How a French Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?

Pen, fountain pen. 

Favorite word?

All the words that end in “-ouille.” Like “Ratatouille,” “Rouille.”

Favorite punctuation mark?



Kristen Burr, Ph.D.
Professor of Modern and Classical Languages  


SJU Writes: Do you mostly write in French or English?

KB: Most of what I’m doing for conferences and publishing is in English.

SJU Writes: When do you write in French?

KB: Sometimes for other publications and other conferences and reports for general assemblies. Everything obviously in class I do in French.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

KB: Always brainstorming firstjust putting everything down on paper. Sometimes there are things in my brain that I don’t know are there until I put it down. Sometimes I don’t know how it’s all going to come together, either, until I see it all on a piece of paper. 

SJU Writes: What’s your favorite part of the writing process? 

KB: Seeing how things come together. They’re all ideas that I have, but watching how they take shape as I’m working on them, I realize other things, and I see them in different ways, too. I love that, and thinking about how to form my thoughts into a coherent and cohesive argument.

SJU Writes: Is your writing process different when you’re writing in French? 

KB: It kind of depends on what it is. The hard thing with French, though, is that you’re always super aware of the fact that you’re probably not saying everything quite like you would if you were a native speaker.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline? 

KB: Honestly in French, the only way to do it is to write. The more you write, the better you get at it. It makes sense to brainstorm, to outline, to do a rough draft, and to get feedback from different people. 

—Devin Yingling ’22