Friday, August 28, 2009

Warning Label Generator Can Be Very Effective in Reaching Students

When I was a freshman in college, my composition teacher, Mary Daly, insisted that we never use the word very in our writing because
it was a dead adjective that didn't describe anything. I still find myself using the word in my writing, but because of Mary, whenever I do, I am prompted to think of a more descriptive adjective.

I used the Warning Label Generator, which I found the link to on the excellent social media site Mashable, to create this warning label for my students. What better way to caution them against using the adjective very then to attach it to a skull and crossbones. I'm creating additional graphics to post on various Blackboard pages. That should get their attention.

There are several easy steps to create a graphic like this.

Step 1: Choose a warning label such as Warning, Caution, Danger, Think, Be Careful, Safety First, Safety Notice, or just plain Notice.

Step 2: Choose one of over 40 symbols. There are some really fun ones. I can't wait to use Godzilla grabbing an airplane.

Step 3: Type in your warning.

Step 4: Click "Generate Warning Label."

Step 5: Right click on the graphic and hit "Save As" to save it onto your hard drive.

The next warning label I'm going to post will address one of my biggest pet peeves at a writing instructor:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top 5 Grammar Girl Podcasts that Every Freshman in College Should Listen To

I love Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for better writing. Her podcasts are awesome: so helpful and informative. As school starts this fall, I decided that a blog post with five great links podcasts and transcripts that cover some of the most common errors I see in student work would be in order.

  1. Comma Splice. If you ask a group of student what a fragment or a run-on sentence is, there's a good chance they can describe one to you, but ask 'em about a comma splice, and there's a universal blank that sweeps across their faces. So what's a comma splice? It's basically a run-on sentence with a comma seperating the two main clauses that run together. I guess they're hard to identify because there are so many reasons to use a comma, so there's not an obvious test to check for them during the editing process.

  2. Which versus That. Another area of contentions in student writing is the use of that verses which. I have found that most students use that correctly when they use it, but that it is not uncommon to mistake which for what should be that. Grammar Girl does a wonderful job explaining the difference by defining the restrictive that modifier, which is needed for the sentence to make sense, and the nonrestrictive which modifier, which can be left out and have the sentence still make sense. Another issue in the that/which debacle is punctuation. Just remember punctuation isn't necessary with restrictive modifiers (that), but is necessary with nonrestrictive modifiers (which), which can be left out of the sentence.

  3. Active Voice versus Passive Voice. Okay, so this isn't a common-error issue; however, I would be remiss if I ignored students' tendency to be overly wordy by using passive voice in their writing. To create clear and direct sentences, instructors typically prefer active voice in academic writing.

  4. How to Use Parallel Construction Correctly. Understanding parallel structure comes in handy in writing. It helps clarify your statements and has a pleasing rhetorical effect on the reader.

  5. Top Ten Grammar Myths. This podcasts debunks common myths about the use of language. Do you think that a run-on sentence is a really long sentence? Have you ever been told not to start a sentence with the word however? Do you use the word irregardless? These and many other questions will be answered in this podcast.