September 2012 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

AutoCorrect: The New Shorthand

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Tim McIndoo
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor

If you want to speed up your work and improve the accuracy of your typing, you might try using Word’s AutoCorrect feature. It can store and paste up to 255 characters.

Using AutoCorrect in Word 2007

To access this function,
1. Click on the Office button in the upper left corner of the screen. A screen pops up.
2. Click on Word Options at the bottom right.
3. From the menu bar on the left, click on Proofing (third option from the top). Then look for the first heading on the page and click on the box labeled "AutoCorrect Options." The AutoCorrect dialog box then appears. Here is a screen shot of the AutoCorrect dialog box, ready for entry of a new item:

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Argue Is Not a Dirty Word: Taking a Stand in Your Thesis Statement

Kayla Skarbakka
By Kayla Skarbakka, Writing Consultant

Like many high schoolers across the country, I was assigned in my junior year to write a paper for the National Peace Essay Contest, a fantastic program that promotes education and conversation about peace and conflict resolution. My year, the contest’s theme was reconstruction. I chose my topic (the Croatian War of Independence), conducted my research (involving a bit too much Wikipedia—hey, I was 16!), drafted my essay, and submitted to my teacher, feeling pretty darn confident.

I got the essay back the next week with a middling grade and a big red X in my introduction, next to my thesis statement, which was something like “Reconstruction is a complicated process that can take years to complete.”

“But it’s true,” I complained after class.

“It also doesn’t say anything,” my teacher told me. “Where do you stand? What do you have to say?”


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On Choosing Your Words Carefully


Tim McIndoo
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor

In scholarly or research writing, evidence is presented to substantiate an argument. To make an argument cogent requires precision. Precision means choosing the right words and then properly assembling them into a sentence. Throughout your paper or study, you are offering your readers characterizations, descriptions, explanations, interpretations, and analyses. If they are inaccurate or imprecise, you will misrepresent and perhaps fail to make your case. Here are seven common word-choice issues, in alphabetical order.

ability / capability
Some words look similar and have the same root but have different meanings: ability refers to people and means a natural skill, talent, or expertise; capability suggests qualifications or credentials and points to a maximum. While John’s ability to read is below grade level, his capability of succeeding in school remains good.


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Writer’s Workshop #3: Cut It Out!

Hillary Wentworth
By Hillary Wentworth, Writing Consultant

I admit it. I’m one of those people who delays cleaning just to see the great pile of dust I can sweep up with my broom. I also compile long to-do lists just to strike things off. It’s that satisfying swipe of getting things done. Are you with me?

I approach my own writing with the same philosophy: write it all out in glorious, long sentences, and then rip it to shreds. Some of us write with such delicacy and heart that we become too close to the material. We write a paragraph and it becomes our baby, our friend; we cannot see it any other way. My suggestion, though, is to view the paper analytically, like a scientist. In fact, pretend it’s someone else’s writing entirely.

To achieve this sense of detachment you might need to write a paper and then forget about it for a day or two. Then, when you have your scientist cap on, sit down at your desk and read. If you have access to a printer, flip through the physical pages and grab a pen to cross out words. If you don’t own a printer, read on the computer with the Track Changes button engaged. When you delete a word, a strikethrough line will appear. See how many extra words you can remove.


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The Argument for Articles

By Rachel Grammer, Writing Consultant

Rachel Grammar explains articles of speech.As I wandered through tourist traps and tea shops of a foreign city a few years back, I stumbled across this sign. The grammar geek in me had to smile. Would you like to ride on camel? A nice experience, isn’t it? Even as I chuckled, I knew that the omission of the word a in the sign represented one of the greatest challenges of learning the English language: the use of what we writing nerds call articles.

Articles are actually not arbitrary.
Despite the seemingly arbitrary nature of articles, there are grammatical rules that govern their use. The category of articles generally consists of three words: a, an, and the. While these are small words, they can make a world of difference in writing. Articles do have a purpose and can provide clarity. Allow me to explain.

Articles give specificity and number.
Articles fall into two categories: Definite and indefinite.


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Too Weaselly for Academia

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Tim McIndoo
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor

In everyday conversation, it’s common to be polite. We may not say what we really think. So we pussyfoot: Well, if we don't leave ‘til noon, we probably won't arrive on time. We don't want to seem too positive because we don't want to alienate whomever we are talking to and, well, we could be wrong. So we equivocate: No, I suppose it won't be a problem if you leave later. Politeness is a useful strategy for sustaining conversations and relationships—but not for generating knowledge, which is the business of research. To generate knowledge, you must be straightforward. Thus, it’s important not to dodge, fudge, hedge, waffle, and tergiversate.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a weasel word is “an equivocating or ambiguous word which takes away the force or meaning of the concept being expressed.” But in research, why pull punches? According to The Free Dictionary, it’s “a word used to avoid making an outright assertion.” But how can research be executed without assertions about what is known and not known?

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How RSS Changed My Life . . . or at Least My Reading Habits

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Anne Torkelson
By Anne Torkelson, Writing Consultant

When I worked in public relations, my responsibilities included keeping an eye on the Internet for certain trending topics. I read numerous blogs and news sites every day to stay up to date. Like many Internet users, I had marked the websites that I read regularly as favorites (or “bookmarks,” depending on which browser I was using) so I could access them easily. The trouble was that to see if the websites had updated since I had last checked them, I needed to visit every single one. Doing so often led to wasted time, as many of the websites had not yet updated, meaning I had to spend even more time checking them again later.

Using an RSS feed reader can help you manage the blogs you follow.Then I found RSS.

RSS stands for really simple syndication or rich site summary, and it’s a way to easily access and manage web page content that changes frequently. Many websites, including the Walden Writing Center blog, offer RSS feeds. To find a site’s feed, use the shortcut CTRL+F to search for RSS, or look for the universal RSS symbol (on the right).

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