Author: Erica Goldman

The Consultant Diaries: If Types of WC Candy Were Types of Writing

One of the best things about The Writing Center is our candy. It’s like a box of chocolates (pun intended)—you never know what you’re going to find each day. Consulting is like a box of chocolates, too. No two appointments are ever the same. There’s always a new client to help and a new piece of writing to help them with. So what if different types of writing were different types of Writing Center candy?

Nerds would be research papers. Nerds go everywhere and you always lose the little bits. With research papers, you lose all the little pieces too: the quotes, the citations, your sanity…

Milky Ways are things you write for non-academic reasons. They don’t have the weight of hardcore candies. They feel light and fluffy, like heavenly clouds, like the types of writing that don’t stress you out.

Laffy Taffies are dissertations. They get stuck in your cheek and you just CAN’T. GET. THEM. OUT. Just like dissertations that hang over your head that you can’t ever escape from.

Mints are reflection papers. Like mints, I find reflection papers refreshing. I like learning about my clients, and reflection papers can be a nice, interesting break from academic papers.

Twix are whatever your favorite pieces of writing are. Twix are my favorite type of candy: they’ve got chocolate AND caramel AND nice crispy wafers. When I’m eating one, I enjoy every moment of it. When I’m helping clients with résumés, too, I completely enjoy it. I love helping them with pieces of writing that could give them new opportunities and potentially change their lives.

What’s your favorite thing to write? What’s your Twix?

The Consultant Diaries: On Being a Client

A few days ago, I went to The Writing Center as a client. I was working on a cover letter for a summer internship and I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. I anxiously showed it to my consultant-friend, and she said that what was missing was what I would contribute to the company while working there.

I tried to think of what I could contribute, but I literally couldn’t think of anything. My brain was completely empty. My consultant-friend was patient and kind and helpful. And I felt like she was my personal trainer who kicked my butt during a workout.

The next day, I was consulting a client who had the same problem. She just couldn’t think of anything to write. She was totally stuck. I felt like I was watching myself from the day before. I remembered how I had felt—frustrated, lost, and slightly embarrassed. Being able to empathize with her made me feel like I could be more patient. And remembering how my consultant-friend had helped me made me feel like I could be more helpful.

So, to get up on my soapbox, I hereby announce that all consultants need to be clients every once in a while. For one, it allows you to observe other consultants and learn from them. And more importantly, it reminds you that you are working with people—not robots—who are just like you.

How to Fix Comma Splices

You know when your friend is typing you a Facebook message and they run all their sentences together, you can kind of figure out what they’re saying, but it sounds like they’re talking really fast, you’re just like dude BREATHE!

I hate to break it to you, but your friend is suffering from a case of the comma splices.

What’s a comma splice? you ask. How can I save my friend from a slow, painful grammatical death and imminent doom?

A comma splice is when you combine two complete sentences with a comma. Here are a few examples:

I love comma splices, aren’t they so fun?

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf, we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

My best friend’s name is Sarah, she’s my cousin.

Well, you say, those sentences make perfect sense to me, so what’s the problem? The problem is that commas aren’t meant to join complete sentences. They have a million other ways they can be used, but joining full sentences isn’t one of them.

Here are some alternatives that won’t cause comma splices.

1. Use a period instead

Take this sentence again:

I love comma splices, aren’t they so fun?

The chunks on each side of the comma are complete sentences on their own, so unless you’re joining them with a word like and, but, or or, they have to end with terminal punctuation (a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point). So we can just replace that comma with a period:

I love comma splices. Aren’t they so fun?

Boom, done, easy!

2. Use a semicolon instead

Take a look at this sentence again:

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf, we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

Again, both sides of the comma are complete sentences. We could replace that comma with a period again and it would totally work. But sometimes it’s more fun to use a semicolon.

A semicolon joins two complete sentences that are related idea-wise. So in this sentence, hanging out for three hours and getting no homework done occur as a result of running into your friend in the caf. It’s a cause-effect relationship:

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf; we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

3. Add a coordinating conjunction

Coordinating conjunctions are words like and, but, and or. They can join together two complete sentences, and you add them after the comma. So this sentence:

My best friend’s name is Sarah, she’s my cousin.

becomes this:

My best friend’s name is Sarah, and she’s my cousin.

So, now you know how to save your friend from the wrath of the angry comma-splice monsters.

Check out the following resources for more info about fixing comma splices:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Comma Splices

Purdue Owl’s tips on comma splices

Capital Community College’s guide to comma splices and run-on sentences

The Consultant Diaries: Learning about Being Quiet

Hey there! Welcome to my very first Consultant Diaries post. I’m Erica, and I’ve been working at The Writing Center for exactly one semester (and a half).

I absolutely love working at The Writing Center. It’s not a boring on-campus job where you’re doing the same thing every day. I mean, you kind of do the same thing every day (you consult people, obviously), but each consultation is different and there’s something new to learn from every single one.

This week, I’ve learned about the importance of being quiet, of sitting back and letting the client think or just take off writing. In WRA 395, the class you take to become a consultant here, we called this “letting the client lead the session.”

For instance, the other day I had a client who wanted help writing a cover letter. She had never written a cover letter before, so I spent a few minutes explaining the general requirements for content and organization. The client took notes while I explained all this. Then suddenly, she dove in and started writing her intro paragraph. I just sat there and let her write. She got stuck and asked me for advice. I gave her some, and then she started writing again. So I sat there and let her write. And so we continued for most of the session.

It felt weird just sitting there because I didn’t feel like I was helping the client. But then I realized that what I was really doing was letting her follow her own writing process. And that always leads to the most success.

Those are my words of wisdom for the week. I’ll be back in a couple weeks. Until then, drink some tea, write a lot, and come say hi to us at The Writing Center! If you’re lucky, there will be chocolate in the bowl on the counter. =)