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Associate Dean of What?

The idea of students as customers relies on models of customer service that are not what experts in the field actually teach (as explicated in this letter to The Chronicle by Clara Burke). We develop crude quantitative evaluative tools while businesses use more and more complex qualitative focus groups and sophisticated assessments. And we apply buzzwords. For example, we now “benchmark” our top administrative jobs in ways that feed salary…

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I’m Asking My Students to Be Deliberate about the Word “Novel”

In the past few years, I have noticed more students are applying the word “novel” to any text they might be asked to study in class, whether that text is a book-length fictional narrative, a play, a poem, a political manifesto, or a collection of academic essays. I wrote up this lecture to introduce the concept of literary genre, in the hopes of communicating why it’s important that we recognize…

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Ancient Sea Rise Tale Told Accurately for 10,000 Years

“It’s quite gobsmacking to think that a story could be told for 10,000 years,” Nicholas Reid, a linguist at Australia’s University of New England specializing in Aboriginal Australian languages, said. “It’s almost unimaginable that people would transmit stories about things like islands that are currently underwater accurately across 400 generations.” –Scientific American.

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Writing School Papers: Does Your First Version Say It All?

My colleague Mike Arnzen talked about the writing process with the Voice of America. Michael Arnzen teaches English and heads humanities studies at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. Mr. Arnzen is also an award-winning author. He says he understands the desire to write something and be done with it. “We’ve all been there. We feel we’ve done (something) good enough, and can’t we move on with our lives?” But he…

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New Video Game’s Second-Person Shooter Mode Features Someone Just Describing Game To You

I’m introducing text adventure games to the students in my online “Video Game Culture and Theory” course. A few years ago, when my son was 11, I made a screencast of him encountering a text adventure game for the first time. My students generally like watching this video, since it gives them an idea of how to play a text-only game. The Onion recently posted a great spoof of a…

How to Write Dialogue -- Jerz's Literacy Weblog

Writing Effective Dialogue (Punctuation and Actions in Creative Writing)

“Punctuating dialogue properly is important,” says the old man, “But actions speak loudly, too. When I offered you tea, and you unlaced your boots at my hearth, we didn’t need any words stating that there was a comfortable lull in our conversation. The careful placement of details created a little pause. It was a good example of showing rather than telling.”

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Split Infinitives in English: Not Actually Wrong, But Unwise

The rule against split infinitives is a bookish restriction serving no real function in English. However, many people have memorized the “no split infinitives” rule and take it very seriously. It’s best never to split infinitives (unless you want to really emphasize the risk you are taking). More: Split Infinitives in English: Not Actually Wrong, But Unwise.