Monday, July 13, 2015

Celebrate Geeks and Dorks - Even if you're not at Comic Con

July 12 begins the week of the Dork and the Geek. Grammarly is celebrating by offering the Ultimate Language Geek Personality Quiz. I took it and was labeled a Grammar Despot:
"The world is a dangerous place for a grammar despot. You cannot read your Facebook news feed or page through the grocery ads without being assaulted with crimes against grammar. When you see 'fewer' in the place of 'less' or 'you’re' in the place of 'your,' you feel your blood pressure rise. Conventions of writing make you feel comfortable and secure. You have a message for anyone who writes anything: Please follow grammar rules."
This doesn't seem too surprising for an English Professor, but following the basic rules of good writing is important for more than just passing composition. I have a love/hate relationship with grammar. Getting too hung up on the rules can stifle creativity, but when you make common errors, like using the wrong form of its or it's or there, their, and they're it makes you look . . . yes, I'll just say it, STUPID.

But who cares?

Hmmm, think about it. When you apply for a job upon graduation many times the only thing that separates you from the rest of the pack is your resume. If you don't take the time to proofread your introduction (a resume is your introduction), what does that say about you?

You don't need to become a Grammar Nerd (see graphic), but when a mistake is highlighted on one of your papers, you should probably take the time to think about it. Believe me, most teachers only point out the most egregious errors, or errors that you commit over and over and over again.

I will admit when I was a college student I thought that "daily" was spelled "dailey." It wasn't until I got my first job and had to produce the "Dailey Memo" that someone pointed out my error. I was so embarrassed and grateful at the same time.

Do you think grammar matters? What grammar errors have you corrected over the course of your writing career?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

6 Things College Can Teach You

Tiffany Jones, editor, at CSUEB's Pioneer writes "Six things college has taught me, to date". The first one made this former mother of two college students laugh, yes, out loud. "We all wish our mom still did our laundry." C'mon admit it, I bet you arrive home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry when you visit your parents. All kidding aside, she offers some sound advice.

1. Being a big kid is hard - no moms and dads at college.

2. Time management is key to success - get off social media 24/7, get to class on time, do your homework the day before, not 4:00 a.m.

3. You can’t escape reality - make goals and live up to them.

4. Conflict is essential - The advice I'd give my own children and students, "You can say whatever you want to your teacher/boss/counselors as long as you do so politely."

5. Being discouraged is okay - should read "Being discouraged is essential." If you aren't discouraged from time to time, you are not growing in knowledge or maturity.

6. Believe it or not, mistakes are a good thing - Absolutely!!!! How will you ever get any better at anything if you don't take some chances? And if you take chances, you are bound to fail once in a while.

What has college taught you so far?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Advice on the Art of Writing

Roberto Bolaño offers "12 Tips on the Art of Writing Short Stories," but good writing is just good writing.

Let's take a look at his advice:

(1) Never approach short stories one at a time. If one approaches short stories one at a time, one can quite honestly be writing the same short story until the day one dies.
          This works just as well for college essays. If you write the same essay over and over again, you will get bored and never grow as a thinker (or writer).

(2) It is best to write short stories three or five at a time. If one has the energy, write them nine or fifteen at a time.
          Maybe you won't sit down and write three or five essays at a time, but do write when you feel ENERGIZED, don't write that essay at 3:00 a.m.

(4) One must read Horacio Quiroga, Felisberto Hernández, and Jorge Luis Borges. One must read Juan Rulfo and Augusto Monterroso. Any short-story writer who has some appreciation for these authors will never read Camilo José Cela or Francisco Umbral yet will, indeed, read Julio Cortázar and Adolfo Bioy Casares, but in no way Cela or Umbral.
          Does this really need interpretation? READ, READ, READ

(5) I’ll repeat this once more in case it’s still not clear: don’t consider Cela or Umbral, whatsoever.
          Academic essay readers get the writer/professor Judith Butler.

(6) A short-story writer should be brave. It’s a sad fact to acknowledge, but that’s the way it is.
          An academic writer should be brave. Take chances, especially if you're allowed rewrites.

(9) The honest truth is that with Edgar Allan Poe, we would all have more than enough good material to read.
          Go read some Poe. His short stories are compelling and desperate. Think of your essays in the same way - make your professors desperately want to read ALL of your essay.

(10) Give thought to point number 9. Think and reflect on it. You still have time. Think about number 9. To the extent possible, do so on bended knees.
          “The best things in life make you sweaty" . . . Edgar Allan Poe - writing should make you sweaty.

(12) Read these books and also read Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver, for one of the two of them is the best writer of the twentieth century.
          Anton Chekov believes that good stories should "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." 
          This just as easily applies to essays, if you insert some evidence paragraph one, its relevance must be clear by the middle of the essay, otherwise get rid of it.

Think about storytelling. What other techniques can you borrow from a good story and use to write a compelling essay?