Reblog: Writing Without Really Trying

Male hands using iPhone writing a text message

This satirical article appeared on Nick Carbonne’s blog, Odds and Ends, on December 4, 2014.  Nick is the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Bedford/St. Martin’s imprint of Macmillan Education.  His previous academic affiliations include Colorado State University, Marlboro College, UMass-Amherst, Lyndon State College, and Boston College.

We normally think of writing as a very labor-intensive process.  During busy times, how can we look like effective writers, without actually being effective? In Nick Carbonne’s cheeky post, he discusses tips and tricks for writing to appear effective – and perhaps some tricks that students may try to play on faculty as well.  He notes, “On Tuesday I visited a community college in NYC for a meeting with faculty. On the way to the meeting room, we passed clusters of students waiting outside office doors, trails of students following faculty with beseeching eyes, and heard from later arriving faculty that they were delayed by students wanting last minute help, extra time, and all the fun stuff that comes as a semester winds down.”

So, for their sake and maybe yours too, here’s a list of tips and resources you can share w/ students to help alleviate their stress:

#worthassigning: How to Write Effectively without Really Trying

This is cross-genre advice. Feel free to use these tips when sending memos to your supervisor, e-mailing colleagues, working with an author who needs some help, drafting a personal ad, and other places and times when writing makes a difference but you are really too busy to give it much thought.

  1. E-Mail: End all e-mail with “Sent from my iPhone,” or “Sent from Blackberry.”  Research shows that readers of messages with those auto-added advertisements forgive grammar errors and typos more readily:  collision detection: Why people forgive your bad spelling in email “sent from my iPhone”
  2. Georgia, Georgia, the whole document through, just an old sweet font, keep Georgia on your mind, for better grades.  How typeface influences the way we read and think – The Week
  3. If page length matters . . . Triple Space! Graphics!:
  4. Extortion, lying, and sudden endings: tips for getting readers to read:

Are Cell Phones the Devil? Techniques for Using Mobile Devices in In-Class Writing

Cell Phones

Gavin Leach is an instructor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Communication and Journalism.  You can contact him at, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Every semester college professors seem to struggle with how to manage effectively students’ use of their cell phones. According to a recent study in The Journal of Behavioral Addictions, over 60% of students reported that they self-identify as being “addicted” to their cell phones, citing that they felt a “great deal of anxiety” when apart from their phones after a short period of time (Park, Kee, & Valenzuela, 2009). How are faculty supposed to teach when their students’ eyeballs are glued – perhaps even unknowingly – to that tiny little screen? Instead of a deep introspective look into why and where a professor might have failed, a better strategy can be to consider how an instructor can leverage the online capabilities of mobile devices to increase and enhance the academic value of their in-class writing assignments. Implementation of these three strategies may encourage academic engagement with their cell phones.

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Blast From the Past – Revisiting WAC Concepts Twelve Years Later


As the conversations about Writing Across the Curriculum continue to evolve and march forward, it is always helpful to look back and see how far the program has come, both nationally and close to home. Today, we are linking back to a Mason WAC Newsletter from Fall of 2002 that highlights the strengths and challenges of digital writing. Lesley Smith and James Young offer insights into the benefits of digital writing in e-portfolios, and Ruth Fischer shares the credentials she and her colleagues created for the necessary IT skills of first-year composition students. The methods for implementing digital writing in the classroom have certainly progressed in the last twelve years, but the core pedagogical concepts remain the same.

“In an electronic space,” Smith and Young write, “those who perhaps struggle with words but excel with images might combine the two, and access a richness of perception previously denied both to them as writers and to their faculty members as assessors.”

WAC Newsletter – Fall 2002 

An Attempt at “Teaching Naked”: Implementing José Bowen in ENGH 302


By Caitlin Holmes

Caitlin Holmes is the Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at George Mason University.  She blogs regularly about teaching here at  You can reach her via email at  

Dr. José Bowen, President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked, came to George Mason’s Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence on September 18-19. During his visit, he led a 4-hour long workshop and then delivered a keynote presentation. During his presentations, Dr. Bowen spoke passionately about the importance of integrating technology more effectively into and out of the classroom as a way to encourage student accountability for learning and – most importantly – to transform the classroom into a site of thinking, not just knowledge acquisition.

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Guest Post: Gaming Across the Curriculum


By Steve Holmes

Steve Holmes is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. His primary research areas include classical and contemporary rhetorical theory, continental philosophy, digital rhetoric, videogames, mobile and handheld media, and multimodal composition. His most recent publications appear in Rhetoric Review, Enculturation, and the Fibreculture Journal.

One aspect that writing teachers are increasingly facing is the need to address the role of medium in student composition. Our students communicate through different technologies (laptops, mobile phones, tablets) and social media (SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Yik Yak). In turn, a greater number of professional, industry, and academic communication situations are demanding ever greater familiarity with a variety of digital literacies. Since Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe published Gaming Lives in the 21st Century in 2007, a growing number of composition scholars have sought to make videogames an object of inquiry (Waggoner et al.; Colby-Shultz et al.). Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) scholarship has commendably begun to address these forms of digital writing, but lags behind in attention to videogames and gaming.

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Recent NPR Story: “Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software”


“The fact that anti-plagiarism software can’t tell the difference between accidental and intentional plagiarism is just one reason that Rebecca Moore Howard, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, is not a fan. Here’s another reason: ‘The use of a plagiarism-detecting service implicitly positions teachers and students in an adversarial position,’ Howard says.”

Read or listen to the whole piece here: