For the love of language.

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For the love of language.

The Writing Center, part of the Harvard College Writing Programme, was established to help Harvard undergraduates with any aspect of their writing, from specific assignments to general writing skills. The Harvard College Writing Programme is the oldest in the United States. Since 1872, when the course was founded, a course in expository writing has been the one academic experience required of every Harvard student. The Writing Center has prepared a series of hand-outs on different aspects of the writing process and these would be quite useful to both, aspiring writers and students.  These handouts, at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/resources.html, lead the aspiring writer to hone his or her writing skills. And, students, who feel bogged down by writing assignments, would find the guidelines very helpful to demonstrate that not only have they understood the subject, but also done some thinking on their own.The guidelines presented include:

How to read an assignment
Moving from assignment to topic
How to do a close reading
Overview of the academic essay: thesis, argument and counterargument, essay structure, developing a thesis, beginning the academic essay, outlining, counter-argument, summary, topic sentences and signposting.
Transitioning: Beware of velcro, how to write a comparative analysis.
Ending the essay: Conclusions, revising the draft, editing the essay (in two parts).
Tips on grammar, punctuation, and style.

The guidelines are lucidly presented to facilitate understanding without any ambiguity. Of particular interest to the students would be these chapters — Essay Structure, Beginning the Academic Essay,  Summary, Tips on Grammar, Punctuation, and Style. The handout, Writing An Academic Essay, explains how to fashion  a coherent set of ideas into an argument. It also explains  why and how the essay needs to be presented  in the order and structured in a way that makes most sense to a reader.  The Beginning the Academic Essay handout stresses the crucial importance of making a good beginning, as it lets the readers know what the essay is all about, the topic especially.  Summing up  the essay is equally important too as the student distills the ideas of another source for use in his or her own essay. The Summary provides  a record of what the student has researched to read and separates the ideas from those of the sources. 

The handout on Tips on Grammar, Punctuation, and Style has plenty of advice and suggestions for students, writers and ordinary folk too. For example, to many of us  the rules we learned about commas and semi-colons continue to confuse us. The handout advises us to forget the rules and advises us to read the sentences aloud and see where we would naturally pause, and  where we would draw a breath. If it’s a short pause, it probably needs a comma. If it’s a longer pause, but not quite a full stop, probably needs a semi-colon. Simple and straight forward advice!

There are several  other online resources to help enhance writing skills, and among them are Purdue Online Writing Lab, and Garbl’s Writing Resources Online. The Purdue Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/738/01/ contains links and short descriptions of writing resources including dictionaries, style manuals, grammar handbooks, and editing resources. It also contains a list of online reference sites, indexes for writers, online libraries, books and e-texts, as well as links to newspapers, journals, and online magazines. Garbls Writing Resources Online at  http://garbl.home.comcast.net/~garbl/  hosts a Editorial Style Manual and  a Concise Writing Guide. The former is a free guide, provides writing and editing advice about abbreviations, addresses, capitalisation, English grammar, and more. The latter, a free writing guide, suggests alternatives to overstated, pompous words; bureaucratic phrases; and verbose, sometimes amusing, and redundant phrases.

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