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”

Hinges and Stitches: Thinking About Transitions in Writing

I was winging it in the classroom the other day, analyzing some paragraphs in a response to a very important landmark physics paper and how they transition, and I hit on an image that I think is going to be useful for a long time: hinges and stitches. My class uses Graff and Birkenstein’s excellentContinue reading “Hinges and Stitches: Thinking About Transitions in Writing”

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”

Writing Is Social

We all know the stereotypes of the writer: the introvert with cats hiding away with coffee and alcohol, scribbling away in a notebook (ok, minus the coffee and wine, it’s true for me). “Writing is a lonely profession,” people say. We see it as a soloistic endeavor: the grand aloof maestro spinning mesmerizing tales outContinue reading “Writing Is Social”

What I Miss From Last Semester’s Contract Grading Experiment

Last semester I tried to finally make the hard switch to contract grading, motivated by a number of reasons. My motivations were good, and my policies had been gradually trending that way anyway, but (as I have explained before) the experiment didn’t go well, with a much higher fail rate than I’m used to seeingContinue reading “What I Miss From Last Semester’s Contract Grading Experiment”

Promoting Student Choice

When I was a graduate student, I routinely had two sections of the same class. As a rule I generally kept them on the same syllabus and schedule, and I still do that now that I have four sections of the same class most semesters. It makes less work for me and lets me focusContinue reading “Promoting Student Choice”

Whom Do You Write For?

One of the hardest questions that authors get asked perhaps too seldom is “Who are you writing for?” It’s also, perhaps, the most important. More important even than “Why are you writing?” or “What are you writing?” Writing without an audience just doesn’t work. The audience completes the text, you see. Sure, the author mayContinue reading “Whom Do You Write For?”

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