Monday, September 22, 2008

Shoggorific and Bad Writing.

Bob O'Hara has some good pointers on bad writing and what to do about it. As an instructor, I see a lot of bad writing. Lots. Much of it comes from a lack of structure and logic to the arguments being made. The sentences themselves may be fine, but the paragraphs are a jumble of ideas that are themselves jumbled together. I've asked some of these students how they know when they have a paragraph and the answers I've gotten range from "when the text gets too long" to "I dunno." Sad. It is as though they were instructed in the mechanics of writing sentences (subject, object, verb) but not how to think and put together a set of ideas into a coherent argument. This kind of bad writing is hard to edit and to grade since the text has no point to it and gives me a blinding headache.

Well, anyways, rather than read my own bad writing on this subject, one might get some good pointers from Bob O'Hara's blog (and man, does he look like an intense dude!).

The Hierarchical Structure of Bad Writing

MONDAY, 19 MAY 2008 - 19:53 UTC
Over the past couple of months at Nature Network, there have been a variety of discussions about good writing (these discussions seems to have started shortly after I arrived. Are they trying to tell me something?). One of the early well written papers was commended for the quality of the language, which was simple and clear, and so enjoyable to read. Unfortunately, many papers have sentences that seem to be written with a different aim: to loose the reader in a whirl of syntactic complexities before finally beating them over the head with a dangling modifier, painfully.

This is not, alas, the only way a paper can be badly written. There is a whole hierarchy of levels of str [From The Hierarchical Structure of Bad Writing - Deep Thoughts and Silliness - Bob O'Hara's blog on Nature Network]
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