Paragraphs, Chapters, and Other Breaks

When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t figure out paragraph breaks, no matter how many times my teachers tried to explain them to me. My paragraphs were always too long or too short, evidently. It was always the same feedback. Paragraph breaks are a higher level of separation. Above that, chapter breaks. Above evenContinue reading “Paragraphs, Chapters, and Other Breaks”

Punctuation and Visual Rhythm

Recently I was proofreading a novel draft of mine, and I came across this sentence: Anne advanced; he retreated; she cornered him against a wall and pounded his shoulders. Now, I love me some semicolons, so it’s no surprise that I would somehow manage to get two into a single sentence in the first fiveContinue reading “Punctuation and Visual Rhythm”

Reading for Saturation

When we teach college writing, we’re generally asking students to write in genres that they may have never read. Why, then, do we expect them to be able to write these successfully? Genres are, as I have often observed, slippery things and can’t really be completely understood through explicit instruction. Sure, scholars can and oftenContinue reading “Reading for Saturation”

Ready for NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time of year again! Time to hang up the skeletons and put out the tombstones, but also time to brush off the Word documents and start a new novel. It’s time for National Novel Writing Month! If you’ve been around here for a while, you may know that I’ve done and won NaNoWriMoContinue reading “Ready for NaNoWriMo?”

Perceiving Academic Journals

I started college in 2005, just at the cusp of learning management systems; things like Blackboard were in use, but most courses still had physical syllabi passed out on day one, and most assignments were still printed out on paper and handed in physically. In the same way, online journals were increasingly popular at theContinue reading “Perceiving Academic Journals”

Flexible Deadlines Are Awesome

Since I started experimenting with penalty-free flexible deadlines, which was shortly before the pandemic (good timing on that one!), the regular question I’ve gotten was how to avoid the work piling up when students inevitably turn in lots of late work. The answer is actually that the flexible deadlines prevent grading from piling up ratherContinue reading “Flexible Deadlines Are Awesome”

Rethinking How We Teach Paraphrasing

When you teach a course on writing research, of course you do a lot of work with source handling. I suspect that most of us were taught summary, paraphrase, and quotation as a set, and many of us were given exercises that drilled us to do each of these things with a source on command.Continue reading “Rethinking How We Teach Paraphrasing”

Building Plot: The Power of Yes

When I had been writing fiction in earnest for about two or three years, I was doing some revision when I noticed a pattern: my characters said “no” a lot in dialogue. It ranged from quiet “no”s to big, dramatic, Luke-finding-out-who-his-father-is “NOOOOooooo”s. I mean, I was a middle schooler at the time, and my writingContinue reading “Building Plot: The Power of Yes”

How To Decide To Cut A Scene: A Heuristic for Writers

Almost every fiction writer has heard “kill your darlings” and “show don’t tell.” These pithy sayings get repeated so much that they lose a lot of meaning and they’re frankly a little annoying, because they don’t really help writers know when to kill darlings, or which darlings to kill, or what to show and notContinue reading “How To Decide To Cut A Scene: A Heuristic for Writers”

Teaching Against Deficiency

There’s been a lot of talk about “ungrading” and, of course, most of us are probably aware by now of the growing body of research that shows how standardized testing is not a useful measurement of student learning and may actually be doing harm to students. I don’t have anything really conclusive to say aboutContinue reading “Teaching Against Deficiency”

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