Offered in 2014


Writing Clearly

Good writing is clear writing. The opposite, sadly, is found everywhere. From the mass media to popular fiction to the Internet, we are confronted every day with writing that meanders or wholly misses its point. Standards might be dropping as we zoom into the digital age, but readers—whatever the medium involved—still yearn for clear prose.

Like any other skill, writing requires diligent practice. To achieve clarity in our writing, we must understand the processes that go into a well-written piece of work. Through discussions and in-class exercises, we will examine the craft of writing from the perfect word for the job to the well-structured whole. We will focus on the superbly crafted sentence as a means to the relentlessly purposeful and well-organized paragraph.

A $56 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Why Clarity Matters

If clarity is required for good writing, why is so much of what we read dull, difficult or simply thrown together? We will cover a brief history of the beautiful mess we call written English and consider what clear writing means by drawing on selected examples of good prose.

Week 2: Playing by the Rules

Yes, the rules of writing mean grammar. But, no, grammar needn’t be either daunting or boring. We will view grammar as a toolbox in which the tools are well used but razor sharp. We will also see how English is alive with its rules in flux.

Week 3: Choosing the Right Word

To create a piece of clear writing you need good, solid blocks, much as when one literally builds something. We’ll explore how to choose words that hit their targets, and how to avoid clunkers that can slow down or even put off a reader.

Week 4: Writing Sentences that Work

You may have wonderful words to express your great ideas, but if you can’t craft them into effective sentences, how is the world ever going to know? We will examine the architecture of sentences and discuss ways to write them with more power and grace.

Week 5: Drafting Paragraphs for Style

A delicious meal isn’t wolfed down whole, and you can’t read a work of writing all at once. Paragraphs are the bite-sized chunks we need to make reading a pleasure. Our consideration of overall structure will give us a chance to explore the elusive concept of “style.”

Week 6: Editing for Clarity

The first draft is the necessary first step, but what happens next is crucial. We will explore how to become our own best editors, using the same methodical approach as professionals. Writing clearly, as we will see, is, in effect, all about the art of rewriting.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • In-class writing exercises
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

Who should take this course?

This course is for anyone who is interested in learning about how to write clear and forceful prose.

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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