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).

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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). 

Setting up a professional email signature

Email is a cornerstone of communication on the college campus as well as most workplaces, but the truth is, we’re rarely formally taught email etiquette. Since students are communicating with professors, classmates, potential job or internship sites, campus staff, organization leaders, and others, having a professional email presence is critical, and an important component of a professional email presence is a good email signature. 

What does a professional email signature look like? 

A good email signature has four basic components: your name, your title, your organization, and your contact information. At its most basic, your signature can have this information, in the same size/font/format/color as your email body text. That might look something like this: 

[First name] [Last name] 
[Major] student 
Western Kentucky University 
[email address] 

You can choose to add additional information to your email signature, such as a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio, as well as your phone number or other contact information. It’s important to remember who you will be communicating with, however. Make sure you don’t provide a link to your personal social media accounts like Twitter if you’ll be communicating with potential employers (unless you’re applying for a position in social media, of course) or that you don’t include your address if you have to communicate with strangers, for personal safety reasons. 

It’s also up to you whether you choose to make the signature stand out from the text with formatting different from your body text, though you won’t want to do anything too crazy (e.g., rainbow colored text, unreadable font, size 80 text). Here’s another example of a professional signature: 

pic1

Here’s a free tool for creating a customized, professional-looking email signature: https://www.hubspot.com/email-signature-generator 

How to set up an email signature in Outlook  

  1. Select the Settings tab in the upper right corner of the window.  pic2
  2. Search “signature” and select Email signature from the results. pic3.png
  3. Enter your email signature in the text box provided. pic4
  4. Select OK to save the signature. 

If you have questions about writing and communicating in a professional manner, the Writing Center can help! 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).

Academic writing blogs you should be following

Improving your academic writing skills doesn’t have to involve musty textbooks, terse grammar tomes, or innumerable style guides. As a student writer, you have a lot of resources available to you to help improve your academic writing; one of those resources are blogs, and there are plenty of blogs on academic writing. Here are some of our favorites:

Explorations of Style: https://explorationsofstyle.com/

This blog has great, in-depth blog articles on all things academic writing, from the technical (“Transitions“) to the practical (“Can You Have Too Much Writing Time?“) to the existential (“Yes, you are a writer!”). There are posts on key writing principles and key writing strategies, plus, the author, Rachael Cayley, also lists the sources she uses.

patterhttps://patthomson.net/

Pat Thomson’s blog patter has a wealth of information on academic writing, from dissertations to conference papers to finding the angle for your research paper. It also has interesting posts on academic writing-related topics, like the phenomenon of the academic “poison pen.”

Scientific Academic Writing: https://www.scoop.it/t/scientific-academic-writing

This blog focuses specifically on science writing, which many students struggle with, but it also has applications for other forms of academic writing. While many of the posts are scientific academic writing-specific, there are also posts on general academic writing topics, such as how to improve your writing by reading, or why academic writing is so stilted and stuffy.

James Hayton, PhD: https://jameshaytonphd.com/everything/

While this blog is specifically geared toward PhD students, it has great information on academic writing general. Some of our favorites include “Metaphor and Analogy in Academic Writing” and “What goes in the Introduction, what goes in the Conclusion?

The WKU Writing Center blog: wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com

Our blog is full of information about academic writing and we post every Tuesday and Thursday!

If you have questions about grammar and would like to learn how to identify the patterns of grammatical error in your writing, the Writing Center can help! 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).

How to become more comfortable sharing your own work 

At times, writing can feel like an intensely personal act, and because of that, it is often difficult for writers to share their work. As a student, you’re required to share your work in a variety of ways, whether with your professor, a writing tutor, your classmates, a workshop, a conference audience, or the readership of a journal. If the idea of other people hearing or reading your writing makes you nervous, here are a few ways that you can become more comfortable sharing your work with an audience.

Practice

You knew that we were going to say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If reading your work in front of people makes you nervous, practice! You can do this by finding a good practice audience, like a group of friends: people who you aren’t afraid to speak in front of and who you’re not afraid will judge you. It can also help to read in front of an audience of your peers who you don’t necessarily know, so that you can get comfortable sharing your work with strangers. An open mic event (like the one hosted by students of the English department—one will be coming up soon!) can be a great opportunity to share your work in a low-pressure environment. No one is grading or judging, and often, the audience members are equally nervous about reading their own work.

Remember that people are self-centered

Rarely is this a comforting truth, but in this instance, it can be. When you’re nervous about sharing your work, remember that people are generally self-centered; that means that they’re thinking about themselves, not thinking about or judging you. When was the last time someone shared their work with you? Were you judging or mocking that person? Chances are that you weren’t; you were probably wrapped up in your own concerns. The same applies when you share your writing with others.

Don’t take it personally

If you’re sharing your work in a workshop or a tutoring session, you’ll probably receive some critiques and suggestions for improvement. In these instances, it is important to remember that the comments are on the piece of writing, not on you as a writer or as a person. Additionally, none of them are designed to hurt your feelings—they’re intended to help you make the piece better. Again, practice can be useful here; the more you hear commentary on your writing, the more accustomed to it you’ll become.

Getting comfortable with putting yourself out there and sharing your writing can be scary, but just like putting yourself out there in other ways, like making friends, professional networking, or getting involved in your community, is necessary to having a fulfilling academic experience, so is sharing your work. These three strategies can help you become more at ease when sharing your work, and that can only be a good thing!

Want to polish a paper before sharing it? 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).

Best free online group project tools

Group projects can be a pain. It’s hard to get two, three, four, or more people in the same place, at the same time, and keep everyone on task. Luckily, there are some excellent online tools you can use to collaborate with other students on group projects. These are some of our favorites:

Asana: https://asana.com/

Asana is the best free project management software out there. With Asana you can create your team (that is, add your group project members), create tasks, set deadlines, assign tasks to specific users, share progress updates, talk about the project with team members, share documents, and more. For all the tasks assigned to you or that you follow, you’ll get regular email reminders about the due date, helping keep you on task. Plus, when you complete tasks, cute little animations pop up on your screen (sometimes they’re unicorns)!

Google Drive: https://www.google.com/drive/

If you have a Google account (and like, everyone does), you have access to Google Drive, a cloud-based online platform for creating documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more. You can create a project in Google Drive, share it with multiple people, provide them with editing permissions, and all work on the project at the same time, from different locations, and all your changes will be made in real time. Within a document, you can also leave comments, @ mention other editors, and open a chat with the other group members. It’s almost better than working in the same room!

Microsoft OneDrive: https://my.wku.edu/

With your student email account, you have access to useful Microsoft apps, including OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. Like Google Docs, with these apps you can compose and save documents online, accessible from anywhere you can use your email account. You can also collaborate with other students in real time, making this super useful for group project work (plus, you don’t have to know everyone’s personal email address). As another advantage over Google apps (sorry not sorry), the formatting options are better and slightly more intuitive.

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/

Dropbox is what it sounds like: a virtual box into which you can drop things, specifically files. Dropbox is very secure and has tons of controls on how you can share the files, who can access them, and file viewing/editing/accessing permissions users have. If you have a file-heavy project and need to make sure everyone has access to all the important materials, creating a Dropbox for your project and sharing it with your group members is a good way to do that.

Want to take advantage of another free resource? 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).

Grammar blogs you should be following

If you write anything (even if you think you don’t write, you do) or say anything, no matter the medium or situation, expressing your point and clearly communicating with your audience is important. Good grammar is an essential tool in doing so; grammar provides the rules that make what we say and write make sense. If you want to be a better reader, writer, speaker, listener, and communicator, here are the grammar blogs you should be following:

Grammar Girlhttp://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

Grammar Girl is famous for her Quick and Dirty Tips ™ that define exactly what you need to know about a given grammatical situation. Not sure whether to say “bad” or “badly”? Need to know how to use a semicolon? Grammar Girl can tell you. In addition to the tips, Grammar Girl also has a fun and informative podcast.

Grammarist: http://grammarist.com/

Quick, easily consumable articles on grammar, usage, words and phrases, spelling, and style. It also has English and ESL resources and games. The games may be for kids; however, the games may also be kind of fun. We cannot confirm this (wink, wink).

Grammarly: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/category/writing/grammar/

In addition to their writing products, which include the free Grammarly spellcheck browser extension we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Grammarly has an informative blog on grammar and writing situations (because they’re super good at content marketing). Past topics include how to tell the difference between adjectives and adverbs, how to use good grammar in online dating, and fun quizzes like “Are You a Grammar Troll?” (Turns out, I’m a pedantic grammar troll…)

Merriam-Webster’s Twitterhttps://twitter.com/MerriamWebster?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

This isn’t actually a blog, but Merriam-Webster shares a lot of great and timely articles on grammar and word use on their Twitter account. Also, m-w hilariously trolls the frequent misuse and abuse of words by our country’s most visible politicians.

The WKU Writing Center blog: wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com

We post things about grammar, and we’re big proponents of self-promotion.

If you have questions about grammar and would like to learn how to identify the patterns of grammatical error in your writing, the Writing Center can help! 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).