Friday, September 27, 2013

Orwell's 6 rules for writing - which ones do you break?

Many students are now writing their final assignment for the year. Some students are studying for their upcoming exams and some students are crazy enough to be enrolling in Summer units!

Here are some writing tips from George Orwell's 1946 article on Politics and the English Language.

The key points from this article:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. (click here for explanation)
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (in other words, use common sense when applying these rules)
I'm guilty of breaking all of them and I have found that to not break them, I need to continually practise what I call the Art of Writing.

What 'rules' do you break when writing an assignment?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What was the title of your last assignment?

After finally deciding on a title for an article I'm writing (see blog post here), I realised that I've marked University assignments without a title or even a cover page. Even this blog post has a title!

Writing an assignment and ensuring that all criteria is covered is brain draining enough so any old title will do, right? For a University assignment - add a title. It doesn't have to be exciting but it does have to relate to the topic of the assignment.

For instance, if you are taking the unit EDSP400 Inclusive and Special Education at the University of New England, assignment one is based on a case study. The assignment title could be:

Classroom Case Study

Pretty boring, right? But acceptable. Let's try:

Largetown Public School: A Case Study

Hmmm, not bad. How about:

Inclusive Strategies: A Grade Four Case Study

You probably get the picture!

Being creative with an assignment title won't get you any extra marks but it is something to think about next time you write an assignment.

What was the title of your last assignment?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I don't understand the assignment!

The lecturer says one thing. The tutor says another. The course outline doesn't align with the rubric. My peers are saying things differently to what I've done. Aargh, my assignment is all wrong. I'm so confused.

Take a deep breath!

Here are some ways to clear your mind, make sure you're on the right track and complete that assignment.

1. Ask your tutor questions- they're most likely the marker.
Have a list of questions to ask at the tutorial. Or you might like to email the tutor directly or post in the subject's forum if there is one online. 

2. Firstly- have you been to all the tutorials? This is a great time to ask questions and take on board what the tutor is saying. No doubt he/she is giving out tips along the way. Yep, use those listening skills.

3. Check the online discussion board (if your course has one). It's a great place to communicate and share ideas. Have your questions already been asked on the forum?

4. Read the course outline. What does it say the purpose of the assignment is? Circle key words.

5. Check the marking rubric. Read each criterion and what is expected at each level of competency.

6. Write the assignment outline. Check the word length and percentage weighting (marks). 
Introduction- brief overview- what are you going to talk about? 
Body- number of key ideas= number of paragraphs.
Conclusion- link all aspects of the task. Reiterate your point!

7. Write. You may not feel like writing but just write. You have your outline so just write one section at a time and come back to the other parts later. Ask your tutor if they would mind checking if you're on the right track (even if it's just the outline with a few dot points) -some tutors are happy to do this. 

How do you overcome confusion about an assignment?