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Teaching Style + Resources

Professor Patrick Barry's teaching style.

Teaching Style

My approach to teaching focuses on three things:

  1. Creating an engaging conceptual vocabulary people can use and share.
  2. Providing plenty of opportunities for low-stakes practice.
  3. Helping people apply what they’ve learned to high-stakes projects

With these goals in mind, I want to offer some tips on how to get the most of this course.


The videos and readings are full of terms designed to help you get a better sense of both the mechanics and strategy of effective writing. Some of these terms may be familiar to you. Others may not. The best way to increase your fluency with all of them is to use them yourself.

The Comments can be a good place to test them out, as can conversations offline with people not enrolled in the course. Trying to explain to a friend or family member a concept you’ve just learned is a great way to see if you sufficiently understand it yourself.

Low-Stakes Practice

You can’t become a better writer if you don’t actually write. Nobody improves just by staring at a screen. So please take advantage of the many opportunities you’ll have to practice the techniques we’ll be learning.

To help with that, I recommend keeping a notebook nearby as you make your way through the material. You can use a physical notebook. You can use a digital notebook. You can use any kind of notebook you want. Even just keeping something like Microsoft Word or a Google Doc open could work. 

The point is to create a space for yourself that is free of judgment, consequence, or anything else that may make you anxious about putting words down on a page. Without low-stakes practice, it is tough to achieve long-term growth.

High-Stakes Projects

The tests at the end of each week make up the graded components of the course. You’ll have to pass them to receive your certificate.

But I also hope you identify some additional high-stakes projects to pursue during your time in the course. A big goal like finishing a paper, submitting a proposal, or applying for a job or promotion can be helpfully motivating. It can also give you a chance to bring together—in a holistic, meaningful way—all the skills you are about to start developing.

*Note: If you decide to only audit the course, you’ll get access to the Practice Quizzes but not the ones at the end of each week. Those are just for people pursuing a certificate. That shouldn’t stop you, however, from picking your own high-stakes project to target. Ambitious goals are open to everybody.

A Note on Our Videos

We use a variety of videos to teach new concepts, reflect on previous concepts, and guide instruction. Each video includes a transcript (underneath the video) that students can follow. Given that these transcripts are auto-generated, however, our team doesn’t have control over editing the many errors that the transcripts contain. We apologize for the confusion and frustration that these errors can cause. We hope to have a better solution soon! 


Below is a list of the course’s main resources. There are free versions of all the books online, but we also included links to print and Kindle versions for those of you who prefer a different reading experience.


Good with Words: Writing and Editing

The Syntax of Sports: The Words Under the Words (Class 1)

The Syntax of Sports: The Power of the Particular (Class 2)

Notes on Nuance: Volume 1

Digital Library

Good Sentences

The Syntax of Sports

Monthly Email

Good Sentences: Sample

Good Sentences: Archive

Good Sentences: Sign-up Sheet (Optional)

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Writing and Editing: Structure and Organisation

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