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As I have tutored over time via instant messaging, certain problems come up again and again among the students that I have taught English writing to.   As I have corrected student essays over the past few years online, I have developed this set of advice for writers with less experience.  Much of this advice is influenced by Strunk & White's and Payne, so I don't claim much originality here.   General organizational advice for essays: 1. Don’t take the reader’s attention for granted. In the introduction, use attention-getting devices, such as a set of leading questions, interesting statistics, a famous quote from a famous person, a striking assertion or claim, etc. The following sentences in the first paragraph should narrow down the topic to the more specific point made in the thesis. 2. Always put the thesis statement, or main point to be proven or explained, at the end of the first paragraph. Aim to write it as a single sentence, not two... read more

If English is your second language and you would like another pair of eyes to review your final research paper prior to submission, please contact me. I'm available online, via email, and for those graduate students located in Central Florida, in person. I've assisted many nursing professionals, whose second language is English, to achieve an A on a final research project. My experience includes reviewing papers written for online graduate courses, papers written in group collaboration, rough drafts (minimum 5 pages with draft in-text citations and draft bibliography, plus copies of supporting research articles), and final research papers. I can consult with you at any stage during your research and writing process. I've even helped students breakthrough challenges such as writer's block and brainstormed ideas for research projects!   Sometimes writers feel overwhelmed and I can help by reviewing the professor's rubric, writing assignment criteria, and any email... read more

The topic bridging sentence provides a smooth topical transition from one idea to another for the reader. It is a segue of ideas and allows for a logically relevant transition. The topic bridge sentence also challenges you as a writer to relate and connect your ideas between paragraphs in order to have a cohesive paper.Topic bridging sentences are the first sentence in body paragraphs of an essay. Approach Ask yourself: What is the main idea of the preceding body paragraph? What is the main idea of the following body paragraph? How are they related? Similar pattern/trend Share a feature Chronologically related Devices Basic Topic Bridge Sentence “In addition to <main idea from paragraph one>, such and such also was influenced/affected by <main idea from paragraph two>.” Complex Topic Bridge Sentences Connect the ideas from the two paragraphs in a more global fashion. Explain how... read more

Writing is a skill.  Just like with any other talents--being musical, athletic, artistic, some people are just better at writing than others.  That doesn't mean you can't develop writing skills.  It just takes more practice!   Many of my weak writers are excellent at math.  I create formulas for a thesis, topic sentence, and each paragraph.  If you can remember a formula, you can write an essay.  I encourage daily reading.  The more we read, the more vocabulary and sentence structure we are exposed to.  This works its way into the brain, and enables recall when it comes time to write.   I also encourage my students to write about what they read.  We do simple things like summarizing, list questions they may have, draw or describe the setting, predict what happens next, or even come up with an alternate title for the book.  All of these things help people to become better readers, and that makes us good writers... read more

Description The introductory paragraph of a paper or writing should capture the reader’s attention and engage their mind. You should always approach your papers expecting a reluctant or busy reader. Your job is to relate to them, give them useful information, and intrigue them to capture their interest. The first sentence of an introduction can be thought of as “the hook:” The sentence that grabs the mind of your reader. Approach Ask yourself: Who is reading this paper (your audience)? Is my reader sympathetic or opposed to my view? What personal experiences or interests will my reader have? How can I relate to the topics or things that my reader would care about? What was the most interesting or unexpected fact that I learned? Tone of Paper The tone of your paper should determine the hook sentence that you use For creative writing, you have more flexibility For informative writings, the tone may limit the options you have   Devices Creative... read more

Last week in my Literature Spotlight, I explored the connections between humanity, free will and morality in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. For this week's Writing Rundown, I thought I'd share with you my brainstorming process. As I mentioned in this blog post, there are many different ways to brainstorm for a project. For this one, I chose to use a Word Cloud. I chose the Word Cloud because it's a much more flexible and organic method than going straight for an outline, and I was anticipating this particular topic being tricky to organize. All of the ideas bouncing around in my head were interconnected, and I felt a Word Cloud would help me sort them out and figure out the best way to structure my essay. In the center of the page, I began with the phrase “Loss of Free Will.” I knew that was the central key to my current thought process – that the loss of free will was what actually affected the main character's humanity, far more than any other... read more

While I, as a writer, very much enjoy the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, more likely), I understand not everyone is as inclined. In fact, writing can be a very tedious task if you're not invested in your writing, whether an inbox full of emails that need responses or a 10-page paper. But I have a few quick tips that will hopefully make writing more fun for everyone! Write to a soundtrack. Now, this tip may not be for everyone, as some people find it very hard to focus with any kind of distraction. But I find that music playing softly in the background while I type away takes some of the pressure of what I'm doing, as I'm less likely to track the minutes I spend staring at the same sentence if I have a song giving my work flow and momentum. Pick whatever music you like, but I suggest nothing too catchy that you'll be tempted to stop writing and have a karaoke break. I have a playlist of music without words, which doesn't have to be all classical... read more

Writer's block can be frustrating. You can spend countless hours staring at the computer screen, hoping to fill the white space and find those perfect words that will unleash your writing.   Two of the best "cures" for writer's blocks are ones I learned in journalism school, and ones I still use to this day. They are a little unconventional, but they do kickstart the creative process.   1. Hug a tree. Sounds crazy, right? But sometimes, the simple act of doing something so absurd, so out of your comfort zone -- like hugging a tree, or jumping in a mud puddle -- jars loose the writer's block. And makes you laugh.   2. Sit in a dark room, block out as much light and sound as possible, and just focus on your breathing. After a while, you'll notice your mind perks up and the ideas start flowing. It helps free your mind by removing distractions.   What are your favorite ways to beat writer's block?

Here are few few pieces of advice to motivate you while writing- fiction or nonfiction!   First and foremost, know your subject.  If you are writing a story, know your characters.  If you are writing an essay, research the topic.  The more information you have, the clearer your topic becomes to explain or argue.     Second, be passionate!  Whether you are writing about what on earth Heathcliffe's deal with Cathy was, the lifecycle of a frog, or why orange Starburst are better than yellow, you need to be invested in what you write. Sometimes you are given boring topics- regardless, try to put a bit of yourself in your writing.  If you are bored writing it, your audience will be bored reading it.  When all else fails, try to fall back on your personal beliefs and values for inspiration; for example, "According to three out of four students at Spring Hill Middle School, Minecraft is the best video game of this generation... read more

I spent all my life in TV News.  I won awards for my work, but my true satisfaction came from helping people.  In retirement, now, my wish is to work with those who need help with their writing and ability to tell a story factually and emphatically.  While writing is an "Art" to some, it can be a very useful and necessary tool to all who thrive to get ahead in their world.

As a former camp director (references available), and as a published writer and college English instructor, I can customize a reading and writing group to engage your teen this summer. This will keep them in a safe environment, and they will be learning and practicing their writing and analytical skills for future high school and college success. I will design a custom plan and schedule for your needs. Why not contact another parent and see if their teens would be interested. We can select some appropriate books together, and I will design discussion questions and writing exercises for the workshop meetings. We can decide on public meeting places: libraries, coffee shops, etc. Contact me here through WyzAnt and I will create a special package rate for my services, especially if you introduce additional students that might be interested. There is no obligation to discuss this idea. Please e-mail me if you have questions or to discuss further! -... read more

Statisticians say that the average person writes about 55,000 words per year. That's enough to fill a novel. This statistic measures everything from thank you notes to work emails. However, I'm sure the average college student far exceeds this number. Therefore, it's no wonder that most students I work with are seeking help with their writing. Needless to say, with such a word filled future on these students' horizon, I take this responsibility seriously.  Most students think they need to start with grammar in order to improve their writing. They are baffled by the pesky rules that spell check doesn't catch but that their teachers always find. They think that the key to their writing is unlocking the comma, semicolon, and split infinitive. However, I'd argue that unless you have the time and patience, and the student has the dedication, to teach him or her Latin (where many of these rules have been super imposed from), it will be hard for them to master grammar at this... read more

Have you ever been assigned a paper and then just sat there staring at a blank page or screen because you didn't know what to write?  Many of us have been there at one time or another.  My son (whom I will probably write about quite a bit) struggled with ADHD throughout his childhood and still battles it occasionally.  One thing I had him try when he was in 5th grade was to write just like he spoke because he never seemed to be at a loss for words around me! You can edit and revise your paper to fix grammatical errors or to make it sound more formal, but to get your ideas down on paper, just relax and tell your story.   Even though he loved to talk, he had a difficult time getting the dialog he had in his head onto paper so I suggested he use a recording device and record his rough draft.  He felt kind of funny talking into a recorder at first so I recorded him telling me a story about pirates.  He had read a few articles online and a couple of... read more

This is a question I find a lot of people grapple with, whether they be adults, teenagers or children. The love of reading, of transporting yourself into a different world, is a way to escape. Writing, whether it be an analytic essay or the next epic adventure, requires the ability to reach into your mind and actively confront yourself – and that is not an easy feat to manage. Part of being able to write is to have your thoughts organized in your mind. This actually may prove incredibly difficult for a reader to do. Our minds are often going all over the place at any given moment, reliving stories or day dreaming some of our own. Readers are dreamers so it makes sense that our thoughts naturally flow and are sometimes difficult to pin down. That’s okay – that’s what lists are for! In order to better organize your thoughts, start out simple. Make a list of what you really think about the subject you are about to write about. This works for anything, whether it be a... read more

As a former camp director (references available), and as a published writer and college English instructor, I can customize a reading and writing group to engage your teen. This will keep them in a safe environment, and they will be learning and practicing their writing and analytical skills.   I will design a custom plan and schedule for your needs. Why not contact another parent and see if their teens would be interested. We can select some appropriate books together, and I will design discussion questions and writing exercises for the workshop meetings. We can decide on public meeting places: libraries, coffee shops, etc.   Contact me here through WyzAnt and I will create a special package rate for my services, especially if you introduce additional students that might be interested. There is no obligation to discuss this idea. Please e-mail me if you have questions or to discuss further!     - Tim 

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