Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade (Fundamental English Writing)

Lawrence (Larry) Barkley and Ted Blake, Mt. San Jacinto College

Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of English grammar, punctuation, and writing in this FREE and open course. This is a fundamental English writing course.

Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing in this FREE and open course. By dedicating yourself to the craft of writing English, you will learn to use the eight parts of speech and grammar to develop the four basic sentence types into a well-organized, detailed paragraph. This course is designed for anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you need to write more clearly for work, prepare for a placement test for a college, or improve your skills for current writing projects, this class is beneficial. Please be aware that basic writers are the targeted audience for this course.

  • Students will be able to identify and correct some sentence level grammatical and punctuation errors.
  • Students will be able to develop four sentence types: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex.
  • Students will be able to recognize and use all four sentence types.
  • Students will be able to develop a clear topic sentence.
  • Students will be able to write a well-organized, detailed paragraph.
Why would you want to take this course?
  • As a pre-Assessment activity
  • As a petition for English placement
  • As a brush-up for students while in writing classes
  • As a brush-up for students who don’t/can’t enroll in an English class
  • As a resource for flipped/blended classrooms
  • To become a better writer

  • Certified Cours

Crafting an Effective Writer by Mt. San Jacinto College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


Unit 1:  Becoming a Successful Online Learner
Introduction to the course with a course navigation tutorial; strategies for being successful in the course and in any online learning environment; information about how you might make your success in the course useful in your future educational experience.
Unit 2:  Parts of Speech
The eight main parts of speech; why knowing the parts of speech will help your writing; the sentence; observing the world.
Unit 3:  Subjects and Verbs
Another way of looking at the parts of speech -- the building materials put to use in the structure of the sentence; gerunds, imperatives, and infinitives; thinking about verb tense and voice; regular and irregular verbs; building your confidence with empowered sentences. Unit 4:  Clauses and Phrases

Adding to your basic sentences with clauses and phrases; combining ideas and creating complexity; the four sentence types; creating your writing style. 

Unit 5:  Composing and Writing
The writing process; revision vs. editing; punctuation, spelling, and commonly confused words; writing a paragraph.

Recommended Background

The course is designed for three main types of learners:
  1. College bound, underprepared students: The course provides fundamental writing skills for college bound students prior to taking placement tests, saving them from spending unwarranted time and money for remediation should they be placed below transfer level. Successful completion of the course may be accepted as an alternative to a placement test.
  2. Current high school and college students in regular classes: This course provides writing support for any student taking any course at any time.
  3. Global Community Members: This course will assist people in improving their writing skills to satisfy their need to be productive citizens in a global society.

Course Format

The format of the course includes video teaching sessions by your professors, writing exercises and activities, discussions with faculty and tutor team members, and opportunities for meet up sessions using Blackboard Collaborate and/or Google Hangouts.

The course is roughly five weeks long and will require about 4-5 hours per unit of your time to complete. The first units may require less of your time to complete than the later units.  Please plan accordingly. Note: We do not offer Verified Certificates. This course is free and open.


Q: Are there any prerequisites?
A: No. All you need is a willingness to grow as a writer and communicator.

Q: I really want to learn to correct the mistakes I always make when writing. Is this the class for me?
A: Yes, but we would like for you to focus on becoming a stronger writer first. If you know how to craft a sentence correctly, you will not be making the same errors AND can free yourself to become a strong communicator.

Q: Who is the intended audience for this course?
A: We designed this course for the basic writer, a person who would place a couple of classes below English composition at an American college or university.

Q: I've written a novel, have my B.A. in English, and I write a regular blog. Is this class for me?
A: Maybe. If you want to hone your grammar skills and improve as a writer in the context of a class that includes many different levels of writers, and you are willing to help others improve their writing, then yes. If you are looking for an advanced grammar class, then we encourage you create a discussion group within the course where you may work with individuals of the same interest and skill level.

Q: Will I learn everything there is to know about grammar in this course?

A: No, but you will learn as much as you need to write a well-written, focused, and detailed paragraph. Throughout the course, we have suggested websites and texts that you can reference for further information about any of the topics covered. Also, you may connect with others who have a similar interest in grammar

Q: Do I need to purchase any textbooks for the course?
A: No. There is no cost associated with this course. However, if you would like a book, find a writing reference book that you like to keep on your desk as you continue to develop as a writer! Professor Larry Barkley, one of the faculty for this course, has written a grammar text entitled Grammar and Usage, Naturally available from Cengage.

Q: Can I get college credit for this course?
A: No. This course was designed to prepare students for basic writing courses and/or to refresh their skills. However, the completion  of this course may give you credit towards advancing to higher level English courses.  Check with the school you are planning to attend for its recommendation about this issue.

Q: Will I get a statement of accomplishment after taking this course?
A: Yes. Students who successfully complete this course will receive a statement of accomplishment including a final writing sample from the course. We do not offer a Verified Certificate as this is a FREE and open course.

Q: Can online students ask questions and/or contact the professor?
A: Yes, but not directly. There are discussion forums within the course where students rank questions and answers. The most important questions and the best answers "bubble" to the top. Teaching staff will monitor these forums, so that important questions not answered by other students can be addressed by faculty. 

  • 13 May 2016, 5 weeks
  • 4 September 2015, 5 weeks
  • 19 June 2015, 5 weeks
  • 30 January 2015, 5 weeks
  • 12 September 2014, 5 weeks
  • 20 June 2014, 5 weeks
  • 7 February 2014, 6 weeks
  • 21 September 2013, 6 weeks
  • 13 May 2013, 6 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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