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Writer's Workbench

The Way To Learn Confident Writing – Even on the Fly!

by Michael Leppert

When the SAT test added a written portion a few years ago, the shudders and shrieks of terrified students could be heard across the land: “No, not WRITING! Not right there in the test room!” Writing “on the fly”, without the opportunity for extensive preparation is probably the No. 2 most frightening experience most students face (Public Speaking still holding fast at No. 1).

As the SAT add-on test demonstrates, the ability to put one’s thoughts, opinions or ideas on “paper” (or computer) has only grown in importance in the Computer Age. Yet, there are very few truly helpful tools designed to guide the older student or adult to develop the many skills that make up effective writing. Greg Oij, developer of Writer’s Workbench, has made it his mission to offer an entire workbench of writer’s tools in a single software program – Writer’s Workbench!

In conjunction with Microsoft© Word, Writer’s Workbench aids the user by analyzing an essay or longer piece for content, vocabulary, clarity of ideas, etc., through the many subsections of the program. This provides a way to re-think about the piece and re-draft his/her work, continuing the process of analysis and re-writing until voila! -- the finely-polished piece is finished and ready to submit! After using the program for a period of time, the user will begin to “see” weaknesses before they are even written. Clarity of thought will become a habit and clarity of writing is hand-in-hand.

The 25 analysis sections of WWB are divided into six categories, with two to five subsections in each. The main Categories are: Content; Characteristics; Verbs; Clarity; Words and Punctuation. The program makes suggestions about how to avoid certain pitfalls or use strong devices that improve writing permanently, as one develops mastery.

STEPS feature -- Self-Tutoring Exploration and Preparation Steps -- If one had access to a high-level tutor, such as C.S. Lewis was at Cambridge University, the tutor would perform the analysis and criticism of the student’s work, asking questions and sometimes providing answers as the two worked through the written essay. The student would return to the next tutorial session with the re-written piece and maybe another fresh one, so that the tutor could gradually instruct the student on how to think (which is the content of writing) and organize his/her thoughts. Ideally, over time, the student would become a much better writer on the first pass – the skill required by the SAT written portion. WWB’s STEPS feature is the next best thing to a live tutor. It provides you with writing examples and then asks reasoning questions about the piece, “How did this phrase strengthen the previous statement?” for instance. “Is there another way the same strengthening could be accomplished?” This is the hard work of writing: Learning to notice what is weak, strong and strongest in thinking and in expressing thoughts for others to read.

WWB allows the student as much or as little input as s/he wishes. You can choose to heed the suggestions or not. You can concentrate on certain aspects of analysis and skip others. And WWB’s Assessment Section allows you an overview of your writing within the parameters of the Analysis elements, providing a general “point of departure” before jumping into detailed analyses. WWB is affordable, too, especially when factored over the three- to five-year usage that most students will require to cover everything it offers. The best gift you can give your child or your self is the confidence that comes from knowing that you can write intelligently and clearly at a moment’s notice. Don’t fear writing on the fly – let WWB guide you to confidence in all of your writing! Please visit the website for a thorough viewing of the entire workbench, including the STEPS section, as well as pricing/ordering information. MjL


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