maxkirin:

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing, a remake of this post. Source.

Want more writerly content? Make sure to follow maxkirin.tumblr.com for your daily dose of writer positivity, advice, and prompts!


Source: maxkirin

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “How do I write a novel of my own?” The answer to that one is depressing or liberating, dependant on your POV: any way you like!! There are, however, lots of ways NOT to write a novel … and Andrew outlines some of them over at B2W today. There’s loads of links to other food for thought about novel writing, too. Enjoy! 


prproofread:

Powerful and impeccable writing skills are necessary for professionals across all industries to convey their messages to their audiences/customers. Even the most established writers constantly fine-tune and brush-up their writing skills to ensure that they communicate effectively. Whether you are writer, a lawyer, or an entrepreneur, some great tips will surely help you to produce high-end quality documents:

Practice is the Key to Perfection
If you are not sure how to bush-up your writing skills, know that practice is the most important component to master this art. You will find significant improvement just by keeping some time aside for writing regularly and sticking to this schedule.

Mix it up
The use of repetitive words and phrases can cause your readers to lose interest in your written document. Variety attracts interest; using a wide span of descriptive words and incorporating a number of various sentence structures can keep your reader focused and can produce a more interesting and persuasive final piece.

Less is More
Avoid unnecessary terms or vague verbiage. When a simple word can serve the purpose, do not make it complicated by using long words or phrases. Readers are more interested in getting to the point and do not want to waste their time on understanding unclear metaphors. This simple step can create a significant difference in your finished product.

Avoid Grammatical Errors
It is advisable to comply with the accepted rules of grammar in your piece of work. Grammatical rules are meant to enhance the clarity of your writing; avoiding these rules may create a negative impression of your language competence on your readers.

Consult the Experts
Even the most accomplished writers often need professional Proofreading advice on their work. It is advisable to consult an editor, or you can also attend a class in writing, to improve your writing skills.

Read More
Reading other materials occasionally and more often for pleasure can help you write fresh and relevant literature. Take some time out to read a novel, newspaper or magazine. These can provide exposure and can add new ideas and new phrases to your vocabulary that you can incorporate into your writing projects.

Do not be Afraid of Failure
Fear of failure is the biggest obstacle most writers face. Muster the courage to write and submit your finished work to an editor or proofreader. It will help you achieve success in your chosen field.

Be Patient
The best advice to improve your writing skills is to simply write more often. Most accomplished authors set aside a few hours from their schedule each day to practice their expertise. If you can inculcate this level of commitment in yourself, no doubt, you can improve your writing skills over time.

Proofread Many Times
Even the veteran writers can sometimes miss subtle grammatical errors. Academic Proofreading is the only way out to identify and rectify these errors. Do it as many times as you can to create a perfect piece, free from any grammar or spelling mistakes.

Well-read people are mostly great writers too, but the art of writing can also be mastered by following the above-mentioned tips. Doing so is a must for anyone who really wants to improve their writing skills.


Source: prproofread

sarazarr:

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala
From the Washington Post, article here.
GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:
Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.
I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”
Dwayne McDuffie
Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.
I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.
In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.
The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).
By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.
Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.
In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.
Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities. After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.
We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.
And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.
Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

I have long had a bit of a writer crush on Gene Yang, for he is awesome in so many ways.

sarazarr:

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala

From the Washington Post, article here.

GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:

Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.

I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”

Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.

I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.

In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.

The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).

By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.

All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”

Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.

Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.

In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.

Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.

We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.

But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.

This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.

I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.

We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.

Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.

Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.

And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.

Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

I have long had a bit of a writer crush on Gene Yang, for he is awesome in so many ways.


Source: weneeddiversebooks

fictionwritingtips:

Trying to figure out what your style is isn’t as hard as it might seem. I’ve seen a lot of writers get asked questions like “how did you develop as a writer?” or “how did you find your style”, so I feel like this is a topic I should talk about. If you stop stressing out about it, it will all happen naturally. If you continue to read and develop your craft, your style will continue to form.

The styles that writers develop are usually not planned. Most people don’t sit down and think “well, who do I want to sound like?” It’s true that you could be influenced by writers you admire or read a lot of, but it’s not usually a conscious decision. A writer’s style develops naturally over time. It comes from writing A LOT.

If you write a lot and spend time working on your craft, a style will develop on its own. Forcing a style, however, will usually not work. If you force vocabulary you wouldn’t normally use into your writing, your readers will be able to tell.  If you try to mimic your favorite authors, your writing will feel unnatural. Don’t force a style that isn’t yours because you will not produce your best work.  I know it might seem like a good idea to emulate a writing style that is popular, but that’s not the best way to go.

Ultimately, you should use words that feel natural to you and write every day. Try to be clear and concise with your writing. Growing and seeing your writing style change over time is normal, as long as you keep working on improving. Also, try not to compare your writing to someone else’s. Just because you don’t write like Mark Twain, that doesn’t mean you’re not any good. Writing styles are different and it’s hard to compare them.

Here are a few natural ways to develop your own writing style:

Consume what inspires you

Once you figure out what you like and what motivates you, keep going. Reading a lot will help you develop your style and pick out what inspires your own writing. I’m not saying you should mimic what you like, but you will pick up bits and pieces of the novels you’re consuming. That’s not a bad thing. If you consume what you like to read, you’ll find more inspiration for your own novels. What you like will start to creep into your writing.

Try to write different genres

Make sure you experiment to figure out what you’re best at. Write a lot and try writing in different genres and art forms. You might be able to tap into something that you didn’t even know inspires you until you try it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Be concise

Don’t dance around what you want to say, just say it. Try figuring out how to get the point faster without bogging down your writing with unnecessary information. This will help you develop a style that will make your writing more appealing. Think about what you want to say and figure out the best way to say it.

-Kris Noel


Source: fictionwritingtips

151 great writing resources, segmented by genre and subject.


1. What class or classes do you teach?

I’m in my fourth year of teaching Junior English (American Lit and Composition) and Literature of England. This year I also get to teach Media Literacy for the very first time, which is exciting and horrifying all at once.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

A little bit of everything. One of the awesome parts about teaching high school is that we get to experiment with a little of everything. In 11th grade our big focus point is the argumentative essay, but we also write screenplays, short stories, memoirs, poetry, ACT test essays, etc. 

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

In a finalized, published piece it’s super important — noticing an error will immediately take your reader out of the piece and stop caring. (Which makes me hope to God I’ve done an alright job proofing this.) In drafts and revisions, though, it’s alright to be a little messy. 

It’s also important to know your purpose for a piece of writing. Creative pieces have a lot more leeway for weird grammar and sentence structure than a formal essay does. Personally, the best advice is that, in all walks of life, you need to know the rules and have a purpose for breaking them. Laziness doesn’t count.

4. Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

Most Humanities teachers still roll with MLA, and I’m just fine with that as I’ve been using it for 10+ years through undergrad and high school. I’m just starting a Master’s of Education program which requires APA for everything and the differences are subtle, so knowing how to switch is also an important skill. Most of the time I’ve found that, since I know MLA pretty well, I can switch between formats with minimal pain. Regardless of your familiarity, resources like Purdue OWL are essential for students. Use them!

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

Start early, use a system that’s comfortable for you, and dive right in. Many teachers require steps be completed in a certain order (research question, then thesis, then outline, then notecards, etc.) which can really trip up some students. My high school English teacher, for example, required that we take notes on index cards and use a complicated numbering system to keep track of which source the evidence came from. It was a nightmare. I’m just not wired to organize or process things that way. I’m a mental pre-writer — I don’t have notebooks filled with outlines or mind-maps or anything— so I usually start mulling over a topic or two in my head for a week or two before I start researching. After I’ve got my idea, I’ll comb through databases and articles to see what others say about my idea, then posit my own claim, and start writing to see where I end up. A lot of my initial writing is revised to hell by the end, but to me this process makes sense: the end result is the same, I just take a different route.

If your instructor is having you follow a specific research or note-taking process that doesn’t work for you, talk to them! Come up with an alternative. Same thing if you’re having difficulty finding sources or putting an idea into words. Teachers and librarians have been at this stuff a long time, and we’re here to help!

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

I have a few, but the biggest one is assuming that I’m too dumb to catch plagiarism. I’ve spent nine months reading everything you’ve written, so when you all of a sudden sound like a completely different person it’s fairly easy to catch. I know how to use Google. Most of the time catching a plagiarist is no more complicated than entering a few key phrases and seeing what pops up. 

Also, it’s bad karma. Writing is tough work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Passing off someone else’s sweat, pain, and spiritual breakthroughs as your own will catch up with you even if you don’t get caught right away. Don’t be a dick.  

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

Finding the purpose, audience, and tone for a piece of writing is really difficult for a lot of people. Memoir and persuasion should read differently, just like a tweet and a resume will read differently. It’s up to you to ensure that your formal writing stays formal. Over time your voice will grow to a point where you sound like you no matter the genre or format, but even then you have to be very deliberate about the words and phrases you choose to include based on who will be reading the piece and what the expectations are. Knowing when to switch between voices will make your life so much easier.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

Your first draft will always suck. Probably your second draft, too. Then the third, then fourth, fifth not so much but then you’ll break it again for the sixth. If you keep at it, though, and ask for feedback from instructors and writing groups, read other authors you admire, and revise until your eyes bleed, after a while it will start to grow into something you’re really proud of, then excited about, until finally you’re sitting in front of a piece you can’t believe you had anything to do with. And I will be so pumped to read it.

Thank you to Jake for his shrewd acumen and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!


Teachers, as I’m sure you all know by now, are an excellent resource. With many students returning to school for fall classes in the next few weeks, we think now is a great time to hit up real-life teachers for some back-to-school advice!
Below is an interview with Carolyn Clare Givens, M.A., a teacher, writer, and editor. 
1. What class or classes do you teach?

I taught college freshmen English Composition and Introduction to College Reading and Writing, a remedial-level writing and reading comprehension course. I work as a grader and give critical feedback on master’s-level theses. I’ve also taught a group of home schooled high school seniors a college prep composition course. In addition to my teaching, I’ve worked as an editor for an online magazine and for a non-fiction book publisher, and done freelance editing on fiction and non-fiction books.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

Typically, I deal with essays—both academic and non-academic. I’ve also spent considerable time working with authors on book-length non-fiction and fiction manuscripts.

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

Good grammar and spelling are necessary for clear communication. They are a means to that end. However, the English language is remarkably malleable. It is possible to utterly butcher the grammar and spelling of a sentence and still communicate the intended meaning (though that is more difficult in writing than it is in spoken communication).

4, Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

My students used MLA in the English Composition and Intro classes. That was the standard format used by the University for general humanities classes. At the master’s level, the students use APA, as they are writing a methodical assessment of a project. In my non-fiction book editing, I’ve used mostly CMS. As I’ve worked in communications, I’ve had some exposure to AP Style, but have never used it exclusively.

I think the key to note in any style is that very word: “style.” Yes, each style guide includes a method for citation. Those methods provide the reader with a simple way of finding the source material in a given paper or book. Each style guide’s citation system is fairly simple, and a careful reader can navigate it when it has been implemented correctly. But that’s not the point of the different style guides. Rather, each guide provides a method or “style” for presenting information. The method for presenting information in APA, for example, is one of scientific reporting—the writer has done the experiment, case study, research, etc., and is reporting the process and the results. MLA’s purpose is different. Instead of reporting the findings, the author’s goal in MLA style is to walk the reader through the process of thinking—presenting the thesis and unfolding the supporting evidence, like an attorney presenting his case. CMS’s style is the most flexible. In both presentation and documentation, the goal of CMS is to clearly communicate ideas and show the support for them properly. AP Style’s primary purpose seems to be brevity. It is a system developed for journalism and limited text space. 

My preference for students to use depends upon the subject matter they are presenting. Most of my teaching and my own academic writing has been within the humanities. MLA is a robust style guide for those subjects and the kind of research and presentation of ideas typically associated with them. For those working in the sciences and social sciences, APA provides a quality standard for presenting research and results. As I have worked with authors and on my own writing outside of academia, I have come to appreciate the flexibility of CMS. I think a more limited system, like MLA or APA, is proper to use as a student is learning, but CMS allows the writer to use the pieces of both of those systems that will be most helpful in presenting his information in a way that is accessible by the common reader. Call it my humanities bias, but within academia, I prefer MLA’s method of presenting information, and I think it provides a simpler transition to CMS for later writing.

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

I once had a college professor who had us write a note card for each fact we gathered, with the citation information on the back and the fact on the front. I felt like I was in fourth grade all over again. 

I don’t think you need to be quite so simplistic as that, but I do think there are some simple things you can do that will make presenting your research easier. One of the biggest issues my students seem to have had was with proper citation. I’m a proponent of the Albert-Einstein-never-memorize-something-you-can-look-up rule. There’s a story of a reporter asking Einstein for his number, and Einstein had to look it up in the phone book to give it to the man. His thinking: why memorize it when you know where to find it? Forget trying to memorize MLA or APA or CMS citation formats. You can look them up. You don’t even have to buy the book anymore. I strongly recommend Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) as a resource. However, every citation format has the same basic elements: Who wrote it? Where? When? In what format was it presented? What page was it on? What was the URL? Learn those. Forget about what order they need to go in, just get the basics down. Then, as you do your research, write or type that information at the top of the page and write your quotations under it. As you write your paper, if you use a quote, copy and paste the citation info into a page at the end of your paper. Then, when you go to create your works cited list, you will save yourself eons of time when all you have to do is look up the proper formatting for your citation and put the bits of information in the right order. 

Yes, I know Word has an “Insert Citation” option. If you use it, CHECK IT! It has often gotten things wrong. “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

The other tip I’d have is more on the “avoiding plagiarism” side. I suggest doing your research, reading it through so you’re familiar with it, then setting it aside as you prepare your ideas for your paper. Think through what you think on the topic and how you want to present those thoughts. Write that much. Then go back through and insert the support for your ideas that you found in your research. Remember, this is your paper. YOU are the one whose ideas should be primary.

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

“In my opinion” – It’s your paper. I sure hope this is your opinion. You don’t need to say it.

“Basically” – Does the sentence need this word? (The answer is no.)

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution students against?

Trying to sound “intelligent” by using big words. Look, I’m a word geek. That’s why I teach English and I write. I love words. I love GOOD words. I strongly recommend you make it a practice to keep yourself alert to the new words you encounter in everyday life and stop and look them up when you don’t know them. This is the most natural way to increase your vocabulary. I also recommend getting a paper dictionary. I love the ease of www.m-w.com, but it does not offer me the ability to see 40 other words on a page along with the one I’m looking up. Paper dictionaries are great for growing vocabulary. All that to say, work on growing your vocabulary. Theright word in the right place can make all the difference. However, use the words that come most naturally to you in your writing. If you are more likely to say “use” than “useage,” write “use” in your paper. Simple, clear communication is your goal.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

You are communicating ideas. Writing is simply a vehicle for doing that. We’ve got a lovely language that is flexible and strange and has all sorts of cobbled-together rules for use because it’s been a cobbled-together language from the start. And some of those rules are worth noting and remembering and following and some of them should be thrown out the window with the silly people who made them up. English is a living language. The rules you learn today may be out of date by the time you’re forty. Such is the nature of having a living language. But the essential thing you need to keep in mind is that you are communicating ideas. Whatever rules you follow, whatever words you use, whatever style guide you choose, it all needs to be in service to that goal: to clearly communicate the ideas in your head through the medium of writing to your reader. Sometimes clear communication is a matter of getting your commas in the right place. Sometimes it’s spelling the words correctly and not mixing up your homophones. But sometimes clear communication means you throw out the rules and you put the words down on the paper as they tumble from your mind. Sometimes we just need to get them out and the order and the spelling and the grammar is subservient to the thought and passion and feeling behind them. That’s okay. Just write. Put words on paper. Record thoughts. That’s how future generations will know who we are. 

(Though you might want to find a friend to proofread your paper before turning it in to your English professor.)

Thank you to Carolyn for sharing her wisdom and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!

And you can check out the rest of the Ask a Teacher Series here!


Teachers, as I’m sure you all know by now, are an excellent resource. With many students returning to school for fall classes in the next few weeks, we think now is a great time to hit up real-life teachers for some back-to-school advice!

Below is an interview with Carrie Pack, a writer and teacher. Enjoy!

1. What class or classes do you teach?

This will be my eighth year teaching at the college level. I have taught everything from beginning journalism to editing, as well as advertising writing and ethics courses.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

In the classes I teach, I require several writing styles, including essays, hard news and creative writing. I’ve included short answers on exams and created graphic organizers to help students outline their work. The only types of writing I’ve never taught is creative (at least not long form, like novels or short stories) and poetry.

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

I believe good grammar is essential. When you write, word meaning and punctuation are extremely important. It’s how we convey meaning. Think of it like this: When we speak we have our tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, rate of speech, and even volume to convey meaning. When we write, all we have is punctuation and the precision of our words.

Because word choice is important, spelling is too. However, spell check has gone a long way to help us be better spellers. You just have to know the difference between loose and lose. Spell check won’t catch that. In my opinion, spelling is less important while writing, but becomes essential when proofing your work. That’s something students don’t do enough of: editing/proofing. Read it out loud. It really helps you to find errors you won’t find while reading silently to yourself.

4. Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

At the college level, these are really dictated by your discipline. Certain majors prefer MLA and others prefer APA. Because I’ve primarily taught mass communication courses, we prefer MLA for citation style and Associate Press Style (also known as AP Style) for writing, but even that is a hard-and-fast rule. When learning a new style, pay attention to numbers and citations. Those are always the biggest differences for formatting in one style versus another.

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

Do it. That may sound redundant, but I don’t think students do enough research. At a university, you have so much at your disposal. Don’t waste it. At the college where I teach, the reference librarians are super helpful but remain an underutilized resource. Research for a major term paper can be daunting; I recommend asking an expert—a reference librarian.

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

Not supporting an argument with evidence and reasoning. If you believe something to be true, you have to cite experts or professionals who agree, and if it’s not direct proof, you have to provide the reasoning that allowed you to come to that conclusion. Your opinion is not enough. This ties into the research question. If you know what you’re talking about—meaning, you did research and a lot of it—it’s much easier to support your arguments with examples or expert opinions.

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

Being too wordy. We’re all such inefficient communicators. I’d recommend taking a journalism class to learn how to write more concisely. Using empty words and phrases in your writing is the equivalent of using the word “like” repeatedly when you speak. It makes you sound less intelligent, even if you have something really valuable to say.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

Writing is something you have to practice—like sports, music, dance, cooking; the more you do it, the better you become. If you remain averse to writing and put it off, you’ll never improve.

Also: just write. Force yourself to get the words on the page. Even if it’s horrible. Write a draft, and then spend most of your time editing. Then edit it again.

Thank you to Carrie for her excellent insights and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!


moviegifsthatrock:

Dead Poets Society [Peter Weir, 1989]

moviegifsthatrock:

Dead Poets Society [Peter Weir, 1989]


Source: moviegifsthatrock