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In Arts & Entertainment

Puechner's "I Hate Writing Papers, but I Want an 'A'"


Eileen Puechner is a grammar hound; she'll admit it. At times, even the slightest error can make her crazy and if you ever meet her, do yourself a favor and do not answer "good" if she asks how you're doing.

Is she a grammar guru? Close; she's a senior technical editor at Johnson Controls and now, she's also the author of "I Hate Writing Papers, but I Want an 'A,'" an easy to read guide to academic writing and tackling basic grammar.

"I've always enjoyed English and writing," she says. "It would make me crazy to see errors and I know that this comes from my parents. My father taught English for 30-plus years at the high school level and my mother was an English major as well, so I got corrected all the time. Whenever I'd see things that weren't correct it would make me nuts; it's just part of my personality."

For the small yet sentence-savvy slice of the population like Puechner, "the sickness," as she calls it, is nothing short of innate. Although it's her life's passion, the idea of publishing an actual book on the subject didn't surface until her husband Marc started struggling his way through grad school papers.

"He'd graduated from college 10 years before and asked me, a former English major, to look over his papers," she says in her book's introduction. "I found several grammatical issues in his work, and when I tried to explain the rules to him, I failed to convey the information in a way he could comprehend. I had to put the guidelines into a less intimidating form that made sense to him."

Marc could be any of us; clearly capable of communicating, but not fully committed to mastering the often-confusing culture of perfectly rendered grammar. And really, this book, says Puechner, is for any of us, as well.

"I wrote it with the student in mind -- high school through post-grad -- but I think anybody can use what I'm saying. I think it's paring down the rules and getting to the crux of problem areas. I don't think people realize how important it is that they have an interesting vocabulary and use strong verbs. I know there are other books out there that cover this information, but I don't think they cover it in as a concise a way."

Within its painless 62 pages is a crash course on essay writing -- you remember the drill: strong thesis, supporting paragraphs, brief conclusion -- with helpful reference tables on the basic sentence structures of the English language.

Puechner graciously breaks down the criteria for a great paper in a way that's easy to wrap your mind around. She starts with the simple stuff -- getting your ideas down on paper -- and walks you through each step, including verb usage, varied vocabulary, how to avoid passive voice and the invaluable power of proofreading (something she stresses so much as to place an exclamation point after the heading).

In the end, the book is proof that even the grammar challenged can probably write "A" papers, given that they do the proper initial research first (sorry, she can't do that part for you.) "I Hate Writing Papers, but I Want an 'A'" is available (as of Friday, Aug. 17) at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target.


Talkbacks

SLM | Aug. 23, 2007 at 9:04 a.m. (report)

I wish I had this book when I was in college! Eileen guides you through the steps of creating a great paper using everyday terminology and simple examples. I love the reference tables! I use them at my technical writing job regularly.

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