What really matters is what do you now. That’s what I’d tell you
if you had just finished taking a writing class from me.
We’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve reviewed common word choice errors
such as misspelling principal point as principle point
and complimentary drink as complementary drink.
We’ve talked about remembering to use commas both before and after
the year in a date, as in May 26, 2015, is today’s date,
not May 26, 2015 is today’s date. We’ve done exercises in
subject-verb agreement, as in making sure it’s There are two
reasons, not There’s two reasons, and The incidence
of cyber-attacks is increasing, not The incidence of
cyber-attacks are increasing. And we’ve worked with
maintaining parallel structure, especially in PowerPoint
presentations, so that items in vertical lists begin verb,
verb, verb rather than verb, verb, noun.
We’ve also discussed organizing messages according to a three-part
formula, purpose, background, proposed action; using pauses
to create emphasis, as in We are committed to one thing:
quality, rather than The one thing we are committed to is
quality; and taking a direct, conclusion-first approach with
sympathetic readers, and an indirect, evidence-first approach with
But what really matters is what you do after the class is over. To
help you proofread for these common errors and put into play these
principles of composition and persuasive strategy, I invite you to
formulate a six-point writing plan, three goals for the week and
three goals for the month.
Here are some things you can do to continue developing your
writing skills over time:
1. Do the two 30-second writing exercises on grammar and style I
post weekly at
2. Browse the tips, techniques, and resources posted at
3. When you have a question about a writing issue – whether it
relates to grammar, punctuation, salutations, concise writing,
customer relations, or Rogerian persuasion – google “Wilbers” and
a few key words.
4. If you don’t already have a file for sentences and passages
whose style you admire, create one. From time to time, browse
through your collection.
5. When you encounter a sentence or passage you think especially
well written, copy it over, analyze its stylistic techniques, and
do your own version, using the original as your model, as I advise
(or simply google “Wilbers imitate”).
6. For a great source of literary and cultural history, along with
a daily poem, sign up for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac at
7. Read one of the books that I recommended in class or that I
google “Wilbers recommendations”).
8. If you’re not already a regular reader, become one. Good
writers are generally good readers, as I discuss at
(or google “Wilbers reading.”) When you find a writer you
particularly like, someone whose style resonates with you, read
everything that person has published.
Now that you’ve made up your six-point writing plan, get started
right away. Try to accomplish your first goal today or tomorrow.