Certainty vs. uncertainty: “In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has rhetoric the greater power?”

I’ve taught Plato’s Phaedrus before, but in the past I have mostly focused on brief passages in which the characters discuss writing, which is really just a side issue. The purpose of today is mostly just to accustom my “History and Future of the Book” students to oral classical culture, in the hopes they’ll get more out of their exposure to Plato’s Apology of Socrates (which is on the syllabus…

Updating a handout I originally wrote in 1998. #tech #writing

A mechanism description analyzes (that is, subdivides into components for further scrutiny) an object in space. When you try to organize your major subsections, if no other obvious pattern seems appropriate, you can always fall back on the more-important-to-less-important strategy. Don’t sell the object. A technical writer is not required to persuade the reader that the object is wonderful, or valuable, or scary. But do mention the details. While you shouldn’t say an object…

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Commentary: What My Struggling Students Wanted Me to Understand

I haven’t taught a developmental course at SHU, but when I teach freshman writing, I often encounter students who struggle with the transition from high school to college writing. Those who were praised all their lives as good writers can tell good personal stories, and they can deploy accurate summaries of non-controversial, “correct” facts. I give them free reign to pick any topic they wish, asking them to demonstrate their ability…