Basic Writing Standards
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Basic Writing Standards

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Understanding complexity to move toward simplicity

Understanding complexity to move toward simplicity

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Basic Writing Standards Basic Writing Standards Presentation Transcript

  • Dealing with Complexity Basic Standards for Writing Michael L. Umphrey
  • Writing today is not a frill for the few, but an essential skill for the many. National Commission on Writing
  • To improve the teaching of writing. . .is also to improve the quality of thinking of school children. Judith Langer and Arthur Applebee
  • Writing is the most complex of human activities. Hilda Taba
  • Things are simple that can be understood by looking at a single level with a single set of conceptual tools
  • Things are complex when we can’t understand them without shifting perceptual or conceptual levels. Levels create complexity. We shift levels when we need to change tools: from a microscope to a sextant.
  • When we examine one level, we lose sight of other levels. When we examine a cell through a microscope, we cannot at the same time “see” elk populations shifting over decades.
  • Writing is (more or less) exactly as complex as the human mind
  • Conceptual Levels
    • Ideas : Organization, Accuracy, Truth
    • Style : Simplicity, Clarity, Vividness, Precision, Beauty
    • Correctness : Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar
  • When we examine individual sentences, we can proofread for grammatical errors: the correctness. Or we can pay attention to the music and the rhythms and the figurative language: the style. Or we can contemplate the meaning and accuracy of the thought: the ideas. But few of us can do all these at the same time. (which is why it takes many drafts to get a piece of writing “right”) Awareness of the levels increases our perception of order – our ability to focus
  • At the level of paragraphs, new issues emerge. Is the paragraph unified? Do all the sentences relate to a single main idea? Is the paragraph adequately developed, with enough detail to communicate and to persuade? Is the paragraph coherent, with sentences arranged in a plan the reader can follow? Paragraphs
  • At the level of essays or articles, all the simpler issues remain important, but organization becomes increasingly difficult. . . . . . much more difficult. . . “ As length grows linearly, complexity expands exponentially.” Essays, Articles, Reports
  • Conceptual tools
    • Ideas:
    • Style :
    • Correctness:
    Outlining Paragraphing Proofreading
  • Sentences . The Basic Standards An original sentence, a step forward, is worth more than all the censures. Emerson
    • SENTENCES
    • All words must be spelled right
    • No run-ons or fragments
    • Subjects agree with verbs
    • Pronoun references are clear
    • and in agreement
    Basic standards for sentences Someone who can consistently meet these standards has a sound understanding of the basics of writing English sentences. You should meet these standards in every formal assignment in every class.
  • Paragraphs You should develop the habit of writing in paragraphs . The expository paragraph with a topic sentence and detailed support is the basis of much academic and business writing. The Basic Standards
  • Paragraphs are ideal for daily writing
    • Paragraphs are units of thought, making it easy to keep the focus on the content of your discipline
    • Most of the hard work of learning to write can be accomplished with paragraph-level compositions:
      • Having an idea
      • Staying focused on an idea
      • Developing an idea
      • As well as all the lower-level issues of usage and correctness
  • Unity
    • Do you have a main idea?
    • Can you state it in a single sentence?
    • Do you keep your eye on the ball: does every sentence in the paragraph relate directly to your main idea –stated in the topic sentence ?
    Basic standards for paragraphs
  • Development (most paragraphs contain a combination of these)
    • Explanations
    • Reasons
    • Facts
    • Statistics
    • Description
    • Definition
    • Illustrations
    • Anecdotes or narrative
    • Comparisons/Contrasts
    • Process analysis
    • Analogy
    • Cause and Effect
    Have you provided illustrations to make clear what you are thinking? Have you provided enough evidence to support your case? Have you provided enough detail to accomplish your purpose? Basic standards for paragraphs
  • Coherence
    • Inverted pyramid
    • Building to a climax
    • Familiar to the unfamiliar
    • General to particular
    • Particular to general
    • Chronological
    • Spatial
    Basic standards for paragraphs
  • Using Paragraph Frames and Templates
    • Paragraph frames provide clear models that allow you to practice applying rhetorical strategies to your writing:
        • State your idea in one sentence.
        • Write at least one sentence to explain the idea.
        • Give an example.
        • Discuss the example in more detail.
        • Re-state your main point in different words.
  • “ Report” Paragraph Frame I also learned. . . . For example, I learned. . . . I learned a lot about. . . . The most interesting thing I learned was. . . http://www.flatheadreservation.org/images/phs/Paragraph_frame-report.pdf
  • “ Persuasive” Paragraph Frame I believe that. . . One reason is. . . For example. . . Another reason is. . . For example. . . Therefore, . . . Also, . . . http://www.flatheadreservation.org/images/phs/Paragraph_frame-persuasive.pdf
  • “ Reflective” Paragraph Frame Today we studied. . . I already knew. . . The main thing I learned was. . . I question. . . I still want to know. . . http://www.flatheadreservation.org/images/phs/Paragraph_frame-reflective.pdf
  • A filled in paragraph frame Main Idea: Learning how to turn in homework assignments on time is one of the most valuable habits high school students can take with them into the working world. Explanation: Though employers may not assign homework in the traditional sense, many tasks must be completed by deadlines. The deadlines that students encounter in the classroom may be different that workplace deadlines but the importance of meeting those deadlines is the same. Example B: Accordingly, just as a student risks termination in the classroom if he/she fails to meet the deadline for a homework assignment, so, too, does that student risk termination in the workforce . Example A: In the classroom, students form a contract with the school when they enroll in a class. That contract requires that students complete the assignments set forth by the course's instructor in a specified time to receive a grade and credit for the course. Completion of idea (or transition to next paragraph): Developing good habits of turning in assignments in class now, as current students, will aid your performance and position as future participants in the working world.
  • Template for incorporating a quote
    • [Sentence 1: Transition from previous paragraph] Thoreau, however, is not necessarily interested in actually living in nature to the extent that he would be camping out. [Sentence 2: Lead-in to the quote] He writes about building his house, and the fact that it protected him from the elements. [Sentence 3: Includes quote] “I began to occupy my house on the 4th of July,” he says, “as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly impervious to rain . . . .” [Sentence 4: Tells why you include this quote] As you can see, he was careful in the way he constructed his house, and he did wish to be protected from the elements when necessary. [Sentence 5: Adds more information to strengthen the support] It is also interesting that he did not actually move to the woods until this house was ready for him to live in. [Sentence 6: Reminder of how this relates to your main idea] So it is apparent that while he loved nature, he wasn’t living in a cave, or even a tent.
  • Template for a coordinate paragraph
    • [Topic Sentence] My apartment is disorderly around midterms because I am stressed. [First illustration] Books are stacked up on tables, on top of cabinets, and even on the floor wherever I last read them or set them before bedtime at 2 a.m. [Second Illustration] Also, the kitchen table generally has notebook paper, pens, clips, and used staples spread across it, leftovers from the papers I’ve been writing or the notes I’ve been recopying to meet last-minute deadlines or to study for tests. [Third Illustration] My bed remains unmade each morning as I dash out of the house barely in time to make it to class after only a few hours sleep. [Fourth Illustration] The kitchen sink is half full of dishes when I wake up because by the time I get to bed I’m too sleepy to wash them. [Strongest illustration] Worst of all, the trash is lined up in three or four bags next to the kitchen door because it can’t be my priority
  • Outlines To write an outline, you need to focus on the highest level of writing: Ideas, Organization, Accuracy and Truth The Basic Standards
    • SENTENCES
    • Spelling
    • No run-ons or fragments
    • Subjects and verbs agree
    • Pronouns and antecedents agree
    • PARAGRAPHS
    • Unity
    • Development
    • Coherence
    • ESSAYS & ARTICLES
    • Organization
    “ As length grows linearly, complexity expands exponentially.” Jon Franklin
  • Organization is the main problem in lengthy writing. Outlines are the solution. “ Every writer of any merit at all during the last five hundred years of English history outlined virtually everything he wrote. . . Jon Franklin
    • Helps organize ideas
    • Presents material in a logical form
    • Shows the relationships among ideas
    • Constructs an ordered overview
    Why create an outline?
  • In a good outline. . .
    • The title suggests the scope and subject of the paper
    • The thesis focuses on the subject, not the writer
    • No placeholders are used (such as “introduction,” “body,” or “conclusion”)
    • Each major paragraph is represented by one sentence
    • Every item is a single, complete sentence
    • Every sentence states a single idea
    • Every sentence makes a concrete assertion about the subject
      • No airy abstractions
      • No statements of the author’s plan
      • No questions
    In a good outline. . .
  • Graphic organizers are often better than Roman numerals Constructing a Thesis PDF
  • Steps to writing an outline
    • Gather the information
    • Group the information into clusters that “go together”
    • Give the clusters names –topic sentences
    • Pick three or four clusters that “go together”
    • Make a generalization that is true for all of them–a “thesis statement”
  • Test and revise the thesis It’s crucial not to rush through this stage. Test and revise the thesis. These are minimal test questions:
    • Contestable – proposes an argument with which people could reasonably disagree
    • Provocative – takes a stand that matters, that’s nontrivial
    • Coverable – can be discussed in enough detail in a paper of the assigned length
    • Specific and focused –supports a point without discussing “everything in the world about …”
    • Supportable – asserts a conclusion based on evidence and reason
  • Minimum Writing Standards
    • Ideas :
      • Follows an intelligent outline
    • Style :
      • Paragraphs are sufficiently developed
      • Paragraphs are unified
      • Paragraphs follow a coherent plan
    • Correctness :
      • No fragments or run-ons
      • Subjects agree with verbs
      • Pronoun references are clear and correct
      • All words are spelled correctly
  • “ Every student should write 3 hours per week…” National Commission on Writing Defense Offense In a typical week getting ready for a Friday game, a basketball team might practice these skills:
    • Footwork
    • Man-to-man defense
    • Zone defense
    • Screening out
    • Rebounding
    • Half-court trap
    • Full-court press
    • Defending out-of-bounds plays
    • Defending the screen
    • Getting to loose balls
    • Help side defense
    • Talking to each other
    • Shooting
    • Passing
    • Rebounding
    • Dribbling
    • Free throw shooting
    • Set Plays
    • Out-of-bounds plays
    • Breaking the half-court trap
    • Breaking the full-court press
    • Setting screens
    • Pick and roll
    • Splitting gaps
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  • Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little. Tim Stoppard