Rethinking College Writing Instruction

Monthly archive for January 2015

Video interview with Barbara Oakley

Barbara and I talked about the problems student writers have with they get too abstract. This is a Coursera video and it will require you to sign in, but it’s free. She interviews me in Week 4 (Renaissance Learning). Trying turning the captions on when you watch. Here’s the link.

Read more

“Abstractitis” comes from -ion infection

Abstractitis is a writing disease and a threat to clarity. It’s related to another illness called Abstract-orrhea. This sickness produces an endless and thick flow of abstractions. In extreme cases, these two diseases can kill the meaning of a passage. Abstractitis was first identified by Henry Fowler in his Modern […]

Read more

The grammar of vividness

I don’t have research to prove it, but I’d bet that many English teachers do not understand how vividness of imagery promotes intellectual clarity. Vivid writing is sensual writing—the kind that gives you an orange on a blue plate in Sunday morning sunshine. I think most teachers believe vivid images […]

Read more

Atlantic Monthly piece on writing concretely

Here’s my introduction in the Atlantic to the whys and wherefores of teaching students to write concretely.  Read the whole thing for the detailed argument. The short summary is this, however. Abstract ideas are always related to objects fundamentally. You can understand this just by thinking about it, but brain […]

Read more

You can buy John Maguire’s College Writing Guide here

“I can’t see why any writing instructor in America would use any other Freshman Comp textbook,” says Daniel  Smith, NY Times best-selling author of Monkey Mind, and writing professor at the College of New Rochelle.  Susan Layer-Whelan, instructor at the College of Southern Maryland, says, “I used your guide the […]

Read more

A radical rethinking of the teaching of writing

Because I was late to class one day, I had to improvise, and that set me on a different course as a writing teacher. It’s all described in Teaching College Students to Write.

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