due_dates: January 2008 Archives
There are several ways to have a career as a writer. Some people work for newspapers, some write instruction manuals and other business documents, and still others write political speeches. But whatever your writing task, the thing that is most important is to learn to write with your audience foremost in your mind. (53 words)
The above passage is grammatically correct. There are no
misspelled words, there are no factual errors, and the author sticks to one
topic. Nevertheless, the above passage wastes words.
There are  several ways to have  a career as a writer. Some people work for  newspapers, some write  instruction manuals and other business documents, and still others write  political speeches. But whatever your writing  task, the thing that is most important  is to learn to write  with your audience foremost in your mind. (52 words)
 "To have" is another wimpy verb.
 A very vague phrase.
 We already know this passage is about writers...
 ...so these words don't add anything new.
 Ho hum...
 What purpose did the two previous sentences serve, if after I read them I'm told that they're not important after all? Writing like this will teach the reader not to trust the writer.
 Ho hum...
Let's break the above passage down. Remove all the content-bearing nouns and replace them with letters, simplify all the verbs, and just look at the structure.
There are several ways to do X. One way is A, another way is B, and another way is C. But the most important thing about X is D.
If your goal as a writer is to convince your reader of the importance of "D" (in our first example, the concept of writing with the audience foremost in your mind), then why bother to introduce A, B, and C?
Whether you are in situation A, B, or C, doing a good job with X depends upon your ability to do D.
Whether you are in journalism, marketing, or politics, being a good writer means keeping your audience foremost in your mind. (20 words)
Now that we've cut a lot of words that were dong nothing but taking up space, let's see about inserting some new ideas to advance the argument.
Creative writers such as poets must carefully consider how their readers respond to every word they write. Whether you are in journalism, marketing, or politics, being a good writer means keeping your audience foremost in your mind. (37 words... even with a new sentence that enriches the idea, this revision is shorter than the original.)
Poets often dedicate their poems to their readers. Professional writers in journalism, business, and advertising should do the same. (19 words... but "poets" and "poems" is redundant.)
Poets obsess over their readers; every professional writer should do the same. (12)
(Modified from http://dolphin.upenn.edu/~totoro2/CALL/526/shannon.html)
Sentences contain thoughts. Short sentences can be powerful. Powerful sentences are good. Some thoughts are short. Short thoughts fit in short sentences. Some thoughts are not so short. Not-so-short thoughts don't fit in short sentences. They are complex thoughts. Complex thoughts have many parts. Short sentences chop up complex thoughts. Only part of the thought fits in a short sentence. That's why short sentences are choppy. You can't put a long thought in a short sentence. You need a long string of short sentences. Long strings of short sentences are boring. They also lead to needless repetition. And sentence fragments, too, sometimes.
Short sentences are tasty morsels, but complex thoughts require more complex sentences, with some parts simmering in silence while others do their bit, carefully arranging the plate and cup, the knife and fork, and the napkin and the garnish just so, with the gravy of examples and the seasoning of metaphors, before serving the reader a great meaty slab of thought.
Another writing issue is the comma splice, it happens when you stick two separate thoughts together with a comma.
Another writing issue is the comma splice, which happens when you stick two separate thoughts together with a comma.
A comma splice is two separate thoughts joined by a comma.
Many of us have learned to write on word processors, and this makes us think additively. But we don't realize it. Additive thinking means solving problems by adding; in the case of writing, this means adding more words to express our ideas. We often join our ideas with conjunctions (and, but, or) to signal that the thoughts we place next to each other are somehow connected, and this forces the readers to decide for themselves just what the connection is. This makes it harder for readers to reconstruct the author's ideas.
Because the ability to insert text encourages us to solve writing problems by adding more words, those of us who have always done school work on computers may not realize how additive thinking affects our writing. Rather than emphasizing causality or contrast by using a grammatical structure that explicitly shows the connection between our thoughts, we may instead stitch our thoughts together with the conjunction "and," forcing our readers to guess at the intended connection.
[The revision uses words like "because" to emphasize a causal connection, and "rather than" to emphasize a contrast. The revision also avoids the vague "this" (another sign of additive thinking).]
- Download this file:WB 1-1.doc
- You can either complete it in a word processor and print it out, or you can just write your answers by hand.
- Bring the completed worksheet to class Wednesday.
- If you are asked to revise, redo the original sentences that were part of WB-1-1 and also do the following: WB1-1 alternate.doc
- If you are asked to revise yet again, choose five wordy sentences from your own recent writing and revise them according to the above guidelines.
This assignment is listed as 1 PR 1 (Ex 1-1B) on Turnitin.com. Complete it online.
You will be shown papers written by your peers, and you will be asked to answer some questions designed to help your peers revise their work.
- Write thoughtful, constructive comments.
- Giving an honest opinion is an act of friendship and respect.
- Reading and commenting on work submitted by others is an excellent way to develop self-editing skills.
A diagnostic essay (about 500 words). Focus on one specific event that illustrates a specific point about your personal relationship with English, for the benefit of the reader. Submit it by uploading it to Turnitin.com. (I will e-mail instructions for signing up.)
- You can write about anything at all that has to do with English and you -- it doesn't have to relate to the other reading that's due today.
- All I ask is that you stick to one good topic, rather than list a bunch of things that compete with each other for the reader's attention.
Feel free to write in a personal voice, but note that an essay should have a shape -- with a beginning that raises a non-obvious point, a middle that builds a case for that point, and a conclusion that moves beyond "Therefore, in this paper I have [repeat introduction here]."
Your textbooks for Basic Comp and/or Seminar in Thinking and Writing will have useful information on how to write a personal essay.