Sometimes what you need in your writing is a dictionary approach–the ability to look up your problem and find the answer. That’s what Writing From A to Z: The Easy-to-use Reference (McGraw Hill 2005) offers. This book is designed as a textbook for a writing class with print as well as online content. It includes topics such as basic grammar, logic and argumentation, methods of development, and sample student papers.You’ll notice right away it is geared for the teacher, with notes on how to address topics with students and how to handle class sort of issues. If you webmaster a writing blog, you might find this especially–and unusually–helpful as a way of organizing content and covering relevant topics for your readers and viewers.
One part I really like about this book is it covers less-chattered about topics. Sure, every how-to-write resource covers POV, plot, pacing, but this one covers can/may, writing formats (MLA and APA and more), prepositional phrases (people sure mess these up a lot). A few topics are included that have probably disappeared from the writer’s lexicon, but you might enjoy in a historic sense. For example, there’s a list of Revision Symbols used in reviewing a document. I still use them in my writer’s group, but I think few understand what I’m saying!
It’s expensive if you buy it new, but quite affordable used (in ‘very good’ condition, according to Amazon)–less than $5 when I looked. To me, the sort of writing tips found in this book are timeless, so I was happy about the discount.
Here are fifteen ideas I found especially useful:
- A foldout in the front of all topics and page numbers
- Flowchart of the writing process from prewriting to the finished document
- Peer response guidelines, organized by kinds of writing (useful for critique groups as well as a writing class)
- Overview of the research process from writers responsibilities to plagiarism
- Alphabetic list of abbreviations
- An explanation of Boolean searches
- When/how to use commas (this caught my attention because a reader just asked a question about the use of commas in a list)
- Comparison and contrast as a method of development
- First drafts
- A discussion of logic and argumentation
- Different document designs–for business, academics, online
- Literary analysis
- Past perfect tense, past participles and the like
- When to use question marks (revisit Writers Tip #99–the misuse of question marks is one of Noah Lukeman’s hot buttons)
- How to avoid vague words (love this one. Vague and mitigating words drain all the power out of a scene)
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.