12/5/11. Global changes Add Subtract Rearrange. University Learning Centre Writing Help Wendy Roy, Associate Professor of English

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1 University Learning Centre Writing Help Wendy Roy, Associate Professor of English 1. Pre-writing Literature review Data collection and analysis Outlining 2. Composition (drafting) 3. Post-writing Revision Editing Proofreading Global changes Add Subtract Rearrange Thesis or research question clearly stated? Introduction establishes importance of / context for thesis or research question? Body paragraphs systematically develop an argument or present data? Off-topic material deleted? Paragraphs in right order? Sections clearly delineated? Transitions made between sections? Conclusion summarizes thesis or key claims / findings, moves outward into implications? 1

2 Focus (often) on the paragraph as key organizational unit. Also on topic sentences as signposts for readers. Have I said what I want to say? Have I presented my information completely and logically? Progressively finer details Editing Style Syntax (grammar and sentence structure) Diction (word choice and usage) Proofreading Spelling Punctuation Formatting In practice we make all levels of changes at each stage in the writing process. We correct obvious grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors during revision. We might occasionally rewrite whole sentences during proofreading But thinking in terms of three stages of postwriting, with three distinct goals, helps ensure the key questions all get due attention. Have I said what I want to say? (Revision) Have I said it well? (Editing) Is every detail correct? (Proofreading) 2

3 Make at least three passes through an important document. Leave an interval of time between each. Allow time for the memory effect to wear off. Alternate between electronic and paper versions. Focus primarily on progressively finer details on each pass. Stylistic Faults Wordiness Look for phrases where single words will do. Look for stacked modifiers. Colloquial language If there are a formal word and an informal word that say the same thing, use the formal word. Avoid contractions (use do not rather than don t ). Avoid unnecessary first person pronouns (I, we). Avoid second-person pronouns (you). Grammatical errors Missing or incorrect articles (a/an, the) In general, a countable noun requires an article, while an uncountable noun does not. A concrete noun requires a definite article (the), while an abstract noun requires an indefinite article (a, an). Complication: countable/concrete depends on context: Society disapproves of smoking. A society made of up of non-smokers is one in which smoking is frowned upon. The Society of Non-Smokers lobbies to take away smokers' rights. Grammatical errors Agreement errors: Subject/verb The approvals committee debate these questions carefully. Noun/pronoun When an employee does not agree with their boss's decision, they should not support that decision. Resource: Rensselaer Polytechnic Writing Centre 3

4 Sentence Errors Dangling modifiers Look especially for participles ing words. After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing. Faulty parallelism. Look closely at lists of terms within a sentence The poems tie together aspects of war by remembering the dead, basic training, and by looking at war through an older man s eyes. Resources: Online Writing Labs at Purdue University D Youville College Sentence Errors Fragments, comma splices, run-on sentences. Learn when to use periods, commas, semicolons and colons. A prime minister is an elected leader. Someone who is a decision maker in the executive branch of government. (sentence fragment) Driving a car is fast and comfortable, riding a bicycle is better for one's health. (comma splice) They were not dangerous criminals they were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. (run-on sentence) Diction Errors: two main types Incorrect usage The wrong word in the context Wars effect everybody, and their destructive affects last for generations. Wars affect everybody, and their destructive effects last for generations. (correct: affect is the verb and effect the noun) Unidiomatic usage Failing to follow customs of expression, especially with prepositions These techniques are not mobile and cannot follow users on their daily lives. (unidiomatic) These techniques are not mobile and cannot follow users in their daily lives. (idiomatic) Accurate referencing of secondary sources Titles of books and essays correct. Quoted passages exactly as they appear in original (check back against original source). Accurate references to page numbers of cited material (in parentheses or notes). References listed in Bibliography / References / Works Cited in appropriate style. 4

5 Put your draft aside for a few days (if possible) Alternate between electronic and paper versions Try reading aloud. Isolate and decontextualize sentences. Force yourself to slow down. Where does the term come from? A publisher sends an author a proof -- a copy of the article or book exactly as it will appear in print. LAST CHANCE to make corrections. Often the author has to pay for each change made at this stage (unless it s an error introduced by the publisher). By analogy to the technical definition. The corrections of fine detail you make to a document when it s almost ready for submission. All words and names spelled correctly and properly capitalized? Internal and end punctuation of each sentence correct? Proper spacing between words, sentences, and lines? Titles and terms italicized if necessary? Text and citations properly formatted (margins, running headers, pagination, etc.)? Anything missed in editing process? 5

6 Read electronic copy with View non-printing characters enabled. Print and read a paper copy. Pay attention to individual words, punctuation marks, spaces. Force yourself to slow down. Read with a ruler. Read backwards (sentence by sentence, not word by word). 6

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