Hints to improve writing from the workshop that I did with Christine Eastman – Senior Lecturer in Work Based Learning in July 2011. Much of this is from Christine presentations and interaction with the class. The advice for writing relates to both the Critical Review and the Artefact for Module 3.
Many people have had comments on their writing style, Christine put writing excerpts together from well-known literary greats over time to show that reviewing writing style was an essential element to discovering your own style or ‘voice’ One of her main points was that writing for a purpose did not have to be dull and that “good academic writing is alive”.
It is important to combine your own experience in your writing to your discipline (e.g. theatre studies) that enables your to show that you are the expert and shows your wisdom and lived experience. Effective writing is about realising how other literature’s potential can help you:
· think critically
· form persuasive arguments
· develop writing that is concise
· explore style and poise
it is important to think critically being informative, concise and with a flow to the language, signposting through words and expressions. In academic argument you ‘argue’ or make points based, not on your opinion, but on evidence from other expert sources. ‘Hedging’ is when you embed caution about your interpretations within the text, referring back to what experts say to develop your arguments using quotes and ‘paraphrases’ (when you use what someone said within your own sentences but with citation).
Learn to identify you key arguments and structure your writing to enable you to write with style. A reference for this is Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Structure your work with a topic sentence that shows the meaning of the paragraph, Key sentences that are short and developed for a certain audience. Finally a concluding sentence that sums up a main idea and leads on to the next paragraph.
Reading out passages aloud helps to identify meaning and helps structure the sentences for meaning and understanding.
It is important to edit your work. Five suggestions for editing are:
· Does your writing consistently address your topic?
· Does you opening establish the nature of your response (the first two or three sentences set the scene)?
· Does you writing disperse your points about an issue rather than forming them into concentrated sustained discussion?
· Are your quotations and your evidence integrated into the essay?
· Are your sentences clear?
Writing can appeal to the senses. It can refer to images, sounds, touch, taste, and movement. The choice of vocabulary should address the audience’s need to understand the meaning of what you are writing about. The first paragraph can equate to a ‘thesis statement’ that explains what the entire piece of writing is about. Use specific language to avoid being vague. Explain what your argument is about and bring in counterarguments that you have found in the literature. Your voice should help make the writing distinctive
Paula adds that drafting and editing – fine-tuning – is a process that takes time but helps to shape the wiring and bring out the academic argument you are using based on the literature and the evidence you gather during your inquiry. The Critical Review is more formally structured. The artefact could say some of the same things but use language and style targeted more at your professional audience.