Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Writing With Class
I’m teaching three classes this semester, Learning, Historical and Applied Perspectives, and Writing in Psychology. I developed that last course with a colleague, Du Bois Williams, a number of years ago, because we saw a big need for better communication skills in our students. I always enjoy teaching it.
Du Bois and I wrote the text that we use in the class, and later a third Colleague, Elliott Hammer, added his efforts to that text. I learn new things every time I teach the course and I hope to have some insights for you here on the blog across the semester. Today is the first class, and I’ll be introducing the format and talking about the resources the students will need.
Writing can take place with very simple tools, a pencil, some paper, and a mind. But it’s good to have some resources to back up what you already know. Besides our text, I tell the students they’ll need:
1. A dictionary. I carry the Oxford American Dictionary around with me, because it’s the biggest paperback dictionary available. I have the Random House Unabridged Dictionary for home.
2. A thesaurus. I use Webster’s New World Thesaurus in dictionary form. I was reading another writing in psychology guidebook the other day and it said, “avoid the thesaurus, use everyday language.” I believe this is absolutely horrible advice. There’s certainly something to be said for everyday language, but the problem is that many students don’t have nearly the vocabulary they need in the first place and a thesaurus is a good way to build one.
3. A book on grammar. I use The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer.
4. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. You've got to have a style manual specific to your discipline.
5. Although I don’t require them, I suggest students look into getting a dictionary of psychology, and I strongly suggest they have a look at two of the best books on writing well that I’ve ever read, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
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In other news, poet Greg Schwartz has put up a review of my haiku chapbook, Wanting the Mouth of a Lover, over at his Haiku and Horror Blog. He had some nice words to say and it means a lot coming from another poet, and one whose own work I respect so highly. Check it out if you’ve got a moment.