All posts by Alyson Gines

Grammar isn’t the Bad Guy

The Great Grammar DebateOne of the phrases I hear the most from students coming to The Writing Center is, “I’m terrible at grammar.” What’s highly interesting about this phrase is two things: 1.) Generally speaking, students say “grammar,” but actually define that term as including “grammar, spelling, and punctuation,” and 2.) In my experience, 9 out of every 10 people who have said that really aren’t bad at it at all. It seems like, for a variety of reasons, this idea of “proper grammar” has become some sort of multi-headed beast in peoples’ minds; an unconquerable set of rules, punctuation marks, spelling, etc., that they just don’t have a chance at mastering. FALSE.

Firebreathing dragon, with the word "Gramma" in the flames.

Image via www.churchstroke.com, edited by Gines

Being good at grammar isn’t something that everybody just inherently knows; it’s like a muscle that grows over time as you continually learn more about how to strengthen it. Grammar also isn’t this set of rigid rules designed to make writing difficult, but rather the resource that helps you to communicate well through your writing. In reality, it’s no different from the chemist using the right beaker to successfully conduct the experiment, or the violinist who must tune their strings to the correct pitch before a performance.

Additionally, using proper grammar doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crafting flourishing sentences of “erstwhile’s,” “thou’s,” and “fortnight’s.” In fact, using it correctly doesn’t even guarantee that it’s a good sentence. What actually makes writing interesting and enjoyable to read is largely based on the content. Grammar, then, is the vehicle that helps you deliver those important words to your audience. Think of it like this: grammar is not a set of strict rules looking for every opportunity to trip you up between subject-verb agreements, or using the proper tense. Instead, it is a set of tools that helps you get your message to the audience. For example, if you have an idea for a fantastic play or a witty short story, grammar isn’t your enemy here. It’s the resource you use that helps you to translate what you see in your mind to words on paper in a way that allows other people to understand what you’ve envisioned.

Ultimately, the term “proper grammar” seems to evoke this idea of rules upon rules that just aren’t easy or enjoyable to use. Then again, what chemist is going to say that his favorite part of experimentation is the beakers? What musician will say that for them, it’s all about tuning up the instrument? This applies just as much to writers. Proper grammar isn’t the reason people write; we do it to tell stories, to inspire audiences, to create something meaningful, and so much more. Grammar is simply the tool that allows us to share our ideas through writing.

Trendspotting – Finals Week Playlist

Trendspotting with Alyson GinesOne great thing about the Trendspotting series is that it gives us a glimpse into the variety of people who come here, and the experiences they’ve had. Each week taught us a little bit more; who were Tigers fans, who were crafty and knitted their own hats, who were the ones that show the most Spartan pride, etc. It’s this diversity, and these differences, that make The Writing Center what it is today. With this in mind, I devised this playlist with music from a variety of different genres and eras, to represent the many people and backgrounds that we’ve been lucky enough to learn about this semester.

Trendspotting: Snacks

Trendspotting with Alyson GinesFinals are almost upon us! The library is packed, caffeine is flowing, and sleep suddenly becomes non-existent. With it being crunch time, the accessory we’ve seen the most here at The Writing Center has been snacks. Everyone is looking for that extra energy boost to help make it through these final days of the semester. Some of the most popular amongst consultants are cookies, granola bars, and (of course) chocolate.

What’s your finals snack of choice?

Containers of chocolate chip cookies with apple in front.

Trendspotting: Warm Winter Boots

Trendspotting with Alyson GinesCan you believe we’re already in our second-to-last week of classes? Per usual, this semester has managed to fly by. The trend for one of these final weeks is undoubtedly warm, comfortable boots. Temperatures, in classic Michigan style, have dropped rapidly, leaving many students and consultants alike breaking out their winter boots to stay warm as they travel across campus. What’s your favorite accessory to stay warm in these chilly winter months?

The Jazz of Writing

Music is one of those things that inherently has an incredible amount of power. It can move people, incite them to action, inspire creation, create moods, dispel fears, and ease pain, to name a few of the vast abilities it possesses. Music’s influence can be as individual as the carefully crafted playlist that hypes you up on your way to work or class, or as broad as that arena concert where you and thousands of others feel the bass beating its way through your bodies and the melody swirling around your collective figures.

Within this fluid and ever-changing experience of music is one particularly intriguing genre: Jazz. Since its inception, jazz has evolved into many different areas. There’s Gypsy Jazz that first arose in France during the 1930s, which combines a dark flavor with heavy swing to create a dramatic and deep series of songs. There’s Bebop Jazz, known for its fast tempo and instrumental variety that keeps a night alive for hours. There’s Afro-Cuban Jazz, which mixes strong rhythms with harmonies and served as the base for today’s Latin Jazz. These are just a few of the many styles that all lay claim to the genre of Jazz; though differing in details, what they have in common is a propensity towards improvisation, the root of this type of music. Continue reading

Trendspotting: Grad School Applications

Trendspotting with Alyson GinesHappy Thanksgiving, everyone! Even though this has been a shorter week than most, the one thing seen the most at The Writing Center was definitely grad school statements. Application deadlines are approaching this December, and there are only a few short weeks left in this semester to make appointments. There are still some open spots to come meet with consultants, whether it’s to work on that grad application or a paper for a final.

Have a good break!

Trendspotting: Winter Hats

Trendspotting with Alyson Gines logoHiya, folks. Another week come and gone in this semester, and with only about a month left before break, seeing the first snow of the season was only natural. With that in mind, this week’s trend has definitely been awesome knit hats. Students are bundling up to combat the cold, and we’ve been seeing a lot of interesting caps here at The Writing Center. From neon hunting hats, to handmade knit headbands, to knitted caps with whale patterns, students are well prepared for winter. And, if you’re looking to be fully prepared for finals, stop on by one of our many locations to consult about that paper or project you’re creating.

Trendspotting: Voting Stickers

Trendspotting with Alyson Gines logoHey everybody, it comes as no great surprise that this week’s trend was a proudly worn “I Voted” sticker. Here at The Writing Center, we work hard to be active members in our community, and to make our voices heard. And, if politics aren’t your thing, odds are we still have you covered: our student consultants are studying everything from Philosophy, to Arabic, to Psychology, to Dance, to Professional Writing, and more. We host workshops on making videos, open mic nights where people throw down some killer slam poetry, and regularly have incredibly talented guest speakers. The Writing Center is proud to be a part of a community that cares so much about such a wide variety of things, and we would love if you stopped by sometime.

From Thought Catalog: Everyone Should Write

A recent article from Thought Catalog brings up the idea that every person should write. Often, people (especially students) think of writing as a means to an end; a way to get a grade, to prove to their professor that they are learning, etc. This article, however, beautifully covers the subject of looking at writing through different eyes.”Everyone should write because writing makes us decide what we believe — and so it makes us decide who we are.”

Here at The Writing Center, we wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy: we try to communicate ideas about the writing process, and about being writers.

 

Trendspotting: Rain Jackets

Trendspotting with Alyson Gines logoHey there, everyone. This week’s trend has DEFINITELY been rain jackets and coats! With a bit of Hurricane Sandy rolling our way, temperatures have dropped rapidly and a mix of snow and sleet have hit the air. Students everywhere are adding a second layer to protect them from this unfortunate combination of wind and cold. Similarly, if you need to watch out for some deadlines coming your way, bring your paper into The Writing Center for a second pair of eyes to help you out!