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Archive for the tag “academic writing”

Say it, then write it

As a writing tutor, I find that a lot of what I do is listen.  When my clients ask me to read their writing and give them pointers, I read their words out loud to them.  Then I ask them questions about what they wanted to say.  Many times, they are able to articulate their points much more effectively out loud than they could on paper.  Using their spoken words, we revise and add to their papers.

When attempting to write papers , I think a lot of students freak out.  They know what they want to express, but when it comes down to writing the words, they freeze.  That’s why it’s helpful to first say it, then write it.  If you have someone who is willing to sit with you and discuss your writing, wonderful. If not, just say your thoughts out loud, record them on your phone or computer, and then write down exactly what you said.  This will help you get unblocked and also will aid you in writing more coherent sentences.

Try it, then comment below.  What did you think of the experience?  Did it help your writing?

Why the ellipsis is your friend…

Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, and you know there is a point to it, you know it’s coming, but it seems to take forever for the storyteller to get to the point?  Don’t you just wish that you could cut out some of the middle to get to the important parts?  Well, you can!  In your papers, that is.  You can, and you should.

Sometimes, when writing a paper, you will come across a great quote that supports the point you are trying to make in your paper.  The beginning really relates to your point, and the end drives it home as well.  But the middle deviates to another topic.  What do you do? You throw an ellipsis (…) into the middle, and magically have a perfect quote to use.  Just write the beginning of the quote, and in place of all of the throwaway words in the middle, write … Then, continue the quote with the ending you’d like to use.  You can also take out 2 or 3 useless sections by inserting an ellipsis into each section.

Yeah, you may be thinking, but if I include the middle of the quote, it will make my paper longer.  Sure it will, and all of that pointless stuff in the middle made your friend’s story longer, too, but it also turned it into a less than pleasant tale to sit through. Remember, you want your professor to enjoy reading your paper, not just be happy with the length.


3 grammar websites you will love

Grammar consists of the nitty-gritty rules on how to write well.  Most of us don’t even know all of the rules, let alone remember to follow them on a consistent basis.  Yet, learning about fun things like how to use a semicolon correctly or how to break a sentence down into its parts can dramatically improve our writing.  Below, find 3 grammar websites that actually make following the rules fun.

The Write Practice Grammar Guide

Written by Liz Bureman, a fellow Denverite, this grammar guide will help you out with questions like when to use affect vs. effect, how to use an ellipses (…) correctly, and when to end a sentence with a preposition.  Each article is short, to the point, and enjoyable to read.

Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl’s tagline is “Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”  That should give you an indication of the tone of the website.  Here, you can find topics such as when to use a comma versus a colon, a National Grammar Day Tale of Love, and word choice posts too numerous to count.  Each article is also available in audio format, for all of you auditory learners out there.

Daily Writing Tips

If you love grammar, you will love this website.  Every single day, they publish a new grammar tip or idea.  You can also look back into the archives for more ideas or to brush up on different grammar topics.  It even includes quizzes on different grammar topics, if you have that much time on your hands.

There you have them – my favorite grammar websites.  Go ahead, try them out.  Just don’t tell anyone. And if you still want someone to proofread your paper, email me.

2 key emotional ingredients for school success

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my clients, and she was telling me how emotional she is getting about her first grade daughter’s reading level.  She said that when she got her latest test scores, she just burst out crying.

It got me thinking about the emotions of learning.  When I taught elementary school, many children in my classroom were unable to learn at first, because they had so much going on in their lives that was more important.  The turning point in their learning abilities came when they realized they could trust me and gained confidence in themselves.

From this experience, I will argue that there are 2 key factors to being successful in school (or really, any endeavor).

1. Self-confidence

Do you approach your assignments and papers with the knowledge that you can tackle any task?  Self-confident people view difficult experiences as learning opportunities.  What do you tell yourself about your skills and abilities?  Does your internal voice say that you can do it, or shy away from difficult tasks?  If you lack confidence in your abilities, get help by hiring a tutor or visiting your school’s writing center.  Break assignments down into smaller tasks so that you can see what you need to do to be successful.

Remember that everyone is brilliant in different ways.  Know yourself – where do your strengths lie?  Can you apply them to assignments you find more difficult?

Finally, self-confidence grows from accomplishments.  So if you are feeling badly about your abilities, fake it until you make it.  Just keep working and know that when you complete assignments, you will not only learn more, but gain confidence as well.

2. Support from others

Do you have a teacher you trust, someone who always encourages you and knows you can accomplish any task? If not, seek one out.  Get to know your professors; see if one of them can serve as your mentor.

Surround yourself with people who know how brilliant you are and who will help you achieve your goals.  Are your friends understanding when you can’t go out with them because you have to do schoolwork, or do they tell you to have more fun?  Are they willing to discuss academic topics with you?   If not, befriend fellow students and make a point of spending time with those who are succeeding in school.


In elementary education, we spend a lot of time focusing on our students’ emotional needs, but it seems to me that this focus is lost as students grow older.  However, the older we get, the more complex our emotions become.  We may be able to push them aside more effectively, but they can still greatly affect our success.  Who hasn’t experienced an argument with a loved one followed by an unsuccessful day at work? Take time to nurture yourself.  When you feel good, you will be much more successful.

4 paper writing ideas for extroverts and interpersonal learners

This week, I have been focusing my blog posts on writing papers for the different learning styles.  Today I will be focusing on interpersonal learners – those who learn best by conversation and relating to others.  What are the implications for how they should write papers?

Even though paper writing is thought of as a solitary activity, it doesn’t need to be.  The following are some ideas for social learners to get the most out of their paper writing assignments.

1. Get together with a friend to first discuss your writing and then write.  Ask each other questions like:

“What are you focusing on in your paper?”

“What is your thesis statement?”

“Do these subtopics make sense within this paper?”

2. Read the assignment with other students from your class and get multiple opinions on what your professor is looking for in the paper.  Someone else may have noticed something you missed.

3. Throughout the week or so during which you are working on the assignment, discuss the paper topic with others.  You never know what ideas a friend or family member might contribute.

4. Hire a tutor.  If you want someone to discuss your writing with you in depth, consider hiring a writing tutor.  He or she will be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss ideas and ways to improve your writing.

The Multiple Intelligences: A New Way of Looking at Paper Writing

Where Do You See Yourself in this Wheel?

What are the multiple intelligences? Howard Gardner coined the term in 1983 to refer to the different ways that people learn.  The multiple intelligences are:

1. Linguistic

Those who are linguistic learners love reading and writing.  They are adept with words and may also be good at learning new languages.

Linguistic learners probably love writing papers, because it gives them a chance to express themselves in words.

2. Mathematical/Logical

This intelligence has to do with abstract thinking skills.  Those who are mathematical/logical thinkers can easily connect the dots and come up with new ideas.

This intelligence also comes in handy when writing papers, because a large part of the thinking that goes into paper writing is connecting ideas to come up with a cohesive thesis.

3. Spatial

Spatial thinkers are good at putting puzzles together.  They can see how objects relate to one another.  For example, spatial thinkers are great parallel parkers. (Whereas I usually think I am way closer to the other cars than I actually am!) They also tend to be artists or other professionals with a visual focus.

How does spatial intelligence relate to paper writing?  In traditional paper writing, it doesn’t seem to apply.  However, spatial thinkers can tailor their paper writing experience to their strengths.  Instead of writing outlines, they can choose to make an idea map, where each concept connects visually to the next.

4. Bodily/kinesthetic

Bodily/kinesthetic learners are adept with using their bodies. Athletes and dancers have a high bodily/kinesthetic experience.  They are able to focus on a physical goal and hone their bodily responses to meet that goal.  They also tend to like moving their bodies when they learn, and physical learning experiences can help them internalize concepts.

Bodily/kinesthetic learners may struggle with paper writing, because it is such a sedentary activity.  However, why not infuse some of the process with physical activity?  Instead of sitting still while reading research articles, why not work out and read at the same time?  It may be helpful to visualize paper writing skills and connect them with physical goals as well.  Kicking a soccer ball into a goal, hitting a baseball, or making a slam-dunk is akin to writing a clear, focused thesis statement.

5. Musical

As you might guess, those with musical intelligence have a good pitch and a sense of rhythm.  Musical thinkers tend to also be good with language, which can come in handy with paper writing.

I would also argue that a well-written paper has its own internal rhythm.  The sentences flow well together, alternating between longer, more complex ones, and shorter, succinct ones.  If you are a musical thinker, write and read your paper over with an ear for flow.  Does your paper sound like a well composed piece of music, or is it more like a series of disjointed sounds?  Use your musical strength to revise and enhance your paper.

6. Interpersonal

Those with interpersonal intelligence relate well to others.  They can understand other people and what they need to be successful. They are also empathetic and are able to motivate others.  Those with this intelligence learn best by working with others and discussing their ideas.

If you are a highly interpersonal learner, get together with other students and write your papers side by side.  Leave time for discussing the ideas in your paper.  Many people think that they need to be secluded to write papers, and they struggle to stay focused.  That is because some people need to discuss their ideas with others in order to fully understand the concepts.  If that sounds like you, make paper writing into a social event.  Instead of sitting down alone to write your outline, jot down ideas while discussing them with your peers.

7. Intrapersonal

Intrapersonal learners have a deep understanding of themselves.  They tend to be very introspective and understand their strengths and weaknesses and what they need to be successful.

If you are an intrapersonal learner, use introspection to your advantage.  Think about your strengths and weaknesses in regard to paper writing.  In which areas do you need more help?  Plan your paper writing accordingly.

8. Naturalistic

Those with naturalistic intelligence feel deeply connected to nature.  They are able to understand the natural patterns in the world and are great gardeners and naturalists. They love animals and other living things.

If this sounds like you, try to come up with topics about nature for your papers.  If that doesn’t work, why not write your paper outside, in a park?  Fill your home with growing things and see if it helps you to stay energized.


Most people are a mixture of many of the intelligences.  For example, I excel at paper writing, because I am a linguistic, mathematical/logical, and intrapersonal learner.  However, I could never be an artist or an athlete, because my ability to relate objects in space and to make physical goals are nil.  However, I love painting abstract watercolors and doing yoga, because they are highly intrepersonal activities.

What are your strongest intelligences?  Take this test to find out where your strengths lie. How can you use them to help you in the paper writing process?

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