Monday, February 16, 2015

Nuts & Bolts: Writing Resources

Here are some of my favorite - free! - resources for grammar, punctuation and research documentation help.

Purdue Online Writing Lab
This is my favorite site for APA/MLA guides. 

A Writer’s Reference (Diana Hacker)
The online resources are great and include quizzes with exercises in grammar, punctuation and more. The explanations for correct and wrong answers are thorough and clear. (If asked to log in, simply click “cancel” in order to use the site.) 

“Grammar Girl” explains some challenging grammar aspects in clear, friendly language. Googling “grammar girl” and, say, “semi-colons,” is the easiest way I’ve found to search the  site.

What else would you add? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Huh? Ask Questions Before Your Assignment is Due

My online students can fill in the "Comments" section when they submit an assignment. They usually write something like, "Here's my assignment. Enjoy!" Occasionally I'll read something like, "I didn't understand what you meant by X. What is a Y?"

Always ask questions. Keep in mind that the timing is important for your comprehension and, ultimately, grade. Start working early on your assignment so that is possible to ask questions before the assignment deadline. With email, of course, you can send the question at any time and instructors can respond when they are available. You might have follow-up questions, so start early.

Most schools have free in-person and online tutoring sessions available through a writing center. Most school libraries have librarians available to answer questions both in-person and online, too. Use all of the resources available to you, starting with your professor, to learn as much as possible and succeed in your classes.

Online Classes: Ask Questions
Composition Writing Classes: As Good As You Make Them
What Questions to Ask Your Professor 




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Composition Writing 101: Revising Rough Drafts

It is that period in the semester when my composition writing students are submitting final drafts of essays. They write rough drafts, submit them for peer editing workshops and feedback from me, and then submit a revision for a final paper grade. Here are some tips for editing and revising your work.

Whether you are a beginning or experienced writer, writing anything requires many, many drafts. While you might be submitting two drafts to your writing teacher, you should be writing more drafts at home. The editing and revising process benefits from time: let your piece sit overnight (at least) so that you can read it more critically the next day. It is easy to fall in love with a first draft; after all, you spent so long thinking about it and laboring over each word, sentence and paragraph. What isn't easy is to cut out lines or rearrange ideas as you write that first draft. 

As you return to your piece, you'll have some distance to notice what works and what doesn't work. Start by reading your work aloud. Reading aloud slows you down. If your tongue trips over a sentence, there might be a grammar or syntax error. 

It is difficult to catch every possible error during a single reading. Make yourself a list of things you usually do well and those aspects of writing that challenge you. For example, perhaps you usually write strong topic sentences, but tend to overuse commas. Then, re-read your piece to ensure that you continue to write strong topic sentences and then again just for proper punctuation. This approach will help you to focus your editing eye as you revise and edit. 

A student once told me that her writing tutor suggested hat she read her paper backwards: the final sentence, the next to last sentence, etc. This trick will help you to focus on the grammar and punctuation, rather than worrying about the content. 

Of course, grammatically correct sentences are nothing without content. Use your outline to to keep your ideas organized. Play devil's advocate with yourself by writing an opposing thesis statement and opposing topic sentences. Ask yourself, "How would someone who disagrees with you write a paper on the same topic?" Find the holes in your argument - and fill them in - before the reader can. 


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