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Friday, November 5, 2010

WR 9. WEB resouces to improve your writing

WR 9. WEB resouces to improve your writing

WR 9.1. Four webpages to get started

GOAL. To surf the web to discern what kind of writing centers I could rely on.

1. Welcome to the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab)
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects.

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center
The University of North Carolina provides straightforward handouts on important writing issues such as reading assignments, creating arguments, writing transitions, and writing in different disciplines, accented with clever examples.

Check 1. Gender-Sensitive Language. This handout will explain some of the current thinking on gender issues and writing and will provide suggestions to help you appropriately express gender relationships as you write.

3. University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center offers a writing handbook that guides writers through all steps of the writing process.

4. Distance learning
25 Absolute Best Web Resources for Writers from Jamie Littlefield
Before you start that essay assignment, check out these indispensable sites. The internet can guide you to discover how to write, what to write, where to find information, and how to format your paper. Goodbye hours of frustrating rough drafts, hello A's.
See next WR9.3. worksheet

WR 9.2. University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center: five items

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center offers a writing handbook that guides writers through all steps of the writing process. Here you can see a couple of pages.
1. Reduce unnecessary prepositional phrases
2. Avoid using vague nouns
3. Beware of nominalizations
4. Avoid noun strings
5. Carelessness with misplaced modifiers (with task)

1. Reduce unnecessary prepositional phrases
Sometimes prepositional phrases aren't really necessary, especially when you use them (instead of an apostrophe + s) to denote possession of an object.
Also, try to avoid using too many prepositional phrases in a single sentence, since they can obscure the main subject and action of a sentence. Unnecessary prepositional phrases How to fix them
The opinion of the manager The manager's opinion
The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author's range of learning and intellect. The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.
It is a matter of the gravest possible importance to the health of anyone with a history of a problem with disease of the heart that he or she should avoid the sort of foods with a high percentage of saturated fats. Anyone with a history of heart disease should avoid saturated fats.
(Heffernan and Lincoln, 1996, p. 55)

2. Avoid using vague nouns
Try to avoid using the following vague, all-purpose nouns, which sometimes lead to wordiness, especially when used in prepositional phrases.
• factor / aspect
• area / situation
• consideration
• degree /case Vague nouns How to fix them
Consumer demand is rising in the area of services. Consumers are demanding more services.
Strong reading skills are an important factor in students' success in college. Students' success in college depends on their reading skills.
Photography took on new aspects during the Civil War. The Civil War saw the advent of graphic battlefield photography.

3. Beware of nominalizations
Put all the action of a sentence into the verb. Don't bury the action in a noun or blur it across the entire sentence.
Good: The committee has to approach it differently.
Bad: The establishment of a different approach on the part of the committee has become a necessity.
(Williams, 1985, p. 11)

Watch out especially for nominalizations (verbs that have been made into nouns by the addition of -tion).
Nominalization How to fix it
An evaluation of the procedures needs to be done. We need to evaluate the procedures.
The procedures need to be evaluated. We need to evaluate the procedures..
The stability and quality of our financial performance will be developed through the profitable execution of our existing business, as well as the acquisition or development of new businesses. We will improve our financial performance not only by executing our existing business more profitably but by acquiring or developing new businesses.

4. Avoid noun strings

Unless readers are familiar with your terminology (or jargon), avoid using phrases with many consecutive nouns (noun strings). Noun strings How to fix them
MHS has a hospital employee relations improvement program. MHS has a program to improve relations among employees.
NASA continues to work on the International Space Station astronaut living-quarters module development project. NASA is still developing the module that will provide living quarters for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

5. Carelessness with misplaced modifiers
What’s a mispaced modifier? A modifier is a phrase or word meant to describe or explain part of a sentence. Ar misplaced (or dangling) modifier is not clearly connected to its object, making the sentence unclear or illogical. Se comments on next page.
FOLLOW UP. More at Hamilton college
5.1. Carelessness with misplaced modifiers
In Example 1a, the phrase before the comma modifies the subject of the main sentence, which is "I": Example 1a: Driving down the interstate, I saw the dead dog.
The modifer “driving down the interstate”clearly describes the action of “I.” Example 1b: I saw the dead dog driving down the interstate.
In Example 1b, the modifier appears to describe “the dead dog,” an unlikely candidate for a driver’s license. Here’s a trickier example: Example 2: A sinister genius, Agent Starling had to be on her guard against Hannibal Lecter at all times.
In Example 2, the modifier is supposed to describe "Hannibal Lecter," but instead it appears to modify "Agent Starling," the subject of the sentence. That would be quite confusing. To avoid this error, place modifiers near the words they describe; be sure the modified words actually appear in the sentence.
To get an idea of how embarrassing this kind of mistake can be, take a look at our list of the best dangling and misplaced modifiers of all time.

TASK1. Correct the best 20 misplaced and dangling modifiers of all time
1. Oozing slowly across the floor, Marvin watched the salad dressing.
2. Waiting for the Moonpie, the candy machine began to hum loudly.
3. Coming out of the market, the bananas fell on the pavement.
4. She handed out brownies to the children stored in tupperware.
5. I smelled the oysters coming down the stairs for dinner.
6. I brushed my teeth after eating with Crest Toothpaste.
7. Grocery shopping at Big Star, the lettuce was fresh.
8. Driving like a maniac, the deer was hit and killed.
9. With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
10. I saw the dead dog driving down the interstate.
11. Holding a bag of groceries, the roach flew out of the cabinet.
12. Emitting thick black smoke from the midsection, I realized something was wrong.
13. The girl was consoled by the nurse who had just taken an overdose of sleeping pills.
14. I saw an accident walking down the street.
15. Drinking beer at a bar, the car would not start.
16. Playing pool in the living room, the radio was turned on by Jim.
17. Frustrated by diagonal movement, the set was turned off.
18. Mrs. Daniel sews evening gowns just for special customers with sequins stitched on them.
19. Although exhausted and weary, the coach kept yelling, “Another lap!”
20. She carefully studied the Picasso hanging in the art gallery with her friend.
21. Having an automatic stick shift, Nancy bought the car.
22. Freshly painted, Jim left the room to dry.

WR 9.3. The 25 Absolute Best Web Resources for Writers From Jamie Littlefield,

GOAL. To surf a selection by an expert during 30 minuts.

TASK1. Explore these selected items on the page below for half an hour and store the pages that you found useful to your compositions.

Before you start that essay assignment, check out these indispensable sites. The internet can guide you to discover how to write, what to write, where to find information, and how to format your paper. Goodbye hours of frustrating rough drafts, hello A's.

How to Write

Cyber Essays offers a collection of sample papers submitted by actual students.

This Guide to Writing a Basic Essay walks readers through a step-by-step process of creating and perfecting an essay.

Michael Harvey’s Nuts and Bolts of College Writing provides extensive information for those writing at the college level. From research and documentation to structure and style, there are hundreds of interesting, informative pages. provides extensive information about different types of writing (critical essay, narrative essay, persuasive essay, etc.)

This Study Skills Online page uses graphics to guide students step-by-step from questioning to editing.
What to Write
Old Dominion University Library provides lists of hundreds of possible subjects organized by category.

Queen’s University Library not only offers lists of topics, but provides many research guides for individual topics, complete with lists of related books, multimedia, and other resources.

This Argumentative Essay Topics page offers suggestions for persuasive papers with possible thesis statements and links to reference material.
Where to Find Information offers hundreds of links to sources of information such as dictionaries, and literature. provides organized links to useful sites on tons of topics.

From biographies to news facts, provides tons of useful information for writers.

The Internet Public Library offers links to full text books, articles, and reference material for free.

WR 9.4. Infamous mistakes: English Pet Peeves
GOAL. To avoid some of the mistakes readers find unbearable.

A pet peeve (or pet hate) is a minor annoyance that can instill great frustration in an individual.
A Language pet peeve is what no English teacher can stand in your writing assignment.

TASK1. Organise these 10 pet peeves according to frequence in your learning. (1 most, 10 least)

  1. ➢ Pluralizing proper nouns, eg. "The Bill Gateses and the Julia Robertses of the world"
  2. ➢ Improper placement of the word "just" in a sentence to convey desired meaning
  3. ➢ Sentences ending in elipses in which the author's intended meaning is left unclear
  4. ➢ Pronouns with unclear referents. Sentences with no subject.
  5. ➢ Sentences that are hopelessly ambiguous due to double negatives
  6. ➢ Use of the word 'you' without spelling out who is meant by that ‘you’.
  7. ➢ Subject-Verb mismatch, eg. "The wearing of artificial nails are discouraged."
  8. ➢ Question marks on the end of phrases or sentences that are not questions?
  9. ➢ Why do Americans continue to ruin our language with such gems as "did you do it yet"?
  10. ➢ a lot of people seem confused as to which words are adjectives, and which words are adverbs. (many American speakers say "I did that real good." or "That ball rolled down the hill quick.")

TASK2. The Seventh Deadly Sin: Committing Pet Peeves. How many of this list of pet peeves do you commit?
Below is a webpage with a list of 20 professors' pet peeves at Hamilton College you should bear in mind as you aim for "clarity, understanding and precision" in your writing.


1. Here is Paul Brian's great site to refer to for grammatical pet peeves:

2. For more dedicated learners, enjoy the series with a real verbivore Richard Lederer, an author, speaker and journalist who specializes in grammar and the English language.

April 21, 2002: Sunday on Language Pet Peeves, we lament the death of the adverb and the excessive use of apostrophes "at this point in time."

Feb. 9, 2002: The plural follow-up -- Richard Lederer talks about the misuse of "hopefully," subject-verb agreement, and "one of the only" versus "one of the few."

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