Customer Reviews: The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing
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on November 13, 2003
I first encountered "Nuts and Bolts" several years ago, when it was just a web-site. Back then, Yahoo! gave it one of their "cool sites" awards (complete with cute little sunglasses.) It became such a hit on the web, Hackett decided to give Professor Harvey a publishing contract.
Its great that they did, because the other college writing handbooks are either deadly dull or sprouting whiskers. Nuts and Bolts is neither dry nor bewhiskered -- it is hip, handy, and highly literate. This new book could (and should) evict Strunk and White, Turabian, Chicago Style Book, and all the other has-beens and never-weres as the one book every college student (yes, including science majors) should carry in their book bag. (Dissertation-writers may still need Chicago for their fine brush-work, but everyone else will find this jack-of-all-topics addresses most high-school and college needs.)
What's so great about this book? Essentially, it provides one-stop shopping for the essentials of good college term-paper writing -- usually dispensed in travel-sized doses of only three or four pages.
Nuts and Bolts presumes little, but teaches much. It rides no high horses, grinds no axes, curries no favors. Yet it is both idiot- and pedant -proof. Never written an essay before, but want to know what one is? Nuts and Bolts will tell you, without making you feel stupid for having asked. (Enlightening but non-overwhelming flashback to Montaigne included). Want to know what good sentences look like? (hint: active verbs) How to cite a "blog" in an essay? (take that, Strunk and White!) "Nuts and Bolts" does all this and (much) more while always remembering that brevity is the soul of pedagogy.
Finally, though it crisply marches student essays from the first head-scratch to the last push of the "print" button, its elegant writing and efficient layout make Nuts and Bolts ideal for sustained soaks or surgical strikes as needs dictate. Perfect example: Nuts and Bolts provides side-by-side comparisons of how each of the three major citation-systems expect students to format books, articles, websites (etc.) in their bibliographies and footnotes. A veritable god-send for the student triple-majoring in English Lit, Psychology, and Bio!
This book is written so clearly, and presumes so little background on the part of its reader (Professor Harvey has obviously studied the average scantily-trained college student in its native habitat) that you almost don't realize how supremely intelligent it is. Though it will probably mostly be assigned for remedial purposes, the book is so engagingly written it will inspire even very good writers -- teachers and professors included -- to carry it around in their own soft-sider brief cases. Adios, Strunk and White. Hello, Nuts and Bolts.
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on October 5, 2005
I use this book in my AP Language and Composition class. My Seniors suffer all the typical problems . . . wordiness, imprecise use of language, poor introductions and conclusions, and weak transitions. Nuts and Bolts addresses all of these, and does so in a clear, convincing manner.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to tighten his writing.
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on October 20, 2003
I have taught English at the college level since 1989 and spend a great deal of time treating just the same errors that this text redresses. If you are an English instructor, I would highly encourage you to buy this book and consider adopting it for your classes. If you seek to write better prose, it would behoove you to buy this book, read it, and put its lessons into practice. Michael Harvey writes clearly and does not ask you to do anything stupid. I have never found a book that does that. Believe me, I have looked.
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on April 23, 2008
As a graduate student in Psychology I get to read and correct mountains of papers from intro-level classes. Now that I am about to get my degree and start teaching those classes, I realize that students need a book that shows them how to write a sentence. This is the book I have chosen for my Principles of Psychology classes. Harvey's concise style and recognition of the pompous style most young college students choose to write in is enlightening and entertaining. The small book is filled with great examples of what not to do alongside examples of how to fix the problem(s). Even though I have literally decades of technical and academic writing experience, the book has helped me to be more concise and to link my thoughts together in a more readable and efficient way. I highly recommend this book for students and especially for teachers. So what if you are not teaching English - if you require students to write, your students will produce better papers (that you have to read!) after using this book. It's required for my psych class!
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on February 7, 2010
Well I would give the book 5 stars but I thought it lacked a bit in advice for content. It had a lot of info regarding formatting, punctuation, etc. But not as much as I would have liked on writing a good introduction, conclusion, thesis, etc.

Still a great book; I definitely recommend it.
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on November 9, 2004'll be good. The Nuts and Bolts Website helped me turn a C minus literary criticism paper (I was devastated - I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong) into an A. My particular problem is structuring my ideas logically and building a solid argument. This site, along with an hour with a good tutor ("No, what you have here is NOT a thesis statement!"), and another hour with my eminently logical husband (he's an engineer who works a lot with lawyers) helped me finally understand that I had to, in effect, build a path with brick walls on either side of it, leading my reader along by the hand, rather than wandering all over the countryside to every distraction, expecting my reader to keep up with my desultory ramblings and then find his own way back to the road. And how to do it.

The site is, unlike me, clear, methodical, and understandable, which is very important when you just can't grasp something because it's in your Writer's Blindspot.

I'm buying the book in case the Website ever goes down.
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on December 21, 2012
As an engineering student, writing isn't my best subject. To be honest, I suck at it. The author of this book however understands that. He's a college professor and has seen his share of poor writing and knows just what is ailing students.

The reason I bought the book was because I received a poor grade on a paper for one of my humanities classes. I realized that my writing style was awful and that it was hiding the content (if there was any good content) from the reader. I started reading the first two chapters and was able to apply the tips right away during my final (on which I got an astounding 95%, thank you very much). What an improvement I made, with reading only half the book!

The book isn't some philosophical manual that asks me to take a deep look at my writing style. Instead it provides direct, practical advice that can be applied right away to any written paper for any subject. There advice on verb usage, nouns, voice and many other things non-liberal arts students never even think about. For example, use active verbs over nominalizations and active over passive voice.

The author gives plenty of examples along the way to show how we can improve our writing. What I love about this book is that it is really short. You can re-read it many times to refresh yourself right before submitting a paper. It's well written and engaging.

The only downsides I experienced were because I was using the Kindle version. Some of the images are blurry and difficult to read, but I'm sure that is not a problem with the hard copy version. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to turn around their writing and be proud of their papers.
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on May 9, 2016
I needed this for class! It served its purpose but as a writer, I decided to keep it to this day. It's great to reference when need be. It didn't cost much and should be bought by all who plan to do a lot of writing as well as preparing themselves for college writing.
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on July 15, 2007
The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing goes over the fundamentals of good essay writing such as concision, clarity, flow, punctuation, and topic sentence for a paragraph and so on. It is an excellent reference book for college students and writers in general. The book however does not go into term or research paper writing.
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on December 20, 2012
After 42 years of teaching philosophy, I have seen writing worsen decade after decade, as students lose the basic skills required to advance a thesis in articulated English. Michael Harvey's little book can help cure this disease of the inchoate.
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