The Bedford guide for College Writers, Eleventh Edition

XJ Kennedy, Dorothy M Kennedy, and Marcia F Muth. . Bedford/St. Martins, 2017. $103.99.

Strengths

  • The book’s focus is clearly not on grammar alone, and it certainly doesn’t seem to think that good writing is equated to good grammar. Glossing the Table of Contents shows that the book is concerned with higher-order writing issues, with a small section of a writing “handbook” for grammatical matters.
  • One-stop shop: this book is definitely of the all-encompassing variety rather than dealing with a particular aspect of writing. It can definitely be a handbook that students could consult on a number of issues/topics related to writing.
  • “Learning by doing” activities: each part of the book introduces an idea/concept and then offers a number of “learning by doing” activities. These activities allow students to process or practice the concept introduced. This feature could be super helpful for instructors as they plan lessons. This feature also promotes the idea that writing is not just a talent but a skill that can be honed with practice.
  • Inclusion of student essays: a number of the sections include examples of student work. Since students are always asking for examples, this could be a great resource for a teacher—especially one early in their career before they can collect quality student work.
  • Paired essays: one of the things I’ve struggled with the most in prepping lessons has been finding essays that students can use to practice synthesis or compare/contrast. It can be an annoying and fruitless endeavor to find accessible and pertinent essays for these types of activities, but this book includes four sets of paired essays on different topics. The essays are short enough to work for an in-class activity, but substantial enough to actually foster critical thinking about the topic.

Weaknesses

  • It’s very large and heavy. While this is not an inherently bad thing, I think this material fact would prevent student from keeping this with them or bringing it to class regularly. I would prefer a lighter, more accessible book for my students.
  • The way the book groups topics together betrays the ways in which writing is more of a web of thoughts, conversations, ideas, and actions than simply a linear series of actions. It does this in both the “Writer’s Guide” portion and the “Research Manual” portion.