Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Lesson 4: Write / Present / Sign Texts For A Range Of Communication Contexts

ryanrori October 31, 2020

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Introduction

Knowing your audience — whether readers or listeners — will help you determine what information to include in a document or presentation, as well as how to convey it most effectively.

You should consider your audience when choosing your tone, content, and language — or else your message may seem unfocused or inappropriate. Good writing skills form a vital part of everyday life, especially in the workplace. Someone that has good skills will come across as much more credible and capable than someone who makes a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. Irrespective of whether you are sending a text message to a friend or writing an important email to your manager it is vital to do so properly. Tailor your communication to meet expectations.

For example, your professor may expect you to demonstrate critical thinking or to employ an academic style. You should consider your audience early in the course of writing documents or speeches, but not necessarily as the first step. Worrying too much about accommodating an audience can inhibit early stages of composition. Do some research and prewriting first. Once you’re knowledgeable about the topic and confident you have something to say about it, consider how to make it interesting and significant for specific readers or listeners.#

 

1 Effective & Creative Writing

Creative business writing tips include ways to make your communication visually appealing and easy to read:

  • Orderliness: Compose the information in a fashion that is logical and easy for the reader to follow.
  • Paragraphs: Construct your paragraphs carefully. Check to see that your paragraph breaks are clear by:
    • Indenting the first line of each paragraph
    • Providing a blank line between paragraphs
  • Grammar & Spelling: Be sure to use your spell check and grammar check options. For a really critical message, have someone else proof the email for accuracy. The spell/grammar checks are not foolproof. Be careful about words that sound or look similar but have different meanings.
  • White Space and Bullets: It can be helpful to use blank lines and bullets to introduce key points. This makes it easier for the reader to take in all of the information, and it also adds visual appeal.
  • Font: Pick a font and type size that is easy to read. Times New Roman and Arial are good choices.
  • Margins: Use even margins if you are writing your email on a word processor. This adds symmetry and visual appeal to the document.
  • Professional Appearance: All of the above factors are important to giving the document a professional appearance. This can create a very important impression on the audience.
  • Composition Tips: Another category of importance is composition. We provide models and tips to help you have impact through your process for composing even highly technical information. Here are a few example areas:
    • Define the audience.
    • Define what is expected from the email, letter or report. What is the bottom line for the reader?
    • Define the purpose in writing to this person(s) on this topic. State it upfront in your message.
    • Determine the appropriate composition format for the correspondence.

 

Open by briefly and clearly defining the purpose of the email and/or a clear statement of the problem to be addressed.

1.1 Purpose, Target Audience & Context of Writing

The Rhetorical Situation

No matter what specific direction your essay/text takes, your points and observations will revolve around the rhetorical situation of the document you are analysing. A rhetorical situation occurs when an author, an audience, and a context come together and a persuasive message is communicated through some medium.

Therefore, your rhetorical analysis essay will consistently link its points to these elements as they pertain to the document under question. More general information about the rhetorical situation can be elsewhere on the OWL. The following sections deal with considerations unique to analysing visual documents.

 

Audience

The audience is the group of people who may or may not be persuaded by the document. Analysing the audience for a visual production may not be all too different from analysing an audience for a solely textual work. However, unlike academic essays or short answers written on an examination, visual productions often have the potential to reach wider audiences. Additionally, unlike literature or poetry, visual documents are often more ingrained in our daily lives and encountered instead of sought.

A website might potentially have an audience of anyone with internet access; however, based on the site, there are audiences more likely to end up there than others. A pamphlet or flyer may also technically have an audience of anyone who finds it; however, their physical placements may provide clues for who the designer would most like to see them. This is often called a “target audience.” Identifying and proving the target audience may become a significant portion of your rhetorical analysis.

It’s best to think of audience analysis as seeking and speculating about the variables in people that would make them read the same images in different ways. These variables may include but are not limited to: region, race, age, ethnicity, gender, income, or religion. We are accustomed to thinking these variables affect how people read text, but they also affect how people interpret visuals.

Here are some tips and questions for thinking about the audience of visual documents (they are also tips you can use when composing your own)

  • Different audiences have different taste for certain visual styles. For example, the quick cuts and extreme angles of many programs on MTV are often associated with the tastes and tolerance of a younger audience.
  • People have drastically different reading speeds. In slide shows or videos with text, look for accommodations made for these differences.
  • Whether by using controversial or disturbing imagery, sometimes documents purposefully seek to alienate or offend certain audience groups while piquing the curiosity of others. Do you see evidence of this and why?
  • Does the document ask for or require any background familiarity with its subject matter or is it referencing a popular, visual style that certain audiences are more likely to recognise?

 

Purpose

Visual productions have almost limitless purposes and goals. Although all parts of the rhetorical situation are linked, purpose and audience tend to be most carefully intertwined. The purpose is what someone is trying to persuade the audience to feel, think, or do. Therefore, a well-produced document will take into account the expectations and personalities of its target audience. Below are four categories of purposes and example questions to get you thinking about the rhetorical use of visuals. Note: a document may cross over into multiple categories.

  • Informational: documents that seek to impart information or educate the audience Examples: Brochures, Pamphlets, PowerPoint presentations
    • How does the layout of the information aid readability and understanding?
    • How do images clarify or enhance textual information? (Try imagining the same document without the visuals and ask how effective it would be).
    • What mood or feelings do the visuals add to the information? How does that mood aid the effectiveness of the information?
  • Inspirational: documents that primarily inspire emotion or feeling often without clearly predetermined goals or purposes Examples: Photography, Paintings, Graffiti
    • What emotions are invoked by the document? How?
    • Can you use color symbolism to explain how the artist created a mood or feeling?
    • Has the image been framed or cropped in such a way to heighten a mood or feeling? Why?
  • Motivational: documents that spur direct action, attendance, or participation Examples: Advertisements, Flyers, Proposals
    • How do images make the product look appealing or valuable?
    • How do images help create excitement or anticipation in the audience?
    • Is there text paired with the images that give the image added associations of value?
  • Functional: documents that aid in accomplishing tasks Examples: Instruction Sets, Forms, Applications, Maps
    • How do pictures or illustrations clarify textual directions?
    • How does layout aim to make the form easy to use and eliminate mistakes?
    • Has size (of text or the document itself) been considered as a way to make the document user friendly and accessible?

 

As you may see, analysing how a document’s purpose is rhetorically accomplished to persuade its audience can involve many factors.

 

Context

Context refers to the circumstances of the environment where a piece of communication takes place. Sometimes the author has a measure of control over this context, like within the confines of a presentation (where, of course, there will still be some factors beyond control). Other times, a document is specifically made for an audience to encounter on their own terms. Either way, context is an important part of the rhetorical situation and can easily make or break the effectiveness of a document’s message.

Below are some questions to get you thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls when analysing the context of a visual document

  • In a presentation setting with many people, has the document considered the size and layout of the room so that all participants have a chance of experiencing the document equally?
  • Does the document use any techniques to draw attention to itself in a potentially busy or competitive environment?
  • Linking is how websites get noticed and recognised. The sites that link to a web page or internet document can provide a context. Does the character of those links suggest anything about the document you are analysing?

1.2 Text Type, Style & Register

Textual types refer to the following four basic aspects of writing: descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative.

  • Description is a style of writing which can be useful for a variety of purposes:
    • to engage a reader’s attention to create characters
    • to set a mood or create an atmosphere
    • to bring writing to life.
  • Narrative: The basic purpose is to entertain, to gain and hold a readers’ interest. However narratives can also be written to teach or inform, to change attitudes / social opinions e.g. soap operas and television dramas that are used to raise topical issues. Narratives sequence people/characters in time and place but differ from recounts in that through the sequencing, the stories set up one or more problems, which must eventually find a way to be resolved.
  • Expository text type: It aims at explanation, i.e. the cognitive analysis and subsequent syntheses of complex facts. Example: An essay on “Rhetoric: What is it and why do we study it?”
  • Argumentative text type: Based on the evaluation and the subsequent subjective judgment in answer to a problem. It refers to the reasons advanced for or against a matter.

 

STYLE OR REGISTER?

So what is the difference?

Briefly, STYLE is to do with variations in formality but REGISTER is to do with variations in language use connected with topic matter. The two are not, of course, unconnected.

STYLE has variously been divided into categories, the most useful ones I’ve found are:

CASUAL Coming down the pub?
INFORMAL Would you like to go to the pub?
FORMAL You are cordially invited to accompany me to the pub.
FROZEN PLEASE ORDER PUB LUNCHES AT THE FOOD COUNTER.

Frozen style is the name that has been given to things like public notices which (railway managers’ notices aside) have a certain recognisable structure wherever they occur.

Obviously, there are degrees between each of these and where you put certain kinds of utterances is a matter of judgement. One could go on inventing categories forever. Where, for example, would you categorise “Let’s go to the pub.” or “I was wondering whether you might like to go down the pub.”?

It has been suggested that a further category would usefully be something called SEMI-FORMAL which would describe, for example, casual language used to strangers like “D’you mind if I open the window?”.

Others have made a case for yet another category called something like FORMAL PLUS which might better describe “Mr and Mrs Smith request the pleasure of your company at the wedding of Jemima and Clarence … ” etc. But that’s enough, say I.

There are a couple of related concepts which may be helpful:

STYLISTIC VARIATION which describes the differences in speech and writing of a group of users of a language dependent on situation, location, topic and rôles.

STYLE SHIFT which describes what you do when you add, for example, a personal note to the end of a formal piece of language because, although there is a convention operating which makes you want to be formal, you have a closer personal relationship with one or more of the addressees. So we get, e.g., “Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for coming. Oh, and Hi to you too, Sue.”

Style can affect three things, essentially:

  1. Choice of Vocabulary (‘dismayed’ vs. ‘fed up’).
  2. Choice of Grammatical Structure (‘John is responsible.’ vs. ‘The responsibility lies with John.’)
  3. Pronunciation formal vs. informal)

 

REGISTER should refer to the differences in language use which are shown up when you analyse the speech and writing between people of the same occupation or sharing a field of interest. So we might get:

LAWYERS Endorse the affidavit.
DOCTORS Diagnose with the stethoscope.
EFL TEACHERS Fill the gaps in the Cloze test.

In certain registers, of course, certain levels of formality are the convention but that doesn’t mean that REGISTER and STYLE are the same thing. Register affects lexis most noticeably but also influences the choice of grammatical form (imperatives in recipes and passives in technical papers). Some registers, too, such as LAW, require certain types of grammar which are almost unique to them.

We can end up with a combination like this:

L

E

V

E

L

O

F

F

O

R

M

A

L

I

T

Y

FROZEN QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION ENTRANCE BLOOD BANK CLOSED ON BANK HOLIDAYS FCE PRACTICE MATERIALS IN THIS FILE ONLY
FORMAL I put it to you M’lud Scalpel. Stop writing now.
INFORMAL Did you do it? This won’t hurt. Say again, Helmut?
CASUAL His brief=s a total basket case. The bloody radiographers are useless. Upper Intermediate? Fat chance.
LAWYERS DOCTORS EFL TEACHERS
TOPIC/INTEREST/OCCUPATIONAL AREAS

As you can see, if we conflate the terms REGISTER and STYLE by assuming they are the same thing, we get a situation in which it is impossible to describe language variation properly. And, if you can’t describe something properly, you can’t think clearly about it. If you can’t think about the concepts, you are less able to use them in your teaching. The difference between STYLE and REGISTER is not just a matter of jargon (or lexical register, if you like).

1.3  Select Appropriate Language

The next step: evaluating your information to make sure that it does not contain bias and stereotypes that may offend your readers.

There are many forms of bias and stereotypes, e.g.:

  • Disability, sexual orientation and age
  • Gender
  • Culture or Race
  • Language

 

Use jargon/technical language selectively

Technical writing has earned the reputation of being dense, difficult to read, and at times, incoherent. Jargon is responsible for some of the difficulty that readers have, but difficulty in reading can also happen when writing does not conform to standard rules of grammar for written English.

Since the reoccurring problem with jargon is that only a few people may understand the actual terminology used by different groups, this may explain its origin from “twittering” which, of course, would be misunderstood by most people.

While jargon is understood by those who know the terminology; plain English refers to common words everyone can understand.

People who use plain English can easily converse with other people because they do not use exaggerated words, which may confuse the listener.

The plain English movement is growing daily because people want jargon, doublespeak, and other professional terminology taken out of government, law and the medical field.

People want to understand what they are reading and hearing without being undermined by ‘fancy’ terminology.

 

Avoid Offensive Language

When writing you need to remember that you are writing for a wide audience and you need to make sure that you do not use language that may be offensive.  The diagram below summarises the type of language you should avoid at all costs:

Stereotyping is a rigid attitude towards, or a belief about a group of people that ignores the individualism of a person. E.g. Blonde women are stereotyped as having more fun and are believed to be “dumb”, accountants are stereotyped as highly intelligent and are believed to be dull and taxi drivers are stereotyped as reckless drivers and are believed to show no concern for the safety of their passengers.

Stereotyping becomes problematic when it is offensive, hurtful, or infringes people’s rights as laid out in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

As a responsible employee of the organisation, you need to ensure that your written communications do not reflect any of your personal unconscious or conscious stereotypes or biases.

 

1.4 Clear & Structured Writing

Though the format for writing has changed, people are doing as much writing (if not more) than they ever have. Writing effectively allows you to express your ideas clearly and coherently, and it is an essential part of corresponding with others in the workforce. In the professional world, being able to write well is a key to being successful in nearly every field.

Whether you like it or not, most jobs require writing—e-mails, letters, memos, reports, analyses, project summaries, product descriptions, and the list goes on. The ability to write well is essential in obtaining a job (think résumés and cover letters), in performing the job, and in being promoted. Those who do not write well and who make obvious grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors are at a disadvantage in the corporate world. To preserve your professional image, make sure that your writing is as effective as possible by following these guidelines:

 

Know the Purpose and Scope of Your Document

Before you begin writing, know the purpose for which you are writing and what you want your document to accomplish. As you write, keep your primary objective in mind (you could even type it at the top of your document and refer to it throughout the writing process, if needed; you can delete it when you are finished with the initial draft), and never stray from it.

However, if in the course of your writing you discover that your focus has changed, that’s okay. Simply make sure to revise your writing as needed to reflect your new purpose in order to maintain a clear, coherent document.

Tell readers early on how they will benefit from reading your document—what they will be able to accomplish, what information they will be able to gain, what product or service they will be able to purchase that will make their lives better or easier, or in what other way they will be able to benefit from reading your document.

 

Identify (and Write to) Your Audience

Knowing to whom you are writing will help you determine the tone and content of your document. If you’re not exactly sure who your audience is, ask yourself who you are writing the document for or who is most likely to benefit from what you are writing.

If you are writing with the intent of selling a product or service to someone or promoting a cause, you may want to ask yourself: What age are my intended readers? What’s their background? Where do they live? What stage of life are they in? What are their interests? What is important to them? These and similar questions will help you to target and write to your audience.

As you write, do be careful of technical and other jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations. Unless you are writing for a very specialised field, it is best to avoid jargon and to spell out acronyms and abbreviations on their first use.

No matter your audience, you generally don’t need to be overly stuffy or formal; a normal, conversational tone will usually do the job.

 

Understand the Needs of Your Reader

Once you have identified your audience, try to anticipate the information that your reader will want or need, and identify and include that information in your document as you write. Also try to address any potential arguments or concerns readers might have, and address those, as well.

 

Organise Your Document

Follow the standard format for the type of document you are writing, whether it be a memo, letter, e-mail, résumé, report, advertisement, project summary, or other communication.

For longer documents, start with an outline, and work from there. The beauty of word processors is that you can easily restructure your ideas later if necessary. Creating an outline helps you determine early on if you are including all of the information that you need to.

To help you be as complete as you need to be, ask yourself who, what, where, when, why, and how. “Who am I writing to?” “What is my purpose?” And so on. Though you will not always need to answer all of these questions in your documents, you will probably want to include information to answer most of them most of the time.

In your introduction, tell the reader the purpose of your document and what you want him or her to do. In subsequent paragraphs, group related information together, and generally include only one key point in each paragraph or section. When listing information in paragraph format, use first, second, third, and so forth, or use a bulleted list, in order to help your reader easily follow the organisation of your document.

For longer works, also use headings and subheadings to indicate the sections of your document. Such visible structure allows readers to find the information that they need quickly and easily.

In your conclusion, restate the main purpose of your document, and tell the reader what you want her or him to do with the information you are providing, whether that be to buy a product or service, change or adopt a company policy, give you a promotion, etcetera.

 

Identify the Benefits to the Reader

Especially for advertising, sales copy, and other documents meant to persuade, identify and emphasize the benefits of a product, service, or policy, for example, rather than just its features.

Not: Our newest line of express buses has built-in Wi-Fi, AC power outlets, and individual reading lights.
But: With our newest line of express buses, you’ll be able to work, or play, with ease. Browse the Internet, chat with friends online, play your favourite online games, or check your e-mail using our free Wi-Fi; read your favourite novels or do your work using individual reading lamps (or sleep while the guy next to you reads); or charge your cell phone or plug in your MP3 player or laptop using our AC power outlets. You can do it all with ease on the new express buses!

 

Be Concise

Write concisely. Busy people in the workforce don’t have time to read any more than they have to. Use short words and sentences rather than long ones when possible, and eliminate unnecessary information. (For more information on this subject, see the article on “Conciseness.”)

However, don’t be so brief that you neglect to include necessary information. Make sure that you don’t inadvertently leave out any important instructions, deadlines, contact information, statistics or other evidence, or the like.

 

Substantiate Your Claims

Make sure that your information is complete and accurate. Check your facts before you submit your information, and use statistics, examples, dates, and similar information to back your claims. However, if you use graphs, charts, tables, or other graphical elements, make sure they add meaningful information to your document and are not just needless filler.

Proofread
After you have used a spell checker and grammar checker (though grammar checkers are not completely reliable), take the time to proofread your document. Look for omitted words, misspelled homonyms (it’s for its), and wrong punctuation.

Check that sentences are grammatical. Make sure the document is error free, clear, and concise. It may be helpful to have a colleague, co-worker, or even a professional writer or editor review your work before you deliver it.

If in proofreading you find omissions or organisational problems, don’t be afraid to revise your document substantially if needed. Having a more effective document is usually worth the extra time and effort.

If possible, leave enough time (a day or more) to set your document aside and come back to it later to review it one more time with fresh eyes and greater perspective before you submit it.

 

Conclusion
Effective writing is essential in the business world. It’s important that your writing be clear, coherent, and targeted to meet the needs of your intended audience.

Sloppy, careless, unprofessional, or incomplete communication can potentially detract from your professional image, cost you sales or investment money, prevent you from being hired or promoted, or even make you legally liable. For these and other reasons, it is imperative that you take the time and exert the effort to make your written communication as good as possible.

1.5 Critical Thinking Skills

Whatever the piece of writing you’re faced with – whether it’s an email to shareholders or a complex report – you should write a plan before you begin.

In some cases, that plan will be very brief, perhaps a list of bullet points that you want to cover in your email. For longer documents, your plan may include: facts that you need to check or look up; a list of people whose input is required; the titles of sections or subsections; a list of illustrations or diagrams required.

Having a plan means that you can “chunk” a large project into manageable sections. This is a good way to avoid feeling overwhelmed or stuck on your business writing.

Planning all of these aspects before writing is the key to successful written communication. Planning before you start writing can also save you much time and effort in the future. You may have a document you need to distribute regularly, or may need to report to numbers of people on the same topic, but with a different emphasis each time.

 

Highlight main ideas

From the random facts that you have identified, select the main ideas. You should also select an idea that you would use in your introduction. Remember that it should relate to the topic of your text. Also highlight any point that you could use in your conclusion. Then group other points under these main ideas. If you think an idea is not relevant to any of the main points, discard it.

 

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a method students can use to generate ideas for writing a paper. In the process of brainstorming you should suspend any concerns about staying organised. The goal is to pour your thoughts onto paper without worrying about whether they make sense or how they fit together Brainstorming is an excellent way of developing many creative solutions to a problem. It works by focusing on a problem, and then coming up with very many radical solutions to it. Ideas should deliberately be as broad and odd as possible, and should be developed as fast as possible. Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process. It is designed to help you break out of your thinking patterns into new ways of looking at things.

 

Mind-map or spider diagram

Mid mapping is a way of linking key concepts using images, lines and links. A central concept is linked via lines to other concepts which in turn are linked with other associated ideas. It is similar as a technique to concept mapping and spider diagrams, the difference being that true mind mapping involves constructing a hierarchy of ideas instead of pure random association.

Mind mapping uses the concept of “radiant thinking” – that is, thoughts radiate out from a single idea, often expressed as an image. Branches flow backwards and forwards from and to the central idea.

There are four key characteristics of a mind map:

  • There is one key concept, often expressed graphically as an image.
  • From the key concept/image radiate out branches each of which contains another key concept which is a subset of the main concept.
  • Attached to these main branches are other branches which represent less important concepts.
  • Together, the branches and central image form a nodal structure.

 

© Jonathan Goldstein

 

1.6 Using Research Skills To Write

We call the process of collecting and information in a systematic way to increase understanding of a particular topic research. Research is searching carefully, with a method, so that you can answer a question. It is wider than finding out a fact and more focused than reading widely around a subject.

The research techniques we need to master when collecting information are:

  • reading/viewing
  • interviewing
  • observing
  • using appropriate electronic resources, e.g. the internet.

Once we have collected all our information we follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate and sift the information for relevance
    • Go back to your research question and ask yourself what it means
    • Make sure you know how much you’re expected to write
    • Underline the key words
    • Write down what information you need
    • Plan your essay or report — the structures are different for each, so take advice if you’re unsure
    • Work out how many words you can write on each point
    • Relax for active reading!
    • As you read, look for answers to your questions
    • Tell yourself the main points or ideas of what you’ve just read
    • Link ideas using a mind map
    • Use your word limit to guide your reading
    • Reject information that is far too detailed for your purpose
    • Gain confidence
    • Start realising that some bits don’t fit in — you can discard them
    • Take notes in whatever way works for you
    • Start writing to your plan — start with whatever seems easiest and keep going without worrying about style. It’s a good idea to start by stating things clearly and simply in short sentences
    • Work on your first draft — each time you work on your draft it will get better
    • Remember to write out your bibliography
    • Enjoy improving your work!
    • Ask someone to read what you’ve written and give you feedback
  1. Classify or categorise the information (in other words – sort it).
  2. Analyse your findings. What can you use? How will you use it? Can you make any recommendations to your colleagues?
  3. Present your findings in the correct format, in other words, in a report or a PowerPoint presentation.

2 Coherent & Cohesive Text 

Cohesion and coherence are terms used in discourse analysis and text linguistics to describe the properties of written texts.

 

Cohesion

Cohesion is “the use of explicit linguistic devices to signal relations between sentences and parts of texts.” These cohesive devices are phases or words that help the reader associate previous statements with subsequent ones. In Cohesion in English, M.A. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan identify five general categories of cohesive devices that signal coherence in texts:

  • reference
  • ellipsis
  • substitution
  • lexical cohesion
  • conjunction

A text may be cohesive without necessarily being coherent: Cohesion does not spawn coherence. “Cohesion,” Connor writes, “is determined by lexically and grammatically overt inter-sentential relationships, whereas coherence is based on semantic relationships.”

 

Coherence

Coherent texts make sense to the reader. Coherence is a semantic property of discourse formed through the interpretation of each individual sentence relative to the interpretation of other sentences, with “interpretation” implying interaction between the text and the reader. One method for evaluating a text’s coherence is topical structure analysis.

2.1 Sentence Lengths & Types

A sentence is a group of words that tells a complete thought. A sentence always tells who or what and what is or what happens.

Sentence Lengths: The Five Types

  • Staccato

By far the shortest of the sentence types: it’s a sentence consisting of one to two words.

– Ex. “Do you like the Twilight Series?” – “Absolutely not.”

Commonly used by writers to break up the text of a piece of writing to disrupt an event or emphasize the importance of a previous statement.

– Ex. “The tree that John gazed upon was tall. Very. Very. Tall.”

These sentences are grammatically unorthodox as they do not fulfill the requirements of a complete sentence (subject, verb, etc.)

Staccato is Italian for “detached”

  • Telegraphic

A sentence containing less than five words

– Ex. “Don’t drop the ball.”

Typical in journalistic writing, states the facts outright with no ‘fluff’ in the sentence providing all of the essential elements without extra words.

– Ex. “The president is speaking. He is very tall. People cheer for him. His words are concise.”

The primary function is to report the facts of a story or event directly.

  • Short

Sentence containing between five and ten words

– Ex. “That pink cat is really cool!”

Whether you realise it or not, short sentences are most commonly used in daily speech. Next time you say a sentence, count your words; chances are it will be between five and ten.

Short sentences are also very straightforward and concise, but usually with more descriptive words than a telegraphic sentence.

– Ex. “That guy is tall.” vs. “The charming fellow in the chair is very tall.”

  • Medium

A sentence containing between fifteen and twenty words.

– Ex. “While tigers may be beautiful, majestic creatures of the jungle, they are also very deadly.”

Medium length sentences are typically the most effective in terms of content and descriptiveness, giving the reader more detail to build an idea off of.

– Depending on the style of the writer, these sentences are not always the best, but can be quite useful.

  • Long

As stated by the name, long sentences are pretty long; holding thirty words or more.

– Ex. “While some people may accuse others of being lazy, I look at it as a more passive lifestyle; one which a person gets to relax and enjoy the little things in life rather than rushing through every event that passes through your life.”

User beware when using long sentences: it may create a run-on sentence so boring that the reader just may fall asleep while reading your monotonous, excruciatingly long sentence filled with gigantic words that may stray the reader away from the point of your writing.

Typically extended by many conjunctions (FANBOYS) or colons/ semicolons, long sentences often tire out a reader in a sense.

Extra Examples!

“I’m bored.” – Staccato

“Let’s go running today.” – Telegraphic

“Angry Birds is lots of fun to play.” – Short

“Whenever I see a Volkswagen, I make sure that I yell ‘slug bug!’ and punch the person nearest me.” – Medium

“I’m not sure if this presentation will reach ten minutes, but I sure hope it does; I need all the points I can get in all of my classes because my school schedule this year sure is a lot of tedious work!” – Long

 

Types of sentences

An exclamatory sentence expresses a strong feeling. It ends with an exclamation mark. Banana splits are the best desserts!

An imperative sentence gives a command or makes a request. It ends with a period.

Please bring the pizza to the table.

An interrogative sentence asks a question. It ends with a question mark.

Did you turn the light off?

A declarative sentence makes a statement. It ends with a period.

The boy is happy.

 

As a general guide, sentences should be no longer than 15 to 20 words in total. Any longer and the reader can lose their train of thought or misunderstand what you mean. They should also contain only one idea, at the most two. This clearly tells the reader what your point is. More than one idea can confuse and distract the reader.

2.2 Use Paragraph Conventions & Links

Effective paragraphs have these characteristics: Unity, Coherence, and adequate Development. As you will see, all of these traits overlap. Using and adapting them to your individual purposes will help you construct effective paragraphs.

 

Unity

The entire paragraph should concern itself with a single focus. If it begins with one focus or major point of discussion, it should not end with another or wander within different ideas.

 

The topic sentence

A topic sentence is a sentence that indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is going to deal with. Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph. (This is a good general rule for less experienced writers, although it is not the only way to do it).

Regardless of whether you include an explicit topic sentence or not, you should be able to easily summarise what the paragraph is about.

 

Topic Sentences:

  • Limit the topic (You are writing a paragraph, not a book!)
  • Control the topic by making a judgment or giving a specific impression

 

Examples:

  1. Robin’s first and only DWI was a costly lesson.

limits: first and only DWI

controls: costly lesson

 

 

  1. My history class has two groups of students: motivated and lazy.

limits: two groups of students in history class

controls: motivated and lazy

 

Coherence

Coherence makes ideas in a paragraph easier to understand and makes sentences flow more smoothly.

Techniques for achieving coherence:

  • arranging details in a logical order (i.e. spatial, chronological, order of importance)
  • maintaining consistency in person, number, and tense
  • providing transition words to link ideas from different sentences
  • repeating key words
  • using synonyms
  • using pronouns to refer to nouns in previous sentences
  • using parallelism for words, phrases, and clauses

 

Adequate Development

Primary and Secondary Support

The topic (which is introduced by the topic sentence) should be discussed fully and adequately. Ideas should be supported with details and examples that use concrete and specific language.

The amount and kind of support (example, illustration, comparison, cause and effect, etc.) may vary from paragraph to paragraph, depending on the author’s purpose, but writers should beware of paragraphs that have only two or three sentences. It’s a pretty good bet that the paragraph is not fully developed if it is that short.

GENERAL AND SPECIFIC STATEMENTS

Once you have your topic sentence written, you must choose the general and specific statements to complete your paragraph. Several different levels of general and specific statements are possible. However, you should always consider what combination of general and specific statements will clearly explain your topic and keep your audience interested. Usually you will need a few general statements and several specific ones. Your main goal is to write a paragraph with clarity.

Level 1 (most general): food

Level 2 (second most general): dessert

Level 3 (specific): cake

Level 4 (more specific): chocolate cake

Level 5 (most specific): a two-layer chocolate cake with white icing

 

Level 1 (second most general): flower

Level 2 (specific): daisy

Level 3 (more specific): Gloriosa daisy

Level 4 (most specific): the yellow Gloriosa daisy in my grandma’s yard

Level 1 (most general): problem

Level 2 (second most general): fear

Level 3 (specific): fear of flying

Level 4 (most specific): fear of flying in small planes in turbulent weather

Sometimes a writer will not support the topic sentence with specific details; instead, he or she will restate the topic sentence, perhaps several times, in different words. When he makes this mistake, the paragraph never goes anywhere. Consequently, the readers are disappointed because the topic sentence contract is not fulfilled. Following is an example of a paragraph in which the topic sentence is restated, so the paragraph has no real support:

 

Methods of Paragraph development

Some methods to make sure your paragraph is well-developed:

  • Use examples and illustrations
  • Cite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)
  • Examine testimony (what other people say such as quotes and paraphrases)
  • Use an anecdote or story
  • Define terms in the paragraph
  • Compare and contrast
  • Evaluate causes and reasons
  • Examine effects and consequences
  • Analyse the topic
  • Evaluate the topic according to specified criteria
  • Describe the topic
  • Offer a chronology of an event (time segments

2.3 Clear Conclusions

The conclusion is the shortest segment of the text. It should have its own paragraph, occasionally more than one, but it may contain as few as two or three sentences Conclusions represent the final portion of a written assignment. They should always serve to bring any piece of written work to an effective close. They consist, almost always, of a written statement of opinion.

The various types of conclusion are:

The Affirmative Type – Here, The Conclusion Is In Agreement With The Main Points Put Forward In The Question Or Title.

The Contentious Type – Here, The Conclusion Disagrees With The Main Point Put Forward In The Question Or Title.

The Mixed Type – Here, The Conclusion Agrees With Some, But Not All Aspects Of The Question.

The Tentative Type – Here, The Conclusion Can Neither Agree Nor Disagree With The Points Put Forward In The Question.

 

In relation to all types of conclusion, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO GIVE BRIEF REASONS for using a particular one. For instance, if, at the end of an essay the writer is unable to firmly decide who murdered the princes in the Tower, he (or she) is then obliged to say WHY this is so.

 

Characteristics of Good Conclusions

A good conclusion:

  • relates to the title and to what’s been said before.
  • briefly sums up the available evidence.
  • conveys a clear sense of having reached a definite ending.
  • engages the reader’s attention by giving the impression that they alone are being addressed.
  • is short and succinctly written.
  • matches, but does not repeat the introduction or main body “ad verbatim”.
  • provokes thought and even controversy.
  • reveals areas where further research may be needed.
  • terminates with a good short finishing sentence to close matters on a definite note.
  • a good conclusion totally avoids:-
  • launching into a wild diatribe over an issue.
  • meandering aimlessly to a close.
  • repeating in detail what’s been said in the main body.
  • suddenly introducing a completely new subject.

 

The conclusion has four main purposes:

  • It confirms for the reader that the text is at an end.
  • It reminds the reader, in a summarised form, of the main purpose set out in the introduction.
  • It summarises the central point or points made in the body of the text.
  • The writer gives an opinion, assessment, or “final word” on the matter that has been dealt with.

3 Edit Writing

Editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer or editor strives to improve a draft (and sometimes prepare it for publication) by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective.

“There are two types of editing: the ongoing edit and the draft edit.

Ongoing edit: Most of us edit as we write and write as we edit, and it’s impossible to slice cleanly between the two. You’re writing, you change a word in a sentence, write three sentences more, then back up a clause to change that semicolon to a dash; or you edit a sentence and a new idea suddenly spins out from a word change, so you write a new paragraph where until that moment nothing else was needed. That is the ongoing edit. . . .

Draft edit: For the draft edit, you stop writing, gather a number of pages together, read them, make notes on what works and doesn’t, then rewrite. It is only in the draft edit that you gain a sense of the whole and view your work as a detached professional. It is the draft edit that makes us uneasy, and that arguably matters most.

 

The final step for the writer is to go back and clean up the rough edges. . . . Here are some checkpoints:

  • Facts: Make sure that what you’ve written is what happened;
  • Spelling: Check and recheck names, titles, words with unusual spellings, your most frequently misspelled words, and everything else. Use a spell check but keep training your eye;
  • Numbers: Recheck the digits, especially phone numbers. Check other numbers, make sure all math is correct, give thought to whether numbers (crowd estimates, salaries, etc.) seem logical;
  • Grammar: Subjects and verbs must agree; pronouns need correct antecedents; modifiers must not dangle; make your English teacher proud;
  • Style: When it comes to repairing your story, leave the copy desk feeling like the washing machine repair guy who has nothing to do.

 

Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. . . . Most writers don’t initially say what they want to say, or say it as well as they could. The newly hatched sentence almost always has something wrong with it. It’s not clear. It’s not logical. It’s verbose. It’s clunky. It’s pretentious. It’s boring. It’s full of clutter. It’s full of clichés. It lacks rhythm. It can be read in several different ways. It doesn’t lead out of the previous sentence. It doesn’t . . . The point is that clear writing is the result of a lot of tinkering.

3.1 Purpose, Context, Sequence, Structure & Audience

Now that you have collected and prepared your information, you are ready to put hand to keyboard or pen to paper, and write your first draft.  The most important question to answer now is:  “What type of text do I have to write?”

The content, format, structure and style will all depend on the type of text.  For example, how would the format and structure differ of a formal business report and an article in your company’s monthly newspaper?  These are two different types of texts, and the format and structure implications of choosing either is clear.

 

Audience

The audience is the people who will be using the document. The designer must consider their age, geographical location, ethnicity, gender, education, etc.

 

Purpose

The purpose is what the document is targeting to or what problem is the document trying to address.

 

Context

The context is the circumstances surrounding the situation. The context often answers the question: What situation has prompted the need for this document? Context also includes any social or cultural issues that may surround the situation.

You need to know how to answer these guiding questions:

  • Why am I writing this document? What is my purpose?
  • Layout of the document (Dates, addresses, client information, subject line, etc.)
  • If you are writing a business document, what are the standards and requirements of my company with regard to this text?
  • What must I include? What may I include? What may I not include?
  • Are there standard templates I need to know of and apply?
  • May I design my own standard template?
  • Where do I get the information I need?
  • Can I use this information to improve the way we write texts in my company?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is the context of the document?

 

You need to use the standards and requirements that you identified in this module (and elsewhere), including the structure and format of the text, and start to put your ideas into a workable presentation.  Like the actors who perform in a play in theatre, you are now engaging in a “dress-rehearsal” when drafting your text.  Once you have written your draft, you need to check it for mistakes and oversights.

Editing for grammar, punctuation and words that are spelled incorrectly is one thing, but to edit for good content is another ballgame. Basic content editing requires you to make sure that your story is written from the same point of view throughout and that this is indeed the best point of view for that specific text. It will also help you locate incorrectly used rhetorical devices, and inappropriate examples. You need to make sure that your content is presented in the correct order.

Listed are questions you can ask yourself while doing a content edit:

  • Are the explanations clear and unambiguous?
  • Do the explanations lead readers to the appropriate conclusions?
  • Are the facts, plot details, and character traits consistent throughout the text?
  • Are the case studies and anecdotes appropriate for the context?
  • Are images, lists, and side stories in the right places?
  • Does the information flow cleanly from one idea to the next?
  • Do page numbers or section references match?
  • Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how when reading for content. Does the text answer all the questions you think it should?
  • Highlight the sentences that best answer these questions, just so you can see if the facts flow in logical order.
  • Double check any calculations.
  • Check every step in procedures to make sure they are complete, accurate, and in correct order.
  • Count the number of steps a list promises to make sure they are all there.
  • Check that figure numbers match their references in the text and are sequential.

 

Check that illustrations, pictographs, and models are right-side up

3.2 Grammar Features

Grammar refers to the system of rules by which words are formed and put together to make sentences. Correct grammar is important because it ensures clarity. It is extremely irritating to receive written documents that are ungrammatical. We can often get away with making grammar errors when we speak but it is not acceptable to make them when we are writing something.

To those of no language inclination, the phrase ‘Rules of Grammar’ is a monster. Indeed, the term sends them to a state of fear and confusion, as it sounds to them endless memorisation of dry rules with no apparent use.

In reality, however, grammar is an interesting subject when presented comprehensibly. In any case, English grammatical rules must be embraced by all users of the language because they are vital for oral and written communications. For instance, the rules of grammar teach users how to form words, phrases, and sentences in universally acceptable ways.

The scope of English Grammar varies from linguist to linguist. Some linguists include orthography (spelling, capitalisation, and punctuation), semantics (word meaning) and pragmatics (language use in context) under a wider definition of grammar, while others treat the areas mentioned as separate linguistic disciplines.

Communication, in most situations, usually follows action, and grammatical rules help us to accomplish many communicative tasks. For example, to talk about our past job experience at a job interview, we apply the rules for the present perfect tense. Besides, the rules for forming conditional sentences help us to express contrary to fact wishes, assumptions or regrets about missed opportunities, while the present simple tense is used to talk about hard facts and regular habits.

In English writing, adjectival and adverbial phrases and clauses help us add more information and enrich our sentences, while the rules governing conjunctions and transitional adverbs are vital when we want our text to appear coherent with logically related parts.

This, among others, explains why knowledge of basic grammar terms such as verb, noun, adjective, adverb, phrase, and clause is important in English communication. These basic terms enable users to analyse and improve their language performance.

 

Parts of Speech

All the words in English are divided into about 9 groups according to their functions in the language. Traditionally called Parts of Speech, these groups are in Modern Grammar referred to as Lexical Categories or Word Classes.

They include the following:

Noun (sympathy), verb (sympathize), adjective (sympathetic), adverb (sympathetically) and interjection (Ahhh!). These are sub-grouped into content words, namely, words that provide the concepts and ideas underlying the sentence. Content words, as the name suggests, are constantly being added to or removed from the language (an open word class), as changing usage patterns influence dynamic changes in a language’s vocabulary.

Conversely, Determiners (the), pronouns (we), prepositions (at) and conjunctions (and) are sub-grouped into structure words. These are words that tie the content words together into a grammatically correct sentence and reflect the inner grammar rules of the language structure.

It is vital for any English speaker or writer to be familiar with the parts of speech in order to analyse the language and identify mistakes in speaking and writing. Moreover, a word can function as a different part of speech depending on its role in the sentence structure (the terms of which are also vital for successful speaking and writing). This affects the word’s meaning and structure, making it important to confirm whether one is using the right part of speech in the right context at the right time.

 

The interjection

An interjection is a word or expression that conveys a strong emotion, such as surprise, joy or disgust. It usually appears in dialogues and informal writing settings. This is because more formal writing settings, such as academia or business, warrant an objective formal writing style. Interjections are usually used with an exclamation point (!) or set off with comma.

Below are examples:

  • Wow! What a game!
  • Oh, I forgot all about the game last night.

 

Determiner
A determiner is a word that accompanies a noun or noun phrase and determines whether it is general or specific, its quantity, whom it belongs to and more. Determiners are divided into the following groups:

  • Articles – The teacher asked a student to answer the question.
  • Demonstrative – These students got this grade on the test.
  • Quantifiers – Many got an average grade, some got a pass, and few excelled.
  • Interrogative – What answer was written the best?
  • Numerical – The fourth section in the second test was very easy.
  • Possessive – His grade was lower than her grade.
  • Relative – We know which test was copied.

 

Pronoun

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun or refers to it. Pronouns are divided into the following groups:

  • Personal – I remember her helping us with our problems, not yours.
  • Demonstrative – Those are my favorite, but these are good too.
  • Reflexive – They did it themselves. I saw it myself.
  • Interrogative – Who said so?
  • Relative – The man who lives next door borrowed the book that you lent me.
  • Reciprocal – We like talking to each other.
  • Indefinite – Everybody comes to the party.
  • Possessive – My book is better than yours

 

Preposition
A preposition is a word that conveys relationships between two or among many other words, usually in time, place or direction. Prepositions are an integral part of many expressions with verbs and adjectives, and of idioms. They should always be learned together with the expression they are part of, as their use cannot always be predicted. A prepositional phrase contains the preposition and the words it modifies.

Examples are:

Time – On Sunday, in the summer, at 5 o’clock.

Place – Under the bed, between you and me, at work, in front of the TV, from home
Direction – Into the box, over the city, towards the car, away from here

 

Conjunction
A conjunction is a word that connects other words, phrases and clauses reflecting some kind of logical relationship between the connected elements (addition, illustration, cause, effect, contrast etc.). Conjunctions connecting two elements of equal weight are coordinating/coordinate/coordinative conjunctions, and those introducing dependent clauses are subordinating/subordinate/subordinative conjunctions

 

Conjunction Type Examples:

  • Coordinating conjunctions – and, or, but, so, or, nor, for, yet
  • Subordinating conjunctions – because, since, while, after, if, although, whether
  • Correlative conjunctions – not only…but also, either…or, neither…nor, both…and

3.3 Logical Sequence & Unity

What do we mean when we talk about “logical sequencing”? This refers to the way ideas follow one another in a way that makes sense to the reader. Sometimes you can have very good ideas about a topic but because these are not presented in a well thought out way, the meaning of what you are saying, gets lost.

Write your first draft as rapidly as you can.

In writing the first draft of your essay, try to get as many ideas down on paper as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation at all at this stage, just ideas. If you change your mind about how to say something, don’t stop to cross it out, just write an improved version. You may have a lot of repetition in your first draft. That’s fine.

 

When writing your first draft, don’t worry about your introduction.

One of the reasons why many of us have trouble writing a first draft is that we try to write the essay beginning with the introduction. This is a difficult, and sometimes an impossible, task. How can you introduce an essay you haven’t written yet? Until you see what the body of your essay will say, it is almost impossible to write an effective introduction. You can easily fall into the trap of writing dozens of introductions, rejecting them all, and starting over each time. t’s fairly obvious that this is a non-productive waste of time. Save the introduction for your second draft. Start right out with your trial thesis statement and support it. Start writing with the second or third paragraph of the essay and go on from there. You will make much more progress writing the body of your essay than trying to guess at what will make a good introduction.

 

When writing your first draft, bracket those sections you can’t write yet and try to finish a draft of the whole essay.

When you are writing your first draft you will probably find that you don’t have all of the material you need for a finished essay. For example, you may know that you need examples of several of your points. If you have them, fine. If you’re stumped, just put a note in brackets: “[need example of classroom exercise for team building].

Then move on to the next point. Likewise with evidence that you haven’t found yet. Put a note in brackets to remind yourself what you need, but don’t stop to look for it as you write your draft. It is important that you make notes to yourself as to what you need to find and develop before you have a finished essay.

Doing so will save you a great deal of time because you will have a “shopping list” to bring to class or to the library that will help define what you need to finish the essay. This will make your further research much easier. But it is equally important that you try to get down on paper what you want the whole essay to say. This is the only way to test and develop your trial thesis statement. The whole should determine the parts, not the parts the whole. You may find that your thesis needs major revision and that you really want to take a different approach than you had originally planned. That will help to clarify what details are important enough to pursue and what can be omitted.

 

Rewrite your thesis statement whenever you can make it a better guide for writing and revising your essay.

Remember that your trial thesis statement is a guide or a yardstick to help you see where your essay is going. It is a mirror that you can hold up to your essay to show what you are really saying. It is not an external standard that somebody is imposing on you; it is your decision about what you want to say. But one of the greatest dangers in trying to write an essay is that you change your mind without realising it, that you lose track of what you started to say and end up saying something else, without being aware of it. That is why your thesis statement is so important.

It’s fine, it’s usually good, when you decide to change direction or emphasis if you know what you’re changing and how. But if you don’t notice, it almost always leads to problems, as when your essay starts out promising one thing and ends by delivering something else. So keep comparing your thesis with your essay. When you have finished your first draft, re-read your thesis statement and ask if that is still what you are saying. If it isn’t, revise the thesis. It is not unusual to rewrite your thesis statement a dozen times in the course of revising your essay.

 

Write your first draft in the way that is easiest and most comfortable for you.

If you are an experienced typist, you will probably type your first draft. But if it is easier for you to write in longhand, do that. In writing your first draft, you want to write as quickly and easily as you can, concentrating just on the words but not on the way of producing the words. So go with whatever comes easiest. You will be revising this work. Many writers find that after writing a draft on longhand the process of entering it into the word processor gives them a chance to easily revise and correct the errors in the original. Do whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Do not try to make the first draft the final draft. Assume you will revise, and you can be much more loose and free in writing your first draft, and you can do it much more quickly.

3.4 Remove Inappropriate Or Offensive Language

We are now going to look at ensuring that you do not use inappropriate or offensive language when you are writing. It is important in any form of communication to use appropriate and inoffensive language.

Offensive language is language which is upsetting, insulting, or irritating; it is language that causes anger, resentment, or moral outrage; e.g. “Aneesha finds people making fun of Islam very offensive”. All language that reflects a negative bias towards a group of people is offensive and inappropriate. You must avoid using such language in your writing.

3.5 Layout & Presentation Options

With word processing and computers we now have a wide range of formats available to us when we need to present written texts. You should feel free to experiment with various things like fonts, font size, italics, the bold function and space bar. Remember though to bear the context, purpose and audience in mind at all times.

The form business letters, memos, reports and e-mails take can vary from the traditional to the more contemporary. Some companies have a policy for writing company documents with regards their form and layout. Before you write, check your company’s policy.

In general:

  • Use single spaces between lines
  • Use double spaces between paragraphs
  • Place the beginning line of each paragraph flush left for a contemporary look.
  • Leave white space around the typed copy for a pleasant “feel” to the letter. White space makes a letter more readable.
  • Two-centimetre margins usually give a document enough white space to “feel” more readable.
  • Headings should be bold
  • No more than two fonts should be used in a document e.g. Arial Narrow for headings and Tahoma for the body of your document
  • Colour should be limited especially in a formal document

 

It is important that you determine beforehand what the different layout options are within your organisation and use that layout. Sometimes companies differ vastly from what they expect in terms of acceptable layout and presentation in documents. Some companies have official letterheads for external documents, or watermarks that form part of the layout of all documentation, even memo’s or internal e-mails. You should be aware of these and stay within the expected layout and presentation structure.

Regardless of the layout you have chosen, documents should project a positive image of your organisation and meet basic formatting and layout requirements.  In order to check the detail of your document, you may also want to consider the following:

  • Do page numbers follow logically?
  • Does the index (if any) and text headings match?
  • Did you include any addenda as you said?
  • Is your document dated correctly?
  • Did you acknowledge any resources you used (if needed)?
  • Is your information correct and accurate? Double-check any information tables and/or descriptions of data.
  • Did you comply effectively with any organisational, industry and/or national standards and requirements?
  • Have the (necessary) people approved your text?

If possible, let one or more people proofread your text for you.  If you work often with a text, you tend to lose your sensitivity for its accuracy and correctness.  A fresh pair of eyes can spot inaccuracies in incorrect information easier.

 

Note:

Please refer to your organisational policies and procedures for writing specific documents to find the accepted layout and format for your written documents.