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A Publication with a Purpose

The University Writing Center provides writing support to Appalachian State University’s students, faculty, and staff, along with members of the Boone community. We believe that all writers benefit from sharing work with informed, attentive readers, and our collaborative methods reflect our respect for the individual writer, whose voice and objectives are essential for all our endeavors.

The ReVisioner, the University Writing Center publication, strives to promote and further our mission and, perhaps more importantly, our passion by encouraging a community of writers. Since April 2006, each edition has featured the work of consultants and clients, a claim the UWC is proud to be able to make. We, clients and consultants, are all writers, and The ReVisioner is a space for all of us to share our work with each other. The University Writing Center staff hopes that you enjoy this collection of texts; you may even learn a little something about the craft of writing.

There will be time, if you make it: An explanation of the value of planning with some help from T. S. Eliot

June 23, 2016

By: Cramer Lewis

T. S. Eliot’s famous poem “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,” is commonly associated with existential feelings of yearning fragmentation when it comes to communication. However, a short excerpt from the poem actually highlights the useful and simple truth of the value of planning pieces of writing within the academic setting: there will be time. Making the time to plan out a piece of writing is making the time for several important aspects of the writing process to take place.

The writing process is never ending, from the moment you receive an assignment on. If writers in the academic setting wish to turn in strong “final drafts,” they should allow themselves an ample amount of time to plan. Planning does not look the same for everybody and it certainly has no rules, except to think– and think critically– about the issues at hand. If you allow yourself an adequate amount of planning time, you will likely be amazed by the positive effects.



Planning isn’t getting ahead in the game, but it is an appropriate response to the complexity of crafting arguments and papers. Taking the time to plan means, as the poem goes, that “there will be time” for many important things that naturally take place through planning: time to deeply consider the prompt or research question, to properly orient yourself rhetorically, to have ideas and to replace those ideas with better ones, and to experience the vastness of the writing process.

Now, Eliot, in drafting his famous poem, almost positively wasn’t writing about the writing process or the importance of planning out your personal narrative or rhetorical analysis, but hey it’s 2016, and T. S. Eliot has been both physically and theoretically dead since the late 1960s (Barthes’ The Death of the Author was published in 1967: two years after Eliot’s death). And a quick excerpt from his poem is just a perfect bit of advice to all those would-be literary geniuses who’d like to try and crank out an entire paper in one night without planning or even researching for that matter.

Leaving yourself time to plan will give you time to do so much more. Taking time to think critically about the issues at hand in the prompt and to write down and organize your own ideas helps you to attack the problem with a broader scope of understanding; to try more ideas out, sifting for those golden nuggets; and to properly move around your ideas until they become cohesive enough for a draft. Planning saves time and frustration when it comes to drafting as well.

A short excerpt from the poem helps to explain the positive returns related to allotting time for planning. Let’s just suspend reality and pretend that Eliot may have been talking to future college students about planning their papers when drafting his poem (he just left out the bold part).

If you give yourself time to plan your paper,

“There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions…”


Allow me to explicate:


“a question on your plate”

When writers take the time to plan, there will be time to consider the question or prompt or research topic at hand. Planning can take large chunks of distance out of issues that seem impassable.


“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”

When writers take the time to plan, there will be time for them to situate themselves rhetorically. They have the time to prepare their paper to meet the demands of their audience and specific situation.


“To murder and create”

When writers take the time to plan, they leave themselves room for improvement. Planning comes with a sense of freedom to try different ideas out and see how they function together. You can always destroy these ideas and replace them with better thoughts as you explore your topic.


“And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/ And for a hundred visions and revisions”

This quote works well with the last. When writers take time to plan, they allow themselves the freedom to experiment with hundreds of different visions. Ultimately, they expand their creative field of options for handling the assignment.


Finally, planning simply helps writers create better writing. Taking the time to plan also allows for writers to gain an expanded perspective of the immensity of the writing process. There are always literally hundreds of rhetorical options for each sentence, each word even, of an assignment. Skipping out on planning often leads to severe frustration during the drafting process, since writers face these infinite rhetorical options all at once as they try and make them communicate a singular idea or thesis. I’ve seen and felt this frustration first hand as a tutor and as a writer. Yes, planning leads to some great outcomes. Planning can ultimately help writers gain new perspectives on writing and the entire process. But if you are unimpressed by poetic thoughts about writing or the writing process, just remember simply that planning your writing will cut down on stress and ultimately make those impossible or complex writing assignments totally manageable.


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10 Tips for Surviving Your Freshman Year at Appalachian State University

June 23, 2016

By: Rose Saunders

Dear incoming freshmen,

This is the first summer I’ve worked at the University Writing Center, and one of our summer duties includes working an information table at the many orientation events taking place. While working these orientations, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of what it was like to be a freshman. The excited and eager energy you guys give off makes me think of my own first year at ASU, and it also reminds me of how quickly the years have gone by. I am now a senior and a graduate student through the Accelerated Admissions program, and I am beginning to look forward to life beyond Appalachian. It’s amazing to consider how much I’ve changed over the past three years and to think about the changes that will likely take place over the years to come. Someday you’ll be looking back on this summer, and this upcoming school year too, but for now you’ve got to get out there and make the best of it! So, here are 10 tips to get the most out of your first year of college from a seasoned Appalachian State veteran:

  1. Enjoy orientation, but know that it’s nothing like being a student here. I didn’t love orientation because it felt like summer camp, and I wanted nothing more than to be an independent adult. I was kind of worried the rest of freshman year would be a lot like this, and although the first few weeks are somewhat similar to orientation (with Appal Corps and freshman-focused events), I got the independence I wanted later in the year. My one orientation regret is that I dwelt on this idea of independence too much, and I missed out on a lot of the fun activities planned. So, enjoy the guidance and fun while it lasts!
  2. Be friendly to everyone. This isn’t high school anymore, and cliquey-ness is no longer cool. You’ll probably find yourself making friends with people you never would have thought to a few years ago, and that’s a good thing! This is the time to branch out and discover new aspects of yourself. roseinsnow
    One of our first snows at ASU! On the left is my then neighbor, Rachael, who is now one of my roommates, I’m in the middle, and then my first year roommate, Hannah, is on the right.
  3. Don’t make everything about partying. People create so much hype about college being a time to party, and although it often does provide opportunities to do so, that’s not all it’s about. When all is said and done, you’re here to receive an education and to grow as a person. If you make college entirely about getting wasted, you’re going to miss out on bettering yourself.
  4. Don’t pick up bad habits. Another common misconception college students believe is that they’re invincible and they can try whatever they want without any long-term effects. I saw so many people get addicted to cigarettes during my freshman year, and although they would often pretend they could stop whenever they wanted, many of them still smoke regularly to this day. Smoking isn’t the only bad habit you can form in college though; unhealthy sleeping patterns, caffeine dependence, and an increase in fast food consumption are a few others to watch out for.
  5. Join clubs and get involved on campus. Freshman year is the perfect time to get involved because your class schedule is likely the easiest it will ever be, plus it’s a great way to meet tons of awesome people with similar interests. There’s also the added bonus of putting your campus participation on your resume. roseandfriends
    This is a picture from backstage at one of the First Year Showcase performances. This opportunity is for freshmen who have interests in dance and theater. It was a really cool experience and I would recommend it to anyone who hopes to get involved in the theater and/or dance departments on campus!
  6. Be honest with your roommate. If you have an issue or a concern with them, let them know. They can’t fix a problem if they don’t know there is one, and keeping your feelings bottled up only breeds resentment. roseandroomie
    My freshman year roommate and I on one of the first nights in our dorm room.
  7. Don’t get into a serious relationship. I know this might be hard for some, but everyone I know who was in or got into a serious relationship during their freshman year regretted it. When you’re constantly tied to your significant other, you’re going to miss out on making friends, learning how to be self-sufficient, and discovering more about yourself. Moreover, if and when you break up, all of your ASU memories will be connected to that person, making it harder to move on.
  8. Don’t slack off in school. It’s easy to skip classes and miss homework assignments in college because no one is holding your hand or forcing you to make an effort, but freshman year classes are vital for graduation and will be reflected in your GPA. The grades you make freshman year have an impact down the road, like when you’re trying to apply for the college attached to your major (such as the Reich College of Education or the Walker College of Business), a scholarship, a job, or another opportunity.
  9. Don’t go home every weekend. The first few weeks, or even months, of college can be rough if you don’t feel satisfied with the friends you’ve made, but you won’t begin to adjust or meet the people you want until you spend some weekends here as well. There are plenty of long weekends woven into our schedule, and those are the perfect time to go visit your family.
  10. Take advantage of the abundant resources on campus. Our campus offers tons of resources for students, many of which will never be so available to you again, but you have to take the initiative to use them! Been meaning to get in shape? There are multiple gyms on campus and free group workout classes for students. Need to deal with some unresolved childhood issues? The counseling center is great and even has a really cute therapy dog you can cuddle. Want to become a better writer? Come visit us in the Writing Center for free, one-on-one, collaborative writing sessions. 🙂 Check out a list of other campus resources here and here.

I hope you enjoy your first year of college at ASU, but if you don’t, just remember that each year is different and brings new opportunities. Come visit me in the Writing Center soon! 🙂



Preparing for the Big Paper

June 23, 2016

By: Cindy McPeters

Any large and important writing task can be intimidating. Whether it’s your honors thesis or senior capstone, or even the longer and more daunting master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, you can spend a lot of time spinning your wheels and getting nowhere if you don’t have a plan. As I prepare to write my own thesis for the English M.A. program, I am encountering a number of the pitfalls that others might face, so I’m hoping that some tips might be beneficial to all of us going through a similar educational process.

Considerations in the early stages of your big writing project include potential topics, organization, record keeping, and perhaps even documentation.


Start by just talking to people who know you and your interests. Through my conversations with others, I was able to narrow my interests to mystery fiction. Because I have read mysteries and detective stories for pleasure, I expanded my selections to encompass a wider variety, from Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone to Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. If your thesis topic isn’t something you like or care about, it will be a struggle to do the readings and the research. When I told people that I was reading these novels with an eye toward a thesis topic, I found that voicing my interests to them helped me better focus my own ideas. Just discuss what fascinates you about your field with someone else, for example, a consultant at the University Writing Center. Here at the University Writing Center you can talk through your ideas and be asked relevant, objective questions that benefit your search for a topic. You don’t even need to have anything in writing to work with someone in the UWC.

Your topic is probably up to you and your adviser. Utilize your adviser; that person is likely an expert in your field. Remember to balance professional advice with what genuinely interests you. Is your topic something that you are truly passionate about? Do you actually want to learn more about feminist rhetoric and British mystery fiction of the interwar period? Probably not, but that’s my topic, and I thank my thesis adviser for helping me to further define my interests in that period.


This is a topic that still has me stumped. I’ve been doing some research on research (ironic, isn’t it?) and have discovered two popular programs for storing information for major writing/research projects. OneNoteimiageThey are OneNote and EverNote. Apparently, with these programs, you can take pictures of articles, tables, charts, and add them to your research document, not to mention all of the PDFs of articles you might locate. EverNoteimageI say “apparently” because I have yet to master either of them. Try them out to see if  one works for you, and perhaps you’ll start on the path to organized research.



I know that I found an article that discussed Dorothy L. Sayers as a feminist writer, but where was it? Don’t be like me and waste hours trying to RE-locate the ideal journal article that can support or refute one of your major points. I recently found a Word document that I had created on my computer some months ago. I had titled it something inane and non-descriptive like “Database Info” and didn’t even remember creating it but later realized that it contains pages and pages of thesis and dissertation titles related to mystery fiction. I really don’t know from what database I gleaned these resources, and now realize that I should have been more thorough in my documentation since their source lists could be a huge help to my own research.

From this mistake, I learned to create a MASTER LIST OF SOURCES. I basically made a table of potential sources specific to my topic and included the entire source citation in MLA format just to be certain that I don’t waste time later trying to find the publication year or page numbers when I’m in the finishing stages of my thesis. This may not be a good idea for everyone as you could end up wasting time creating citations for works that you may never use. A lot of folks would suggest that you merely include title of the work and its author, but for now, while I have the book in my hands, I’m typing up the citation. Again, these are important considerations for everyone, but we all must determine the best system for our needs.

Sources image


Speaking of documentation … since you’ve come this far in your discipline, you probably already know a good bit about your field’s documentation style. However, even experienced researchers sometimes need a little help. It might even be a random question about whether or not to include the period at the end of a source’s title when that title concludes with a question mark. Again, the University Writing Center is a resource that you should not overlook. You can review handouts and resources at the Writing Center’s webpage. You can also come in for assistance, even if it’s just a quick question.

Be certain to maintain a list of sources you actually utilized for your research. I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but a fellow student who was finishing up her thesis didn’t list on her works cited page all the resources that she’d used. In the last days of her program, she was having to go back and forth between the text of her paper and the works cited to make these corrections. It’s a small thing, but when you are preparing to defend your work, you would rather focus on the content of your project.

There may be a multitude of other pitfalls that I haven’t encountered yet, but these are the ones that I’m having to address in the early stages of my thesis prep. We have to remind ourselves that this big, intimidating writing project is our opportunity to reveal how much knowledge we’ve acquired. Taking 30 minutes today to figure out what plan works best for you will save you many, many hours later on in the process.


Rhetorical Analysis, or Foot-Ball Dogs and William Jennings Bryan

June 23, 2016

By: Derek McSwain

For student writers, a rhetorical analysis can be one of the most confounding writing assignments. Despite its imposing name, however, the concept behind the rhetorical analysis is really quite simple. In contrast to a review and/or summary, the goal of a rhetorical analysis is not to determine what the text’s argument or message is. Instead, a rhetorical analysis seeks to determine how the argument is made and how the message is communicated to an audience. In this context, a text can encompass virtually any medium, from pamphlets to articles to cartoons and visual arts. Despite this dizzying variety of forms, there are underlying principles which inform any text. A working knowledge of these elements is key to writing a rhetorical analysis. These elements will be demonstrated by highlighting the similarities and differences found in two posters. These posters were published at roughly the same time, but have very different messages.

At the heart of it, a rhetorical analysis is akin to an engineer taking apart a complex machine. What a machine does is fascinating in and of itself. However, to truly understand it, the engineer must know how it works. Much like the cogs in a machine, the writer must be able to see how a variety of parts work; the context, the audience, and the genre of the subject all work together to bring the creator’s message to the world.

The most helpful way to begin an analysis may be to put yourself in the mindset of the one who made the argument. This can be accomplished by asking some very simple questions. What is the intent of the creator? Is it intended to inform readers? Is it meant to persuade them to accept an idea or policy? Are they meant to buy a product?

baileyOnce the intent has been established, it is easier to place the object of study within its proper context. Simply knowing that you are studying, for instance, a poster from the early 1900s, is useful for establishing the genre of the subject. However, the context of the object must be understood as well to conduct a well-rounded analysis. The context is a combination of the factors that influenced the creation of the subject; including the time period, the culture, and the society which produced it. Was the poster a product of societal upheaval? An expression of popular culture? A political advertisement aimed at encouraging voters to choose the presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan can be placed within a different context than a poster from the same period which advertises a circus featuring “marvelous foot-ball dogs.” Additionally, your knowledge of the creator can shed light on their place within the context. Were they an experienced author? An artist? An employee of an advertising firm?

The content of the text is of obvious importance to determining the intended audience the author or creator is trying to reach. Who is the text directed at? A consumer? An undecided voter? The audience is key as it informs how the creator structures his argument. For example, the political poster of William Jennings Bryan appeals to the patriotism of citizens, while the circus poster appeals to a prospective ticket-buyer’s sense of fun and interest in the unusual.

BryanOftentimes, further research may be needed to understand the text. For example, the Bryan poster was made with the assumption that the audience would understand that the phrase “cross of gold” refers to Bryan’s famous speech opposing the gold standard of currency, a hot-button issue at the time. Even the circus poster assumes that the reader would have some familiarity with the name “Barnum & Bailey” and their catchphrase of “The Greatest Show on Earth.” These nuances can be missed by the writer of a rhetorical analysis; therefore, attention to detail is very important when writing the assignment.

For a more concise look at the rhetorical analysis, a writer may wish to consult the handout on the topic, available at the University Writing Center, as well as its website. Additionally, the staff of the Writing Center is available for online and in-person sessions to work on any number of assignments, including the rhetorical analysis. These sessions can be a great help for writers of any skill level and major. Best of luck!



“The Marvelous Foot-Ball Dogs,” Barnum & Bailey’s Circus Poster, 1900. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“The Issue-1900,” William Jennings Bryan campaign poster, 1900. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Beating the Summer School Blues

June 23, 2016

By: Michelle Kizer


Summer is finally here! The weather is beautiful, and it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy everything nature has to offer: swimming, hiking, kayaking, lying in the sun…But wait, there is just one thing standing in your way: SUMMER SCHOOL. How can you possibly enjoy the summer when you have so much work to complete? And how can you possibly complete all of that class work with so much restless summer energy? Even though you may be feeling down and out about your situation, all hope is not lost for the summer.

Here are a few steps you can take to beat the summer school blues.

Get Organized & Plan Ahead

organizedBefore getting depressed about your summer classes, sit down and try to organize your summer so that you do not feel overwhelmed. This simply involves informing yourself of what is expected of you throughout the summer semester. You can do this by reviewing course syllabi and any other course materials to which you have access. With this knowledge you can make a schedule for yourself that includes time for work and time for fun. For example, if you see a week on your syllabus when the workload seems lighter, plan your work sessions earlier in the week so that you can schedule in a hike or a trip to the pool for the weekend. Or is there a weekend where your only assignment is to read a few chapters? Schedule in a mini beach or camping trip and complete your reading outdoors. By organizing your summer work and planning ahead, you can give yourself the opportunity to relax and have fun!

Bring Your Work Outside

As we have all learned from sitting through class each day, shutting yourself indoors is not outside.jpgalways conducive to productivity. In fact, it can be quite distracting when the calls of nature can be heard from outside. So now that the weather is warm and sunny, instead of shutting yourself indoors, consider taking your work outside with you. A simple change in scenery, temperature, and air quality can really help in boosting motivation. So if it happens to be a nice day out, find a quiet area outside where you can enjoy everything nature has to offer while completing your work. And if you find yourself becoming too distracted to work outside or if it happens to rain, consider taking your work with you to a new indoor location, such as a coffee shop or a library. This is not only a great way to reduce stress and clear your mind, but it can also help you gain a brighter outlook on the days ahead of you.


yogaExercise is known to have many positive benefits for mental health. In fact, scientific evidence shows that exercise stimulates brain cell development, improves memory retention, increases focus and concentration, boosts mood, and relieves stress. In other words, exercise provides important benefits that contribute to student success. For this reason, it is very important that you engage in some form of regular physical activity. This can include anything from visiting the gym and lifting weights to playing basketball with your friends or taking your dog for a walk. There are many locations both on and off-campus to exercise. On campus, you can visit the Student Recreation Center, the Dwight W. Quinn Recreation Center, or the Mt. Mitchell Life Fitness Centre. If you want to go off campus, consider hiking on the Greenway Trail or visiting the many scenic trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway. By taking a little time for yourself, you can ensure that you feel your best both physically and mentally.

Seek Support

In addition to all of the above suggestions, do not forget to make use of the many resources that Appalachian State University has available to assist you. This includes the University Writing Center. Writing consultants are available to help you with any type of writing at any stage of the writing process. This includes personal writing, academic writing, and professional writing. Come by and visit us as you work through the summer semester!


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Summer Lovin’

June 22, 2016

By: Mercer Hathorn


Thomas Barwick Getty Images 154519438

 People have been writing about love since the beginning of writing. The theme of love can be found throughout forms of writing from Shakespeare’s plays to modern country songs. Writing about love seems to be universal, but are love and writing a two-way street?

This article asks the question: “Can writing actually improve intimate relationships?” Writing is a form of communication, and we’ve all heard that good communication improves relationships; therefore, writing may be an untapped resource for improved summer love!

The First Fight


Corey Jenkins Getty Images 521814235

 A friend recently shared with me a writing strategy that new couples can use to get through their first fight. She said that the couple should each make a list of all the things they love about each other early on in the relationship. Once the lists are complete, the couple should lock both lists in a closet with a bottle of wine. When the couple gets into their first argument, they unlock the closet, share a glass of wine, and read through all of the reasons they love one another. I loved this idea, and it made me wonder how else couples could use writing to strengthen their relationships and better their chances of staying together (A. Leger, personal communication, June 1, 2016).

Saving Your Marriage in 21 Minutes


Yuri Nunes Getty Images 527604693

 According to Erin Migdol (2013) of The Huffington Post, one research study shows that a 21-minute writing task can improve your marriage. Researchers from Northwestern University conducted a two-year study with 120 married couples in which they asked half of the couples to do a 21-minute writing assignment over the course of one year. The couples asked to complete writing assignments were told to spend seven minutes every four months writing about the arguments they had been having with their partners. The trick is that when these couples wrote about their arguments, they were directed to “write about the arguments from a neutral third-party perspective who wanted the best for all involved” (Migdol, 2013, para. 2). The couples who wrote about their arguments from a neutral standpoint for seven minutes three times a year were found to have greater relationship satisfaction than the couples who did not participate in the writing task (Migdol, 2013). Why might this be so? According to Northwestern psychology professor and researcher Eli Finkel:

We know that when people argue they tend to adopt their own perspective, and from your own perspective, it’s really easy to understand what it is your spouse is doing that’s so infuriating and why you are so justified in your anger. From a third-party perspective, it’s much easier to get a sense of the possibility that you might be coming off as kind of a jerk and your partner has a pretty compelling argument on his or her [or their] side as well. (Migdol, 2013, para. 4)

For most couples, relationship quality and passion lessen over time. Among the couples who did this writing assignment, relationship quality and passion stayed the same over time because they had less distress about conflict that arose in the relationship. Conflict in relationships is normal, but how people manage conflict can make or break the relationship. This 21-minute exercise doesn’t try to get rid of conflict in relationships, but rather provides a healthier way of managing it (Migdol, 2013). Migdol writes: “I would encourage you, if you’re in a happy marriage, don’t take it for granted. Take a little bit of time to see what you can do to help sustain that good marriage” (para. 11).

Turn Your Problem Into an “It”


People Images Getty Images 504344489

 Dr. Neal Jacobson of Psychology Today recommends “turning your problem into an it” to solve seemingly unsolvable problems in your relationship. His goal is to “shift the couple from blaming each other for problems toward a less emotionally charged experience of problems as something that happens to both of them” (Markway, 2014, para. 5). These are paraphrased steps he recommends for the exercise:

  1. When you’re in a good place with your partner, decide together on a problem you’d like to address in your relationship.
  2. Write the problem down on a piece of paper and then take turns writing down your feelings about the problem, for example “The fact that we’ve moved five times in seven years really sucks” or “One of us wants a baby and the other doesn’t.”
  3. Use this writing time to practice both listening and expressing with your partner, and pay special attention to the feelings you share in common.
  4. Put the piece of paper in an empty box along with items that represent the problem and put the box in a closet. This lets the problem be “out there” without gnawing away at the love you share.
  5. Make a vow to each other that you won’t allow this problem to come between you.
  6. Plan specific times in the future to bring the box back out and discuss it and brainstorm ways to deal with the problem, even if you can’t “solve” it.

This exercise can help you and your partner gain distance from a problem and give you a new sense of perspective (Markway, 2014).



Dawn D. Hanna Getty Images 456780199

 According to positive psychologist Shawn Achor (2011), writing down three things for which you are grateful each day can improve your happiness and well being. The brain is wired to focus more on the negative than on the positive, which is known as “negativity bias.” Because of this, we must work harder to focus on the positive than on the negative. When you write things down each day that you are grateful for, you train your brain to focus more on the positive. When you are feeling positive, you are more creative, productive, happy, connected, and successful (Achor, 2011). I wanted to include this information in my article about summer love so that you all could try writing three things about your partner for which you are grateful each day. I hope this helps you focus more on what is working in your relationship than on what is not working. Please report back to us to let us know if these tips helped improve your summer love!


Achor, S. (2011, June 30). The Happiness Advantage [Video file].  Retreived from

Markway, B. (2014, Jan 23). Stop trying to solve your relationship problems. Psychology           Today. Retreived from

Migdol, E. (2013, Feb 20). Marriage research: Study shows a 21-minute writing task can improve your marriage. The Huffington Post. Retreived from




Writing as Dessert

June 22, 2016

By: Mary Neal Meador


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In grades K–12, teachers use these “Steps in the Writing Process” to introduce students to the idea that writing is not something that happens all at once: it is a process. In high school, following these steps works out OK because assignments aren’t complex and don’t require synthesizing a lot of information.

steps in the writing process

But you are in college now. (See #1 below.) Many students find that this process simply doesn’t work anymore. It’s easy to get really stuck, and it can be overwhelming when that happens.

Here is where the old process breaks down and no longer serves college students well: In Step 1, prewriting, students “gather and outline ideas … and for the older students, a working thesis statement needs to be started.” This implies that during the process of researching and brainstorming, these ideas emerge, pretty much complete.

In Step 2, drafting, students “write down all their ideas in an organized way.” This describes a process where students are transcribing what they have already finished thinking about. When the assignment is to research a complex topic, however, this isn’t always possible.

For many people, the process of writing is the process of thinking.

For people who are experiencing no joy in working this way, I would advise: “Start with the cake.” Assuming that you have done your research, have taken good notes on your sources, and feel you have some knowledge of the topic, just start writing the easiest or most interesting part. Really! Just write. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Don’t worry about what order you’re writing in. Start with the cake.

Here’s what will happen: You start with your favorite idea, and then you remember another source or concept (the pie) that ties in nicely. Write that piece, too. Don’t worry about transitioning from one idea to the next. Just keep going. The momentum of starting with the cake and pie will carry you along for a while.

Now here’s where the magic happens: You remember a source that contradicts or has a different perspective on something you’ve already written. Go back and reread it. Chase down this idea by finding more sources. This will take you down yet another avenue. Find even more sources. Keep writing. You’re starting to synthesize all this information now. At some point, a thesis idea will emerge like a flaming Baked Alaska. baked-alaska-vxlaIt will be an idea that you could not have come up with if you were still flailing away at Step 1. Now, take all the pieces you have written and see how you can build a beautiful dessert buffet. That thesis statement idea you had when you first started thinking about this topic has melted, so throw it away. dessert buffetYou need to find evidence to back up your new thesis statement. Fill in the pieces that are missing. Find more sources. Drizzle that over everything. Now your argument is all there—it just needs to be put in a logical order and tied together with graceful transitions. Surprise! You’ve gotten through Step 3, revising!

Now, at Step 4, editing, eat your vegetables! (See #2 below!)
The University Writing Center is full of people who are familiar with writing at the university level. The process I’ve described here might work for you, or it might not. We’ll be happy to talk with you about how your writing process works. Our summer hours are Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  1. In college, for example, you can start sentences with “But.”
  2. Come to the University Writing Center if you are veggie-phobic. We won’t eat your vegetables for you, but we’ll help you learn to like them better.
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Column: From the Front Desk

June 22, 2016

Boxes, Some Boxes, More Boxes–Oh, My!

By: Erin Latz, Undergraduate Instrumental Music Education Major – Bassoon


You’ve probably noticed that when you make an appointment at the Writing Center, you get this whole list of things you could work on for your session:

Appt Boxes UWC

This means that you’ve also seen those dreaded red words at the bottom that always show up as some sort of “ha-ha joke’s on you!” when it comes to filling out any sort of online form. And, let’s be honest, you’ve most likely done what most of us do and either checked a box, any box, or just clicked “Revision” because you weren’t sure what to put there.


Well, live in fear of those red words no longer! Here’s your cheat sheet for understanding which boxes you should be filling out!


Brainstorming/Invention is about coming up with ideas for that assignment you got and aren’t necessarily sure how to start. You can also ask the library help desk for a RAP session if you have questions about how to research your topic.


Organization/Structure is for taking those ideas you’ve got and putting them into an order that makes sense for what you’re writing. You don’t want to tell your reader that they’ve put together that bed from IKEA with the name you can’t pronounce before you’ve explained how to take everything out of the box!


Content is about what you’re putting into your paper.  You can put all of this information into your paper, but telling your reader that your first pet was a Dalmatian named Pongo isn’t relevant to the argumentative essay you’re working on. We can help you make sure that everything you include helps you build a stronger paper.


Grammar and Mechanics is about making sure you’re following the rules of the English language, even if some of those rules don’t make any sense to you and haven’t since that 6th grade language arts class. We know you can do it, and we want to help you learn all those rules!


Flow is for when you want to make sure that it’s easy to read your writing from one end to the other without abrupt endings or sentences that may feel like that cliffhanger in your favorite book series cough, cough Game of Thrones!


Punctuation is for making sure that all of your commas, periods, semicolons, and everything else is in place. We’ll even have a nice discussion with you about the Oxford comma after we help you understand what a comma splice is.


Documentation is about making sure that you’ve set your documents and citations up according to the style you’re using. We have plenty of handouts on our website to help you understand styles like Chicago and APA, but we’re always happy to help you take a look through them so you can feel comfortable using the various styles of documentation now and in the future!


Revision is when you’re almost done and need some help looking over everything you’ve written. We aren’t going to sit with you and pull out some dreaded red pen, but we will work one-on-one with you to make sure that you feel as confident about your paper as you are about your talents and passions.


Professional Writing is for anything that is considered professional–I know that sounds like the cop-out explanation, but it’s true! Resumes, cover letters, and applications for scholarships and internships are all great examples of things that we can help you with in the professional writing category.


Creative Writing is for the writing project you’ve started that may not be the history essay or rhetorical analysis you’ve got for class. Bring that song you’ve been writing or that free-form poem that has been driving you nuts because you can’t quite get it right. We’re here to help!


Other is that section for anything we haven’t thought of to work on in an appointment. If you think that you need help with something that isn’t listed here, go ahead and check this box!


Now, go forth, be free, and make appointments for which you know what boxes to check to overcome those red words and stars, and we’ll see you in the UWC!

How to Start Travel Writing

June 22, 2016

By: Adrienne Fouts

We’ve all seen those travel blogs filled with stunning photos of the blogger visiting European castles or riding camels through the Sahara Desert, while on his bio page he proclaims, “I quit my job as an accountant to travel the world! And so can you!” There are countless travel blogs on the Internet today, and they can sometimes be intimidating with their low-budget traveling strategies and professional-quality writing about faraway places (see websites like Nomadic Matt and The Blonde Abroad). However, even if your farthest destination is the state fair, you can be a travel writer, too! Here are some tips about what to include in your writing and what to pay attention to on your vacations.


Woman Writing in Journal at Rim of Grand Canyon at Sunset

Woman Writing in Journal at Rim of Grand Canyon


Start small by writing about the logistical details of your trip—this won’t take much time or effort on your part, and these details can be useful references upon which you or others can look back. Why did you choose to visit that destination, and how did you get there? How much did your hotel cost? What restaurants, stores, and attractions did you visit? Listing the locations, costs, wait times, and similar details gives your travel writing a foundation to build on.


Next, add your opinion. Write down your thoughts about the places you saw, the hotel you stayed at, and the food you ate. Think of it like a review—be honest about your opinion, but also observant and objective—giving reasons why you did or did not like something. If your writing will be seen by others, try to be fair when describing an attraction so that they can get an idea of whether or not they would visit (“I didn’t particularly like the water park, but people with small children will love it!”).


Make sure to record other details, even seemingly unimportant ones, from your vacation as well. Maybe a stranger gave you directions that took you through more scenic views than the normal route. Maybe a seagull landed on your head and tried to steal your sandwich (happened to me once). These anecdotes add a personal touch to your writing and will help preserve those memories.



Now that you know what to write about, all you have to do is take a vacation and start your travel writing career! Even if you don’t start a blog about it (or even if your blog isn’t super popular), travel writing as a form of journaling will help you to keep memories of your vacation sharp and provide you with details to look back on in case you ever return to the destination. While on your vacation, keep a small notebook and pen or use your phone to jot down notes throughout the day about where you went, what you saw, etc. Be observant about the weather, the atmosphere, the local people, everything you experience. (Make sure that you’re not living in your notebook or your camera the whole time, though; try to absorb your surroundings and be present in them!). When you get back to your hotel each night, you can take the time to elaborate on those notes and write while the memories are still sharp.


If you are serious about starting a popular travel blog, read up on blogging and marketing tips online. This website gives a step-by-step guide on the basics of beginning your blog, and this website lists things to know before you start a travel blog. There are countless other websites and books that can be of great help. Overall, the most important things to remember when travel writing are to be creative, be yourself, and have fun with it.

Happy traveling!

Who…or whom? Who! No, whom? Right?

May 2, 2016

By: Andy Hill 

Many writers have difficulty determining the appropriate uses of “who” and “whom.” Some always use “who,” because they are unsure of the rules and are more familiar with it than “whom.” Others overuse “whom,” perhaps in attempts to sound intelligent, but fall short if anyone who knows these rules is within earshot. The good news is that this is a relatively easy dilemma to overcome and can be understood fairly quickly by viewing it from a couple of helpful perspectives.  

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In an installation of “The Writer’s Dig” on the website, Writer’s Digest, Brian Klems offers a clear explanation of the scenario from a grammatical point of view:

Who is used as the subject of a verb or complement of a linking verb. It’s a nominative pronoun. It was Carl who broke all the pencils in the house. When writing a sentence, first find the verb(s)—was and broke. Then, find the subject for each verb: Carl and who. Since who is a subject, it’s correct. Who needs a crayon to write this down?

Whom is used as the object of the verb or the object of a preposition. It’s an objective pronoun. You asked whom to the dance? In this case, the subject and verb are “You asked.” The pronoun following the verb is the object of the verb, therefore whom is correct. He’s already going to the prom with whom? This pronoun is the object of the preposition with, so whom is the right pick. Be careful, though. Make sure the prepositional pronoun in question isn’t also a subject—if it is, then you use who. For example, I cheered for who played hardest. While the pronoun follows a preposition (for), it’s also the subject of the second verb (played). When placed as a subject, always use who.

With a general understanding of how these words work on a grammatical level, it’s time to consider these terms from more of a linguistic perspective.  

When we consider the words with which “who” and “whom” have roots in common, we can gain a clearer understanding of how they function and why they work the way they do.  In order to do so, we need to begin by taking into account the third-person subject pronouns: “he,” “she,” and “they.” Upon examination, one might notice their linguistic similarity: They all have an “h” followed by an “e,” without being followed by a consonant.  

Now, let’s consider “who,” which follows this same rule, but has an “o,” instead of an “e.” Knowing “who” is a subject pronoun, one can make use of its similarity to these other third-person subject pronouns in remembering how it functions, using it interchangeably with these words in a sentence as a litmus test.  

Since “whom” is an object pronoun, it logically follows that we can examine, accordingly, the following third-person object pronouns: “him,” “her,” and “them.” With the exception of “her,” these words contain a vowel followed by and ending with an “m,” as does “whom.” We know “her” works like “him,” so this linguistic connection between these words and “whom” can serve us in determining which word to use in a given sentence. Why? Because any place “whom” works, so will “her,” “him,” and “them.”

For instance: You could be trying to determine whether you need to say “Whom went to the beach,” or “Who went to the beach.” We could replace the word in question with the subject pronoun, “she,”: “She went to the beach.” Now, compare that to using the object pronoun, “her,”: “Her went to the beach.” Since “her” doesn’t sound right (and is grammatically incorrect), we know it must be a subject; therefore, “who” would be the right choice.  

Whenever you are working with your writing, even a basic grammar rule like who vs. whom, the consultants in the University Writing Center are here to help you find the solutions that exist but with which you may not be confidence or familiar.  

Works Cited

Klems, Brian A. “The Writer’s Dig.” Writer’s Digest. 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.