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.

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.

Helpful Resources: Grammar/Writing Quizzes

I have recently discovered a very useful website for anyone wishing to improve their grammar or writing skills. The link that follows leads to a direct page with interactive grammar and writing quizzes. The site not only allows you to take the quizzes to test your knowledge, but it directly explains the errors made and why the answer was correct or incorrect. The website was created by very reputable sources, and has contributions from textbooks, various professors of English across the nation, and specifically, Professor Karyn Hollis’s Tutor Training course at Villanova University. The quizzes address several grammar issues, including pronoun usage, clauses and phrases, structural flaws, etc. However, there are also quizzes regarding spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, stylistic considerations, etc. One of the greatest aspects of this page is that at the top of it, there is a drop-box where you can select from over fifty grammar and writing rules or receive assistance with unfamiliar terms. After clicking on the specific area you need help with, you will be redirected to a page that explains the grammar term, punctuation, or writing-specific aspect, and the page will have a definition, explanation, and links to quizzes.

Here is the link to this wonderful resource:
Guide to Grammar and Writing: Interactive Quizzes

Happy learning!
-Bethany

This post was originally published on December 6, 2011.

Meet the Tutors: Geneva

About Me: Hi! I’m Geneva!  This is my first semester as a graduate student at WKU and my first semester tutoring at the Writing Center.  I’m the current keeper of the Writing Center blog, so most of the time you’ll see updates from me.
Hobbies: I love to craft, but I don’t know how to knit!  I also love hiking and rock climbing.
Favorite Book: Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
RANDOM QUESTION TIME!  Q. What’s your favorite place on WKU’s campus? A. Definitely, the steps at Van Meter.  You can look out over all of Bowling Green from the very top of the hill.
This post was originally published on November 29, 2011.

What’s all the hoot about? Why we recommend the Purdue Owl

You might have heard of the Purdue OWL, or Online Writing Lab, from your tutor, your professor, and your especially studious friends.  So what’s with all the fuss about this website?

Simply put, The Purdue OWL is one of the best and most comprehensive guides to writing English papers ever made, online or otherwise.  You need help with the ever-changing MLA format? The Owl’s got that. Confused by comma rules? Yeah, they got that covered.

Speaking in a more serious manner, The Purdue OWL talks about complicated issues like MLA citation in a clear and readable way. They have great diagrams and interactive memory tools that are especially made for college students’ use.  We might have other blog entries covering more specific tools in the OWL, but until then, explore The Purdue OWL on your own. Be warned, though, like TV Tropes, the OWL can be addictive.  Don’t blame us if you spend way too much time reading about commas… Enjoy!

Happy Writing,
Geneva

This was originally posted on November 3, 2011. 

What is the WKU Writing Center?

The Writing Center offers individual conferences about writing with our staff of English graduate students. Our services are available to all Western Kentucky University students free of charge.  We can help writers who need feedback to help refine their writing.  Located physically in Cherry Hall Room 123, we are also available through email at writingcenter@wku.edu and online at www.wku.edu/writingcenter.

Our tutors will talk with you about your writing to help you: brainstorm ideas, clarify main points, strengthen logic and support, integrate and credit sources, smooth out organization, and fine-tune sentence style.  Because we want to help you become a better writer, we won’t edit or proofread your paper for you. Instead, we will help you to learn to revise and edit so you will be able to catch your own errors and improve your content, organization, and style.

So, what is this WKU Writing Center Blog?  It’s a place for students to find tips and tricks about writing–from great how-to-guides on MLA style to grammar and punctuation.  Also, it is a place that will answer the questions that occur most frequently in the Writing Center.  Check back often for news about the WKU English Department!

This post was originally published on November 2, 2011.