Thursday, October 8, 2009

tools for writing

In class, I also shared some ideas on how to improve your writing.  Here are the highlights:
  • once you have written a complete-ish draft, reoutline your paper.  In other words, take a paragraph you've written and try to summarize its big idea, write it in the margin.  Do you have more than one big idea per paragraph?  You might then want to split them into two paragraphs, where you say your big idea, and then spend the rest of the paragraph supporting it.  Once you've summarized all the paragraphs, look at all your big ideas, and think about whether the flow of those ideas help you make your overall point.  Do you need to reorder paragraphs? Do you need to delete one entirely (or save it to a "cut paragraphs" file in case you want it again later) because it is a distraction?
  • have colleagues read your essays.  Not just the folks in ENE or in class -- have your roomate, your partner, your kids read your essay and give you specific advice.
  • Let your ideas stew.  Write something, and leave it aside.  You might mull it over, and want to rewrite bits.  You might return to it with fresh eyes to improve how you have made a point.  So plan in time to be able to leave it aside.
  • Writing can be a way to think through ideas.  So as you write, you might change your overall point or story.  So then don't leave the beginning of your essay in the place you started.  START OVER.  Otherwise we will note you are drifting through your essay.  Try to stay focused over the period of your essay.
  • Make use of the Writing Lab, either the online version, or the in-person version.  They are great resources - especially the in-person version.
Let me know if you have questions on these, or add ideas to the comments below!
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