Dear Economics 452 students,
My name is Marilyn Johnson. I'm the writing coach for your class this semester.
My job is to help you learn to write more professionally. Since Econ 452 is a writing-emphasis course, and since Professor Reiley wants you to do a lot of writing this semester, I'm looking forward to working closely with you to teach you a process that probably differs from anything you may have experienced in other classes.
You should expect to be challenged by this process, but as with any endeavor requiring effort, you should find at the end that you have much better command and control of your ability to write.
Please refer to this introductory letter as you are writing your first assignments. Please also refer to my four-page explanation of the standards and guidelines for the written assignments. Keep it handy while you're writing during the rest of the semester. It should help you.
You will need to purchase a reference book on grammar. The best would be Fowler's Modern English Usage, better known as "Fowler's." This book has been published for 70 years and is still used by good writers. If Fowler's looks too formidable, browse any bookstore and find something that looks like it will work. You will be expected to refer to this book whenever I note a grammatical error. I'll use the "Track Changes" function in Microsoft Word to point out mistakes.
You are responsible for figuring out the nature of your grammatical errors and what you need to do to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. If, and only if, you can't figure something out, you may e-mail me, and we'll work on it together. Figuring it out on your own, though, is more productive.
In general, it's helpful to think of writing as a form of carpentry, where you work from a plan and use the tools you've stored on your workbench. Here are some tools to use in the beginning phase of your writing projects:
This is possibly the most important principle you will learn this semester because few people today have time to read through a memo, letter, or report to finally get to the point of the thing. You have to put your point up front so that readers can scan the opening and decide whether the material is relevant and interesting enough for them to bother reading the rest.
Failure to figure out your theme, i.e., what your information means, produces both a bad opening and hard writing. Writers who struggle with their topic sentences invariably have neglected essential early stages of the writing process: They set out to write about broad, unformed topics rather than focused ideas; they fail to arrive at a concrete theme statement that helps direct the rest of their writing; and they take little or no time to organize their notes and construct a simple outline. This explains how the topic sentence can overwhelm. It's far more than tapping out a few keystrokes. Know, though, that once you have written your opening, or topic, sentence, you've done 90 percent of your work.
It would help me to know something about you and your writing experience, so
please send me an e-mail as soon as possible with the following information:
-- Marilyn Johnson