seal  Purdue News

August 12, 2003

Purdue online writing lab boasts 'write' stuff

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The number of Web users from around the world who are using Purdue University Writing Lab's site to improve their grammar, punctuation and writing style is growing by the millions.

Online Writing Lab, known as OWL, received 23,378,595 hits from more than 125 countries last year. Three years ago, that number was 3.6 million. Linda Bergmann, director of the Writing Lab, which houses OWL in Purdue's English department, attributes the jump to a global increase in the number of people learning English as a second language and more working professionals wanting to improve their writing skills.

"Even in this technological boom, we are reminded just how important writing is in professional settings," said Bergmann, an English professor in the School of Liberal Arts. "We know many of our hits are from Purdue alumni, which shows that even in the working world people want to know the proper place for a comma, how to address a letter or improve their writing. OWL makes it possible for many people to continue learning about writing."

Bergmann said most of the Web site's content is derived from the one-to-one tutoring sessions that take place in the Writing Lab, where there were more than 5,000 individual tutoring sessions last year. The online version of the Writing Lab was created in 1993.

"We learn what works well during the individual tutoring sessions, then we add that knowledge to OWL," Bergmann said. "OWL serves as a digital center that houses the knowledge and expertise our tutors offer."

OWL visitors can find more than 200 printable handouts on editing and revising; online workshops on resumes, cover letters, Web research and research papers; and up-to-date instructions for documentation in Modern Language Association format and American Psychological Association, the preferred style guides for research papers. Users also can e-mail questions to a tutor.

The Writing Lab also offers a grammar hotline at (765) 494-3723, conducts workshops and offers assistance to international students interested in improving their English writing skills. Handouts on writing, resumes and guidelines for citing sources also are available through the Writing Lab and OWL.

Starting next year, OWL will offer interdisciplinary writing instruction by producing department-specific instructional materials for Purdue students. This project is being funded by a digital curriculum development grant from Information Technology at Purdue.

"We will be working with Purdue's Department of Child Development and Family Studies to create a section on OWL for the department's students to access advice on preparing assignments, papers and grant proposals," Bergmann said. "Basically, we are building a digital repository. We'll have examples of papers that are well written and feature comments from professors about what it takes to get a good grade on a paper. There also will be tips about what not to do."

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Linda Bergmann, (765) 496-2814,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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