Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!



Overcoming Writer's Block

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get started with your writing. Maybe you don’t know what you want to argue, or you just aren’t interested in what you’re writing about. As pretty much every student knows, getting over this "block" and into a groove can be tough.

The truth about getting started is that you don’t have to write what will be your final draft—you just have to begin. Once you begin writing, it’s much easier to keep going. Here are a few ways to do this:


Stream of Consciousness Writing

Begin by writing about whatever comes to mind (e.g. your dog, a favorite television show, a recent vacation, etc.). You don’t need to write formally—just freely. As you write, you should try to gradually re-orient your writing towards your assignment. You may write what will later become your introduction, or an actual body paragraph of your essay. Regardless, this method can help you write your first words that actually relate to the topic. From there, you may be able to insert some of your writing into the appropriate sections of the assignment at hand. From there, you can use those parts to craft the rest of your essay.

Idea Map

Instead of simply writing, begin with an idea map. Write your main topic in the center of a blank piece of paper. Think of a related detail about that topic, write it near the main idea, then connect them with an arrow. Expand on this particular aspect by writing more things about it and connecting them, gradually branching out from your main idea.

For example, if the topic of my paper were a literary analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird, I would write the title of the book at the center of my paper. On one side of this, I could then write “Family relationships”, and from there, branch off to talk about individual family members and how they contribute to the family dynamic. The branches don’t need to include full sentences—just words or phrases that summarize your ideas about them. So, from the center of my map to the outside, you might read:

Mockingbird » Family relationships  » Atticus » single parent » working » morality/honor » reputations » injustice » racism. 

Continue to create branches until you feel you have addressed all of the topics required for the assignment. Then, review your map: which of these connections make sense in the context of your argument? Which do you have enough sources to support? Which branches will work well together? Use these to write your thesis, and outline your essay.


Dictation

Instead of writing, you can begin by speaking.  Using a recording device, act like you were giving a speech or lecture. You’ll want to begin by grabbing the audience’s attention, and then move into your topic. Speak freely and talk about what comes to your mind. Give yourself a time limit to just talk about what you’ve learned; don’t use your notes, and don’t worry if it seems disorganized. If you feel like you have hit your groove, keep talking—you may end up dictating an important part of your paper. If you run out of things to say, stop and take a break. Then, come back and listen to what you have said.  Take note—what part of your topic do you continue to revisit or reference? What do you explain well?  What is the order of your explanations? You can use this to help draft your thesis and outline your paper.

Write the Conclusion First

Sometimes it’s easier to start with your conclusion and work your way back through the rest of the paper.  Pretend that you have already finished your assignment, and are now starting your conclusion.  Without worrying too much about the details, give yourself five minutes to summarize your paper and leave your reader with the most important information about your topic.

The points that you conclude with are most likely the aspects of your assignment you find most important or interesting. You should use this information to build your thesis statement and structure the body paragraphs of your assignment.