Successful Writing Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought not previously held, not two thoughts or five, just one. William Zinsser
Prose Succeeds by Starting with the Basics Message, Public, Medium
Convey a Message Transfer thoughts Know what you want to say No hazy, abstract terms
Write a short, simple sentence that summarizes the point you want to make in your paper.
Public Know who your readers or listeners are and know their characteristics, values and beliefs so that you can reach them
Identify the public for your backgrounder paper and describe their characteristics
Medium The choice of medium frames the message—the style of writing. For this assignment, the backgrounder, you are creating a landing page for a section of the website: Montrealites.
Style What qualities make writing easy to read?
Sentence Length The reader must be able to grasp at once the relationships among the words in a sentence. Professor Butler’s first-prize sentence appears in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997): The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power. Dutton remarked that “it’s possibly the anxiety-inducing obscurity of such writing that has led Professor Warren Hedges of Southern Oregon University to praise Judith Butler as ‘probably one of the ten smartest people on the planet’.”
Avoid long tangled sentences “All across the first courtyard, where the paving stones had given way to the underground thrust of weeds, we saw the disorder of the post of the guard who had fled, the weapons abandoned in their racks, the big, long rough-planked tables and plates containing the leftovers of the Sunday lunch that had been interrupted by panic, in shadows we saw the annex where government house had been, colored fungi and pale irises among the unresolved briefs whose normal course had been slower than the pace of the driest of lives, in the center of the courtyard we saw the baptismal font where more than five generations had been christened with martial sacraments, in the rear we saw the ancient vice-regal stable which had been transformed into a coach house, and among the camellias and butterflies we saw the berlin from stirring days, the wagon from the time of the plague, the coach from the year of the comet, the hearse from progress in order, the sleep-walking limousine of the first century of peace, all in good shape under the dusty cobwebs and all painted with the colors of the flag.” Marquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch
The key to reading is average sentence length Open up an example backgrounder paper from an online web source and count the number of words in each of the first ten sentences Find the average number of words/sentence Subtract from the longest sentence word count the shortest sentence word count to get the Range. Analyze and share the meaning of your findings.
Look at the same ten sentences Identify the sentence structure of each of the ten sentences. Simple Complex Compound Compound-complex Is there a pattern?
Overuse of the “I” voice disengages the reader NOTE: I have removed the last name of Claire on this document, but I purposely did not on the Affidavit of Elaine Schroeder, which he mentions below. That is Dr. Elaine Schroeder's sworn statement, and those are her exact words. Even at the expense of my daughter's privacy, I will not alter an Affidavit.
Avoid trite and meaningless modifiers
Cut long sentences in two. I am a lover of long sentences, sentences that wind their way through various clauses and complements, bucking the contemporary trend toward bite-sized bits of information and prose that relishes its own staccato impoverishment, as if the sign of a great writer lies in her or his ability to keep everything small, to simplify and etiolate, rather than to perform high-wire acts of syntax and grammar, pulling the reader's attention first in one direction, then another, balancing it all on a string of phrases, a string that allows us, the onlookers, to revel in the sheer joy of language, the crazy courage of the feat itself, the suspense of wondering when it will collapse like a castle made of toothpicks or a spaceship built from playing cards—and then the joy in seeing it all work out just fine, because, yes, we were in capable hands, skilled hands, the hands of a master builder, or maybe just somebody who got lucky, which is often the case with writing that works well, as any writer will tell you: so much depends upon luck, which is not to suggest that the creator doesn't mind taking some credit for what was created, because regardless of how much luck or skill went into it, the fact is, the sentence still exists, still sits there wriggling around itself, proving to us all (including the author) that just because most people like things small and compact, and most writers are perfectly happy to indulge this desire, nonetheless exceptions remain possible and powerful, and may indeed be more powerful than they were in, for instance, the London of Samuel Johnson's time, when every scribe of any ambition at all went about constructing one architectural wonder of a sentence after another, because what is the point of writing if you cannot achieve with it things that cannot be achieved by speech, and this attitude led to a proliferation of ornate sentences designed to contain entire arguments between the first word and the final period, which often waited so far down at the other end of things that once the reader got to it, everything from the beginning had become a hazy memory, a vague recollection of the original idea, and so the ordinary reader, rather than the reader with perfect recall, was forced, if she or he wanted to understand the entire sentence, to return to the beginning and start reading all over again, hoping this time to bring more of the ideas into focus, or even to discover if the grammar held any ideas at all, because (at least from a cynical point of view) it was just as likely that the sentence was a bloated collection of words that said little, or perhaps nothing at all, and the unwary reader might get caught in the feedback loop of starting and ending and starting and ending again and again without ever really discovering anything of value, other than the structure of the sentence, for which the words were merely an excuse, and this might lead readers to distrust all such sentences, because anybody can tell you that a bad experience with one exasperating exhibition of linguistic panache is enough to make a reader wary of any but the most straightforward and simple writing, though we do stumble into a bit of a briar patch with such a desire, because "straightforward" and "simple" are entirely a matter of perception, and our perception of such things depends upon our level of literacy, our experience with other texts, our expectations of what writing should do, and our desires from the writing at hand, so it is difficult ever to say that one type of writing is somehow inherently "clear" while another is inherently "opaque", but on the other hand, I doubt anyone would suggest that a particularly long sentence is likely to be an example of the clearest writing possible, or that such a sentence could not be clarified by cutting it up into pieces, so I am not going to insist that everything is relative and there is some culture somewhere where long sentences are seen as the easiest things to understand, but I do want to propose that clarity should not always be the thing we value most, because while, yes, if I want to communicate a particular bit of information I'm going to try to do that in as clear a manner as possible, much of the time when I write I am not writing purely to convey information, but to convey some information in certain ways, and it is those certain ways that bring the pleasure of writing to me, that make me glad I am a writer and a reader, because when I read something where the author has paid as much attention to how they say what they say as what they say, all my pleasure centers get a workout, and let's be honest here, anyway, and admit that there really aren't that many original ideas or stories left to be expressed, so the manner of expression matters more and more, because why should I bother to read something full of pedestrian expression when I can leap back fifty or a hundred or a thousand years for something that says exactly the same thing, but says it with more sty Source(s): http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/2006…
In praise of the long sentence I've been thinking about long sentences. The prevailing orthodoxy, it seems, among many of my fellows - not to mention writing teachers and students - is that short sentences, specially with the simple syntax which they're also likely to have, are 'punchier'. They're striking. Listen! They seem urgent, forceful. They demand to be heard. Readers notice them. Long sentences, on the other hand, go slowly, take too long, bog readers down, bore them. Really? I think it's nowhere near as simple as that. http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/09/in-praise-of-the-long-sentence.html
Word Length Avoid sesquipedalianisms. Long words make reading more difficult. Precipitation vs. rain Utilize vs. employ Can you come up with some of your own examples?
Naturalness Write like you talk????? Read out loud what your have written to test the sound
Really? Like, I'm so sure. If you don't even know how to talk like a valley girl you totally have to learn. Read more: How to Talk Like a Valley Girl | eHow.comhttp://www.ehow.com/how_2041258_talk-like-valley-girl.html#ixzz12GDvp4vd
Active vs. Passive Voice When is it appropriate to use the active voice? The passive voice?
Variety Monotony can poison an otherwise good style.
Euphony Writing that is rhythmic and makes proper use of figures of speech is usually more enjoyable to read than straightforward stilted prose. Develop an ear for good prose. Trying to find something in it besides the purely euphonic, Oskar failed completely.—Kingdoms of Light
What feelings do you have when you read this poem? Among twenty snowy mountains, The only moving thing Was the eye of the blackbird. I was of three minds, Like a tree In which there are three blackbirds. The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds. It was a small part of the pantomime. A man and a woman Are one. A man and a woman and a blackbird Are one. I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling Or just after A. Confusion.Answered by CountryLady - Sun Apr 29 10:30:17 2007
Phonaesthetics (from the Greek: φωνή, phōnē, "voice-sound"; and αἰσθητική, aisthētikē, "aesthetics") is the claim or study of inherent pleasantness or beauty (euphony) or unpleasantness (cacophony) of the soundof certain words and sentences.
Compose a euphonic message.
Trite Expressions Clichés make your copy seem old because the words are so familiar. Professional writing demands freshness and vitality.
Just stringing quotes together makes for formidable writing
Use Plain English Avoid jargon Avoid words with “insider meanings”
Avoid Doublespeak Euphemisms may mislead deliberately
Avoid ambiguous words.Define and describe:
Make the central points clear Employ headings. Work with typography: Title, headings and text should not be the same size. Consider employing two fonts: one for headings and one for text to make your documents easier to read and scan. This way typography will provide hierarchy and make your central points clear.
Explain the Unfamiliar with the Familiar Creating analogies A good analogy is familiar, short, clear, visual, and illustrative. It is used to enhance understanding — not for the sake of being clever, even though cleverness can be an asset if it helps the audience remember. In an analogy, the unfamiliar word or phrase you are trying to explain is known as “the target.” The familiar concept you want to use for the comparison is known as “the analog.” The analog explains or gives a visual image of the target. The target and analog are often connected by the words “like” or “as.” In the analogy “the heart is like a pump,” the word “heart” is the target, “pump” the analog, and “like” the connector. http://www.healthliteracy.com/article.asp?PageID=3771
Make the Message Accessible Sizing spacing layout will add to your document’s coherence and cohesiveness or destroy it. Avoid a cluttered look by providing enough white space.