A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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Have you ever read the first few sentences of a scholarly article and been so annoyed by the denseness of the writing? Take this line for example: “On the contrary, I proffer that the ontological necessity to determine the nature of dwelling resides within the viewer.” What does this mean? I have no idea, either. That’s because I’m not a philosopher, and “ontological” is a term that is not used very often outside of philosophical endeavors.

Perhaps the most important aspect of writing is clarity. You’re writing to communicate a message, yes? Don’t you want your message to be received? Well, writing with obscure or group-specific language will often muddle your point. Use words with which you’re familiar—and, more importantly, words with which your audience will be familiar. Your instructor may know what “ontological” means; but remember, you’re more often than not writing to someone other than your instructor, such as your peers. Similarly, you may be a physics major and know all of the terminology that is specific to that discipline—to that discourse community—but your audience is likely not a physicist and needs to be able to receive your message. Unless you’re going to break down the terms for your audience, pass over the discipline-specific language.

So be clear—using complex terms is alright, if they’re absolutely necessary to communicate your point. But it’s generally more rhetorically effective to avoid such jargon (complex or loaded terms that obfuscate meaning or are only used within a particular group). How do you like that for jargon?

When writing, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Do my words sound like they’re coming from me?
    2. Am I using discipline-specific terms that someone outside of my field or area of specialization will not understand?

If you can answer “yes” and “no,” respectively, then you’re probably avoiding jargon.

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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