Writing Coaching Blog

Student holding pen
You might not be aware of this, but chances are good that some of your sentences contain zombie nouns, those lifeless abstract nouns that lurk and drain the energy out of your writing.  The writer scholar Helen Sword coined the term and put together a clever video that shows you how to spot and replace them with life-affirming active verbs.  
Two students studying together
Here are a half dozen writing tips to improve your sentences.  The first four are about verbs.  Verbs are what make sentences tick.  Mark Tedinick, in Writing Well, puts it this way: "[Verbs] are where a sentence moves, where it gets up and runs or walks or means or elopes or ignites or loves or hates or talks or recommends or concludes or surrenders or speaks it mind . . . If your verbs are good, your sentence stands a chance."  The remaining two tips are about avoiding puffed-up language and negative phrasing.  Enjoy!           Untie noun strings.  Original:  We used crop rotation to avoid soil degradation.  Revised:  We rotated our... Continued
student hand about to write
Writing a personal statement for graduate school, a program, or a job may be one of the most difficult essays to tackle. Unlike a paper for a class where you use research or articles to strengthen your argument, you only have your ideas & passions to work with—and trying to formulate your goals into words will prove more difficult than initially imagined. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Tell an Important Story Perhaps you held a significant work position that heavily influenced your decision to enter this field/program. Tell it. This will separate you from the crowd, and your passion will shine through without explicitly starting off with, “I’m passionate about …” (all the... Continued
student studying
The key to any successful paper is outlining the topics you wish to discuss before you actually begin writing. Outlining will help construct and organize ideas in a sequential manner and thoughtful flow. Doing so allows you to pick relevant information or quotes from sources early on, giving writers steady foundation and groundwork when beginning the writing process. Most importantly, developing these ideas will help create your thesis. Begin outlining with writing the question at the top of a page. If you do not have an explicit prompt, you may brainstorm what you will write about. Next, think about which direction or argument you wish to pursue. How can you support this? What main points... Continued
students studying at the Livingston Learning Center
The Oxford comma is the comma you use before the word “and” in a list. While there is controversy on whether or not the Oxford – or serial – comma is necessary, it helps clarify what you are trying to say. You want the people who read your paper to understand what you are trying to say, because a lack of clarity may result in ambiguity. Here is one example of why it would be a good idea to use the Oxford comma.  With: I had eggs, toast, and orange juice.  Without:  I had eggs, toast and orange juice.  (soggy toast) Merrill Perlman, in the Columbia Journalism Review, gives this example: “My favorite... Continued