Monday, April 25, 2011

End of the Year Writing Advice

It is the end of the school year and our seniors will be turning in their senior research papers soon.  I think that scientific writing in particular can be a big challenge, especially when writing about your own research.  When you work on a project for most of a year you become emotionally invested in it, and you loose sight of its complexity.  But in sharing your results with others, whether as a paper or an oral presentation, it is easy to assume that everyone knows what you know.  And when discussing complex ideas, you can try to say too much at a time.

The original list has seven rules, but I am only quoting the first three.  If you are a writer of any sort, go read the original post with all seven rules.
VS Naipaul’s Rules for Beginners 
1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words. 
2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements. 
3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
The point is to use good judgement.  Use big words when they are necessary, not just to impress your reader.  Strive for short, direct and clear.  If the result is too simple, you can always revise.  But if your first draft is full of long, convoluted sentences it can be hard to make it concise.

Sometimes you don't really understand some of the details yourself.  Really good writing can help you to better understand the topic yourself.  It forces you to choose your words carefully and think about the meaning.  

VS Naipaul’s Advice To Writers - The India Uncut Blog - India Uncut via BoingBoing
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