Rethinking College Writing Instruction


Why writing teachers should not tell students to “have good ideas.”

This phrase jumped out at me this morning:  “wrong classifiers.”  I saw it in a blog about politics–but it relates to writing instruction. Here’s the original: “My guess is the global world order proved so fragile because it was organized around the wrong classifiers. Moreover, these classifiers were ideologically static […]

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College Writing: two methods, compared

In the standard compare-and-contrast essay, the writer has to take two topics, items, or people and state how they are like and how unlike.  In these few paragraphs, I will take the same approach, contrasting the standard way of teaching first year writing and the Readable Writing way. Readable Writing, […]

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Slow reading aloud in the bathroom

Many students who commit truly ugly sentences are just not paying close attention to their own words.  They have skimmed the meaning of emails and text messages for years without needing to attend to every syllable. Then when they come into a comp course they don’t know how to pay […]

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The writing instructor says: “I once was blind…but now I see.”

      I used to believe… Now I know… There’s no way to stop students from writing a mixture of bad sentences and good sentences.   I can prevent students from writing bad sentences by training them to write good ones first. Careful notes in the margins of papers […]

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How writing is taught at one community college–comment on Tinberg and Nadeau

I’ve been reading Howard Tinberg’s monograph on the teaching of first semester writing at Bristol Community College, which came out a few years ago. Tinberg and his co-author Jean-Paul Nadeau studied both faculty and students for a semester; they did surveys and personal interviews. Sixteen students took part. The style […]

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A friendly dispute with comp teacher Todd Anderson about sentence length

Mr. Maguire, One of my more significant struggles (besides convincing students that to be good writers, they have to read good writing)–a struggle that is also contrary to one of your “Five Rules”–is cultivating in students the ability to compose beyond the simple and compound sentence structures. Compounding the difficulty […]

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College Writing Guide Adoptions as of May 2018.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Lexington KY Ohio University, Athens OH University of Hawaii, Hilo HI Ridgewater Community College, Hutchinson MN Williams College, Williamstown MA Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston TX (Darlington Correctional Program) College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle NY Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield MA University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh […]

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Sarah Perry defends the plain style in the Times of London

Read this essay by Sarah Perry. author of The Essex Serpent, in the Times Literary Supplement. It’s the most eloquent defense of the plain English style in years: lovely, clear, concrete and impassioned.

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Hunter College ESOL instructor: “They understood concreteness more clearly because they were practicing on a smaller scale.”

3/10/2018   Dear Mr. Maguire, I used your College Writing Guide with my Advanced Grammar for ESL students, and my TOEFL preparation class last semester and saw great improvements in their writing.  More importantly, they saw their writing improve.   All students agreed that eliminating “be” verbs and using concrete nouns […]

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I’ll have a booth in Kansas City!

I’ll be at the CCCC convention in Kansas City, operating Booth 116 with the famous Kim Holcomb of Ohio University. If you are nearby, stop in! It’s March 15-17 at the KC Marriott Downtown. We’ll have handouts, including imprinted pens, and will conduct drawings for free copies of the guide. […]

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John G. Maguire
307 Market Street, #306
Lowell MA 01852