Websites on Grammar
I have to start this section by mentioning a site you cannot bypass (The French say "incontournable"). Better still, download the PDF file when you find it (or buy the book, see book section on the Bonus page), print it, and read it once a year. The work is that of a certain Professor William Strunk, Jr. who wrote a little book to encourage his students to write English properly (Grammar, English composition). He intended it to be concise but to the point, which is why it is still read by generations of writers even today. Its title is "The Elements of Style". You will find it here in HTML format and for a PDF version see hereunder
Another article I strongly recommend is the one written in the American Scientist by George Gopen and Judith Swan. It touches on aspects of writing rarely covered: text progression. If this article interests you, make sure to read George Gopen's book
George Gopen Pearson Longman – 2004. Read also chapter 7 of the book "Scientific Writing, a Reader and Writer's guide", for a complementary perspective on text progression.
Most of the websites on scientific writing are found, not unexpectedly, on university websites, in academia land. The term "scientific writing" is often synonymous with "technical writing" or "academic writing". One definition of "technical" in the Oxford American Dictionary characterizes all three. These writings all require "special knowledge to be understood". The differences with non-technical writing extend beyond the knowledge required. They even affect the grammar and the writing style. That is why I favor the grammars written by scientists and engineers. Among those, I recommend
- Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization
A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors written by Mary K.McCaskill from the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia (USA).The 108 page grammar is available in PDF version at the following URL: http/www.sti.nasa.gov/publish/sp7084.pdf
Large universities help their students improve their writing skills by making available resources online. I recommend you visit three sites. I particularly like is the one hosted by Penn State University (four more universities contribute to it) because many online exercises are proposed, and because they constantly refer to the great book written by Michael Alley, "The Craft of Scientific Writing". The header on top of the web page says "Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students". "Writing", here, covers an extensive range: from the journal article to proposals, lab reports, theses and dissertations, and even résumés and correspondence. Click on the link "Writing Exercises" under "Student Resources" at the top left of the page, and have fun learning. http://www.writing.engr.psu.edu
The Purdue university Online Writing Lab (OWL) is extensive.
The university of Wisconsin has a great handbook which contains an extensive grammar section.
If English is your second language, you probably struggle with the use of the articles "a", "an" and "the". Indeed, the incorrect use of the article will immediately betray the non-English background of a writer. It is so confusing, is it not? There is no easy rule to follow. So learn from the experts. Three documents will help you: the Writing Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a good page entitled "Article Usage" written by John R. Kohl. It is quite exhaustive.
Be sure to also read section 1.5.1 in the NASA grammar for a different perspective, and the page entitled "The Use and Non-Use of Articles" in the grammar of the http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/
Finally, punctuation makes a significant difference in the clarity of writing. Do make sure to read out on the use of punctuation. Each of the websites mentioned above have a section on punctuation. The NASA grammar dedicates 32 pages to this important topic, from section 3.1 to 3.16. I also enjoyed reading two pages from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) entitled: "Commas with Nonessential Elements" and "Proofreading for Commas".