On Dictionary Definitions and High-Falutin’ Words
This post builds on Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing (Part 1).
For this series of posts, I’m going to focus on words, phrases, and other writing habits that students should avoid. Fifty-seven college teachers across multiple disciplines shared the things that they commonly see in college papers that drive them crazy, make them worry about their students’ skills, and just in general signal that the student doesn’t yet have a good handle on how to write well in a college setting.
Students often perceive academic writing to have a sort of stilted, high-falutin’ tone that they then try to emulate in an effort to “sound smart.” It’s true that some academic writing has a tone that can charitably be called “dense,” but it’s also true that (1) tone varies by discipline and (2) over time and (3) most teachers don’t expect students to be able to fluently use that type of academic tone in their first years of college, even when it is appropriate for the discipline.
Part 2 focuses on mistakes that I suspect are artifacts of students trying to “sound smart,” but that that end up negatively affecting their grades.
Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 2
On Being Vague
I really struggled with the title of this post, because I don’t want students who already feel insecure about their writing to feel worse. But as I’ll discuss in a later blog post, there is a difference in the type of writing expected of most high school students, and the type of writing expected in college. Those expectations are often left unspoken, which means that students are often left wondering what went wrong.
For this series of posts, I’m going to focus on words, phrases, and other writing habits that students should avoid. I asked other college teachers, online, for things they commonly see in college papers that drive them crazy, make them worry about their students’ skills, and just in general signal that the student doesn’t yet have a good handle on how to write well in a college setting. Fifty-seven college teachers across multiple disciplines responded, and when I wrote up the original blog post as a Word doc, I had five pages of material.
But wait! Don’t freak out. The reason I have five pages is because in addition to telling you what students often get wrong, I’m also going to tell you why those things aren’t appropriate, and how to do better. My goal is to help you develop a writing style that conveys “young professional” and not “high school holdover.”
Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 1
Most students are used to using social media, like email, text, instagram, and so on, to communicate quickly with friends and family. Social media breaks down barriers, which is a wonderful thing . . . but it also sometimes leads students to use some very unprofessional behavior when they email their teachers and – I assume – their bosses. This is not a wonderful thing. In fact, how you present yourself in email may affect how other people interact with you, and it definitely affects how they judge you.
Continue reading Email Etiquette – How Do I Communicate with my Professor?
Hand to heart, the honest answer to this question is “as long as it needs to be.”
I know that isn’t the answer that you wanted. But it’s the truth. If you’ve been given a page length or word count, that’s because, in your teacher’s experience, that’s how much space it takes to make a decent response to the writing prompt they’re giving you. It’s never a magic number, let alone a guaranteed grade.
Let’s stop for a minute and talk about what your teacher hears when students ask that perennial question: “how long does it have to be.”
Continue reading How long does my paper have to be?
In this post, we will go through how to dissect a writing prompt in order to figure out exactly what your teacher wants from you. I will also give you some pointers about how papers could be structured in response to different prompts.
Continue reading Writing Prompts: Understanding what the teacher wants (1/3)
I get it. College is expensive. College students graduated with an average of $37,000 in student loan debt in 2016. In response, college students are working more: nationally, about one-fourth of all college students work full-time while going to school full-time. Almost 40% of undergraduate college students work 30 hours a week (get more detail here). When I ask my students if they work at least part-time, nearly every hand in class goes up.
Continue reading Yes, your teacher DOES owe you a grade. BUT.
This post builds off of the Before You Begin blog post, which provided you with some ideas of where to find out what your teacher expects of your writing submissions. In this post, we will review how to read an assignment sheet and a grading rubric, using examples from my own teaching.
Continue reading How to read an assignment sheet and rubric
So you have a writing assignment for your class, and you’ve been given the assignment instructions. Is that all the information you need? In this post, we’re going to talk about the different places you can look to figure out what you need to do for the writing assignment.
Continue reading Before You Begin