March 24, 2014

Embedding #Writing Hashtags in Your Tweets

The PCCC Writing Center does not use the blog exclusively to promote writing center content. Twitter is incorporated to help expand our content reach and facilitate conversation in a way to build a virtual social presence. One way that we promote content is by using hashtags or the "#" sign followed by a keyword such as "#writing." Hashtags "allow you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords," as per Mashable. Hashtags also make you more discoverable and searchable, which is what helps tweeps find you (#VeryCool).

Let's have a look, shall we?

The use of hashtags has helped promote our content by making it more searchable (discoverable). For example, by using the hashtag #WriterWednesday (#WW) we’ve been able to connect with and gain followers to expand our Twitter stream.  For example, we’ve written tweets for this hashtag such as: “Looking to follow some new tweeps? Check out @[TwitterName].”  Some additional hashtags used in Tweets that help build an account are: #FollowFriday, which was started to recommend favorite tweeps to followers; #amwriting; #amediting; #writetips; #writertips; #writing; and #grammartip.

The PCCC Writing Center uses hashtags either at the end or beginning of the tweet. For example: “Experience/practice the writing assignment first before distributing it to students. Any revisions needed? #TeachingTips #justsayin.” Or, incorporate the hashtag in with the tweet: “Each language has its own confusing rules, like word order; sentence organization, missing (or extra) parts of speech. #L2 fact.”  In addition, the center’s Twitter account utilizes hashtags like #MondayBlogs or #MentionMonday to promote the PCCC Writing Center blog posts every Monday, which allows us to build our Twitter account through the addition of new followers, and help disseminate our content to new or existing followers.

Remember, social media is not for everyone, and it takes time and practice. However, you might find it inspirational, or somewhat enlightening to branch out beyond your writing center walls and share content over various writing landscapes.

How does your center use hashtags to promote content? 

March 7, 2014

Imitating Other Writers

After I’ve been reading something from one of my favorite authors, I often find myself adopting their style of writing for a little while. I form my words differently and start “thinking” in a peculiar way. This always gets me inspired to start writing again. Next time you are feeling uninspired, pick up a book from a writer you like and immerse yourself in their language.  See if you can adopt their style to get yourself started. You can even read a small excerpt from a book and then try to continue it in the same voice.

Don’t worry about copying another author too closely. You will find that as you write, you will naturally create a hybrid style, influenced by all the writer’s you read, and all of your experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

Another great exercise is to take a passage from someone else’s writing and try to revise it and make it your own. The trick is not to change the content of the writing, but the style and voice of the writer.

Try it now with this short passage from author Simon Van Booy:

When small drops began to fall and darken the world in penny-shaped circles, no one around him scurried for cover. For lonely people, rain is a chance to be touched.

February 10, 2014

Creative Journal Writing

When the topic of journal writing comes up, I usually meet two kinds of people: the kind that say “Journal writing is not for me” and the kind that say, “I used to keep a journal but then it got too difficult to write in it regularly.” Journal writing doesn’t have to be chore. It is not something you have to do every day, or even every week. If you do want to incorporate journal writing into your regular routine, try experimenting with different forms of creative journaling. Give yourself a prompt or exercise every day and let yourself have fun with it. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Day 1: Make a list of all the things you did today.

Day 2: Flip open your dictionary, randomly select 10 words and then write a paragraph using all 10 of those words.  

Day 3: In 100 words, describe what you see out your window. (Sometimes it is nice to give yourself a word limit. Then you know you won’t be spending hours on a journal entry.)

Day 4: Cut out pictures from a magazine and paste them to your journal. Make a collage of your favorite images.

Day 5: Do a word association. Begin with Banana and go from there. 

Day 6: Draw an emoticon of how you are feeling, or 10 emoticons of your most common expressions.

Day 7: Create a cartoon character of yourself. Draw him/her and give him/her exaggerated characteristics.

Explore other journal prompt ideas online and look at other people’s blogs to get an idea of what they are writing about. Remember that you can make your journal anything you want.

February 4, 2014

How to Manage Writing Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious about something. Most people are anxious about things they either don’t have much experience in or have struggled with in the past. Maybe you are out of practice with writing, or maybe you did poorly in a previous English class. Even though writing is often graded and evaluated using certain guidelines, writing in itself is a very individual process. Writing is just another form of communicating with others, and everyone does this in their own unique way.

Do you find it easy to express your thoughts verbally? If so, see if you can transfer those verbal thoughts onto paper. Consider getting a tape recorder and vocalizing your thoughts, then listening to a recording and transcribing it. You might discover that writing is easier than you thought.  Even if you do not consider yourself a strong conversationalist, think of some other areas of strength for you. See if you can incorporate some of these strengths into your writing. Are you good at coming up with ideas, organizing them, explaining them in simple terms, writing concisely, summarizing, or researching? Do what you are strongest in and get support in areas that you might struggle with.

Pushing through the anxiety and getting the job done (whether it is writing a paper, taking an essay exam, or writing a college application statement) will make you feel more accomplished, more confident, and more capable. 

January 27, 2014

Things You Can Do to Improve the Flow & Organization of Your Essay

Writing is the easy part. Revision is hard. But there are a few things you can do to help improve the flow and organization of your essay. Check out some writing tips below to help keep your momentum going.

Read it aloud to get a sense of the flow and coherence. Rewrite or omit anything that sounds awkward or nonsensical.

Make sure the first sentence of everybody paragraph sets up for the entire paragraph. This topic sentence should be like a mini-thesis for each paragraph.

Be wary of using too many transition words like first of all, secondly, in addition, however, and to conclude. See how your sentence sounds without a transition word first. Then, adjust accordingly.

Instead of trying to rewrite a sentence that just isn't working, start from scratch. Clarify what you want to say and then write a new sentence without looking at the old one. You will be surprised how much easier this is than trying to rework a difficult sentence.

Simplify. When in doubt, write what you want to say in as simplest terms as possible. Imagine you are explaining a concept or subject to someone who has not been exposed to it yet. Do not overcomplicate the language and wording. This often leads to confusion.

January 13, 2014

5 Quick Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

Thank you for stopping by the blog! We've put together five quick tips to support your writing!

1.     Read.
Read as much as you can. It can be anything: fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, newspapers, memoirs, poems.... Don’t limit yourself. The more types of writing and styles you are exposed to, the more versatile a writer you will become.

2.      Write.
Write essays and stories and speeches. Write letters and emails and notes to your friends. Write without censoring your words and without judgment. Write what comes into your head and see where it takes you. Just the practice of expressing your voice and of stringing together words will not only build your writing skills, but also your ability to connect to exactly what you are thinking and feeling.

3.      Connect.
Connect with others who are trying to improve their writing as well. Attend workshops on writing skills. Ask questions. No one expects you to know everything there is to know about writing. If you’re not exactly sure what semicolons are used for, ask someone who might know (a professor, a writing tutor, a classmate, etc).

4.      Go online.
There are plenty of writing resources on the Internet that can help you with getting started, organization, and correct grammar and word usage. For a general place to go for some resources, try OWL at Purdue:

5.      Be Authentic.
Remember that your writing is a reflection of your thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to impress anyone but yourself. Be honest in your writing and let your words speak for themselves. 

Jennifer has a Bachelor’s degree in Math Education from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has taught high school math in Bergen County for the past six years and has tutored all levels of math, reading and writing. She believes that writing is a form of self-expression - a way to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings that cannot be expressed in any other way. When she is not working at the Writing Center, Jennifer writes short experimental fiction and creates whimsical jewelry.