Introduction

Writing is hard.

No, really. Writing? Is hard.

Even though writing is something humanity has been doing for millennia, even though writing is something you do every day, without thinking about it, writing is hard.

Writing is hard because it uses abstract symbols to communicate with other people. Writing activities, from pictograms to text messages, from poetry to research papers, use symbols to make meaning. Sometimes, these symbols are literal transcriptions of something in the world, like an emoticon. 🙂 Other times, these symbols are more figurative, and letters and words stand in for concepts in the world, like the word “smile.” The act of communicating through symbols is difficult, because you have to make those symbols mean what you are thinking. Choosing exactly the right symbols to convey your meaning can make the difference between life and death—like writing the right prescription for an illness.

Finding the right symbols is hard.

Writing is also hard because it almost always involves at least two people. From scrawling graffiti on the side of a bathroom stall to crafting the Great American Novel, writing is meant to be read by others. Writing activities, like Facebook posts and résumés, are communicative acts between at least two people. Writing is social. And finding the right symbols to convey your meaning to another person, who has different thoughts, experiences, and points of view is challenging.

Finding the right symbols for the right person is hard.

Finally, writing is hard because it is always done in context. There is always a reason, a purpose to write, whether you’re writing a tweet to share a sandwich-related triumph, writing a thank-you card to your grandmother for that ugly sweater, or writing a letter to convince a senator to support your civil rights. This purpose is guided by time and place; writing is never done in a vacuum. Arguments for civil rights look very different in 2013 than they did in 1913. Finding the right symbols for the right person, at the right time and place is hard.

This webtext is a guide to help make the hard parts of writing easier.

This webtext is focused on the kinds of writing you might do in school, because you’re going to be spending the next several years doing writing work in and around the university, but the lessons here can (and should) be applied to all kinds of writing work that you will do in life, because the underlying principles of written communication remain the same.

We have designed this webtext as a guide. You can read it straight through or go to a specific chapter that has the information that you need. Keep this webtext on hand as you write, so you can reference key ideas or strategies.

Throughout this webtext, you will find “Chirps,” marked by Charlie, which will provide hints, tips, and mini-prompts. You will also find mini-writing assignments for each chapter. There are links to explore and lots of writing samples from other Ball State students to read.

Writing is hard, but it’s not impossible. You are already a writer. You write every day, between text messages, Facebook posts, or grocery lists. You have all the skills you need to succeed as a writer.

BallPoint is here to help you be the best writer you can be and to help you find the right symbols for the right person, at the right time and place, every time you write.

Stephanie Hedge and Elmar Hashimov, Editors-In-Chief (2012 Edition)

Elisabeth Buck, PDF to Webtext Converter/Editor (2014)

Melissa Hull and Nichole Pena, Webtext Editors (2014)

To access the content of Ball Point, you will need a password. You can obtain this password from your Writing Program instructor, or by contacting the Writing Program main office. 

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The Ball State University Writing Program Handbook for English 101,102, and 103