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Enhancing Writing Skills

reviewed by Hairong Shang-Butler & Xiaojuan Lang - February 28, 2017

coverTitle: Enhancing Writing Skills
Author(s): Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, & Carrie J. Boden-McGill (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681233568, Pages: 129, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

Enhancing Writing Skills, edited by Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, and Carrie J. Boden-McGill, is a book consisting of 13 chapters and is based on five major themes. These include genre-based writing, creativity in writing, academic writing, writing as a business, and the mechanics of writing. As such, the volume could benefit a vast range of readers and empower any individual interested in writing for various purposes. Additionally, it could be used as a guidebook for evaluating and strengthening writing skills or for obtaining suggestions from aspiring writers.

This book is clearly structured and consists of five sections. The first section addresses genre-based writing, which includes poetry, songs, and historical fiction. It provides wonderful tips for understanding and researching each of these genres. All of these suggestions, including having a system for keeping information ready, could be applied to writing across any genre. For example, Chapter One serves as a toolkit for poetry. David M. Harris uses plain words and classical poems to illustrate poetry traits, which is illuminating for new poetry writers and readers. In Chapter Two, Lisa Aschmann differentiates lyrics from poetry in terms of aesthetics, agendas, forms, and uses. In Chapter Three, George Spain introduces the concept of historical fiction and the techniques of writing in this genre. Chapter Four, by Patricia H. Quinlan, recounts her experiences with novel writing in relation to history and family. Its reader-friendly style and personal stories make this chapter easy to follow. Even readers who are not familiar with some of the genres mentioned in this book will enjoy reading the text and find it informative.

The second section, “Creativity in Writing,” discusses the connection of brain science with written expression. It also explores creativity in academic writing from a transcultural perspective. In Chapter Five, editor Elufiede focuses on brain-based strategies in writing. He advocates for “unleashing creativity through experiential practices, the exploration of new ideas, and engagement” (p. 42). In Chapter Six, Emmanuel Jean Francois and editor Boden-McGill explore the notion of co-authoring. They claim members of transcultural communities as potential co-authors. Francois and Boden-McGill use their own personal co-authoring and co-editing experiences to explain how to combine academic writing with creative writing in transcultural contexts to produce creative academic writing. Editor Murray emphasizes the importance of fostering creativity awareness (e.g., a sense of wonder), exploring creativity sources (e.g., new ideas), and producing both scholarly and literary writing (e.g., merging creativity in academic writing) in Chapter Seven. As scholars who are extensively engaged in co-authoring activities, we find this chapter extremely helpful because it sheds light on how to position ourselves as co-authors, as members of transcultural communities, and as seekers of publishing opportunities.

Section Three focuses on features of academic writing and analyzes the potential benefit of literary analysis for creative writers. In Chapter Eight, Joseph Ballantyne introduces the concept of academic literacy and analyzes excerpts from two American novels through the lens of literary theory. He emphasizes that, “the success of a book depends on formal genre preferences by both popular scholarly audiences, as well as historical, social trends and concerns” (p. 75). In Chapter Nine, Janet Walsh discusses how writers can use libraries as a platform and take advantage of library resources to expand their creativity in writing (e.g., using collaborative spaces found in libraries). She also highlights the connections between academic writing and creative writing. We find the ten suggested methods for making the best use of libraries the most helpful part of this chapter. Both authors in this section use plain words and highly relatable examples to offer practical tips for readers. They also are effective in illustrating academic notions of creative writing.

Section Four is titled “Writing as a Business.” It encourages writers to seek self-publishing opportunities, make use of editors, and find reactive audiences. Candy Paull’s eye-opening personal experiences regarding independent publishing are inspiring. They encourage readers to write for non-traditional publishing. We deeply appreciate Paull’s distinction between traditional gatekeepers and inner gatekeepers in publishing. This empowers readers to explore creative options in writing and overcome the fear of being wrong. Carissa Barker-Stucky emphasizes the crucial role of involving a professional editor to produce a satisfactory writing piece. The two authors in this section contribute insightful practices to writers who are specifically interested in independent publishing or writing more generally.

Finally, Section Five is titled “Mechanics of Writing.” The authors in this section focus on language as a medium. Beth Terrell explains why language matters to writers during the whole writing process. This includes issues like misplaced modifiers. In Chapter Thirteen, “As Clear as Mud,” Jamie Hughes analyzes the correct usage of metaphors, similes, and idioms. We appreciate his suggestion on keeping readers in mind and his caution against overusing metaphors. The two authors in this section provide insightful information on how writers most effectively convey their ideas to their intended readers with correct language usage. We find this chapter easy to follow and a must read for any writer, academic, or creative person.

We highly recommend Elufiede, Murray, and Boden-McGill’s Enhancing Writing Skills for the following reasons. First, it contains numerous practical suggestions on writing techniques that could potentially benefit anyone in the writing community. For example, its suggestions on using library resources and building networking relationships could benefit many readers regardless of writing genre. Hands-on suggestions like this are based on the authors’ everyday writing experiences so readers can easily apply them to their own writing. By providing evidence-based research and practical experiences from authors, this book could inspire creative writing in many ways. More importantly, the authors of all 13 chapters are experienced writers in various fields. As a result, readers can benefit from different perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of writing for many purposes.

Second, most of the book’s authors analyze their topics using substantial excerpts from various types of writing. For instance, excerpts from Moby Dick and Uncle Tom’s Cabin are used as examples to analyze writing techniques. As a result, readers will feel like they are having a pleasant conversation with experienced writers. They will also learn how to evaluate and enhance their writing at the same time. Additionally, the varied themes of the book can help readers hone writing skills, increase their knowledge of different writing genres, enhance their ability to appreciate written work critically, and empower them to write creatively.

Despite these strengths, there are some formatting issues that may weaken the power of the book unless they are done for specific reasons. For example, on page 121, the sections of idioms and the conclusions are printed in different colors. Readers might find this confusing.

The book Enhancing Writing Skills addresses current issues on creative writing and could serve as an indispensable resource for individuals interested in enhancing their writing. Readers will find Elufiede, Murray, and Boden-McGill’s book interesting and highly informative.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 28, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21848, Date Accessed: 5/16/2021 5:29:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Hairong Shang-Butler
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    HAIRONG SHANG-BUTLER is an assistant professor of TESOL at Warner School of Education, University of Rochester. Her research interests are TESOL, English as a second language writing, and international student education.
  • Xiaojuan Lang
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    XIAOJUAN LANG is a doctoral student in the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. She is mainly interested in studying literacy of English language learners.
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