Posts Tagged With: Writing

Course Notes: ENC 1102 Written Communications II

enc-1102
I took ENC 1102 last semester, and finally, here are my thoughts on it.

ENC 1102 is the study of three forms of literature–short stories, poetry, and drama (plays). This course involves the critical analysis of various members of the aforementioned forms of literature. You have to really think about what you’re reading, break it down, analyze it, why this symbolism, why that allusion, and so on. I had to write one research paper during the course, and I chose William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”

One aspect of literary analysis that I’m not too fond of is the emphasis on interpretation. For any given classic, there seem to be hundreds of interpretations about the grander meaning or purpose of the work. One person says it’s about the idiocy of the North during the civil war, another says it’s about the silliness of the South during the civil war, another says it’s about the emergence of feminism, and so on and on and on. What if it was just meant to be an interesting story? Huh? Did you think about that possibility? What if the writer never harbored a hidden agenda that can only be teased out after months of speculation and tripping to conclusions?

As for reading drama, I don’t have too much to say about it–it’s just like watching the play in your head. After watching videos of the same plays, I realized that I enjoy the versions in my head better. During this course, I studied Hamlet for the first time, and after getting past the esoteric language, I actually enjoyed it and found moments that made me grin. The favorite play that I studied in this course would have to be Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Talk about LMAOing all over the floor…

What I’m about to say now may anger you and cause you to think condescendingly of me from hereon. This is particularly true if your major is literary in nature. Irregardless… just kidding. Regardless of how your opinion of my digital persona may change, the following things need to be said.

I’ll start in soft and easy…

To me, the purpose of writing is to convey information in an interesting manner. The best writers, then, are the ones that write unambiguously, and interestingly. It is quite the opposite with poetry. Petals on a wet, black bough? Bitch puhleeze! It takes a lot of effort for me to “understand” a poem, and even then, I can’t be sure that my interpretation is what the poet intended. I know that poetry is supposed to evoke emotion, but in me, the only evoked emotion is that of extreme irritation at the writer’s apparent inability to convey information in a clear and interesting manner. Poetry seems to be nothing more than a collection of vague verbal stimuli directed toward those that tend to find patterns in random nonsense. As such, it is more a verbal Rorschach Test than anything else. The fact is, ENC 1102 did nothing to mollify my unabashed hatred of poetry. I accept that I am missing out on a part of human experience that is important to many people, but that’s okay. I’ve come to terms with my condition.</end rant>

The only tip I really have, if you’re taking this course, is; if it’s a classic, and it tells a story; watch the movie.

P.S. Depending on your professor, you better wield your MLA with some serious skill (FYI: that last part included something called “alliteration.” You’ll learn all about that in ENC 1102).

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Course Notes: ENC 1101 Written Communications I

So much writing...

Write right!

Periodically, after completing a college course, I will publish some of my thoughts on the course. Hopefully, somehow, somewhere, they will help another undergraduate. This is one of those posts.

……………………….

To tell you the truth, when I registered for this course at my college, I didn’t expect to learn a lot from it. I considered myself a fairly good writer already, and no “beginner” writing course could possibly improve that. Could it? I registered for the course because it is a required undergraduate course for my school. Furthermore, it seemed like it would be an easy course–the perfect way to ease myself into college studies.

ENC 1101 focuses on grammar, MLA, and essay writing. The three required essays probably gives most college students the shivers, but with my enjoyment of writing, I approached them with little trepidation. It did turn out to be a pretty easy course for me; however, contrary to my initial thoughts, I learned quite a bit from it.

The most valuable thing I learned from this course is that commas are not to be sprinkled willy-nilly among the words. I had always approached comma usage at an intuitive level. To judge whether or not a comma was needed, I would simply insert it to see if it sounds right–clauses be damned. What I learned is that even something as seemingly nebulous as grammar, a subject with which I tended to rely solely on intuition, is governed by rules. To excel at grammar, those rules simply need to be learned.

By learning about the different types of clauses and the proper construction of compound and complex sentences, I now proof my essays in a much more systematic manner. Instead of simply reading it and trying to figure out if it sounds right, I now pick the clauses apart. Instead of making essay-writing more complicated, it’s actually made it easier. No more vacillating on whether or not a sentence needs a comma–just identify the clauses and apply the rules.

ENC 1101 was also my first exposure to the vast array of written resources available to college students. Prior to this, if I wanted to read a research paper, I was usually hit with a pay-wall. Now, I simply log in to my college’s library and access the paper through one of the hundreds of academic databases that my school is subscribed to. It’s amazing!

Learning how to properly document and cite (MLA) research sources is another important aspect of this course. I’ve learned that many professors are quite strict (read anal) about proper documentation. Not that it’s unimportant. It really is important. Plagiarism is despicable even if professors uses scare tactics to drill it into you.

TIPS

So, here are some tips that oozed out of the goo within my skull while I was taking ENC 1101:

Essay writing, particularly if you’re being scored by a college professor in a low-level writing course, is not art. This is not the time to be too experimental with your writing. It is commonly accepted by such professors that an essay requires three parts; introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Furthermore, the introduction must contain an obvious thesis sentence, and all body paragraphs must have obvious topic sentences. Deviation from this structure is punishable by B’s and C’s. It gets worse. Sentences must be complete, and they may not be run on to each other. All of these rules may seem arbitrary but if you follow them, your professor will smile lovingly upon you. The good news is that all these rules can actually make it easier to write essays. Instead of blindly following your intuition, you now have checklists and precise recipes to follow. Personally, I feel that a carefully constructed essay reads contrived. My professor probably didn’t care what it made me feel like.

Improve your writing by writing a lot and striving to always use impeccable grammar.

How to analyze your own essay:

  1. Take a mental step back when you’re reading it. Pretend that someone else wrote it. How would you grade it? Why?
  2. Read it quickly. Does it flow? Is it alive? (If it’s alive, forward it to scientists. A living essay must surely be an unusual and wondrous species.)
  3. Read it slowly and analyze it–first by paragraph, then by sentence, and then by clause.

Sometimes when I write, I feel what I want to say, but the words just don’t flow from my head. In those cases, it often helps me to make it more personal. What words would I use if I was actually experiencing these things that I am trying to write about? Sometimes, it helps to change the setting. By picking the theme/subject out of the paragraph and throwing it into the midst of fighting spider-people on some alien planet, the right words might suddenly come to me.

Those, in an ordinary-sized nutshell, are my thoughts on ENC 1101.

Image credit: Pen image copyright (c) 2007 Fabio and made available under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Essential Notes for the Clueless Blogging Noob

Yep, that’s me! Aren’t I the cutest?

If you are new to blogging, chances are good that you have unrealistic expectations and no idea what you’re doing. Not a problem. This post will make you an expert! Well, probably not, but hopefully, I can give you a few tips. Over the years, I’ve operated over a half a dozen blogs. Many of them failed, not because they lacked potential, but because I lost interest. Others are average, but one of my blogs succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. I can’t give you the name of that blog because I author it under strict anonymity, so you’ll just have to trust me. Or not. Doesn’t twist my britches either way.

What to write, what to write?

Write what you know. Write what you care about.

How to write, how to write?

Write from your heart. Don’t do it because that’s what will make your readers feel all fuzzy inside. Do it because if you don’t, you’ll eventually get bored and lose interest. Be yourself, but please be a more grammatically correct yourself. Blog readers, on the whole, are a reasonably bright lot, and they prefer decent writing. Pay attention to capitalization, typographical errors, sentence structure, and all that life-sucking stuff. Blogging provides a great opportunity to improve your writing, so work at it!

Pictures are worth a… please God, not that awful cliche again! People like pictures. Even if it’s completely irrelevant to the subject, people will look at the picture repeatedly. That being said, don’t steal pictures willy-nilly from the silly web. If you do take what’s not yours, at least attribute it. Check out the very bottom of this post for my attribution for the above image. Flickr makes things easy. By doing an advanced search, you can choose to limit your search to those pictures under a Creative Commons license.

When to write, when to write?

Write regularly, but don’t deluge your readers. If you feel the need to write a shitload (exactly 3.14 cubic feet) of posts all at one time, use your blogging platform’s (i.e. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) scheduling feature to schedule some of them to be published at future dates. I wrote this post weeks ago, and you would never have known.

If you’re really cool, schedule your posts at about the time when the most readers are online and reading blogs. My guess is that would be in the evening. More people may see your post if they’re searching one of your keywords at that time.

What’s the point?

Write primarily for yourself. If you would be happy pouring your energy and time into a blog, even if only a handful of people will ever read it, you aren’t as likely to be disappointed. Sad, I know. You are probably not good enough of a writer, and your life is probably not interesting enough to attract thousands of readers, so don’t write for that purpose. Not very inspiring am I? Do write for yourself. There are many good reasons to blog. It can be like a personal (but public) journal. It can be a way for you to hone your writing skills. It can be a way for you to inflict your sense of humor onto some poor readers. The long-awaited point is that you must enjoy putting in the time and energy to write and promote your blog. Such an enjoyment shines through in your writing and will make it more appealing to readers.

Design

There are many great WordPress themes out there. However, I would strongly suggest that you make sure that readers can actually see the words. Don’t use a black text on a black background. Obviously. For that matter, don’t use a black background at all. I’m talking about the text background, not the wider background. Use a normal font, not some fancy script. If I get a headache trying to read your blog, I won’t return no matter how well you or interestingly you write. Don’t use shockingly huge images. I once got electrocuted… No I didn’t. Don’t hit people with some big flashing red banner. It makes readers want to stab their computer, and that doesn’t bode well for anybody concerned.

How to promote?

Be sure to tag all of your posts with relevant keywords. How else will people searching for your keywords find your blog? Visit similar blogs. Take a look at the keywords you’ve tagged your post with, then search your blog reader for those tags. If after reading a similar blog, you have a relevant comment, by all means–comment. Don’t overtly advertise yourself or your blog. That’s just seems whiny and needy. Don’t post links back to one of your posts unless it’s truly relevant. If you don’t have a comment to make, like the post. The author will see that, and if he or she is anything like me, she or he will think, “Ahah! Another victim!” He or she will then click on your name and perhaps accidentally follow your blog. For you, that means fame. The gist of this paragraph is simply this; become an active part of the blogosphere. Comment and like other blogs, and you’ll get the same.

If you don’t get thousands of followers, don’t beat yourself up. Fame is overrated. After all, what’s fame if not merely having the admiration of millions of fairly stupid animals. Don’t expect too much. Don’t expect a meteoric rise, which incidentally, doesn’t make sense. Meteors don’t rise. Just have fun!

Can I make money?

Maybe. One of my blogs (Sorry, I can’t give the name because I am strictly anonymous on that blog, and I may not always be on here), took off like a rocket, followed subsequently by a meteoric fall. The “meteoric fall” isn’t entirely true, but I did get to use it in a sentence and so soon after pointing out the illogic of the ‘meteoric rise.’ I had unique and inside knowledge of a popular event, and I wrote about it on that blog. My page views jumped from 30 or so a day to thousands a day. My best day was just over 40,000 views. As soon as my readership started going up like that, I signed up for WordPress advertisements, and I ended up making several hundred bucks over the next six months. That was a fluke. I had not planned on it happening, and I didn’t anticipate it. If you start blogging with the intent of making a living, you will most likely fail. Not the most inspirational guy, am I?

That’s it for this episode of Essential Notes for the Clueless Noob. Follow this blog for possible future episodes.

Image credit: Chimp at laptop copyright (c) (2009) patriziasoliani and made available under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.

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