I’ll be stopping by home. Ha!
What the heck am I doing…?
Mission- To raise $100,000 for animal shelters, dog rescues and Great Dane rescues
Where- Begin in NJ, zig zagging across the country with the trip ending in California-ish area
When- March 1st
How- The kindness of family, friends, sponsors and strangers
Who- Harley. Blue Merle Great Dane. Roadie of amazingness. Age 6.
Why- To raise awareness for the special needs and life changing experiences of sharing the love of Great Danes. They rawk my socks!
Here are a few ways you can help:
1. Donate (click the button- it’s on the site!)
2. Host/organize a Pit Stop (just one- not the whole trip!)- or attend one!
a. What is that you ask? Fundraising. It’s a stop along the way that can be a happy hour (where we get the door or donations), a dinner, a bake sale, etc. The whole point is to raise money and I need people on the ground!
b. Get creative people!
3. Stalk us
b. Check the site daily, please: www.drivingfordanes.com
c. You’ll be able to link to Google Latitude and actually SEE where we are on the road. Cool, eh?
4. SPREAD THE WORD
a. This is SOOOOOO important- you NEVER realize who can help, who has an idea or who knows someone
b. Forward this email, forward the site, talk about how crazy I am- do it! I dare you.
c. Post it on YOUR blog, twitter, email directory, moms postcard, take a sticker (or 5!) pass it on, etc.
a. Sounds stupid to say, but it’s helpful.
b. Nice people rawk!
We’re trying to get on local and NATIONAL TV and Radio. So far we’ve spoken to some peeps at the Today show, ABC, NBC, etc. Can you help? Great!
I can’t wait to see ALL of you along the way!
Lauren and Harley