Re: If You Were Gonna Teach...

Subject: Re: If You Were Gonna Teach...
From: Jeff Hanvey <techwriter -at- jewahe -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 10:09:48 -0800 (PST)

--- Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
>If you were going to teach a writing course to your Subject Matter Experts,
>what would you stress?
>I've been asked by my boss, who isn't a writer, to come up with a course of
>instruction that would generally improve the writing in our Information
>Technology Department.

Here's my How to Write 101.

1. Have everyone bring a document they've written. If you know who will attend and already have examples, then bring them yourself.

2. (5 minutes) Explain that the Standard English Sentence follows the pattern SVO (subject-verb-object - somebody does something), therefore, all sentences should be constructed so that:

-The action is in the verb (this is what is most remembered)
-The sentences have a subject (someone/thing has to do something)

3. (10 minutes) Make them practice rewriting the sentence in the first paragraph of the document they've brought.

4. (10 minutes) Explain the third rule of clear writing: Old information goes first (unifying the sentences, chaining/repetition of information for clarity).

5. (10 minutes) Make them practice.

<Divirgent thought>

When I taught Freshman, this explanation improved their writing significantly. The rest really is just practice.

One thing I found that really seemed to improve their writing was explain that the first sentence should follow the standard SVO pattern to introduce the topic. Each major point after that introduction should repeat at least the subject part. Explanations of the major point, then, should be chained together by placing something toward the end of the last sentence in the beginning of the next sentence. Yes, it's formulaic...but I'd rather have good formulaic writing than badly constructed writing...

</divergent thought>

4. (10 minutes) Explain briefly about audience analysis.

5. (15 minutes) Make them rewrite their documents as if they were explaining it to

-a child, parent, or friend not in the business.
-a supervisor - or the president of the company/head of the department.
-a co-worker.

Don't worry about grammar, style, and other stuff this time. If you can schedule other training sessions, then you can review this material and then move on to new information.

Jeff Hanvey:

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