August 2012 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Welcome to the Academic Writing Community!


Rachel Grammer
By Rachel Grammer, Writing Consultant

Recently, as I sat staring at the blank computer screen, I felt myself shrinking from the keyboard. I knew what I wanted to write in this email to the director of my department, but I also knew that it had to be different than the one-sentence emails with emoticons that I shot off to my colleagues frequently. I struggled to find the words that meant precisely what I wanted to say, and I started to feel that familiar self-talk creep in: I must be incompetent or incapable. I’ll never learn how to navigate this world of corporate language.

It is times like these when I have to remind myself of the truth: It’s not a deficit in me. It’s a new discourse! And I’m not alone.


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You're Engaged?!


Photograph of Sarah Prince
By Sarah Prince, Writing Consultant

Recently, my two nieces came to our house for a slumber party. After our very late night and the ridiculously early morning that followed (only 7-year-olds think it is fun to rise before the sun), I was thoroughly exhausted. For close to 48 hours, I had been assaulted with all sorts of hard questions. Why do I only walk the dogs on some days? How come I don’t know how to make pancakes? What is my favorite Disney movie? Who do I think is cuter, Justin Bieber or Joe Jonas?

Watching the girls ride off in my sister’s minivan early Sunday morning, I remember thinking two things: (1) Any day of the week, Joe Jonas is cuter than Justin Bieber, and (2) I wish there was some way I could channel those kids’ enthusiastic curiosity. That curiosity seems to be a special gift only children possess. They want to know why things are the way they are, how things came to be, and what their own place is within the existing order. They ask questions, they categorize, they seek out patterns and connections. In this way, children are always actively engaged with the surrounding world.


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Writer's Workshop #2: Exercises From a Live Tutoring Session

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Amber Cook
By Amber Cook, Senior Writing Specialist and Faculty Liaison

Many of Walden’s writing tutors—myself included—used to work in brick-and-mortar writing centers. We sat next to students at actual desks, looking at documents on printed sheets of paper. The online tutoring we do here at Walden allows us many options that were unavailable to us in that setting: We can instantly pull up useful links, review larger areas of text, and provide students with advice in print that they can study on their own schedule. There are some helpful exercises used in live sessions, however, that online students can replicate on their own. Take a look!

Read your work aloud. This is often the first step in live tutoring sessions. Reading your work aloud can help you identify issues like redundancy, grammar errors, or rough transitions. Most people write more slowly than they speak, so they might not notice those issues during the writing process. Your ear will catch many problems that your eye (or your grammar checker) missed. When reading aloud in consultations at Walden residencies, most writers stop themselves after the first few sentences to say “Wait! That part sounded weird” or “Oh! I see the problem!” Find a quiet room and give it a try!

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Using Find and Replace: A Quick MS Word Tip

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Tim McIndoo
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor

Let's say a writing tutor reviewed your work. One of the tips she mentioned was to italicize the titles of books within your paper. You--the ever-diligent student--want to make sure you catch every instance of those book titles and change them from regular type to italics. Here are the steps to use the Find and Replace function in MS Word.

1. Press Control H. The Find and Replace dialog box will appear with the Replace tab overlined in red.
2. In the Find What box, insert the word or phrase you want to italicize.
3. Leave the Replace With box blank, but be sure the cursor is blinking inside it.
4. Click on Format at the bottom of the dialog box and select Font.
5. Among the three tabs, Font should be overlined in red and there should be a blinking cursor in the Font box.
6. Click on Tab to move from the Font column to the next column, Font Style. Select Italic. At the bottom right of the box, click OK.
7. Now make sure that the Replace With box is still blank, but that below the box, the phrase “Font: Italic” appears.
8. Click on Find Next. When the next instance of the word or phrase appears, it will be highlighted. If it is an instance you want to change, click the Replace button. If you want to skip over it, click on Find Next.
9. Once you’ve changed all the instances you want, close the dialog box at the X in the upper right corner.

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Incorporating Grammarly Into Your Writing Process


Matt Smith author image
By Matt Smith, Writing Consultant

You might already be familiar with Grammarly, but if you aren’t: Grammarly is a grammar-checking program that is available to you for free as a Walden student. In the Writing Center, we recommend Grammarly in a number of situations; if a student’s paper contains a great deal of sentence-level interference (i.e., the student’s meaning is obscured by grammar issues), for example, or if a student wants help immediately and we have no openings in our schedule, we’re likely to point him or her toward this software. We also recommend that students use Grammarly as an early step in their revision processes, because it can help them improve their paper in the short term and, more importantly, strengthen their writing skills in the long term.

To get started with Grammarly, click the big green Grammarly button on our home page. Instructions for logging into Grammarly should appear in your browser, and, once you’re in, you should see a screen like this.


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The 20-Minute Lit Review

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Jeff Zuckerman
By Jeff Zuckerman, Dissertation Specialist and CSS Faculty Member        

At a dissertation intensive earlier this summer, a student—let’s call him Daniel—asked me to give his literature review a quick look for APA style and anything else that caught my eye.

“I’ll be glad to go through it,” I said eagerly. I really was happy to read Daniel’s revision. He had already impressed me with his clear writing in an earlier draft. Now, after several days of fine-tuning and hard work, he was ready to show me what he hoped was the final draft.

After skimming the entire literature review in about 20 minutes, I suggested a few places where Daniel could have organized things a little differently, and I explained a few APA style and punctuation corrections I had made.

“So that’s it?” Daniel said, a little sadly.

“It read well!” I said. “Those really were the only problems I saw!”

“In other words,” he said, “I put 3 months into the literature review, and you just read it in about 20 minutes.”

So much hard work, and here I was with a cheap-sounding compliment and a dozen or so corrections. As Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?”

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