by Alec


I received the feedback from my first college paper with the phrase “excessive comma usage” written at the end. The feedback raced through my head over and over again. How could a professor deduct so many points for such a small reason? That was just his opinion. Punctuation is subjective and decided by the author. I flipped back to the first page and began reading it out loud to myself. Surely, if I could prove to him that every comma was necessary, then he would consider raising my grade for the paper. I was quickly humbled as I stumbled over phrases, sentence after sentence. I realized just how distracting those commas were. There was a comma in almost every sentence, and I was clearly in the wrong.

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by Alex Ayers

In high school, I was often frustrated when writing conclusions. By the time I got to the end of the paper, I thought everything that needed to be said was in the paper—why bother to hit the reader over the head with the same ideas over and over again? So many of my classmates (and let’s be honest, I did this too) would copy and paste the introduction to the end of the paper, rework a few phrases, and consider this a new “conclusion.” Part of the reason was due to laziness. More often than not, I would copy and paste my introduction to use as a conclusion because I didn’t know what else to say, and I needed something to fill up space.

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by Patrick Anderson

Master of Ceremony (M.C).: Introductions are inevitably hard for the average mortal. By the time I finish shaking hands with someone I’ve just met, I can’t remember his/her name for the life of me.

Director: Stop …Stop! … that is not the kind of introduction we are supposed to talk about here…try again please.

M.C: Mmmm, o.k., o. k … (looking dumbfounded). Accidentally introducing a nail in your foot can bring fatal consequences to your health. Tetanus and other diseases—-

Director: Stop. Stop…you frigging idiot!  That is not an introduction we are concerned with here either.This is a Writing Center in Springfield remember? We are talking about a paper here…jeez! That kind of introduction!

M.C.: Oh o.k., I get it now… (using his loudest, deepest and most resonant voice) And now, we proudly present (drumroll……………….) the Springfield Journal Register!!

Director: I’ve had it, I quit! @#$$%^^&&%$$#@^%$#%$#% (director visibly going postal) 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Moral of the story: Introductions are usually hard, especially for inexperienced writers. But before you give up with your paper because you suffer from writers’ block, anxiety, or other conundrums (I call them excuses), let me give a sound piece of advice.

You CAN get your paper started. From now on, you won’t have any more reasons for procrastination! Why?
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Subject to Thesis

Or, How to Take Your Initial Idea and Turn It into an Argument

by Sarah Collins

I always found that coming up with my thesis statement for my papers was hardest when I hadn’t first done three things: 1) chosen a broad subject area, 2) focused that subject down to a more manageable topic, and 3) done background research on that more specific topic to more clearly understand how I wanted to approach it.

It can be a painful process if you aren’t breaking things down into steps that are manageable and that give you the time to explore things in a way that helps you identify the best route for your paper.

This handout below walks you through the process of moving from a subject to a topic to a thesis statement, and then outlines strategies for creating a strong, cohesive, memorable thesis that will guide you as you then write your paper.

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