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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

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Attention Walden University Capstone Writers: Introducing the New Form and Style Website

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The Walden Writing Center is pleased to announce the creation of a Doctoral Capstone Form and Style Website.  Because the capstone phase is a main focus of student work and the overall student process, we have tailored some of our material and interactions, as well as tips and links, specifically for students working on the proposal and beyond. The term capstone indicates a student’s major project, and includes both dissertations and doctoral studies.  Here is an introduction and quick guide to the resources students and faculty will find on our new site.
A screen shot of the front page of the new Form and Style Website for Walden University capstone writers
Introducing the new Form and Style Website for capstone writers

Templates. We have included templates for the various documents involved in the different Walden capstones (dissertations and doctoral studies).  For each degree program, we have included the appropriate (if required) premise, prospectus, and final study template.  Along with the individual templates, we have included videos where we explain how to use the template, such as using the table of contents, adding new headings, and formatting the margins and page numbers.

Kits. On this page, we present kits to help students begin writing at each phase of the capstone process.  The Preproposal Starter Kit is up and ready on the site.  In early 2017, we will complete and present additional Kits: a Proposal Kit, a Final Study Kit, and a Form and Style Kit.  Each of these kits will contain tips, resources, and links for students working on these different phases of the doctoral capstone study.  Watch this page for the additional kits in the few months of 2017.

Form and Style Checklist.  This page contains the Form and Style Checklist. This is a list of the main items and areas where Dissertation Editors focus their efforts in the Form and Style Review.  This checklist can be a resource for students at all stages of writing.  From a tool to use while beginning writing, to a resource for self-editing before submitting the final study, this checklist can help students prepare and polish their capstone documents.

Top 10 Reasons for Delays. We also cover some of the main reasons for a delay of the capstone at the Form and Style stage.  Sometimes, a study can be delayed at Form and Style or sent back for more work.  See this page for more information on some of the key aspects of the Form and Style Process and how to ensure that items which may potentially cause a delay are addressed before submitting the document.

Walden Capstone Writing Community (WCWC). In addition, we moved the WCWC from a private, password-protected site onto our new Form and Style Website.  Now, all students can find information about the resources provided in the community and the live events we host.  Check out this page for more information about how to join the community and receive our newsletter.

Faculty Toolbox. This page contains faculty-specific information about supporting students in their writing, and requires a faculty log-in.  Information for faculty regarding Chapter Edits and how to request this service for a student can also be found here.  Students interested in exploring the possibility of a faculty referral for this service should encourage their chair to visit this site and review the referral requirements.

Chat. Chat 1:1 with an editor.  Using this service, students can get a quick question answered by one of our trained dissertation editors in real time.  Check out the schedule on the website to find out when an editor is available to answer a question.

Other notable resources. Our new site also contains information regarding:

  • Submitting to the Form and Style Review (overview and process)
  • Document expectations for the Form and Style Review
  • FAQ’s on confidentiality in the capstone document
  • Tips for hiring a paid outside editor

We hope that students and faculty will familiarize themselves with our new page and use these resources for students at advanced capstone stages.  Please also continue to use the Writing Center Main Page for information on scholarly writing, punctuation, grammar and composition, APA Style, as well as course-related and premise/prospectus-related writing information. 

Please direct any questions regarding this page or the resources found here to editor@waldenu.edu.  In addition, please also use this e-mail for any capstone proposal or final study questions regarding writing, resources, or editing. The new Form and Style Page can be accessed from the link in the first paragraph or at this URL: http://academicguides.waldenu.edu/formandstyle/

Kelly Chermak is the manager of editing services in the Walden University Writing Center. She first joined the staff as a dissertation editor in 2012. She earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota in Sociology, and specializes in organization theory, workplace policy, and research methods. She is also a contributing faculty member in Walden's Human and Social Services PhD and Doctorate of Business Administration.  

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WriteCast Episode 34: Taking Care of Yourself With Mindful Writing

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The latest episode of the Walden University Writing Center's Podcast, WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, is live. This month's episode features Beth and Brittany chatting with two very special guests, Jes and Max, about how writers can take care of themselves. In this episode, listen in on their conversation about the importance of taking time out of each day to write and how to do so in a way that helps writers make the most of their writing session each day. 

Using a practice called Mindful Writing, Walden students who are so busy with careers, leadership roles, families, and other time constraints can spend a little time each day writing. Mindful Writing is designed to help make each writer's brief, daily writing session more focused, more pleasant, and more comfortable. With a more mindful writing practice, you will find that writing isn't something to dread, but rather, something to enjoy and appreciate. 

Click the player below to find out more!

For a list of all of our WriteCast episodes, visit the Writing Center website for Interactive and Multimedia writing resources. Here, you can also access download information and transcripts for each of our podcast episodes. Happy Listening, WriteCasters!

The WriteCast Podcast
 is produced by the staff of the Walden University Writing Center and delves into a different writing issue in each episode. In line with the mission of the Writing Center, WriteCast provides multi-modal, on demand writing instruction that enhances students' writing skill and ease. We hope you enjoy this episode and comment in the box below.

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How I Learned That Editors Need Editors Too

Back when I was a book editor for a self-help publisher, I came up with an idea for a book. I presented it to the review committee and to my delight, they approved it. Because we could not find qualified writers, I was told to go ahead and write it myself. Me? Write a book? Me? I was both thrilled and daunted by turns. I had never written anything so long nor over so long a period.

Title Image for this blog post. A pair of sunglasses resting atop a closed laptop.

But at least I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. The book would consist of 365 essays of 200 words each. According to the contract, I had to write two a day, 7 days a week. Monday through Friday, I would go to the office, work 8 hours, and then come home to eat, walk the dogs, and write two short essays. When I turned out the lights, I was exhausted. Some days I liked what I’d written, some days I just couldn’t get the words right. I was grateful for the contract: In bold letters it said I was the one for the project and, by implication, that I had no choice but to find the energy and the fortitude to complete it.

After 7 or 8 months of steady 2-hour stints, I finished the first draft. What satisfaction, what relief! What a dreaded next step: a formal edit. Instead of being the editor and delivering an edit, I was now the author and receiving one. Though my editor was a friend with whom I’d work for years, I didn’t trust her. I didn’t trust that she’d understand what I was trying to say or how I was trying to say it. In other words, I had little confidence in my work.

When I got her review, I was afraid to look at it. It felt like opening an overdraft notice from my bank. To my surprise and relief, she did understand my ideas and my approach. While she offered comments and suggestions, all were informed, respectful, and useful. And yet, as I revised page after page, I felt irritated and defensive. I was tired, to be sure, but I took the review personally and my ego was suffering. A few months later, the printed book was in my hand and my ego was soaring. I forgot all about the stress and had a little publication party with family, friends, and colleagues who’d worked on the book.

For many of us, writing is difficult. It means creating something out of nothing and we don’t really know what we know until we’ve tried to put it down on paper. When we're sure what we’ve written is what we wanted to say, we revise to make sure it flows. But being so close to our work, it’s often hard to easy to see just what needs help. But if the act of writing can lead us to say what we want to say, then an editor can help ensure that it gets said and said well. (Editors need editors too.) Despite the extraordinary effort on the writer’s part, writing for publication turns out to be a team effort: All stakeholders want the work to be as good as it can be.

Tim McIndoo is a Senior Dissertation Editor in the Walden Writing Center. He came to Walden University in 2007 with over 30 years of editorial experience, including work as translator and photographer. He lives in Minneapolis with four cats.

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Thursday Thoughts: How Do You Punctuate?

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Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you have a strong love of written language. Yes, you probably enjoy occasionally listening to the great speeches from history, and you're probably an above-average conversationalist. But you even more so you love to revel in the features of writing that don't exist any other type of communication. For example, consider the complicated nature of punctuation marks. 

The title image of this blog: A laptop with the words Thursday Thoughts Overlaid

There are 14 commonly used punctuation marks written English language, and even more that are less-commonly used. These marks are useful for conveying additional meaning to readers without using additional words, but each one carries with it a series of rules, considerations, caveats, and conditions. Scholarly writers quickly realize that to convey their meaning as clearly and concisely as possible, a functional understanding of those 14 little marks is not an optional skill to develop. 

To help you along on your way in this journey, we've developed an extensive library of punctuation resources that you can access now. Navigate to our punctuation overview page to begin learning. Some highlights of these materials that you will encounter:

Like most writing skills, learning to use punctuation properly must be learned and practiced. We hope these resources will help you do just that. And once you've practiced, you can honestly answer the next time someone asks you at a cocktail party, "How do you punctuate?"

The Walden University Writing Center
 supports writers at all stages of their degree programs. Center staff work hard to create resources that writers will find helpful at any phase of their writing process and for writing matters large and small. 

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How I Learned to Write for My Audience, Not Myself

My first opportunity to write an academic paper came early in my freshman year of college, in a class called “International & Avant-Garde Films of the 1920s.” As a longtime film buff, I already knew a lot about the topic and was eager to demonstrate. Looking back, I was a bit of a hotshot and definitely obnoxiously confident that I knew what I was talking about. So I was taken aback when my professor met me later and told me that my writing, while good, was a bit “glib.”

This instance was one of many wake-up calls throughout my life when my writing was changed due to some forceful, sometimes insulting but truthful wake-up calls. This was truly a time in my life when I learned to stop writing for myself, and start writing for my audience.

How I learned to write for my audience, not myself: Cool sunglasses atop a closed laptop.

Being a hotshot, of course I resisted this criticism at first. Clearly, my professor was just unworthy of understanding my genius, right? Well, no—it turns out she was completely right. My writing was clever, full of smart allusions and phrases that certainly gave the impression I was well-read on the topic, but often ended up being irrelevant to my main argument or claim. My word choice was, in Shakespeare’s famous words, lots of sound and fury signifying nothing.

More recently, writing a book about rap music for children has helped me hone my style even further. It was at first very difficult for me to write for a sixth to eighth grade reading level, which requires a certain simplicity of word choice and a word cap on sentence length. At first it became very difficult to explain certain terms and ideas in simple language, but my struggle made me better again at boiling down my writing to its barest, most necessary essentials.

A strange thing has happened to me over time: Even with all the restrictions and rules of academic writing, my creativity did not feel stifled. In fact, it felt liberated. Over time, I slowly learned the rules of literary analysis and close textual reading. Instead of using jargon-heavy “academese,” I used direct and simple language that clearly followed from sentence to sentence. I felt my thinking and writing was becoming clearer. By the time I was in grad school, I was putting all these lessons into practice and consequently, producing a lot more interesting work.

The result of this continual renewal process is that my writing is much, much better than it was even a few years ago, and it comes down to word choice. This is what makes certain writers like Ernest Hemingway worth teaching, in my opinion. Many a high school composition teacher has used Hemingway as the model of a good writer, but the more important element is that he is a profoundly simple writer—he almost completely eschewed adverbs or extraneous adjectives. He may not be a model for every type of writer, but he was a great model for my type of writer—someone who can write a lot and was easily self-impressed by lengthy sentences and big words. 

A common Hemingway sentence is something like, “He sat and drank his beer.” Another writer might compose something like “He reposed at an acute angle in his favorite chair from childhood and drank a beer from a cold glass with a straw.” At one time, I would have written something like the latter sentence. Now, I see the former sentence as better.

Good word choice to me is always about simpler word choice, and it is a lesson I believe I will continue to keep learning.

Nathan Sacks is a writing instructor in the the Walden University Writing Center. He also enjoys writing books, playing guitar, and playing with cats..

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