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Enhancing writing skills

N S Soundar Rajan

WEB WATCH N S Soundar Rajan discovers Writing Center, a treasure trove of high-quality content related to the art and craft of effective college-level writing

GO DIGITAL The Writing Center website offers face-to-face tutoring sessions too.

GO DIGITAL The Writing Center website offers face-to-face tutoring sessions too.The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
— Mary Heaton Vorse

There are a host of resources on the web which offer advice and suggestions on enhancing the quality of writing. Among them, the well-known resources include The Writing Center, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), Mind Tools’ Essential Skills, Rensselaer Writing Center and Washtenaw Community College.

Writing Center, at www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/, is hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.It is a treasure trove of high-quality content related to the art and craft of effective college-level writing, much in demand all over the globe.


The Writing Center, a free service available to students, faculty, and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill, offers face-to-face tutoring sessions, an online tutor service, workshops, and more.
However, everyone is welcome to use the online handouts which offer tips on a variety of writing issues, and also view the multimedia demos on writing strategies. The content disseminated through handouts encompass four critical writing areas, namely:

- Writing the Paper
- Citation, Style, and Sentence Level Concerns
- Specific Writing Assignments/ Contexts
- Writing for Specific Fields

The section on ‘Writing the Paper’ includes argument, audience, brainstorming, college writing, conclusions, evaluating print sources, evidence, fallacies, getting feedback, introductions, paragraph development, procrastination, reading aloud, reading to write, reorganising drafts, revising drafts, statistics, summary, thesis statements, transitions, understanding assignments, using the library, writing anxiety, and writing groups.

The ‘Citation, Style, and Sentence Level Concerns’ section covers articles, citation resources, commas, conditionals, editing and proofreading, fragments and run-ons, gender-sensitive language, passive voice, plagiarism, quotations, should I use “I”?, spell-check programmes, sentence patterns, style, and word choice.

The section on ‘Specific Writing Assignments/ Contexts’ includes abstracts, annotated bibliographies, application essays, book reviews, business letters, comparing/ contrasting, CVs and resumes, dissertations, e-mail communication, essay exams, grant proposals, honors theses, literature reviews, oral history, poetry explications, scientific research reports, speeches, and working with your international TAs.

And, the ‘Writing for Specific Fields’ section covers anthropology, art history, communication studies, drama, history, literature (fiction), philosophy, political science, religious studies, sciences, and sociology.

Strangely, this section doesn’t offer any handout on technical writing, one of the most sought after jobs today.

Mind Tools, at www.mind-tools.com/CommSkll/WritingSkills.htm, offers great tips to enhance writing skills and avoid common mistakes. The aspects covered include audience and format, composition and style, structure, grammatical errors, and  proofing.

The Rensselaer Writing Center, at www.rpi.edu/dept/-llc/writecenter/web/online.html, is a great resource for downloading e-handouts on topics such as technical writing.

You can also access this site for e-handouts on ESL problems, style concerns (APA and MLA), revising prose, thesis writing, abstracts, definitional techniques, gender-fair language, styles of writing, critiques, lab reports, memos, presentations, cover letters, resumes, and graduate school essays.

The Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), at owl.english.purdue.edu/, is the grand daddy of all - one of the most respected on-line writing centres.

You can access this site for handouts on writing, grammar, and style concerns. More than 200 free resources are offered, which include writing and teaching writing, research, grammar and mechanics, style guides ESL (English as a second language), and job search and professional writing.

Among the most popular resources here include OWL exercises, APA formatting and style guide, MLA 2009 formatting and style guide, avoiding plagiarism, writing the basic business letter, and developing a résumé.

The Washtenaw Community College website, www4.wc-cnet.edu/departments/english/freehandouts.php, lets you download free handouts in pdf format on thesis statement, paragraphs (introductory, body, conclusion), essay structures, five-paragraph academic essay, academic essay, argumentative essay, cause-and-effect essay, literature essay, comparison-contrast, and taking an essay test.

And lastly, ‘Procrastination’, a e-handout to help understand why we put off writing until the very last minute.

Perusing this handout at www.unc.edu/-depts/wcweb/-handouts/procrastination.html, can help to know why we procrastinate and also learn strategies to combat this common writer's ailment which prevents us from becoming much better writers.

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