The reluctant wisdom of a science major in my freshman writing class.

“There’s nothing left to say,” said a science major in my writing class. I had called on her during a classroom discussion of a peer-review activity. “Everyone’s already said everything.” “You can at least provide a new example from your own paper, or express an idea in your own words,” I said. The student looked skeptical. “What about the revision process?” I prompted. “What’s your next step? Give it a try.”…


So Long Blogging. Hello—Yep, We’re Going to Say It—Plogging

I still blog, because I want control over my own archives, so that I can link back to my own posts to provide context (such as this 2004 post on the emerging SHU blogging community, or this 2011 post on the switch from MovableType to WordPress). Your past pretty much doesn’t exist if you post it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, because those communities are built around the now.   Facebook…

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All the ‘Happy Birthday’ song copyright claims are invalid, federal judge rules

In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, the judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the “Happy Birthday To You” song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright. —LA Times


How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive

In Death of a Salesman, Biff impulsively steals Bill Oliver’s fountain pen. That would be roughly culturally equivalent to a modern Biff swiping a businessman’s custom iPhone case, rather than a modern pen. This history of the ballpoint argues that the new pens cut down on leaks, but in the process made handwriting more physically demanding. The ballpoint’s universal success has changed how most people experience ink. Its thicker ink…

Is the Question Part of the News? (Rarely!)

When Is Asking the Question Part of the News? (Rarely.) 

We mostly only encounter the phrase “when asked about” in reporting, so when students start writing news reports, they tend to gravitate towards that phrase in order to signal to the world, “I am doing journalism now.” In truth, journalists use that phrase only in very specific circumstances, when omitting it would give a distorted impression of the truth. Usually, my students can revise so that the quote does more of the work, making…