Working with a student taking a college level writing course, I remembered an old axiom - challenge your professor. The student, a good writer already, wanted help in direction with a persuasive paper. The topic was a current headline in science: the possible dangers of genetically altered food. She was well versed in the pros and cons of the topic, but was having difficulty choosing sides in part because her professor had expressed a definite opinion. After discussing the parameters of the paper, she knew in a persuasive paper she had to choose a side. I challenged her to choose immediately without any more going back and forth. To my surprise, she had enough spine to go directly against her professor's stated views. We worked to make sure the position she chose had plenty of factual support and that her draft would have a good structure. Then I encouraged her to think in the extreme - what's the most dramatic outcome if you are correct? Through... read more
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As a writer, the way I embrace my audience depends on the piece I am writing. So, if I am writing non-fiction, my tone is usually serious because my readers are looking for facts. On the other hand, if I am working on a fictional story, my purpose is to entertain my readers. Audiences and readers expect to be informed or entertained. It is the task of the writer to oblige those expectations. I find that if you write with a clear purpose in mind, then it is easier to convey the theme or mood of the writing. Audiences are usually very bright and can tell if a writing has no direction. To embrace mine, I always plan out my writings, giving them definite beginnings and strong endings. Blogs are a little different. They are streams of the writer's consciousness. They may be factual or fictional, but they are usually less structured and free-flowing forms of online media content. To embrace online blog readers, one must... read more
When writing your college essay, make sure to focus on what you can contribute to your new college and not just what you want to get out of it. Colleges, whether selecting for the freshman class or for graduate school, want to bring in students who will add value to their class, program, campus and community. Whatever makes you your own awesome you, celebrate it in your essay and talk about how you will use your special talent or interest to enhance the educational world you want to enter. Maybe you play guitar, or volunteer, or you spent time in the military before enrolling in college. Did you live overseas? Do you love to play the bag pipes? Chess? Don't judge yourself and assume that because you intend to study business your special interest in yoga will not be attractive to your future school. Just enthuse on what you can contribute, and if you think you have nothing to contribute, get a piece of paper and a pen and start brainstorming... read more
As a writing tutor for both adults and senior high school students, I sometimes get requests or face students with expectations, that I can't meet. If you ask a tutor for this kind of service, you might get refused, for good reason. First, if you are writing on a highly technical or specialized subject, such as engineering, psychiatry, or biotechnology, and expect a tutor to help you conceive of your paper, its sources, organization, literature review or other content, I may not be able to help you, especially after an hour's meeting. At least I would need time to learn a little about your field. But in fact, this is not what a tutor can do for you. A tutor can give feedback, suggestions, or editing assistance, but the content is your own. Second, if you are a student, applying to college for example, and want a tutor to help you shape your personal essay or cover letter to make it sound polished or "unique", you also may not get this kind of help. To represent... read more
Have you ever wondered just who is reading that personal statement you have to submit (along with the rest of your material) when applying to a college or university. Here's a statement from one such reader (No, I didn't write it). * * * * * * * * "The key fact to know about your audience (and yes, you are writing for a specific audience... read more
Effective tutoring for writing focuses on global issues such as organization and development, and on problem areas with clear explanations for the student. These tasks, performed correctly, will enable the student to become independent--able to proofread their work on their own more effectively each time. As we all know, editing our own work can be the toughest part of writing; often we just don't see our mistakes. So the role of the tutor is not to "correct" the student's work and make it perfect--that is the teacher's job. The tutor's role is to ask questions, to have the student express their thoughts orally and see how those thoughts transition to the writing, and to help the student use their resources (their notes, dictionaries and other books, online help, teachers) so that, at some point, they don't need the tutor!
Take a look at the following list of words: is, are, was, were, be, being, been. These words often make writing weak and confusing. Want to create superior writing? Get rid of them. Now, that may sound crazy, as they stand among the most common words in the English language. That's because they serve as hallmarks of common, average writing. To make your prose better than average, you should use them less frequently.
The human muscular system is not only complex, it intrigues by the amount of work it can perform, and sustain under the most demanding conditions. There are many viable contenders for determining the strongest muscle, included are: longevity, strength alone, load, lift, durability, response to pain, healing qualities, size, function, growth, suitability in recovery and reproducibility of destroyed or diseased cells. Within the human body, there are several muscles that may be considered such as the heart, jaw, tongue, uterus, the list can go on until you have covered most of the over 630 muscles in the human body. The strongest muscle is that muscle required to work all day, every day without tiring or failure. It could be a group of muscles or a single muscle. It is the one that responds to high demand and allows us to function almost flawlessly. It is the one that is mechanically, the most perfect muscle. The muscle that outperforms any mechanical... read more
Poetry is the absolute beauty of the human heart expressing emotion in a form that delights, and leaves the reader with a feeling of contentment in one spectrum, and a feeling of remorse in another. No other form of writing has the ability and power to inspire the emotion created through poetry. There are more than sixty different popular forms of poetry commonly used today. Many forms from the Old World, have been Americanized to suit the American style for writing. Interchanging Poetry is a narrative combining poetry with discussion, debate, dialog, or description; using the poetry to emphasize the narrative. It is a new form of poetry developing interchanging literary devices to enhance poetic discourse. Generally, writers will incorporate a poem into their article, publication, or book to make a point or site as a reference. This is common practice giving the author of the poetry proper credit. This is not a common practice with poets, who write... read more
Poetry is one of those literary genres that instill a fear in students, particularly in the middle school arena. Metaphor, sonnet, acrostic, haiku, rhyme, prose, or free verse are examples of hundreds of poetry terms and forms. Confusing for a young impressionable mind to absorb, poetry is often a subject to avoid, and if unavoidable, often solicits a desire to cheat to succeed. Throughout the internet, are sites where students ask questions soliciting someone to explain or write them poetry to complete a homework assignment. Poetry is not a written or spoken form to be feared, rather should be the educational tool that teaches reading, writing and the arts as no other single genre is capable. Writing poetry ought to be fun allowing students to express their feelings, beliefs, and experiences without the restriction of initially teaching them to write and interpret forms of poetry that are difficult for most to understand and usually result in a lifelong hatred... read more
Essay writing can be challenging for young writers. I have written hundreds of essays. It's always been a pleasure to receive a grade of A on an essay; however, it is even more enjoyable to receive a direct deposit for a winning scholarship essay! Yes, it can make all the difference when funding your own education. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities and most of them require a well written essay submission. Have you ever been given a writing assignment that requires referencing a dozen different documents? Are you learning to organize your writing? Is it overwhelming when you are asked to complete a lengthy essay or report that includes more than just 5 or 6 references? Do you want to apply for scholarships but you don't know how to write a winning essay? To write any type of essay, my first tip is to take a step back, re-read the assignment criteria and/or rubric, and ask yourself a few questions. 1... read more
One summer I was ambitious and signed up for a condensed Anatomy & Physiology II course. Having just completed Anatomy & Physiology I and Microbiology during the spring semester, I thought just taking one college course over the summer would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was! Learning the major systems of the human body in a full 16 week semester can be challenging for most students. Fortunately, our professor believed in assigning essay styled lab reports. Writing about new and more complex topics is challenging! A few weeks into the condensed summer session I realized I would not achieve the A I wanted in A & P II without a full commitment to spend every waking moment studying. My professor made it clear to the class that he was not going to grade us any easier just because we chose to take the 'short course.' I vividly recall him announcing during lecture that the endocrine system was probably the... read more
When you start banging your head against the wall, trying to learn something new--be it art, math, foreign language, science, or that tuba you picked up at your neighbor's garage sale last weekend--can be, well, frustrating. (Not to mention headache-inducing.) It feels like you'll never get the hang of it, even when you try over and over again to get it perfect. Trust me, I know exactly where you're coming from. See, when I was in high school, I struggled with English. No, really! My English literature classes felt like a complete joke. Everybody knew you just wrote a bunch of b.s. that parroted back what the teacher said, you'd get a B--an A if you could use semicolons correctly--and that was it. I couldn't even spit back what we were told in class because I thought none of it mattered, that it was all arbitrary and my teacher just enjoyed being the god of his own little kingdom, giving out Cs to students who never gave him chocolate for... read more
Good morning, lovely learners! Time to rise and shine and, well, learn. Today's post is the last in three I've done on Aristotle's Rhetoric Trifecta. We've done pathos--persuasion by emotion--and logos--argument by logic--but now it's time to end this with a final powerhouse punch: ethos. Ethos is persuasion by authority. A little strange, sure, but if you tilt your head and squint your eyes a little, you'll see why I think this is the most important strategy of the three. See, you can have the cutest, big-eyed puppies campaigning for you, and dozens of scientists out spouting statistics and studies, but unless you yourself come across as someone who knows what they're talking about--as a reliable, trustworthy source of information--no one will listen to you. So appearing to your audience, whether in writing or in person, as someone worth paying attention to must be a top priority. Let's take this blog and my... read more
Good morning, writing minions! It’s time for more lessons from a dead white dude. In my last post, I discussed the power of pathos as one of three primary rhetorical techniques Aristotle developed to persuade an audience—techniques that still work today, whether for campaign speeches, college essays, or talking Mom and Dad into a later curfew. Today, it’s time to talk about logos, or the logical argument. And to explain it well, allow one of my favorite television characters of all time take the stage: Abed Nadir, of Dan Harmon’s Community. Abed, a socially awkward young man in community college, offers a piece of chocolate to the female members of his study group whenever they become agitated. This goes unnoticed until his agenda book is opened and the study group sees the calendar marked on certain dates with the female members’ names. It’s alarmingly obvious that he’s been charting the women’s menstrual cycles. Horrified, they ask Abedwhy... read more
I have a thing for old, dead guys. Sure, they're a little dusty, but you just wipe off their tomb--er, tome--and you'll see they can breathe fresh life into your writing. There's this particular old dude Aristotle whose advice I've taken to heart for myself. He used to be a tutor himself to Alexander the Great in ancient Egypt. He taught biology, physics, geography, oration, and--most importantly for us!--rhetoric. There's a fancy definition for rhetoric, but the basic idea is this: There're a series of ways to sway an audience to your own opinion and view, be they in person or on paper. The art--and yes, it's an art--of doing this well is called rhetoric. According to Aristotle, there were three ways to go about convincing people that your way is the right way. He called them "logos," "pathos," and "ethos." You can use one, two, or even all three in combination. In order to use them, however, you... read more
Brainstorming: Thought patterns and ideas about particular subject. Outline: Organizing and categorizing ideas in order to formulate paragraphs for paper. Rough draft: The beginning of your writing process; organizing, rewriting, rephrasing information from rough draft. Revising and Editing: Proofreading grammar, spelling errors and ensuring paper is formatted correctly. Final Copy: Submission of paper after revising.
Now is a great time to pursue your dream. Why not study what interests you? It is never too late to make a decision to start a new career. Perhaps you would like to start a new business? Being an entrepreneur is great. There has not been a better time for me to pursue higher education than in this season of life. Returning to college to complete my education has been one of the best decisions I ever made. Now, as I continue my education, I also encourage others as an educational mentor and ESL/ESOL writing consultant. There are hundreds of ways to approach returning to college. Of course, attending full time means completing a degree program quicker than if you attend part-time. If you are working full-time and think part-time night classes are best at this stage of your life--take the plunge! Dive into a new school and get busy pursuing your dream of a higher education. Statistics don't lie.... read more
I'm a professional writer, since 1996, and college-writing instructor, since 2007. Topic development, support, flow, style, grammar, and editing - I can help you with all aspects of the writing process. Effective college writing is your gateway to academic and professional success.
English Composition: for many, it is a course that breeds anxiety and procrastination. Students often feel like they are at the mercy of red ink wielding professors. They squiggle notes about unity, clarity, and transitions in the margins of what you thought was a well crafted essay. You may find yourself on the receiving end of a big fat “F” even if your essay has perfect spelling and grammar. How does this happen? What mysterious criteria are at play here? What does your professor want from you anyway? Rubrics: Unlocking the Mystery Well, this might surprise you, but your professor is not assigning arbitrary letter grades based on whether or not they like you or your essay. Your professor is actually measuring your essay against a standard set by the college. This standard usually takes the form of a rubric: a tool used to assess the quality of individual components in a college essay. These components include how well you address the purpose and audience... read more