Comma Get It!

 

Nameless Cardboard Robot

Robots love commas.

Commas aren’t some piece of punctuation meant to aggravate you. They can actually be used as rhetorical tools, meaning that you can use them to emphasize information. Commas can also help you add clarity to your writing so you don’t confuse your readers.

Commas separate, introduce, and show information. While comma rules aren’t completely rigid, there are some comma guidelines that you should be familiar with. Once you get to know these, you can begin to mess with them to suit your rhetorical needs.

HOW TO USE COMMAS

There are four cases when you should really use commas:

1. To separate clausesCommas often separate an independent clause (a phrase that can stand alone as a sentence) from a dependent clause (a phrase that can’t stand alone).

  • When the robot was first built, he didn’t have any legs.

2. To separate parenthetical phrases. Parenthetical phrases interrupt other phrases or clauses, and contain extra information that could be removed from the sentence without changing the sentence’s core meaning.

  • The robot, which had no name, was created to guard and protect the Writing Center.

3. To separate introductory phrases. An introductory phrase is a phrase at the beginning of the sentence (usually a dependent clause) that provides background information for the main sentence.

  • While the robot was painted silver, he had a heart of gold.

4. To balance two independent clauses (with a coordinating conjunction). Two independent clauses can be two separate sentences, or can be combined into one sentence using a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so).

  • Students loved the robot, for he was kind and generous.
  • The robot enjoyed getting to see the students, but he was always sad when the Writing Center closed for the night.
  • The tutors realized how lonely the robot was becoming, so they built him a robot dog to keep him company.

HOW TO NOT USE COMMAS

Even though there is a lot of flexibility in what ways you can use commas, there are also cases when you should avoid using them:

1. Don’t separate the verb from its subject or its object.

  • The robot, danced when no one was looking. → The robot danced when no one was looking. (The robot is the subject, danced is the verb.)
  • The robot walked, his robot dog. → The robot walked his robot dog. (Walked is the verb, his robot dog is the object.)

2. Don’t use a comma between an adjective and a noun.

  • The cardboard, robot was always eager to help students with their writing. → The cardboard robot was always eager to help students with their writing.

3. Don’t use a comma before the first item in a series.

  • The robot likes, gummy worms, break dancing, and paper cranes. → The robot likes gummy worms, break dancing, and paper cranes.

4. Don’t use a comma after a coordinating conjunction.

  • The robot was large yet, gentle. → The robot was large yet gentle. *OR* The robot was large, yet gentle.

Note: You can use a comma before the coordinating conjunction if you want, but you don’t have to, since the two clauses are not independent clauses. Whether or not you put a comma before the coordinating conjunction in cases like this will depend on how much you want to emphasize the piece after the conjunction.

≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

We hope this rundown of good and not-so-good uses of commas is helpful for you. If you have any more punctuation questions, feel free to stop by the Writing Center or schedule an appointment here.

We also hope that you’ll stop by and check out our new giant cardboard robot—he still needs a name and we would love your input!

-Annie and Sarah, peer tutors

The Young Knight of Writencentia

Once upon a time, in the mystical land of Writencentia, there lived a tall, handsome young knight, with flowing blond hair and striking blue eyes. Though brilliant of mind, he simply detested writing. This troubled him deeply–writing was a beloved past time throughout all of Writencentia, yet he struggled to enjoy writing. Whenever he sat down to put quill to scroll, he would freeze up in fear, as if an ice-breathing dragon had frozen him in a block of ice.

Try as he might, the young knight could not successfully put quill to scroll. (Image from clker.com)

One afternoon, the young knight spoke of his troubles to one of his closest friends in all the land.

“I fear that I am unworthy, as I am unable to produce any writing of quality, and often, any writing at all,” he said solemnly. “It is if my mind hath put a curse upon itself. It leaves my parchment blank and my quills untouched.”

The knight’s friend nodded as he listened. He understood exactly what the young knight was going through. “I know of the problem that troubles you,” he said, “For I too have experienced the same curse.”

“Have you?” said the knight. “What ever did you do about it?” he said, his curiosity piquing.

“I journeyed to the center of the kingdom, where I went to the castle of Writencentia,” said the knight’s friend. “There, I was able to speak with a most bright and lovely princess, who helped me find ways to overcome my fear and hatred of writing.”

“Was it helpful?” asked the knight.

“Indeed, ‘twas,” said his friend. “‘Tis a journey most worthy of undertaking.”

The young knight traveled to Writencentia Castle in search of writing help. (Image from clker.com)

The next day, the young knight journeyed to Writencentia Castle, and to his surprise, the trek was not difficult at all. Once at the castle, he was greeted by one of several princesses. With great friendliness and hospitality, she offered him tea, coffee, or cocoa before their discussion began. Feeling most welcomed, the prince accepted this offer, and then they went to work.

“What can I help you with today?” asked the princess, her kind brown eyes beaming.

The knight was bashful to begin talking, but he quickly convinced himself that he had nothing to fear. The kind princess was there to help him with his writing struggles, not to judge him or chide him.

“I’m afraid to say that I do not like writing,” said the knight. “For when I try to write, my mind and my wrist are most paralyzed.”

The princess looked at him with understanding. “Do you know what it is about writing that fills you with such fear?”

The knight took a moment to consider the question. What was it about writing that paralyzed him so?

“Well,” he began, “I think part of it is that I always want what I write to be written with perfection the moment I write it,” he said with a frown.

“I see,” said the princess, “And I can help.”

“Can you?” asked the knight.

“Why certainly!” she replied. “I want to encourage you to not let that fear keep you from writing, because your thoughts and ideas are important. If you do not try to put them on the page, written perfectly or not, those thoughts may fly away from you and you may not have them again. Try writing down what comes to mind without worrying about how pretty it sounds at first. Then, once you’ve finished writing down your ideas, you can revise how they are written so they sound more beautiful.”

The young knight was skeptical at first, but the princess offered to help him practice. She told him to write a story about a time when he was happy and encouraged him to not stop and think so hard about what he was trying to say but to let the ink flow from his quill. After a little bit of time, the prince had written something–at long last! Then, with the help of the princess, he read back through what he had written to make his writing more satisfactory to him.

Once their hour was up, the knight was prepared to leave Writencentia Castle feeling better about his writing and himself. The princess had armed him with the knowledge that when writing, he needed to be mindful of when his fears were holding him back so that he could tell himself to carry forward and stick quill to parchment–after all, he could always revise what he had written. The princess taught him that writing is a process much easier broken into steps.

“Thank you, kind princess, for all of the lessons you have given me today,” bowed the knight to his tutor.

“You’re very welcome,” she replied. “Feel free to come back anytime!”

“I most certainly will,” said the knight.

The young knight hopped onto his horse, waved good-bye to the princess, and traveled home with great confidence.

***

Does the young knight remind you of yourself? Do you not like writing because it’s intimidating or boring?

Fear not! Here at the Writing Center, our tutors are more than happy to help you identify what it is about writing you don’t like and offer you strategies to make the writing process more enjoyable for you.

Ready to start your quest? Book an appointment here, and embark on the path toward a happier, less stressful writing process.

—Annie, peer tutor

 

The Resume

It’s that time of year again: the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re sitting at your computer, furiously preparing those applications for summer jobs and internships.

Ah, the life of a college student. (source: learnnotto.soup.io)

Job applications themselves tend to be straightforward. More often than not, the trouble arises when it comes time to talk about yourself in a formal way. That’s right: statistics show that resumes (and their partners-in-crime, cover letters) pose a challenge for 75% of the population.*
*Note: all statistics in this blog post are made up by the author.

So how do you overcome this? How do you present yourself in a way that will have companies begging you to work for them? Take a look at the tips below.

The Bulk
In any resume, you want to answer three main questions:

1. What have you done?
2. What are you doing?
3. What do you want to do? (This one is sometimes optional.)

To answer the first and second questions, you will want to list your educational qualifications as well as past jobs and volunteer positions you’ve held. You also want to describe your duties in these positions, in such a way that the qualities you’ve developed at these jobs shine through and say to your employer, “Hey, look at what I learned! I can bring this skill to your organization!”

Don’t do this. (source: http://pandawhale.com)

Resumes often contain an “objective statement” to answer the third question. This is a one-sentence statement about your goal for employment. It should express to your potential employer what you aim to accomplish in applying for this job. For example,

• Summer Camp Counselor: “To facilitate friendships and a love of learning in a stimulating camp environment.”

• Arts Administration: “Position with community-based arts organization involving public relations, marketing, and promoting performances and exhibits.”

• Computer Programming: “Programmer or systems analyst position using quantitative and mathematical training, with special interest in marketing and financial applications.”

As a wise former writing tutor once said, “Your objective is like the thesis statement of your resume.” So make it clear and make it stand out to your potential employer!

The Beauty
Resumes need to be beautiful (but sort of in the way that contemporary industrial architecture is beautiful).

The hard angles convey a sense of order, while the neutral tones suggest sophistication. (source: http://www.urbanews.fr/)

Use the space in your resume, and use it wisely. Align similar information (such as dates of employment) along the same margin throughout the resume. Feel free to italicize, bold, and/or underline text to make it stand out. Lines can be used to separate different headings and categories. Don’t use templates, but do get ideas from other resumes on the web.

The Relevance
So you’re applying for a tech support job, but the only club you’re in is McDaniel’s Puppy Club—not exactly the most relevant extracurricular activity.

pup

When is this little guy ever not relevant? (source: http://homeinspectorreno.com)

However, this information can still be useful. If your resume has an area for activities, feel free to include those that demonstrate leadership. While you won’t be training a service dog in IT, most extracurricular activities show that you are a person who goes out of their way to do more than they’re required to do. They also give insight into your interests.

Are you wondering what else you should include? Executive positions in particular signal experience working with others and managing different aspects of an organization. Certifications, such as in CPR/First Aid or various software, also tend to help a resume. In any case, stick with listing specific activities and certifications—don’t just list generic traits like “dependable.”

The Last Piece of Advice
So you think you’ve got a good draft of a resume, but you’re hesitant in sending it off to an employer? Luckily there are a few extra resources for you to use on campus: The C.E.O. and The Writing Center!

The Center for Experience and Opportunity, located in the lower level of Rouzer, helps students with all aspects of career preparation (including resume writing)! They are the perfect people to look over your resume in conjunction with the Writing Center. Writing Center tutors who have experience writing their own resumes are available to look over YOUR resume as well. A second (or third, or fourth) pair of eyes looking over your resume, from professional and peer perspectives, can’t hurt! So go out there, type up a fierce resume, and get that job!

-Sarah, Peer Tutor

Presentation Nerves

http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/betinho/lecture/BetinhoProjectLecture-Feb3%20002.JPG

From http://www.ryerson.ca/

Giving presentations is a part of almost every class we have in college. Back in high school, they were final assignments and cumulative experiences. But now, it’s entirely possible that you’re taking a class that requires multiple presentations through out the semester. Senior seminars may require giving a final presentation to an entire auditorium for half of your grade. Summer researchers must present to family, friends, and local press. Students doing independent research will probably present at a conference. And as an audience member and conference goer, I’ve seen some terrible presentations.

“But Cari, hold on a second,” you may be thinking. “I’ve done a ton of presentations. My presentation won’t be terrible!”

Sure, experience helps. But thinking that way is dangerous because every presentation you do is different. It’s for a different class, on a different topic, for a different audience. To handle those different classes, topics, and audiences, here’s a list of tips to help you prepare and present to the best of your abilities:

General Tips for Presenting (2-5 minute presentations)

  • Practice the presentation. An obvious tip, but practicing the presentation all the way through several times will help you establish a speech without notecards.
  • Find someone to practice with. Having an actual audience to make eye contact with is great practice.
  • Don’t rely on notecards. They take your eye contact away from the audience. It also makes it look like you didn’t practice (which you totally did!).
  •  Don’t read off the slides. It makes you seem unsure of yourself.
  • Keep eye contact on the audience. It makes you look engaged and confident in your knowledge of the topic. Look at a friend or the professor. Sometimes just picking a spot on the wall in the back can help.
  • Don’t announce that you’re nervous. Fake the confidence if you need to, but announcing nerves won’t improve your grade and could actually make you more nervous.
  • Take a breath between each slide, or section, to slow down. Often, students will talk very quickly during a presentation and the audience will miss an important point from your presentation.
  • Bring a timer. A watch, or a phone on silent, to help you keep track of your remaining time will help you pace yourself.
  • Keep your feet and hands still. Fidgeting or talking with your hands can be distracting to the audience.
  • Dress like a professional. Jeans and a t-shirt are not going to make a good impression. Go for business casual.
  • Ask for questions at the end. This may help boost time to meet the requirement.

From http://blog.loyola.edu/

Long presentations (5-10 minutes)

  • Practice in the room you will be presenting in. Normally, classrooms will be open at night and practicing in a similar setting will help calm nerves and retain memory.
  • Find a friend in the class to practice with. They may have feedback more relevant to the class or professor than a roommate with a different major.
  • Dress up in business attire. At this level, professionalism is probably going to have a factor on your grade.
  • Questions at this level or beyond may become complicated. Do your best to answer the questions as completely as possible, but do not make up any information or research.

From http://blogs.mtu.edu/

 

Senior Seminars (15-30 minutes)

  • Bring water with you. Your throat will become dry and you coughing in the middle of the presentation doesn’t look good. You can also use water as a tactic to slow down.
  • Book the auditorium, or conference room, wherever you will present, to practice in. Practicing in the exact space will help your memory and calm your nerves. This is the link to reserve spaces: https://www2.mcdaniel.edu/reservation/search/login
  • Just log in with your McDaniel username and password and search for the building where the room is located.
  • Practice around the same time of day that you will be presenting. If you only practice at night but your presentation is at 8 am, you’re not as likely to remember everything than if you had practiced at 9 am.
  • If using a laser pointer, which is a great way to bring focus to certain bullets, hold the laser pointer gently in your hand and press your elbow to your side. This will help the pointer from shaking.
  • Plant a question or two with the audience. These questions should be relevant, of course, but should help show off how well acquainted you are with the topic.
  • Body language is critical at this level and beyond. Standing with a confident gait will help reduce distracting body movement and help get you into your groove of presenting.

From http://www.flickr.com/commons/

 

Conference Presentations

  • Do not start talking at an observer if they are passing by. After they stop and look at your poster for 30 seconds, and then if they haven’t said anything, then ask if they have any questions. Let that be the beginning of the oral part of the presentation.
  • Prepare to see and hear experts and other students scrutinize your work. Professors like to ask questions that you won’t be able to answer or that require another level of understanding (e.g. a chemist may ask you a question about the chemical structure of a drug when you are presenting behavioral research). Again, do your best to answer the question with the knowledge you have, but these experts will know when you’re lying. It's okay to admit you don't know something.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will probably be standing in front of your poster for several hours.
  • Make friends with the people with posters on either side of you. It can get pretty boring if no one is looking at your poster.
  • Mark ahead of time posters that you want to look at while the other poster sessions are going on.

From https://pangea.stanford.edu/

Different Formats


PowerPoints

  • Stay away from the fancy transitions. They’re distracting and unprofessional.
  • Only include a video if you know the link works. Test it on both Macs and Windows computers.
  • Use bullet points rather than full sentences. Treat these bullets like cues for you to complete the explanation.

Posters

  • Keep text large. You want someone standing three feet away to be able to read it.
  • Make sure graphics will be clear from several feet away as well.
  • References or Works Cited sections do not need to be as big as other text on the poster.
  • Again, use bullet points. Nothing is more off-putting than a poster covered with 10-point font.
  • Print the poster at least a week ahead of time. Color errors happen and no one wants a graph with pink and purple bars rather than red and blue bars.

Prezis

  • Best suited for shorter presentations, especially if you're unfamiliar with the technology. If your senior seminar is a Prezi, you’re not going to do well. Use Prezis if the presentation is 2-5 minutes.
  • Maintain professionalism when designing transitions. Getting your audience seasick will not get you any points.

If you’ve practiced your presentation, picked out your appropriate clothing, and thought about what you’re going to eat for breakfast, it’s time to go to sleep. Good luck, have faith in your practice, and relax. You’re going to do great!

~Cari, Peer Tutor

Practice for your Ultimate Competition

Being a student-athlete means that you have a busy schedule. In just one day, you juggle classes, multiple practices and training sessions, homework, and let’s not forget finding time to eat–you’ve got to fuel that body to keep operating at such high efficiency! The dedication and self-discipline you exercise in your athletic lifestyle and every time you suit up are tools that can also help you succeed in the classroom. Just as you practice every day for athletic improvement, you can think of the Writing Center as your practice arena to train towards ultimate success in your academics.

From http://www.wahijournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/balence1.jpg

From http://www.wahijournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/balence1.jpg

As a swimmer, I’m in the pool with my teammates three mornings a week before school, and two hours every afternoon during the week after classes. On my own, I’m also responsible for completing five hours a week of supplemental cardio and weight training work outside of the pool. I’m joined in the Writing Center by Amber, Lauren, Kelsey as fellow student-athlete-tutors who know what it takes to balance school work and sports. As athletes, we all have our own crazy workout schedules, but one thing sports teach us is time-management, as we wouldn’t be allowed to practice and compete if we didn’t make the grade.

Each year, the Athletics Department brings McDaniel’s student-athletes together for a meeting to reinforce the idea of NCAA Division III athletics as an organization that fosters academic excellence through intercollegiate athletic programs. This mission statement rings true as McDaniel has an exemplary student-athlete population, demonstrated by the 115 athletes named to the Dean’s List and the four students named to the Green and Gold Honor Roll for fall 2013.

From http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/styles/wide_teaser/public/D3-logo-hero.jpg?itok=PtCJIaq9

From http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/styles/wide_teaser/public/D3-logo-hero.jpg?itok=PtCJIaq9

As athletes, we see our goals and envision success through the hard work we know is necessary for victory. The same philosophy should hold true for our work in class. Emma Wingerd, junior member of the Women’s Basketball team, frequents the Writing Center and says that “As an athlete, it’s hard to make time to sit down and do these things outside of class, practice, and meals, but those one hour appointments were the best decision I ever made to become a more successful student-athlete.” Wingerd expressed that she was surprised by how helpful the tutors are, especially within one hour sessions, as she was able to come in with a broad topic and leave with a specific thesis and an outline. Writing Center tutors also help you tackle resumes, applications, and scholarship essays for further academic success. In another session, Wingerd brought in her unorganized resume: “I came in with everything and the kitchen sink and came out with a polished resume that I am proud to use to represent myself.”

From http://www.mcdanielathletics.com/images/logos/acad-gt.jpg

From http://www.mcdanielathletics.com/images/logos/acad-gt.jpg

Writing can pose a difficult challenge as we are always trying to improve ourselves as students and scholars. Just as we put in the effort on the field, track, and in the pool, we know that we need to put in the same level of intensity into our studies if we want to be successful in life and remain eligible to compete. The Writing Center tutors are more than eager to be your writing coaches to help you succeed in the classroom so that you can achieve your academic and athletic goals as Green Terror student-athletes.

-Shannon, peer tutor

Tips for Efficient Research and Note-Taking

 

From http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1195646/A-N-WILSON-Stressed-Oh-stop-whingeing-Lifes-easier.html

From http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1195646/A-N-WILSON-Stressed-Oh-stop-whingeing-Lifes-easier.html

Have you ever been overwhelmed when searching for sources for a paper? Do you wonder how to sort out which sources will be the most helpful? Are you worried that you won’t have enough time to take notes on everything?

Fear not, young writer! Your friends at the trusty Writing Center have some tips for you on how to do more efficient research and how to take better notes. This way, you can organize your information so it can be put into your research paper without much hassle and stress.

Research Tips

From http://organizations.bloomu.edu/nsslha/research%20committee%20page.html

From http://organizations.bloomu.edu/nsslha/research%20committee%20page.html

Be specific!

You’d be surprised at how many items come up in a search of something that may seem simple. Be as specific as possible when you are doing research online.

Use quotation marks.

If you use quotation marks in an online search, the database will search for that phrase in particular. For example, if you simply searched friendships among co-workers without quotations, you may find sources that use one or two of those keywords. BUT, if you search “friendships among co-workers,” you will be more likely to find a source with that exact phrasing.

Evaluate the source.

Is the article a scholarly, peer-reviewed article, or is it from a newspaper or magazine? You can narrow down the type of source you want when you search online. Also, if you’re using Google Scholar, it will tell you how many times that source has been cited in other works.

Don’t forget about the library!

The library is always a wonderful source for research. There are specific research librarians who are more than willing to help you find the sources you need. You can also use the multiple databases the library has to find scholarly sources. There is also a brand new feature on the library’s website this semester. Students who need help with finding sources can now engage in a live chat with librarians. How cool is that?!

Note-Taking Tips

From http://techforeducatorsashley.wikispaces.com/Summarizing+and+Note+Taking

From http://techforeducatorsashley.wikispaces.com/Summarizing+and+Note+Taking

Determine what information you need before you start.

Read your paper prompt and jot down a few ideas of information you think would be important to mention in your paper. This way, you’ll know what to look for as you’re reading through your sources.

Make a system.

Create your own way to take notes that best helps you organize the information. You could use bullet points for major headings and take notes on that section under that bullet point. Also, WRITE DOWN THE PAGE NUMBER! Every type of citation (MLA, APA, Chicago) requires a page number at some point. Save yourself some time and write down the page where you found the information so you don’t have to go back and look through an entire source for a sentence or two. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a while and it helps TREMENDOUSLY.

Paraphrase.

Don’t write everything down word-for-word; try to paraphrase things into your own words so you can write similar ideas in your paper. If you find a direct quote that you might want to use, go ahead and copy it down verbatim (but make sure to label it as a direct quote so you remember).

If you use these tips the next time you have to write a research paper, it will make the process much smoother and organized. Good luck!

From http://carolinanaturally.blogspot.com/2013_06_19_archive.html

From http://carolinanaturally.blogspot.com/2013_06_19_archive.html

Check out these sources for more tips on research and note taking:

-Kelsey, Peer Tutor

Paper Cranes

You may have noticed the paper cranes hanging in the stairwell of Hill Hall and wondered why exactly they seem to be flying around students walking to and from class on busy weekdays. The cranes are, in fact, a new installation brought to you by the Writing Center tutors.

cranes2_edit

crane

Paper cranes are a symbol of happiness, peace, and good luck, which is why we decided to hang them in the academic building. When you are rushing to class, make sure you stop and take a look at the exhibit and maybe it will bring you some peace in the middle of your busy day.

cranes_editIt is said that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish from a crane; we don’t know if we will ever reach a thousand, but we are having fun trying. The cranes are made of recycled pages from photography books and all of them were folded by the tutors at The Writing Center.

pages2_editThe exhibit is also about process; you can see the book pages with writing processes written on them hanging with the paper cranes as a reminder that you don’t get to an end product that you are proud of without putting in time and effort. Creating paper cranes requires focus and commitment. We all dedicated time to learning and mastering the art of origami cranes (which we folded out of re-purposed books) just like we try to dedicate the time that we spend working on an assignment in order to get the product that we want.

pages_editAt the Writing Center we are dedicated to helping students improve their own writing by providing guidance during the writing process. With focus and a clear mind, it is easy to achieve that final product that you know you are capable of!

-Lauren, peer tutor

Complex Sentences

Image

I hate reading work by Ernest Hemingway. I find his use of short, staccato sentences to be choppier than the water in The Old Man and the Sea, and I often find myself wondering, “Would it have killed this man to write a complex sentence?” Sure, the grammar rules would have been a little more tricky, but it would have made English class my sophomore year of high school much more bearable.

hemingway

http://www.goodreads.com/
author/show/1455.Ernest_
Hemingway

That being said, here are some tips for writing complex sentences:

1)   Join less important sentences together.

This is usually done by joining different clauses together. There are two types of clauses that can serve this purpose: dependent and independent. A dependent clause, which does not include both a subject and a verb, does not need to be separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma. Contrastingly, an independent clause contains both a subject and a verb, so it has to be joined to the sentence with a comma or a semi-colon.

“He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.” (Hemingway)

The phrase “of the lions on the beach” is not a complete sentence, so it does not need to be joined to the rest of the sentence by a comma.

“He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. He never dreamed about the boy.” (Hemingway)

This block of text can be joined into a complex sentence because it consists of two independent clauses.

He dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach, yet he never dreamed about the boy.

 

2) Remember FANBOYS.

For

And

Nor

But

Or

Yet

So

These coordinating conjunctions are easy tools for joining two independent clauses together. Below is an example of how complex sentences can give writing better flow.

Write drunk. Edit sober.

Authors should write drunk, but they should edit their work sober.

In the above sentence, the coordinating conjunction is bolded, and the subject and verb phrase of the independent clause are underlined.

**Please note that the writing tutors do not advocate doing your writing assignments while intoxicated. That is all Hemingway’s idea.**

 

3)   Vary the structure of your sentences.

Not all sentences that consist of two independent clauses need to use a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Semi-colons can also be useful.

“The fish moved steadily [as] they travelled slowly on the calm water. The other baits were still in the water but there was nothing to be done.” (Hemingway)

With a semi-colon, the sentences above could look like this.

The fish moved steadily as they travelled slowly on the calm water; the other baits were still in the water, but there was nothing to be done.”

Writing that does not contain too many simple sentences is the easiest to read. Using different types of sentence structures can help a writer to achieve better flow, and make sure that a reader does not zone out while reading like I did in sophomore year English.

-Michelle, peer tutor

 

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner, 1952. Print.

http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/complexsentence.htm

 

Make Studying Interesting

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-SAIfhYdBL0A/ULZvv-evjNI/AAAAAAAAARU/ibMNJTlM6Zo/s1600/Studying-makes-you-sleepy.jpg

So you drew the short stick. A chunk of your shift has been dedicated to something that involves entertaining a group (read: three, maybe four) freshman. Or maybe you and your friends are looking for a way to spice things up. Or you could be presenting and need a couple ideas. Whatever the reason, here is a list of activities to do or topics to keep in mind during your study session.

It’s Story Time

Round Robin is an old familiar game that can be easily used for a study break. All you need is a sheet of paper, a writing utensil of your choice, a couple of other people and a story topic. Playing is simple. The first player writes down a sentence then folds the sheet over, hiding said sentence, and passes the paper on to the next player. Lather, rinse, and repeat until your story is complete. Unfold and read aloud your handcrafted tale.

http://cartoonart.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/storytime-web1.png

cartoonart.org

Exploding Hot Potato

Another game-like activity that can help you get in the studying mood. For this you should have some balloons and strips of paper. Each strip of paper will have a tip or a fact and be placed inside each balloon. It is easiest to have each balloon be themed, such as having a “Thesis” balloon or a “Brainstorming” balloon, all filled with tips/facts relating to that topic. Once your balloons are finished, it’s time to start popping. If you’ve ever played “Hot Potato” the concept is the same. Everyone sits in a circle and passes around the “potato” to a song until the music stops. It’s a lot like musical chairs but not really. Anyway, in the normal game whoever has the potato is out. In this version, whoever has the balloon has to pop it (protip: sitting on balloons is the easiest way) and then read the tips/facts inside.

http://www.officialpsds.com/images/thumbs/Mr-Potato-Head-psd35608.png

www.officialpsds.com

Mind Munchies

Have a list of tips? A delicious way to help them stick is to set up a numbered list with a correlating set of numbered cookies. Just make sure you read the number before you eat the cookie.

http://theartofthecookie.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Keep-Calm-and-Eat-a-Delicious-Cookie-Cookie-Meme.jpg

theartofthecookie.com

Paper Stars

A little feel good study booster are encouraging paper stars. You can make them for yourself or for others. Just write a little inspirational blurb and fold, fold, fold. Actually maybe you should write on the star after you fold it.

Flashcards

Novel idea really. The easiest way to use flashcards is with prompts on one side and information on the other. Use them to quiz yourself or others.

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hubpages.com

Not a pair of shoes, SpongeBob, paraphrase!

Something that could always use a refresher is paraphrasing. What’s the difference between it and quoting? How do I do it? Is it an instrument? Does it violate the Honor Code? The answers to all these questions and more can be addressed quickly (perhaps in a game of exploding hot potato). Our own handy dandy worksheet has a section on it as does the wonderful Purdue OWL website.

Where’s the beef?

A lot of students run into the issue of having all of the information they need for a paper but being unable to reach the length requirement. Transitions and cohesiveness can be helpful; sometimes brevity results in a choppier essay with less information over all. You could also try an exercise with taking a sentence and adding as many details as possible, not to set this as the ideal but just to highlight that writers can add to skimpy sentences/paragraphs.

Stuck Before You Started

The first step into an essay is often the hardest. Of course there are handouts to help with this but more interactive processes might help more. You can have a list (maybe a list attached to a batch of cookies) of brainstorming questions writers should ask themselves before each paper. Or craft brainstorming dice where each side has a different technique.

Source: http://lolsnaps.com/upload_pic/ISuckAtStudying-6960.jpg

Source: http://lolsnaps.com/upload_pic/ISuckAtStudying-6960.jpg

Thesis!

Again, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, it doesn’t hurt to go over what these are. Or why you need one. And especially how to make one. Compare strong and weak theses or create one as a group.

Shortcuts

Although we are supposed to read every page of every book and understand it entirely by ourselves, spark/cliff/thug notes can be extremely helpful in reading comprehension. This comprehension, gathered from summaries and major plot events, can be used to your advantage and as a starting point to spark further discussion and thought, not a source of plagiarism.  (Note: crashcourse is helpful for history, politics and science as well)

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4lA8D2k4moU/UlI-5aAqBdI/AAAAAAAAYuk/DivVJbR7APk/s1600/trail%2Bthrough%2Bthe%2Bwoods%2Bshort%2Bcut%2Bdr%2Bheckle%2Bfunny%2Bwtf%2Bmemes.jpg

www.drheckle.net

And with that in mind, Wikipedia, or rather the bibliographies on Wikipedia pages, are also another well of wisdom. If anyone does not know, please point them in the direction of the sources section of your local Wikipedia page. They are often prime places to find sources that’ll lead to other further information about a subject.

Break Time

The lovely games suggested in this post aren’t always feasible or practical for any student studying in their room. Be sure to give a few suggestions about the best way to utilize study breaks. There are squats, frantic dance breaks and power walks around the dorm. Remind people to switch topics and take breaks in between each batch of studying. Don’t forget study times and locations, important aspects of the studying process.

One Last Thing – don’t forget that the most important part of an study session is snacks. Lots of (healthy) snacks. And chocolate (tis brain food).

http://academics.cehd.umn.edu/experience/files/2013/11/tumblr_mdvmqyos1L1qzyg20o1_500.png

academics.cehd.umn.edu

–by Melanie, peer tutor

My So-Called Subjunctive: Was vs. Were

Verbs in the English language can be infinitely tricky, what with our multitude of irregulars  and often misleading vowel combinations, but they can also be infinitely beautiful, conjugated in ways that convey shades of subtle meaning.

Just like rebellious teenagers, verbs can contain a lot of emotion and like to spend time pondering their place and purpose in the universe. The English subjunctive is a “mood” which communicates doubt, hope, wishfulness, or the hypothetical.

One of the most distinct forms of the subjunctive mood is in the difference between “was” and “were.”

Angela from My So-Called Life

Image courtesy: http://www.annehelenpetersen.com/?p=2799

This is Angela. She is in love with Jordan Catalano, but he does not know she exists. If she writes in her diary, which would be the correct way to describe her love for him?

“I wish I was dating Jordan Catalano,” vs. “I wish I were dating Jordan Catalano.”

Here, the correct choice would be “I wish I were dating Jordan Catalano.” Because Angela is not actually dating him, but merely wishes to be, were expresses the hypothetical nature of the situation – the doubt that it is a thing that actually exists.

“If I was dating Jordan Catalano, I would be happy,” vs. “If I were dating Jordan Catalano, I would be happy.”

Again, Angela is not actually dating Jordan Catalano, but is expressing the wish/doubt/uncertainty inherent in the statement. Imagine it this way: if we take out the “if” from the sentence, it leaves us with “I was dating Jordan Catalano.” Because Angela had never been dating him, the implication of was on its own is incorrect, and were is necessary instead.

However, was also has a specific purpose. Examine the following:

“If Angela was in love with Jordan Catalano, I would know,” vs. “If Angela were in love with Jordan Catalano, I would know.”

Because Angela actually is in love with Jordan– because the sentence is expressing something that is hypothetically true or implied to be hypothetically true, was would be appropriate. The use of were in the second example implies to the listener that the fact of Angela being in love with Jordan is doubtful, uncertain, or unlikely to become a possibility.

Although its conscious use has fallen somewhat out of fashion, the use of were instead of was still communicates an important element of the unknown and uncertain… much like the fate of Angela’s heart.

Andrea, peer tutor

Scoring That Perfect Internship

Boat rides on the Chesapeake Bay, picnics out on a dock, wooden boats and crab picking demonstrations. Sound like a weekend trip out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland? Not quite, but when your summer internship is something that you love, it may as well be a vacation.

This summer, I worked for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum as a communications and marketing intern. I got to do things that I love, like use social media, take pictures and video with professional equipment, and write for the museum’s magazine, all while spending most of my time outside and on the water. I got to produce videos for the website and talk to interesting people, like this video about the cultural influences of crabbing and the people who grew up around the Chesapeake:

But aside from all of the fun stuff that I got to do, I really did learn a lot about working in the professional world. With my internship, I had the freedom to come up with my own ideas, make them a reality, and then present them to my boss in the hopes that she would like them and use them as publicity for the museum. Through this process, I learned a lot about my own work from the feedback that my boss would give me, so I could go back and make improvements to the project I was working on.

It is great to get in the habit of taking your work to someone for review because they always have fresh ideas about how to make it better. If I made a video, I would take it to my boss afterwards and show her what I had done, always expecting feedback and new ideas for making it even better.

At The Writing Center, we can help you get used to this process of writing and editing; we’ll work with you to improve your skills so you can make your own work even more awesome. Having a tutor look at your paper or assignment is (almost) just like the process you will encounter in the professional world– except meeting with us is probably a little more fun and less nerve-racking.

Along with helping you get acquainted with this process, The Writing Center can also help you perfect your resume or application for scoring that perfect internship. You can make an appointment with a tutor who will help you make sure that all of your accomplishments are presented well in a resume that future employers will see.

If you are interested in finding an awesome summer internship, the Center for Experience and Opportunity (CEO) has resources to help you with that. You can check them out on www.facebook.com/McDaniel.CEO or follow them on Twitter @McDanielCEO.

So don’t forget to make your appointment at The Writing Center to help develop your professional skills and to talk about the cool internships you are applying for!

Lauren, peer tutor

Trying to break out of a creative writing rut?

Today is the day. Years in the future, one of your loyal fans will edit your Wikipedia page to indicate that on this very date you began the short story, the memoir, or the poem that launched your wildly successful writing career. You’ve locked yourself in your room with a composition notebook and a pot of coffee; your pen is poised over the page. You begin to write.

But your ideas are mediocre, washed out, your sentence structure not reflective of the Pulitzer-worthy ideas floating in your brain. As time drags on, pages of the notebook are ripped out, your coffee grows cold, Reddit starts calling. You begin to consider dropping this whole writing thing and taking up underwater basket weaving as a hobby.

Source: http://www.inklessly.com/7-ways-to-stop-criticizing-and-get-your-writing-back-on-track/

Source: http://www.inklessly.com/7-ways-to-stop-criticizing-and-get-your-writing-back-on-track/

Before ditching your notebook or deleting the nonsensical Word document before you, take some time to regroup and conjure up some new inspiration. The blank page or unsatisfactory draft can be frustrating, but you can easily overcome them with a few strategies:

Get some sensory stimulation.
Sensory exploration can trigger memories or new ideas as well as help you to practice conveying sensory elements, so unlock that dorm room door and go exploring. Spend some time perusing the aisles of you’re a local grocery store or farmer’s market for interesting scents. Head to an antique mall and look at old postcards. Listen to music that is unfamiliar to you.

Imitate writing that you like.
When a passage really strikes you in a book or magazine, copy it down. Figure out how it works. Why do you like it? Is it the enjambment in your favorite poem, the series of clipped sentences in that New Yorker profile? Understanding what you appreciate about the writing of others will help to hone your own style and voice.

Also, keep in mind that even your favorite writers struggle with getting writing on the page. Check out Dave Eggers and Jonah Lehrer talking about the trope of the tortured writer and the concept of grit.

Make writing your habit.
How many days could you go without brushing your teeth? Try to make that how many days you would go without writing, i.e., none. There’s no need to fill an entire notebook each night, but getting something down on the page everyday will help to form discipline. The more you practice, the less often you’ll experience the dread of writer’s block.

Find a community of writers.
While creative writing is often deeply personal, meeting other writers can lead to an environment where you feel comfortable with exploring new ideas and getting feedback.
Here at McDaniel, you can connect with other writers through Contrast Literary Magazine. During the fall semester, we conduct bimonthly writing workshops so that our writers can gain inspiration for their submissions to the magazine, which is published each spring.

Workshop dates include:
October 10, 24
November 7, 21
December 5

Other dates to keep in mind:

Friday, October 25- Halloween-themed open mic night and s’mores from 8-10 in Ensor Lounge! Bring your favorite Poe poem or whatever you’ve been working on lately to read to an audience.

Sunday, October 27- Deadline for Contrast’s fall writing contest! We accept poetry and prose.
Prompt- The first line must be a question; the last line must be the answer.
Email submissions to contrastlitmag@gmail.com.

Interested in staying up to date with Contrast? Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/McDanielContrast.

-Amber, peer tutor

What Being a Dork Can Teach Us About Writing

I’m going to put this out there now: I play Dungeons and Dragons. And I love it.

TSR1011_500

 

A lot of people dismiss this game as being the epicenter of nerdom. But not only is this game a ton of fun, in addition to being a great game for actors, writers, storytellers, fantasy-lovers, and generally creative people, it actually has a lot to offer in terms of life lessons. That’s right, D&D teaches us about life. And life includes knowing how to write.

I guess you knew that this would have to connect to the Writing Center somehow. But I can honestly say that playing D&D has taught me some important things about being a writer. Not just a fiction writer, either. D&D has taught me some great things about writing essays.

Seriously.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, D&D (also referred to as DnD) is known as an RPG, or role-playing game. Its all about creating a role-play character that moves around the world, makes decisions, fights monsters, and (hopefully) triumphs in the end. For a brief tutorial, we refer to the British TV show, The IT Crowd:

All silliness aside, as Moss begins to explain, a large portion of the game is based on chance, which is where the infamous dice sets come into play. However, the ultimate success or failure of the characters is based primarily on making logical and well-thought-out decisions. And this is where writing comes in.

When fighting a monster in D&D, we could charge in blindly and attack with the first weapon we get our hands on. Similarly, when writing an essay, we could try to write it the night before it’s due, BSing our way through the topic and randomly inserting sources as we go. But is that going to give us the best sucess rate?

Sure, we might get lucky, and accidentally smash the monster to bits, or turn out a work of sheer brilliance. Or, in a more likely case, we might crash and burn. Or at least drive ourselves crazy in the process.

Just like when we strategize your next move in D&D, we need to think strategically about our approach to the paper.

Strategy- it rocks! Image from http://www.outsourcing-center.com

Consider what tools you have at your disposal: how much time do we have to write it? What argument will be the most effective? What kind of sources can we and should we use to support our arguments? What guidelines has the professor set up to help us? Ultimately, going in with a game plan, or at least a general strategy, will leave you with a better final result.

What else does D&D teach us? It teaches us to think creatively, in order to get outside the box and find a different, more effective way to approach a challenging situation.

In D&D, players are faced with situations that, at first, might be mysterious and potentially dangerous, or even ones that that they feel wholly unprepared for. Essay assignments can put us in the same place; we are left feeling totally at a loss, with no clear direction to go in.

This is where we need to think creatively. In D&D, a seemingly useless object (like a bar of soap, or a hand mirror) might be just what the player needs to overcome the difficult situation; they need only step back and survey their resources to find it. Similarly, when we feel totally stuck on a paper, all we might need to do is take a step back and revisit what we have to work with. What options does the prompt give us? What new ideas and inspiration can we glean from our research sources? What kind of argument could we make that would be completely different from anything we might have already encountered (maybe even something we disagree with)? When we endeavor to consider new possibilities, we can help ourselves out of the most difficult situations.

Finally, D&D teaches us that we are not alone. When the players encounter a hoard of goblins that only want to mount the character’s head on a pike, the player knows that he or she has other players who will help them keep their heads on their shoulders (figuratively and literally!).

And that’s where I come in. Along with the other writing tutors, I am here to help you out of tight situations. We will help you with everything from brainstorming a plan of attack to cleaning up the smears of goblin blood after the battle. No matter where you are in your paper, no matter how hard that paper might seem, we’ve got your back. And with us there, you WILL succeed.

So next time someone invites you to join them for a rousing session of D&D, don’t just dismiss the invitation as a “dorks only” zone; the things you can learn might just get you an A.

–Sammi, peer tutor

Writing Center tutors around campus

The start of the school year not only means that The Writing Center is opening for another wonderful year of working with McDaniel students on all types of writing assignments, it also means that there are many wonderful opportunities to get involved in different kinds of clubs all over campus. The Writing Center tutors are involved in a large variety of activities at McDaniel!

Students enjoying the involvement fair. Courtesy of McDaniel College’s flickr.

-Greek Life: Two of our tutors are involved in sororities on campus. Joining Greek Life is a great way to get involved in many things on campus, because, like the writing tutors, members of the Greek community are heavily involved in other activities outside of their Greek organizations. It also gives members an amazing group of sisters or brothers who are incredibly supportive.

@McDanielPhiMu | Phi Mu McDaniel College | @PhiAlphaMu

-Sports: Not only are writing tutors talented at grammar and flow, some of us are also amazing athletes! We have tutors on the swim team, the cross-country team, and the track team.

@McDanielSwim | @mcdanielsports | McDaniel Athletics

-Interest Clubs: There are many lesser-known clubs on campus that writing tutors are involved in, such as the Poe Club and the Belly Dancing Club. No matter what your interests are, there is probably a club at McDaniel for you. Can’t find one that you like? Start an interest club of your own by visiting the Office of Student Engagement!

@McD_Poe | McDaniel Poe Club

-Service Organizations: Writing Center tutors do a lot of community service both on and off campus, from participating in clubs such as Relay For Life of McDaniel College, the Puppy Club, the Animal Welfare Club, and working with the Boys and Girls Club. We are also involved in advocacy groups, such as Allies and McFem, which advocate for equal rights for minorities.

@RelayMcDaniel | Relay For Life of McDaniel College | Canine Companions for Independence Puppy Club at McDaniel | @McDanielAllies

-Honors Program & Honors Societies: Several writing tutors are members of the McDaniel College Honors Program, which requires that students take additional classes in fields of study that are not necessarily their own, and most of us are involved in at least one different academic honors society, depending on our various majors and minors.

@McDHonors | McDaniel Honors Program

-Performing Arts: McDaniel writing tutors are also involved in the performing arts. Tutors have both performed in and designed sound for the McDaniel College Theater. In addition to being involved in theater, we have tutors who are involved with the college’s radio station, WMCR, and who play musical instruments.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.09.34 PM-Free Press and Contrast: Because writing tutors love to write (surprise!), a lot of us are involved in the McDaniel Free Press (the college’s newspaper), and Contrast Literary Magazine. Not only do the tutors write for both of these publications, a few are even editors. Interested in writing and editing? Stop by Hill 101!

@mcdfreepress | McDaniel Free Press | Contrast Literary Magazine

Being involved on the McDaniel campus has been a huge part of the college experience for all of our tutors. Not only do we spend a lot of time working in The Writing Center, we all make time to be involved in an organization that we find interesting or worthy of our time. If you’re not already, we recommend getting involved in an on campus organization!

-Michelle, peer tutor

Welcome to fall ’13!

Welcome to the fall semester! We’re excited for a busy, productive semester.

Last year, we held over 1,400 appointments for more than 420 students. Students from all kinds of different majors, with many different kinds of papers, find our free services downright indispensable. As our front page states, “we love to write, to listen, and to learn.” You’re invited to come try out our community for yourself; you can schedule your own appointment today by visiting our online scheduler. And a reminder: we offer synchronous online tutoring for our graduate writers and McDaniel Budapest students.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 11.59.47 AMWe’re excited this year to hold our tutoring sessions in a larger room, right across the hall from our old location. We’re now in Hill 102, right next to the computer lab. You are always welcome to walk in and we’ll help find a good time to meet…and offer you some tasty candy, while we’re at it!

Hill 102

Our diverse group of trained peer tutors host nearly 80 tutoring hours a week and are available every day except Saturday. This semester, we’re excited to offer tutoring on Sunday evenings in Whiteford and Rouzer for our first-year writers. Get a head start on your week by meeting with Leanna or Shannon; you’ll be glad you did.

We have lots of fun activities in the works for this semester, including hosting an oversized Bananagrams game before the involvement fair, helping at the Pajamapalooza party in Ensor on Friday, September 6th, and setting up a Halloween open-mic and smores at the Ensor fireplace on October 25th.

pajama palooza

Stay in the know about these and other fun events (as well as appointment openings on the scheduler) via our facebook and twitter feeds.

We look forward to talking to you soon!

–Prof A, Director of the McDaniel College Writing Center

I have a thesis…now what??

You know that feeling. The one where you have a paper due tomorrow, the Writing Center is closed, it is way too late to email your professor with any questions, and all you have is a thesis statement. You’re not even sure if your thesis argument is well written, but at this point you just have to accept it.

Let’s first pretend your thesis statement is as follows:

“Historians have always debated the true cause of the start of the Civil War.”

It isn’t the best thing you have ever written, but it is a start! And the best thing about thesis statements is you can tweak them constantly as you write your paper.

Soo…about writing this paper… Unfortunately you cannot just turn in your argument and pray that your teacher will agree with you. The first place you can start is the most obvious! The Hoover Library–but wait, it’s three in the morning it’s past midnight so they must be closed. Well lucky for you, the library has its own website with a great place to search for books and articles that McDaniel College owns, as well as those available from other locations.

If you just click here: www.hoover.mcdaniel.edu, you can do a bunch of this research at any point of the day, from anywhere!

thesis1

Click here for a more narrowed search:

thesis2

Once this site has loaded the easiest option for you to click on is “Academic Search Complete.” This option allows you to search multiple databases all at once, which will widen your search and get you the best articles and journals for your paper. Be sure to check off “Scholarly Journals” and “Full Texts” to find the best articles for your research.

thesis3

After you have completed all of those steps, type “causes of the American Civil War” into your search bar. Make sure you are specific in what you type into the search bar so you can narrow down the search even more. From there, the Internet does all of the work for you by finding your articles. Unfortunately, it can’t read them for you.

thesis4

If your search looks like this, celebrate! You did it right.

Not let’s imagine you read a lot of useful articles. You probably read so many articles that you are overloaded with a lot of research that may not even help you. Here is where you will have to go back to the original thesis you have already decided on. As said before, your thesis may have to be changed.

As you researched the start of the Civil War, you realized that your thesis statement isn’t exactly what you want to argue anymore. Now you have to make a tough decision: keeping your body paragraphs or rewriting your thesis. Let’s be honest, the body of your paper is awesome, for a first draft, and you know it. The only thing to do now is tweak your thesis and make it fit what you’ve already got written!

Here is your thesis revision:

“Although historians have always debated the cause, the American Civil War started because of the debate on slavery and states’ rights.”

Perfect. Now you realize that this is what you have been trying to say all along. You jump up and do a weird little dance, hoping that your roommate is still passed out and that she didn’t see. You decide that you’re going to go to sleep before the sun comes up and they start cutting the grass at 6 a.m. outside of your room, and then you can proofread before you hand it in.

You, my friend, have done it. Eight perfect pages in one evening. Hopefully, you’ll never procrastinate again…but if you do, we’re always here for you!

For even more advice on this topic, check out our helpful presentation about next steps.

Stressed? We can help.

 

image curtesy of: http://bemycareercoach.com/2489/career-advice/work-life-balance/overworking.html

image courtesy of: http://bemycareercoach.com/2489/career-advice/work-life-balance/overworking.html

Now that Spring Break is over we have reached the home stretch of the semester! While it is exciting that the end is in sight, the light at the end of the tunnel may be clouded by all the work that has yet to be done. We know that this can be a stressful time so the Writing Center is here to help!

We are here at the Writing Center to help you at any stage of the writing process. Whether you are don’t understand the prompt of your assignment, you need help honing in on your topic, or you want another opinion for your final draft, we are here to help!

Beyond our ability to help you confidently complete the assignments to come, we are also students ourselves who experience the weight of stress during this part of the semester. From us to you, here are a few of our favorite methods for avoiding and conquering academic anxiety:

from: http://someonearbit.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/ii-overworked/

from: http://someonearbit.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/ii-overworked/

Amber
I always try to develop a reward system for myself when I have a busy week. I plan out my schedule based on the tests and papers to come and make sure to block in time to relax if I meet my goals each day. For example, I might tell myself that after outlining a paper I can take a few minutes to mindlessly scroll through Pinterest. My reward system keeps me motivated to finish—just remember if you try this strategy to set limits on your reward time!
Additionally, be sure to stay physically active when you’re busy. While I feel tempted to skip a track practice during a busy week, I remind myself that the endorphin rush I get after running will help me stay energized through a night of work!

Lauren
I get especially stressed out on Mondays when I look at all of the things that I have to accomplish during the week. It can be so intimidating, especially at the end of the semester! Instead of freaking out and pulling all nighters, I make a lot of lists. I will make a list for each day and for the entire week. That way I can see exactly what I need to do and it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Time management is key in controlling stress. Plus, if you get enough sleep, everything is so much easier to do.

When I have a ton of work that I need to do, I have to get out of my room to focus and get it done. One of my favorite places to go is the common room of Blanche. It’s nice for when you don’t want to walk to the library alone at night, but it is far enough from my room where I can get in the zone to write a paper.

Hanna
When I get stressed out, my tendency is to shut down and not accomplish anything because the amount of stuff I have to do is so overwhelming. I’ve learned that shutting down doesn’t actually help anything though, so I try to accomplish small things first just so I feel like making progress.

Writing a comprehensive to do list is usually my first step; this helps me get everything out of my head. When my obligations are on paper instead of swirling around in my mind, everything usually looks far more manageable. Then, I prioritize and do small things like cleaning my room or doing laundry or sending emails first, just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing items off my list. Then, I move on to larger tasks, making sure to give myself short breaks every hour or so.

The most important thing I can recommend, though, besides staying on top of things so you don’t get overwhelmed, is making sure to make time for yourself. You’ll never manage stress if you don’t let yourself have fun now and then. Hang out with friends, watch a TV show, go for a walk, or even take a nap- just as long as you get the chance to do something that isn’t work at least once a day.

Charles
I get stressed out nearly every day because the amount of responsibilities I have to my clubs and my classes. However, I can usually get rid of that stress by doing something really simple. I just listen to music. It can be any music, but, personally, I listen to movie soundtracks, electronic music, or good ole’ indie music. Listening to all of that helps me to calm down and lowers my heart rate, causing my stress to decrease.

If I listen to music while working on homework or a paper, it helps even more. Listening to music isolates you from the rest of the world and isolates you from all the stress that is in it as a result. So whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, just take a moment to put on your favorite song.

Michelle
I get really stressed out during the month of April because there are a lot of different events going on that I have to prepare for on top of homework. To make sure that I get everything done, I make a to-do list, but I make a separate list for everything I’m involved in. I have one for my sorority, one for other clubs, and one for my homework. Using this, along with a wall calendar to know when events are happening, has really helped me stay on top of things this semester. Also, it feels really good to cross things off!

Some things that help me relax when I’m not crossing things off my to-do list, are listening to music (especially classical when I’m doing homework because then I can’t sing along), sitting in the sun (I’m very excited that it’s starting to feel like spring), and eating ice cream.

Philippa
I tend to get stressed out more in the beginning of the week (usually due to a combination of awareness of how busy my schedule is on those first couple of days, and the perspective of the entire week looming ahead). My attempts to control and lessen the stress usually manifests itself in borderline obsessive-compulsive cleanliness in regards my room and desk. I find that I need a clean and organized physical space to operate within before I can clean and organize my mind and studies. Once that is established, then I make a comprehensive list of what I need to get done in order of priority, however I usually start with whatever I want to do the least just to make sure it gets the time and attention it deserves, and to get it out of the way.

I try (optimal word being “try”) to stay on top of things and get them out of the way so I can set aside some de-stressing time with an easy conscience. This can be anything from reading a book by a favorite author (I find that P.G. Wodehouse works wonders, as do the short stories of H.H. Munroe –a.k.a. Saki-), to watching a movie or T.V. show, or hanging out with friends.

Wellness Center:
To schedule an appointment in Health Services, call the Wellness Center at 410-857-2243. Health Services is located in the Wellness Center on the 2nd floor of Winslow Center. Business hours are Monday thru Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. We make every effort to accommodate students with urgent matters.

 

Other Stress Solution Tips:

  • For emergencies after hours, call the Department of Campus Safety, ext. 2202, or (410) 857-2202.
  • Talk to your advisor
  • SASS office on the first floor of academic hall can provide academic support and peer tutoring.
  • Contact your professors or the department chair to ask about tutoring in your major.

Report from the poetry/fiction on-demand workshop!

  • “A long time ago, there was a kiing named Gribbish Von Harold. He ruled over his kingdo with an iron fist!”
  • “Spock started to feel his sweat collect around his inner earlobe. To make matters worse, Ca tain Kirk had a sweaty earlobe fetish.”
  • “In the garden of my mind, every body loves bananas.”

Yesterday, we hosted a poetry/fiction on-demand table outside of Glar:

Flash Fiction Poster

 

Needless to say, a good time was had by all. All of our content was written on typewriters, which resulted in some…interesting results. Never fear, tho–the Writing Center has brand-spankin’ new iMacs for students to use when they visit.

Want to read more? Click here to read the rest of the Round Robin story!

Prof A

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

If you’ve been at McDaniel for a while, or if the American Cancer Society has a large presence in your hometown, chances are you’ve heard of Relay For Life or even attended an event. Relay For Life is an event where members of a community form teams that fundraise all year and then participate in the finale event, an overnight walk-a-thon. The event is a celebration of cancer survivors, a time to remember those we love who have passed away from cancer, and promote awareness and raise money to combat the disease. One of the most recognizable parts of a Relay For Life event is the luminaria ceremony, during which participants light luminaria bags in honor of people they love who have been affected by cancer. These bags line the track and serve as a reminder for why we relay.

luminaria ceremony

http://shrewsbury.net/?p=17418

At Relay For Life of McDaniel College, there will be food, games, activities, and prizes all night long! Sound awesome? It’s not too late to sign up or start fundraising!

Join the Writing Center team, or donate at RelayforLife.org/McDaniel, by clicking on “teams” and then “The Writing Center.” Every year Relay For Life of McDaniel College raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society that go toward funding cancer research, as well as offering services to cancer patients such as healthy meals and rides to treatments.

Relay For Life of McDaniel College will take place in the stadium on Friday, April 26th at 6PM, and it will have a storybook theme. The entire stadium will be decorated like your favorite books from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games. Come out and help your school in the fight against cancer, and be on the lookout for Relay events around campus, including Relay at the Pub this Thursday, March 28th!

Relay logo

 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/ff/American_Cancer_Society_Relay_For_Life.jpg

-Michelle, peer tutor

Boys and Girls Club Writing Workshop

Wednesday, February 27th marked the start of our second annual writing workshop with our local Boys and Girls Club. For four weeks, about a dozen middle school students will be meeting with us on Wednesday afternoons for fun activities and writing practice.

http://crowdfundchristmas.com/crowdfundchristmas.com/images/partner-BoysAndGirlsClub.png

http://crowdfundchristmas.com/crowdfundchristmas.com/images/partner-BoysAndGirlsClub.png

The workshop this year will focus on three types of writing: true stories, fiction, and poetry. At the end, to celebrate our time together and the writing our students have produced, there will be a special event at which students will read share their masterpieces.

Yesterday’s workshop was about getting to know each other and beginning our work with true stories. To break the ice, each student told a fake story and a true story, and the rest of the class had to guess which had actually happened. We immediately saw that our students have a creative streak, because they came up with some excellent lies!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/03/lies-we-tell-every-day

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/03/lies-we-tell-every-day

Next, our students became artists. Each student thought of an interesting or outrageous thing that had happened to them and conveyed it in comic form. The next step will be for them to put the events they drew into words.

Finally, we played a game called Accordion Writing. To start, each student wrote one sentence on a blank sheet of paper. Then, they passed the paper to the student on the right, who drew a picture to accompany the sentence. Here, the game got tricky. Before passing to the right again, the students folded their paper so that the next student could only see the picture, not the original sentence. The student who received the paper had to create a new sentence based on just the picture. Then they folded again so just their sentence was visible and passed once again, charging the next student with drawing a picture solely based upon the sentence they saw.

After five rounds of this, we unfolded the papers so that all the pictures and sentences were visible. Much like the product of a game of Telephone, the original sentence had been completely distorted as the paper was passed, producing some hilarious results.

http://www.healthylifestyleplus.com/lifestyle-2/laughing-makes-you-healthy/attachment/laughter/

http://www.healthylifestyleplus.com/lifestyle-2/laughing-makes-you-healthy/attachment/laughter/

Our group this year is an engaged, enthusiastic, and creative bunch. We are really excited to see the writing that they produce in the month to come. Stay tuned for updates on our workshop!

-Amber, peer tutor