Refreshing your writing skills online

While in school, either undergraduate or graduate level, we are exposed to an array of opportunities and learning experiences through the classes we take, either required or elective. Unfortunately, students in college are not being taught the basics but rather are expected to have already learned and mastered use of the English language by the time they get to college.

Of course, we’ve all had our general English classes and perhaps writing courses, but, speaking to my fellow students, I cannot help but wonder where are the classes that are really diving into the fundamentals of good higher-education writing? Who is keeping students up to par on their grammar and sentence structure? Sure, it’s great to learn how to interview sources and research public records, but it seems that today how we write is much less important than what we write – and that worries me.

While it’d be a bit far fetched to request institutions to suddenly add “Writing 101” to their programs for students who should know the basics considering they were admitted into university, having refresher courses or even special classes dedicated to writing exercises would certainly help students remember the fundamentals. If not (or in the meantime…) online resources are always a good (and quick) way to do refresh.

Last semester, some graduate students were told to browse through something called Poynter University, which is an online News University focused on journalism and media training. It offers more than 150 free and low-cost courses students or journalists can explore that help refresh the basics and explore the craft and value of journalism.

Another helpful site is Write Better English. It is a free online community for word lovers and anyone who is hoping to improve their written English skills. An Australian company called Serenson Pty Ltd. runs it and the site is completely free. Similar to NewsU, Write Better English offers resources for expanding vocabulary, improving spelling, increasing word understanding and more.

They also provide quizzes and competitions that members can join in on and software recommendations for those who want to take it one step further. To help increase user’s vocabulary, they also present a “Word of the Day” with definition, synonyms and usage.

If you’re ever staring at a screen full of editor’s corrections, which you will, you should probably take the initiative to go ahead and find online resources that help you improve your writing because now-a-days how you are able to write can be the difference between you getting a story published or not. There are fewer editors available in newsrooms today, so journalists are expected to be their own editors to some extent and when your name is on a piece, you should be proud of the product and spelling and grammar should certainly be a top priority.

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