Writing Resources


So...why should you care about writing resources?  Well, for one thing, if you're in my classes, part of your grade is based on writing, including things like proper sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, etc.  Why?  I explain some of that in my syllabi and in class.  For a less course-related reason, here's an excerpt from Lynne Truss' best-seller Eats, Shoots & Leaves:

"To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as "Thank God its Friday" (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence.  The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive "it's" (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler.  The rule is:  the word "it's" (with apostrophe) stands for "it is" or "it has."  If the word does not stand for "it is" or "it has" then what you require is "its."  This is extremely easy to grasp.  Getting your itses mixed up is the greatest solecism in the world of punctuation.  No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice.  If you still persist in writing, "Good food at it's best," you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot, and buried in an unmarked grave."  (pg 43-44; British punctuation style changed to American by me)

I highly recommend this book, available pretty much anywhere, both for the entertaining read and for useful lessons on punctuation.


And for another reason:  "“Grammar is my litmus test,” the C.E.O. of iFixit wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review. “If job hopefuls can’t distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘too,’ their applications go into the bin.”"  This was the intro of a discussion in the NY Times entitled, "Is our children learning enough grammar to get hired?"


You can also always read about these guys who clearly take grammar seriously; it sort of warms my heart.


Other resources:

One of the most well known resources for writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.  You can see the contents online, including a handy search engine, here.

CMU’s English department offers an "Ask the Grammar Maven" website where you can email a grammar question.  

CMU’s Writing Center is also available to help you. They offer both online and in person services.

A friend of mine has put together an incredible website on grammar, with very explicit descriptions of when to use what (in terms of word choice, such as lie vs lay; in terms of punctuation, such as it's vs its...) as well as basic information on different elements of writing (such as, "What is a dangling participle?".  She cautions at the beginning of the site, "Note that although most of the examples used in the lessons are related to the television show Xena: Warrior Princess, you need not be familiar with XWP to understand the lessons. All you really need to know is that Xena is a reformed warrior who fights bad guys, and that Gabrielle is her sidekick, friend and companion."  So as long as you're not too anti-Xena, you should find this an excellent resource:  http://www.englishchick.com/grammar/.  Her site also includes links to other grammar-related sites you might find helpful.

Joan's (englishchick) site begins with a section on remedial grammar, with instructions to "Start here if you aren't sure what nouns, verb, adjectives and participles are."  As those of you in my intro psych class know, you can also learn much of this from Schoolhouse Rock, which to my delight is now being played on Toon Disney (ch 59 on Charter Cablevision in Mt P) after the 5 pm featured show each day (just before 7 pm, it seems). Here's a site with the lyrics to the Grammar Rock videos; you can get the lyrics to Multiplication Rock, America Rock, and Science Rock there as well.  It used to have music clips too, but took them down for copyright reasons.  I'm happy to sing any of the songs for you though...

If you're more of the podcast type, Grammar Girl has podcasts at http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ - there are lots of topics, and given the frequency with which I've seen these errors in papers, I'd highly recommend checking out the subject-verb agreement one, affect vs effect, and apostrophes.  But hey, there are lots - run wild.

Having trouble with you're vs your?  Try this rap video that explains them to you.  It's hysterical, but note that there are a whole bunch of reasons I will not be showing this in class, so consider yourself warned.

Need help with the plagiarism vs citing sources idea?  Here's a great guide to crediting your sources, from the Univ of Wisconsin.

Passive vs active voice?  Try this test.  And here's the Grammarly blog that came from.

Yet another reason not to plagiarize:  You could end up getting mocked by everyone in the world who reads Yahoo news stories.

For those who think I'm too strict about requiring quotation marks, or not allowing people to redo their logs if they get a 0 for plagiarism:  aren't you glad to learn this lesson now, on a 25-point paper in an undergraduate class, rather than finding out it's a big deal when you're decades into your career and it becomes a news story?






More links to come...


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This page was last updated on 03/30/13 .