Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Classes began yesterday. Today, though, is my first class in Writing in Psychology. I’ve talked about this class before in my blog, close to a year ago. I only teach it every other semester. This year, for the first time, we’ll be using our own book as the text, Writing in Psychology: A Guidebook. I’m looking forward to that, although this year may be a challenge since I have thirty students registered for the class.
On the first class day in Writing I traditionally spend a fair amount of time talking about the kind of reference books that the students need. Specific to this class is the need for the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, although many will already have this since it is required in a course they take earlier.
Other books are more general. I stress the need for a good dictionary. I personally recommend the Oxford American Dictionary, which is the largest paperback dictionary available. It’s almost 30 years old now and won’t have some of the newest techie terms in our language, but the students already know those anyway. What they don’t always know are the “affects” and “effects” and other problem words like that. I also tell them they should have a thesaurus, and I use Webster’s New World Thesaurus, which I’ve modified over the years by adding words. These days, dictionaries and thesauruses are available online and we have links in our textbook to some online sources.
Although everyone needs a dictionary, and maybe even a thesaurus, anyone who is going to take writing seriously needs some other books as well. I recommend a book on grammar. I use The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer. I also recommend three other books: Harry Shaw’s Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Zinsser’s book is my favorite book on writing and I try to reread it at least every couple of years.
For those of you who are interested in writing, what books would you recommend to a new writer? Or an old one? I’m always on the lookout for new finds.