Pit-bull Guide to Powerful Prose


In 2008, I agreed to foster an ominous-looking shelter dog no one seemed willing to adopt. He doesn't have any papers, but a glance at his noggin makes clear that he's not a greyhound or a whippet. He's an American pit-bull terrier.

Although his well-armored head and fence-post neck suggest he was was bred with what Mike Tyson once called "bad intentions," he turned out to be a gentle dog, friendly to people and other canines--although he's so strong that his wagging tail leaves a welt.

I named him Muggs, after a dog owned by the American writer James Thurber, so he has a literary pedigree. After my coworkers met Muggs, they fell in love too.

When it was time to develop some new Audio Tutorials on writing with power, we decided we needed a mascot. Our designer, Karl, was itching to animate a central character. Who better to represent writing power than mighty Muggs! He's so strong you can see the flexing muscles on the top of his skull when he chews a bone or one of my shoes.

So our English language arts specialist, Terry Hardison, decided mischievous Muggs would be the perfect inspiration for students.


Muggs now has six videos that give students immediately useful information on how to write with power. We focus on topics that students learn best by seeing the principles we describe--not simply reading about them as in most books on writing style. Expressed in unforgettable animations, these ideas make an instant impression on students.

  1. Make sentences more forceful by choosing strong verbs.
  2. Enhance clarity with concrete terms.
  3. Improve precision: cut needless prepositional phrases.
  4. Control sentence structure to invigorate your work.
  5. Say what you mean: link related words.
  6. Stop the confusion: no more misused expressions.

With Muggs, your students can laugh while they learn. So unleash your students! Give them the Pit-bull Guide to Powerful Prose. You'll be glad you did. And be sure to check out our Writing Navigator and Punctuation Rules!



About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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