Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

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Back to the Basics: How to Recognize Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs

The Writing Resource Blog

In order to understand something like Subject/Verb Agreement, the proper way to use Pronouns, or even Identifying and Correcting Sentence Fragments, it is important to fully master some of the basic elements of grammar. This can be difficult for all writers, and especially for ESL, or English as a Second Language, writers. That said, a great place to start is by learning how to recognize these basic elements – like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. While there are many other parts of speech that can impact your writing success, it all begins with mastering the basics!

As they explain in the video, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs all do different things. We use a combination of these different elements to create sentences and express ourselves! As the video notes,

  • Noun (n): Person, Place, Thing (or whatever/whoever is doing the action)
  • Verb (v): An Action Word (or the…

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Why “Good Writers” Should Visit the Writing Center


by: McKenzie Quattlebaum


If you’re like me, you might consider yourself a pretty decent writer. You probably grew up loving putting pen to paper, or maybe you’ve just always had a natural flair when it comes to words. You may have had a teacher, a parent, maybe even a friend or two, who praised you again and again for your talents in the ways of composition, or their jealousy when you always aced those essays in Mrs. Whatshername’s class. If this is you, that’s great, but don’t let it go to your head; there is always a way to improve. Sure, Michael Jordan was a good basketball player, but he didn’t stay good by sitting on the couch with a bag of chips watching Netflix, did he? No! He practiced and worked hard with coaches and teammates to become even better than he already was. You’re probably thinking, what is…

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Peer Reviewed Article 1: Rhetorical Empathy in the Writing Classroom by Erin Kunz

Minnesota English Journal

Rhetorical Empathy in the Writing Classroom

by Erin Kunz

When developing a college composition course, content and methodology are always important considerations, but as instructors we also must consider how we can develop good practices in order to foster an intellectual environment. We try to create community for our students, but because of a number of issues—resistance, apathy, and misunderstanding, to name a few, establishing a community where we can openly discuss the human condition is a difficult endeavor. The ideological nature of feminist writing, feminist theory, and feminist politics can make it even more difficult to create community. Therefore, we must be particular about our approach when teaching ideological methods and topics.

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Choosing the Singular They 

Explorations of Style

In this post, I want to talk about an issue that has been troubling me for as long as I have been writing this blog. Should I be using the singular they? That is, should I be using they as a gender-neutral pronoun for a grammatically singular antecedent? In general, I have not done so, but trying to fix this sentence from a recent post forced me to revisit that policy:

An established Harvard academic writing a book is doing something very different than a new doctoral student attempting their first article.

My usual way to circumvent this issue has been to use the plural. But that solution—‘doctoral students attempting their first articles’—worked dismally here. Making the whole sentence plural sounded daft, and making only the second half plural upset the comparison. So I left it as it was and made a note to make a more systematic decision later (and…

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Silence as a tutoring tool

Brian Hotson, Director, Saint Mary’s Writing Centre


“Silence is argument carried out by other means.” — Che Guevara


Working recently with a student, I found us both staring in silence at a page of the student’s handwriting. Five second… 10 seconds… 15 seconds…

Student: “What if the paper is about the universality of addiction and intervention?”

More silence.

“Universality…that’s a word, right?”

Tutoring is an intimate experience and silence creates an intimate space. Silence democratizes the writing and learning processes in general, which “can lead to a sense of teaching-based group intimacy that, ultimately, can enhance the discovery of knowledge” (Lees, 2013). I’ve found that in silence, more answers seem to come up than when the tutoring space is filled with words. The work of silence as a writing tool is similar to that of putting aside work for a time; it allows the brain to re-focus, breakdown, and re-form into something changed or new. When tutoring students from learning cultures of China and Japan, as well as Scandinavia, “appreciating the pedagogical uses of silence can be particularly helpful… where silence plays a significant cultural role and is valued” (Lees, 2013). Used at the right moments, silence allows the student a chance to commandeer the tutoring process, while encouraging his or her own strengths in the knowledge-making process.

Beginning a tutoring session with silence in mind will help mitigate apprehension of silence. In the case of this recent student, he thought that he had no idea of how to tackle his paper when we began, though he knew his topic, addiction and Wind in the Willows and had done a significant amount of research and prewriting. He had time constraints. Using a script of “Let’s think about…” followed by silence at the beginning of the session set a process of talking and pondering at the outset. In this case, the student just didn’t know what he already knew. Silence helped this knowledge come to the surface.


Lees, H. (2013). Silence as a pedagogical tool: Using silence effectively in the university classroom has pedagogical benefits, asserts Helen Lees. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from

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Importance of writing instruction and practice in Atlantic Canada || Business climate worsening in Nova Scotia…

Atlantic Canadian Writing Centres Association

Business climate worsening in Nova Scotia, manufacturers say

“Job seekers at PolyCello’s packaging plant in Amherst must write a competency test before they’re hired.

But the results from today’s high school graduates, compared to those from 10 or 15 years ago, paint a dismal picture.

“They’re half what they used to be,” Stephen Emmerson, the firm’s president and CEO, said. “We are basically graduating people from high school that are functionally illiterate.”

This lack of basic skills is an issue not just for PolyCello, but for manufacturing companies across the province, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Nova Scotia says.

On Thursday, the group held its 2015 Nova Scotia Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Recognition Awards in Fall River, where it released key findings from its CEO Roundtable Report.

The report stems from eight roundtable sessions and 14 separate interviews through March and May with more than 100 CEOs and senior…

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From finish to start: Writing your thesis with the end in view

DoctoralWriting SIG

This guest post is by Sue Starfield who is an associate professor in the School of Education and the Director of the Learning Centre at UNSW Australia, as well as co-author with Brian Paltridge of Thesis and dissertation writing in a second language: A handbook for supervisors. Sue teaches courses in thesis writing for doctoral students and runs workshops for supervisors on ways they can help their students with their writing. If you like Sue’s blog, you may also enjoy Susan Carter’s recent post on the examiner perspective.

By Sue Starfield

Students and supervisors are often surprised when I talk to them about the research into what examiners look for in a PhD thesis. Almost apologetically, I’ll explain that it’s an area of growing interest. John Swales, the well-known applied linguist, coined the phrase ‘occluded genres’ to describe genres that are not publically and easily available. The PhD examination…

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Job posting || Assistant Professor, Department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications at the University of Winnipeg

Assistant Professor, Department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications at the University of Winnipeg

“Areas of specialization are open, but may include the following: digital media and new media studies, rhetoric and cultural/critical theory, and the history and theory of rhetoric.
Candidates should have, or be close to completing, a PhD in rhetoric, composition, communication, or any combination of these areas. Priority will be given to candidates who
can demonstrate a strong record of research and publication and a commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching.”


Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers, Chair
Department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications
University of Winnipeg

Email: j.mcleod-rogers at

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