Is FLOW Only for Water? January 20, 2011Posted by jhicks in : Love Unit, Nursing, Portfolio, Style, Uncategorized , comments closed
“Can you help me make this FLOW better?”
“I’d like you to check for FLOW.”
”Maybe this doesn’t FLOW right.”
Though you might not be able to define FLOW in writing, you know when you have it and when you don’t!
Many qualities contribute to text FLOW; here are some editing steps you can apply that may help you capture that elusive quality.
Read aloud. Though this reminds you of junior high, it’s the best editing trick around. Underline sentences or parts that don’t “sound right” and check out their insides. These two examples will give you the idea.
Example: Colleges are making tuition more affordable with scholarships and having scholarships and campus jobs. [Notice how the phrases are constructed differently. They are not similar in grammatical structure or consistent in point of view, which wrecks the flow.]
Improved: Colleges are making tuition more affordable by offering scholarships and campus jobs.
Example: For companies who want to increase market share, they must advertise to their target group. [The word "for" throws off the sentence. Begin with "companies" and omit "they."]
Wordy or illogical constructions can clog a sentence’s flow: The reason is because . . .Pneumonia is when
Omit because and when in this type of construction.
COHESION–You’ll feel “flow” when ideas move from old-to-new:
Move from familiar to unfamiliar ideas. Notice this movement in the following sentences:
The native language of nearly 1 million people is American Sign Language (ASL) [new idea]. Unlike a common misperception, ASL [old idea] is not English in signed form [new idea]. Signed English [old idea] involves signing individual characterisitics of an English sentence, whereas an ASL signer uses physical space occupied and facial expression in a communication exchange [new idea]. ASL [old idea] can be described as “pictorial/visual and three dimensional while English is audible and linear” (Schmidt, Bunse, Dalton, et al 7).
PUNCTUATION also assists with “flow” because these minute marks signal a change in tone, expression, or tempo that you would hear or see in a conversation. On paper, these signals tell your brain what to expect next.
Check out the blog category of “editing” to brush up on conventions of punctuation.
Schmidt, Katherine, et al. “Lessening the Divide: Strategies for Promoting Effective Communication between Hearing Consultants and Deaf Student-writers.” The Writing Lab Newsletter, 33.5 (2009): 6-10.
Show More, Tell Less . . .Revising Narrative August 25, 2009Posted by jhicks in : CORE, Editing, Handouts, Love Unit, Style , comments closed
How many times have you heard this writing advice: Show us, don’t tell us. Readers prefer action over narrative so they can picture events as they may have happened. But how do you carry out this advice? You have already used adjectives and adverbs and told what happened . . .but this still may be telling, not showing.
With a few additions, you can easily revamp a passage to show.
(1) Add dialog: Let people talk to show their feelings and motives.
(2) Add movement: Let people move around to show what’s happening and what they’re thinking. You can imply many complex ideas with through people’s actions.
(3) Add examples that show: Give readers more than one example. In fact, this might be where you can add the dialog and action.
(4) Replace “is/are” verbs with verbs that show action: grabbed, argued, flung, considered, extolled, worried, announced, etc.
Compare these two paragraphs in this pdf–These examples will show you the idea, rather than our just telling you the steps! how-to-show-more-tell-less.pdf
CORE tip: Apply these techniques to revisions of your creation narrative paper. Maybe showing more will bring it to life.
Making the Most of Your Sentences October 2, 2008Posted by arussell in : Love Unit, Style , comments closed
Once you have a strong idea for your paper, think about the way you are presenting that idea. Do your sentence patterns convey the ideas by their very arrangement? Sentence patterns can
- covey cause and effect, sequence, or time
- build suspense or make an idea pop out
- give variety to a paragraph; make your writing more sophisticated
To sound more interesting and sophisticated, mix up the types of sentences you are using. Don’t use all simple sentences or all compound or complex sentences. Placing short sentences between longer ones give the shorter sentences a punch–they stand out more.
Here are some other sentence types to consider:
A loose sentence is the type of sentence that is most common. At the beginning of the sentence is the main idea (subject and verb) and then all the other less important information follows. For example: I left the restaurant feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach as all my surroundings swirled before my eyes. In this case the subject (I) and the verb (left) are at the beginning of the sentence.
A periodic sentence is not as common and must be used with care. With this type, there is a build-up to the main idea. For example: Looking at the rose, at its soft petals and thin folds, I saw beauty. Here, the main idea (I saw beauty) is at the end of the sentence and all the other details lead up to this idea. If used sparingly, this sentence style makes an idea have real snap. The subject and verb really stand out at the end.
To express cause and effect:
Use a complex sentence beginning with since or because: Because of the reduction in anticipated dividends, many employees delayed their retirement.
(Same idea expressed with a compound sentence does not express cause and effect clearly: Employees anticipated reduced dividends, and they decided to delay their retirement.)
To express sequence or simultaneous events:
Use a complex sentence beginning with while, whenever, before, as, or a similar word: While the stock market dropped, employees
Developing Your Own Voice July 2, 2008Posted by jhicks in : Editing, Style , comments closed
When you sit down to write your papers, you probably have a couple goals in mind:
1) getting the paper done by the deadline (which might be very soon),
2) answering the prompt in such a way as to obtain an “A” or at least a passing grade, and 3) providing evidence and support for that prompt from either the text that you’re discussing (CORE or CC) or from various bibliographic sources (for your history, economic, business classes). Thinking about how your writing style, word choice, thesis and argument affects the strength and personality of your writing voice…probably not on your radar, especially not at 3:00 am the day before your paper is due.
BUT I would like to argue that thinking about your writing voice is one of the most important things you can do to develop good writing (and good grades) both when you are taking some time to improve your writing skills and when you’re staring down the gauntlet at the paper due date.
A few reasons why:
–If you assert a weak thesis and argument in a strong manner, your paper still may be better than a paper with a strong thesis that is clouded by an unclear paper structure, poor word choice, and long, complicated sentences. And conversely even if you assert a strong thesis, if your voice is weak then your paper will be weak.
–A paper with a confident tone and clear ideas is more enjoyable to read from a professor’s (and writing consultant’s) standpoint.
–Writing is more fun when you feel confident in what you’re saying and you have the tools to know how to say what you want well.
–Being aware of your style and writing habits (both bad and good) can tell you what mistakes to look for in earlier drafts, what to focus on in your writing, and how much time and effort you’ll need to put into different aspects of your writing. [For example, if you're great at using imagery and making your voice unique and accessible, you'll probably have little problem writing narrative essays, but you might have more difficulty confining yourself to a thesis and a more formulaic writing prompt].
So, given these reasons what are a few things you can do to develop your writing voice?
–Save your first drafts and your early papers, wait a few weeks and then look for your own bad writing habits – are my sentences simple or complex? Do I use a lot of prepositional phrases and extra clauses? Do I focus on my thesis and refer back to it throughout my paper, or do I find my thesis after writing a draft? (You could set up an appointment at the Writing Center and have a consultant go through these with you!)
–Name three ways that make your writing different from the writing of your peers (perhaps after you do a peer review). For example, perhaps you’re most comfortable with short, clear sentences or maybe you’re great at using metaphors. In your next paper, focus on those strengths and begin to intentionally work on strengthening your writing gifts in those areas. When you’re confident in how you structure your ideas, your writing voice will take on a new tone of authority, and that’s the goal!
–Pick up one of your favorite authors or borrow a classmate’s paper (preferably someone who got an A!) and notice how they use their language. Why is it that you pay attention to what they are saying? Anything noticeable about the way they present their ideas? Interesting word choice? Sentence structure? Think about ways you can synthesize some of these ideas into your own voice and make it into your own.
Easy Tidbits for you last-minute writers (give yourself 20 minutes to work on voice stuff):
–Scratch all passive sentences and change them to active voice wherever possible.
–Use active verbs and descriptive adjectives.
–Scratch ALL COLLOQUIAL LANGUAGE! Do not dumb down your prose! If it sounds like something you wouldn’t say when you’re dressed up in a suit and giving a formal presentation in front of the peers you respect the most. . .it shouldn’t be in your paper either.
–Look at your introduction and conclusion: make sure they are concise and not broad but focus on getting your reader to your thesis/subject of the paper and then provide a way of tying up loose ends in your conclusion and answering the question “why I read this.” If you structure your ideas well at the beginning and end it will at least structure and frame any madness that is in the body of your paper.
Good Luck! And come in and talk to me on Thursday and Friday afternoons if you’d like to really make your voice come through strong on paper!
Your friendly writing center consultant,
Integrating Quotes February 20, 2008Posted by arussell in : CORE, Education Unit, Style , comments closed
-So, my professor says that I should quote more, but I just don’t know how.
-I use quotes in every paper. I quote all the time. Practically every sentence has a quote or a paraphrase. Why doesn’t my professor like it?
-I quote well, but my professor thinks I should ‘integrate’ them more. What does she mean?
All of these concerns and questions are good ones to have because they give us a place to begin. The answer for each is surprisingly similar because it involves how we think about quotes.
So here are some questions to get you thinking.
1. Why would someone use a quote?
2. If you want to use a quote, why use it? Does it illustrate better than you are able? Will it promote your argument? Show a hole in it with which you can wrestle?
3. Why quote right there?
4. Have you summarized, analyzed, and synthesized it into your paragraph?
“BUT that’s just how to think about it! How do I actually go about it?”
That’s also a good question because that depends on context. I like to introduce the author of the quote earlier in my summary of what the quote says and use the name in a phrase just prior to the quote. That looks a bit like:
In his text concerning the great influence the water bottle has had on the college campus, author J. Doe promotes investigating the contents of water bottles in every classroom. Doe writes, “Water bottles are certainly important for hydration, but they are also locations of contamination! Therefore, students who not properly trained in sanitation techniques will become ill or make others ill unless administrations crack down on water bottle use” (45). Concerned with the…
There are other ways of incorporating quotes that can also be very effective. This is just a starting point. When your own paper still stumps you, bring it in and we’ll take a look at it together. That is the best kind of help for me!
Two pairs of eyes is better than one.
Writing that Research Paper October 30, 2007Posted by brianne09 in : Citation & bibliography, Content, Style , comments closed
It’s fast approaching that time in the semester when the “end of the semester” research paper is becoming a concrete reality rather than an abstract idea. So here are a few helpful hints to help integrate outside information into your paper as you begin writing…
- First, as Eric’s post on thesis statements suggests, your paper needs to have a thesis which states your opinion on the topic. This thesis should be used to guide the kinds of quotes, paraphrases, summaries, and facts used in your paper. If a quote is really cool, but doesn’t quite make your point or fit in with your argument, it’s better to leave it out and find one that does.
- Make sure your paper flows well by framing outside information with your own words; don’t just use the author’s phrasing. Break apart larger block quotes into smaller phrases that can be integrated into your own sentences.
- Also, be sure to explain your outside information and its relation to the paper. Don’t just drop a quote or a statistic into your paper; it doesn’t add anything to your argument, it just makes your paper longer (longer isn’t always better!).
- CITE YOUR SOURCES!!! Even if it’s a paraphrase or summary, it still needs to be cited. (For help on citation styles, check out the Citation, bib, & Plagiarism link at the top of the list on the right side of our blog)
You can always ask one of the friendly Writing Center consultants for assistance or check out one of the many books we have at the Writing Center (I like Robert Perrin’s Handbook for College Research).
Writing Center Consultant
Why should I replace “there is/are . . .”? October 30, 2007Posted by jhicks in : Editing, Style , comments closed
If you use there is/are frequently, your sentences may lack content. Check out these sentences: There are issues with transponders for highway tolls. One is privacy. There are ways to tell where your car has been.
Note that the first sentence has little content. The first two words are unimportant, and “issues” is vague. The next sentence names the content of privacy, but we’re still not sure about the attitude.
Changing the construction so that the sentence uses a strong verb improves the content: Transponders for highway tolls provide information about where your car has been. Is this invasion of your privacy an advantage or disadvantage and for whom?
Now all the words in the first sentence name something we can picture, something specific. The sentence now uses “provides” as a verb and requires that you (the writer) name what it provides. Now you have a good sentence!
Tip: As you edit circle “there is/are” and eliminate most. You will be pleased as you see your sentences come to life with action verbs and more content.
Citations and Bibliography September 25, 2007Posted by arussell in : Citation & bibliography, Style , comments closed
“But this is how I thought we were supposed to cite things?”
“What’s Chicago style?”
“What do I have to cite?”
“You mean I have to cite if I paraphrase? Why?”
“I hate APA. Why can’t we just use MLA for everything?”
“Footnotes, endnotes, in text citations…AHHH”
“What if there is a quote that I’m quoting from a text that is quoting it? Do I quote the original text or the source I have or….?”
The are just a few questions or comments that have been made either by me or other students. Yes, I’ve heard you say them too. As it turns out, these questions all have logical answers. Some (if not all) can be found online here under the Citation & bibliography link or in the manuals of style at the Writing Center in the Christopher Center.
Come visit us and we can help you figure out some of those tough questions.
Oh, and yes, if you use someone else’s idea or paraphrase, you do have to cite it….
In my opinion, I think . . . September 19, 2007Posted by jhicks in : Love Unit, Style , comments closed
Is it OK to use “I” in my writing? Many profs will suggest eliminating “I” (first person) from your formal writing. Simply make a statement–readers will know it’s from you. However, the assignment itself, the topic, and the purpose will usually give you a sense whether this personal reference works well in the writing.
Tip: When having trouble with a draft, try writing “I think that . . .” often to help you decide what you want to say. Later you can eliminate this construction by using the second part of the sentence.