Communicate

Keep in mind at all times that the goal of editing is to improve the communication, to make it as sharp and pointed and persuasive as possible, to share your ideas so that both the ideas and you, the writer, are well received. It would be a shame for good ideas to be dismissed by the reader because the whole of the writing does not seem careful or serious— which can happen for a variety of reasons, including vague, undefined or inappropriate terminology, misspellings, and typos.

SUGGESTIONS FOR JOURNAL WRITING

1. How do you compose? See if you can reconstruct the process by which you wrote your last paper: What did you do first? second? In what ways does your composing process resemble that described in this chapter? In what ways does it differ?

2. Select any paragraph from this chapter and see if some editing could improve it. (I've come to believe almost any text—certainly my own—can be made tighter, stronger, more effective by careful editing.)

3. Keep your journal on a word processor for a week. Do you think it makes any difference in the thoughts you write? In the way you put your thoughts?

SUGGESTIONS FOR ESSAY WRITING

1. Write an essay on writing an essay. Use yourself as a model and see if you can explain some of the process of writing that, for most of us, remains a constant mystery.

2. Attach to the next essay you write a record of how it was written: Where did the idea come from? How many drafts did you write? at what time of day? Would you identify discrete stages in the process of its composition? (You could do this best if you kept a log documenting each time you did anything related to completing this essay.)

SUGGESTIONS FOR RESEARCH PROJECTS

1. INDIVIDUAL: Investigate the composing process of one of your favorite writers. Check the library to find out whether he or she has ever been interviewed or written an essay or letters on how he or she writes. (See, for example, the Paris Review anthologies, in which writers talk about their writing.) Then look closely at some of this writer's work and see if you can find any examples of this process in action. Write a Composing Profile of this writer, supporting your findings with examples from the writer's publications.

2. COLLABORATIVE: Locate instructors in your school who are serious writers and interview them. Do they write only after they have all of their data? Do they keep journals or logs of the process? How would they identify the steps or stages or phases of their own processes? Share interview data and write, individually or as small-group teams, a Resource Guide to Composing documented with the interview data collected.

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