Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Meet the Staff: Paul

Name: Paul Sims

Major: Adult Education
Year: Second year masters degree candidate

What do you like doing best in your spare time? I like to hang out with my wife and daughter. We laugh a lot and have a great time more often than not.

Whats the best advice anyone has ever given you about writing?

Dont self-edit. Alice Sullivan, a book editor I know. I think this advice can be applied in just about every form of writing when you are just trying to get words on the paper. Dont second-guess yourself at the start. Push past the fear and say whats on your mind and heart. Let the editing take place later.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job at the Miller Writing Center?

I truly love light-bulb moments – times when clients begin to catch their own mistakes, or make some other form of improvement without my direct guidance.

 Is there anything challenging about your job in the Writing Center? If so, what is it?

Sometimes, its letting go when I dont think I got through to or connected with a client; Im left wondering if there was something more I could have done. 

When and where do you work at the MWC?:

I work in the Learning Resources Center in 3408 Haley Center from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays.

If you had a super power that you could only use in the Writing Center, what would it be and why?

Like Spider-Man shoots webs, I would like to turn up my wrist and sling a net of confidence over my clients; not so much that they become impossible to live with, but just enough to get them over their most common and damaging fears, and it would liberate, not shackle.

Any good music recommendations?

Ive been a longtime fan of the Canadian rock trio Rush. I deeply admire their professionalism, craftsmanship, and integrity. They frequently test the limits of their own creativity and skill. They can do this because a long time ago, they let the world know they would not compromise who they were and what they wanted to do. Permanent Waves is a great starting album.

- Paul

Monday, April 28, 2014

Top Six With Scott: Six Reasons You’re Not Ready for the Real World

Fun fact – you will graduate college eventually. Yep, your closet of yoga pants, too-short khaki shorts, and t-shirts you got for free will soon be replaced with a closet full of business casual. But don’t regret it – growing up is fun (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself)! Still, there’s a few barriers we have to overcome before we can enter the real world. So grab your pizza Lunchable and a Sunny-D, and enjoy the top six reasons you’re not ready for the real world.
1. You treat email like text messages.
To start, if your primary email address is, you’ve got a problem. Your email address should be your name and/or initials, with as few underscores and numbers as possible. You should also create an email signature for your primary email account with your contact information.
Moving past the basics, remember the “The C’s” of emailing: clarity, concision, and choosiness.1 Be clear – tone of voice and slang don’t translate well within emails. Be concise – say only what’s necessary. Be choosy – is this appropriate for email? Should I really hit “reply all?” Sometimes, email isn’t the best option. There’s this function on your iPhone called “Phone” that can be useful.
In summary, don’t be George R.R. Martin when you email.2
2. You’re still mixing up your words.  
I’m not saying you have to write as well as Jane Austen3 to become an adult. Still, you should probably avoid ending up on a Buzzfeed list of “29 people who are causing past English teachers to roll over in their graves.” Even if you hate writing. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
3. You aren’t giving yourself enough credit.
Here’s an example of a sentence you should never say: “Perhaps I am the right person for this job—Maybe.” This applies to your writing as well. Here’s a short list of words you shouldn’t include in your next thesis4: maybe, somewhat, perhaps, probably, possibly, kinda, I think, seems. Be confident in your writing and in your arguments. I mean it.
4. You’re still waiting to start that paper due tomorrow.
I know what you’re gonna say- “But Scott, this just proves that I can work under a deadline/under pressure/in tough situations/quickly.” Rubbish. If you have a legitimate reason to start your 6 page paper at 9pm the night before, then I support you. But just remember that you’re gonna need an even more legitimate excuse when your boss asks you how your progress is on that project you were supposed to start 2 weeks ago.
5. You’ve been wondering why your vacuum isn’t working and are just finding out it’s because you have to empty it occasionally.  
A coworker who shall remain unnamed recently told me this about herself. This has nothing to do with writing, but who are you and what have you done with your common sense?
6. You let your mom, roommate, or that random guy down the hall always quoting Shakespeare read through your paper instead of bringing it in to the Writing Center.
Does Warren Buffett ask his twitter followers the next company he should invest in? Will you ask your next-door neighbor to help you perform a hip replacement surgery at the hospital? Do you ask people from the north what their favorite brand of sweet tea is?5 Then you shouldn’t let Joe Schmo help you with your writing. Come see us – we’re trained, willing, energetic, and confident we can help you.

- Scott
1 I just made these up, but I added quotation marks to sound official.
2 Actually, don’t be like George R.R. Martin ever. He’s real bad at keeping friends.
3 If you don’t know who Jane Austen is, stay in school until you find out.
4 Probably. It’s English; there’s always exceptions.

5 Milo’s. If you answer anything but Milo’s, I can no longer help you. If you say Red Diamond, our relationship is over.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing Boo-boo #102: Wrong Word

In the English language, there are words called homophones which sound alike but don't have the same meaning. Some examples are "to, two, and too", "your and you're", and our staff's example, "there, their, and they're". Be aware of the differences between these words when you use them in writing! 

- Miller Writing Center Staff

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Writing Boo-boo #2: Vague Pronoun References

In this writing boo-boo, Morgan learns that she may need to be clearer when referencing a specific person, place, or thing.

When a pronoun is used in a sentence, the noun that the pronoun is referencing must be clear.

For example, someone might say, 
"I painted some pictures last night and my hands got stained. They look awful."

The reader might not know what they is referring to. Do the pictures look awful or the hands? 

A clearer sentence might be,
"I painted some pictures last night. My hands look awful because they got stained."

Make sure you're being clear when you use pronouns! (Especially if you're gossiping.)

- Miller Writing Center Staff

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beware of Adverbs

Adverbs answer the questions when, where, why, how, or under what conditions something happened. They often end in -ly but can come in other forms too (often, even, during, indeed, much, quite, so, very, etc.).

So, what’s wrong with using adverbs?
Verbs are arguably the strongest part of the sentence. They should stand out and convey the meaning of the sentence. Adverbs can weaken the verb or repeat what the verb has already said.
Example 1:
“The tornado completely destroyed the house.”
Isn’t it already implied with the word “destroyed” that the house is no longer intact? If it weren’t “completely destroyed,” it would just be damaged. Now look at it without the adverb:
“The tornado destroyed the house.”
It looks as if “completely” intensifies “destroyed,” but it does not add any extra meaning to the sentence and is not necessary.
Example 2:
“The spy sneakily crawled through the bushes.”
Spies are sneaky. Crawling through bushes is sneaky. “Sneakily” doesn’t have to be added to this sentence to prove the spy was being sneaky.
Another way to combat these adverbs is to use description or change the verb.
“The tornado ripped through the neighborhood leaving fragments of houses, shards of glass, and private belongings scattered across the town.”
“The spy crouched to his stomach and slithered under the bush to observe the top-secret conversation.”

“She went quickly down the stairs” can become “She dashed down the stairs.”
Try reviewing your paper and picking out -ly words. Delete it and see if the sentence contains the same meaning. Maybe it even strengthens the sentence to eliminate it.
Adverbs have their place, but they should be used with caution.

Happy writing,

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tutor Week: Meet Anna

To round out our tutor week, we've chosen to profile the lovely Anna!

Name: Anna

Major: Nutrition/Dietetics
Year: Junior
What do you like doing best in your spare time?
I like to read and I like to run, but not at the same time. ;)

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about writing?
        The best advice about writing I have ever received is to set aside time to write the paper and then get it all done at once. I like to concentrate on one paper at a time so I can remember what I am trying to say.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job at the Miller Writing Center?
        I have really liked working with people who are stuck on their paper. By the end of the appointment they have a direction and a place to start working to complete their paper.

Is there anything challenging about your job in the Writing Center? If so, what is it?
        It can be challenging when people come in the same day that their essay is due. Start early!

When and where do you work at the MWC?
        I work Wednesdays 11-3 in Athletics and Thursdays 4-6 in RBD.

Hidden talent?
        My hidden talent is that I play the piano. I haven’t been able to practice much at school (pianos aren’t very transportable…), but I play when I can.

Any good book recommendations?
        I recently read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It is fantastic!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tutor Week: Meet Haley!

Name: Haley Petcher

Major: English (Literature)

Year: Senior
What do you like doing best in your spare time?
My friends and I like to hang out and do art projects. Not the challenging kind, though. The throwing-paint-filled-eggs-at-a-canvas kind.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about writing?
When I write I’m a perfectionist, which means that I hate admitting that my first drafts aren’t perfect. Many people have reminded me that it’s okay to have a bad first draft because you can edit it later. If you don’t put your ideas on paper, you’ll never finish.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job at the Miller Writing Center?
Writing papers can be nerve-racking, so I love it when a student leaves feeling better or knowing that they have the tools to improve their paper.
Is there anything challenging about your job in the Writing Center? If so, what is it?
Explaining articles is tricky.
When and where do you work at the MWC?:
I work Tuesdays from 12:00 to 3:00 and Thursdays from 1:00 to 3:00 in Athletics.

Hidden talent?
I can solder small wire sculptures, like trees or birds. It all started when my 9th grade English teacher asked us to make dragons for a project.
Any good book recommendations?
Confession: I’ve both read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and listened to it through Audible. Morgenstern is a painter who loves to create different textures, and I’m not sure if this makes sense, but her writing really reflects that. It’s my current favorite contemporary novel.