On Writing Well Tutorial

we will start this tutorial by looking at how we communicate and the Challenger communication we will then look at some principles behind effective writing and some procedural tips to help you write or effectively the primary reference to this tutorial is the book on writing well by Williams Inza this is a really valuable resource for anyone who is keen to improve their writing ability there are also many internet resources that distill and discuss the key points of Zynga's work such as the book discussion led by Betty miles Holman and a book review by Trent here so let's talk about communication there are many models that have been developed since the nineteen sixties to illustrate how we communicate the basic premise in most of the models is that there are four elements to communication the sender of the message the receiver of the message the message itself and a feedback loop in face-to-face communication the verbal and nonverbal feedback from the receiver allows the sender to adjust and tailor their message to ensure that it gets across so how does this model compare to written communication in written communication there is no opportunity for the sender to receive feedback written communication removes the opportunity for the sender to adjust the message in response to the receivers feedback so what does this mean our writing needs to be clear and simple in order to reliably get our message across this tutorial is all about the principles that make writing simple and clear so that we can reliably get our message across to our audience in a geographically dislocated world writing is a critical skill for most of us and one that you will need to practice to get good at before we look at the principles of writing we need to review some of the basic types of words you will all recognize these types of words from school so let's quickly recap what each of them are I've listed the definitions for each of the word types to the right you can pause the video to match the word types up to their definition so what is a noun a noun identifies a class of people places or things what is a verb a verb describes an action state or occurrence what is an adverb an adverb modifies or qualifies an objective bird or phrase what is an adjective an adjective names an attribute added to a noun to modify or describe it what is a pronoun a pronoun substitutes for nouns and has a general reference an example sentence using each of these types of words is the busy children work diligently until they went to the canteen for lunch you can pause the video and take a moment to identify each of these word types in this book writing will identify five broad principles that we need to consider in order to write effectively they are simplicity clutter style words and unity we will look at each of these in turn the first principle is to keep your writing simple Venza recommends stripping every sentence down to its cleanest components every word that you include in your writing should contribute to the message that you want to get across if a word is not pulling its weight in contributing to the message get rid of it there is a tendency particularly in academic styles of writing to use a complex word or phrase when a simple word would be just as effective examples could include a large number of instead of many or due to the fact that instead of because continually ask yourself what am i trying to say and focus your efforts on choosing the best most economical words to get your point across there are lots of good examples highlighting the need for simplicity take this quote from a world war two blackout order in the u.s. even the president of the time Theodore Roosevelt couldn't understand his own government memo and so simplified the passage which one is simpler and gets the message across more effectively let's move on directed writing which is to avoid clutter most adverbs and adjectives and some verbs are unnecessary an example of an unnecessary adverb is he clenched his fists tightly the verb clenched already implies tightly many people also allow small but unnecessary words to creep into their writing that qualifies how they feel and think about a subject removing this clutter does not change the meaning of the text but allows the reader to more effectively read and assimilate the point that you are trying to make to be an effective writer you need to continually look for clutter in your writing style and prune it ruthlessly the space savings of such a pruning can be significant here are some examples of cluttered sentences take a moment to think about how we could reduce the clutter at the present time we are experiencing precipitation could be more simply stated as it is raining the old man smiled happily as we looked up at the tall skyscraper could be more simply stated as the old man smiled as he look at the skyscraper smile already implies that he of happy and skyscraper by definition is tall and would require you to look up finally the missile impact of the ground prematurely could be decluttered to the missile crashed it is also important to develop your own style as your writing will be most effective when you are relaxed and writing in a manner that you are comfortable with start by reducing your style to its bare essentials you can always add words back in later be careful with your use of punctuation as it is important the misplaced punctuation mark can change the whole meaning of your sentence as the graphic illustrates take care not to overstate the situation this is particularly important for writing that will inform a decision maker overstating a situation may prompt them to act prematurely or avoid acting at all both of which could adversely affect what they are seeking to achieve and at best will undermine your credibility we need to constantly be on the lookout to eliminate connotations of mail ownership and should seek to reflect a gender-neutral ownership where possible one of the biggest stylistic changes a person can implement is keeping sentences and paragraphs short and to the point and paragraphs should be used to capture a single train of thought the fourth principle that I would like to talk about is your use of words be deliberate in your use of words actively seek to improve your vocabulary and choice of words by reading by a dictionary and a thesaurus think about how you arrange your sentences use active verbs wherever possible other passive verbs an active verb or the active voice has the subject acting upon the verb in contrast the passive verb or passive voice has the subject being acted upon by the verb this is best illustrated with some examples the man must have eaten five hamburgers here it is the man who is doing the eating a good example of the active voice 5 hand boon is must have been eaten by the man here the handovers being acted upon by the verb a good example of the passive voice try to put the subject performing the verb upfront it's much clearer and a much more powerful way of writing let's look at another example maryland mailed the letter marilyn is the one who's doing the action Moli an example of the active voice the letter was mailed by Marilyn here the letter is being acted upon by the verb mailed and there's an example of the passive voice keep sentences short strong and to the point and used as much detail as possible rather than generalities if you aren't sure whether a sentence works read it aloud if it sounds right it will read right the final principle that we will look at is unity unity of the oneness in a paragraph or essay that results when all words and sentences contribute to a single main idea you could plan for unity in your writing by asking yourself a number of questions similarly after you've written a paragraph you can test if the unity so what are the tests does the paragraph have the appropriate tone level and style for your intended audience and their familiarity with the subject that you are presenting are you consistent in the perspective that you have taken are you consistent with the tense that you have used in the paragraph have you used and maintained an appropriately formal style does your attitude come across in your writing as you intend what is the single point that you're trying to get across in the paragraph remember the paragraph should represent just one central idea with all of the sentences contributing to that idea let's now turn to the process for effective writing on looking at the structure of our writing regions can only process one idea at a time and they do it in a linear sequence when planning your writing think about the central theme of your paper what is the key idea that you're trying to get across what are the supporting ideas that you need to step the reader through in order to logically arrive at the central theme each of these supporting themes should be allocated a paragraph keep your paragraphs sure writing is visual it catches the eye use a paragraph to capture a train of thought good writers think in terms of paragraph units not sentence units the lead paragraph is your opportunity to introduce the topic get the reader's attention and convince them to read on to the next paragraph the ending occurs when you have presented all of your supporting facts and you have made your point the ending is your opportunity to lead the reader with a final thought which should align to the central theme of the paper within each paragraph or sentences each of the sentences should do good work in contributing to supporting the main idea of the paragraph if they don't then delete them the topic sentence is common at the start of the paragraph to provide an overview of the supporting idea subsequent sentences should highlight evidence supporting the idea of the paragraph the concluding sentence should tie the evidence in the paragraph together to lead the reader convinced in the validity of the supporting idea for the paragraph the final sentence in the paragraph should provide a bridge between the supporting idea of the current paragraph and the supporting idea of the following paragraph so planning the structure of your writing should occur before you sit down and write what happens after you finish writing you need to review you need to simplify prune and strive for order all of your writing should be reviewed by you the writer in the first instance read the entire piece aloud to see if it flows does it make sense does it sound right is every word in every sentence doing new work that leads the reader to the conclusion can you express your thoughts more succinctly are any of your sentences pompous pretentious or will they date do you have any particularly troublesome sentences would you paper lose anything if they were deleted all together then finally be prepared to rewrite your paper rewriting is the essence of writing well an external review by a peer or supervisor is just as important as the self review the focus of the peer or supervisor review is to look for clarity and simplicity the peer or supervisor should be highlighting areas that the writer can reattach to make clearer or simpler read the paper aloud if working with a hard copy use brackets with the color pen to highlight clutter that can be cut if using a soft copy use a comment to suggest better ways of wording sentences and the highlighter to highlight clutter be sensitive in offering feedback all writers are vulnerable in their writing writing is an important but challenging form of communication that is critical to many analytic professionals you need to practice writing to get good at it when you practice keep the principles of writing in mind keep it simple avoid clutter develop your own style be deliberate in your word choice and be consistent in your writing in structuring your writing use paragraphs to represent single supporting ideas and think in terms of paragraphs in reviewing your writing simplify prune and strive for order and ask your peer or supervisor to do the same

3 thoughts on “On Writing Well Tutorial

  1. 2:29 Starts listing types of words (noun, verb, etc.) Can't go there. I must be looking for something that dives straight into the deep end of the pool.

  2. 0:50 Missing show notes:

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