I purposely kept this page private, so you would work out the practice and “homework” sentences on your own. I’ve provided possible revisions below. If you need to, review the pages you might not have gotten to from yesterday’s page:
- Finish Sentence Clarity
- Prose Revision Assignment Due on Monday, 6/07
- Practice Sentences from last night
- Euphemisms aren’t always bad, but, if they mislead readers, they aren’t appropriate for technical communication.
- Set of Instructions Reminder
- Due Wednesday, 6/09–notice how quick this is due
- Consider starting I, Robot
Overview for Revising Prose
Refining our prose takes lots of time and won’t happen overnight. The first thing to do is to actually re-read your work. Don’t try to edit right away; instead, try to figure out what the sentence (or paragraph) is about. What is the author trying to communicate? Figure that out first and then revise.
Back to Prose Revision
If you need to review Sentence Clarity or Euphemisms, please do so. Below, I have revision possibilities for the Practice Sentences from last night. Compare your attempts with the suggestions below. Although there are many possible revisions, what should guide you is clarity and efficiency.
One question I asked about the example revision was is there a difference between “doubt” and “in disbelief”? I think there is, so look at the original and revised sentences:
- Original: The bond markets are in disbelief of the ability of First world countries to maintain this level of debt. (19 words)
- Revision: The bond markets doubt First world countries can maintain this debt level. (12 words)
In the above revision, the verb “doubt” means one doesn’t believe something will continue. For instance, I doubt we will find a COVID-19 vaccine before Fall 2020 classes begin. Although “in disbelief” is similar to “doubt,” in disbelief suggests someone is shocked or can’t believe what they’re seeing or hearing. For instance, I’m in disbelief that people protest stay-at-home orders. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that happens or that I doubt they are protesting; instead, it means I’m shocked that people protest what I feel is an appropriate practice for reducing the spread of COVID-19. It’s a subtle difference, but using “doubt” or “in disbelief” can change the sentence’s meaning. The lesson here is to make sure you understand what the author is trying to communicate, and scrutinize your choices.
Last Night’s Practice Sentences
Below I have revision suggestions for the practice sentences.
- The financial sector of the Charlotte economy mirrors the overall health of the economy as a whole. (17 words, reduce to 6)
- What is this sentence trying to say? Charlotte’s economy reflects the overall economy. Charlotte is a microcosm of the American economy.
- Obviously, “overall…as a whole” makes this sentence redundant. That repetition adds nothing to the sentence but extra words.
- Revision 1: Charlotte’s economy mirrors the overall economy. (6 words)
- Revision 2: Charlotte’s financial sector mirrors the overall economy. (7 words)
- The above revisions differ depending on what the original sentence meant to convey. Think of the “economy” as all the economic activity generated in a locale. The original stated “financial sector,” which for economists might really be the banking aspect of economic activity and not the entire Charlotte economy.
- Growth in these two segments are predicted to increase due to the surge of development in the north side of town. (21 words, reduce to 9 or 8)
- What is this sentence trying to convey? Development in one part of town will lead to growing two segments of the economy (most likely).
- Find the agent–“north side (or northside) development”
- Find an action verb–“grow”
- Revision 1: Surging northside development will grow these two segments. (8 words, 9 if you separate “north side”)
- Revision 2: We predict the northside development surge will grow these two segments. (11 words)
- Get the agent into the subject position. “Surging development” is the agent and it “will grow” the two segments.
- This divided direction caused a degree of confusion on my part as to the type and extent of response required. (20 words, reduce to 11 and 5)
- Revision 1: This divided direction confused me. I didn’t know how to respond. (11 words; 12 if you use “did not”)
- Revision 2: I’m confused and can’t respond. (5 words)
The third practice sentence is a classic example of going out of your way to add unnecessary words to a sentence. Basically, this person is confused and appears to be getting different interpretations about where the organization or project is going. Without context, it’s hard to know definitively, but the original sentence is a good example of what to look for when aiming for efficiency.
- Possible agents–the speaker or “I” in this case; also, the “divided direction” is a candidate.
- Better verbs–hidden in the nouns “confusion” and “response” are “confuse” and “respond,” respectively.
Getting an agent into the proper subject spot will solve most inefficiency problems in your sentences. Aim for active voice constructions and use more descriptive verbs to move your message along. For instance, don’t “provide a determination”–“determine”; don’t “make a utilization of” something–“use it”; and don’t “give an examination of the facts”–“examine them!”
Word Choice ‘Fun’
Is “Funner” a word?
How do we determine if something is a word or not? The reading (Tebeaux & Dragga Ch. 4) gives you some do’s and don’t’s for word choice (pp. 59- 61), but why do some words work and others don’t?
Don’t ever let theory get in the way of real world contexts and your own common sense. Click below for the scanned dictionary entries:
Words scanned from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1999. p. 472 and p. 1194, respectively.
Normally, you hear syllabi for more than one syllabus. You also hear alumni instead of alumnuses. You may also hear colloquia as a plural of colloquium. However, you don’t hear autobi for autobus or spectra as the plural of spectrum. All the above words have Latin roots, but only some seem to retain the Latin plural suffixes of -i and -a. My explanation is that alumnus, syllabus, and colloquium are all entrenched words of academia. Common words like bus and spectrum–both have Latin roots–aren’t entrenched in academia (although physicists might use spectra frequently). The lesson here is that language separates those who a learned and those who aren’t. Traditionally, college students were well versed in Latin (and often ancient Greek), so it makes sense that academic words hold onto their Latinate suffixes; after all, going to college was (and still is) a marker of education, and one’s speech and writing reflected that. Although it’s important to learn the rules of Standard American English (SAE), it’s equally important to recognize that it is an agreed-upon convention of academia. It’s a standard–not some natural true or pure version of English. Many people still use dialect and non-SAE constructions as markers of education and, therefore, worth.
For an in-depth discussion on the “proper” usage of fun, check out World Wide Words or Grammar Girl’s Discussion. Remember, when it comes to word usage, it’s not who says it, it’s who hears it. You can be perfectly correct in your writing choices, but, if the audience is set on an old-school myth about grammar (not ending a sentence with a preposition, not splitting infinitives, not beginning a sentence with and, or, but, because…). I think it’s better to understand the rules, so you can break them strategically. Enroll in ENGL 4183 “Editing with Digital Technologies” if you want a broader understanding of style (Fall 2021).
Chapters 4 and 7 Tebeaux and Dragga
These two chapters are foundational chapters–they have basic information on revision and types of documents used for communication. Obviously, we’ll refer to Ch. 4 over the next few days, but Ch. 7 is one that should be in your minds throughout the semester. We won’t go page-by-page (unless I think there wasn’t enough reading…), but we will address the concerns Ch. 7 brings up throughout the term.
Chapter 4 in Tebeaux and Dragga
As I mentioned, these chapters have basic information on revision and types of documents used for communication. Our class activities cover a good portion of the chapters, but we’re not going page by page reviewing each detail. Of course, you are suppose to read, and reading is good for your Midterm and Final Exams.
I do want us to focus on a couple of places in Ch. 4, so pull out your books and let’s illuminate the following:
- p. 61 (3rd) p. 49 (2nd)–Style is specific to the preferences of an organization, so organizational culture will determine style
- p. 61 (3rd) p. 49 (2nd)–Conciseness (or concision) vs. Brevity
- Concise: “An organization’s culture guides its style preference.”
- Brevity: “Org culture prefers specific style.”
- p. 63 (3rd) p. 51 (2nd)–Characteristics of good and bad writing
- Really, we should say “effective” and “ineffective writing.”
- What’s the purpose of technical writing?
- pp. 71-73 (3rd) pp. 59-61 (2nd)–Word choices for clear, concise prose.
- Why are those words under “business jargon” on p. 73 (3rd) p. 61 (2nd)?
- Obviously, we’ll refer to Ch. 4 over the next few days, but Ch. 7 is one that should be in your minds throughout the semester. We won’t go page-by-page (unless I think there wasn’t enough reading…), but we will address the concerns Ch. 7 brings up throughout the term.
Chapter 7 Tebeaux and Dragga
Even though there is overlap between Technical and Business Writing (why we often use “Professional” Writing/Communication to refer to both), we’re not trying to replicate a business writing class. Much of the content of Ch. 7 would be thoroughly examined in a business writing class, so we’re not going to spend too much class time on it. However, I want us to focus on a couple of places in Ch. 7, so pull out your books and let’s illuminate the following:
- pp. 157-159 (3rd) pp. 134-136 (2nd)–Tone doesn’t carry well in e-mail because the reader doesn’t have voice or body language cues.
- A brief acting lesson…
- p. 159 (3rd) p. 136 (2nd)–Good list of questions for thinking (critically) about audience and purpose.
Preview Set of Instructions Assignment
Your Set of Instructions Assignment is due on Wednesday (6/09). Remember that a summer term has tight deadlines. Let’s discuss that by going to the Major Assignments page.
Homework and Future Work
There is nothing new for tomorrow, so please review the previous two days on prose revisions. They will be important for your Midterm (6/10) and Final (6/29) Exams. Before Monday (6/07), read Ch. 5 & 10 in Tebeaux & Dragga and preview your Set of Instructions assignment. If you’re ready, go onto June 1st’s activity page.
Your Prose Revision assignment (three paragraphs) is due on Monday (6/07) on Canvas.