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Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling & Style

They count. Always.


It's up to you whether you take them seriously. The CD that came with your textbook has exercises that, if you do them, will get you up to speed.


But it takes time.


Here's one way to go that'll take hardly any time at all: Don't do any of the reading and don't do a single exercise. Just go to the test at the end of each section, take it, print the results out and turn it in.


If you want to take the easy way out, have at it. I'll figure it out when you take the end-of-the-semester grammar test. No matter, though, it'll only count for 10 percent of your final grade.


But here's the deal: Grammar, punctuation, spelling and style are key to good journalism.


What's important here is not to do the reading and exercises in a vacuum. Think about the lessons as you read and test yourself and try to apply what you learn to your own writing. Doing this work just to pass a test is a waste of time; doing it to become better writers may be the most important time you've ever invested.


You can become better reporters on the job, but if you can't write clearly and grammatically, can't spell and adhere to AP style you won't get jobs. Editors are willing to train beginning reporters in the craft of journalism but not in the basics of the English language.



How to Prepare for the Language Skills Test

Advice and guidance prepared by the Journalism Department.


Guide to Grammar & Writing

From the Capital Community College Foundation


The Tongue Untied

From the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon




The Elements of Style

  The legendary and legendarily simple guide to good writing, now available online in its earliest version, self-published published in 1918 by William Strunk for use in the English 8 course he taught at Cornell University and later published commercially by Strunk's son, Oliver.

  E.B. White, author of "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web," among other books, was Strunk's student at Cornell and was asked by Macmillan to edit revised editions in 1959 and 1972. William Strunk died in 1946; it's not clear whether he knew White was his student.

  This version is courtesy of Bartleby.com, a project to put off-copyright classics online.


The Band-Aid AP Stylebook

A summary of the most commonly used items in the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. It includes helpful reminders, but it is not a substitute.


The Language Corner, from Columbia Journalism Review


Roy Peter Clark's "50 Writing Tools"

Clark is a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a legendary writing coach and an all around nice guy. Among his tips: "Get the name of the dog, "Fear not the long sentence" and "Place gold coins along the path."


The writing tools lived on the Poynter site for some time, but are now down; a book is set to come out later in 2006. Available here is is an archived set, which may load somewhat slowly. They're worth the wait.


Clark has replaced the tools with a blog showing how to put them to use. Worth a look.



The Mechanic & the Muse

An "owner's manual for writers" blog by Poynter's Chip Scanlan.




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