Blog for my academic interests-- technology, plagiarism, first-year composition, grammar and style in writing, college teaching, reading theory and literacy, technical and business writing, corpus linguistics, digital culture--allowing for an occasional random post related to my personal interests--social trends, pop culture, women's fashion and style, friendships, relationships, family, travel, music, and anything else that I happen to think of. ..

End of Term Considerations

I'm winding up my last day teaching two sections of ENG 123 for Term 16EW6, although next week starts a whole new term: 16EW1 all over again! No matter how long I teach the short terms for SNHU, I still feel like the length of the terms should be "semesters," 15 or 16 weeks. But I guess that's not unusual, considering I taught for 24 1/2 years with those course time frames.  I'm always wishing I could have done a few things differently at these times. 

For one thing, I wish I had stressed how annoying it is to have repeated grammatical or punctuation (surface-level) mistakes in a piece of writing, especially one considered a final version. Next term, I should warn students about things that irritate me. Here's a list:

  • Unclear or vague pronoun references--it, this, them, that, they, etc..
  • Missing commas after an introductory clause
  • Fragments
  • Too many "there is/are/was/were" phrases in a paper
  • Using regular paragraph indentation instead of hanging indents
  • Not even thinking about a title for a paper
  • Thinking that I don't actually read the papers thoroughly or know when a student is writing a bunch of BS
  • there's more, but I don't want to come off sounding like Oscar the Grouch.
  • Students who don't bother to read the etext or the directions (Guidelines) for an assignment
  • Obvious plagiarism

I'm not happy with the way the Course Modules dumb down the paper-writing experience. More "Design Feedback Tickets" to fill out--ugh! I spend enough time grading, doing outreach, checking the Grade Center, and talking or emailing with students. 

I'm glad I didn't see too much blatant plagiarism this time. It's the bad paraphrasing-kind of plagiarism or near-plagiarism that I mostly see, and that's not necessarily a student's fault since they are simply learning how to integrate sources. It's so hard to do that skillfully, but it's 10 times harder when a person doesn't read on a regular basis. 

I could easily predict who might get a decent grade in a class if I simply had a questionnaire at the beginning asking students if they read for pleasure at all. The ones you do will probably get a better grade. It's pretty amazing. 


I'm going to diverge from this topic for a brief minute and send a shout-out to my brilliant husband whose book was published a couple of weeks ago: 

Here's the blurb for it on the publisher page:

Congratulations, Dan! Quite impressive! (Those people at Wolters-Kluwer need to put a picture of you on their site, too, not just the other guy!!)

Dans book on bankruptcy

Dog Days of August are Better with a Pool!

It's been so hot lately that it certainly FEELS like "dog days." It's a good thing that I live in an apartment complex that has a swimming pool! In fact, these days, I am no longer a Massachusetts resident, but a Pennsylvania one (again); we moved here--at least 3/4 of our stuff--in late May, and then the other 1/4 of it in mid-June.  As much I loved Boston, and I still do, it's great to be able to see Nick and Ally more often and Emily and little Zander.

I've been amused and appalled at the debaucle of Trump as presidential candidate these past months. This week tops all previous weeks so far in absurdity, but I must say that headline writers everywhere are no doubt having a field day with all the things Trump or his minions is saying or doing., in particular, had the best/funniest ones I've seen so far.

Meanwhile, I've been researching how to build a swimming pool, which types are better, which are more expensive, and so forth. It's kind of fascinating. Plus, I'm going to make the best of being able to use the pool I can while I can! Especially before the next term starts, but even then, I'll continue. What do you all think of these different types of pools?

Pool  Smallpool1 Simple Sloped-backyard-pool-ideas-7Backyardpool Backyard-Landscaping-Ideas-Swimming-Pool-Design-Homesthetics-15 Pool lounges Heartpool

A Notch Above Popular, A Notch Below Scholarly

Whenever I teach College Writing & Research, I explain to students the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals (magazines, or its online equivalents). However, that binary is not as clear-cut as it seems at first, because in reality, more students these days are coming into college classes with far less background in reading and familiarity with a variety of publications than 20, 30, or 50 years ago. Since the 1970's when more colleges became open access, more first generation college students started appearing in college classes. With the advent of so many online college opportunities, like SNHU or any other university's online programs, instructors cannot easily determine whether their students are widely read or, like the majority of high school graduates now, aliterate* and only keep up with the latest technology, hardly aware of the current issues of the day.

When students begin to write their first research paper (at least, for many it is their first), they can only see the college  library's search engine as a glorified version of Google. Already plenty familiar with Google, they tell themselves, "why bother with the more "complicated" version?" Even though scholars in library science and information retrieval are trying to capitalize on this familiarity with the ubiquitous search engine, the process of finding scholarly sources for a college research paper is more complex and multi-layered than having one point of entry.

When I used to take my students on a "library tour," I would often ask them to browse the "Current Periodicals" section, a common mainstay of most college libraries' first floors. Sometimes I would require them to find three periodicals that looked interesting to them and/or related to their major, list all three on a worksheet, then find one article within any of those three, read it, and summarize it, including the summary on the same worksheet, along with comments about what they learned, if anything. After we did this, most of the time the students remarked that it was an interesting and useful experience and said they weren't at all aware of all the magazines and journals out there. Of course, even though no library carries a complete inventory of ALL the magazines and journals "out there," this introduction to the breadth of possibilities was always eye-opening to and relatively painless for the students.

More often than not, students were drawn to a category I would call "substantive" magazines, a notch above "popular," a notch below "scholarly," the typical points on either end of a continuum that instructors explain in terms of intended audience. Sometimes "trade publications" were on the continuum, too, closer to scholarly than popular, or sometimes used as an interchangeable category. I would list Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report in the category of "popular" magazines, with the National Enquirer or Us Weekly on the far end,  the "sensational" category. (To quote an old friend of mine, "Time is for people who can't think; Look is for people who can't read.") But there's another category that is a step above "popular," that includes magazines that appeal to the "thinking person," with articles of such extended length that the aliterate normally shy away from tackling. It takes far too much of their valuable time. Sure, they CAN read it, but why bother?

If you haven't figured it out by now, I use the term "aliterate" very much in the same sense Kylene Beers does. She talks about the "illiterate" (those who don't know how to read or how to read well), "literate" (those who know how to read and often do), and "aliterate" (those who know how to read but choose not to, or at least, not if they can help it). Most high school graduates who don't go on to college tend to fall into the aliterate category, but many college students, even college graduates. could easily fit into that category now, too. People simply get out of the habit of reading and either don't want to read or feel they have no time for it, having grown accustomed to scanning user-friendly websites (read: "soundbite-sized information chunks"). Just like our we need to exercise our bodies, we need to exercise our brains a little bit more, too, or that ability to read more thoughtful and complex pieces will become harder just like our muscles atrophy.

So, if you'd like to rekindle your reading self, here's a list of print magazines that you'll find in any Barnes and Noble newstand section. Following that, I've assembled a list of online "magazines" and blogs that don't directly target people in a particular field as their audience, whose readership could easily be called the "thinking person."

Online Version of Print Magazines

Online Journals


Research Data

Last Day of a Term: Teaching Writing Online

Today's the last day of another SNHU term. I have a stackful of papers to grade in the next few days, but I always feel a little mixed when the end day arrives. I keep thinking about what I should have done differently, or thinking that I hadn't connected with this student or that well enough, but when it comes right down to it, I spend more time than most people doing this job. It's low pay, if you consider how much aStack-o-papersctual time I put into it and that's required of me to do my job well. But I like that I can do it from home. The down side of that is that I'm always working, it seems! Last weekend my husband was feeling neglected, I'm sure, because I had the laptop on my lap every time he turned around. Still, I think this term is one of the best terms here I've had yet. 


Words and Phrases

Every since I put together that spelling bee pronouncer's guide that I did two or three years ago, I've been fascinated by the amazing array of helps that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website offers. is useful, too, as are several other sites. I list a few here that are especially interesting and rich.

2015 Theme--Grammar and Style IdeaWarehouse

       Although I have not been posting entries in this blog on a regular basis in the last few years, more like randomly, I have decided that every year I'll declare a certain topic as a theme and have the posts follow that theme throughout the year. The idea came to me partly because I've been slow to get my WW Writing Services webpage back into operation or the Wendy Warren Austin professional/scholarly web page barely more than online either. Meanwhile, as I am hard at work re-learning the ropes of online teaching for the College of Online and Continuing Education (COCE) at Southern New Hampshire University, I will put this permanent virtual space (an oxymoron?) to work for both me and my students.  But then I remembered -- "IdeaWarehouse" will save me! 

    So, in the vein of Mignon Fogarty's Grammar Girl, Sarah Belliston's Grammarist, and dozens of other good blogs about writing, grammar, and style, I hereby declare this blog: XXX IdeaWarehouse--haven't figured out the official re-titling yet.

My first order of business is to start a Blogroll of these venerable writers' links and then to continue adding to it as I find more. Their domain covers both scholarly and popular writing, since I plan to do the same as well, and my background is in both areas. 

Consider this a work in progress . . .



Currently working for SNHU as an instructor of Composition II and Business Communication (April through June) and loving it! I don't have time at the moment to keep up with my WW Writing and Editing Services website, my Thumbtack or oDesk requests for work or this blog! I'll be back, I hope, in a few months! I am super impressed with SNHU's rigorous and unique program.