Final Paper Push!

Final Paper Push begins next Monday, 4/23 and runs until Monday, 4/30. We will be offering refreshments, tutoring, and handouts. You are more than welcome to come take a break in our comfy lounge!


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How to Write a Compelling Introductory Paragraph

editing introduction paragraph

Sometimes, the beginning isn’t the best place to start—at least when it comes to writing essays. Composing a great first paragraph is important, but tackling it before your ideas are fully formed can lead to trouble. Don’t let your essay start with a whimper. Instead, put it on the fast track to success with these four tips for writing compelling introductory paragraphs:

1. Don’t write your introduction first

Maybe you have the perfect anecdote in mind for your introduction, or maybe you’re experiencing the anguish of a stubbornly blank computer screen. Either way, a wiser approach is to outline your thesis statement and your main points first—then you can flesh out your introduction. End your first paragraph with a strong thesis statement that summarizes the central idea of your essay clearly and succinctly. Once you know where your destination is, it’s much easier to decide on the direction for your opening paragraph.

2. Incorporate a bit of intrigue

What was the most interesting thing that you learned while studying this topic? Is there a way to use this information to introduce your essay? Starting off with a “wow” factor that’s relevant to your overall argument can be a powerful writing strategy. This is your hook to get your audience interested.

However, no matter how interesting your topic is, resist the urge to cram too many ideas or facts into your first paragraph. Your introduction is vital because it frames your writing as a whole. It should hint at what’s to come without giving away every detail. Try these two simple steps to lead into your thesis sentence at the end of your introductory paragraph:

●     Start with one compelling fact or observation that will keep the reader engaged enough to read more.

●     Then, add another sentence or two to show how you are linking that introductory idea to your thesis statement.

It’s that simple. Don’t try to make it more complicated. You have the rest of your essay to fill in the details and give the broader context.

3. Avoid obvious statements

Don’t use broad generalizations that tell the reader nothing about where your essay is headed. Avoid clichés like, “Since the beginning of time… ” or, “The dictionary defines (term)as …” or, worst of all, “This essay will cover…” Those statements don’t tell your audience anything new, and worse, they can appear unoriginal.

4. Finally, revise your work

Once you have your introductory paragraph drafted, it’s time to review it with a critical eye. Try doing a word count of your paragraph, and then cutting that down by 20 percent. Your introduction may be longer or shorter depending on the overall length of your essay, but for an essay that’s a few pages long, challenge yourself to keep your first paragraph to 100 or fewer words.



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Parts of Speech

Parts of Speech

How a word is used in a sentence can determine what part of speech we call it. A word can be a prepositions or an adverb, for example, or a gerund or a participle. In this article, we help you figure out the difference.


Articles are short words that come before nouns. There are two types of articles: indirect articles and direct articles.

The indirect articles are “a” and “an.” “A” comes before words that start with a consonant sound, and “an” comes before words that start with a vowel sound.

  • Will I get a bike for my birthday?
  • Amit wears an orange jersey.

The direct article is “the.”

  • The dog walked down the street.



Nouns are names of people, places, things, and concepts.

Proper nouns are the given names of people, places, and things. The first letter of a proper noun is capitalized.

  • We visited California last year.
  • Who told Adam that Sarah called?

Common nouns are the generic names of people, places, things, and concepts. Common nouns are written in lowercase.

  • We visited a new city.
  • Who told Adam that a girl called?
  • Sarah showed courage today.


Verbs can describe actions, help other verbs, and link a subject to descriptors.

Action verbs describe actions:

  • Matteo jumped over the fence.
  • Harry wins every match.

Helping verbs (or auxiliary verbs) add meaning to the main verb. They can convey a sense of time, possibility, ability, and so on:

  • Maria might take you to the store.
  • Maria can take you to the store.
  • Maria has taken you to the store.

Linking verbs connect a subject to a descriptor.

  • Squiggly is yellow.
  • Aardvark was the best fishing buddy today.


Adjectives modify nouns.

  • Pick the yellow flower.
  • Luka carried the heavy bags.

Some systems call words such as “a” and “the” and “my” and “his” adjectives.

Nouns can also function as adjectives, and when they do, they are called attributive nouns:

  • We visited the tree farm.
  • She hid the letter in a hat box.


Adverbs can modify verbs (or verb phrases), adjectives (or adjective phrases), other adverbs (or adverb phrases), and whole sentences. Adverbs often end with “-ly,” but not always.

  • We made pizza yesterday.
  • Deven expertly added toppings.
  • Thankfully, Hugh couldn’t find the anchovies.


Pronouns can take the place of nouns in a sentence or refer to someone who was named earlier in a sentence.

  • He went to the football game.
  • Give the ball to me.
  • Tara and Manuel baked the cake themselves.

Pronouns such as “my,” “your,” and “their” are commonly called possessive pronouns. Others may call them possessive adjectives or possessive determiners, and those terms are also correct.

  • Don’t tell his sister.
  • Our house is always noisy.


Conjunctions join things and can create transitions.

Coordinating conjunctions connect things that are grammatically equal, such as two nouns or two clauses:

  • Liam likes milk and cookies.
  • I like milk, but I don’t like cookies.

Subordinating conjunctions head dependent clauses.

  • We were late because traffic was bad.
  • Call me when you get home.
  • Since you paid, you should stay.

Correlative conjunctions are pairs such as “neither … nor.”


Prepositions tell you about relationships. They can tell you about time, location, position, duration, direction, and more.

  • On Friday, we’ll choose a winner.
  • Drive toward the beach.
  • The clock is over the mantle.
  • He sent the card to Sylvia.

Sometimes prepositions modify verbs in a way that is typically associated with adverbs.

  • Clean up the kitchen.
  • He ran over the cat.
  • The tree fell down.

How to Tell Prepositions from Subordinating Conjunctions

Some words, such as “after” and “before,” can be prepositions or subordinating conjunctions depending on how they are used. Here’s how to tell them apart:

If the word is followed by a noun or gerund, it is a preposition. (The noun or gerund is called the object.)

  • After the luncheon, Squiggly needed a nap. (preposition)
  • Before casting the show, Aardvark watched videos. (preposition)

If the word is followed by a main clause (something that could stand as a sentence on its own), it is a subordinating conjunction.

  • After Squiggly ate five kumquats, he felt sick. (subordinating conjunction)
  • Aardvark wept before he posted the list. (subordinating conjunction)


Gerunds are made by adding the “-ing” suffix to verbs. For example, “running” is the gerund of the verb “run.”

Gerunds can act like nouns. Often (but not always) you can replace a “nouny” gerund with a regular noun, such as “cookies.”

  • Running makes me happy.
  • Everyone hates my singing.

Sometimes, gerunds act like verbs. For example, in this sentence, the gerund is modified by an adverb:

  • Lea’s quickly defusing the bomb saved the day.


Participles typically end in “-ing” or “-ed” and can be in the present tense (“lifting”) or past tense (“lifted”). Some participles take irregular endings (“taken,” “slept,” “done,” “been”).

Participles have multiple uses, making them one of the more difficult parts of speech to master.

Participles can act like adjectives:

  • Stop the speeding car.
  • Left out overnight, the milk spoiled.

Participles can join with certain helping verbs and forms of the verb “to be” to make perfect and progressive verb phrases:

  • Amelia had been walking.
  • Ruby is walking.
  • Oliver will have been walking.


How to Tell Gerunds, Participles, and Adjectives Apart

Nothing is trickier than distinguishing a participle from a gerund. They look identical. “Forgiving,” for example, can be a participle or a gerund (or even an adjective) depending on how it’s used. Use these simple rules to tell the difference.

First, can you modify the word with “very”? If yes, it’s an adjective.

  • Squiggly was in a very forgiving mood. (adjective)

Second, if you can’t modify the word with “very,” can you modify it with an adverb? If yes, it’s a participle. If no, it’s a gerund.

  • Squiggly is graciously forgiving his brother. (participle)
  • Squiggly recited the forgiving spell. (gerund, imagine a spell for forgiving)

You may also have trouble determining whether an “ing”-word in a phrase at the beginning of a sentence is a participle or a gerund. When the word follows a preposition, it’s a gerund.

  • Singing in the rain, Squiggly felt elated. (participle)
  • After singing in the rain, Squiggly felt damp. (gerund)


Infinitives are the “to” form of verbs.

  • I want to go.
  • I pledge to uphold the law.

Infinitives can play different roles in a sentence. These are just two examples:

  • Subject: To win was his biggest desire.
  • Object: He hoped to win.



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Midterm Madness

The Studio will be closing tomorrow, 3/8. We will return Monday, 3/19 and will be kicking off our Midterm Madness event! Join us for a tutoring session, a helpful handout, or a cup of coffee on us. See you soon and have a safe, happy break! #esustudio

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Creating an Outline

Why create an outline for a paper? There are many reasons, but in general, it may be helpful to create an outline when you want to show the hierarchical relationship or logical ordering of information, which will help you in the pre writing stage.

For research papers, an outline may help you keep track of large amounts of information. For creative writing, an outline may help organize the various plot threads and help keep track of character traits. Many people find that organizing an oral report or presentation in outline form helps them speak more effectively in front of a crowd. Below are the primary reasons for creating an outline.

-Aids in the process of writing
-Helps you organize your ideas
-Presents your material in a logical form
-Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing
-Constructs an ordered overview of your writing
-Defines boundaries and groups

How do I create an outline?

1. Determine the purpose of your paper.
2. Determine the audience you are writing for.
3. Develop the thesis of your paper.


Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.
Organize: Group related ideas together.
Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
Label: Create main and sub headings.

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“Because,” “Due To,” “Since,” and “As”

English offers many ways to express “because.” Some are wordy and should be avoided due to the fact that they are wordy. Others, like “since” and “as,” need to be used carefully, since you could confuse your readers.

Wordy Ways to Say “Because”

First, let’s disparage all the wordy ways to express the meaning “because.” There are quite a few: “due to the fact that,” “owing to the fact that,” “on account of,” and “on the grounds that,” for example. If you use “because” instead of those beasts, you can save up to four words.

You should also avoid “the reason is because.” For example, “The reason I love you is because of your kindness.” Why not be concise instead? Just say,

“I love you because you’re kind.” Some people might prefer “the reason is that,” but that is also wordy.

“Due to” or “Because”?

Now let’s discuss “due to” and “because.” The traditional view is that you should use “due to” only as an adjective, usually following the verb “to be” (1).

For example, if you say, “The cancellation was due to rain,” the words “due to” modify “cancellation.” That sentence is a bit stilted, but it fits the traditionalist rule.

If you wanted to be more casual, you could say, “It was canceled because of rain.” According to purists, you’re not allowed to say, “It was canceled due to rain” because “due to” doesn’t have anything to modify.

“Since” or “Because”?

Interestingly enough, “since” and “because” can be synonyms.

“Since I love you, let’s get married” means the same thing as “Because I love you, let’s get married.” (Yes, you can use “because” at the beginning of a sentence.)

Fussy grammarians might disagree in some cases. The word “since” often refers to how much time has passed, as in “Since yesterday, all I’ve thought about is you.” Sometimes, a sentence with “since” can be interpreted in two ways, and that is when you should avoid using “since” to mean “because.” Take this ambiguous sentence:

“Since they spoke, she’s had second thoughts.” (“Since” could mean “from the time that they spoke” or “because they spoke.”)

A similar problem arises with the word “as,” which can also mean “because,” so keep those little grammarians perched on your shoulder to make sure you don’t write an ambiguous sentence. Granted, it is hard to know when you’re being unintentionally ambiguous. Spend some time away from your writing and then look at it again with fresh eyes, or you could always rope in a friend.


To sum up, English offers many ways to express “because.” Some are wordy and should be avoided. Others, like “since” and “as,” need to be used carefully, since you could confuse your reader. Happy writing!

Hope to see you all at the Studio soon (“because” we care).


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Welcome back Warriors!

Welcome back to a snowy first day of classes! Our studio will open on Monday, January 29th. Get ready for a great semester; we are certainly looking forward to seeing you all again!


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Final Paper Push Begins!

Hello Warriors!

Friendly reminder that our last day open with be Sunday, December 10th. This week kicks off our Final Paper Push event, so stop by the Studio and have a tutoring session, a cup of coffee on us, or just take some helpful handouts.

We look forward to working with you this week!

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Dealing with Finals Week Stress

While college stress is constant throughout the semester, college stress during finals week takes it to a whole new level. As we approach finals week, these six easy ways to rest and relax during finals week can help you make it through the madness.

1. Remove yourself from the stress

Get time away/ alone. Chances are, everyone you know at school is stressed during finals week, too. Take a few minutes to take a walk off-campus, treat yourself to a coffee in a place not full of stressed students, or find some other way/ place that you can get yourself out of the finals-week environment, if even just for a few minutes.

2. Unplug before exams

Spend 3-5 minutes not doing anything. This is often more challenging than it sounds. But take a few minutes to turn off all of your technology and sit and relax—even meditate, if you can. Those few minutes can calm your mind and your spirit while helping you refocus and recharge.

3. Have some fun

Spend 15-20 minutes doing something purely for fun. The break for your brain will do wonders for its productivity later. Watch silly YouTube videos, read a trashy magazine, play a video game, or Skype with a friend far away.

4. Hit the gym

Get some exercise in a low-stress situation. Translation: practice with your basketball team doesn’t count. Go for a relaxing walk, ride your bike without knowing where you’ll end up, or go for a quick jog. And if it’s too cold outside, try something new in the gym. You might be surprised by how relaxed — and energized! — you feel afterward.

5. Watch the game

Attend a sporting event. If you’re studying for finals at the end of the fall semester, chances are you can attend a football or basketball game during finals week. Leave your books in your room and really let yourself relax and enjoy, knowing that the time spent away will help your studying later.

6. Make a list

Make a list—and write down everything. For some people, making a list can really help reduce stress because it helps put things in perspective. The best way to get things organized and to get a feeling of satisfaction is to write down every single thing you need to do—like eating breakfast/lunch/dinner, doing laundry, getting some sleep, and going to class. Getting things written down—and then crossed off—can do wonders for your sense of control and accomplishment during a very busy time.

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Traits of Effective Writing

Hello Warriors! This week, we are talking about traits of effective writing. Keep these in mind while you write to see your work improve!

  1. Stimulating Ideas:

Good writing includes important ideas, accurate information, and interesting details. It also has a clear message or purpose.

2. Logical Organization:

Good writing is well organized. The opening catches the reader’s attention. The middle is well developed and answers the reader’s questions. The ending ties things together and leaves the reader with something to think about.

3. Personal Voice:

In the best writing, you can hear the writer’s voice. Voice is the special way a writer expresses ideas and feelings. Voice depends on who you are writing to: the audience.

4. Original Word Choice:

Good writing contains well-chosen words, including vivid verbs, specific nouns, and colorful adjectives.

5. Smooth Sentences:

Good writing flows smoothly from one sentence to the next. Sentences begin in different ways; some are short and others are long.

6. Correct and Accurate:

Good writing is free of errors in capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.


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