Writing on the Wing: hunting down the most interesting OWLS

Although it makes one think of a winged creature that hunts mice at night, the acronym “OWL” stands for online writing lab. These are marvelous resources for anyone who has ever had a doubt about how to punctuate a sentence, cite an electronic source, or make a presentation. For readers looking for straightforward advice on how to craft better documents, I suggest starting with the following three sources.

If some of you have studied writing, you may be familiar with the Purdue OWL. The Purdue Owl is a comprehensive resource for the lifelong learner, complete with guidelines, podcasts, and exercises. Although it is best known as a source for grammar and punctuation tips, it also addresses all aspects of writing—from conception to delivery—in a wide variety of formats.

Colorado State University has a very interesting OWL that explains the difference between a curriculum and a resumé (a resumé lists your experience, education, and skills, whereas a CV allows you to gild the lily a little bit), how to prepare overhead projection presentations  (stick to 24 point fonts), and how to write an abstract.

If you’re looking for grammar drills,the Capital Community College website offers public access to a well-organized OWL that covers all the main points of grammar and punctuation and provides instant feedback.

A list of further sites can be found at http://www.ipl.org/div/aplus/linksowls.htm.

Who doesn’t need to review how numbers should appear in a text? If you want to test your knowledge, try the Purdue Owl’s numbers quiz reproduced below.

Exercise : Writing Numbers Exercise

Write the correct answer for each sentence, using either words to spell out the numbers (thirty-one) or numerals where appropriate (31). Write a C if the sentence is correct as is.

  1. ___ 351 people attended the performance.
  2. ___ There were one hundred and thirty-five pieces in the puzzle.
  3. ___ Class started at eight-thirty A.M. in Room Twenty.
  4. ___ In the sixties there were sit-ins at 100’s of colleges.
  5. ___ Every afternoon at two o’clock the chimes rang.
  6. ___ The stock deal, which involved $4.5 billion, paid a twelve and a half percent dividend.
  7. ___ The Lafayette television station is Channel Eighteen.
  8. ___ They needed eight ten-foot poles for the construction.
  9. ___ The vote was 126 in favor of the action and only sixteen opposed.
  10. ___ The assignment was to read chapter 6, pages 31-39.
  11. ___ Only fifty percent of high school students go on to college.
  12. ___ We were assigned a report of about 10 pages in length.

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