College Writing Tips: Use the Lingo

My teaching career began in the fall of 1997 when a faculty member experienced a heartache about a week before the semester began. During the intervening years between then and today, my peers, colleagues, and even those in business & industry, have noticed a tremendous decline in people’s ability to write.

Recently, I spent many hours grading writing assignments. These writing assignments ran the gamut from “short answers” to “essay” to 3 page response-type papers. My response papers are based on listening to two podcasts. One podcast is an economics podcast discussing the geographic traits of snack food. The other podcast is a mesmerizing account of a couple of Americans traveling throughout a South Asian country.

The more I read, the more patterns in writing emerged. Not just patterns in though; writing involves considerable thinking. I tend to reason writing reveals thinking, how a person thinks, how a person organizes thoughts and information. Writing reveals a considerable amount of information about a person, and I can understand how writing makes people nervous. I’m nervous merely writing this post, but I’m dealing with it.

Writing for higher education doesn’t have to involve the level of stress people attach to writing assignments. Understanding some simple concepts, requirements, goals, and using the education which was provided from ages 6-18 (maybe 16 in Kentucky) can alleviate anxiety surrounding writing.

I am going to walk through some of the common errors I find in writing. Not only will I identify errors but I’ll explain how to adjust thinking processes to help direct attention to formulating better academic responses to writing assignments.

Writing Tip Two: “Use the Lingo”

Students frequently lament, “why do I have to take this course? This course is pointless.” No, you make it pointless with your lack of imagination and lack of attention. Engage your brain and pay attention. Look, sometimes education is not about the direct knowledge gained from major or minor courses. Education is also about how one approaches learning new topics, whether those topics are interesting or not. Employers, supervisors, managers, vice-presidents will notice whether or not information is being applied, if terminology is being used, if someone is a “team-player,” or whether their mind is someplace else.

Employers will expect reports, proposals, any document for that matter, to contain clear language and appropriate use of terminology. Not using terminology translates into lack of attention to detail. Lack of attention to detail translates into lack of caring and responsibility. Eventually, one will be passed over for promotions, merit pay, or other special perks. Paying attention to details and using terminology while in school creates good habits for one can use later in employment. Accept the fact some courses and details are not enjoyable and move on.

“Meteorologists have several means of obtaining information about the upper atmosphere. The upper atmosphere is the portion of the Earth’s atmosphere which includes in the troposphere, from the surface to about 18,000ft. Many commercial aircraft have on-board equipment which transmits data to ground stations. Radiosondes and rawinsondes (weather balloons) collect weather data near major airports. NOAA and other countries place weather satellites in orbit which collect images of the Earth which track storms, measure water vapor, and measure atmospheric temperatures.

Notice in the above “good answer,” terminology is used. Troposphere is defined, for example. NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is mentioned, both types of weather balloons are also noted. If the answer had mentioned GOES weather satellites, the response would have been nearly brilliant for a short answer. A short answer, not an essay.

The use of terminology found within a unit of study or a chapter indicates attentiveness to detail and effort. In fact, students need to be reminded they are paying to be trained, evaluated, coach, and challenged. Students need to be reminded to use the education they have been exposed to over the course of their entire lives.

The last thing a student is paying for is a grade.

Next: “Answer Both X & Y”

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