RE: If You Were Gonna Teach...

Subject: RE: If You Were Gonna Teach...
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- swva -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 07 Mar 2002 12:59:04 -0500

Geoff Hart and Marguerite Krupp sort of touched on this, but if it were me (speaking from way too many years of teaching writing), I'd:

1. Read their writing and figure out the top 3 most common and most important problems.
2. Give them quick, easy strategies for recognizing and fixing those problems.

Basically, what I'd teach them depends on what they're doing "wrong." And even though we can all identify our pet peeves and common problems, in any teaching situation, if at all possible, it pays to know your audience rather than to try to generalize based on what "most people" have problems with. The 'hierarchy' I tend to rely on when deciding which problems are most important is:

1. Help writers develop appropriate content first.
2. Help them organize that content.
- choosing major sections
- organizing info into paragraphs
- organizing sentences within paragraphs
3. Work with their writing style (tone, grammar, sentence structure, phrasing, etc.) to make it clearer. There's probably a hierarchy there as well.

In other words, if I've got a writer who's prose is full of passive voice, bloated phrasing, and confusing sentences, but who also can't figure out what information to include and what to exclude, I start with the content and get them to fix that problem first, then go to sentence-level stuff. "Good" writing requires pulling it all together, but you have to start somewhere and improving someone's style doesn't mean much if what they're saying is irrelevant or badly organized.


Marie C. Paretti, PhD
Assistant Director of Professional Writing
Department of English, Virginia Tech

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RE: If You Were Gonna Teach...: From: Marguerite Krupp

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