User:Timothee Flutre/Notebook/Postdoc/2012/10/09

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Expert writing (academic and professional)

(Notes from The Little Red Schoolhouse at the University of Chicago.)

  • Interferences between what the writer wants and what the reader wants.
    • Readers tend to see the world in terms of actions, and thus they look for verbs. But writers store/remember the important concepts of their field as nouns, not verbs.
    • Readers tend to understand the world in terms of characters (someone/something capable of acting), and they expect to find them in subjects.
  • Diagnostics when reading a text:
    • underline verbs and ask if they correspond to significant actions;
    • underline subjects and ask if they correspond to significant characters.
  • Principles of clear writing:
    • express as verbs (rather than nominalizations) the actions one want the readers to focus on;
    • express as subjects the characters one wants the readers to focus on, and be consistent.
  • Tips:
    • Subjects create focus, so choose them according to the readers, but also choose those that are valued by the readers.
    • Possible to use passive verbs when they allow a character to be the subject.
    • Possible to use nominalizations when they are also perceived by the readers as characters.
  • Structuring long sentences:
    • easier to read when the subject+verb ("core") are together and at (close to) the beginning
    • write long sentences with ("connectors/orientors" + "core" + "other") repeated N times
  • Information flow:
    • readers need some old, simple information in every sentence
    • the old information should come before the new, complex information which is at the end (stress position)
  • Introduction:
    • must provide information (for readers who don't know) and motivation (for readers who don't care)
    • statis -> concession -> destabilizing condition (but) -> consequences: all this helps persuade the reader that we're going to address an important problem
    • filling a gap is good, but changing a previous belief is usually better
    • manifest problem (we have a problem to solve) versus critical problem (actually, we have a different problem) -> gives the impression that the writer is doing critical thinking (not only informing, but criticizing)