The Simple Math of Writing Well: Writing for the 21st Century
Jennie A. Harrop, George Fox University
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9780999829202
Publisher: George Fox University Library
Conditions of Use
The text covers a lot of ground: sentence-level concerns, paragraphs, essays, the writing process, research, and typical forms of professional writing. These are listed in the Table of Contents and key terms are highlighted. Key terms are not... read more
The text covers a lot of ground: sentence-level concerns, paragraphs, essays, the writing process, research, and typical forms of professional writing. These are listed in the Table of Contents and key terms are highlighted. Key terms are not always defined ("pre-writing" for instance; there is a list of types of pre-writing but not a definition or models/examples). There is no index or glossary.
As far as I can tell, the information in this text is accurate in so far as it represents the cultural norms of standard Academic English. I think any and all texts about "how to write" must inherently contain some bias.
Like all writing textbooks, this will eventually need updates around academic writing conventions, online resources, and professional writing conventions.
The language is simple and straightforward, but the text relies often on explanation only. I think this could be improved with more visuals and models. The repeated use of the rhetorical triangle was an effective visual, but then there were instructions like "draw an umbrella and fill it in with...." Students might benefit from a model of such an umbrella to provide a visual plus relevant examples.
The framework (Simple Math) is consistent throughout and applied across all of the sections of the text. There is a helpful paragraph at the beginning of each chapter that summarizes how the framework applies to the particular concept in the chapter.
This text could easily be divided up into free-standing units. The sentence structure and formatting sections in particular would make helpful free-standing supplemental material for my students who request more information and/or exercises in these areas.
In general, yes--the topics are clearly and logically presented. I do think that the quotes about writing dispersed throughout the text are not as clearly connected to the content. Maybe the text could make the connections/context more explicit between the quotes and personal stories and the skills being outlined in the chapters.
I had no problems navigating or reading the words and visuals in this text.
I did not notice any grammatical errors as I was reading; the text seems well-edited and proofread.
There is nothing particularly culturally offensive in this text, and its discussion of high and low-context cultures in relationship to language is thoughtful, helpful, and relevant to this category. There are some of the typical assumptions of this genre of textbook, though: that American English is monolithic and that writing exercises can be conducted in a contextual vacuum.
I appreciate the time and expertise that went into putting together this book and plan to use parts of it in the future, probably supplementally. I hope that any critical comments are ultimately helpful.
very comprehensive I liked how the book has a chapter on emails and letters read more
very comprehensive I liked how the book has a chapter on emails and letters
The book is very accurate, error-free and unbiased
Yes very relevant, especially the chapters on writing emails
Clarity is a strength for this book as the concepts are clear, direct and straight forward, modeling a math approach.
The book is very consistent in its pattern of presenting the material.
Modularity is a strength of the book, as the chapters and the subheadings are identified clearly with just the right explanation to the chapter
Very well organized--set in a writing process that moves from small to large concepts.
Easy to navigate
No mistakes found
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive, but it didn't really have examples that are inclusive.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was the exercises. They were all the same--based on previous activities and not very creative or engaging
Most chapters give general information. The ways writing is broken into formulas would assist those writers who struggle with understanding how to compose sentences and frame their ideas. read more
Most chapters give general information. The ways writing is broken into formulas would assist those writers who struggle with understanding how to compose sentences and frame their ideas.
Text is mostly accurate. Depending on what edition of APA style a course or profession, two spaces are required after a period (per sixth edition). When discussing particular styles--APA, MLA, Turabian, and so on--more information about the hundreds of styles that exist in professional and academic writing would be more informative and helpful. Writers must understand basic bibliographic information and then apply the style to the in-text and bibliography. Part VI: Academic Formatting was not nearly informative for college writers.
Identifying letters, reports, and proposals as writing done beyond academia is a bit misleading. Chapter 23 glosses over citation styles, including APA, MLA, and Turabian. Additional, relevant information is needed in order for this chapter to be meaningful to students. Most professionals who have graduated from college will surely be operating in their professional style and would find this part unhelpful. For college students, these sections would be unhelpful, as well.
Harrop identifies target readers as college students, college graduates who want to brush up on their writing skills. As one dives into the text, Harrop narrows college students taking journalism and composition courses. In places, composition students are narrowed further into basic writers. Each demographic has its own set of expectations and needs. Some parts--including the idioms section--seems of lesser significance for college graduates. Part VII: Beyond Academia identifies emails, letters, reports, and proposals that are not limited to outside academia. A noble attempt to meet such a diverse audience does fall short in some places, but there is competition throughout the text regarding exactly whose needs are being met: journalism and composition students or college graduates. College students write emails about jobs while college students. And, a PhD job ad seems a bit too specific of an example for college students to find meaningful in their professional fields.
Some parts are rudimentary (college graduates in their professions), and others are written over readers' heads (basic writers and composition students). However, pages 128-129 list solid audience questions most writers could use when crafting their messages.
Text can be broken into sections, which is helpful. Part 1: The Sentence Equation would be better at the end of the book, as writing process dictates writers focus on ideas first and preciseness of language second. Chapter ten in Part three is helpful when explaining the formula for composition thesis statements: "Thesis statement=Topic+Claim."
The latter part of the text focuses on process writing, and this part is more meaningful if it were the first section. The first part provides formulas that are clever ways to teach basic writers about sentence development. Typical writing textbooks work would flip writing ideas before editing sentences.
Overall, the interface is effective. However, a graphic used in several chapters illustrating the complexities of purpose, voice, and audience (Chapters 14, 15, and 17) is distorted and utilizes an odd font. For a visually impaired reader, this graphic may be difficult to see.
Text demonstrates solid understanding and grasp of grammar, spelling, and mechanics. Text also follows the presented mathematics found in writing.
Photographs reflect people of many ethnicities. No part is culturally insensitive or offensive.
Parts of this text are helpful for a diverse audience, including basic writers, composition students, college students (in general), and college graduates. Professors and readers will have to piece together the particular parts and sentences that fit their needs, which is possible. The latter part of the text is more meaningful for process writing, including generating ideas. The earlier part is helpful for those who are typically writing similar texts that have similar organizational patterns.
An excellent choice as the principle book in a writing course or as a supplemental writing text in a discipline-specific class, this book is a brief and complete writing manual with an approachable voice, clear rules, ample examples, and... read more
An excellent choice as the principle book in a writing course or as a supplemental writing text in a discipline-specific class, this book is a brief and complete writing manual with an approachable voice, clear rules, ample examples, and self-directed activities.
The text of the book is accurate and helpful. The directions and the answers do not seem to be as clear as they could be for some of the grammar exercises.
The purpose of the book is to demystify writing and and breakdown the misconceptions around the rules of grammar and usage. Drawing on her career as a journalist, writing professor and adult education program director, Harrop uses personal examples to speak to an audience of reluctant writers, demonstrating that writing is not as subjective as people fear. By understanding the simple rules -- the mathematics -- of grammar and usage, anyone can write well.
The brilliance of this book is in its audience focus: the confused grammarian in all of us. Her simple “1 + 1 = 2” approach to writing makes us confident that we can learn grammar, that we can write better, that we can communicate more clearly. An excellent choice for the classroom or as a reference for anyone who writes.
The book takes the same rhetorical and design approach in all of its sections. It provides context for the instruction, ample examples, pull-quotes and practice exercises with answer keys.
It is easy to assign sections from this book. While it is comprehensive, it is broken into smaller units -- perfect for integrating into courses other than just a generic college writing course.
The book starts by addressing the myths surrounding grammar usage and punctuation and replacing those false rules with the correct ones. The next three chapters are at the center of Harrop’s conceptual metaphor of writing-as-math, turning discourse into equations: the sentence equation, the paragraph equation, the essay equation. The last part of the book presents the writing process, research writing instruction, academic formatting, and writing in the professional world.
The books uses pictures, charts and examples to help explain the content. Easy to read and navigate.
The text of the book is accurate and helpful. The directions and the answers do not seem to be as clear as they could be in some of the grammar exercises.
Uses both male and female examples, some diversity in names, references to places in the pacific northwest.
This book contains an index, and covers a lot of information. The material covered is similar to what's presented in other textbooks for college writing classes: grammar, basic building blocks of writing, rhetorical awareness, different styles of... read more
This book contains an index, and covers a lot of information. The material covered is similar to what's presented in other textbooks for college writing classes: grammar, basic building blocks of writing, rhetorical awareness, different styles of documentation; specific types of writing and their purpose (emails, reports, etc.). It is comprehensive in its approach.
The content seems accurate and in line with other textbooks covering similar material.
This is a basic book about writing well. If a writing instructor plans on assigning somewhat standard essay assignments (respond to the prompt, or find a subject to research and argue) then the book will be relevant. If however, an instructor wishes to take a more rhetorically focused mindset, this book won't be as helpful. Although Dr. Harrop talks about purpose, audience, and context, those chapters come toward the end of the book, and don't seem to be integrated into the previous chapters. Purpose, audience, context, etc. would be better discussed first, and every succeeding chapter - including the ones about grammar use - could then be read within the context of who one is writing for and why.
The book is very easy to read. Dr. Harrop provides a definition and rules to remember at the start of each chapter, and at the end of each chapter lays out common errors in regards to the chapter's topic, whether they be errors in making a conclusion, writing paragraphs, etc. Her approach is consistent and easy to follow.
The book is highly consistent - in both visual and written form. Chapters are laid out in the same fashion and all follow the same organization. The book's layout reflects well on her title, "The simple math of writing well."
An instructor could easily assign chapters as s/he sees fit. The book doesn't need to be read in order, and one could easily pick and choose chapters to read without needing the context of previous ones.
Dr. Harrop begins, after an introduction, with grammar and simple rules for using it, which seems like a logical choice, given her title, "The Simple Math of Writing Well." Understanding basic grammar conventions will go a long way in writing success, but it's an odd way to start a book. Students will likely be overwhelmed with the numerous beginning chapters about sentences and grammar use. Seeing the math behind sentences, however, within the context of who one is writing for would be a better approach. For instance, an introductory chapter on audience and purpose could provide opportunities for students to reflect on their grammar use in texts vs. emails vs. essays. This more rhetorically minded approach and organization would serve students better. The pages do seem a bit crowded with information. A little more white space or variety would help.
Everything is clearly laid out. Some of the spacing in the called out quotes (they're in bold on the sides of some pages) seems odd.
In my reading of this textbook, I didn't view any grammar errors.
The text isn't culturally insensitive, but that's coming from someone who, as a middle class white Minnesotan, is not as highly tuned into this issue. More could certainly be done to boost cultural relevance.
This book covers material that is helpful and useful, but it isn't very engaging from a student standpoint. As it is already difficult to get first year college writing students to read assigned materials, I would choose a book that did more to cater to where they're at (more images, more casual language, more examples they can relate to).
This text is a comprehensive guide to the writing process, and is well-organized, beginning with sentences and building up to paragraphs and then essays. The "math" idea in the title is indeed "simple": 1+1=2, and even the most complex sentences... read more
This text is a comprehensive guide to the writing process, and is well-organized, beginning with sentences and building up to paragraphs and then essays. The "math" idea in the title is indeed "simple": 1+1=2, and even the most complex sentences can, Dr. Harrop shows, be reduced to this simple equation. The strongest, most useful sections for students would be, I think, Section II: The Paragraph Equation and Section III: The Essay Equation.
While there is a fine line sometimes between rules and stylistic choices, and I might disagree with some of what is presented as absolutes, particularly in Section I: The Sentence Equation, there are no errors in the book.
I think this writing textbook could have a significant shelf life. While later sections about research and the contexts in which we write will ultimately need to be updated, those changes would be easy to make, given the text's structure.
The clarity of the prose (as well as of the ideas) was a big plus for me; Dr. Harrop clearly loves words and language and what can be accomplished by using them well, and the casual but polished tone throughout demonstrates the text's claims about the value of writing well.
There are no issues with consistency; the terminology used is simple, likely recognizable to most students, and the return to the 1+1=2 equation and ____ + ____ = _____ formula for everything from sentences to complete essays created a throughline that shows that mastering the "math" of an essay is no more complex than mastering the "math" of a sentence.
Some sections are a bit long and overcrowded, particularly those in Section I: The Sentence Equation. While I understand the clustering of topics, some subsections would benefit from being broken up (most notably, I felt, "Eight Parts of Speech"). However, after the first section, which as the basis for subsequent sections had much to accomplish, the chapters were of manageable size, and flowed logically from one to the next.
There is really only one way to organize a writing textbook, moving from sentence to paragraph to essay, which this text does. There is, however, a great deal more flexibility in the organization of introducing grammar, parts of speech, punctuation, and such, and while I would probably sequence those chapters differently when teaching from this book, the text;s modularity would make that easy to do.
The text itself is physically very readable, with the move to subsequent (or previous) sections clearly marked. The table of contents, which features drop-down menus within each larger section, is easy to use.
A writing book with grammatical errors would not even warrant a review in my world. No errors that I caught.
This text is quite neutral; none of the examples used to illustrate the concepts are particularly diverse, but that doesn't seem exclusionary.
Because I teach many students with equal levels of math anxiety and writing anxiety, I really liked the approach of demystifying writing by reminding us how simple math can be.
This textbook covers all of the topics that need to be taught in a high-level developmental writing class. After a thorough review of sentence and paragraph mechanics, Dr. Harrop moves into essay structure, the writing process, research, and even... read more
This textbook covers all of the topics that need to be taught in a high-level developmental writing class. After a thorough review of sentence and paragraph mechanics, Dr. Harrop moves into essay structure, the writing process, research, and even some professional writing. For those of us who have taught developmental writing for years, this book covers all of the writing aspects we would need. The emphasis of the book--a logical, rather mathematical approach--on step by step processes may be disconcerting to some teachers. However, for our students, who often desire repeatable proceesses, this book would be quite helpful.
The content of this book is similar to the many other high-level developmental writing textbooks I have used over the years. The grammar section is accurate; the writing process section contains all of the exercises I've used over the years, and I like how the writing process section starts with the two most important considerations (purpose and audience) before moving into drafting and revision strategies.
Dr. Harrop's book is relevant and will have considerable longevity. She has included all of the central tenets for writing instruction in a high-level developmental course. I don't think those central tenets are going to change much over the next decade. They haven't so far, in my 25 years of teaching. Grammar is grammar. Process is process. The rhetorical triangle endures. Paragraphs need topic sentences and evidence. Dr. Harrop has ensured that her book will be around a while.
The book has good clarity for its intended audience. I infer that the audience is first-language English speakers who have struggled with writing in the past but who also have the cognitive skills to succeed. In other words, students with learning disabilities and English-as-a-Second-Language students would probably find the book less clear. For these learners, supplemental materials or instruction would need to be provided. However this is also true for most over developmental writing textbooks out there on the market today.
I appreciated Dr. Harrop's consistency in this book. No matter which chapter, she always affirms that writing is a logical set of steps. She opens each chapter the same way and has similar student exercises at the end of each chapter. Her numerous examples are on-target. Also, her examples aren't too long. This is important in a developmental writing class. The book has a repeated framework in each chapter.
Dr. Harrop's is designed, I think, with modularity in mind. Although the book is sequenced from chapter to chapter in order to emphasize logical processes, each chapter could also be used as a stand-alone unit. The book doesn't have very many chapter-to-chapter connections. That's a good thing. As I was reviewing the book, I was envisioning just how easily I could use divide up the book chapters and put them in my online course platform.
This book follows the same basic structure that I've seen in other developmental writing textbooks. It's organized from small to large. She starts with sentence-level structures, then paragraph and essay structures, and finally the writing and research processes. It works well. Before students can write essays, after all, they need to know how to write correct sentences.
When viewed on a comupter screen or tablet, the book is quite easy to read. Most importantly, when I read the book on my phone--a Samsung Galaxy--it was also easy to read and none of the images were distorted. This is important because students these days read everything on their phones. This book fits on their phones.
During my thorough review of the book, I didn't detect any grammatical errors.
In my opinion, Dr. Harrop follows the middle ground when choosing examples for the book. Her essay and paragraph examples are diverse. She is not able to provide many culturally relevant examples for sentence-level issues, for research, or for the writing process. However, since much of the book is a primer of sorts, a how-to manual, teachers would not be using it to teach diversity. They would be using it to teach writing structures.
I plan on using this book, starting in the Summer 2018 semester, in my developmental writing courses because its content fits what I teach and because it has the same content as the other developmental writing textbooks out there that I've used for many years. I will also supplement this book with other OERS as well. I will use this book to structure the sequence of my developmental writing courses. If you are curious about how I've used it, feel free to email me at <email@example.com>.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Myths And Rule Changes 1
Part I. The Sentence Equation
- 1. Main Verbs
- 2. Main Subjects
- 3. Terminal Punctuation Marks
- 4. Mid-Sentence Punctuation Marks
- 5. Eight Parts Of Speech
- 6. Consistency
Part II. The Paragraph Equation
- 7. Topic Sentences
- 8. Evidence
- 9. Summary Sentences
Part III. The Essay Equation
- 10. Thesis Statements
- 11. Introductions
- 12. Body Paragraphs
- 13. Conclusions
Part IV. The Process Of Writing Well
- 14. Purpose
- 15. Audience
- 16. Voice
- 17. Context
- 18. Claims And Appeals
- 19. Clarity And Cohesion
- 20. Revision And Creativity
Part V. Research
- 21. Finding Credible Evidence
- 22. Including Outside Evidence
Part VI. Academic Formatting
- 23. Apa
- 24. Mla
- 25. Turabian
Part VII. Beyond Academia
- 26. Emails
- 27. Letters
- 28. Reports And Proposals
About The Author
About the Book
Writing guides abound, but The Simple Math of Writing Well is one of a kind. Readers will find its practical approach affirming, encouraging, and informative, and its focus on the basics of linguistic structure releases 21st-century writers to embrace the variety of mediums that define our internet-connected world. As Harrop reminds us in the opening chapters of her book, we write more today than ever before in history: texts, emails, letters, blogs, reports, social media posts, proposals, etc. The Simple Math of Writing Well is the first guide that directly addresses the importance of writing well in the Google age.
About the Contributors
Dr. Jennie A. Harrop is a professor in George Fox University’s Department of Professional Studies, where she teaches writing, literature, and Christian apologetics, and serves as department chair. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Denver, an MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University, and a BA in journalism from Pacific Lutheran University, and she is completing a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies at Portland Seminary. In addition to her teaching and administrative duties at George Fox, Harrop serves as director of the university’s Portland Writing Center. She lives in Oregon with her husband and five children.