Welcome to the Active Voice Blog!

Active Voice BlogWelcome to the Active Voice Blog, the official blog of the Wake Forest University Writing Center. You can find all the information you need about the Center around our main site, but this space is reserved for students, faculty, and staff to share perspectives on writing practices and processes. We hope you’ll find something here that speaks to you!

Wake Up to Poetry

Over 120 poems were submitted to the third annual Wake Up to Poetry contest. One of those poets, and honorable mention winner, is our own tutor Bailey! Congratulations Bailey!

For your reading pleasure, here is Bailey poem, Following Orange, and a note from Bailey on her process of writing it.

“It’s experimental in terms of form, and I also used a procedure for writing it–psychogeography, which entails reacting to surroundings, usually cities (in this case, walking up and down Fourth Street), in a way that contradicts usual walking patterns and habits. The thought process behind writing this poem was to choose something like a pattern, color (orange), or sound and “follow” it while walking. In my creative projects, I always keep this in mind while writing and observing.”

Following Orange_Bailey Pittenger-page-001

Wednesday’s Word(s) of the Week

This week’s word comes from an amazing visual dictionary from Brain Pickings. Cool obscure words and some fabulous drawings to match.

Our favorite?














A romantic mood brought on by Spring.

Tuesday’s Tip

Sample image

Writing in the Sciences

shutterstock_172355312Think writing is only important for folks going into English? Think again.

An increasing number of professors in the sciences are realizing the importance of teaching budding biologists, physicists, and chemists how to write. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, “Science requires an increasingly large amount of writing, whether researchers do it through articles for the popular media or grant proposals and research papers. Given the highly technical subject matter, scientists need special guidance when it comes to writing for a non-expert audience…

“Even though most of their efforts may seem to be concentrated in the lab, scientists spend a lot of time writing. “Scientists need to know how to write to get their work published and get grants—it’s an important skill that people assume they already have [once they reach a certain level], so no one ever teaches them how to write well in these specific formats,” said Kristin Sainani, a health policy professor at Stanford University who teaches both undergraduate and online courses about writing in the sciences.

So what do you think? Is it important to learn to write in your specific discipline?



Wednesday’s Word of the Week











eesome, adj.

“Attractive or gratifying to the eye.”

“The eesome spring days had everyone studying on the quad.”

“eesome, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 18 March 2015.

…And What to do After Your Appointment

writersblockYesterday we shared a few tips for making the most of your Writing Center appointment. Now here are a few tips for what do to do once those 50 minutes are over.

  • Schedule follow-up appointment. If you think you still need more help on your paper, make sure to set up another appointment for later in the week or the following week. It might be helpful to meet with the same tutor. Remember, you can have two scheduled appointments and one walk-in appointment per week.
  • Use what you learned. So you came in having trouble with commas, but after going over a paragraph with the tutor you have a much better sense of them now. Great! Now take that information and apply it to the rest of your paper. Take the information your tutor shared with you and use it to continue to improve your writing.
  • Be confident! You got this! Your Writing Center tutor hopefully shared some great feedback, tips, ideas, etc. and now you are ready to continue to write and revise and turn in a great paper!

Need help making an appointment?

Making the Most of Your Appointment

Picture1Hope you had a great spring break! But now it’s back to the grind. We typically see an increase in appointments after spring break as students buckle down and prepare for those final papers and projects of the semester.

Interested in coming to the Writing Center? Here’s a few things you can do to make the most of your 50-minute appointment.

  • Schedule early! We can fill up fast, so if you know you have a deadline coming up, making an appointment sooner than later will ensure you get a spot.
  • Bring your assignment drafts at any stage. It will help the tutor if he or she can read the assignment prompt, especially if you have questions about it. And don’t worry if you haven’t written much. Tutors can help you at any stage of the process.
  • Consider bringing feedback from other assignments. This might help you and the tutor better understand your writing and the areas you tend to need more help with.
  • Talk to professors before appointment. If you have questions about what your professor is asking for in the assignment, ask them before coming to your appointment. Your tutor won’t be able to answer these questions – only your professor can.
  • Come with goals. Come with an understanding of what you want to talk about and what areas you want to work on. That will help the tutor help with more specific areas of your paper.

Need help making an appointment?

Wednesday’s Word of the Week











discalced, adj.

“Barefoot; without shoes.”

“She longed for spring when she could be discalced and lay in the quad on a sunny day.”

“discalced, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 4 March 2015.

Tuesday’s Tip: Where To Start Writing

Workplace, laptop and notepad on wooden table

Last semester, we featured Professor Zak Lancaster. We found a great piece of advice that never got shared from his interview, so we thought we’d publish that for you today!

Do you have any advice for a student who finds it hard to start writing?
Yes, I have an abstract piece of advice and several concrete, specific things. My abstract advice is to find a way to get engaged with the topic you’re writing about. We often find it hard to get started writing if we don’t really care about our argument or our subject matter or if we see it as a chore that someone has made us do. Try not to view it this way. There is also the reverse problem of caring too much, of over-thinking things to the point that we can’t figure out how to get all our complex thoughts in an order that would allow us to start typing sentences. With this problem, I find it helpful to find a friend and talk through my ideas. Or go to the Writing Center! The first problem could also be cured with a healthy dose of talk about our writing.

Here are some concrete things for getting past some kinds of writer’s block:
– sit down and just starting listing out your points, even if they’re just scraps of phrases. Get your thoughts down.
– write out your lists longhand rather than typing.
– work in a plain text file rather than a Word file, which often has a lot of distracting formatting things to contend with.
– if you’re scared of the blank screen, write an email to yourself with a few paragraphs of your paper. Then cut and paste later.
– tape a piece of paper on your screen (cover up your monitor) and just start typing.
– find a software program that blocks you from the internet. There’s one called “Freedom” that’s very helpful. You can set it for whatever time period of “freedom” from the internet that you want: 20 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. I would not have been able to write my dissertation without this program.
– It is not true that writing in perfectly quiet places is best for everyone. You might try writing in a coffee shop where there’s some background noise. I have worked in hotel lobbies. Whether you need total silence depends on you and probably the stage of writing you’re in, whether getting out ideas, revising, or editing.
– figure out the set of affective elements you need to get “in the zone” and then get there. I’ve heard some writers need the sound the washer and dryer because of the repetitive rhythms. Other writers need someone else in the room, but not talking. Find out what you need to make it work.

National Geographic Feature

01syriagreensboro.adapt.1190.1Our amazing Phoebe Zerwick (associate teaching professor in the writing program) recently had an article published in National Geographic. In “Fleeing the War, ” Phoebe shares the story of a family who fled from Syria and is now building a new life in Greensboro. It’s a wonderful piece that brings a human element to the war-torn country of Syria. Definitely worth the read.

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