Online Writing Resources
Online Writing Resources
While nothing quite beats a session with one of our fabulous writing consultants, you’ll find a selection of resources on this page that can help you build up your writing skills on your own. These resources are just some of the tools available, so you’ll have to see what works best for you. They may even be a good jumping off point for a session!
This section tries to give a bit of context to each resource, but if you'd rather just have a bulleted list, click on the section you're looking for in the sidebar!
For more even more university writing resources, visit any of these fabulous programs:
Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
The University of Chicago Writing Program
Duke University Thompson Writing Center.
Duke University’s Writing Studio has a collection of handouts for specific grammar issues. Their Rules for Comma Usage, for example, is an excellent breakdown of how and when to use commas for those that would describe commas as “the bane of your writing existence.” Check out their website for their full collection, or see the list in the sidebar for some of our favorites. Another project worth exploring is HyperGrammar, sponsored by the University of Ottawa.
If handouts aren't your thing, try GrammarBook's interactive quizzes which include everything from subject-verb agreement to how to properly use hyphens.
Grammar Girl, created by Mignon Fogarty, is a fun resource for quick lessons, like figuring out when to use who versus whom or affect versus effect. Just be careful not to get distracted by the other sections offered by its parent site, Quick & Dirty Tips! If you find grammar a bit boring and still need it a bit more spiced up, The Oatmeal's comics about grammar, like How to use a semicolon, definitely offer a unique take. Just be warned, their examples and humor can be a bit... odd.
Do you speak English as a second language or could you just use a quick refresher on prepositions and verb tenses? The Purdue OWL has handouts similar to the ones provided by Duke that are helpful if you find yourself repeating mistakes.
If you're looking for more general language practice, however, we'd suggest About Eduation's English as a 2nd Language site. They have grammar resources like the ones mentioned above, but they also have articles and activities that teach you idioms and common words by putting them in specific contexts. For more language practice, head over to The ESL Listening Lab to practice your comprehension skills with their short listening activities. Each subject has a short listening component that is followed by a short quiz to test how well you understand what was said. Practice makes perfect!
If you need to translate a word into English from another language, we'd suggest avoiding Google Translate. It oftens fails to correctly recognize multiple meanings of words, and you professors will know if you've just put a whole paragraph through it. Try WordReference instead. This site acts like a translator and dictionary combined, giving you the multiple potential translations and meanings of individual words, so that you can pick which makes the most sense.
One of the best ways to master a language is to read it! Spend some time everyday reading articles or books to help with your fluency, and to help recognize writing patterns! Need some help picking out what to read? Try The Lunch Read, which sends you an e-mail every week with articles from a variety of sources that their staff have picked out, or support your peers over at the GW Hatchet!
Science and Engineering Resources:
Penn State’s Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students brings together a variety of helpful tips, examples, and mini-lesson plans that are specifically tailored to the kinds of projects typically found in the sciences. For example, their Format guide for formal reports is an excellent resource that breaks down the structure of reports into separate sections, and even provides a few examples of reports for reference!
Working on a poster for a conference? Collin Purrington's Tips on Designing Conference Posters offers advice on everything from how to structure your poster, how to add some flair, and even what not to do while you present. His website even provides free templates to help get your poster started!
LabWrite - through North Carolina State University - is dedicated to helping out with the lab writing process, from before you even walk into the lab! They have resources like LabChecklists, that help you double-check both the structure and content of your lab reports, and graphing resources that help you decide what kind of graph you should be using to best display your data.
If you've got a bit more time, NASA's Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors (created by Mary McCaskill) is available in full online. This resource is particularly helpful for genre-specific issues like figuring out how to punctuate a sentence that includes equations, or when and how to use abbreviations in formal publications. This resource can seem daunting, but the sections are well-organized, so have no fear!