Tag Archives: poetry

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: 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.

An Ode to the Writing Center

Oh, the Writing Center, How do I Love thee
Let me count the Ways—
With your Hot coffee and Tasty candy Trays
We pass our Time speaking of words that Rhyme
Discussing theoretical Matters that pass our Days

And when the day is Done we gather our Fun
And share the Happenings that came our Way
Clients and Consultants, we are intertwined
With meaning, Laughter and learning on the mind

We provide response to those who wish to find
Answers to the Grammar situation
Past present and participle

This place is a Scared space where we explore
How learning opens our door

Introducing Our Podcast Archive

In the transition to our new website we’ve also been harvesting content from the old website, which means we’ve found some awesome Writing Center gems. Like an assortment of informative podcasts! Rather than let these podcasts vanish into the ether, we’ve decided to archive them on our new site. You can find the entire collection in our Podcast Archive. But first let me tell you a bit about what we have to offer.

The archive is broken down into three collections: Writing Center produced podcasts, Writing Center workshops and presentations, and guest lectures and workshops.

The Writing Center produced podcasts include topics like citations, primary sources, resumes, and thesis statements, as well as a three-part series on writing with poetry. Each of these podcasts is about 5 minutes long, and is scripted to cover the basics of each topic. For example, the Citations podcast explains why giving credit with citations is important, introduces MLA, APA, and Chicago styles, and discusses the use of in-text citations and works cited pages. These quickly delivered podcasts would be great support material for writing instructors.

The Podcast Archive also features a robust collection of Writing Center workshops and presentations given by Writing Center staff and faculty. This includes workshops on personal statements, Comic Life, and poster displays using CRAP principles (contrast, repetition, arrangement, and proximity), as well as presentations on the use of podcasts in writing centers, grammar as a higher order concern, professional development, and a presentation given by our very own associate director, Dianna Baldwin, on the use of Second Life, an online virtual world, in writing centers. Dianna speaks a bit about the history of SL and argues that SL brings personal connection back to online consulting through the use of the voice feature, as well as gestures controlled by the user. *

And finally, our last collection of podcasts in the archive is guest lectures and workshops featuring three scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition: Dr. Paul Matsuda, Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University; Dr. Tony Silva, Director of ESL Graduate and Writing Programs at Purdue University; and Dr. Kirk St. Amant, Associate Professor of Technical and Professional Communication at East Carolina University specializing in global education in online environments. Each of these scholars were guests at Michigan State, and we are fortunate to have podcasts of these events for folks to listen to and learn from.

We hope this rich and varied collection of knowledge and expertise available in our Podcast Archive will make it to your playlists, and perhaps even your writing courses.

 

*The Writing Center at MSU has a satellite location in Second Life, with appointments from 9am – 10pm Monday – Thursday, and 9am – 2pm Friday. Schedule a Second Life consultation!