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!

Friday Flashback

7-Ways-to-Improve-Your-Writing-in-30-Minutes-a-DayCan you believe it’s already the weekend? And that we have just a few more days until Thanksgiving? If you’re in ZSR this week, make sure to stop by the Writing Center and add a leaf to our thankful tree!

Before you head into the weekend, let’s check out this past week on Active Voice.

Monday we talked about taking notes – laptop or longhand? You decide!
Tuesday’s tip came from Anne Lamott
– We added another word to your growing vocabulary on Wednesday
- And Thursday we shared Phoebe Zerwick’s piece from Glamour Magazine and she discussed stance

Also, a quick note about our schedule. The Writing Center is one popular place these days and we our appointments are pretty full! But if you’re having trouble finding an appointment, get on the waitlist! Click the clock icon next to the date to sign up. You’ll get an email if an appointment slot becomes available. Want a text message instead? Update your WCOnline profile to include your cell phone number. Need help? Call the center at 336-758-5768.

Have a great weekend!

Speaking of Stance

december-cover-h724Thanks so much, Phoebe Zerwick, for sharing your thoughts with Active Voice!

I’ve been talking with my students all semester about stance. It’s a tough concept to explain. How does a writer find the balance between argument and tone that works for the audience? This month, an article about abortion that I’ve been working on for more than two years was finally published in the December issue of Glamour magazine. And as I read over it, for possibly the hundredth time, I realized that it makes a terrific tool for talking about a writer’s stance.

I started in July, 2012 just as a new law that mandates an ultrasound before abortion and a 24-hour waiting period took effect in Virginia.  The Falls Church Healthcare Center, about 10 miles outside of D.C., was generous enough to open its doors to me and allow me to interview women who were either waiting for their ultrasound or there for an abortion. I wanted to get beyond the political rhetoric and get to the voices of real women facing an unwanted pregnancy. And because I wanted to provide readers with a nuanced discussion, I headed next to a crisis pregnancy center in Norfolk, Va., where pregnant women can get an ultrasound and counseling – but not an abortion. I did the rest of the reporting by phone, eventually talking with 20 women about the ways in which the ultrasound shaped their decision about abortion.

rstanceThen it was time to write, and this is where the question of stance came in. I tell my writing students to avoid the first person, that is, unless there’s a compelling reason to insert themselves into the text.  My admonition to my journalism students is even stronger: they are to leave themselves out of their writing. I knew before I started my reporting that abortion is one of the most polarizing topics in our culture.  But I found that even in the world of experts, there were no neutral sources to help me interpret my findings; the researchers are either for or against abortion. So it was up to me to find the middle ground. I wanted transparency. I wanted readers to know exactly how I had found the 20 women who made up my small sample. And I wanted my readers to trust what I had to say and feel that they had learned something new about a subject most of us have made up our minds about. I decided that the best way to enter into this fraught conversation was by writing as honestly as I could – in the first person. I did so sparingly, using the first person just four times. Here’s an example: “The more stories I heard, the more I could understand how both sides have become so convinced they are right.”   I would describe that as a stance that’s factual, friendly and a little removed from the fray — as compelling a reason as any for writing in the first person.

Phoebe Zerwick, November, 2014

Wednesday’s Word of the Week











propaedeutic, n. and adj.

“A subject or course of study which forms an introduction to or preparation for an art or science, or to more advanced study.”

WRI 210 and 212 are propaedeutic that really prepare you for the interdisciplinary Writing Minor. In fact, they’re gateway courses for the minor!

“propaedeutic, n. and adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2014. Web. 5 November 2014.

And speaking of our gateway courses, make sure to check them out!

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WRI 212 Flyer (1)-page-001

Tuesday’s Tip

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Laptop or Longhand?

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We’ve recently come across a few articles that speak to the technology-age old question: pen and paper or computer?

Should I fill notebooks and binders with my handwritten notes? Or maybe I should click away on the keys during a lecture?

A recent study found that students remembered lectures better when they took notes by hand instead of on a computer. From their study, researchers concluded that

“Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Flashback

7-Ways-to-Improve-Your-Writing-in-30-Minutes-a-DayHappy Friday Wake Forest! Here’s a peek at our week.

Monday, in conjunction with ZSR, we shared some great research hacks.
– On Tuesday, we shared some cool writing tips for NaNoWriMo.
– We added another word to you vocabulary on Wednesday.
Thursday we shared a few yoga exercises you can do at work (or in class).

Have a great weekend!

Yoga At Work (and class)

1296551257135009We recently ran across a cool article in Fast Company that shares easy yoga techniques you can do to feel better at work (or class).

What do you think? Could you incorporate these mindful exercises into your study routine? You might see the Writing Center staff taking some writing yoga breaks soon!

Also,did you know that faculty at Wake Forrest (and elsewhere) are incorporating various mindfulness activities in their classrooms? Check it out here!

Wednesday’s Word of the Week












gallimaufry, n.

“A dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a hodge-podge, a ragout.”

“Using what she had on hand, she was able to cook up a delicious gallimaufry that would have impressed even the most experienced chef.”

“gallimaufry, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2014. Web. 2 September 2014.

Tuesday’s Tip: For NaNoWriMo

It’s still November so we’re still celebrating NaNoWriMo!

While not quite right for academic writing, great tips for sure if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (or doing any kind of personal/creative work).

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#myzsr Guide to Finals Week: 5 Research Hacks to Know


ZSR and the The Writing Center are teaming up to bring you the #myzsr Guide to Finals Week– a weekly series of valuable advice, tried-and-true strategies, and insider information to help you survive THRIVE during exam week! Week One: 5 Research Hacks to Know.

5 Research Hacks to Know:


1) Get started with a Research Guide!

ZSR Librarians have created comprehensive online Research Guides to help you get started with any research assignment. We offer Research Guides in every academic discipline, and guides for research-related tools (such as our Citation guides and Zotero guide). The guides offer recommendations for relevant databases, journals, and other information resources– all librarian-approved. A great starting point for all assignments!

2) Database Search Tricks

Boolean Operators
Use AND, OR, NOT to combine your search terms, so the database understands what you are looking for. Using AND indicates that all words must be found in the results (ex. violence AND media AND children), using OR indicates that at least one of the terms provided must be found in the results (ex. sea OR ocean OR marine), and NOT excludes results containing a particular term (ex. bears NOT Grizzly).

Use the root part of a word with an asterisk, which will provide search results that include all forms of the root word used (ex. chin* will retrieve China, Chinese . . . religio* will retrieve religion, religions, religious, etc.)

Phrase Searching
Use quotation marks around keyword phrases to indicate that these words be searched as a phrase, in the exact order you type them. Ex. “global warming” OR “stand your ground law” will provide results with both of these exact phrases.

3) Citation Aids

One word– Zotero.
This incredible Citation Manager is free, easy to use, and ZSR offers instruction on how to get started with this software.

Our search interfaces also provide citation assistance through various “cite” functions. You can cite search results from the homepage search by hovering over the item, and selecting “CITE” from the right column.

You can also cite items directly from their record in our catalog. From the item record, select the “* Cite this” option above the featured item. For more help with using these Citation Aids, please Ask ZSR.

**KEEP IN MIND**: With all automatic citation generators, you still need to check these citations to make sure that they conform to their appropriate style guidelines. They give you a starting point, but they may have errors.\

WANT TIPS 4 AND 5? Head over to the Library Gazette blog to read about using filters and the library’s drop-in sessions.

check out the archive for older posts