Need Help With Your Writing? Try This Web Site


    This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

    Many colleges and universities in the United States have writing centers to help students improve their skills. Some materials are available free at Web sites like the Purdue Online Writing Lab, or OWL. The site is connected to the Writing Lab at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

    Writing Lab at Purdue
    Writing Lab at Purdue
    It includes resources that can help non-native English speakers. VOA's Art Chimes recently spoke with the director, Linda Bergmann.

    LINDA BERGMANN: "The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a sizeable collection of workshops, worksheets, instructional materials in both English language and in various genres in which students and people working in the world are expected to write."

    For instance, even native speakers are often not sure when to use "lie" and when to use "lay." The site gives these example sentences: "After laying down his weapon, the soldier lay down to sleep." "Will you lay out my clothes while I lie down to rest?"

    The problem is that "lie" also means to not tell the truth, as in "I lied to my mother." So you would say in the past tense "I lay on the bed because I was tired."

    The Purdue Online Writing Lab also explains how to use an apostrophe correctly in possessives and other cases. People often add an apostrophe to "its" in a sentence like "The group made its decision." There should be no apostrophe because what you mean is that the decision belongs to the group. "It's" with an apostrophe is short for "it is," as in "It's raining."

    The Purdue Online Writing Lab also explains how to organize papers and avoid plagiarizing other peoples' work. And it provides a guide to higher education in the United States, including explanations of commonly used terms.

    Director Linda Bergmann says the goal is to provide as many tools as possible.

    LINDA BERGMANN: "Everything from basic language skills of agreement of subject and verb, use of commas and other punctuation, complete and incomplete sentences, so that we can move from basic writing/language skills to the more sophisticated skills that graduate students, upper level undergraduates and people in the work world use."

    The Web site was started in nineteen ninety-four and has plenty of fans.  

    LINDA BERGMANN: "We get a lot of thank you notes from people around the world. And also some schools in other countries use it as a writing handbook, as do some schools in the United States."

    In all, the Purdue Online Writing Lab offers over two hundred free resources for writing and research. The address is For a link, and to learn more about higher education in America, go to our Web site,

    And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Bob Gotkin.