Writing by Design

becoming a professional writer

The Claim: It Pays To Increase Your Word Power

For several years now I’ve been giving my first-year writing students a vocabulary quiz as part of their writing diagnostics.  I’ve noticed a strong correlation between final grades in the course and how well (or badly) students do on the vocabulary quiz. Although intuitively the link between a wide vocabulary and writing seems clear–students with more word power have probably read more widely than their classmates–I didn’t like to push that correlation into the realm of causation.

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Mindmapping tools and visualization

I’ve been thinking lots lately about encouraging students to use mindmapping both for their writing and for their reading.  And since mindmapping is closely related to visualization, I was intrigued by Audrey Watters’s news that WorldCat, the world’s largest library catalogue, has launched a new interactive tool that lets users visually explore the catalog.

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Mashable’s history of social media (infographic)

Pedantic, I know, to point out “social media” didn’t begin with email. That quibble aside, check out an elegant history-of-social-media at a glance from Mashable.com

How much grammar do you need to write well?

According to a recently-published article in the British Educational Research Journal, there’s little or no evidence from over 100 years of research to show that teaching grammar improves student writing.

Here’s an abstract of the findings:

Over 100 years of research and debate on grammar instruction.64 articles reviewed; results show that there is little evidence to indicate that the teaching of formal grammar is effective, and that teaching sentence-combining has a more positive effect on improving the syntactic maturity of students in English between the ages of 5 and 16 improving their writing quality and accuracy…the teaching of syntax (as part of a traditional or transformational/generative approach to teaching grammar) appears to have no influence on either the accuracy or quality of written language development for 5 to 16-year-olds. (p. 51)

The importance (or not) of teaching grammar to writing students still provokes heated discussion among teachers.  What do you think?




How To Write a Book Proposal | Rachelle Gardner

Paper book sales in Canada may be on a downward slide, but the rise and rise of  e-publishing means professional writers are increasingly asked to put together book proposals for employers and clients.

Here’s a posting from Literary Agent, Rachelle Gardner, with a quick overview of what fiction and non-fiction book proposals should contain: How To Write a Book Proposal | Rachelle Gardner.

PowerPoint: the kudzu of modern communication | Cory Franklin | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Some unfortunate conference participant, undoubtedly still suffering flashbacks, who harbours a lingering animus towards Bill Gates and his software, once dubbed the PowerPoint presentation as “Killing You Microsoftly”. Such an invidious metaphor is unfair. To death. At least when you die, you’re fortunate enough to have endured your last PowerPoint presentation. The unlucky who go on living must continue to endure PowerPoint, an invasive species threatening the information ecosystem, the kudzu of software.

via PowerPoint: the kudzu of modern communication | Cory Franklin | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Ready to use RSS? Google Reader in Plain English

From the talented, innovative Common Craft team, a clear, step-by-step introduction to one of the most popular of the RSS Readers, Google Reader.

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