Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Practice & Resilience

As you can see below and to the right, Presentation Zen is one of our recommended blogs on this site.

While the author Garr Reynolds squarely focuses on giving presentations, which involve rhetorical concerns and writing obviously, in his posts, his March 24 entry, "Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Power of Japanese Resilience," is a reflective piece on the tragedy in Japan and how the Japanese people are resilient in the face of such a horrible natural disaster.

In one section of his post, Reynolds, who lives in Japan, offers his own perspective on the well-known proverb that is part of the title of his entry: "You see this ethic reinforced in all facets of Japanese culture including education, business, sports, the martial arts, the Zen arts, etc. It is especially important to remember the sentiment expressed in this proverb when times are dark. There are no quick fixes in life and anything of real worth will necessarily take much struggle and perseverance. Success does not have to be fast--what's more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent."

Personally, I've been drawn to this proverb for a long time. I think I was first introduced to it in junior high school from something I read if I remember correctly. Regardless and in what is a leap here because I'm moving from the situation in Japan to matters about writing, I've applied the principle to my life in general but specifically to my writing life.

Of course, comparing what's happened and what's currently happening in Japan to the trials and tribulations of people writing papers in college or faculty members writing papers for presentation and publication could venture toward the ridiculous, toward the absurd.

I have linked Reynolds' post out of admiration for the resilience of the Japanese people. I do not mean to equate the two in a one-to-one manner; that is not my intent. So I hope you stay with me here.

Creating Effective Personal Statements & Resumes Workshop, Th. 3/31 @ 5:00 p.m.

This week's workshop,"Creating Effective Personal Statements and Resumes," is designed to help you create documents that can help you advance your academic and/or professional career.

When applying for jobs, graduate programs, internships, or scholarships, you might be called upon to submit a resume or personal statement.

Come to this Writing Center workshop for tips on composing these documents successfully.

The workshop will run from 5:00 to 5:30 in the Writing Center (3110 Coleman Hall).

If a student is interested in attending, he or she just needs to give us a call at 581-5929, reply to this blog post, or reply to our latest status update on the EIU Writing Center's Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Deciphering Teachers' Comments Workshop, Thursday 3/24 @ 5:00 p.m.

This week's workshop, "What's That Mean?: Deciphering Teachers' Comments," is designed to help you make the most of your instructors' feedback on your writing assignments.

If you have received a graded paper with comments from your instructor that you don't fully understand, attend this Writing Center workshop for tips on how to decode teacher comments as you revise your writing.

The workshop will run from 5:00 to 5:30 in the Writing Center (3110 Coleman Hall).

If a student is interested in attending, he or she just needs to give us a call at 581-5929, reply to this blog post, or reply to our latest status update on the EIU Writing Center's Facebook page.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Get Technical

Hello, everybody. I hope everyone has had a nice, relaxing spring break. Oh, and I hope everyone has had a productive spring break as well, because we all know that this is a week to not just catch up on rest but is also a week to catch up on work. That being said, let’s get down to business.

My last post discussed how to take or handle comments you receive from your professor. In case you missed it, here’s the link. I wanted to do a follow up to that post and look more at the editorial/technical side of comments. If you handed in a paper before the break, there is a good chance you will be getting that paper back this week. Brace yourself. There is a chance that you will get your paper back and see some editorial marks and comments, and that means your paper wasn’t perfect, but that is okay. Perfection is an impossible standard, and those marks and comments are fantastic opportunities for you to learn. That’s right! I said LEARN!

Now, I’ve included a list of some common comments you might see and what those comments mean. So here it is:

Frag = Fragment

Awk = Awkward sentence/phrasing

CS = Comma Splice

RO = Run-on Sentence

SV Agr = Subject-Verb Agreement

MM or DM = Modifier Error – Misplaced or Dangling

// = Parallelism

I bet I can guess what you are thinking. “Chris, what does modifier error/parallelism/subject-verb agreement/awkward sentence mean?” Well, I’m not going to tell you. You will have to figure it out on your own. That is your side of the work. But hold on, there’s more! I’ll give you some tips if you don’t know what these mean. You have some options on how to find out.

1) Go ask your professor.

2) Go to the Writing Center.

3) Check the Purdue OWL.

There are 3 solid options. Go learn what these mean. I promise it will help. But, I wasn’t able to add all of the common marks you might see. I was limited by Word, so I’m going to give you a link to a table provided by Merriam Webster. This table shows proofreading symbols and is very helpful. So here it is:

Now for the disclaimer. Not all professors will use the same symbols. As you can see from the link, there are tons out there. Your professor might also write out comments that A) You don’t understand or B) You can’t read because it is illegible. For these instances or other comments/marks you just have no clue about, go ask your professor. Let me repeat that. GO. ASK. YOUR. PROFESSOR. Your professor is there to help you. Your professor will be able to explain what those marks mean and the reasoning behind them, and if the writing is illegible, your professor will probably be the first to admit it.

So there you are. I’ve started you off on learning what these marks and comments mean. Now it’s your turn to finish the educational journey. That’s corny I know, but so worth it. Cheers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Have a Great Spring Break

Although I'm sure many folks will be writing documents over the next week, the authors of EIU Writes are taking the week off. It is spring break after all.

Sometime later this semester, we'll post the four parts of our interview with President Perry in video/transcript form.

Stay tuned for that.

Have a fun, safe, and relaxing spring break.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Working with Sources in MLA Style & Plagiarism Awareness Workshop, Thursday 3/10 @ 5:00 p.m.

This week's workshop, “Working with Sources in MLA Style & Plagiarism Awareness,” focuses on how to introduce, use, and cite sources in MLA Style to show that you've done solid research while effectively and ethically providing sources.

If any of your instructors are asking you to use MLA style in your writing assignments, and you’ve questions about how to follow it, this workshop will be very helpful.

The workshop will run from 5:00 to 5:30 in the Writing Center (3110 Coleman Hall).

If a student is interested in attending, he or she just needs to give us a call at 581-5929, reply to this blog post, or reply to our latest status update on the EIU Writing Center's Facebook page.

Why You Should Actually Attend Readings

No doubt you've seen advertisements about readings being held throughout campus. Perhaps you've gone to a few that relate to your class work, or whose topics interested you. But have you ever considered how attending readings and presentations may impact your own writing?

The truth is, hearing a paper read aloud is completely different from reading it silently to yourself. (This is, in fact, a great proofreading skill.) When listening to someone read aloud, you get a sense of flow and rhythm, an idea of how words sound. If you pay close attention, this can affect how you yourself put words and sentences together—pattern yourself off of the patterns of others. It's okay to take inspiration from others, as long as you avoid outright plagiarism.

It also helps to attend readings and presentations that you otherwise wouldn't attend. For example: if you are an Education major with an English concentration, perhaps you should attend a reading about plate tectonics. Sounds boring, right? But just think—not all of the writing in the world revolves around teaching English. There's a lot you can take away from a geology essay. Use of terminology, for example; or the way the presenter may take information that is otherwise boring to you, and make it fun and engaging (believe me, this actually happens). If you're going to be teaching English to a room full of high schoolers who don't care about the symbology of the letter "A" in The Scarlet Letter, you'll need to engage them somehow.

VoilĂ ! Any reading, any presentation, can help you with your own writing. You just have to pay attention—if not to the subject matter, then to the way it's read, or the way the presenter delivers the information. This may mean adding a few more "to-do's" onto your already-busy schedule, but believe me, it pays off in the long run. And who knows—you just may have some fun. (Really!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Take a Step Back From Your Writing

When you take a writing course, whether it is one of the 1000 level English courses or one of the later courses, there is one aspect of writing that can get missed. Now, I’m not saying that it is always missed. There may be professors that discuss this with their students, but I don’t remember having a professor lay this out for me. What I’m talking about is separating yourself from your writing. This can be a difficult thing to do. When putting the words onto the page, it can be easy to become attached to those words. They represent your ideas and thoughts, and when you get back comments and critiques, you could feel like you are the one being critiqued.

I’m here to tell you that you aren’t being critiqued. You are not being attacked. Comments and critiques are there to push you to become a better writer. Critiquing your words is not the same as critiquing you as a person. You need to find a way to separate yourself from your writing. I struggled doing this when I started here at EIU. The way I got past it was immersion therapy. I took a creative writing course, and for those unfamiliar with how it works, I shall explain. You bring in a piece of writing and sit there in silence while everyone else in the class dissects it. It was rough the first time I did this. No one said anything mean or harsh, but I still felt hurt. The next time I had something workshopped it wasn’t as bad. I got used to it and was able to take this separation to my other courses.

So if you are trying to figure out how to separate yourself from your writing, try a creative writing workshop. It worked for me. Of course, this strategy might not work with everyone, so if you have other ideas, post it as a comment. How do you manage to separate yourself from your writing?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Working with Sources in APA Style & Plagiarism Awareness Workshop, Th 3/3 5:00 pm

This week's workshop, "Working with Sources in APA Style & Plagiarism Awareness," focuses on how to introduce, use, and cite sources in APA Style to show that you've done solid research while effectively and ethically providing sources.

The workshop will run from 5:00 to 5:30 in the Writing Center (3110 Coleman Hall).

If a student is interested in attending, he or she just needs to give us a call at 581-5929, reply to this blog post, or reply to our latest status update on the EIU Writing Center's Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

International Students and the Writing Demands at American Colleges

With the strong influx of international students attending America's colleges, as numerous scholars have pointed out, whether you're teaching writing-centered or writing-intensive classes, students whose native languages are not English will have different challenges than traditional American students who came to EIU from high schools or two-year colleges.

One very helpful and concise resource that gleans research related to English Language Learners (ELL) is "Working with ESL/ELL Students" provided by E. Shelley Reid at George Mason University.

The page refers to "writing teachers," but the information, recommendations, and strategies should translate to all instructors who have international students in their classes. In other words, if you're assigning writing and if you have international students in your courses, you might find this link helpful.

Some of the highlights, for me at least, are the following points:
  • Since international students come from cultures that might have distinctly different ways of organizing discourse compared to American culture (people who study this area call it "contrastive rhetoric" or "intercultural communication"), international students "may know that 'good writing' should be inferential rather than directive, be objective rather than personal, or include statements of the author's opinion/argument only after all evidence has been presented."
  • Because different cultures have various ways of working with sources, "students may bring different expectations about rules for acknowledging outside sources."
  • Some of the language challenges resulting from working in a new language may result in the fact that "students may transfer word order or cognates from their first language (L1) into their writing in English," and "students may use a 'translating' approach to writing that may slow them down, resulting in shorter essays."
  • In contrast to an approach that's used in writing centers worldwide, international students "[m]ay have difficulty using traditional editing skills to recognize and/or fix errors (e.g., won't "hear" all errors simply by reading aloud)."

And a really helpful portion of the Web page (toward the end) is the section titled "Rising Tide strategies," which provides recommendations that can help not only ELL students but all students.

I hope the link to Reid's page is useful, and if you have any comments or reactions to what's presented, we'd enjoy reading them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

20 Common Writing Errors

Have you ever struggled with pronoun usage, comma splices, or whatever the heck "subject-verb agreement" is? Guess what--you aren't the only one! Some problem areas are just so common, Andrea Lunsford of Stanford University actually compiled them into a list entitled "20 Most Common Errors." If you're struggling, try perusing this list. You may find that whatever grammatical concerns ail you are shared by a great many writers.

And while you're at it, take a look at the Resources for Writers page on the EIU Writing Center website. You'll find links to quite a few sources that will help you with all aspects of your writing process.

(If the links aren't doing it for you, feel free to visit the Writing Center and discuss your concerns with a real live person. Student, staff, faculty--all are welcome! And it's free!)