8 April 2016: Professor Brian Zimmerman

Professor Brian Zimmerman has been teaching at Boston College since the fall of 2011, and is one of the many beloved Freshman Writing Seminar Professors. His class last semester was organized around the following question: ‘How do networks inform who I am and who I become?’ The networks studied in class included culture, language and digital and physical space, among others.

For any students hoping to improve their writing, from new FWS students to aspiring writers, here are some tips that from Professor Zimmerman to help your writing stand out!

Transitioning from high-school writing to college-level writing:

While high-school writing is extremely formulaic, and has to be, because teachers must ‘teach to the test,’ some of the best writing usually occurs when the end is not yet known. Structuring an essay around an intriguing question, something you personally wish to know more about, can be an interesting way to get around the formulaic method of reaching a known end.

Personal stakes:

Finding a unique angle or including personal stakes in an assignment can be a useful way to make your writing stand out, especially because you’re more likely to engage in the writing process and product. An essay you don’t want to write will only create an essay no one wants to read. Its best to be excited and motivated about one’s work; including personal stakes can help get you there. It is important to disengage from the notion of ‘my professor is asking me to do something’ and really own and engage with the paper.


Many students begin with an outline, the problem with this is the assumption that before they start to write, they know what they are going to say, learning nothing in the process. Much of the best writing reflects the writing process – it allows the form to be influenced by learning and reflection that occurs.

Writing is a process of learning. For this reason, it can be incredibly beneficial to begin from a point of curiosity that propels one towards a point of knowledge.

General Advice for Boston College: 

Prof. Zimmerman encourages students to start taking courses that help them develop a sense of their own strengths and interest. Though there is a prevalent anxiety to get the core out of the way, doing so defeats the purpose of a liberal arts university – students should seek various types of courses that can help them develop a sense of who they want to become, instead of trying to simply get classes ‘out of the way’.

“Naomi” author of “Naam,” Fresh Ink Archives, 2010.

“Sarah” author of “Duty, Honor, Country,” Fresh Ink Archives, 2010.