• Amy Cherie Copeland

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Last year, when I proofed Embedded in Clay: A County in Northeast Florida (2018), I found myself in the role of learner, making use of Purdue OWL's Chicago Guide. It was a relief to find the multitude of examples and variations I have come to expect from Purdue OWL's academic guides, and they did not steer me wrong.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a free website for college and university students, widely recognized as a rich source of information on standard American English grammar, punctuation, and academic styles. It has an expansive section devoted to considerations and resources for writers who speak English as a Second Language (ESL). As an academic writing tutor and as an editor, I most frequently consult the Purdue OWL on questions about the details of MLA or APA style required by most American institutions of higher education.

My only serious complaint about the Purdue OWL is that it is very text heavy but not at all interactive. That said, it offers detailed information, with 16 subsections under the General Writing heading alone. The topics in this section range from The Writing Process, to Grammar, Punctuation, and Visual Rhetoric, not to mention specific kinds of writing such as Graduate School Applications and Personal Correspondence. I often refer ESL students to the section on English as a Second Language, which has a number of informational sections describing the requirements of standard American English writing and how students can adjust to it.

Those who are feeling rusty can explore the OWL exercises for a long list of topics for practice. Answer keys are provided so you can measure your progress.

Screen shot of expanded OWL exercises menu with a portion of Sentence Fragments Exercise 1.
Purdue's OWL Exercises offer a variety of opportunities for skill practice.

The parts of Purdue OWL I use most frequently in my work as both a writing tutor and an editor are the academic guides, because many students struggle with mastering academic styles, even at the graduate level. Most students at FSCJ are assigned both MLA and APA papers, so I spend a lot of time reviewing the basics, like how to use the site as a reference and guide to help with formatting and other technical requirements. When editing for graduate students, the MLA and APA Guides have been a godsend for me to work out how to cite unusual sources or format specific types of content.

Have you used the Purdue OWL? How has it helped you? Share your experience by adding a comment.

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