College Survival Guide/Improving Reading and Writing Skills

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Some people ignored English while growing up; some people weren't taught correctly; and others didn't understand what was going on. Whether you fit those group of people or not, this guide is to excel your learning in the English language. However, before we hit head-on to becoming a great writer, I'm going to cover some basic steps. I can't make you a great writer in this wikibook, nor am I a "great" writer myself. I can, however, show you the paths to walk. I'm being semi-modest. Also, there's another wikibook working on that.

A person will not survive post-secondary education very long if he or she does not have proper usage of the English language.

Grammar and writing are essential parts to creating a paper in an institution of higher learning. In a college or university, writing papers is a common task students must undertake. A typical college paper will be about five pages in length; and within that length, some grammar and spelling mistakes could be made. Some professors grade on grammar, while others do not. The grading of a paper depends on many factors: course level, course, paper requirements, etc. As someone goes into higher level courses, grammar becomes a concern to professors. Not only is it a concern, but being at a higher level means you are to become more of a professional. Thus, you will need to write like a professional. Some people might think this is too much trouble. Don't think learning this stuff is too much trouble. If you don't learn it, you'll be in trouble.

We've got four basic hierarchies of writing:

  1. The Philosophy of Language: The building blocks of linguistics and more
  2. Linguistics: The building blocks of language
  3. Grammar: The building blocks of a language's linguistic usage
  4. Rhetoric: The building blocks of presenting and identifying grammar, linguistics, and philosophical ideas in language.

The reason all of these should be studied is simple: They all have something to do with each other. It is suggest that a person starts from number one and goes up toward rhetoric. When people understands each rung of the ladder, they will be able to understand and analyze the way material is presented. Also, understanding each level will help a person present information. If you're new to college, you're going to be typing papers for the next two or more years. It's better to start now by understanding language. It may be difficult, but my advice is this: Learn faster.

By the time you're done learning this stuff, you ought to be able to diagram a sentence, make corrections in Wikipedia projects, and make a coherent paragraph with style. Hopefully, you'll be a little bit more of a bibliophile. If you don't have one, you might even go out to buy a bookshelf.

Also, by the time you're done, you ought to be a novice philosopher, linguist, grammarian, and rhetorician. You may be thinking this is a lot of effort, and this is a lot of effort. But the more energy you direct toward a cause that will effect your writing abilities is a good thing. I wanted to create a systemized way of becoming a decent writer through this webpage. By having a pathway, you won't be wasting too much energy scrambling for information in different directions. If you still think this is too much work, then I will give you my most powerful philosophy:

Power = work/time

- Learn faster - Work harder - And take the efficient pathway to least resistance

The Philosophy of Language[edit | edit source]

I remember throughout high school that my teachers would banter about a "well-rounded education"; however, I don't quite remember them talking about . Some people don't teach philosophy in high school because it would give students skills. And people don't want young students to against those who may have critical thinking skills. In other words, philosophy enables a person to think about the way the universe, the world, its society, and the way a individuals work. As much as it would anger other philosophers to give my own definition of philosophy, I'm going to say it is the thing that enables a person to have a well-rounded education. Without a ground in philosophy, a person will never obtain a well-rounded education. Teachers and faculty have been stating things, but they haven't been explaining things.

Let's explain:

Philosophy is the groundwork for science, art, math, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, etc. You name it, you've probably got philosophy in there, somewhere. Whether its the arguable aspects of a single point in space being a circle or a questionable, metaphysical theory about the mind's energy states and dissociative identity disorder, you've got philosophy to argue about it and have people establish its groundwork. Although the latter may seem like a pseudo-scientific claim, it related to the philosophy of mind; and you've got philosophy that determines how language works, is represented, and is presented.

Philosophy is the foundation. If you ever have trouble understanding a topic, you could always search for the "Philosophy of _____."

The Philosophy of Psychology
The Philosophy of Rhetoric
The Philosophy of Education

Yet again, I'm going to ask you to cross a bridge and walk a path designed by local villagers. Some have an idea of what makes a good pathway, but others aren't too sure. Regardless of their efforts, they tried their best to represent their ideal pathway:

Every term you ever read from these philosophy webpages is very important; however, remembering them all is daunting. Therefore, it is suggested that you look over these things at least one hour a day and try to memorize and understand them.

Also, before you go to college or if you're already there, I suggest you rent a book from your local library. You're going to be reading a lot of books in college. And you might as well learn that fact by stepping up your knowledge of language. Just about every book uses language, and the book I suggest you grab will, too. The book you grab would be about the philosophy of language. Although some people may have their own views of the way the philosophy of language works, it will establish a groundwork for you. Afterwards, you can move onto linguistics. You can, however, mix and match the hierarchal things listed in the introduction if you you're bored with one. Doing this will enable you to have a better view of how they connect to each other.

Linguistics[edit | edit source]

Here's a overview of linguistics:

Again, try to understand the terms used. You don't need to—although it would be great to—memorize all the terms right away. However, remembering the terms allows you to identify the way language is used. Identification of language is a very important skill in becoming a writer.

(This section is being worked on)

Grammar[edit | edit source]

Grammar can be descriptive or prescriptive. However, the kind of grammar emphasized will be of the descriptive flavor.

Note: Because this Wikibook is slanted and written mostly in English, it will be focusing on English grammar. However, many of the same principles could be applied to foreign languages.

Websites to Visit for Grammar[edit | edit source]

Obtaining Grammar Books[edit | edit source]

Grammar is an essential part to writing (typing) a paper. Many people go to college and notice their awful grammar. Sometimes, a person must relearn grammar and practice his or her English skills. The cheapest way to do this is to go to a local library and pick up grammar books and grammar exercise books. If your local library doesn't suit you or have the materials, you could go to a college library. An interesting thing about a college library is that you don't need to be a student to actually walk around and read the books; a college library, sometimes, offers more books than a local library. In this situation, you would walk through the library, find the book catalogue, grab some grammar books, and finally sit down somewhere to read them. For those intellectuals out there, you could look for multiple science books, take them to a desk, and start reading.

Practicing grammar on one's own is very questionable. How does one know he or she is using correct grammar? In this situation, one of the best things to do is consult a grammar book. If one grammar book does not provide the answer you are seeking, then look in another grammar book. There are also forums online for people who are learning English. These forums often provide people who are helpful toward those learning ESL and refreshing their English skills. Whenever you write something, type something, or say something, check to see if you're using proper grammar. Grab a style usage and grammar book. Think about how you presented things. Were they correct? The way the author learned to have better English was to constantly grab for a style usage manual. If you don't have one, it is suggested that you buy one.

  • Recommended Books:
  1. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. (A large 1500+ page book.)
If you read that whole book, you'll understand more about grammar than most people understand; you'll probably understand more about grammar than most professors. It's expensive (Around $100 USD), but it's something to put on the shelf. Some libraries offer it on their shelves. If you can, constantly check it out and read it all the way through. (You'll save money that way.) Afterwards, rent it out to have it as a reference book on your own bookshelf. As with most books, write down all terms you don't understand; research those terms to gain a better understanding of them. When you're done with the whole book, you can flip through it as if it were a reference book. You can look in its index for "commas" or other things in relation to grammar.

Rhetoric[edit | edit source]

You may or may not have heard this term, but it will be a valuable term. Some people argue about the definition, and that's why many students have no clue whatsoever as to what the word means. Nonetheless, most people like to define a word by its criteria, abilities, or things that revolve around it to make it define itself. These, of course, are the many things that create definitional arguments. Regardless of the decades of controversy, I could give you my definition:

Rhetoric is the act of presenting information and manipulating the way an audience interprets that information. The underlying principle of rhetoric would be philosophical and psychological aspects. These psychological aspects relate to a person's interpretation of the information and reaction due to cognitive influences. The philosophical aspects relate to the information being logical, sound, and valid: making sense instead of babble. Of course this could be argued, because many philosophers determine that rhetoric does not involve much Truth seeking; it doesn't seek truth but to sway an audience. However, rhetoric isn't suppose to be trick the audience into being sway, but it is to grab the audience's attention and have them pay attention to what is being said. Afterwards, it is used to influence the philosophical and psychological aspects of a person.

To make up another definition off-hand, rhetoric is breaking style into bits and pieces and creating a term for each way style is presented. It is also about how style (rhetoric) is used within different contexts (rhetorical situations). Nonetheless, there seems to be an underlying principle that style is used to influence an audience. I may have done better to say I defined rhetoric's influence. It's all up for debate, but at least you've got an idea.

It's always good to know a bit about history:

  2. Classical Rhetoric

I'm not going to ask you to read all of Aristotle's Rhetoric. But it would be nice if you knew what it was about.


Now you may be wondering, "How's this going to help me?" Well, it's going to give you a writing style and method. The style, however, will be a mix of rhetorical figures, and their usage will very depending on the way and time (kairos) you wish to present them. Rhetoric is the formal way of writing style. It seems very systematic, and it doesn't allow people to say, "Writing is a natural talent!"

You could, of course, be skeptical about all of this. "Wouldn't that mean I'm copying a style?" Heh. No. Rhetoric is about analyzing style throughout languages and learning how they are implemented. It's about style, not making a style. You make a style by changing your usage of rhetoric. The style of language has been systematically analyzed into bunches of terms, which represent items, ideas, and the way things are. Rhetoric is the style and method of all styles and methods.

By using rhetorical figures in different situations, and throwing them around like spices in a dish, you'll be working toward that perfect meal that earns 5 stars on presentation and taste.

Of course, going into every detail about rhetoric would be elongating, and I don't have time to walk down the path with you, as Gandalf might have said in The Hobbit. I can, however, give you information and hope that you will stay on the path.

This website is bookmarked by over 1000 people on, an Internet bookmark saving website. It has a detailed discussion about rhetoric, rhetorical figures, and the way rhetoric is used. I would pay attention to the left frame of the website and follow discussed links.

However, we're going to focus on a few main parts of that website (Silva Rhetoricae):

  1. Content/Form
  2. Natural Ability or Talent ("natura" "ingenium")
  3. Theory or Art ("doctrina" "ars")
  4. Practice ("exercitatio" "imitatio")

(These were taken from this part of that website:

Content and Form[edit | edit source]

You ever hear about a person analyzing a text? You ever wonder how the heck that's done correctly? Well, it takes some practice, but understanding rhetoric is a good start, mainly because rhetoric is about understanding terminology and applying it. What you'll be doing is analyzing the way people used rhetoric and identifying the style and parts of style within a text. This may seem like a very annoying task to the megalomaniac who doesn't have the time to screw around; however, it is one of the many things that build up power and enable her or him to write better. Tough luck.

This analysis draws on theory and practice more than natural ability. I'm going to summarize natural ability as a person without apathy. A person who has the will to wield style and slice through the audience while leaving a brilliant scar of amazement and awe on it will have the ability to gain "talent." Also, rhetorical pedagogy tries not to believe in natural ability.

The best thing you can do is grab a paper from a newspaper and identity rhetorical figures in it. Choose Newsweek, Times, USA Today, or some other popular magazine. You may want to grab Psychology Today or some other stylish magazine that implements witty banter/style. Your job is to identity the parts of style. Afterwards, you job is to write a paper, restate the thesis, and change the usage of rhetorical figures. Don't make it look the same; make it look different, but say the same thing using rhetoric.

The idea is to analyze the content, its style, and the form it takes. Afterwards, reword the content, and reshape the form of style. By doing this, you will gain practice and experience in rhetoric. Also, if you type up blogs or journal entries, implement rhetoric into each blog you type. You might give the appearance of a modern day Shakespeare.

  • See Also:

Practicing Writing Skills[edit | edit source]

Many people question how to improve their writing skills. Improving writing skills takes dilligent work; however, it is not a hard thing, in terms of academic writing, to master. It is suggested that a person has an online journal or "blog" to write his or her thoughts. These journals/diaries can be made private. Many writers believe in using LiveJournal ( for their writings. They use this website because the website will delete any articles or writings created when the writer wishes to delete the journal. In other words, when the writer wants all of his or her writings to disappear, then they disappear. The cause for this behavior is because of copyright infringement and other legal mumbo-jumbo. In other words, the writers are paranoid that someone will steal their work. And it does happen. Of course there are tons of computer science and forensic issues at work, but they can't be done without judicial or executive request; yet most writers feel writing on a private journal is one of the most secure ways to write articles, papers, and other academic things.

As a person continues to write his or her thoughts in a journal, he or she will (usually) comes across spelling and grammar errors. Looking for these key things and correcting them is what helps establish a decent writer. Good writing comes with consistent proofreading and revision. In such a writing dilemma, a person could consult a style usage book—or he or she could use the Internet to find answers. Sometimes people will use Internet forums and talk to writers when they cannot find an remedy to a specific writing problem. Sometimes a person will not know how to type something out, such as dialogue, within an entry. One should not fall into despair when he or she cannot find an answer to his or her writing dilemma; Band-Aid remedies do exist: A person could revise his or her word, sentence, paragraph, etc. Although for the silent writer who lurks behind corners and in the basement, he or she may consider going to the local library and looking for books on dialogue. If the person wants to know more about non-fiction writing, he or she may look for a book on non-fiction writing. One of the best ways to fix a writing dilemma, such as dialogue, is to read a book on how dialogue is used.

Good writing is not something that is achieved over-night.

A person must first work on spelling, grammar, and understanding rhetoric.
Of course, if you can read 3000 pages in a 24-hour period, you may be able to become a great writer over-night.

Style and Rhetoric[edit | edit source]

Although this may be a simple commentary I created in light of style and rhetoric, it may be of use to some people:

Social psychology holds this belief that there are a few ways to distract a person and persuade him or her. A person is easier to persuade when he or she is distracted; however, this distraction must not foreshadow manipulation. That's what tropes and schemes do in rhetoric. They allow a person to manipulate the psychology of the reader and distract his or her cognition.

In a kind of scenario, a reader may be enjoying prose and admiring it. This distracts the person, and allows him or her to be persuaded more efficiently.

In other words, changing and twisting the emotions of a person changes the cognition and processing capabilities of the person. Style's objective within rhetoric is to twist and change a person's emotions, thus to change the way a person perceives an argument.

The ways in which to use tropes and schemes differ depending on the kairos. When a writer in noticing that conflict may occur when showing alternate argument, that may be the write time to inflict style and good prose in order to change the cognition of the reader. Also, certain prose at certain times could influence and lead the person to continue with the argument instead of gaining a distaste for it.

A possible usage for it is the same cognitive route that movies use: Build a person up for a climax. A person could use style to lead to the bridge, then he or she could use emotionally charged words to build a climax. Afterwards, the person could throw in a witty line with style and brings things back down to Earth.

Much of this has a lot to do with social engineer, social psychology, cognitive behavior, cognition, and psychology.

The ability of a writer to create prose could have an influence on ethos and pathos. People may perceive the writer to be an intelligent writer because of his or her ability to create stylish prose, thus building ethos. Also, the prose may have a cognitive effect on the reader, thus affecting pathos. The trick is to make the prose seem logical and reasonable.

An analogy is a perfect example where cognition of the reader takes place. The writer must use intelligence and style when creating them. However, they must be clear to the reader and understandable. This is why many people like analogies: Analogies allow a person to grasp a concept better.

Writing in General[edit | edit source]

Coherence[edit | edit source]

Make one sentence link to the next. Afterwards, you could use transitions to go from that sentence to this sentence. However, this sentence may not be as apparent as the last sentence. Of course, one could make an argument about that statement... Do you notice the coherence? That's why you need to start practicing coherence before you write a college paper.

Sites to view:

Proofreading[edit | edit source]

Proofreading is the most important part of any paper. NEVER turn in a college paper without proofreading it more than four times. And after you do that, do it again. Proofreading can be difficult if one does not have a full comprehension of grammatical rules: That is just one problem when it comes to proofreading. This is why this part of the wikibook suggests people read through the Internet texts recommended in the previous section. When proofreading, one of the most important parts is making everything grammatically correct, coherent, and easy to read.

Many people speak out loud while proofreading their paper: This is highly suggested. Sometimes, when a person is proofreading, he or she may not notice any grammar or spelling mistakes while speaking out loud. This is why a Text-To-Speech program (TTS) is recommended. This author uses Readplease for convenience and flexibility. By using a program such as this, a person can listen to the text version of the paper spoken aloud. Listening closely, a person can find mistakes in the paper when a word is spoken incorrectly. This is one of the many handy tools for proofreading. However, if you've proofread with a TTS method, then you will want to proofread with your eyes, a dictionary, a style manual, and a grammar book. Proofreading can be annoying, but at least you'll get a decent grade.

My Favorite Way to Save Files[edit | edit source]

Thread was created by Cyberman (Kamisama), this Wikibook's creator.

Although I'm not the best of writers, I have a new trick in my arsenal.

But first a story:

When I was in college last semester, I lost a lot of my work. I had it saved to the hard drive and the hard drive broke. I wasn't able to save my work in time. And I had to hustle and move very quickly to recover from this disaster. However, I somewhat gained a new trick out of it all.

I was looking for alternatives, and I know many are you thinking "Use a jumpdrive." But I lost my jumpdrive; and even though those things are fun to use, they can be lost, too. After a jumpdrive is lost, then the saved data is not recoverable until one finds the jumpdrive. And floppy disks are still a hot thing among many people. Yet those can fail, too. I've seen it happen. Hell, I'm a 1990's kid. I know data loss happens. I think the major thing that set me back, however, was when my AC adapter for my laptop broke. Those things cost a lot of money. And I couldn't get hold of a new one right away. I didn't have three weeks to wait for something to get to my mailbox. The papers were due soon.

So what was I to do from that day forward? What could I possibly do?

And then I decided to use my computer experience and Internet knowledge. I haven't tried to do anything nifty in a while. I thought about this predicament; I didn't want it to happen again. I was getting sick of the trouble. After enough hard thinking, I came up with a solution: GMail.

Yeah, GMail is a really great tool. Matter of fact, I won't type anything in MSWord or anymore. Seriously. Want to know why? Because GMail constantly saves whatever I'm writing. The best thing is that it is online. Yes, online. It's an online program that saves whatever a person is typing online. It doesn't constantly save, but it saves about every 30 seconds as long as a person keeps typing. I emphasize typing because it recognizes the fact that a person is typing and decides to save that "email" as a draft. Yet the writer isn't really making an email. The writer is saving everything as a draft.

Here's the procedure for those who like a layout:

  1. Compose a letter to yourself
  2. Start typing
  3. Keep typing
  4. Notice that GMail has saved your email as a draft (takes about 45 seconds after continuous typing.)
  5. Keep typing.
  6. When you're done typing, hit "Save..."
  7. Recognize that if your computer had crashed, the hard drive had broken, or some bat out of hell came from nowhere, that your GMail has saved your email. And you can access it in the drafts folder.

When a person wishes to gain access to that file, all he or she has to do is go into the drafts folder and edit the file. If someone wants that copy to be written in stone, then all one has to do is click "send." Afterwards, if the person wants to do more to the file, then he or she can copy and paste the information into a new composed draft. I find it fairly nice to use. And the neat thing is that everything is time-stamped.

This is not to say that you shouldn't save another copy to a jumpdrive, floppy disk, or other storage medium. Matter of fact, I advise that you do when you're done for the day.

But the important thing here is that GMail saves something. It saves it while you type. And the file does not get destroyed. Of course, there may be circumstances when Google's corporation goes to hell and the servers crash; but I think a billion dollar company would make backups or have precautions.

For these reasons, I have been using GMail whenever I have something important to type up. It seems much better than using an FTP server. However, there are times when Google Mail is not accessible; it rarely happens. This is why saving something to a different storage medium is advised.

And if I do use or MSWord, then it's for doing margin work, footnotes, spelling, and other specific word processing applications.

Writing Workshops[edit | edit source]

Some colleges offer community courses or courses that do not earn college credit. All who do not fully understand grammar should take a writing workshop and improve their grammar. Grammar is of the utmost importance when writing a paper for college. Writing workshops not only help with grammar, they also help with the structure of a paper. By structure, I mean the way everything fits together in a smooth transition: this smooth transition is also known as style.

These writing workshops do cost money, but they are worth it if a person comes out with improved writing. The best thing about taking a writing workshop is that a person does not have to take a college/university course that impacts his or her GPA. Another good reason to take a writing workshop is because many English professors expect someone to already know grammar and style. Depending on one's educational background, he or she may not remember how to use a semicolon or a colon; that person may not even remember the difference between a semicolon and a colon. Albeit that many early (before 1900 A.D.) writers used colons and semicolons in a fashionable way, it is recommended that someone flip through a grammar and style book for a definite way of writing with colons and semicolons. Although the semicolon may seem to be presented in a mediocre way, at least it will be used correctly.

Writing Communities[edit | edit source]

Types of Papers[edit | edit source]

Essay[edit | edit source]

Thesis Paper[edit | edit source]

Read this:

Argumentative Research Paper[edit | edit source]

(This will be edited, revised, and made better.) --Cyberman 12:39, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

External links[edit | edit source]

Improving Reading Skills[edit | edit source]

Read the Course Books Before the Semester Starts[edit | edit source]

Many college students have this policy after learning "the system" to read the course books ahead of time. Of course, this proposes many questions:

  • What am I suppose to be learning from this book?

Author's Answer: Whatever is covered in the book. Sometimes there is a lot of gibberish in college books; this gibberish is put there to elongate things that could have been defined in three sentences instead of three paragraphs. All things covered that relate to the course are important. Very little in a book is gibberish and is related to something; remember as much as you can about a book, while knowing which gibberish to ignore. Often, when reading a book with a lot of information, much of the information to remember belongs to specific people/objects, events, actions, results, locations, and problems. This "thing to remember logic" applies to science, social science, and literature.

  • When the class starts, you can ask your professor about what is to remembered and what is not.

Most "good" college students come out of a course remembering about 50% of the material covered in a course book.

Here's something to remember: read as much of a/the book(s) as you can, as soon as you can. Read a/the book(s) before the semester starts.

"Reading before the semester starts" technique: Say, you have five books and one book for each course.

Read at least 10 pages from each book. When you are done with 10 pages from one book, switch to the next book; keep this 10 page revolving system going, until classes start or read a chapter and then switch books. Usually, reading one chapter from a book and switching to the next does well for covering the book(s) of each class.

By doing this, you will be able know what the book covers and what the class topic is all about. Try to read as much of each book as you can before classes start. You will have an advantage if you read the books ahead of time.

Write Down What You Don't Understand[edit | edit source]

When a person reads a book he or she may have trouble understanding the concepts of the things presented. Often, a person wants to read a chapter, but he or she may continue to try and understand a concept before moving to the next page.

The best thing to do in this situation is to write down the concept you do not understand. After you write down what you do not understand, present what you don't understand to the professor.

Before presenting, find a way to ask about what you don't understand. Write a question about the concept in question form on a piece of paper. This way, when you talk to the professor, you can ask him or her the question about the topic you don't understand, that is on the piece of paper.


You read a paragraph about RNA, introns, and extrons. Yet you don't understand how introns are cut out from RNA before becoming mRNA.

  • Write down: introns, RNA, and extrons
  • Make a question: How are introns cut out from RNA before RNA becomes mRNA?

After doing so, you may move onto the next page and hopefully understand more as you continue to read. Sometimes as a person moves on, he or she will find different material that is unrelated, so he or she can focus on that material, and later on the part he or she did not understand. With the part someone did not understand he or she would present that question to the professor.

This is a technique used to cover the rest of the chapter, and read the chapter instead of having a point in which someone becomes stuck on a page before moving on.

Research[edit | edit source]

Library vs. Internet[edit | edit source]

It is often faster to use a library than it is to use the internet. Being that I've been on the web a decade or more now, I've learned many interesting things. For one, the Internet offers a lot of knowledge—a lot of diverse knowledge. Matter of fact, the Internet over the years has become so diverse, searching through the web is like looking through the garbage for something you accidentally threw away. Finding things on the Internet has become very complex these days, and many people rant about having better information to offer than the competitor.

With Internet searching skills, a person will get better at finding materials. Sometimes, people take a shortcut and go to a web forum to ask people a question or where to locate information. The truth is, searching, asking, and locating on the Internet becomes very time consuming. I’ve found that it becomes more time consuming than looking around in a library.

The library often has many resources to choose from. Learning where everything is in a library is important. The more you know about every nook and cranny in a library, the more you can prepare to find materials to do research. Professors usually want book sources when a student is doing a paper. Libraries also have a physical search engine called a librarian. This person is better than an Internet search engine, because you can describe what you need to research, what you are looking for, and ask where it is and how you can find more information.

It is often better to search through a library than through the Internet. This can be disputed, but if you start using a lot of time to research something you could have researched in the library, then maybe you might want to try using the library.