Category Archives: Resources

TXTNG ABBRVTIONS DN’T CT IT: Tips for Composing Academic Emails

People have become remarkably adept at abbreviating words and sentences in order to send succinct messages quickly. Most everyone knows what LOL, OMG, and J/K mean. These abbreviations may be appropriate for texts or emails between friends, but it is best to reject any instinct to send abbreviated messages when composing academic emails. Professors and other professionals are going to expect formal, well-constructed messages. When crafting academic emails, use full sentences and write with clarity and conciseness. Adhere to basic guidelines for letter writing and you should be in good shape! For additional information regarding academic emails on various topics, including asking for a letter of recommendation and missing class, take a look at this Writing Studio handout.


Strategies for Getting Started on a Writing Project

Do you struggle with starting a writing project?  Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.  Whether you’re writing in response to a prompt, or writing creatively, it can be difficult to begin.  Thankfully, there are also many strategies to help writers cope with this part of the writing process.  From talking aloud about your ideas, to freewriting, to mapping, to outlining, there are many ways to get started.  If you can relate to this dilemma, you can find solace in some of the Writing Studio’s resources we have about prewriting.   The Writing Studio website  also has other handouts that can help you target why you might be struggling with getting started on a project.  And if procrastination  is something you struggle with, the Writing Studio also has a handout to help with that problem!  Good luck!

Digital Writing

It is inevitable today that much of one’s writing is performed using a digital tool, such as the one in which this entry is posted. This digital tool probably changes the way you write, if you still remember the days when you used to hand-write everything. Spelling and grammar checkers are becoming so ubiquitous that we have become more dependent on them as the first line of defense against obvious errors/typos (or as a way of revisiting a sentence that your text-editor deems as problematic). We do many forms of writing that we probably never thought of associating with the digital world, such as texting or posting messages (with a video or photograph attached) on our multimodal cellphones or social network platforms.  There is also an increasing amount of publications informing teachers at all levels (from grade school to universities) on the necessity of developing new pedagogies of writing to teach the current generation of students how to navigate the ‘writerly’ world of online blogs, wikis and other online publishing tools.

As we at the Writing Studio are developing resources that will enable the writers who seek us out to find different ways of dealing with the requirements of their writing, we have been looking extensively at work done by others in this field, as well as looking at how professors are dealing with the question of producing evocative writing using digital tools. We would like to share with you some of the most massive resources ever compiled on the internet, one of which is a wiki site developed in conjunction with a book that was published on the subject. It is, after all, becoming increasingly common for many newly published books to have an online presence, as many of those of you in college would know through keys provided through the purchases of textbooks to access their online counterparts. However, many authors working in the areas of media, writing and digital artifacts are going a step further by incorporating other elements including video-books.

If you ever thought about the possibility of building an e-portfolio that may be useful in your future career or in exploring the many medium that can extend and expand your writerly capabilities, please check out this site. Many digital writing sites spend much of their energies focusing on helping teachers transition. This is one of the rare sites that focuses instead on the writer, the person who will be producing the work.

The main page of the wiki is here . However, you may specifically want to visit this section that is dedicated to the actual of the different forms of digital writing here and and how to create your own podcasts and even use cellphones for class here.

Writing stunning sentences

I took the title for this post from a book authored by Bruce Ross-Larson from “The Effective Writing Series.” As a writing tutor and also a writer myself, I am always looking for resources not only to help the people that come to see me for help but also to help myself to write better sentences (a perennial struggle for many). Hence, it was serendipitious for me to come by this book sitting at the Writing Studio library. Rather than review this book, I distill some of the tips provided  in chapter one of this book by Ross-Larson that I hope you will find useful for your own writing process:

1. Look for patterns in good writing that you can emulate. As you write for the various purposes throughout your life, you may want to have with you a store of choiced sentences/patterns that can take you beyond the banal.

2. Think about length. While it is fine to have the occasional long sentences (some writers are good enough to get away with paragraph long sentences), you may want to have a more nuanced approach to sentence length; weaving between long, medium and short sentences. Read the sentences aloud. Do you find yourself stumblinh skipping over words or changing the sentences as you read? You know what to do next then.

3.  Think about the building block of the sentence – word, phrase clause. Even punctuation (or the lack of one) matters. Try separating the movables from the immovables. The subject, verb and object or complement usually appear in a fixed order though they could also be inverted to great effect. It’s the ornamental words that you can move around: prepositional phrases, conditions, that/which.

4. Think about balance and rhythm. How would you create soothing rhythm or compelling cadences? Balance coming from repeated parts in the form of parallel sentence structures, recasts, reversals or cascades are the most elusive.

In the rest of the book, Ross-Larson discusses all the different forms of sentences written in many different possible situations and permutations. It’s a little book and a quick read. Get hold of a copy and it may change the way you envision your sentences.

Choosing the Right Word

Even the most experienced writers can sometimes struggle with tricky words. Do you ever get confused whether you should use “affect” or “effect” in a sentence? Or is your decision to use “whom” instead of “who” just your method of switching things up a bit, because you’re not really sure when to use one instead of the other? “Lay” and “lie” are also words writers frequently use incorrectly. If these common word choice issues get you bogged down, we can direct you to help! Check out Grammar Girl’s “Quick and Dirty Tips,” at these three sites:

For affect v. effect, go to:

For who v. whom, go to:

For lay v. lie, go to:

We hope you find these links helpful! Let DukeWrites know if you have grammar and writing questions, and we’ll try to answer them!

Handout Highlight: Response/Reaction Papers

In this post, we’ll highlight a handout on how to write response/reaction papers. Many professors require students to turn in these types of short papers throughout the semester in order to gain a better understanding of the material, but how do you write one?

Response/Reaction papers can ask students to do a number of different things, depending on the specific assignment:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of texts individually
  • Discover how texts relate to each other
  • Discuss questions the texts raise for the student

There are many questions to consider before starting, including:

  • What is the main problem or argument presented and what evidence is used to support the author’s claims?
  • What are strengths, weaknesses, and counterarguments to the author’s assertions?
  • For multiple texts, how do they relate to each other? Do they agree or disagree?

Response/reaction papers vary based on instructor, so make sure you read the assignment carefully to understand what is being asked. Giving yourself enough time to think about the assignment will allow you to take the actions described in the full handout, including:

  • Explaining key terms and arguments presented
  • Weighing the arguments and inserting your own voice
  • Evaluating what side of an issue the texts support. Consider both sides and see if there are strengths, weaknesses, or gaps in the arguments.

Response/reaction papers give you the chance to take a critical look at the texts you read throughout the semester, so give yourself time to think about what you want to say to ensure you have as solid a response as possible!

For on writing in different genres and other handouts, visit the resource section of the Writing Studio website.

Duke’s New ESL Blog

Happy Thanksgiving!

Duke’s Writing Studio has created a new blog that covers all ESL (English as a Second Language) events on campus, strategies for ESL students, and more!

Here are some of the features and things you can do on this new blog:

• Post your thoughts about cultural similarities and differences
• Learn a new idiomatic phrase
• Read about ESL events sponsored by the Writing Studio
• Learn about support services offered by various programs at Duke

Check out Duke’s ESL Blog, sponsored by the Writing Studio, here.

Again, Happy Turkey Day!