Dylan Dryer advises:”It’s useful to remember that writing is not natural because writers tend to judge their writing processes too harshly—comparing them to the ease with which they speak (29).

Remember, you acquired language as a baby. It happened over time, you were taught, but you were also constantly exposed to it. It’s like good (such a bad word!) writers are/were good readers. Children who were read to, and read themselves, were/are exposed to words and sentences over time. And that is, in a large part, referring to writers who are good at mechanics. the most technically perfect sentence can still be ineffective.

A writer’s two best friends are time and distance. Give yourself time to write, and time to get away from it, return, and revise.

Work Cited

Dryer, Dylan. “Writing Is Not Natural.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, edited by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth A. Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 27–29.


Dear Plato,

The benefits of reflective writing are no secret. Instructors ask students to reflect on the work they have done, to build new knowledge, to identify writing habits, and to move forward.
But, often, when tutoring or responding to a student’s work, the issue of being “stuck” comes up. A form of reflective writing can help untie those knots, too. I advise the writer to, you guessed it, write about it. Write a journal entry, or better yet, write a letter. Write to an imaginary friend, to yourself, to Aristotle or Pikachu, whomever, but write about it. Write, in your own words (let them be as heated as you want), what the problem is. It’s a form of free-writing; just keep writing until you move past the frustration and find yourself puzzling it out, having epiphanies, making discoveries, untying the knots, one by one.

“Dear Plato,
I have this assignment, and I have an outline, but am stuck when I get to ____ because _____. I don’t get _____, etc.”
Make sense?

Reading as Proofreading

One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to review your own work is to read it aloud. This helps with low stakes and high stakes concerns; everything from punctuation and grammar, to organization, tone, and coherence, because it makes you the reader.

Go somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed and read the work paragraph by paragraph, section by section, or sentence by sentence. (Haven’t you ever spoken a sentence out loud to see how it “feels?” Same thing.)

Don’t record yourself—no one likes the sound of their own voice. Don’t look in the mirror; you’ll be distracted.

An alternative is to ask a peer to read it aloud to you. This is another way to make yourself the audience. Take notes as you listen.

When you’ve written something, and looked at it over and over, and read it inside your head, your brain “fixes” everything. It feels right because it is so familiar. Reading aloud puts distance between you and the text, creating a space for objectivity.

Try it. Trust us, it works.

What do YOU Tell Your Students about Second Person?

How many times does a teacher, or tutor, give a note or make a comment about second person in student writing?

It’s natural to use second person, it’s the way we think and speak. So, why is incorrect in academic writing? Here are some brief answers for students:

It’s too casual/conversational, or not “formal” enough (formal not meaning stuffy, or overly wordy) for academic work, and can cost the writer ethos.

It puts the focus on the reader/audience. It can even put them on the defensive. The authority in academic writing lies with the rhetor, not the sources or the audience.

Southeast Missouri State University has a great resource with some spot-on examples YOU might want to leverage: http://www.semo.edu/pdf/Writing_handout_Avoiding_Second_Person.pdf



When to Write the Introduction

The first thing read, is the last thing written.

Every teacher loves to read a paper that begins with a strong, healthy introduction, one that has a hook, and narrows to a sound thesis, one that intrigues you, makes you want to read more because it gives you a roadmap of what to expect, one that discusses the gaps the paper will seek to fill. We teach our students these things, and we reiterate them in the Writing Center. One of the most important things we can tell them is when to write the introduction: How about last?

This is not to say that if they need to begin at the beginning, we are taught all things linear growing up, that they shouldn’t. I tell my students to go ahead, get it out, get the ball rolling, BUT don’t forget about it  just because you made it through and got to the “good stuff.” I remind them that the introduction is the first impression the paper makes, and sets the tone for the rest. I also remind them that it, including the thesis, can change as the paper evolves. I ask them to compare the conclusion and the introduction, to consider how pertinent, connected, focused what is being said in each is to the body. I tell them to wait until they are finished with the bulk of the paper, when they are “in the zone,” when they “own it,” and then revise the introduction.

I also find that often there is a “nugget” that is great in the conclusion, but it far greater if moved to the introduction, perhaps even as the hook (I did that with my opening line of this post.)

Here’s some terrific information on Introductions from UNC: