Archive for October, 2010

Halloween and Frankenstein

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from the Mills College Writing Center! In honor of this spooky day, let’s look at one of the classic pieces of literature that makes the tradition of Halloween and scary movies great: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!

Frankenstein is one of the signatures of the gothic tradition and ghost stories. Today, it has influenced an entire genera of movies, comic strips, Halloween costumes and so much more. But, when the tale was first written, it was just a compitition between friends to see who could write the best ghost story.

Stuck in the moutains because of the weather, Mary Shelly (then Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and a few others passed the time reading ghost stories, and then writing their own. In this time, the terror-filled tale deveoped. Needless to say, Mary won. Did I mention she was only 18 when she wrote this? (You can find out a bit more at this link to the wikipedia page).

But the novel is more than just a ghost tale, or fodder for movie scripts. It raises questions about science and chemistry, creation, human nature, identity and so much more. The original is worth the read! If you really want to appreciate the entire tradition of gothic novels and ghost stories, run down to your bookstore now.

As I said, Happy Halloween and pleasant reading!


Why Deal With It?

October 25, 2010

It’s 4 in the morning your first semester of college, and you are slaving away over some 5 page paper assigned for your English class. You stare at the screen with true hatred seeping from your eyes. You are at 3 ½ pages, and you still have 1 ½ to go, plus a final edit. This is going to take you all night. You pull yourself out of your chair, fill your cup of coffee, and wonder why they have inflicted this type of torture on you? Is it just freshman hazing? Are they trying to weed out the weak from the strong? In what lifetime will you ever have to write a 5 page paper again?

Fast forward 3 years.  You are now a senior. It is your final semester. It is 4 in the morning, and you are going to be up all night finishing this 10 page paper for your senior seminar class. As you pull yourself out of your chair, stumble towards the coffee pot, and refill your cup of coffee, you wonder why? Is the professor bitter that you are escaping? Is this some final hurdle you have to pass, some last minute form of torture you have to endure just to make it through with the chance to walk? When in your life will you ever have to write a 10 page paper again outside of the college classroom?!

Well, believe it or not, writing is actually a useful tool that will come back to haunt you throughout your life! What if, three years into a job, you have to write an entire research proposal for your boss? You can bet that all of that late night training with a college paper will come in handy then!

That training will come in handy even sooner than that, actually! When you write your first office memo, or deal in daily correspondence for your boss, you will be drawing on that training. Furthermore, when you are writing your first cover letter to apply for a job, you need to be able to form a clear, cohesive sentence.

Writing, then, is not just a pointless, tedious task. It is actually a valuable skill that we will use time and time again throughout our lives. Socially, and in the work place, we are expected to be able to express our thoughts clearly and concisely, through a written medium. And, if all this doesn’t motivate you, then consider it training and inspiration for our next blog post!


October 24, 2010

Did the chicken cross the road?

It wanted to get to the write side!

Look for more daily jokes or post some of your own at our blog.

Passive and Active Voice

October 11, 2010

“Why is this in passive voice? Use active voice,” the same comments we hear over and over again from our instructors. So now the question becomes, just what the hell is active voice versus passive voice?

Okay, so before we go on, I have to admit that I am borrowing heavily from purdue owl right now. It is a great resource for all you writers out there, so be sure to check it out at some point or another. Now, without further ado….

Active Voice:

Active voice is when the subject of the sentence does the action that the verb indicates. Some examples are:

Cynthia watches TV.

We formed several committees to judge the new laws that the mayor wanted to pass.

Listening to hip hop music on the radio always makes me want to dance.

Passive Voice:

Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is changed from the one doing the action, to the one that is being acted upon. The subject is no longer the agent of the action. Note that this tone of voice is often used in scientific papers. Examples include:

The TV is watched by Cynthia.

Several committees were formed by us in order to judge the new laws wanting to be passed by the mayor.

Hip hop music is listened to on the radio by me.

Hope this helps all of you lovely ladies and gentlemen out there! And thanks to Jessica for the suggestion.

Joke Day

October 10, 2010
Teacher: “Josephine, give me a sentence beginning with I.”
Josephine: “I is …”
Teacher: “No, Josephine. It’s always ‘I am…’ ”
Josephine: “OK. I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”

Just some grammar humor for you. No, I did not make it up. Found it online with some other cool grammar jokes. Post some of your own below!

Back to the Basics

October 4, 2010

When first learning to write an essay, I had an instructor that used to pound the structure of a supporting paragraph in my head. I literally had to break down the entire essay into each section before I was allowed to write it and turn it in. I hated it at the time, and now it is one of the best gifts I have been given. This same teacher taught me the value of an outline.

So, first, let’s tackle outlining a paper. For a typical, 5 page essay, you need an intro, 3 body paragraphs, and a concluding one. Break it down into each section that you want to support. It helps; I promise! The more detailed an outline, the less work you have to do later on. Review the sample outline below:

I. Intro

A. Thesis: Insert your thesis

II. Body Paragraph 1:

A.   Topic Sentence

B.    Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

C.    Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

D.   Closing Sentence

III. Body Paragraph 2:

E.    Topic Sentence

F.    Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

G.   Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

H.   Closing Sentence

IV. Body Paragraph 3:

I.      Topic Sentence

J.     Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

K.   Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.

1.     Commentary

2.     Commentary

L.  Closing Sentence

V. Conclusion

Now, let’s tackle the body paragraph. For a basic body paragraph, you first need a topic sentence (TS). The topic sentence is what your paragraph is about, or what point you are going to argue. After, insert a concrete detail (CD). This is anything that is a direct quote or fact from the book, essay or poem. Next, insert two commentary sentences (CM). The commentary is your opinion of this detail; why it matters, why it is important. Typically, you include two to three CDs, and then your concluding sentence. Your concluding sentence should wrap up the paragraph, and provide a segue into the next paragraph in the paper.

Remember, once you have mastered these basic tools, you can always bend the rules a bit. But these are important tools to help you write a clear, organized essay, so use them!