WHY READING OVER THE SUMMER MATTERS

If you are reading this post in May of 2018, you’ve no doubt seen the Jimmy Kimmel video “Can You Name A Book?” in which people can’t name a book.

This got us to thinking…

Not only can we name actual books here in the Writing Center, but we have a few to recommend for your summer reading.  We’ve listed those at the bottom of this article.

Then, this got us to thinking even further…

WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING THIS SUMMER?  Use the comment section below to chime in.  (And if you don’t have a reading plan for the summer, perhaps our lists at the bottom, and the following blog post from Jesse Britt may encourage you to do so.  He talks about reading and a lot of other other valuable ideas you can consider over the summer.)

 

Summer and School Skills

by Jesse Britt

 

I know a title with the words “summer” and “school” sounds as if I’m talking to nerds. Whenever my teachers or parents told me I needed to “keep up my skills through the summer” back in elementary school, they meant “practice some math problems.” For the majority of us, doing math problems is something we never want to do, let alone during our summer vacations. Good news! I’m not going to tell you to do math problems over this break for which we’ve waited so long. Instead, here are a couple suggestions for things you can do to keep your brain in shape over the summer.

Reading something! This can be pretty much anything, it does not need to be a collection of scholarly articles. Reading in general keeps you thinking and analyzing. This way, you won’t feel like you’re being punched in the face when you get back for the fall semester, at least not as hard. So read! You can read an older classic like This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or you could pick up a modern novel like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. If you’re unsure what to read, ask an employee at the bookstore or look at some charts online. If you’re apprehensive about starting a new book, bookstore employees can help you find a shorter one that’s easier to finish. And remember not to feel pressured to completely finish a summer book, because reading it is your choice and not that of one of your instructors.

You can also look at articles in newspapers or journals. This is especially convenient since there are so many online articles, many of which are online only. Additionally, you can listen to something. There are many podcasts and audiobooks available that can make you think. The advantage to these is that you can use them while doing something else, whether you’re driving or mowing the lawn.

Finally, you can take a summer class. I know many people hate the idea of this, both because school can be boring and online courses are relatively expensive. However, if you have a little extra time and money, summer courses are a fantastic investment. In addition to keeping your mind fresh, they help you get ahead on your credits at the university. Be careful though—you may want to save important courses, such as those for your major(s), for in-person classes.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re doing something. Going back to school after a long break can feel like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t ran in a month. Keep your mind strong and have fun!

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SUMMER READING SUGGESTIONS FROM THE WRITING CENTER

Samantha Schroeder recommends:  On Writing by Stephen King, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown.

Shohei Downing recommends:  Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.

Jon Meyers recommends: Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, and The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik.       (Personal Note from Jon Meyers:  All adults should read Winnie-the-Pooh at least once a year.  I personally reread it every January to start out my year on the right track.  Each time you read it, the one-year-older you will see things you had not noticed a year prior.  To explore this train-of-thought further, consider:  “A bear of very little brain:
Positive psychology themes in the stories of Winnie the Pooh” by Lizette Dohmen.)

 

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HERE TO HELP: WKU WRITING CENTER OPEN ALL SUMMER

The Writing Center in WKU’s Cherry Hall will be open for the entire span of all Summer 2018 sessions.  The hours from May 14 to August 9 are 9am – 2pm.  (We will be closed Monday, Memorial Day, 5/28 and Wednesday, July Fourth, 7/4.)  We will have extended hours from June 4 to June 14 only of 9am – 4:30pm.

The Writing Center offers individual conferences to WKU students about writing with our staff of trained peer tutors. Our services are available to all Western Kentucky University students free of charge.

Follow us:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/WkuWritingCenter

https://www.instagram.com/wkuwritingcenter

End of the Semester Coping Skills

By Ashley Gilliam

I have a personal tendency as a pedestrian to walk directly into the pathway of cars. My friends often joke that it will be the literal death of me. I simply lack the fear necessary to keep me out of harm’s way. Stress, like fear, is a necessary part of life to some extent.

Without it, we would never meet our deadlines, but with it we can experience great distress. If we constantly feel as if cars are speeding towards us, it can become hard to prioritize more immediate concerns and react in the appropriate way.

The last few weeks of the semester can be an especially difficult and stress-inducing time. As a student who struggles with anxiety, I know this feeling all too well. In the same vein, I also have gained an intimate knowledge of coping skills to help with particularly trying times. There are a multitude of coping mechanisms you can employ to keep yourself from falling prey to negative thoughts and downward spirals.

The phrase “coping skills” may seem intimidating at first, but they don’t have to require a huge time investment. Often I will take a three minute break to breathe deeply. This is a period of time in the day to not do any work for others and allows my brain to sort of reset.

In the small moments, you can:

  • Listen to a song that you love or that relaxes you and just focus on it. I recommend this.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Journal for five minutes. Write down all the emotions you’re feeling to get them out.
  • Take a walk outside. Come back to your work afterwards with a fresh perspective.
  • Clean your workspace or room to let out the nervous energy and promote a better mood.
  • Watch an episode of a cartoon you loved as a kid.

Sometimes it’s the long stretches of time where we can’t stop thinking about our deadlines or procrastinating with Netflix that are particularly stress-inducing. If you need a longer break, you can do a number of relaxing activities.

Fun activities for the weekend:

  • Have a self-care night with friends.
  • If you carry stress in your body, get a massage at Preston. Students get a discount!
  • Volunteer at the humane society to walk dogs and/or pet cats.
  • Have a date night where you cook a healthy meal (or comfort food).
  • What did you do to cope with stress in the past? Did you draw, write poetry, play music? Try doing that now.

Sometimes these activities can feel like putting a band-aid on a larger problem. I often struggle with reaching out to those around me when I’m having a rough time, but your support system is vital to maintaining good mental health.

Don’t forget to ask for help:

  • Let your friends know when you’re emotionally or mentally taxed
  •  Schedule an appointment with the writing center
  • Go to professor’s office hours and ask them questions you have
  •  Request an extension in advance of the due date
  •  Find a mentor within your field who can help you with academic stresses and obstacles
  • Let a professor know if your mental or physical health is affecting your performance
  • Organize a study group. You can support each other and it makes studying more fun

Some of these may be relevant to you and your preferences, others not so much. The goal is for you to understand what changes in your behavior and feelings signal that you are becoming too stressed and to figure out what coping strategies are best for you to employ. For habits promoting self-care you can employ throughout the semester, check out another of our blog posts here.

If you have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and think you may have anxiety, do not be afraid to seek help. Talk to the Counseling and Testing Center. You can even request an emotional support animal attend your appointment. Star is a darling poodle and deserves all the love in the world.

 

Counseling

and Testing Center

Potter

Hall, 409

1906

College Heights Blvd #11024

Bowling

Green, Kentucky 42101

Phone:

270-745-3159

Fax:

270-745-6976

Email:

ctc@wku.edu

Making Time for Self-Care in College

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 10.43.59 AMLast week, I was finally pummeled by the realization that we only have four weeks of school and so many assignments to finish within that short time frame. I decided I would tackle as much as possible, jumping in the arena with everything I had to do at once–smacking a paper here, shoving a reading there, stepping on the toes of assorted homework.

In the end, I was collapsed on the floor surrounded by the causes of my stress–and they were barely wounded.

Why do we do this? We think attacking everything at once will help us get done faster and break through to the other side of stress, but we exhaust ourselves until we’re sapped of strength.

Instead, wouldn’t it be far more effective to step into the arena with one issue at time? When that’s done, we take breaks, rehydrate ourselves, sleep. Only then will we be ready for the next thing.

It may seem like we don’t have time for rest, but we do. How often do we half-heartedly work on a paper while also trying to socialize or “rest”? We are barely productive and only feel more drained and incapable and guilty and stressed. (Or is this just me???)

No solution is one-size-fits-all. We all have different schedules. But I want to suggest something that has helped me.

First, do something you love every day–or think about something you love, or remind yourself of something you love, or talk to someone you love. Take a moment to remember that you are MORE than a student drilling out assignments. You are here because you want to be here. You are reaching a greater goal. But you are you, and, believe it or not, your health and relationships are more important than your grades.

Second, schedule time where you will not work on homework. It’s okay to do this! For instance, I have decided that I will wait at least an hour every morning before opening up my laptop or any books. Then when I do work, I will take a break every hour to eat, take a walk, stretch, etc. I will get as much done as I can, then I will be done with enough time to relax with my family before bed.

Again, this schedule may not work for you. On days when I have classes, this schedule doesn’t even work for me. The idea is to say no to homework and yes to you during some point of every day. Think about your homework as your job. Once you’re home, you’re home. No checking email. No answering phone calls. Just be present. You will feel more satisfied with the work you got done and more energized when you come back to it.

There is no shame in taking time for yourself and others. Let’s make this four weeks about more than just getting things done. Let’s enjoy ourselves, relax, and–hopefully–get the most out of the work we do.

 

When Should You Come to the Writing Center?

If you are waiting to come to the writing center until you have a complete draft and a works cited page and a blossoming confidence that the only thing needed is a little sentence-level revision, then you may be coming too late!

Let me back up.

If you’re coming to the Writing Center any time over twelve hours before the due date, you’re not too late. What I really mean is that we are here for so much more than catching minor errors.

While we do help with that–we know how difficult it is to spot a spelling error when you’ve been staring at the page for days–we are available for ALL stages of the writing process. So if you come in with a “finished” paper, don’t be surprised if your tutor suggests a larger revision. We know that your teachers are more concerned about you following your instructions and demonstrating critical thinking than they are about typos. We won’t waste your time by spotting commas in sentences that need to be re-written.

Here are just a few of the times that we recommend you come to see us:

  • When you are given assignment and need clarification
  • When you are brainstorming
  • When you are outlining or researching
  • When you are drafting
  • When you have finished a first draft

After you’ve come the first time, why not schedule a followup session? This is why it is important to schedule your appointments with sufficient time before the assignment is due. Say you bring a draft, and your tutor recommends some revision before they can look at sentence-level errors. You go home and revise, and then you come back for a second look. That way, we can cover the whole paper.

Finally, we know that many of you receive extra credit for coming. That’s great! But often what we see is students coming in for a few minutes just to get the extra credit and not bringing enough to let us help them with what they really need. Instead, why not earn extra credit and boost your initial grade by coming prepared with questions and specific needs?

Whenever you come–last minute or not–we will do what we can to help you grow as a writer. It’s what we do.

See you in the Writing Center!

 

 

 

 

The Comma Splice

Your teachers point them out all the time, but what actually is a comma splice?

In technical lingo, a comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined with only a comma.

Metaphorically, you’ve slapped together two buns with ketchup but left out the hamburger.

Example: Plastic water bottles are taxing on the environment, millions of tons of bottles are added to the ocean every year.

On either side of a comma splice is a complete thought with a subject and a verb (I ran, I jumped). Usually, we are told to replace the comma with a period, but there are actually several ways to adjust this sentence.

 

Examples:

  1. Add a conjunction. Plastic water bottles are taxing on the environment, but millions of tons of bottles are added to the ocean every year.
  2. Add a semicolon. Plastic water bottles are taxing on the environment; millions of tons of bottles are added to the ocean every year.
  3. Make the 2nd clause dependent by removing the verb. Plastic water bottles are taxing on the environment, millions of tons of bottles added to the ocean every year.
  4. Make the 1st clause dependent by adding a subordinating conjunction. Even though plastic water bottles are taxing on the environment, millions of tons of bottles are added to the ocean every year.

 

But what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with a comma splice?

Comma splices make reading difficult, especially when an academic reader expects certain standards and anticipates sentences to be constructed in a particular way. Imagine you’re driving and know you have a turn up ahead. As you near it, you realize there’s no street sign telling you where to turn or where you’re turning. Can you get where you’re supposed to go? Of course. But that second of confusion is jolting and frustrating. You might even have to turn around and try again.

On the other hand, we use comma splices all the time in tweets and texts. You’ve probably texted a friend something like: “JK, don’t freak out, it’s fine.” We use these splices to convey a particular tone.

The bottom line is that punctuation is used just for that–conveying tone and meaning. So feel free to use comma splices, but consider the context and audience when doing so.

 

How to Write a Cover Letter

First Impressions

I was interviewed for a company last summer and was asked something I did not expect.

“Where did you learn to write a cover letter?”

I thought that was basic knowledge. I had always written cover letters for job applications. But these employers were surprised that someone my age would do this. Why?

“Most people don’t write cover letters anymore,” they said.

When I looked surprised, they added: “We usually wouldn’t even look at an application unless it had a cover letter, but now we can’t be that picky because no one is writing them.”

While I did not get the job, I am convinced that the reason I was interviewed was because I wrote a solid cover letter.

Your cover letter is the first impression employers get of you. In a way, it is like your first interview. They already have your resume to see your experience, so your cover letter is your chance to show them who you are behind all the titles. Take your time with it, and employers will be impressed.

So how do you write one?

Format 

Below is a typical format for a cover letter:

Your Name

Address

Phone Number

Email


Date

Hiring Manager’s Name

Company Address

Company Number

Company Email

 

Dear (Hiring Manager’s Name)

1st paragraph — Who you are, your expertise, why you are applying.

2nd paragraph — Your experience.

3rd paragraph — Express interest, add contact information, thank them for reviewing your application.

Sincerely

Your Name

Length

A cover letter should be short. Less than a full page, single spaced, would be ideal. You don’t want the employer’s eyes to glaze over just by looking at it.

Content 

There are three important things to consider when writing your cover letter.

  1. Grammar. It is vital that your cover letter be well-written, free of typos and grammatical errors. If you aren’t sure about your grammar, have someone check it for you. (We check cover letters at the Writing Center all the time!)
  2. Specificity. It is also important that your cover letter matches the job description. this is why you never want to just copy and paste a general cover letter with different contact information. Each job you apply for deserves a newly revised cover letter that uses language that matches the job description. If the job description mentions things like “organization skills” or “proficiency in APA,” mention how you have used those skill in the past in your second paragraph. Your second paragraph doesn’t need to have all of your experience in it–just the things that apply to the specific job.
  3. Tone. Your voice should be formal, and, ideally, it should reflect the attitude you want to portray. For instance, according to Mark Slack on Resume Genius, you can opt to sound enthusiastic, confident, versatile, or traditional (see link in notes for more details and examples). Either way, think about your tone as the outfit you wear to the interview. Are you wearing a Hawaiian shirt or a button-up? A T-shirt or a nice blouse? It’s okay to sound human and use only words that you would use in real life. It’s also okay to show that you really want the job–as long as you don’t sound like you’re on your knees begging for it. The idea is to show that you take this seriously have a professional attitude.

 

NOTES

See the following for cover letter samples:

Slack, Mark. “How to Write a Great Cover Letter.” ResumeGenius, n.d.,

https://resumegenius.com/cover-letters-the-how-to-guide#Cover-Letter-Templates