But what does it mean? An in-depth guide to some well-intentioned writing advice

Written by Writing Assistant Emma Haas

Writing advice generally comes with the best intentions: to make your writing better. But, if you don’t really understand the advice you’ve been given, then it’s pretty hard to move forward. As a Creative Writing major, I’ve gotten lots of tips and tricks to develop my writing style. However, I’ve noticed that while most professors often bring up suggestions, they don’t really take the time to delve into what those suggestions mean and what they do to help your writing. I’m going to take some of the best writing suggestions I’ve heard, and get a little more in depth with them.

“I” Rule: Some professors like to assign personal essays that use first-person “I” for the speaker. These essays, I’ve found, are generally easier to write because we’re familiar with the material already- they’re usually about our own life. These prompts can be fun, but they hold a potentially dire consequence- overusing first-person “I”. This can potentially ruin an otherwise interesting story, so it’s very important to read through your paper and take out as many “I’s” as you can. I like to do this by printing out a physical copy of my paper, then using a bright pen or highlighter, mark each and every time “I” is used. Chances are it’s much more than you think. Then, I go through line by line and see if I can re-word the sentence to decrease the use of “I”. So, the line “I realized I couldn’t change the way I thought about the class” could potentially change into “The way I thought about the class couldn’t be changed.” It’s much easier to read now that some of those “I’s” are gone.

Show, Don’t Tell: If you ask anyone for writing advice, chances are this is what you’ll hear. “Show, don’t tell” is a great tool to use, once you know how to use it. In its basic form, it’s asking you to check your writing for places where you tell your reader something when you could show it to them instead. For example, if in your work you say “Bob is happy when he sees his friend,” that’s telling the reader: Bob is happy. It reads as though you’re spoon feeding information to your reader–it shows them that you don’t trust them to process information on their own. Instead, try showing that Bob is happy by giving him an action or reaction to seeing his friend: “When Fred rounded the corner, Bob’s face lit up.” See the difference? Now imagine if you used that wherever you could in your writing. “Show, don’t tell” is a simple reminder, but it can further your writing skills indefinitely.

Use All Your Senses: This is geared more toward the creative writing people and those first-person “I” stories. This goes hand in hand with “Show, Don’t Tell”: use your senses to tell the reader about an image or scene. For example, you could tell the reader “I recognized my friend because of her straightened hair and the perfume she wore.” That’s alright, but it can be improved if we use that sensory image: “I saw a flash of shiny, straight hair and the faint scent of citrus and knew immediately it was Susan.” Not only is this more interesting to read, but it also gives Susan more characterization in a shorter amount of time. The reader can get a better image of Susan’s hair and can also imply what her personality is like based on the perfume she likes. Getting creative with this sensory characterization will heighten your imagery and really wow your readers.

Trust Your Reader: I mentioned this briefly in the “Show, Don’t Tell” section, but it’s worth explaining this a bit more. Trusting your reader means just that: trusting that your reader understands some of the concepts you’re writing about. Think about it: what makes a joke funny? It relies on information that you already have to connect the dots and find the humor. We all are familiar with how awkward it is when you have to explain the joke- it’s the same with writing. You don’t have to define every concept you use or talk about. Assume the reader is semi-familiar with your topic already. This doesn’t mean assume the reader knows everything– it just means pick and choose which topics you explain, and when you do explain them, do it briefly.

These are just a few of the best suggestions I’ve received, but they’ve improved my writing exponentially during my time at Hope. Once you’ve understood what the advice you’re receiving means, you can apply it to nearly every piece of writing you produce. If you’re given a tip to improve your writing and it doesn’t make sense: don’t be afraid to ask more about it until you really understand it. Besides, writing tips are meant to help you, and they can’t do that if they don’t make sense. But once you do understand, you will be unstoppable!

We Get It: Writing is Hard!

By Writing Assistant Lucy Katter

Love it or hate it, writing is really hard. No matter what type it is: fiction, nonfiction, formal, informal, writing well takes a lot of work.

Perhaps it sounds weird that a Writing Assistant would be saying this, but the fact that I have that position is exactly why I’m writing this. I want to say, when it comes to the art of writing, Writing Assistants are on the same page as you are.  I’d like to offer some encouragement to those who struggle with writing papers for class, and how Writing Assistants can help. Here are some common concerns of students who visit.

  1.     I feel so lost about how to write or edit my paper I don’t know where to begin.

        At the beginning of appointments at the Klooster Center, we ask what the student would like help with, and often he or she struggles to voice what they what help with. Sometimes, the answer is “everything” or “I don’t know”.

        Whether you need to brainstorm ideas for a paper or to decode cryptic instructions from your professor on what your paper is supposed to be about, we can help you. It is nice to someone to bounce these ideas off of. For me, talking about the topic of my paper has often helped me figure out how to best organize it.

  1.     My writing is personal, and I feel like it’ll be judged by the writing assistant.

It can be uncomfortable to share your personal thoughts or arguments with strangers. Even when you know we don’t bite, it feels vulnerable to expose your writing to people you don’t know. I understand that. For this reason, I was a little reluctant to go to the center myself before I became a Writing Assistant. The truth is, however, that you’ll find the assistants are warm and helpful, and you’ll get some candy for coming! Also, the Assistants respect that coming to the Center can be intimidating and are good at putting students at ease. We know that there are all sorts of reasons it can be hard to write for school: some people just don’t love writing, or don’t enjoy the class and struggle to write for it, or there’s another reason a student is finding this paper particularly difficult. We’re students too, so we get how difficult college life can be.

  1.     They’re going to make me rewrite the paper and I don’t have time.

Or something like that, like we’re going to have so many corrections that you won’t be able to make them in time. One response I have to this is that we get the due date for your paper on the little green slip you fill out for us before your appointment. This helps us tailor our comments for you. We know there is only so much you can alter in a given amount of time. We do our best to not overwhelm students with corrections, and we can always find positives in student’s papers, no matter how bad the student may think it is.

  The other response I have to that is: there’s a reason we are called Writing Assistants. We are here to help you out and point out, in our view, what you’re doing right, and what you could do better. We’re not going to write a paragraph for you, or tell you to make major changes right before the paper is due. We’re just your guides because we believe in you! We believe that you can and will improve your paper, and when it comes down to it, we’re here to help you believe in yourself as well.

I hope reading this encouraged any who might’ve been conflicted about going to the Klooster Writing Center. When in doubt, make an appointment, or if you can’t, we accept walk-ins as well. Remember, Writing Assistants understand the struggle of writing papers, and we’re on your side!

Need Advice with a Business Letter or Internship Application? We can Help!

Written by Writing Assistant Aireal Keefer

As college students, we’re all preparing for our inevitable leap into the real world. As we’ve all been told, it’ll be a rough awakening! Fortunately, the Writing Center can help to prepare you for the real world. Our assistants are well trained in the discipline of business writing and are able to give you tools and insights into what future employers are looking for.

Whether you need help with a resume, a cover letter, or an application, writing assistants are waiting and ready. Through our vast variety of majors and minors, we will do our best to match you with a writing assistant who can give you advice as to what an employer in a specific field may be looking to see in your pieces.

For a student searching for a future internship or job, the first step is to have a well-written embodiment of the experiences and events you have encountered that would make you an essential addition to their team. These pieces of writing are often the first thing future employers will see in regards to you. Employers will gain insight about work ethic, experience, and professionalism from the way these pieces are crafted, which is a big deal in the business world!

Having a well-written resume, cover letter, or application is the first key to success with any new experience. Along with this, these pieces aim to showcase your accomplishments and achievements in order to display the best version of you. They allow employers to recognize your skills and hire you based on how well they believe you would fit into their company.

As crazy as it may seem, one resume could be the beginning of the rest of your life and one cover letter could earn you the job you’ve always wanted. Both of these pieces must be clean, organized, and concise. These attributes will not only gain an employer’s respect but will also allow them to effortlessly review your work. Our goal at the Writing Center is to give you the tips and tricks needed to perfect these pieces of writing and prepare you for life after college.

Applying for jobs and internships can be extremely stressful, but at Writing Center we aim to reduce some of this stress and ensure that you are prepared for whatever your goals may be. Every student, at some point in their college career, must be prepared to face the trials and tribulations of the world head-on. Your fellow students at the Writing Center would love to be a part of this preparation, so stop by soon with questions regarding resumes, cover letters, and applications!

Writing For A Religion Class

  Written by Writing Assistant Jacob Starr

  Scenario: you’re sitting in your 100-200 level Religion course, the Professor announces at the end of class that you have a  four-five page research paper. You have no ideas, and you’re not someone who has attended private Christian school your whole life. You hardly even know who this Jesus guy is, let alone how to talk for five pages about the sacred sacrament of the Eucharist from the perspective of a Lutheran. What you have is a prompt that you don’t understand and a due date that is far too pressing. At this point, you also have two options; option 1: panic, option 2: keep reading this post and learn how to write any religion paper! I’ve broken my method down into four steps that are easy to remember through the power of alliteration: Read, Research, Write, and Re-examine. Without further ado, if you chose option 2, let’s dive in.

Reader’s note: I find the analogy of driving a car very helpful for writing a paper, so fair warning, I will be doing it often.

Read

   I have titled this step “read” because you are going to read…a lot. In just about every religion class you’ll ever take, excluding World Religions, the prompt that you receive will be related to a book called the Bible. If you are coming from a place of next to or no knowledge of the Biblical text, what you are going to want to do is ask your professor which passage(s) you should read if that has not been made apparent from being present in the classroom. Then the next part is simple, read the passage(s) the professor tells you to look at. Don’t panic if you don’t understand what the passage(s) means or how these Scholars have come up with their interpretations of it(them) because you’ve only done half of the reading you’re going to need to do in order to successfully write your paper. Writing a religion paper without doing any reading is like driving a car, except instead of an actual car, you jump inside a large cardboard box and start making “vroom, vroom” noises. Because just like writing your paper, nobody is going to consider what you’re doing is driving a car.

Research

   This next step is where the understanding comes, it also includes reading. No matter if you’re a Bible veteran or have never touched the book, you’re gonna wanna look at some biblical commentaries concerning the passage(s) you’re studying. There’s always something new to learn in the world of Biblical Studies! There are several places where you can find the sources you’ll need In order to successfully understand your passage(s) (and also make your bibliography look impressive), the Van Wylan library is an excellent place to start. Using the Hope College Library website, you can easily find a list of online articles and books. Physical commentaries can be found on the fourth floor of the library. Believe me, the trip is worth it. These authors will tell you everything you need to know about any passage of scripture your professor could hope to assign to you. Likewise, online articles and books can be just as helpful, sometimes even more so if your thesis is over a more specialized topic. Research and reading your passage are two of the most important steps in this entire process. Writing a Religion Paper without doing the proper research is like driving a car without any gas, you’re not gonna get very far!

Write

   The next step is pretty self-explanatory, you gotta actually sit down and write your paper. Before you begin to write a single word of your paper, it is extremely helpful to make an outline of what you intend to write. 4-5 page papers don’t just happen, you need to go in with a plan. Attempting to write any research paper without coming up with an outline to give it structure and a clear path is akin to getting behind the wheel of a car blindfolded. You’ll have absolutely no sense of direction, causing carnage and terror everywhere you go until the car breaks down. Once you have constructed a clear outline including an introduction, body with at least three points, and conclusion, you are ready to write. Having read your passage, done all the necessary research, and constructed a detailed helpful outline, the writing of the paper should be as simple as answering a short-answer question on an open note test. The only difficulty is finding the time to sit down and crank it out, which leads us to our final step!

Re-examine  

   After having finished the first draft of your paper, the next step is to have a friend look over your work. It is not always the best idea to check your own writing, especially if you’re coming off a three-hour writing session. This is an excellent time to make an appointment with the writing center! It is our job to give constructive feedback on papers in order to make your work as successful as possible. We can also help come up with outlines or even brainstorm possible theses for your paper. Our end goal is to help students like you become more successful in their writing for class and for future employment. I hope that this post has been educational and you now feel prepared to tackle your paper!

Never Come to a Party Empty Handed

Written by Writing Assistant Ashley Arnoult

Imagine going to a party fully expecting a widespread of treats to pick from, chips and dip, chocolate covered strawberries, mac ‘n cheese. Now picture yourself getting there and seeing nothing but a couple of chairs and some water bottles. Not much to work with, right? Well, we will provide the advice and the candy (we know the party rules!), but we need your contribution too! The worst is showing up to a party where everyone arrived with something except for you, don’t be that person.

After you make an appointment at the writing center (or in this analogy, get invited to the party) there are some things you should prepare before coming in. First, make sure you have a printed copy of your paper. This is very important. Without a printed copy the assistant won’t be able to leave you with hands-on notes to reference after you leave. We want to be able to highlight, underline, write comments, and if only a computer is available for us it makes that process more time-consuming and less effective.  

It’s also important to arrive with your prompt in hand. Keep in mind the assistant isn’t in your class and may not have taken it, if they don’t understand what question you’re supposed to be answering, they won’t understand how to help you. So, if you want to get the most out of your appointment, bring the prompt! Your professor most likely gave you a sheet of paper with the essay topic and some guidelines to follow, we want to see that to ensure we’re giving you correct information and not straying away from your professor’s wants.

One of the things your writing assistant will ask when you come in is “what are your concerns with this?” or “what do you want me to specifically help you with?” If you have certain areas of your paper you would like to see improved, coming up with these beforehand creates a vision for the direction of the appointment. Need help with organization? We’re your guys. Thesis statement? No problem. To give you an idea of what I mean I’ll give you some examples of our most popular demands, not including the two just mentioned: grammar, citations, clarity, does the paper answer the question, transitions, and research/sources.

While we are more than happy to give you our general suggestions, having more specific goals will make your paper the best that it can be and will have you leaving the center more satisfied. The party won’t be fun if you come empty-handed, so bring a printed copy of your paper, the prompt, and some questions for us.

Essay-Writing Beauty Tips: It’s the Sensible Approach to Creating a Beautiful Paper.

Written by Writing Assistant Darian Davis

Can a balanced life truly produce a beautiful paper? This advice almost sounds like it came directly from your mom. Honestly, I do not believe she is wrong. Discovering how to balance your daily routine does wonders for your academics and most notably essay writing.

What exactly does a balanced life look like?  Personally, it all starts with time management. I recommend making a list of all the things you need to do and want to do. (Don’t forget to include deadlines!!!) Based on the list created, then allocate specific days and time to complete the work. For example, after Chem class ends at 12:00 then I plan an hour to do homework followed by an hour at the gym. After time at the gym, I have 40 minutes to grab lunch and go to Psychology. Living with balance in life requires intentional planning with time in order to accomplish all of your goals. In addition, being balanced goes beyond just living as a student. It means making time to eat, exercise, volunteer, and relax in addition to doing school work.

Now the beauty of balance shines when applied to the writing process. Science demonstrates that a balanced lifestyle reduces stress and reduced stress is perfect for beginning the writing process. I recommend brainstorming right away when receiving a writing assignment. Although you might have a ton of time until the due date you could potentially discover that you need that extra time for researching or editing. During the brainstorming process, I believe creating an outline is as necessary as drinking water every day. An outline will help organize and connect your ideas for the paper as well as reveal points that need more support. Once an outline is created, I add writing time into my daily schedule. I have found that writing for an hour or two a day is far more approachable than trying to write an entire essay in one sitting. This way you can avoid burning out at the end with sloppy writing and repeated ideas in the second half of the essay.

Lastly, I recommend including editing days in your timeline. Give yourself time to read over your essay carefully and even bring it to the Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing! Writing Assistants would love to look at your essay and help you in any way that we can!

Hope College, I challenge you to find balance in your daily routine. Get out those planners and calendars and begin to manage your time. We all want to do our best and through a balanced life, we can present truly beautiful products.

After you visit The Writing Center … you (and your instructor) get a “Session Report.” What’s the value of the Session Report, and how are they created and sent?

By Writing Assistant Ash Borowski

Just because the appointment is over, that does not mean that the job is done. There is more that happens behind the blue partition than reading papers. That’s right, I’m talking about the “session report.”

 You may have noticed that we ask a lot of questions when you set up your appointment. Those questions aren’t because we are nosey. Instead, they help us with data analysis and doing an important part of our job: Session Reports.

When you come in for an appointment, you may have noticed the green sheet of paper that follows you back to the table. The front side has your answers to all of the questions we asked. The back side is usually used for notes that the Writing Assistant uses during the appointment. Don’t worry, the notes aren’t bad. They just help us remember what we worked on (we have a heavy loaded schedule just like you. We forget things sometimes).

After you leave your appointment, we fill out a google form. We input the information that you gave us into the google form and then we write up a quick 3-6 sentence summary about what happened during the appointment. After that, we hit send and the results from the form get turned into an email that gets sent to you and the professor. It’s especially handy for those professors that require you to come in. You have the appointment and the email gets automatically sent out!

If you don’t have a class the paper is for, don’t fret! No matter the type of paper you have, we always submit a session report. That way you can have the email reminding you of everything that we worked on during the appointment.

The nice thing for you is that we do all the work! You just get to come in, eat some candy, and focus on your paper. If you ask me, it sounds pretty sweet!

Make an appointment just to discuss the style for your assignment? Sure!

By Writing Assistant Isadora Baughman 

The start of a semester is full of new: new pencils, new schedules, and new classes. Maybe you’re a just-declared Psychology major with your first ever APA style lab report. Or you’re in a Spanish Literature course and realize you have to write an entire paper in Spanish! What are you going to do? Can the Writing Center help with specific writing style questions? Yes, we can!

The first step is to make an appointment. There are multiple ways to make an appointment but the easiest is to do so online. If you go to our Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing website page (https://hope.edu/offices/klooster-center/), you’ll see a box that says, ‘Make an Appointment.’ If you click on that, an appointment form will pop up asking you to fill in information like your name, what class the paper is for, and who your professor is. The most important part of the form, however, is the last part which says, ‘More Information.’ Here, we ask you to let us know about the nature of the paper and what you are looking for help with. This is also where you can say you want to work with a Writing Assistant on a specific citation style like APA or a language like Spanish. You can even request to work with a Writing Assistant who’s in the same major as you or someone you know that works there!

All the information you put down in the last part of the form is super helpful to the Writing Assistants scheduling appointments. That way, if they see a student needs help with a draft of a paper in French or Chicago style, they can try their best to pair them with a Writing Assistant who specializes in that area.

Does it always happen? No, if we’re being honest. I know I have gotten appointments for Biology lab reports and as a Psychology/English person I have to say, “I’m not a Bio major but we’re going to work together on this!” All of the Writing Assistants, no matter what their major, want to help the students who come in for appointments. If we don’t know something, say about MLA style, we have books or websites we’ll reference or even ask other Writing Assistants questions. We might ask you questions. We’ll probably ask you a bunch of questions. But even if the appointment ends and there is still something you can’t figure it out about the style of your paper, there are always websites, librarians, or professors to seek guidance from as well.

Writing is hard enough besides navigating rules that come with certain styles of writing. Even though writing in APA style or Spanish may be daunting for the first time, Writing Assistants at the Klooster Center want to help you learn those styles and gain new writing skills. I remember going to the Center for my first APA style paper because I wanted to make sure I did not miss anything. The Writing Assistant was helpful and caught things I forgot or missed in my paper. So, making an appointment about the style of your paper never hurts to have another pair of eyes look it over!

Super-Nervous About Coming to The Writing Center? A Guide on What to Expect From Us

Written by: Writing Assistant Amy Beasley

Usually referred to as simply “The Writing Center,” the mission of the David J. Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing is in the name: to help you become excellent writers. Students from all majors and years in school are welcome to take advantage of this on-campus resource. In fact, the staff here is made up of people from a wide range of majors and years in school. We are located in the Van Wylen Library, on the first floor, and are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday. The Klooster Center is not open on Saturday (to let our Writing Assistants get their beauty sleep, of course).

All students are invited to make an appointment at any stage in the writing process. Are you confused by the prompt your prof gave to you? Do you hate dealing with citations? Wherever you are, the Writing Assistants at the Klooster Center are excited to help you!

We’re pretty open-minded here at the KCEW, and we pride ourselves on providing a judgment-free zone. Think you’re not good at writing? No worries! We all have different strengths to bring to the table!  

Want some brownie points with your professor? Great! Profs love it when students visit the center because it shows you actually care about turning in good work. Plus, chances are the work you turn in after a visit at the center will probably be better than work that hasn’t been revised. Who doesn’t want to give a good impression on their profs and get better grades all in one step? A Writing Center appointment kills two birds with one stone!

If you’re still nervous about coming in to meet with us, here’s an outline of what you can expect when making an appointment:

First, go to https://hope.edu/offices/klooster-center/ and click the blue box that says “Meet with a Writing Assistant.” From there, you will be taken to a Google Form to let us know a little bit about you and your needs (i.e. your name, year in school, professor name, the class the assignment is for, assignment due date, etc). You will also have the opportunity to indicate the preferred day and time for your appointment. After you submit the form, you should receive a lightning-fast response from the center.  

When the time of your appointment arrives, just approach the person at the desk in front of the blue partition screen. Tell them your name, and they’ll let your Writing Assistant know you’re there. You’ll be introduced and be on your way!

That’s it!

Although it might be scary to have someone else read your writing, we do our best to make it as comfortable as possible. A Writing center appointment really is painless, and many students have actually enjoyed coming in. Just ask the 2,000-plus students who made an appointment with us last year. We’re looking forward to working with you soon!

Time is NOT relative: Learn to prioritize, schedule, and map out your writing projects

Written by: Writing Assistant Amy Beasley

Quality writing doesn’t happen overnight. Literally! Essays that are written in a sleep-deprived haze the night before they’re due typically aren’t the papers that receive great scores. Why? Writing is a process. It’s a process that takes time.

Personally, I try to at least start brainstorming for an essay about a week before it’s due. This way, if I get stuck, I know I’ll have plenty of time to either 1) come up with some other great idea or 2) get some help. A week before the due date is also when I try to schedule an appointment at The Writing Center. Wait … what? I’m a Writing Assistant at the center. Yes, I still use it … even though I’m pretty confident in my writing skills. I pay tuition, so I pay for the Writing Center services. So … I’d be crazy not to use it!

Another thing that I find incredibly helpful when an assignment is making me anxious is putting in some serious planning time. Depending on how big the assignment is (or how “Type A” you are!), the plan/strategy can be as generic or as detailed as you want. I usually try to use the chunking method when I plan for completing assignments. I take out my planner (which is just a notebook) and pick a few days out of the week to sit and spend an hour or two focused on completing one assignment. This way, I force myself to sit and concentrate for enough time that I can actually get something done.

Here are some ideas for how you can make a plan:

Checklists: Draw a small square on the first line of a sheet of notepaper and, after it, write a small goal for yourself. I like taking baby steps. For example, after one box, I’ll write “gather research articles on topic,” followed by, “make outline,” and, “draft intro paragraph,” etc. Basically, whatever makes the most logical sense to you to get the job done. Plus, there’s the positive reinforcement that comes from being able to check off each box when you’re done with that step!

Online Organizing Sheets: Doing a quick Google search for “organizing templates” will get you quite far, surprisingly. Organization has become a new art form with all of the fancy planners and organizers out there. Rather than paying $50 for a fancy planner, you can find some pretty nice free printouts online! I really like the ones by Day Designer because they have space for checklists, plus they outline your entire day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In a way, it forces you to plan out your day to be the most productive!

Google Calendar: I use the Google Calendar on my Hope email to create events to remind me of important due dates for assignments. I like it because it sends notifications to my phone, and I have no excuse to not work on urgent things! You can set reminders for a day, days, or even a week in advance to keep you on top of your school work.

Planning out school work not only makes sure you turn things in on time, it also helps take away some of the pressure! Starting your plan well before the assignment is due will give you the best results, in my experience. Don’t be discouraged if your plan doesn’t go, well, quite as planned, though! Life happens and sometimes plans change. That’s okay! By starting your assignment with plenty of time to spare, you can usually adjust your plan around the hiccups and be just fine. Just don’t wait until the night before. (;