Emily Denton

Emily Denton is a fourth-year English professor at West Virginia University.

English 101 is one of the most terrifying courses for WVU students. They face more than a half-dozen multi-page assignments and are introduced to an array of unfamiliar writing styles. The DA asked WVU English professor Emily Denton to crack the course, and offer some tips to help students.

Don’t worry

"I think there’s a lot of fear that this is a class that many students fail. And I think it is really difficult to fail 101 or 102; you have to really try. You have to write papers that are like scribbled on cocktail napkins or something. And the department makes it really easy or sets up this kind of system for students to succeed. One of the best advantages this class has as opposed to chemistry or math is the ability to revise your papers, and have your grade essentially replaced. I find that students don’t take advantage of that enough, because essentially 70 percent of your grade is out until the very end, which is a huge amount."


"Participation is 10 percent which can be the difference between an A and a B. For me, as a professor, participation is huge. Because class is unbearable— we all have to be there for 50 minutes—and it can be as difficult and miserable as students make it. The more they participate the better it is for me, for purely selfish reasons, but also because it helps their grade.

"Sitting in class quietly and never opening your mouth—that’s gonna hurt you more than help you."

Revise (don’t just edit)

"I think sometimes students come in with a skewed idea of what editing means. We say that ‘Yes you can revise these papers and turn them in for a different grade,’ and too often students will look at my comments, change a few words here and there, move some commas around and think they’ve revised the paper. That essentially is surface editing. I think what students don’t realize is sometimes papers need to be entirely reworked; Paragraphs need to be moved, entire sections need to be written. So revision is so much more than editing."

Stretch yourself

"I think part of this course is to kind of stretch students’ comfort zones, not just in what you’re talking about but what you’re writing about. Also, I get a lot of plagiarized papers. Don’t plagiarize. That is the worst thing any student can do."

Apply what you’ve learned

"This course is about obtaining transferable skills, ‘How can I use this to write a better lab report, or how can I use this to email someone about job opportunities. How can I use this to email my parents and let them know I’m actually learning, and not sound like I’m drunk.’

"All of these things can be helped."