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Be Careful With Online Classes

The tricky thing about online classes is that sometimes assignment instructions are ambiguous or unclear, so students can easily misinterpret them. It's also easy for students to assume that other students in the class are doing assignments correctly, which can result in a "herd mentality" and lead the entire class in the wrong direction (I've experienced this more than once). Clarifying something when the class physically meets every week is easy: you can read the instructor's body language and tone of voice and receive immediate answers to your questions; but in an online environment it's harder to know when you've misconstrued something. Unless the instructor has very clear and thorough guidelines, and unless the students read them carefully, there will be misunderstandings. Hybrid classes (50% online) can also be misleading. You only have to show up to class once a week, but when you check Blackboard (or whatever online environment your instructor uses) suddenly... read more

What Does It Take to Be a Good Writer?

Sweat. And blood. And tears. And a cramped hand. If you want readers to enjoy your work, you must suffer. The term "writer" is misleading, however. The correct term is "rewriter," for all good writing requires rewriting. Good writers are not born good; they are forged by study and practice. Consider the ancient Greek rhetorician Isocrates: In the art of rhetoric, credit is won not by gifts of fortune, but by efforts of study. For those who have been gifted with eloquence by nature and by fortune, are governed in what they say by chance, and not by any standard of what is best, whereas those who have gained this power by study and by the exercise of language never speak without weighting their words, and so are less often in error as to a course of action. (Antidosis, 15.292) So examine every word, every sentence, every paragraph. Eradicate awkwardness, ambiguity, and bad grammar at all costs. The more rhetorically effective and clearer you are, the... read more

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