An Extra Set of Eyes: The Importance of Having Multiple People Read Your Writing

On Wordsworth and the Current Society

“But Poets do not write for Poets alone, but for men”
-William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, one of the most prolific poets of the British Romantic era, was an advocate for the dispersion of poetry to a large audience comprised of the common man. During that time in history, writing and literature, specifically poetry, was seen as something only written for an educated upper-class. Wordsworth challenged that paradigm and wrote the above quote, believing that poetry and writing should be both accessible to all and written for a large audience so that it could make a difference in the lives of common men.
Today, our society is saturated with text, writing, and information. From a young age, children are surrounded by the internet, newspapers, and books. They are interacting with varieties of texts daily. So, Wordsworth’s hopes seemingly came true. Writing is so much more accessible to the common man. Even so, his thoughts about audience are still deeply relevant. All authors have a specific audience in mind when they write. For example, bloggers write for specific audiences, such as gourmet food enthusiasts or people interested in new and innovative technologies. Books are written to be read by a target audience. In real-world contexts, writers know their audience and write with them in mind. So, this concept of audience and writing to be read has merit to be explored.

On Writing in the University and the Classroom

Even though we live in a world where writing so often has an audience, there are some situations where audience can be limited. Many assignments for university courses and secondary classrooms are only ever read by the teacher who created the assignment. Students write with their teacher in mind and do not share their writings any further than that. This, to me, is a travesty. Once they enter their career paths, these same students will be asked to write in real-world contexts with a specific audiences in mind. Social workers will need to write reports for families and for the government, scientists will have to write for journals to disseminate their research, and business men and women will have to create presentations and write strategic plans for their companies. These writing contexts will have real ramifications and real audiences that are important. When students frequently do not have their writings read by more than one person, real life will not be modeled. Not having the long-labored work that students produce read more widely than one teacher does not fit with many real-world writing tasks.
Though this occurs at many levels of education, there are multiple opportunities in place for students to have their writing read, if they know where to look. Peer tutoring, literature groups and circles, and writing centers provide students with a chance to share their writing, get feedback, and have more than one person read their writing. Other platforms, such as literature magazines or student journals provide chances for students to get their writing published. Also, starting academic blogs or even having a time in class to share student research and writing are ways that students can present to their peers. These small ways to get writing read more widely are ways that students can improve as writers and begin to think about the importance of audience, modeling a much more realistic context for writing. Students will be able to see that writing is read and understood in different ways by different people, and a rich depth of readership will help them become better writers.

On the Connection to Undergraduate Research

Connecting the idea of audience to undergraduate research is important. Having writing read is a key part in the reality of undergraduate research, as the idea of writing being disseminated is an integral part of the undergraduate research process. Though an audience is clearly outlined for many undergraduate research students within the process of dissemination, it still is important for students to have multiple people reading their writing before their research is presented to councils, peers, and professionals in any given field. The more feedback that students get on their writing, the better it will become. When students see the multifaceted nature of how writing is received, the importance of having many people read, respond to, and interact with writing will be highlighted. To connect this to similar situations in the academic world, many professors have their colleagues read and respond to their research before publishing it in a notable journal within their discipline. This gives them feedback and the ability to revise and reconsider their work, polishing it and making it even more accessible to their audiences. Undergraduate research students should have similar opportunities, through working with their mentoring professor, peers, and programs such as ours, where writing mentors have conversations about their research. All of these factors will make for a more polished project, but also give students more insight into learning the process of writing.
To see more insight into how to think about audience, look at Alexis’s previous post, Analyzing Audience. If you want to have a second set of eyes read over your writing and give you feedback, make an appointment today by emailing urpwm@uww.edu.

Starting the Semester Strong

It’s the start of a new school year, and you’re pumped to be back, or maybe you’re starting your entire college career. There are some important thing to remember as you go through your first few weeks concerning homework, sleep, and health.
Homework
The dreaded “h” word. Whether you’re new to college or a seasoned veteran, this word means hours spent doing something you don’t want to do for a class you maybe don’t want to be in. You have to remember these simple things regarding homework: it will help you succeed in this class and future classes, it does matter to your immediate understand of the class, and it should be done as soon as possible.
I cannot count the number of times that my previous classes have influenced my understanding of my current classes. Now, you might think “of course it does, Alexis. They’re all about writing.” However, I can tell you that I have studied a number of different styles of writing, from screenwriting to writing for a job. I did not think that my screenwriting class would influence my understanding of nonfiction writing, but it has. I have learned to connect the different commonalities to improve my writing style. I’m sure this is true in other majors as well. Math is important to any science, so it’s good that you have to take Math 141. Writing skills are important to any major that requires communication between peers, so it’s good that you have to take English 101 and 102. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Homework takes these skills from previous classes and teaches you to use them in your current class. Without it, you might not realize that these connections are there.
Your current classes may suggest certain writing assignments but not require them. One important thing to remember: it doesn’t matter if they’re required, the teacher thinks it will help your understanding of the subject matter. I’m not saying to do every single suggested activity. If you completely understand what is going on without doing the assignment, don’t waste your time doing it. However, if you have no clue what’s going on, do the assignment. It will help, even if you don’t immediately realize it. Your grade relies heavily on the homework that you have to do each day, so make sure you get as many points as possible. Don’t give up with half the points you could potentially earn.
You also don’t want to be unable to complete an assignment because you put it off. Again, I know this from personal experience. I have always been a procrastinator. However, this semester while working two jobs and doing an internship and taking eighteen credits, I have learned that the homework that I would normally put off until the last minute is better off being done as soon after it is assigned as possible. Doing this allows me more time to hang out with friends, and it allows some of stress of having all of that going on to be released. I don’t have to worry about how much time it’s going to take, because I’ve already done it. If you take nothing else from this article, which you should, remember this: do not put your homework off, it lessens the quality of your work.

Sleep

As an insomniac, I know the importance of sleep. I have never received the recommended hours of sleep without taking a sleeping medicine prescribed by my doctors. Get the amount you need. It might seem pointless. However, that party you went to the other day caused you to go to bed at 3 A.M. Now, you’re tired and oversleeping. Staying up later than you would any other day will throw off your sleep schedule. Waking up later than usual, as you most likely would end up doing after staying up until 3, also throws off your sleep schedule. I don’t mean that you should stay up until three every night, so you can go to parties and have fun. I’m saying that you should go to bed at a decent time every night, even if it means leaving the party a little early. Scientists recommend 9 hours of sleep every night. This is because if you don’t get enough sleep, you become grumpy, have a shorter temper, and are more likely to catch whatever illness is going around at the time. The less energy (produced by sleep) your body has, the less well your immune system deals with the onslaught of illnesses that college, and dorms, provide.

Health

One thing that you should absolutely remember regarding your health: if you push yourself to go to class when you are genuinely sick, you likely will end up missing more subsequent classes. This does not mean skip class for every little cold you get, because you will get a lot from the exposure to new germs. It simply means that if you have the flu or strep or whatever other big illness goes around, stay home. Your teacher will probably be happy to avoid that illness. If you find yourself getting a lot of the sicknesses that go around, go to the doctor and get a doctor’s note. You probably have more going on inside your body. You have to make sure you keep in touch with your teachers if something like this happens. It’s important to remember that college is four years (or slightly more than four years) of your life and serious, untreated illness could cause issues your whole life.
So, while you enjoy the beginning of the semester, remember that you also have to work on homework, sleep, and take care of yourself. Please, keep these ideas in mind.