Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Emoji Was Just Named Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionaries just named its Word of the Year.

And they picked an emoji.

The "Face with Tears of Joy," as it is officially called, shouldn't look unfamiliar to you. It was the most used emoji of the year, and according to Oxford Dictionaries, it "best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015."

Now, that last claim raises its own questions and emoji eyebrows, but an easier question to tackle is this: What would it mean for the language we write if emojis counted as words?

Hint: It doesn't mean that you can insert a crying face in your next research paper.

But does it simply mean that Oxford was being too inclusive with their definition of "word?"

Maybe. Maybe not.

Part of why this Emoji was chosen is because it transcends languages. That ability makes emojis closer to art than words. Plus, how can you pronounce an emoji? By saying its official title?

I can already hear my ancestors saying this is another nail in the coffin of the English language.

But let's not be dramatic.

Languages can't objectively improve or degrade necessarily. They can only change. As long as effective communication remains possible, that change isn't good or bad.

Remember, this emoji is effective enough that it transcends languages, and it was also effective enough that it was used more than any other emoji. Like it or not, many writers are embracing emojis.

While this emoji is clearly useful, I doubt that many English speakers would call it a word. But no one person or dictionary gets to own the language. Only we, the speakers and writers, can do that.

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Go Global

When I say "go global," I'm talking about your writing. Global revision is a vital part of the writing process. The point is to think about the bigger picture. I recommend doing this type of re-vision with your earlier drafts so you can keep revisiting and reshaping them along the way. 

Try to read your draft from an outsider's perspective, and ask yourself these questions: 

Does this draft accomplish its purpose? 
Whether you're arguing, evaluating, analyzing, or narrating, make sure you're you've addressed the goal you had for writing the piece in the first place.

Is it appropriate for my audience?
Figure out who your audience is, and target your writing to fit who will be reading it. What information is your audience looking for?

Is the main idea clear?
What is your main idea? Make sure that it is easy to find and understand, and include all relevant information to fully explain it. 

Is there a logical order to the draft?
Are like ideas grouped together? Investigate why your paragraphs are in the places that they are, and make sure they allow readers to follow your writing in an understandable way.

Is there any information I'm missing, or that need to explain more fully, or omit?
Read through your draft to find places that your readers might need more information, a definition, or stronger examples. Don't be afraid to cut information that doesn't support your main idea. 

Are transitions clear?
At the beginning and end of your paragraphs, make sure you have clear transitions from one point to the next so your readers can more clearly follow your ideas.

These revisions help you more clearly portray your ideas and can be performed anytime throughout the drafting and editing process. While it may seem a little more intimidating to revise whole paragraphs and important thoughts rather than just a few punctuation or word choice issues along the way, know that continuous global writing and revision will help you shape your ideas and come to a more complete, concise understanding of what you want to say and how you want to say it.

So, don't be afraid: go global!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

This May Get Rough

If you're anything like me, the term "rough draft" is frustrating--I want it to be perfect the first time! Instead, try seeing your writing as a "discovery draft." As you write and rewrite, you'll be able to learn more about your topic, including what you want to say and how you want to say it.

When starting your rough draft, know it's okay for it to be just that: rough. Be sure to start the writing process early to leave yourself enough time to create several drafts.

Talking to a friend, professor, or Writing Center consultant about your drafts is great way to keep focused and find insight from an outside perspective. An "outsider" can point out phrases or terms that may need more explanation for your readers. (If you decide to make an appointment in the Writing Center to work on your drafts, bringing your assignment sheet or prompt is a real help.)

If you find yourself becoming frustrated or hitting dreaded writer's block, walk away from your words. Take a break! A few hours away from your draft can clear your head and allow you to bring a fresh attitude to the next time you decide to tackle the writing.

Remember: if there's one thing to know about drafting, it's that multiple drafts are your greatest tool. Each draft allows you more time to think and revise, creating a clearer and more effective piece of writing. Now go--draft on!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Filigreed Fallacies

What error drives our eyes and ears amiss?
Until I know this sure uncertainty
I'll entertain the offered fallacyThe Comedy of Errors (2.2.195-97). 

It is sometimes tempting to accept things we intuitively perceive to be untrue (sure uncertainties) simply because it is easier to sacrifice critical thinking for comfortable ignorance.  It is easy for many of us to believe that wearing a designer outfit, driving a flashy car, or drinking only the finest champagne can transform us into classier people. 

We are so bombarded by suggestive images that many people fail to recognize them.  If you’re like me, you may be dying to refute faulty claims, but what if you are not particularly knowledgeable about the topic under discussion?

Recognizing logical fallacies is an essential skill to help deconstruct political jargon and marketing ploys that hinder objective thought (Also see Purdue Owl for a list of common fallacies).

In the U.S., women were denied the right to vote until 1920, partially because of the large amount of negative propaganda that portrayed voting women as anti-domestic.  It goes without saying that argument is invaluable to humanity.

Images like the above suffragist mob worked as an emotional appeal (pathos) that implied if women were granted the right to vote, they would mercilessly subjugate men and abandon their household duties!

Contrary to popular opinion, argument does not have to be confrontational. We all see the world through biased lenses, and alternative perspectives have helped to loosen the stranglehold of stale notions that stifle progressive change.

Learning how to identify the most common logical fallacies will help you in every facet of life, from deconstructing emotional rhetoric to acknowledging the subtle power of effective marketing.  Obtain your freedom from sure uncertainties by both resisting and reasoning with alluring fallacies.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Making an Organized Plan

Making a plan is possibly one of the most important steps in the writing process, because it can help you focus, group, and organize your ideas as you begin to write. Plans can be thoughtfully reworked throughout the writing process to more efficiently focus your ideas. No matter what you're writing, planning and organization will come into play; explore and become aware of what kind of plan works best for you. Below are a few examples of how to get started:

Informal Outlines
Informal outlines usually take the shape of a semi-organized list of ideas that you want to mention in the work. These make it easier to reorganize information later while you revise; however, brainstorming lists are a great way to start this type of plan. To help keep this organization focused, try crossing out ideas that you know you don't need to mention and ideas that you add as you create your draft. You'll be better able to see where the rest of your ideas can fit into what you're writing as you go along.

Begin by writing your main idea in the middle of the paper and circling it. Draw lines branching out from the center that connect to ideas related to the main topic and circle them. Continue to branch out from these circles with supporting information. Clustering works a lot like a formal outline, only taking a much different shape. This type of planning can work well for more visual learners. If you use the clustering technique, while you're drafting, think about your readers and what order of information they would best respond to in your later, more structured paper.
Formal Outlines
Formal outlines follow a more structured path. You've probably seen these or used them before. They generally begin with the main point or thesis statement. The rest of the outline consists of headings that explain major ideas plus subheadings that identify supporting material for each of them. This method shows relationships between ideas and groups related points for a more solid organizational plan.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being Heard Through "The Word"

In My Religion Helen Keller famously said, "For nearly six years I had no concepts whatever of nature or mind or death or God. I literally thought with my body...Then, suddenly, I knew not how or where or when, my brain felt the impact of another mind, and I awoke to language, to knowledge, to love...I was actually lifted from nothingness to human life..."   

Some of you may be rolling your eyes, thinking how incredibly cliché it is to use Helen Keller as an example of "finding herself" through language, but bear with me!

 The important thing, typically left out of Keller's story, is what she did with her realization--she made sure her voice was heard, even if that meant angering  powerful people, including President Woodrow Wilson, who persecuted the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, of which she was a member.  

 Helen Keller was a radical socialist, a revolutionary voice for the voiceless, who boldly championed the rights of the disenfranchised, from those who are disabled, to the rights of ethnic minorities, women, and industrial workers.

The fact that many people don't know this is no accident. Keller's legacy has been tamed into a heroic tale of overcoming overwhelming odds with the help of a dedicated teacher (See Lies My Teacher Told Me for more). But Keller undoubtedly wished people would take advantage of that which no one can take--their voice. It is ironic that after struggling so hard to essentially create herself with language, Keller has been silenced by history.

The point? Take advantage of the power of written and spoken word by building arguments. Combine what you know through experience with what our amazing library has to offer. Using the power of language, Keller discovered a world filled with people needlessly suffering and said something about it. Will we do the same, or will we remain silent?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The First Step: Pre-Writing

Writing anything takes place through a process, whether we realize this or not. Some may follow different patterns at different times while they write, but over the next few months, we'll be talking about some tips for you to possibly use during your own writing process.

There's no way around it: when you've got something to write, you've got to start somewhere. Below are some strategies you can use to start pre-writing for your next project.

We've probably all heard this term before. When brainstorming, try making a list of key words, phrases, and questions about your topic. Ask yourself: What do I want to talk about? What else do I need to know? What do I want my readers to get from this? This is a great way to help generate content for your work. 

Whether you type or handwrite your ideas, getting them out into words is what's important. Don't worry about proper grammar or complete sentences here--write down any information that is connected to your topic that you feel is important, and let the ideas flow. You can always organize them later. While brainstorming generally looks like a list when complete, freewriting takes on more of a loose paragraph form. 

Talking It Out
While some may like to pre-write alone, it can be very helpful to talk to others about your ideas. Tell a friend or classmate what your writing is about, and ask them what they think. Talking to someone else about your topic can develop more ideas than you might expect. And don't forget, EIU's Writing Center is always a great place to talk!

Visit Purdue OWL Online for more information about getting started with your writing. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

"So What'd I Miss?" #1 - How Your Subject Librarian Can Help You

Quick story! Real quick, I promise!

The other day, I noticed an interesting suggestion on an assignment sheet that an undergraduate brought in: "Seek out your specialist librarian to help you navigate library resources."  So, I sent the theater specialist librarian, David Bell, an e-mail requesting we meet up and go over my (fictitious) assignment. David has been a specialist librarian at Booth for 16 years, and says more students would benefit if they would seek out their specialist librarians: “We know the sources—you’ll be able to write a better paper because you benefit from our expertise.”

I picked two prompts from the assignment sheet. David says students often come in with only an assignment sheet or a vague topic, and he “doesn’t expect students to come in knowing everything already." In fact, he shares that students "often start off looking for one thing, but discover another.”

For my imaginary assignment, I told David I was deciding between writing about Noh theatre and possibly the history of mimes. David walked me through the process: We looked at some articles, where I learned that Noh theatre is a Japanese theatre art, and I discovered Kabuki - another kind of Japanese theatre. He suggested I might write about the relationship between Kabuki and Noh. The more I learned about Noh Theatre, the further I got from thinking about the history of mimes.  David cautions, however, that you, as a writer, should “be persistent in looking up stuff about your topic,” and to “not give up too quickly just because you can’t find anything.”

Making an appointment with a specialist librarian will benefit you. You’ll do some background reading, get a feel for your topic, and then they can help you navigate the vast amount of resources that are available to you both electronically and in print. David says that rather than thinking that you should “write this, or that,” you should find something enjoyable to write about because “it’s an easier process if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in.”

You can find the specialist librarian for your major or topic here:

Hopefully you have Noh trouble finding something that interests you— thanks for reading, and good luck!