Positively Appositive

Appositives are nouns or noun phrases that rename another noun, and they are usually surrounded by commas. They allow writers to color in the vague outlines of their subjects, giving them depth with shading and detail. Even if you’ve written them before, writing appositives regularly is a great way to train your mind to go deeper with descriptions.

Examples:

“The dog, a husky Labrador, romped outside.”

“We gathered at Henry’s, an eclectic coffee shop where local bands played.”

“Wendy pulled up her hair, a tangled mess after her trek in the rain, and covered it with a hat.”

 

 

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Let’s Begin with Active Voice

“Donna began to look around.”

“I begin to eat cookies.”

“Garry begins waking up.”

The sentences above are examples of passive voice. Passive voice sneaks into writing when writers don’t use strong verbs. It’s like a limp handshake—half-hearted and awkward.

The words “begin/began” automatically slow down action. While whey are only one culprit of passive voice, let’s focus for now on replacing them with active verbs:

“Donna investigated.”

“I munched on cookies.”

“Garry yawns and stretches.”

The character’s actions are now more vivid and active.

To summarize, never have a character “begin” something when they should just do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip Tuesdays (in 100 words or less!)

Writers,

If you are following this blog, it’s because you either enjoy writing or because you are being forced to. Either way, we know that writing–in any form–takes time. And time is precious. We have deadlines to meet, classes to attend, friends to see, meals to eat, sleep debt to pay, books to read, papers to write, Netflix to watch, photos to post…

Who has time to read a 650-1000 word blog post on writing when you have to read 200 pages of A Tale of Two Cities and an entire play by Shakespeare–and you have to write a 12 page essay on the use of the Laconian Gaze in No Exit? 

Introducing

*Drum Roll*

Quick Tip Tuesdays!

*Confetti / Balloons / Applause*

Writing tips in 100 words or less to offer you a simple yet powerful way to instantly improve your writing!

I am so excited to start this series because there are so many things I’ve learned as a writer that I wish I knew a long time ago. Let’s get started with something short and sweet since this post is already wasting too much of your precious time.

Alright. Here we go.

Quick Tip #1

Never write “The tree was very tall” when what you mean is “The tree stretched to the sky.”

“Very” and “really” add no meaning and can be replaced with action verbs to make the sentence stronger and more active.

Enjoy writing!

Writing Muscle Warm-Ups

Welcome Back!

Let’s be honest: for a lot of us, writing just didn’t happen over break. Maybe we signed a few receipts or Christmas cards. Maybe we wrote in our journals or typed a few Instagram posts. But now we’re back in the academic world. We’ve been taking light walks, and now we’re being asked to do squats. We’ve been hauling shopping bags, and now we’re lifting weights. We have to use the same muscles, but in different ways, and that can take some adjustment.

What do you do when you have a big work-out ahead? You warm up. You stretch those muscles and get your blood flowing so you don’t hurt yourself. The same can be true for writing.

Most likely, you don’t have any large writing assignments due in the next week or two, so you have some time to warm up. Maybe your professors have already given you small writing assignments to start off with. Whatever the case may be, you may find the following ideas useful in re-engaging your writing muscle, both now and before those bigger assignments.

Remember: Warm-ups are not meant to be done just once. If any of these prove helpful to you, try them regularly to keep your writing muscles engaged and ready for those papers!

  1. Read. This should be easy, since you are in school and readings are assigned regularly. The more you read in the genre that you will be writing, the more naturally writing in that genre will be for you.
  2. Brainstorm/Research Early. If you have a big paper coming up, give your mind some time to work with your ideas and research. Jot down passing thoughts, ideas, sentences, etc. Spend some time online or in the library exploring your topic. You may find yourself working through problems subconsciously once you’ve started the process.
  3. Keep a Writer’s Notebook. Even if your major doesn’t seem to be writing-related, keeping a writer’s notebook is an excellent way to make writing a part of your daily life. Again, this is not crunch time. You don’t even have to break a sweat (or write a full sentence, even). In your notebook, you can write down ideas, thoughts, phrases, words, research questions/answers, narratives, or dialogue. You could even doodle, paste pictures or newspaper clippings, or practice your handwriting. Everything goes. Just have fun fiddling with it and remember that writing doesn’t have to be a full-blown work-out all the time; sometimes it’s just playing around.
  4. Talk it Out. If you are a verbal processor, try talking out your ideas with someone. Find out who helps you process well. Some people are good at asking questions, for instance, while others are good at just listening and affirming, and still others are good at challenging and making you dig deeper. I also find that simply recording myself is helpful. And don’t forget about the Writing Center! We are here to help in ANY stage of the writing process, which means we’ll give you a listening ear even before you have anything on paper!
  5. Free Write. I can’t stress this one enough. It differs from the writer’s notebook in that it is less about gathering and playing with ideas and more about letting things just flow for a certain amount of time–less like dancing when the mood hits you and more like getting a membership to an interpretive dance group. How do you do it? Simply write until either a set time or word count is up. You can begin with a topic that may or may not relate to a project, paper, or story, or you can simply start off with whatever comes to your mind. But don’t stop writing. No matter what. If you have to write “I don’t know what to say” or “My feet are cold,” then write it. The idea is just to write and not worry about the product. It is the ultimate warm-up, and it never fails to get the creative juices flowing.

Enjoy writing!

Doing a final project instead of a final paper? The Writing Center can help!

Students tend to have the perception that the Writing Center is all about papers and essays, because, well, they’re the primary form of writing that we do in the academy. But while we’re here to help you develop and polish your essays, we can also help you with any writing you’re doing for your final, even if it’s not a formal essay.

Presentations and Speeches

If you’re giving an oral presentation, it may seem like you won’t be doing any writing–but you should. There is a reason that public figures like presidents have speech writers; speeches should be written before they’re given. Writing a script for your oral presentation can help you ensure that you stay on topic, address all of the relevant points and evidence related to your topic, and that you sound prepared, polished, and eloquent. Having a prepared script can help prevent mistakes or misused words and reduce the number of times you say “um” when standing up at the podium. You can bring in your script, just as you would a paper, and our tutors can help you polish your writing so your presentation is the best it can be!

Group Projects

Just because you’re working in a group doesn’t mean you can’t come to the Writing Center. Whether it’s a group paper or presentation (or both), you can schedule an appointment for your group, or just one member of your group to meet with a tutor. With papers and presentations with multiple authors, continuity between the work of different group members can often be an issue. A Writing Center tutor can help check for consistency and cohesiveness in co-written papers and projects, as well as the usual stuff: content, organization, citation, source integration, grammar and syntax, etc.

Need help with that final paper or project? We’re open during exam week! Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Free Online Creative Writing Resources

If you love to write, but aren’t a creative writing major, or if you are an English student, but you don’t have a workshop class this semester, it can be difficult to find time to write. Without the support of a teacher or your classmates, it can also be difficult to come up with new ideas, commit to writing regularly, or get helpful insight on your work. Luckily, there are a lot of free resources online for creative writers. Here are just a few: 

Poets & Writers: https://www.pw.org/ 

Poets & Writers is the resource for creative writers. They have tons of helpful articles, a magazine, podcasts, and directories of publications, university-level writing programs, reading venues, literary agents, presses, and more. There is so much stuff here, we can’t even describe it all; suffice it to say that if you’re a writer, P&W has something that will be beneficial to you, whether you’re looking for MFA programs, trying to get published, or just looking for inspiration. 

Association of Writers & Writing Programs: https://www.awpwriter.org/ 

Not only does AWP put on the biggest conference in the Western literary world, their site is also a great resource for finding writing contests, other conferences, and writing programs. They have a monthly magazine, Writer’s Chronicle, and a regularly updated calendar of literary events, literary news section, and podcast series. 

New Pageshttps://www.newpages.com/ 

Like Poets & Writers and AWP, New Pages is chock-full of writing resources from calls for submission, writing contests, writing programs, literary magazines to book reviews and literary links. They even have a guide to bookstores in the U.S. and Canada (a great resource for when you’re on a book tour—or just looking for a bookstore while on vacation)  

Writer’s Digesthttp://www.writersdigest.com/free 

You may have already heard of Writer’s Digest, but if you follow the link above, you’ll have access to free downloads of helpful writing exercises and informative writing tips. Plus, you can check out the rest of the Writer’s Digest site (as we mentioned a few weeks ago in Creative Writing Blogs You Should be Following, they have some good blogs)! 

WKU’s Writing Center bloghttps://wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com/ 

Our reputation is that of an academic writing resource, but we love creative writing too! Many of our consultants are creative writers, themselves. While not all of our content is specifically relating to creative writing, we do regularly post CW content, and content about writing in general that can be applied to creative as well as academic writing. 

Interested in creative writing resources or a consultation with a writing tutor on a creative piece? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays). 

An Admonition on the Employment of Thesauruses

A Catechism 

What’s wrong with the following sentence?

This sentence may not adumbrate what it is putative to augur in behalf of I’m employing commodious lexemes that resonate sumptuously but that don’t concur in the censure.

If you guessed that the sentence was written using a thesaurus, then you are correct! Here’s what I actually intended to say:

This sentence may not mean what it is supposed to mean because I’m using big words that sound impressive but that don’t fit in the sentence.  

That’s a lot more clear, right? I’m using language that makes sense and fits the sentence’s meaning while also considering my audience.

An Exposition for Why We Manipulate Thesauruses 

If you’re like me, you were told in high school to use a thesaurus to strengthen your vocabulary. This was so engrained in me that I still use a thesaurus on occasion to learn different ways of saying the same things. However, thesauruses can be dangerous if we simply pull out words without knowing their true definitions. We see this all the time at the writing center. A paper will be going smoothly until we come across a word that just—doesn’t fit. Most of the time, not even I know what the word means. When we look it up, more often than not it doesn’t match what the writer intended.

So why do we keep using a thesaurus? To learn new words? To sound impressive? If it’s the former, great. Find a word and look it up in the dictionary. Better yet, look up how it is used in a sentence to make sure that it is being used in the same way you want to use it. But know that you are at risk of using a word that your audience will not have known before either.

If you use a thesaurus to sound impressive, let me take the pressure off your shoulders. Teachers most likely are not concerned about how many letters are in your words or how fancy they sound. What they are looking for is accuracy, clarity, and depth of thought. They are much more interested in what you have to say than in how you say it, so it’s okay to use the words you are comfortable with.

(Note that I have used the word “used” multiple times in the last two paragraphs. That’s okay! I don’t need to pull out the thesaurus so I can replace them with words like “utilize” or “employ” or “adopt” to sound more fancy. That would actually be pretty annoying, wouldn’t it?)

There is a third reason to use a Thesaurus that I think is more helpful, and that is for recalling words you can’t remember. Sometimes I’m writing and realize—for instance—that I’ve used the word “pleasure” ten times. I know there is another way to say it, but I need a little help dislodging those words from my memory. So I look up “pleasure” in the Thesaurus and find words like “delight” and “happiness.” I also find words like “delectation,” “gluttony,” “diversion,” and “fruition.” I know that those latter words do not mean what I intend, so I go with the words that I do know and understand.

In Culmination 

Thesauruses can be helpful in the right settings in helping you recall words or even learn some new words with the help of a dictionary, but make sure you are using words that fit your meaning and your own voice.