Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Most conventions in English have exceptions. One such convention is a phrase you’ve probably heard in some English class, whether it was in middle school or college. “Write the way you speak.” When we’re talking, we never consciously decide, “Oh, I’ll put a period here. This is where the paragraph of this speech ends. I need a comma here.” But in writing, we do need to consciously decide where to put punctuation marks.

Because the reader is reading your words on a page, and not listening to them, they don’t know where you’re pausing or taking a breath. The periods and commas stand in place of these breaks and help them navigate your words. You might have a long sentence that you believe is necessary to keep together because the ideas all depend on each other. However, when writing, it helps to break up those ideas a little more and use transition words to show the relationship between the now separate sentences. 

“I believe this candidate is the best for this position because she likes chocolate. (Furthermore, Also, or Moreover), she helps those in need by listening to them and cares for animals in her free time.” 

You could combine all of those three traits into one sentence, but it might be a lot for your reader to keep up with. If your reader is your professor, you definitely want to make their job as easy as possible, because then you’ll get a better grade for helping them through their reading experience.

Although long sentences have a place in your writing, when sentences get too long, your reader can get lost. We have the ability to make infinitely long sentences with more and more clauses. But in both speaking and writing, we usually don’t. The purpose of writing is to communicate ideas, and short sentences seem to help us communicate better. So when you’re writing, try to distance yourself from your writing. Is this sentence long? Is there a way someone could get lost or confused? If you don’t want your reader to need to put in a lot of effort to understand your point, it’s best to just break it up just in case.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

5 Simple Steps for Achieving Your Goal

It’s February now and if you’re anything like me, all those New Year resolutions you made with the best of intentions have been long forgotten. At this point in the semester, you probably have a decent idea of where you stand in your various classes. Every semester there’s one class that takes much more effort than your other classes. If you’re worried about your grade in any class, it’s important to remember that it’s not too late for you to turn things around! Just follow these 5 simple steps and you’ll likely end up with a better outcome than you expect!

Step 1: Recommit yourself
Think of how hopeful you felt at the beginning of the new year. There’s still plenty of time to accomplish your goals. Recapture your motivation by visualizing yourself achieving your goal. I know it sounds cheesy, but picturing an “A” on your next paper or exam can do wonders for your confidence and enthusiasm!

Step 2: Start making things happen
Make an appointment with your professor during his or her office hours. Professors are busy people. That’s why it’s important to make an appointment so that they can fully dedicate that time to speaking with you. Furthermore, by making to effort to schedule an appointment, you’re demonstrating to your professor that you are invested in the class. Make sure you show up early or on time. Come prepared with questions you have or concerns you need to voice. You can even ask for extra credit opportunities, but remember, extra credit is not something given often. Even if you don’t get the chance for extra credit, your professor will likely remember that you showed initiative and were invested in the class when it comes time to record grades.

Step 3: Get organized
Organization often helps you complete a task with greater ease, so I recommend using a planner if you don’t already have one; you can purchase one for a minimal cost at several stores or download a free application on your smart phone. Once you know what you have to do and when you have to do it, accomplishing tasks becomes manageable.

Step 4: Get to work!
This is the most important part of the process! Remember how you showed your teacher that you care about the class in Step 2? It’s easy to have good intentions but now you have to prove to your teacher that you can follow through. If you used to spend an hour reading for class, set aside two hours. Really engage with the text by reading, rereading, and taking notes. If it used to take you two days to write a paper for the class, give yourself four days. Go through your normal writing process then go back to your paper and reread it with the mindset that you don’t know anything about the topic. By using this perspective, you can see where you might need to add information, explain something more clearly, or even delete superfluous information. It may seem like you have to do a lot more work but it will pay off if you truly apply yourself.

Step 5: Seek help if you need it
If you took more time with your work but got an undesirable outcome nonetheless, it might be time to get some outside help. WVU provides FREE tutoring through the Academic Resource Centers, as well as through department-sponsored programs, such as the Chemistry Learning Center, Engineering Learning Center, Math Learning Center, WVU Libraries Term Paper Clinic, and of course, the Writing Center. Sometimes, all you need is a different perspective, which is why getting tutored can be extremely helpful. Also, when the help is free, it is seems sort of silly not to take advantage of such a great opportunity!

Now that you know my secrets for achieving a goal, use them! It’s never too late to start, so really apply yourself and you’ll accomplish great things!