The Nature of Writing: An Online Style Guide

The Cause

The Nature of Writing is a new online resource that enhances writing instruction across the curriculum and gives students free access to high-quality lessons and exercises. This project, which is currently under construction, is about building bridges between universities and high-schools. It is about making education as inclusive as possible. Every year, students enter into university and are often not prepared for the rigorous writing requirements they face. Educational companies capitalize on this need by offering expensive textbooks and software. By contrast, The Nature of Writing will be free. It aims to be a comprehensive writing website that provides video instruction, in-depth explanations, and numerous exercises—all to give students the confidence to write with style.

The project is led by Conrad van Dyk, Associate Professor of English at Concordia University of Edmonton. He first started thinking about creating better writing resources while teaching a number of students with intellectual disabilities. While working with Inclusion Alberta he increasingly realized that if we help the students with the greatest needs, we are actually benefitting all the students. After all, a ramp for a wheelchair provides an extra option for everyone.

The Nature of Writing will therefore engage learners at multiple levels of difficulty and through different media. Financial support will allow for the following:

• Hiring students to assist in creating content.
• Collaborating with local educational groups.
• A pilot project in local schools.
• A symposium with teachers to disseminate the project.

Funding from the Field Law Community Fund will ensure that students have access to high-quality resources that help them succeed in school and in the workforce.

Learning to write is not just about mastering a few rules: it’s about giving students the confidence that they can communicate their ideas effectively and creatively.

For an initial demo page, please visit:

Who Will it Benefit?

The Nature of Writing will help students make the transition from high-school to post-secondary education. It will enhance writing instruction in the senior grades and in university, where quality supplementary resources are much needed. It will also assist employers and life-long learners in achieving a high standard of writing in the workforce.

The first implementation of The Nature of Writing will be tested through a pilot project with local high-schools and other educational groups (e.g., Inclusion Alberta, the Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association, etc.). There is often little communication between educators, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to create connections and start conversations. Seeing how students respond to the exercises and instructional material will be invaluable in revising the website.

Once the website has been tested and retooled, a symposium with other high-school and university instructors will allow for more extensive use (a ripple effect) across the curriculum. Teachers and students will see the following benefits:

• Improved literacy and writing outcomes
• Better preparation for diploma exams and first-year writing courses
• Use of best practices across institutions
• Improved assessment
• Learning at various levels of competency
• Self-directed study
• Supplementary instruction for ESL students, senior citizens, etc.
• Text-book savings ($35-$100 per student)

This project is modeled after the Khan Academy, which provides an online education for everyone, but also focuses on the local community. Such a model is only successful when users can give feedback and provide support through donations. The Nature of Writing is already in development, but to make it truly an excellent resource we need to make this a community effort. After all, writing well is a skill set that benefits all of us – not only the student with a disability, or the keener who excels, but also the employer who looks at their resumes.