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Writing Workshop

Archive for the tag “Writers Resources”

Writing Center

good-writing-is-hard-workIf grammar is not your game, and I’m starting to bug you about writing problems such as sentence fragments and passive voice, you might to consider visiting the SJSU Writing Center. Located in Clark Hall, the Writing Center offers one-on-one tutoring, skill-building workshops, and online writing resources. Check them out at:

If, on the other hand, writing is your game — and your writing, editing and communication skills are pretty darn stellar — you might be interested to know that the Writing Center is planning to hire some new tutors. Here’s the link to the center’s jobs page:


Feature story checklist

As you begin working on your final feature or trend story — your final assignment for this class — you might want to download this handy-dandy Checklist for Feature Writing.

It’s a good reminder of a lot of the things we’ve gone over in class this semester. For example, this checklist will remind you to include enough description to give your reader an accurate picture of the place or event you’re writing about, and of any key people in your story. It reminds you to make sure you have enough primary sources — people you’ve interviewed — to make your story credible. (FYI, for a 1,000-1,200 word story, you should have a bare minimum of three sources; four to six would be better.) It reminds you to include quotes and anecdotes to add variety and interest to your story, and to use specific examples in place of generalities.

As always, be sure to carefully proofread your final feature, which is due on or before your final exam day for this class (see the class schedule for dates). AP style errors, grammatical errors, misspellings and other typos will take a big bite out of your grade. Make sure your double-check the spelling of all names and places: a fact error will cut your grade in half … and there are no rewrites for this assignment.

Writing Tips

If you want to become a better writer, but you don’t want to have to read a whole darn book about it (or take another class … or do anything else that requires a major time commitment), I’ve got a suggestion: read On Writing Well, a blog post by a student in my MCom 63 class.

Alexis’ blog is called “It’s Story Time,” and it’s a good read. Check it out.

The perils of sound-alike words

For writers, sound-alike words can mean trouble. It’s awkward to realize you’ve used the wrong “there/their/they’re” or that you typed “accept” when you meant “except,” but other sound-alikes can be even more embarrassing.

For example, a student in one of my classes recently used the word “fowl” instead of “foul.” That put an entirely different twist on the sentence … and not in a good way.

The blurb below has the same problem — can you spot it?

The first person to spot and correct this typo earns two points extra credit. Please post your correction as a comment.

Proofread your papers!

In class on Monday, I talked about some of the things that good writers do.

Careful writers, I noted, choose the right words and phrases, including concrete nouns and vigorous verbs. They provide details, including relevant information and focused observations. And they make sentences flow by cutting unnecessary words, using active voice, and varying sentence lengths to create rhythm and pacing.

Another thing good writers do is proofread. They get good at catching errors and fixing them … before submitting their work. That’s what professionals do, and that’s what you need to do.

That’s why I emphasize the Copy Edit the World assignment … and that’s why I’m cracking down on copy editing errors this semester.

Here’s how it’s going to work: If I find three errors (in AP style, spelling or grammar) as I’m grading your paper, I will stop grading it and return it to you for further revision. I will not finish grading your paper until you’ve revised it and resubmitted it. Every time I have to hand a paper back to you because of errors, you will lose a grade — that is, a “B” paper will become a “C” paper. This also applies to assignments submitted as blog posts and assignments that are graded Credit/No Credit.

So please make sure to proofread your assignments carefully before you submit them.

Resume resources

resumeSince you’re working on resumes and cover letters this week, I’ve added some resume-writing links to the Texts/Resources page of this blog. You’ll find them listed under the heading Samples & Examples.

Plurals and possessives

Several of you are regularly running afoul of plurals and possessives. This is one of those things you need to figure out before you graduate…or you’ll end up embarrassing yourself in the real world.

So if you’re still at a loss as to which is which, please consult the following online grammar resources:

* a self-test exercise on plurals and possessives
* Better English lessons — another self test on plurals and possessives

Query letters, “enterprise” articles and final features

I’ve been keeping things interesting (that’s one way to look at it!) by making a few changes to our class schedule. Please check it out.

I know there’s been some confusion about query letters, enterprise articles and final features. We talked about it in class today, but let me also put it in writing. Here’s the scoop:

Query Letter: You will be graded on one query letter. It’s worth 25 points. You can use your query letter to pitch either your enterprise article or your final feature — your choice. Be sure to specify your intended target publication.

Since I want to review your topic for each of these pieces before you get started, please write me a short topic memo or email about the other one (the one for which you aren’t writing a pitch letter). If you haven’t yet submitted your query letter and/or topic memo, please do so by 6 p.m. Sunday, 10/21.

Alternatively, if you want more practice writing query letters, you can write query letters for both of these assignments. I’ll use the best one for your grade, and give you 5 points extra credit for the second optional one.

Enterprise Article: This 300-500 word article is due Nov. 14. It’s worth 50 points. See Assignments tab (#7) for details.

Final Feature: This 1,000-1,200 word feature, trend story or profile (a.k.a. #9, the “Term Paper”) is due 12/5, the final day of class. It’s worth 100 points. The description of this assignment also includes information on the query/pitch letter assignment. You’ll also see a “Term Paper Research Memo” listed as a separate assignment — I will instead ask you to bring a list of your sources for this story (people you’ve interviewing, articles you plan to cite, etc.) to class along with your first draft of this story on Nov. 21 for peer editing.

Getting Published: I know it’s not easy, but try to get either your Enterprise Article or your Final Feature published in the Daily, Access magazine, or a local daily newspaper or magazine. Getting published is worth 25 points extra credit. If you make a good faith effort (submit a query letter and get a response, but don’t get in) it’s worth 10 points. If you get a letter to the editor published, it’s worth 10-15 points, depending on the letter.

I hope that clears things up. Email me if you still have questions.

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