Friday, April 4, 2014

We've Got Grammar!: Plurals and Articles Workshop

Ever wondered...


  • Why can I say "a research study" but not "a research"?
  • Why can you give me "pieces of advice" but not "advices"?
  • Why are English articles -- a, and, the -- so hard to learn?
We at the Writing Center will tackle those questions and more at our Plurals and Articles Workshop, our second workshop of the semester. Come by the Training and Events Room on the first floor of Bender Library from 3-4 PM on Tuesday, April 8th. Get those tricky grammar questions answered!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Do I Need a Comma Here?

by Sara Lovett

Many writers--no matter how experienced they may be--struggle to remember when a comma should be used in a sentence. Commas seem random and illogical at first, but, once you know some basic rules, they start to make more sense. Here are the most important things to remember:

1.       A comma separating two independent clauses (complete sentences each with their own subject and verb) creates a comma splice (because the comma incorrectly splices together two complete sentences). For example, the following is a run-on sentence: Sara works at the Writing Center, she likes commas.  The part of the sentence on each side of the comma is an independent clause and could stand alone as its own sentence.

2.      If the same two clauses were merged without a comma, they would create a run-on sentence (Sara works at the Writing Center she likes commas). A run-on sentence is not necessarily long; this label simply means that the sentence runs on past the place where it should be punctuated.

3.      So, if a comma creates a comma splice, but removing the comma creates a run-on, how are you supposed to punctuate that sentence? Two independent clauses can be joined by a comma if the comma is paired with a conjunction. The conjunctions that like to hang out with commas are called FANBOYS. This acronym stands for seven conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. A conjunction signals a relationship between two clauses and allows them to be linked with a comma. This sentence is correct and not a run-on:  Sara works at the Writing Center, and she likes commas. If you don’t want to use comma-FANBOYS, you can use a semicolon or just separate the sentences with a period.

4.      If your sentence starts with a dependent clause (contains a subject and verb but expresses an incomplete thought) and is followed by an independent clause, it must separate these clauses with a comma. Here’s an example: After Mark poured his cereal, he ate it. The comma in this type of sentence is like a “to be continued.” It indicates that a complete thought will follow the incomplete thought.


These are some of the trickiest ways in which commas are used, and I hope they make more sense to you now. If you need more advice on how to use commas, check out the resources on the Writing Center’s website.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet Our Undergrad Interns!



by Isabelle Altman

Every semester, the Writing Center gets a load of new consultants, all enthusiastic about writing and helping other students write. Most of us are grad students studying in the Literature department. However, every semester we have a couple of undergraduate interns who step up to the plate. This semester, those interns are Madison Chapman and Sara Lovett.

Madison is a literature major from Sarasota, Florida. In addition to working as a consultant, she’s on the Literature Department Undergraduate Studies Committee. Sara is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is an International Studies major and a Literature minor, and she plans on eventually becoming a writing professor. I got the chance to ask them about their internship experiences so far, and this is what they told me about working at the Writing Center.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading Aloud -- outside the Writing Center, too!

by Chuck Sebian-Lander
 
When you first bring a written draft of a paper to the Writing Center, your consultant will most likely ask you to read your paper out loud.  Rest assured that your consultant has good reason to ask!  Reading aloud not only keeps both you and your consultant directly engaged with your paper throughout the session, but it also lets you hear and correct your own mistakes.  Most writers hear mistakes better than they see them, whether that mistake is a simple typo or a sentence isn’t as clear as it seemed while you were writing.

This technique is just as effective outside the Writing Center!  Reading a paper out loud, even by yourself, is an excellent proofreading strategy.  You may think that you don’t know enough about grammar rules or sentence structure, but you’ll be amazed by how quickly you can improve and clarify your sentences as you speak the words you’ve written. Here are some guidelines for proofreading out loud:

1.       Read every sentence slowly.  You’ll notice yourself instinctively clarifying sentences by adding or removing words. Make sure you read slowly enough to mark the differences between what you’ve written and what you’re saying!

2.      Notice those points in a slowly-read sentence when you take a natural breath or pause.  Add punctuation, such as a comma, to reflect that pause.  Most grammatical rules on punctuation are meant to mimic the way English is naturally spoken – take advantage!

3.      Think about the meaning of each sentence as you speak.  If you realize that a sentence doesn’t make sense, consider how you would explain the meaning of that sentence to a friend, and rewrite the sentence using that explanation.  If you don’t understand something you’ve written, it’s not likely your professor will, either!

Writing is all about communication; as a proofreading strategy, reading out loud amplifies your knowledge of writing conventions through your natural ability to speak with a clear meaning in mind.  Whether you’re inside or outside of a Writing Center session, reading aloud can be an invaluable way to build more confidence in what you’ve written.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Get To Know Your Writing Resources

This semester, for the first time ever, the Writing Center is hosting a series of workshops on writing and grammar for all AU students. On March 5, the first workshop, Get To Know Your Writing Resources, will be held in the Training and Events Room on the first floor of Bender Library from 12-2 PM.

Ever wondered:
Is there anyone who can help me figure out this assignment? 
What does the Writing Center do exactly? 
What is the difference between AU's Writing Center and Writing Lab? 
Who do I ask if I can't find a source for my research paper? 
English is my third language -- where can I go for tricky grammar questions? 

If any of those questions sound familiar, this workshop is for you!

Representatives from five different campus writing resources will be there to tell you about what they do and how to get the most out of the services they offer! All AU students are welcome and SNACKS will be provided.

We will be hosting more workshops as the semester goes on. Shortly after spring break, we'll hold our Plurals and Articles workshop which will answer questions such as:

Why can I saw "a research study" but not "a research?"
Why can you give me "pieces of advice" but not "advices"
Why are English articles -- a, an, and the -- so hard to learn?

We will announce the time and place of that workshop closer to the date.

Hope to see you at the workshops!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reading Aloud -- outside the Writing Center too!

by Chuck Sebian-Lander
 
When you first bring a written draft of a paper to the Writing Center, your consultant will most likely ask you to read your paper out loud.  Rest assured that your consultant has good reason to ask!  Reading aloud not only keeps both you and your consultant directly engaged with your paper throughout the session, but it also lets you hear and correct your own mistakes.  Most writers hear mistakes better than they see them, whether that mistake is a simple typo or a sentence isn’t as clear as it seemed while you were writing.
This technique is just as effective outside the Writing Center!  Reading a paper out loud, even by yourself, is an excellent proofreading strategy.  You may think that you don’t know enough about grammar rules or sentence structure, but you’ll be amazed by how quickly you can improve and clarify your sentences as you speak the words you’ve written. Here are some guidelines for proofreading out loud:
1.       Read every sentence slowly.  You’ll notice yourself instinctively clarifying sentences by adding or removing words. Make sure you read slowly enough to mark the differences between what you’ve written and what you’re saying!
2.      Notice those points in a slowly-read sentence when you take a natural breath or pause.  Add punctuation, such as a comma, to reflect that pause.  Most grammatical rules on punctuation are meant to mimic the way English is naturally spoken – take advantage!
3.      Think about the meaning of each sentence as you speak.  If you realize that a sentence doesn’t make sense, consider how you would explain the meaning of that sentence to a friend, and rewrite the sentence using that explanation.  If you don’t understand something you’ve written, it’s not likely your professor will, either!
Writing is all about communication; as a proofreading strategy, reading out loud amplifies your knowledge of writing conventions through your natural ability to speak with a clear meaning in mind.  Whether you’re inside or outside of a Writing Center session, reading aloud can be an invaluable way to build more confidence in what you’ve written.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Telling Your Story: Personal Narrative

By Sarah Sansolo

What is the hardest topic you’ve ever had to write about? We all have areas and ideas that we have a difficult time approaching on paper. The biggest challenge, however, is usually writing about yourself.

Personal narrative assignments (which pop up frequently in College Writing classeshttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png and on applications) are deceptively difficult to write. Sure, you’re the expert on your own life, but translating that into words can be tricky. How do you write about yourself in a way that’s interesting and unique?

1. Show, Don’t Tell.
It’s a cliché for a reason. Use specific experiences to back uphttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png your claims. Details can really make a difference.

Telling:
I’m a really good writer. One time I wrote an awesome personal narrative.
Showing:
I wrote a personal narrative about the first time I went fly-fishing. My professor told me that it demonstrated my command of imagery, and the whole classroom stood up to applaud me.

2. Think Small.
When you have limited room, you can’t tell your whole life story. Think about a particular moment that is an example of what you’re trying to say.

Big:
I went on family vacations every summer and they made me close with my brother.
Small:
During my family vacation at Disney World, my brother and I lost our parents in the line for Space Mountain and had to work together to find them.

Personal narratives might seem totally different than your other writing assignments, but keep in mind a few key things that are important for all writing: organization, support, and clarity.