College students avoid taking their writing courses for many of reasons, but the main reason I often hear is “I don’t like to write.” However, the biggest reason (which many students don’t like to admit) is that writing can be scary. Writing is hard. If it wasn’t, everyone would be published. How can it be less difficult in college? Easy. Take your general education writing courses early-on! The number one response I receive from students during and after they have completed my Composition course is “I wish I would have taken this sooner.” And here are two reasons why:
1. You may be hacking your sentences to death and, in turn your future.
One of the many grammar no no’s is the comma splice (connecting two or more sentences with just a comma). During the first weeks of class, students often comment that they place commas where they believe there should be a “pause.” I don’t know who keeps telling students this, but please stop because they come to college comma crazy! Pause, pause, pause, pause, pause. Guess what happens next? They lose their audience and/or the reader (me).
“I didn’t know I had issues with comma splices and needless to say, Liedke’s class has helped me double check and triple check my writing materials before submitting assignments,” said Jamie Stark, paralegal degree student.” Being in the paralegal program, our careers are based off of our research and our writing skills.”
Many times in Composition I will have students break grammar rules first before they begin to correct. ‘Write me five comma splices,’ I will ask, and then ‘Now, fix them each a different way.’ If they can understand how they are breaking them, they have a better chance at not making them in the future, and, at the same time, give variety to their writing. In turn, their future employers will be impressed: “Wow! You actually know how to use a comma.”
2. You could be stealing someone else’s work and that’s just wrong.
“Citing was the biggest [item I learned] as I must have used that in a lot of my classes,” said John Kennedy, information technology degree graduate.
What is citing, you ask? Well, it deals with APA, an abbreviation that students will hear time and time again in college. “Is that a club I can join?” one student asked me the first day of class. ‘Haha, no. APA stands for the American Psychological Association,’ and when the student then gives me a what the heck look, I try one more time: ‘It is a format to show you how to set up your research essays and properly note where you are using outside evidence that is not your own, so you avoid plagiarism.’
In Composition I break this format down into a step-by-step process and have students practice before they even start documenting their own sources. I make photo copies of three sources: a book, an online magazine article, and an academic journal article and highlight content that I want to use as evidence in an essay. Then as groups, they figure out how to complete the in-text citation as well as the References page. Much like the grammar exercise, they learn by doing.
Will other instructors give you practice time? No, they will throw you right into the game, just like an employer will, so you want to make sure you don’t steal the ball and play by the rules; otherwise, both may just kick you out.
Is this all a writing class has to offer? No way! I could go on and on, but I have essays to grade, so don’t wait to take your writing courses because writing will not get any easier without them.
This post was written by Jodie Liedke. Liedke, a true Wisconsinite, having labored four summers in a mozzarella factory, received her BA from Lakeland College and her Masters in Fine Arts from Wichita State University in Kansas. Liedke is the General Education and Service-Learning Coordinator, a Creative Quill and Writing Across the Curriculum lead, and the adviser/instructor for GLUWW (Globe La Crosse Writers Write). When not writing creatively, Liedke enjoys watching films, exploring the outdoors, and biking.