Composition I, Education, Writers on Writing

What’s your writing style? Do you have one?

Timberlake performing at St. Paul, Minnesota, ...
Are you the Justin Timberlake of writing? | Timberlake performing at St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the venues of his first worldwide tour, FutureSex/LoveShow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Style is an essential element of writing that can take decades to master. Writing students are often confused about what constitutes their style. Sometimes it is helpful to discuss style in an alternate medium, such as fashion, to draw an analogy that students can understand.

Consider this. I have two sons, aged 7 and 14. They are both sloppy dressers. My 7-year-old doesn’t really think about his “style.” Sure, he has a couple of favorite shirts that he would wear every single day if I would allow it. He prefers elastic-waist athletic pants over denim jeans because they are more comfortable. However, his clothing choices consist mostly of wearing the first item of clothing he can get his hands on when he reaches into his closet. The only reason he wears matching socks is because I match them up for him when I do the laundry. The result is often sloppy, but he doesn’t look sloppy on purpose. He just doesn’t know any better.

At this point, I am not too concerned with my younger son’s wardrobe choices as long as I can get him to dress appropriately for the weather. We live in Wisconsin, and we’re heading into the final days of October. The time for wearing shorts has passed. Now, my main concern regarding his daily dress is that he makes it out of the house each morning wearing long pants, socks, appropriate footwear, a sweatshirt, and a jacket. He is still learning the basic rules of dressing himself. There’s no room for worrying about style at this point. Continue reading “What’s your writing style? Do you have one?”


When words get in my way

American Author Ernest Hemingway aboard his Ya...
You don’t have to be the next Ernest Hemingway to sell a ton of books.

Are you over-educated? Do you ever feel like your over-educated mind gets in the way of you enjoying activities that you used to love? Does it seem like your brain analyzes everything you read whether you want it to or not? Believe it or not, this happens to me. I used to love to read, but I have recently found myself incapable of finishing a book due to my brain’s insistence on over-analyzing every word I read.

Before I returned to school to pursue a master’s degree in professional writing, I used to be able to read four or five books a week. I could tear through each book and really enjoy each one without giving much thought as to how well-written they were. But these days, my over-educated brain seems to get in the way of me enjoying a hobby that used to be my favorite way to pass the time.

For example, I recently decided to read 50 Shades of Grey to see what the hype is all about. I knew going into the experience that the book wasn’t likely to be very well written. I didn’t buy the book because I was looking for an example of good writing to follow. No, I bought it because I occasionally enjoy a nice, trashy romance novel and thought this might be an entertaining read. Continue reading “When words get in my way”

Education, Essays, Writers on Writing

Teaching the five-paragraph essay

English: Ernest Hemingway on safari, Kenya, 1954
Can't you just hear Hemingway mumbling about how bad first drafts suck? | Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, my Written Communication students workshopped their very first essays of the semester. I don’t like to ever ask my students to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself, so I wrote an essay along with them.

Early in the semester, I asked them to write ideas for free writing topics on little slips of paper that I placed in an envelope. We do a 10 – 15 minute free write in every class session. Sometimes I have a topic planned, and sometimes I’ll pull a couple of their ideas from the envelope and let them choose one. Usually, unless I have something I need to do to prepare for the next portion of the class, I’ll sit and free write with them. I think this is a useful activity for any w Continue reading “Teaching the five-paragraph essay”