April is grammar month…

or so I say it is!  During April, all of our student workshops focus on grammar, mechanics, and punctuation (the workshop schedule will be available on the Writing Center Writing Workshops page by April 1).  We hope you will encourage your students to attend as many of these workshops as they can fit into their schedules, and if they can’t attend live, they can view the recordings any time after the workshop has taken place. Recording links are posted on the workshops page usually within 1-2 business days after the workshop has taken place. *With problems we’ve encountered since launching the new KU portal, there are times when this is taking longer.*

I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about the role of grammar, mechanics, and punctuation in relation to good writing.  Writing is much more than the rules by which correct sentences and paragraphs are constructed; good writing entails clear meaning, a rich and appropriate vocabulary for the intended audience, meeting a specific purpose, engaging readers with appropriate prose and style, and so much more.  

We certainly want to push students to use proper English conventions because that is one quality of good writing.  The best way to do this, however, is NOT to mark every single error on their papers.  I know that’s counter to what we think is the right thing to do, because we do not want students to think any of their errors are “okay.”  But if you think about it, if you don’t make them look for and learn how to correct their own mistakes, how will they ever learn to edit their own writing?

Students have to learn to become editors of their own writing because this is expected in the workplace. There is no one that is going to edit every email, letter, memo, brief, presentation, proposal, etc.  of theirs.  If they are not taught how to edit their own work in school, they will carry these habits over into the workplace, which can be quite damaging to their careers.

To help students become editors of their own work, I like to suggest a combination of resources in the Writing Center.  But before they can use those resources, they have to be given constructive feedback.  That does not come by marking every error.  The best feedback is when students are given one to two writing issues to tackle at one time.  Pick one or two issues that interfer the most with their writing, but again, do not mark all instances of errors with those issues.  Mark one or two to bring their attention to them, then suggest they use the following process to help correct other instances of these errors in their papers. 

As an example, say your student has trouble with sentence fragments and run-ons.  First, suggest she look in the Writing Center Reference Library for a  handout or other resource on sentence construction, sentence fragments, run-on sentences.  After reading or viewing the resources, encourage her to use live tutoring as a followup to reinforce what she read and/or viewed.  Tell her to ask the tutor for practice sentences so she can learn to fix fragments and run-ons by herself.  After that, she may be ready to apply what she learned by going back to her assignment and correcting the fragments and run-ons in her paper. 

This process shows students how to get the information they need (from the reference library), practice it (in live tutoring), then apply what they learned (to their own paper).  And, when they are given the opportunity to do this with one aspect of their writing at a time, they are more likely to remember to apply this knowledge in their subsequent assignments.

Note:  Due to the problems the portal caused for our Writing Center pages, our March schedule was not posted; thus, many students missed out on important research and citation workshops in March.  Those workshops will be run again in either May or June

–Diane

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