Friday the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th, everyone! The unluckiest of holidays, unless you happen to be a turkey or a pumpkin. This day has been considered unlucky since the 19th century, if not earlier, because thirteen has long been considered an unlucky number, and Friday has long been considered an unlucky day. Both of these superstitions are steeped in Christianity, Norse mythology, and religious culture, so I won’t bore you with the details, but make sure you carry your lucky talisman today!

Whether you are superstitious or not, it is probably best not to tempt fate. Here are thirteen writing tips to bring you good luck on your writing assignments today:

  1. Just write. Don’t worry about how it sounds or what your grammar looks like. Just get it all out, and then worry about editing.
  2. Write about what you care about. All writing assignments have some element of choice. Write about what you would want to read about, not what you think your professor wants to read.
  3. Make an outline before you start, especially if you tend to get ahead of yourself by thinking about how you want to end a paper while writing the introduction. It doesn’t have to be formal, but plan it out.
  4. Read good writing. This may give you some ideas or inspire you on what you want to write about.
  5. Let someone you trust read your writing. An extra pair of eyes never hurt.
  6. Write clearly an concisely. Don’t try to make something “sound good;” just say what you want to say without a bunch of flowery language or technical jargon. If you have good points and a solid argument, you won’t need to make yourself sound “smart.”
  7. Be specific. Vague generalities will just confuse your reader.
  8. If you get writer’s block, it’s best to get up and do something else instead of sitting and staring at a computer screen. Take a walk, call a friend, play a game, make a sandwich–just do something to get your thoughts flowing.
  9. Believe in yourself. Anyone can become a great writer with practice and study. Don’t excuse writing an inadequate paper on not being a good writer.
  10. You don’t have to be good at grammar or spelling to be a good writer. Writing is about what you write about, not about how many commas you have.
  11. Write multiple drafts. It will help to see how much your writing has improved just over the course of one assignment. The more you think about one subject, the more ideas will come to you, so don’t just give up after writing a draft one way when there are infinitely many.
  12. Make your writing your own. Don’t worry about how someone else would write it; no one’s voice is as unique as your own. Just because you think your friend is the best writer since Shakespeare doesn’t mean you need to write like that person. Find your own style and stay true to it.
  13. Come to the Writing Center! We are more than happy to use our knowledge for your benefit, and who knows, your professor may offer you extra credit for visiting.

Have a safe and lucky Friday, everyone!
–Sarah

This post was originally published on September 13, 2013.

How to make the best of your summer

Finals just ended, and you’re ready to kick back, relax, and enjoy the summer sun until school starts again this August. No textbooks to read, no essays to write, no thinking for three whole months. After all, you’ve put in a bunch of hard work this spring, you deserve a break, right?

Well, don’t let that break go on too long or you just might find yourself wondering where the summer went with nothing to show of the last three months except a tan or a few more levels on Candy Crush(TM). And you’ll come back to WKU only to find you’ve lost all of those writing and study skills you learned last semester. But, summer doesn’t have to one long boring cram session either, and the WKU Writing Center has some tips on making this summer a productive and fun one!

1. Learn a New Skill: Ever wanted to learn how to juggle? Or do card tricks? What about rollerblading or tightrope walking? Well, you have three months to do just that. Pick a new skill, even a silly one, and dedicate the summer to it. By September, you’ll be well on your way to being a master in wood carving, BMX biking, or any one of dozens of other hobbies. Summer is a time to expand your horizons, and learning a new skill offers you the chance to meet new people and gain new experiences. Your hobby doesn’t even necessarily have to be silly. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a short story or a poem. Dedicate your summer to writing the next Great American Novel before NaNoWriMo comes around this November.

Don’t know what you want to learn? Check out Discover a Hobby for some suggestions! And then let us know on the WKU Writing Center Facebook.

2. Keep a Journal or Blog: Keeping a diary or an online blog about your summer reading list, your favorite recipes, or your internship experiences is a great way to boost your writing skills and to find new inspiration for scholarship essays. Join Tumblr or Blogspot and connect with other people who share your passion for stamp collection, painting your nails ridiculously bright colors, or finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. After all, as Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” So, get out there and write!

3. Read, Read, Read: Read the newspaper, read a magazine, or read the new Dan Brown novel. Basically, just read. Reading, especially reading for pleasure, is one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary and grammar knowledge, to analyze texts (a skill you will definitely need in your English 300 class), and to impact your own writing. And summer offers you time to do just that without the worry of classes over your head. Even if you decided years ago that you just hate reading, try picking up a novel again and see if reading it without having to worry about getting tested over the plot or the theme changes your mind.

Good Reads is a great place to start a summer reading list!

4.  Get Some Experience: After all, you can’t write if you don’t have anything to write about.  Getting a part-time job might not sound like the most fun summer, but you’ll certainly find something to write about by the time that summer’s over. And the extra money is definitely worth it. Or, if you have a little money saved up, why not travel this summer? Traveling is one of the best ways to get out of your comfort zone and find out something new about yourself. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to travel, either, because a lot of transit companies offer discounts to college students. And remember that traveling doesn’t always have to mean overseas. Why not take a road trip to somewhere you’ve never been right inside your own state?

Above all, do something with your summer break and come back to WKU in the fall ready to start the semester grind all over again. Make sure to share your summer plans with us here or at the WKU Writing Center Facebook. For those of you who have already dedicated your time to summer classes, the Writing Center is currently open in Cravens Library on the 4th floor. Check out our hours at the top of the blog!

Happy Writing,
Geneva

This post was originally published on May 15, 2013.

Punctuation: Remember your marks!

There are days when I thank all that’s good that we don’t have to use punctuation when we speak out loud.  However, these little annoying marks seem to be the only thing that keeps order in our written language.  They’re our bread and butter.  I’ve come to embrace them.  But there are so many, and their rules can get complicated.  So … what’s the best way to approach the stuff?
Use humor to remember them.  There’s funny stuff all over the internet that can help you remember the basics.  Thanks to “The Oatmeal” (a beautiful website that’s already been referenced once in this article) and other funny internet sources, I’ve put a few pics up here for everyone to see.  There are three punctuation marks discussed below: the apostrophe, the comma (in its Oxford comma use), and the semicolon.
Of course, these examples aren’t all that the apostrophe, comma, and semicolon can do, but they’re excellent examples of fun ways to jog the memory concerning punctuation.  Good punctuation is crucial to making good papers.  If you’re ever in doubt about a mark, don’t be afraid to look up what it does.  Learning punctuation is always a continual process; even professionals screw it up sometimes.  And, if you have to, find funny ways like these to remember how they work.
– Amanda

This post was originally published on April 27, 2013.

Overcoming writer’s block

Have you ever been working on a paper and get stuck halfway?  Do you have a paper that you need to write and you have no idea where to begin?  Here are some tips for dealing with writer’s block so you can write that paper:

1. Brainstorming – Brainstorming is a great way to start out.  Brainstorming does not have to be organized or even neat.  Just write whatever comes to mind.  Free association helps ideas to flow.  This can be a list of important points or just things that stand out to you.  Whenever you have something to write, brainstorming is a great way to start.

2. Outline -Along the lines of brainstorming is making an outline.  If you have an idea of what to do but just don’t know how to get there, make an outline.  This gives you a guide to follow, but don’t worry if you end up deviating from the outline.

3. Talk – Not sure what to write about?  Talk about it.  It is helpful to have someone listen to you, but talking to yourself works just as well.  Sometimes it is easier to say what you need to say by saying it.  Talking about your topic also helps you to find correlations you may not have considered before.

4. Try a different approach – If the way you have been writing is not longer working, try something different.  Look at thinks from a different angle.  Explore ideas that you didn’t before.  If you have been writing a literature paper about one character, look at another character.

5. Listen to music –  Studies have shown that classical music improves brain function.  Put on some Beethoven and get your brain going!

Last but not least…
6. Take a break from your paper – If you have been staring at a screen or paper too long, your brain stops working.  Take a breather, walk around.  Stop stressing and relax.

– Kayla

This post was originally published on December 14, 2011.

What to bring to your Writing Center conference

Below are some helpful suggestions of what students should be prepared to bring to their Writing Center conferences.  These recommendations prove to be beneficial to both the tutor and especially to the student.

  1. Bring a hardcopy of the assignment.

The tutor cannot help you improve your ability to write if they are not able to see how you write. It’s also acceptable to have your assignment on your laptop, but usually tutors prefer hardcopies.

  1. Show your tutor the writing assignment prompt.

This is usually an instructional handout provided by your professor. The handout details what the assignment is and how to go about writing it.  The more information you have on the assignment the better the advice the writing tutor can provide in regards to your essay. If you don’t have a prompt or handout, sometimes the professor will briefly discuss the assignment in your class syllabus or you can even bring in your class notes that refer to the instructor’s discussion on the expected assignment.  Overall, a brief description of the expected assignment allows your conference to run smoother and more efficiently.

  1. Feel free to bring your own notes, outlines, prewritings, or other drafts related to the assignment, as well as your sources.

Discussing your writing process and your sources can inhibit helpful discussions on how you can further develop your content.

Overview of Items:

  • A hardcopy of your written paper
  • Writing Assignment Instructions (Prompt, handout, class syllabus, and class-notes related to the assignment)
  • Your own notes, outlines, pre-writings, previous drafts commented on by the professor, and your sources

Remember the more knowledge that you share with the writing tutor about the writing assignment, the more beneficial the conference will be for you!

-Cassie

This post was originally published on December 9, 2011.

The YUNiversity: Making proper writing skills fun and educational

YUNiversity is one of my favorite Tumblr sites to visit.  To those not too familiar with Tumblr, it is a social network that allows its users to create and disclose themed blogs with the web-world.  Its main function is to serve as an interactive weblog that gives its users the opportunity to share and even reblog photos, quotes, weblinks, articles, journal entries, music and videos.  Tumblr sites can include helpful tips on literary theories, webcam reviews on books, and commentaries on movies and TV shows—the possibilities are endless.  In regards to writing, The YUNiversity is one of the most entertaining, but helpful Tumblr sites that I have come across.

The YUNiversity is dedicated to answering online questions submitted by their followers. These questions refer to grammatical and mechanical writing errors, common word usage, and numerous other concerns referring to the English language. The questions are answered promptly in an entertaining, but informative format. The YUNiversity commonly uses cartoons and pop cultural references, and incorporates them into their answers. These fun pictures allow the audience to easily understand and relate to the explanations of the questions.

Be sure to drop by this site for references and answers related to one of your writing assignments. I guarantee you will be satisfied and entertained with The YUNiversity.

Have fun!

-Cassie

This post was originally published on December 9, 2011.

The power of proofreading

I’ve written a paper.
I’ve spent countless hours in front of the computer screen, typing, researching, citing, etc.
My eyes hurt.
My back hurts.
And the last thing I want to reread is my paper.
Save. Submit. Close.

Throughout my undergrad years I refused to reread what I wrote. I just could not do it. It wasn’t that I was lacking confidence in my writing; I reallydid not want to reread it. Maybe it was because I spent hours/days/weeks slaving over it and I was finally DONE. Then, when I received my paper back and saw my consequent grade, I would shrug, ignore the comments, and eventually start whatever other paper was due next. Yawn.

Once I was in graduate school, I realized what I was doing was not acceptable. Not only was my writing not growing, but it was bland, mediocre, and full of simple errors I could have caught if I was paying attention. So one day, after stressing for weeks over a paper that would make or break my grade in that class, I scrolled up to the top of my Word document and started reading my paper…out loud.

I had barely finished the first paragraph but had caught easily five grammatical errors [simple ones that are easy to breeze through], reworded some sentences to make them stronger, clarified what I meant on certain points, reorganized my thesis–it was incredible. And the best part? I sounded brilliant.

I know it is extremely hard to reread something you’ve just spent days working on. Once it’s done, it’s done. Saved. Submitted. Next please. But by taking 15 minutes out of your day to reread what you’ve written, you will notice things you’ve never noticed and start to identify writing habits and simple errors.

The majority of the time in the Writing Center, we will reread your paper with you. So why not save yourself some time and reread it before coming in? By catching your small errors before coming in we can spend more time in the session discussing other issues that we might not be able to get to if we’re stopping every five seconds to tell you a grammar rule. Rereading your paper ahead of time will build your confidence, expand your knowledge, and create understanding. We will gladly look over your paper for little things that your keen eye has missed, but you yourself know your brilliance better than we do. Prove to yourself that you’re a great writer. I know you are.

So reread!
It truly helps.
This is simply a little knowledge from me to you.
I hope it’s been beneficial!

-Olivia

This post was originally published on December 8, 2011.