Lesson 4 Writing: Business and Academic Writing EdX course

Activity 1

  1. Your parents or a close older relative
  2. Your brother, sister, or best friend
  3. The school’s financial aid department

Imagine you need to borrow some money to buy books for a class you’re taking. It’s not a large amount of money, but you really need to borrow it so you can do your class work. Now, write a message to each of the following people to ask for the money:

After you write each of these messages, look at how they are different. In which of the three are you most formal? In which are you the least formal? What other similarities and differences do you see among the three? How did you take your audience into account when you wrote each message?

  1.  Dear Auntie,

I know my education is as important to you as it is to me.  I discovered I have run out of funds for this moth.  I am asking you for a short-term loan so I can pick up my text books this month. I will pay you back as soon as I can next month.  I would appreciate your help.


  • Christy,

Can I borrow 50 dollars to get my books this semester?  I am completely broke. I can pay it back next month when financial aid comes through.  Please, oh, please.   Your sister.


  • Dear Financial Aide Officer:

I am writing to see if my financial aide check has come in yet for this next semester. I am having great difficulty buying the textbooks for my classes.  Several of them are 80 dollars apiece.  IS there any way a loan is possible until the check comes in?  I would appreciate any help you could give me.

Katherine Soto


“Cubing” means looking at a topic from six different perspectives, like the six sides of a cube. First, choose your topic and write it at the top of your page to help you remember it. Next, take 5 minutes to write about your topic from six different perspectives (again, think of the sides of the cube). You may not be able to do all six, but do the best you can.

  1. Describe your topic. What is its shape, size, color, texture? Does it make any sounds? Does it taste like something? Use all your sense to describe it.
  2. Compare your topic to other related topics. How is it similar or different? 
  3. Associate your topic with another topic. In other words, what does your topic make you think about? It might be something unexpected. Be creative.
  4. Analyze the parts of your topic. How do they fit together? What do the parts say about the topic? Are all the parts equally important? 
  5. Apply your topic–what can you do with it? How is it useful? Who might use it? Who wouldn’t use it?
  6. Argue for and against your topic. What are its benefits? How might someone disagree with your topic? 

A matrix is a table of information. Along one side, you can have different main points of your topic, and across the top, perhaps some questions or points relevant to your topic.  Then, in each cell,  fill out the relevant information. 

20 Questions

If you are doing a standard essay, it may seem odd to interview a topic, but imagine that your topic is a person. Pretend to be that person, and answer these interview questions. You may not be able to answer all of them, but do as many as you can.

  1. What is your full name? Do some people know you by a different name?
  2. How does the dictionary or encyclopedia define you?
  3. When were you born? What were the circumstances?
  4. Are you still alive? If not, how did you come to an end?
  5. What group do you belong to? How are you like others in your group?
  6. Can you be divided into parts? How?
  7. Were you different in the past? How?
  8. Will you be different in the future? How?
  9. Do you ever feel misunderstood?
  10. What is your purpose?
  11. What are you similar to? Why do you say that?
  12. What are you different from? Why do you say that?
  13. What or whom are you better than? In what ways?
  14. What or whom are you inferior to? In what ways?
  15. When people talk about you, what do they say?
  16. Should I know any facts or statistics about you?
  17. Is there someone I should talk to about you–an expert, for example?
  18. Are there any famous sayings or quotes about you?
  19. Have there been any stories about you in the news?
  20. Should I do more research about you?

Helping your Grammar


Do your own triage

Make grammar notes on your reading

Find resources


Trying to sound to formal or academic

Not knowing more precise vocabulary.

Using to man unnecessary and vague modifiers modifiers

Using too many prepositional phrases or possessives

              Wordy phrase vs concise phrase- look for these

Rewrite for wordiness:

Every single time I had to do a writing assignment, I was always really unhappy and miserable. Due to my complete lack of confidence as well as  my total inability to express ideas of mine on paper, I believed that I had to work almost twice as hard as any other student in this world. This included spending hours and hours looking at a blank page and spending more hours editing essays of mine, just to make sure I had really appropriate content, organization, and grammar. Since English was not my first language, I was concerned that I would not do so very well at the university. When I entered the class offered by College Writing, everything changed in a positive way due to the fact that my writing skills increased throughout the semester.

In the beginning of the semester, I had a lot of trouble with my first couple of essays; however, with careful analysis, patience, and my will to succeed, I started to write essays that I was quite proud of. I learned that if I could relate any topic of any essay with my personal experience, I believed that these essays were truly good, and would submit it to my instructor. 

Every time I did a writing assignment, I was unhappy.  I had a complete lack of confidence and an inability to express my ideas on paper.  I worked twice as hard as other students.  I spent hours staring at a blank page, then more hours editing for content, organization, and grammar. I was concerned that I would not do well at the university because English was my second language.  My writing skills increased throughout the semester in the class offered by College Writing.

At the beginning of the semester I had problems writing my first essays. With careful analysis, patience, and my will to succeed I am proud of my essay writing.  I learned to relate the topics of the essays to personal experiences.  I wrote better essays and would submit these to my instructor.

Learning to spell

Dictation exercise

British and American Spelling

There are several areas in which British and American spelling are different.  These differences often come about because British English has tended to keep the spelling of words it has absorbed from other languages, such as French, while American English has adapted the spelling to reflect the way that the words actually sound when the are spoken.  If you are writing for British readers, you should only use British spellings. In some cases, the American spellings are acceptable in British English as well. Above all, it’s important to stick to one style or the other throughout the same piece of writing.

Which of these problems do you think you have in writing?

  • Basic grammar problems
  • Having trouble finding ideas to write about; getting started
  • Organizing my ideas clearly
  • Not having a rich enough vocabulary to express my ideas
  • ______ (Something else)

People enjoy what I write.  It is readable.  I use varying vocabulary words to keep it from being boring.  I do not have problems with ideas or getting started.  Usually the ideas are flying out of my fingers as fast as I can type.  I organize my ideas.  I often use boxes, charts, or notes to help organize my writing.  I have a rich vocabulary and I can use a dictionary or thesaurus to help if needed. 

My problem is wordiness.  I tend to use certain words such as so, very, in spite, and.  When I discover them, I try to wipe them out trying use other words or change my sentence structure. Sometimes as the writer of apiece you just don’t see you mistakes like wordiness and you need an editor or a beta reader to point them out.

Globalization and its effects   Journal Part 4  Pop up question

The effects of immigration is being felt in school districts nationwide.  Students who speak other languages besides English have flooded the school districts.  Interpreters and teachers who speak these languages must be hired.  Teaching staffs change to meet the needs of the children.  Schools develop new curriculum to help nonnative English speakers learn English.  Did you know it takes 5 years for a person who speaks no English to learn how to speak it well enough to hold a complete conversation in English?  It takes seven years before they can use it to read and write effectively.  These statistics are why children are failing in the US school systems.  Never mind the illegal immigrant problems rampant throughout.  Globalization is creating a mess that will have to be figured out in the future if we want our schools to succeed.

How do you go about revision? Do you like to print out your writing and correct it by hand? Do you do it all on your computer? Do you ask someone else to read it and make suggestions? Share your best tips for revision in the discussion forum. 

Revising means looking deeply in your writing, the themes, the actions, the conversations, to be sure it all makes sense. This takes time, effort and patience.  When an entire chapter or several paragraphs must be rewritten completely, it can lead to despair.  Nevertheless, it must be done. 

I sit at my computer and place the reviser’s hat on my head.  I remind myself I am revising.  If it does not make sense, I am rewriting it or tossing it.   I go slowly through my writing, usually by paragraphs in chapters.  I take the entire chapter and reread paragraph by paragraph looking for things that need to be changed.  I also look for ways to add to the story, so it becomes better.  I might use a story editor for help to see what is happening in each chapter, then look at the novel.  I like prowriting aide to find the wordiness and grammatical errors in a piece of work.  My computer is my best revising and editing tool.  Sometimes I read things out loud, or get someone else to read and revise with me. 

I am heading into a creative edit with a novel I wrote this year.  I hope I know how to revise and edit.

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