Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Heads Up for Logophiles (or Vocabulary Builders)

If your thing is improving your vocabulary or you're just a lover of words, check out Since 1994, this website has grown to a readership of more than a 600,000 worldwide. Its A.WordA.Day is a daily message containing a challenging word, its etymology, and pronunciation, as well as an instance of its use in the world of literature. As a bonus, each entry ends with a quotable aphorism. You can subscribe to have the daily word e-mailed to you. The link is

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing Is Now Available

The second edition of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo is now available through FirstBooks. Here is what the publisher has to say about the book:

Become a more effective and efficient writer today!

More than a technical manual of writing style and grammar, this book offers a unique method for achieving workplace-writing success by offering four critical tools: the PDQ integrated writing process (planning, drafting, quality controlling); the 4S Plan for composing writing product (statement, support, structure, style); techniques to move writers from a me-focused style of essay writing to a results-oriented, us-focused business writing style and it-focused technical writing style; and the groundwork for becoming and remaining a successful on-the-job writer through inspirational, memorable, and relevant writing tips.

For 25 years, Philip Vassallo has developed and presented training programs for thousands of administrative, technical, and managerial professionals. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a doctorate in education.

“…can be profitably read by writers new to the world of work-related documents, and by experienced professionals, who will also gain from its new approach to clear and purposeful business writing.” – Martin H. Levinson, ETC: A Review of General Semantics

To order a copy, follow this link:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Websites for Parents Teaching Their Children

As we approach the beginning of the school year, many anxious parents look for resources to improve their children’s reading and writing skills. I often remind my students who are parents that we cannot become good writers without becoming good readers—the two language skills are conjoined.

Two professional organizations, one focused on reading and the other on writing, offer free excellent resources online. As parents plan their children’s education for the coming academic year, they should explore these organizations’ websites.

The International Reading Association ( is a global professional organization reaching 300,000 people promoting literacy by “improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging the lifetime reading habit. IRA resources are available to parents in their critical role as their children’s first and most important teachers. Click on “Web Resources” to gain access to discussions on critical literacy issues, teachers’ lesson plans, booklists for children of all ages, and parents’ resources.

The National Council of Teachers of English ( represents 60,000 members and devotes itself “to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.” Visit the site and click on “Teaching Resource Collections” for valuable ideas on adolescent literacy, elementary English language learners, secondary English language learners, grammar, spelling, college research paper, poetry, and literacy coaching.

Bookmark these two sites. They provide indispensable learning aids and make for fine gateways to other learning resources.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Use the Dialogue Approach in Your Writing

One technique to focus readers--and yourself--on the content of your message is to use the dialogue approach. Imagine handing your document to your reader, who asks, "What are you giving me?" What would be your answer?
  1. If it were a proposal to hire a new intern for the summer, you might say, "This review of our human resources in the audit division provides the rationale for employing an additional intern from May 31 through September 2."
  2. Say you are writing to request a refund of your laptop computer during its warranty period. You would respond, "I am requesting a full refund of your UCOMP357 in accordance with the terms of the warranty."
  3. A summary of your last team meeting would begin, "This is a summary of the ACE Team's last strategic meeting on August 3."
  4. Perhaps it's your response to a customer request for a credit, in which case you could start, "We are responding to your credit request of July 31, 2005."
The opening purpose statement should ground the reader in the context of your message. Better yet, it should ground you during the composing process. Knowing that sentence helps you to determine what else you need to write--and not write--in the sentences that follow it. Do not underestimate the importance of a purpose statement!