Author Archives: Steve Aedy

Get Back to Studying Routine (Checklist for College Students)

studying routine for college students

out of your hair and get yourself into back-to-college mode again.
It’s that time again. The long days of summer are coming to an end and the fall semester is upon us. Some students have a difficult time leaving the liberty of their summer days behind and getting serious about studying again. It’s perfectly natural, but it’s also time for you to shake the sand

If you need some help regaining your focus after the long break, here are some tips for you on how to develop a studying routine:

Make a schedule

The best way to start getting into a routine is to make a schedule of all of your activities. Whether you write out your schedule by hand and tape it to your wall or use a time management app like rememberthemilk, writing down your commitments helps you remember to keep them. Include things like class schedules, extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, job schedules and important events. By making a schedule, you’re also mapping out where there might be conflicts, so you can anticipate them and come up with a solution.

Choose your study environment

Part of establishing a routine is finding the place where you’ll study. Some people do great work in public places like cafes or on a park bench. Other people need utter silence and prefer to study in an isolated corner of the library or in their room. Figure out where you work best and carve that space out as yours. If you’re tempted to lie down and take a nap if you study in your room, pack up your books and head to the library. Wherever you choose, try to stick to that place. It’s a way to trigger your brain into work mode when you sit down at your favorite study spot.

in study groups

If there’s a study group for a course you’re struggling in, sign up for it. Exchanging ideas with your peers can help answer questions and clear doubts you have about the material. It can also help you prioritize studying for this course, which is exactly what you should be doing if you find yourself falling behind.

Set goals

Set your goals for the semester. Not only academic goals, though they should definitely be included on the list, but goals for other activities you participate in. Don’t make your list too long. Prioritize and focus. What’s really important to you? Maybe you want to earn a 3.5 this semester. What kind of grades would you need in order to achieve that? Maybe you want to make the Varsity Women’s Rowing Team or be elected class president. What steps do you need to take in order to make that happen? Pick 2-3 goals and write them down somewhere you’ll see them often. Goal-setting gives you direction and purpose in your activities and helps you maintain your focus.

Prioritize

Don’t let yourself become overloaded with activities. A full course load, a part-time job, captain of the basketball team, lead in the play, volunteering for a local tutoring program, etc. It’s not always possible to do everything you want to do and when you try doing too many things, you end up short-changing yourself. Choose the most important activities to you and eliminate the rest. If you find yourself with enough free time, then you can start adding more activities to your schedule.

Limit social media

Social media is the most popular way to procrastinate and the easiest way to waste precious studying time. If you find yourself grabbing your cell phone and checking your messages every time you try to read your Advanced Economics textbook, it’s time to get your social media habits under control. Consider leaving your cell phone in your room while you go to the library to study so you’re not tempted to look at it. Or, if you need to have your phone with you, at least turn off the sound notifications so you won’t check it every time it beeps. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to check it every day and stick to it. Turn your cell phone off at night and get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Get enough sleep

Though many college students adopt the adage “You can sleep when you’re dead” throughout their college years, sleep deprivation and brain functioning don’t go together. In fact, the average adult needs 8-10 hours of sleep in order to achieve optimum brain activity. Lack of focus, tiredness, crankiness are all symptoms of not getting enough sleep. For more information on sleep and how it effects you, read this article. Remember that the point of college is to study and earn a degree. Take it seriously so you can show up to your classes and give your academic life the attention it deserves.

Eat well

College students are notorious for their poor eating habits. For many students who live on campus, this is their first time away from home and their first experience having to control their diets. Excess caffeine, junk food and alcohol are epidemics on college campuses. The brain is an organ, like any other organ in the body, it functions best when it’s being fed a healthy diet. Tuna, salmon, walnuts, and blueberries are all considered foods that contribute to healthy brain activity. For a list of healthy food choices, click here. Constant hangovers, sugar highs and upset stomachs can have negative effects on your academic life. Eating a balanced diet can give you the energy you need to complete your workload.

Have fun

Don’t forget to have fun. Working too hard can become counter-productive. If you have a tendency to be a workaholic, it’s best you start learning this lesson early before you begin your professional career. Take breaks when you need to. And make sure you spend time with your friends and the rest of the campus community. Giving your brain some time to relax will allow you to return to your studying with new energy.

How to Stay Passionate about Writing

how to be passionate about writing

Every writer hits a dead end now and then. Creativity is a quality that’s defined by peaks and valleys. Many famous writers have gone through dry periods of writer’s block where they felt their work was worthless.

It’s not just fiction writers who suffer this fate. Journalists, researchers and even students also reach points where they feel uninspired by their work.

So what should you do if your spirit is lagging and you can’t find the joy and thrill in creating something new?

Go to conferences and workshops

Part of the challenge of writing is that it’s a solitary endeavor. And the human mind is a tricky beast, it can dry up pretty fast in the absence of outside stimulation. Attending writer’s workshops and conferences can spark your enthusiasm again. Getting feedback on your work can give you a new perspective on it. Hearing the advice of the coordinator can set you in a new direction.

Meet other people working on interesting projects, this will fill you with the desire to keep going or to start anew. Get yourself out of your work space – the site of so many frustrating hours – this can refresh your senses and help spark new ideas.

Try a different genre

If you’re a sociologist working on a dissertation, try writing poetry or fiction. If you’re a fiction writer, try writing an editorial article about something you feel passionate about. It’s a way for you to keep practicing writing without getting stuck in a rut.

It can also help take the pressure off. You’re not trying to publish a book of poems, you’re just playing around with words. You’re not aiming to become a journalist, you’re just finding another way to express yourself. Sometimes branching out into different areas and experimenting with styles can bring a light-heartedness to your work.

Re-read your favorite book

Some writers have a particular book that inspired them to write. Maybe it influenced their writing style or opened them up to new possibilities in writing. When you’re experiencing a lull in your work, go back to the early source of your inspiration. Re-read it. Religious people turn to their sacred texts when they’re in doubt. Turn to yours. What did it teach you all those years ago when you first read it? What does it teach you today?

Teach

If you’re struggling to find the purpose in your work, try teaching. There’s nothing better to light your fire than passing on the accumulated experiences of your years of writing to eager young writers. You’ll have the chance to take stock of all the challenges you’ve overcome to reach the point you’re at today. It may give you the courage to overcome your current block. Giving advice to them is also an indirect way of giving advice to yourself.

Make sure you have enough time

Maybe your problem isn’t lack of inspiration but burn-out. Did you take on too many commitments at once? Are you trying to balance work and family and over-stretching yourself? There’s nothing like having too much on your plate to snuff your creative fire. Exhaustion, stress and guilt are a toxic cocktail that only work to keep the muse at bay.

Rearrange your schedule to include enough time for leisure activities, to do the non-writing related things you’re passionate about. Sparking passion in other parts of your life may have a contagious effect on your writing life too. Also, allowing yourself space from your problems is what gives you the perspective to solve them.

Take on work that you love

Nothing kills your passion for writing like writing about subjects you find boring. So, if that’s what you’re doing, stop. There are more than enough writing gigs to go around in the area that you love. Take this advice from Ray Bradbury: “I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.”

Join a writer’s group

Preferably one that meets in-person rather than online, but if that’s not possible, then an online one is better than nothing. It helps to talk to other writers and share your work. Most writers tend to have a circle of writer friends, but it can be a tricky thing to depend on your friends to give you honest feedback. A group of professional writers can not only offer more objective advice, but they can give you the support and encouragement you need to work through difficult phases and reach the finish line.

Look at the small picture

Sometimes your writing dreams are too big. You want to write the Great American Novel or win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But instead you’re sitting in front of a blank screen every day. So, try something else. Don’t think about goals. Don’t even think about finishing your book. Think about today. One word after the other. And after you’re done, put it away and stop thinking about it. And then tomorrow do the same thing.

Take the pressure off to turn your passion on. Mark Twain explained his writing method this way: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Whatever lull you’re going through right now, remember that many writers before you have gone through it too. Don’t give up. Just make it to the bend. Once you round it, things will look different again.

Helpful Blogs for ESL Learners

blogs for esl learners

Learning English isn’t easy. There are so many exceptions to the grammar rules, strange pairings of vowels and consonants, the dreaded “th” sound that’s common throughout the language yet hard for non-native speakers to pronounce. Yet, English is a universal language and that’s why there are over 1 billion ESL students worldwide. Whether you’re a foreigner living in the US or studying English in your country of origin, it’s becoming more and more indispensable to learn English. Fields like information technology and international business require English proficiency. For travelers, English is essential.

If you travel frequently for business or pleasure, it may not always be possible to learn every language of the countries you’re visiting, but English is spoken almost everywhere. If you’re learning English and would like a little extra support, you should check out these ESL blogs:

Phrase Mix offers lessons on idiomatic phrases in English. You can scroll through over 400 pages of phrases and choose ones that interest you. The lesson breaks down the phrase into chunks and explains each part and its meaning. It also offers an audio recording so you can learn the proper pronunciation. And the graphics give a visual representation of the phrase being featured – for those who are visual learners. It also offers articles with practical advice on things like taking the TOEFL, how to express condolences, and English phrases for car owners.

Espresso English offers you daily English lessons sent to your email by ESL teacher Shayna. She also has an e-book and offers self-paced English courses online. She posts informative articles with titles like “11 Advanced English Words with Confusing Pronunciations” and “Answers to 5 Quick English Grammar Questions” as well as colloquial phrases and much more. Access 50 podcasts to improve your pronunciation and auditory skills.

Real Life is perhaps the most comprehensive site out there with the greatest investment in quality. It offers professional videos on a variety of topics from vocabulary building to pronunciation. They have podcasts and articles on all aspects of English learning, from slang to business English and more.

ESL Hip Hop is aimed to make English learning cool. You’ll learn English through hip hop slang. After finishing Stephen Mayeaux’s lessons, you’ll be able to hang out and party like a born hip hop star. By far the most entertaining ESL site out there, with quality content to boot.

About.com features ESL expert Kenneth Beare’s blog. This site offers the standard grammar and pronunciation lessons, but really stands out with its dynamic mix of exercises like short stories and quizzes. They help students improve vocabulary, and you can also try writing exercises that ask students to continue a story. It also offers help on practical things like business English and how to write a resume. You can choose to sign up for daily or weekly lessons sent to your email.

ABA English offers articles and videos on everything from “How to Write a Cover Letter” to “How to Enjoy Your TOEFL Prep”. Fun, real-life videos in their “Street Challenge” section test your auditory and grammar skills. One of the best explanations of the many uses of “Get” I’ve ever seen. Cute illustrations on idiomatic expressions. A fun and light-hearted blog with great content.

My English Teacher is a site that offers English lessons via articles and videos as well as useful references for language exchange websites and best ESL Facebook pages to follow.

Elllo uses short videos to teach students different vocabulary in English. Videos are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels and quizzes are included to make sure you understood the content correctly. The site’s founder, Todd Beuckens, posts two new videos each week.

English with Jo focuses on practical uses of English in conversation for those who want to reach fluency quickly. With posts on topics from “Books & Literature” to “Safety” and “Drugs & Alcohol”, this site introduces you to practical topics and their applications. A “Word of the Day” post helps build vocabulary and a section on Business English is for even more comprehensive learning.

TalkEnglish is an ESL franchise that’s been around for the last decade or so. Their site offers 900 English lessons and 9000 audio files for free. A variety of reading, speaking and listening lessons are available on a range of topics.

Real English is a site that offers English lessons via videos and exercises. The videos are listed in order from beginner to more advanced and follow a certain logic and order. It’s a great resource for beginning students.

Linguarama is a no-frills ESL site with links to quizzes that test your vocabulary and grammar skills. If you’re confused about adverbs, present continuous tense and prepositions, this site offers simple explanations and exercises to get you on track. It also offers great examples of business English.

Business English Site specializes in lessons on business English. With categories that range from “Sales & Marketing”, “Accounting & Finance” and “Information Technology” as well as “Medical English”, they have you covered. A simple vocabulary-building technique is used to improve your business English, so you can impress people in interviews and meetings.

English with a Twist is a really fun blog by ESL teacher Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat. It is one of the only blogs out there designed by someone who isn’t a native English speaker. This blog shows you the ins and outs of all the ESL challenges you could imagine from someone who has gone through it herself. Using a charming mix of humor and practical tips, this site is well worth a visit for anyone wishing to improve their English. No matter what level of English you’re at, these blogs can help enhance your vocabulary, grammar and auditory skills. Colloquialisms and idiomatic phrases present a particularly steep learning curve for non-natives.

Most of the above blogs dedicate their efforts to helping you learn how to speak naturally. Isn’t it great to know there are so many resources out there to help you speak better English?

Persuasive Essay Writing Techniques: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

persuasive writing techniques

Persuasive writing is a delicate endeavor. There are those who make an art out of it, and those who make a mess out of it. When persuasive essay is written by an experienced author, it can be inspiring, moving and, dare I say, persuasive. But, when it’s done poorly, it will turn the reader off, confuse them rather than draw them in.

So, how do you do it right? Here are some guidelines for writing great persuasive essay.

Things to avoid in persuasive writing

    • Hyperbole. Don’t exaggerate. If your argument is that President Reagan’s economic policies damaged the American middle class, don’t write “Ronald Reagan destroyed America and threw our economic progress back to the Stone Age.” It’s too dramatic and only serves to undermine your authority. The reader won’t trust the rest of your argument if you come out guns blazing without any facts, stats or historical analysis to back you up.
    • Don’t use first person. A persuasive essay earns its credibility by achieving a certain level of objectivity. By making it personal and using “I” statements, you make it sound more like a personal opinion, rather than a well-researched analysis.
    • Don’t leave out opposing arguments. One of a persuasive essay’s greatest strengths is recognizing the arguments that exist against your position. That way, you’re presenting the reader with all the facts and allowing them to choose which side they find more valid. By ignoring the other side, you lose the opportunity to address it directly, and discredit it with your own argument. Providing an analysis of the opposition’s opinion also shows that you’re an expert on the subject: you’ve studied both sides of the issue before making your decision.
    • Don’t rant. Nobody appreciates being on the receiving end of a rant. Even if you’re convinced that the Republican or Democratic party are spawns of the devil, unless you have specific facts and evidence to prove it, your words won’t be taken seriously. If you go rambling on with no structure or organization and pure emotional impulse, then your readers may get bored and stop reading.
    • Don’t be mean, catty or rude. No name-calling or swearing. Strong language and insults once again do more damage to your reputation than they do to your opponents. Nobody wants to be verbally assaulted, and reading offensive and aggressive commentaries will turn the reader against you.

Things to use in your persuasive essay

  • A good hook. Get the reader’s attention right off the bat with a powerful quote, an anecdote or a statistic.
    Quote. “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi
    Anecdote. Last week’s scandal of financial corruption and pedophilia that shook Smalltown, USA’s church community poses the following question: are church leaders really following Christ’s example?
    Statistic. A shocking 40% of Catholic Churches in the United States have been the subject of investigation over pedophilia charges.
  • Refine your thesis statement. Your essay’s thesis statement is the crux on which the rest of your essay hangs. If it’s strong and solid, then you’ll have an easier time backing it up. If it’s weak and rambling, then it will be harder to defend. It should be a polemical statement, meaning that someone could easily argue the other side of the issue.

Example of a weak thesis statement: “College graduates are facing hard times.” It’s okay. You’ll be able to find research to defend this. But it’s not polemical enough. There’s no counter-balance to it. It would be difficult to find a counter-argument.

Example of a strong thesis statement: “This year’s college graduates will have a harder time finding a job than their parents did thirty years ago.” It’s easy to find credible research to back it up and it provides two specific groups that are being compared: this year’s college graduates, and college graduates from thirty years ago. There could be a strong counter-argument for this statement, so it’s a better choice than the first one, even though they’re both expressing a similar idea.

  • Provide credible research from reputable sources. Personal blogs that spout opinions by people who hold no degree in the subject they write about aren’t credible sources. Wikipedia is not a credible source. Newspaper articles, reputable magazines and specialized publications should be used to support your ideas.
  • Include your research in well organized supporting paragraphs. Structure your essay in a way that’s easy to follow and that provides clear examples to support your thesis statement. Don’t forget to include opposing arguments.
  • Use transition words. Transition words can do wonders for the flow of your essay. A persuasive essay isn’t just about proving your point, but making it easy for the reader to follow you. Words such as “moreover”, “furthermore”, “in spite of”, “however” serve as guides throughout your essay. They help to:
    1. Reinforce a point already made.
    2. Alert the reader of a contrasting statement.
    3. Signal the introduction or conclusion of an idea.

    Here’s a comprehensive list of transition words and their uses.

  • Take advantage of the conclusion. Don’t just summarize the main points of your essay. They’ve already read your essay and know what it says. The concluding paragraph is an opportunity for you to explore further questions to be answered about your subject.

If you’re writing about conflict in the Middle East, raise the question about the next steps. What are the risks of withdrawal? What are the benefits of continued presence?

If you’re writing about global warming: who can provide answers or offer guidance? What kind of research is needed to solve the problems presented?

The conclusion should demonstrate your expertise on this subject and should leave the reader inspired, intrigued and, hopefully, on your side.

Uncommon Tricks for Writing Good Headlines

writing good headlines

You’ve read the statistics. Eight out of ten people read the headline but only two out of ten people read the article. Effective headlines have the potential to increase your site’s traffic by 500%.

There are hundreds articles about writing catchy headlines based on formulas and algorithms. And a whole lot of energy being put into analyzing which headlines work best. But since everyone’s reading those posts and using those formulas, readers start to catch on and what worked last year may not be as effective today. Want to get ahead of the curve or simply stick out from the crowd?

Give some of these trend-bucking headline techniques a go.

Shock and awe

Find the most incredible fact about your topic and throw it out there in the headline:

“Millions of Kittens Euthanized in China”
“1,000 Times More Violent Deaths in The US than in Afghan War Zones”

Whatever your topic, find the most extreme sounding fact, the most outrageous statistic and work it. Make sure it’s true, no making things up. Just find the angle that allows you to drive home your point in the most jaw-dropping way.

Stir up controversy

If your topic is a hot-button item like politics or religion, then your best bet for a clickable headline is to dive into the deep end of the debate. Taking a strong stand one way or the other will result in two things:

  1. Those who agree will click because they agree so completely.
  2. Those who disagree will click because they’re outraged at how strongly they disagree.

This technique works best for highly polemic issues on which there is a clear split in opinions:

“Why Republicans Are Destroying Our Country”
“You Take Away My Guns, I’ll Take Away Your Constitution”
“Why the Bible Is A Lie”

Appeal to the negative

We live in the age of positivity. My Facebook newsfeed is proof of it: rife with reposts of happiness advice from the Dalai Llama to Kim Kardashian. So, if you really want to stick out, try steering clear from the current thumbs-up trend. A lot of people feel secretly relieved when encountering negativity. The pressure to stay smiling can get to be too much.

Be catty – think Joan Rivers criticizing red carpet fashion.
Be nihilist – think 90’s grunge bands proselytizing the end of fun.
Be blunt – “_____ Is a Moron”.
Be apocalyptic – “Why We’re All Going To Die in the Next Year”.

Try rhyming

Harking back to ad campaigns of yore, copywriters used rhymes to create a catchy sales pitch: “Winston’s Taste Good Like a Cigarette Should” and Pringles’s “Once you pop, you can’t stop”. Presidential campaign slogans use rhymes because they’re easy to remember and fun to repeat: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, “I Like Ike”, “All the Way with LBJ” and “Ross for Boss”. So, if you can find a way to rhyme your headline, you might earn a click or at least a memorable line.

Use caps and exclamation points

All headline advice says to avoid this because it looks spammy. Well, since we’re trying to do things a little differently around here, why don’t you try messing around with the visuals of your headline:

“How to Think BIG When Your Budget is small”
“How to Get Out of Your Parent’s Basement TODAY!”
“8 WAYS NOT TO REACH FOR ANOTHER DOUGHNUT!”

Use other languages

Everyone writes in English. How boring! Try using popular phrases in other languages in your headlines. Obviously it has to be a recognizable phrase like “au revoir”or “capice” or “arrigato”: “Why Republicans Are Saying Au Revoir To the New Health Care Bill”.

Strike fear into their hearts

Not in a horror film kind of way (although that’s certainly one way to go) but in a way that makes them fear they’ll be in dire circumstances if they don’t read this article. Nothing like manipulating nascent fears can boost your post’s popularity:

“10 Beach Destinations To Avoid This Summer If You Want to Survive ‘Til Fall”
“Someone May Be Hacking Your Facebook Right Now”

Be absurd

Cultivate the weird and surreal in your headline. Make it so bizarre that they have to read it twice or three times and still go “huh?”:

“Male Gymnast Says Key to Success is Poison”
“Spelling-Bee Champ Loses Title For Telepathic Cheating”
“Dog Scores Higher On SAT Than Most Public School Students”

Use unusual numbers

Top ten lists are a cliché and have been since David Letterman starting giving his every night show. Top five lists are a close second. Come to mention it, people may be getting tired of top 3’s and top 7’s as well. Use unpopular numbers like 4 and 8 and pretty much every number from 11-19. Instead of a list of 20, make it 21. You get the idea.

“13 Ways To Choose A Good Wine”
“18 Careers That Are Making People Rich”
“32 Cities For Baby-Boomers”

The longer the better

Everyone says you should keep it simple. Simple clean language rules the day. Short and sweet. Try giving your readers credit for being able to make it to the end of a headline that’s longer than six words. Even if they don’t actually read the article, stop limiting your verbosity and just let things flow:

“How I Came To Stop Believing The Hype and Went Back to Non-Organic Grocery Stores – And Saved $500/Month”
“4 Books You Should Be Reading That Will Allow You To Join The Snob’s Circle At The Christmas Party”

How to Write an Outstanding Resume If I’m a College Graduate

how to write a resume tips for college graduates

Recent college graduates entering the workforce tend to hit a wall when it comes to writing their resume. What should I include? How to write a resume if I have no work experience? The good news is that, with few exceptions, the rest of your peers are all in the same boat: no experience, but hungry for opportunity.

According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) there are 1,855,000 new college graduates from the class of 2015. In other words, you are far from alone. Employers are aware of the fact that you just finished college. They don’t expect you to show a resume flush with professional experiences. So, in that sense, you’re off the hook.

But that doesn’t mean that you still won’t be able to write an impressive resume. Without any tweaking, lying or exaggeration, you’ll be able to present your best self to future employers by following a few tips.

Don’t be afraid to include summer jobs

If you worked part or full-time during your college years, even if it was flipping burgers in your home town during the summer, make sure to include it. Even if the job you held is totally unrelated to the field you’re planning to enter, the fact that you have job experience counts for something. You learned to be accountable, you learned to take orders from superiors and work with others.

If you were given extra responsibilities such as making bank deposits, opening or closing the establishment, or training new employees, include it on your resume. Employers want to know who you are and what qualities you possess. Don’t try to be the “ideal” candidate. Tell them what your real experiences have been and let them judge if you’re a fit for them.

List internships or relevant jobs instead of coursework

If you happen to have had the good fortune and determination to land an internship and paid position in your field of interest, include them. In this case, you’re better off focusing your resume on these experiences than on coursework during college.

List coursework if you haven’t had professional experience

yet So, you haven’t had internships or paid positions in your area of study. That’s not uncommon. But you did take four years of international business courses and interviewed well-known business leaders for your final research paper. Or you’re an art major and took an art restoration course in Italy last summer. Anything that shows your preparation to enter into this field, even if you haven’t had practical experience yet, is valuable.

List extracurricular activities

Especially if these were areas you excelled in and if they show leadership. If you attended a few meetings of the Environmental Club, don’t list it. List activities in which you had full and significant participation. Captain of the varsity rowing team, class president, editor of the college newspaper, peer interviewer for college applicants… You get the picture.

Don’t embellish or lie

The worst way to start out your post-graduation career is by lying. Exaggerating skills or flat-out making things up on your resume will only get you into trouble. No matter how badly you want a certain position, bragging about expertise you don’t possess will give you more problems than you can handle. You likely won’t be able to perform the job you were hired to do, and by the time employers realize this, you will have done a lot of damage to your reputation. Your time would have been better spent acquiring the skills you need than trying to fake it.

Pay attention to language

A resume isn’t just a list of skills nor is it an expository essay. At its best, it’s a carefully crafted summary of your most relevant experiences. Short pronoun-free and fluff-free sentences that use action verbs make winning resumes.

Don’t write this: “I spent last summer waking up at 5 am to take the train to the city, since punctuality is my specialty. I was given access to client portfolios and was asked for my contribution in how to increase their capital. I performed various administrative duties and participated in important executive meetings. All in all, I performed to the satisfaction of my superiors.”

Instead, try this: “Acquired practical knowledge of executive office culture. Projected investment capital possibilities for firm’s clients, some of them multi-billion dollar ones. Brainstormed with industry leaders on ideas to increase capital by 100% within the next two business quarters.”

The first one is too long and full of non-essential information. Showing up on time for work, for example, is a given, and doesn’t earn you bragging rights. The second simmers down your internship into a sumptuous description of relevant experiences and details.

The GPA rules

If your GPA is over 3.0, you’re encouraged to include it. If it’s lower, leave it off. If your GPA for coursework in your major is higher than your overall GPA, list your GPA for your major. Especially if you’re applying to positions that relate to your major.

List honors and awards

If you made the dean’s list, were granted a prestigious scholarship or earned any other awards from your college, make sure to list it.

Don’t include references

A list of references is basically the same as fluff. Don’t include it. Use your resume to highlight important information about yourself that employers want to know. If you do a good job with that, then you can give them your list of references in person when you land an interview.

Develop a professional social media life

You’re leaving college and entering the working world. Your online life will need to reflect this. If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot and include relevant information that isn’t on your resume. Consider creating a professional website or blog to showcase your expertise in your area. If you already have one, include a link to it on your resume. Don’t include links to your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Learn to separate the professional from the personal.

20 Best Tools For Writers: Add To Your Bookmarks!

best tools for writers

Writers today are spoiled. There are apps for everything. You can get your grammar checked, your work organized, receive writing prompts and blog ideas. You can even indulge in caprices like writing against the falling red maple leaves of Kyoto or savoring the clackety clack of an old fashioned typewriter. Branch out and discover new horizons in modern writing. There’s an app for all your needs and desires.

Here are my latest favorite writing tools:

Goodnotes 4 is the latest version of the famed digital ink app. If you like to handwrite, but don’t want to type out your handwritten pages later, this is the app for you.

Words U. It’s an app that increases your vocabulary subconsciously. As you write text messages, it takes common phrases and replaces them with more advanced vocabulary words. Ex: help = succor, sure = indubitably, food = comestibles. The perfect vocabulary builder- and what writer couldn’t use a good vocabulary?

Blog Topic Generator. If you’re stuck on blog topics, these guys can help. I typed in “writing novels” and got these gems: “The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Novel Writing”, “20 Myths About Writing” and “5 Tools Everyone In The Novel Industry Should Be Using”. Subscribe to get a year’s worth of blog topic ideas customized to your brand/specialization.

Daily Page wakes you up every morning with a new writing prompt. Write your response to the prompt and either file it away privately or parade it before the other subscribers. Great for times when you’re lacking for ideas or to help you create a daily writing practice.

750 Words is a challenge offered to you and taken on by nearly 300,000 writers. The app tracks your writing habits over a month, marking which days you wrote, how long you wrote for, how fast you wrote, what time you started, etc. It also measures the themes and mood of your writing. You get points for meeting the daily quota and can compare your points to other people’s points too.

Writefull allows you to select parts of your text and check it against three language databases: Google Books, Google Web and Google Scholar using easy-to-read stats. You can also alter your text and compare the new and old versions to see which one has more results.

Blogo is the newest in blogging. Its platform allows you to manage all your blogs from one dashboard. It has a photo editing app, an offline version and syncs with Evernote.

Ghost.A new open source blogging platform whose claim to fame is its simplicity. Elegant formats, easy-to-use, allows for multi-user blogs. Blog away in style.

Haven is a virtual writer’s den with elegantly designed backgrounds to inspire writers. Write against a background of falling red maple leaves in Kyoto or burn the midnight oil against a backdrop of night-time in Berlin and more. And if that weren’t already pretty awesome, they also offer help choosing themes to write on, plot twists ideas, and, my favorite, classical literature excerpts that have to do with your chosen theme.

Hanx Writer. If you like the sound of typewriters but don’t want to start lugging one around like your hipster friends, try this app. Its virtual typewriter provides you the audio of an old-fashioned typewriter as you type, but without having to sacrifice the convenience of your modern laptop, tablet or phone. And, as a bonus, it was designed by Tom Hanks.

Reedsy is an online network that hooks you up with editors, book designers and marketers. You create an author profile and get connected to high-quality publishing freelancers. It’s had good reviews and quote requests are free.

Scrivener is an application designed to help you organize long writing projects like novels and dissertations. It offers many tools:

  • A virtual cork-board.
  • Quick-reference panels so you can quickly pull up other documents and research when needed.
  • An ebook publisher for when you’re finished.

Grammarly is currently the most popular and reputable editing app on the market. It runs a check for over 250 grammar mistakes on your text, has a contextual spell-checker and gives you grammar lessons to help you avoid errors in the future. You can use it for emails and social media posts as well.

iA Writer Pro is a text editor plus. It’s many features include:

  • A totally blank screen to write distraction-free.
  • Focus mode that allows you to see just one line of your text.
  • Highlights adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, prepositions and conjunctions.
  • Night mode with a black screen and white type to save your eyes if you’re a night owl.
  • Syncs with Dropbox and iCloud.

Writepls is a selective collection of articles on writing and publishing. The topics span from “The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a Living” to “Guest Blogging Strategies that Helped Grow 36,733 Email Subscribers”. It can also help you craft the perfect email and offers advice from George Orwell to boot.

On Writing. The much-lauded memoir about writing from one of the most prolific and successful authors of all time, Stephen King. King bares his writer’s soul for your benefit. Read it for inspiration, a laugh, a cry and a kick in the bottom to get to work on your writing.

Let’s Get Digital. A writing manual for the digital age by David Gaughran. If you want the world of online, indie and self-publishing revealed, this is the book for you. It explains tactics and options to empower writers in our brave new tech world.

Penflip is a collaborative app for writers who want feedback on their work. Your readers post comments and make changes to your text which you manage. All revisions are stored, so no worries about losing your work.

Draft is a complete collaborative editing package. Besides the standard collaborating and sharing features, it has:

  • Cloud service.
  • Publishers to almost anything (WordPress, Tumblr, Ghost, Svbtle, Blogger, Twitter, LinkedIn and more).
  • Transcription tools.
  • Presentation features.
  • Simplification button.
  • Analytics.

Ulysses is one of the most popular text editors for writers of all stripes. It’s simple and streamlined, and allows you to write in various designed formats. Though light-weight, it still gives you all the editing features you could ever need. iCloud synchronization and doc exportation in many formats round out the package.

Tips For Breaking Into Freelance Writing

how to start freelance writing

If you’re looking to enter the freelance writing market, then there are many factors to consider before taking the leap. How do you get jobs? Where can you market your skills? How do you charge for your work? How much can you make? Freelance writing can be rewarding and lucrative. Or, it can be frustrating and the equivalent of slave labor. The difference between the two is the amount of preparation you put into your new career. Here are some tips to help you start freelance writing:

Define your niche

If you’re hiring a writer for an education blog, who would you choose: a writer who specializes in writing about education or a writer who writes about sports, coding, Japanese cuisine, fashion and education? While it may seem like a good idea to branch out and explore writing about all your different areas of interest.

In fact, the best way to start freelance writing is to define yourself as an expert in a specific area. The more focused your writing is in the beginning, the easier it will be for you to market yourself in that niche. The more you write on one subject, the greater your credibility becomes. Being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t the best way to catch the attention of publishers for a nascent freelancer. Focus on one area and see what that yields first.

What do you offer?

Are you the fastest content writer on the web? Can you meet crushing deadlines in a single afternoon? Are you a highly skilled researcher who unearths credible and interesting facts that defy the skills of other writers out there? Have you written any viral posts? Are you considered a thought leader in a certain area? Start to think about the market value of your skills. If you’re lucky enough to have a gaggle of writer friends, ask them to help you define these skill areas. Writers are great at identifying other writer’s strengths.

Start a blog

If you don’t have any published work to show, then write a blog. It’s the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get published and start building your credentials as a writer. Make sure your blog is focused on your niche. If you have a blog with a lot of posts, you may want to include links to your most successful or most relevant posts when sending out writing samples.

Get a website

If you have a fair amount of writing to show off already, then it may be worth investing in a website. A writer who has invested in a website has also invested in their professional life as a writer. It’s where you’ll include samples and links to your writing, highlight your skills and include testimonials and reviews. You’ll also list your rates there.

Learn to pitch

This is the essence of freelance writing and it’s the difference between a successful freelancer and an unsuccessful one. The more you pitch, the better you get at it. Pitching is about the math. Keep sending out pitches and don’t stop. It may seem intimidating at first or perhaps you’re scared of rejection. Overcome those feelings, and they will completely evaporate when you get your first ‘Yes’.

Tips for a good pitch:

  • Do research and craft your message to reflect the style and concept of the site, journal or magazine you want to be published in.
  • Be specific and brief. Long-winded pitches will probably not be read until the end. Make sure the most important information is in the beginning of the pitch and that it captures the essence of your idea.
  • Let them know who you are and where they can find out more about you by including links to websites, blogs and other published work.
  • If you don’t hear back after two weeks, send out a brief follow-up message, summarizing your initial pitch.

Decide how and how much to charge

This can be the most confusing part of breaking into a freelance writing career: how much should you charge? How should you charge: by hour or by piece? Do different kinds of writing demand different prices?

Luckily, Writer’s Market publishes a fee guide for writers. It’s one of the most useful price guides for writers out there. There’s also the question of when you should charge. You should definitely receive a payment before you start ghost-writing a book. However it’s common to get paid after the work has been delivered for web content and print articles.

Don’t accept low wages for your writing. It won’t be worth it financially and may demoralize you. Many websites offer abysmally low wages for articles. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Hold out for the higher paying jobs. They’re out there. Accepting low wages is kind of like ending up flipping burgers at McDonald’s when you expected to be head chef at a Michelin starred restaurant.

Be financially prepared

Make sure you set realistic goals about your potential earnings as a freelance writer. It’s possible to make six figures as a freelancer, but it takes time and dedication. And you probably won’t be earning this your first year in, nor your second. If you’re trying to take a serious step into a new career as a freelancer, it’s best if you have some savings set aside while you climb the learning curve.

In the beginning, you’re more likely to have trouble charging clients or getting paid. You will also go through some awkward phases where you take on too much or too little work and your income may feel a little bit like a roller-coaster. With time, you can start to smooth out the fluctuations and have a stable income.

5 Reasons Teachers Should Start Writing a Blog

why teachers should start blogging

Are you thinking about starting your own teacher’s blog?
You know that digital technology is sweeping classrooms on a global basis, creating blended learning environments. And you also know that to stay effective as a teacher you need to embrace some of this technology.
For many, the problem is knowing where to start, how to initiate and integrate these new systems into the classroom. And while most of us are now comfortable with using a smartphone and personal computer, unless you’re a hardcore geek, the idea of massive technological setup can seem intimidating.
It’s not that you’re a closet Luddite, it’s just the idea of learning an entire new system can feel a bit overwhelming.
So, rather than thinking you’re going to have to learn code, be a social media guru, and invest decades learning how to run complicated software programs, focus instead on sufficiency. Set a goal of learning what will be sufficient to create your own blog. Or, in teacher terms ‘just enough’. “[Teachers] need [to learn] ‘just enough’ to help them complete a curriculum-related or instructional task. Anything beyond this is wasted effort.”
And blogging can be a simple and gentle way to get more comfortable with technology in the classroom. For taking steps to create a blog, this post from Teach Junkie 24 Steps to Creating An Awesome Teacher Blog is a good place to start.
So, let’s explore 5 good reasons teachers should start blogging.

1. Blogging is Efficient.

A common area of resistance for many teachers is the thought that blogging will take up too much time. But in truth, once the initial setup is done and you’re familiar with the platform, blogging is an efficient and effective medium to communicate with students, parents and other teachers.
You can use a blog to:

  • Organize and consolidate all of your files, links, research data and multimedia sources in one place. And of course, you can keep private pages for your eyes only.
  • Share students work within an online community for collaboration, reviews and peer critiques.
  • Communicate in a two-way flow with parents. You can post classroom lessons and curriculum online as well as class progress, events and activities, so that parents are always in the loop. And parents can add their comments to your posts as well – or you can set a dedicated email address for private communications.
  • Post classroom and homework assignments, schedules for upcoming tests and review material. This means no excuses of ‘not knowing’ when projects are due, and are helpful for students who are absent.

This post from Angela Watson on Blogging Tips for Teachers is a good read for practical advice on setting a schedule, how to pick a theme, niches, etc.

2. Collaboration and Extended Reach.

Today’s EdTech tools such as blogging allows for a broader range of collaboration between students and teachers as well as between teacher and teacher. It’s a great way to share what you’ve learned with other teachers, and to learn from those with a bit more technical savvy – as this very informative post 50 Ways EdTech Benefits Teachers and Students from Tom Vander Ark demonstrates.
And, as an integrated tool in blended learning, blogging can also enhance “communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, entrepreneurship, global awareness, and digital responsibility/citizenship.”
Blogging also facilitates expanded influence for “professional learning networks across districts and around the world.”

3. Blogging Builds Voice.

For aspiring writers or teachers of drama, English, journalism etc. blogging is a very effective way to develop their “voice”, one of the key qualities in becoming a better writer – and thus, a better communicator. Critical for being a good teacher.
But it can also be the voice of social consciousness. Anyone who works within the parameters of public service knows how difficult it can be when trying to effect positive change. Blogging allows us to take our concerns into the public arena – as Susan Bowles did when she refused to give the FAIR test to her kindergarteners. Use this tactic with discretion of course. Park your post in ‘drafts’ and sit on it overnight; or consult with your peers or superintendent before publishing.

4. Use Blogging as a Learning Tool.

Setting up a blog, learning how to use it, composing original content and curating information is a great way to teach language, writing and editing skills in the classroom. And getting students involved with their own in-class blog also teaches them how to interact in a public platform with integrity and respect, and develops good “digital citizenship skills.”
This post by educator Susan Lucille Davis offers a step-by-step process on Blogging Basics for setting up a classroom blog.

5. Blogging Gives Perspective.

Let’s face it, just like our students, we don’t always behave in the classroom the way we’d like to.
Events unfold, buttons may get pushed and then we assign meaning to those events based on past experiences. These meanings then color our thoughts and feelings which may be expressed in a manner somewhat less our usual high level of professionalism.
Blogging can be a safe environment to gain perspective on what’s happened by creating a space for reflection; as the act of writing itself helps to clarify and refine our thoughts for objective examination. In situations that are unusual or create uncertainty, the professional should “reflect on the phenomena before him…” The act of reflecting-on-action enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did”.
In short, blogging helps to create distance so we can see the situation clearly – it helps to keep us sane!
Well, there you have some good reasons to start blogging – as well as some teacher recommended resources to make your entry into the blogosphere easy and successful.

Must-Dos For Improving Your Essay Writing Skills

how to improve essay writing skills

Most writers could stand to improve their essay writing skills. That’s because essay writing is an art honed over time and with practice. Though some people may be naturally good at writing, a good essay is more than that. It requires a tight, well-defined thesis, and a developed argument that’s simply stated and uses credible research to back it up. And of course, the artistry of writing requires precise vocabulary, transition words and active voice.

If you’re in need of some improvements in your essay writing, here are some areas to focus on:

Read more

One of the first things you can do to improve your essay writing skills is dedicate more time to reading. The more you read, the more you’ll be exposed to different styles of writing. Eventually, you’ll identify qualities that you want to adopt in your own writing.

Do research before you write

It’s important to do all of your research before you write. You should take notes while doing your research, but the actual essay writing should only come later. Make sure your ideas have had time to mature enough before you start trying to put them together.

Be patient and take things one step at a time. If you’ve done all of your research and taken good notes, the arguments you’ll use should be fairly easy for you to define. Rushing into the writing process prematurely can mean you have to change your arguments as you come up with more research. This will make for a jumbled essay in the end.

Avoid repetition

Writers often make the mistake of repeating the same word or group of words too many times in their essays. This causes boring reading. Use a thesaurus to see what other words you can use to capture the same idea. If there is no replacement for the word(s) you’re writing, try using third person pronouns more often (he/she/it/they) or abbreviations for long titles.

Example:
The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation met in January to vote on whether or not to allow a mining company do a land survey on their reservation. The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation voted against granting permission. The mining company attempted to file a law suit and the Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation held a meeting at the city hall.

A better version:
The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation met in January to vote on whether or not to allow a mining company do a land survey on their reservation. They voted against granting permission. The mining company attempted to file a law suit and The Council held a meeting at the city hall.

Cite facts, statistics, dates and expert opinions

Using numbers and statistics gives credibility to your argument as well as creates an impact. Which of the following statements has a stronger impact?

There are far fewer polar bears in the Yukon today than there were a few decades ago.
Vs.
The population of polar bears in the Yukon has been reduced by 1,000% between 1980 and 2010.

Citing the opinions of experts in the field also allows the reader to trust the rest of your observations.

Example:
The devastation of the polar bear population in the Yukon is one of the most severe of any species on the planet.
Vs.
Dr. Sheffield from the University of Toronto gave a speech at a convention on wildlife conservation where he lamented that “few places on the planet have suffered such severe loss of a single species as in the Yukon.”

Improve your vocabulary

The more words you know, the more variety of words you can use in your essays. Simple math. A more ample vocabulary can provide you with the tools to write more interesting essays. It can also help you acquire a higher level of precision in your arguments. For example, if you’re writing about bee-keeping, you could use the word “apiculture” which is the technical word for bee-keeping.

If you’re writing about religious cults, you could use the word “indoctrinate” which means “teach a person or group of persons to accept a teaching uncritically”. Precise language helps you economize on explanations.

But know when to keep it simple

Writing with precise language is one thing. Showing off is another. Don’t litter your essay with sophisticated vocabulary words. Don’t use “insouciant” when you could use “indifferent” or “turgid” when you could use “tedious”. You don’t want to force your reader to reach for the dictionary every few sentences. The majority of readers wouldn’t bother. You want your essay to be readable to the layperson. The feature of your essay is your argument: if you present it simply, it will be easy to grasp. And that’s one of the goals of good essay writing.

Use transition words

Transition words are key to guiding the reader from one argument to the next. They help improve the essay’s readability and flow.
Some transition words to incorporate in your essays:

  • However
  • Furthermore
  • Moreover
  • Nevertheless
  • Also
  • Including
  • On the other hand
  • In spite of

Check out this site for a comprehensive list of transition words and when to use them.

Use active verbs

Writers often fall into the trap of using passive voice in their essays. Try using active voice instead. It’s more direct and gives more life to your sentences.

Example:
The research done on nuclear energy has left many questions still unanswered.
Vs.
Nuclear energy research still has many questions to answer.

The last surviving member of the Terena tribe had died the year before.
Vs.
The last surviving member of the Terena tribe died in 2014.

Use a writing app

Since we live in the digital age, there are apps that can tell you how your essay can be improved. Try one or all of the following:

Hemingway – highlights problem areas of your essay with color coding for things like passive voice, adverbs, complex sentences and more.
Grammarly – advanced spell checker and grammar checker as well as plagiarism detector.
ProWriting Aid – checks for grammar, style and readability.