Friday, June 24, 2016

The what and how and why of MPE-17

"The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what -- these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence."

The “Master’s Proficiency in (written) English” course, ie, a writer’s workshop, is for students, who wish to excel, ie, write well, in English.

At the end of the course, besides learning how to write well, students may wish to work on, prepare or complete a body of writing:

  • Auto-biography, memoir, biography
  • Series of articles / features / essays
  • Collection of miscellaneous writings
  • Blog, diary or journal.

No age bar. No educational qualifications required, except basic writing skills and knowledge of English.

An intense desire to write is essential. I cannot teach this attitude. I promise, however, that during the course U will learn only what U may want to learn: not a word more, nor a word less.

Content and methodology:

The course consists of two parts:
  1. Generic: common for the entire batch.
  2. Tailor-made: for each student.
The generic part will include learning to write sentences, paragraphs; reports, features, essays and other short forms; also how to prepare and follow one’s own a style guide.

Other areas to be covered: meaning & usage; the difference between fact and opinion; description; précis-writing;

The genres to be covered will include non-fiction and fiction, with a preference for non-fiction writing. The relationship of English with Indian languages will also be discussed.

This is NOT (NOT) a “creative” writing workshop. Too much is made of “creative” writing nowadays, in my opinion. If U are looking for a creative writing workshop, this is NOT (NOT) the course for U.

Preference will be given to values like:
  • sincerity & honesty;
  • listening to one’s conscience or inner voice;
  • dissent and tolerance;
  • accuracy;
  • effective communication and impact;
  • respect for the reader; readability;
  • a sense of history.

No lectures. Since I have been a trainer for the last 45 years, the methodology will be interactive and participatory.


The basic texts are:
  • Elements of Style by Strunk & White.
  • On Writing Well by William Zinnser.
The dictionary of choice for the course:
  • Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD). We will try to ensure that students achieve a mastery of the Oxford 3000, the defining vocabulary of the OALD.
The course emphasises clear thinking as a pre-condition for clear writing and encourages the use of plain and simple language.

We will share and discuss various writers and their writing. Selections from the following sampling of works and authors (and others, suggested by students) may be studied (not in order), depending on the interest of students:

The Old Man and the Sea – Hemingway
Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden – Steinbeck
David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities – Dickens
The Story of my Experiments with Truth – Gandhi
I. Isaac – Isaac Asimov
Lessons of History – Will & Ariel Durant

The Paris Review Interviews.
The Economist and The Guardian Obituaries.


R.K. Narayan,
William Hazlitt, G.B. Shaw, G.K. Chesterton,
George Orwell
D.H. Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene,
Virginia Woolf,
Marcel Proust, Victor Hugo, Maupassant, Emile Zola,
Lev Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky,
John McPhee,

e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, Shelley, Keats

What it is NOT:

This is NOT (NOT) a “creative” writing workshop. Too much is made of “creative” writing nowadays, in my opinion. If U are looking for a creative writing workshop, this is NOT (NOT) the course for U.

This is also NOT (NOT) a course in spoken English, except that the medium of instruction will be English. 

About the teacher:

Joseph M. Pinto is a human being, by birth; a journalist and editor, by profession; a trainer and teacher, by choice.

He has worked in journalism since 1973; since 1983, full-time editing on the desk. He has taught editing and print journalism at the Dept of Communication & Journalism, Savitribai Phule Pune University (since 1987); at Symbiosis (since 1990); and various institutions in Pune.

During 1973-83, he has variously:
  • Worked on drought relief programs, in villages, as a full-timer;
  • Taught adult literacy classes, in villages and slums;
  • Worked in trade unions, with CITU;
  • Taken science to the working people, with Lok Vidnyan Sanghatana, as a full-timer; 
  • Conducted teacher and principal training programs, as well as trustee empowerment programs, with Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana. 

Any queries?

Personal email:
Email for the MPE-17 course:

Land-line: 020-2563-4392, between 9 & 11pm.
Mobile & WhatsApp: +91-94037-66122.