Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Guide to Online and On-Campus Professional Writing Resources

Putting the final touches on an essay for a summer course?  Is one of your 2015-2016 goals improving your professional writing?  Read on:

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab is an excellent general reference tool.  It includes sections on English as a Second Language and Job Search Writing.

If grammar, style and punctuation aren’t your strong suits, this is a simple guide to common questions: Grammar Girl: Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing.  The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writer’s Handbook has an Editing Checklist. See also the Grammar Hotline below.

Strive to avoid gendered pronouns.  Avoid using “congressmen” or “chairman” as generic terms applying to both sexes.  “Members of Congress,” “representatives” and “chair” are good substitutes. Purdue OWL has developed a page on Stereotypes and Biased Language.

Emails to faculty and advisors and, more importantly, to your superiors at your internship, should read as if written by someone ready to enter the professional work force. BSOS students will benefit from this guide on Writing Professional Emails, as well as Purdue OWL’s Email Etiquette and Email Etiquette for Students guides.

Capitalization - Texas A&M University Writing Center’s handy “Capitalization” page covers many of the errors we see in student papers.  AP has a Political Style Guide which covers most capitalization issues related to branches of government, political parties, or interest groups.

Proofreading - There is an excellent “How to Proofread” page in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Writer's Handbook. Do it out loud!  It is a good practice before sending an email to a superior.  If you start good proofreading practices as an undergraduate, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition when applying to graduate school and your first professional job. 

Professional Writing Classes - Most are outlined here.  Of particular interest to government and politics majors and others interested in Maryland politics is this two course series, ENGL381/HONR386A: MGA Legislative Seminar and ENG388M/HONR386: Writing Internship: Maryland General Assembly Pre-Professional Writing Internship.

Bernard Marr’s “The 10 Biggest Grammar Mistakes That Make Smart People Look Stupid” includes many common errors.  Read it and appear smarter!

Human Help - If you prefer personal assistance, here are two resources:
  1.  The Writing Center takes appointments for online and face-to-face sessions.  
  2. Do you have a question about word choice, punctuation, sentence structure, or proper citation?  Are you unsure if an idea, sentence, or word sounds good?  For answers to questions like these, call the Grammar Hotline! The Grammar Hotline accepts calls when the Writing Center is open.  You may also leave a message (301-405-3785) and they'll return your call.