Monday, November 24, 2014

The Reading-Writing Continuum, Step 8: Write to Sharpen the Style

Editing begins in Step 7 of the Reading-Writing Continuum by reading a revised draft aloud for fluency, clarity, conciseness, and correctness. 

We are now at the sentence level and the word level, which call for an understanding of style, a focus on key ideas, an attention to sentence branches, an effective use of voice, and a check of grammar and punctuation issues, among many other factors.

Editing too soon can be a waste of time, especially when we have not decided on the content to include and the way to organize it. Thus, we edit after drafting and revising.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Reading-Writing Continuum, Step 7: Read to Make Sense of the Draft

Now that you have completed Step 6 of the Reading-Writing Continuum, the ideas of your document should be where they need to be. You have covered revising at the document and paragraph levels, so it's time to go back to reading for editing at the sentence and word levels.

This step requires reading aloud for several issues:

  • fluency  If you stumble over your words, you probably have an awkward sentence on your hands. Sentences can be too short (choppy) or too long (convoluted).
  • clarity  If you lose your train of thought, so will your reader. 
  • conciseness – If you can make the point with repeated or unnecessary words and phrases, your point will shine more brightly.
  • correctness – If you are in doubt about the correct grammar, word meaning, or spelling, punctuation, or capitalization rule, you should look it up in your favorite online or print resource.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Reading-Writing Continuum, Step 6: Write to Focus the Ideas

Think of Step 6 in the Reading-Writing Continuum as revision: the act of looking again. You wrote the first draft for yourself; you now write the second draft for your readers to maximize clarity.

During this step, when you are working on your second draft, you are writing to focus the ideas. You will want to work on the document level, sharpening the focus on the purpose, adding necessary details, deleting unnecessary ones, and moving ideas into the right place based on the critical reading you did of your first draft during Step 5 of the Reading-Writing Continuum. While revising, you will also work on the paragraph level, ensuring each paragraph has only one idea, supporting points proceed logically, and formatting devices such as headings and bulleted or numbered lists are consistent. At this time, you might want to refer to model documents for their content and structure.

Do not stress about the sentence or word levels; they will soon follow in the concluding steps of the Reading-Writing Continuum.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Reading Writing Continuum, Step 5: Read to Assess the Content and Structure

After drafting, we must acknowledge that good writing is rewriting. There are no shortcuts.

So how do we start rewriting? By reading what we wrote: reading silently for the logic of the message (revising, step 5 of the Reading-Writing Continuum), then reading aloud for the fluency of the language (editing, step 7), and finally reading silently again for overlooked errors (proofreading, step 9). But I'm jumping ahead; let's start with revising (step 5), your first reading after completing a rough draft.

During this step, you are making a big leap. Through step 4, you have been reading and writing for yourself, to get those ideas on the screen or on paper. Now you are reading and writing for the readers, reflecting on their concerns about your ideas. You are no longer just engaged in some sort of internal monologue. You are simulating a dialogue with your readers. Let's say you wrote, "We have a problem in the production unit." At the least, you must decide whether your readers would ask the following questions:

  1. Who asked for your opinion (authorization)? 
  2. What is the problem (problem)?
  3. By what measure have you identified the problem (standard)?
  4. What is the current situation (status)?
  5. How does the problem affect the business (impact)?
  6. How did you determine the root of the problem (method)?
  7. Did any factors prevent a better analysis (limitations)?
  8. What is the root of the problem (cause)?
  9. What choices do we have to fix the problem (options)?
  10. By what measures are you comparing each option (scope)?
  11. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option (comparison)?
  12. What is the best option (recommendation)?
  13. Why is yours the best choice (benefits)?
  14. What is the next step to eliminate or alleviate the problem (plan)?

You have begun reading for completeness. The list above is by no means comprehensive, but it is a solid start. If your readers would not ask these questions, then you do not need to address them; if they would, then you do.

At this time, you will also need to read for organization. You should determine whether the ideas connect sensibly throughout the draft. I offer tips on organizing ideas in the next
WORDS ON THE LINE post, step 6 of the Reading-Writing Continuum: Write to Focus the Ideas.