The sense of structure writing from the reader s perspective by george d gopen
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The Sense of Structure Writing From the Reader’s Perspective By George D. Gopen. Benjamin Lok 9/21/06. Outline. Why should this interest me? Gopen’s Approach Sentences Paragraphs Summary. Who would benefit from this talk/book?. Writers of technical papers and proposals

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The Sense of Structure Writing From the Reader’s Perspective By George D. Gopen

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The sense of structure writing from the reader s perspective by george d gopen

The Sense of StructureWriting From the Reader’s PerspectiveBy George D. Gopen

Benjamin Lok

9/21/06


Outline

Outline

  • Why should this interest me?

  • Gopen’s Approach

  • Sentences

  • Paragraphs

  • Summary


Who would benefit from this talk book

Who would benefit from this talk/book?

  • Writers of technical papers and proposals

  • Writers who write X, but get reviewers that complain of Y

  • Writers for whom English is not a primary language


Approach

Approach

  • The problem with writing is that:

    • We have an idea X

    • We write down a set of words w

    • Mentally we associate w -> X

    • When we ‘proofread’ w, we mentally get X

      • Because of the association

      • Not necessarily because w -> X

  • How can we solve this?

    • We can’t


Approach1

Approach

  • However, we can try to raise the percentage chance that a reader will associate w->X

  • By understanding what readers comprehend when reading w

  • Note: This means that some people will still believe w!->X


Gopen s approach

Gopen’s Approach

  • Study writing from the reader’s perspective

    • Fewer rules!

    • Example:

      • In the second study, people performed the task twice.

      • Study participants, in the second study, twice performed the task..

    • From the reader’s perspective, which sentence gave us more information?

      • Why?

      • While we’ve been taught writing rules are paramount, it really is secondary in impacting what the user comprehends.

      • So what is primary?

      • Not word choice.

      • Word order!

      • 85% word order, 15% word choice


Emphasis

Emphasis

  • Although Fred is a nice guy, he beats his dog.

    • #4

  • Although Fred beats his dog, he’s a nice guy.

    • #1

  • Fred is a nice guy, but he beats his dog.

    • #3

  • Fred beat his dog, but he’s a nice guy.

    • #2

  • Evaluate: Stress point, and dependent/independent clauses

  • Important things to consider:

    • Dog lovers always hate Fred

    • You can make Fred unlikable


Carrot

Carrot

  • Confidence - the message you are writing will be the same message the reader is reading

  • Efficiency - spend less time with your writing

  • Persuasion - subtly shape reader’s perceptions

  • Tools not rules. You won’t be forced to memorize anything!


Motivating examples

Motivating Examples

  • Gopen is a writing instructor and consultant

  • Studies what people perceive when the read a passage.

  • Example: Which is correct?

    • A. Please go out to the garage and bring me the rake, which is broken.

    • B. Please go out to the garage and bring me the rake which is broken.

    • C. Please go out to the garage and bring me the rake that is broken.

    • D. Please go out to the garage and bring me the rake, which is broken.

  • Answer:

    • A&C grammatically correct, B&D grammatically wrong

    • The issue? The which/that rule is hard to remember


One motivating example

One Motivating Example

  • Example 2: Which is correct?

    • My sister, who plays the violin, is visiting me this summer

    • My sister who plays the violin is visiting me this summer

  • What is the difference?

  • What does this tell us about the writer/reader relationship?

    • Ahh, the writer already KNOWS how many sisters he/she has

    • “Filling in the ignorant reader” is the academic task of the writer

    • No!


Sentences

Sentences

  • A sentence by itself is:

    • Rarely good nor bad

    • Neither correct nor wrong

    • E.g. stick a sentence in from the Gettysburg Address into Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech

  • What matters?

    • Context Counts

    • Word Order counts


Links to movies songs

Links to Movies/Songs

  • You attend a concert. Freeze a moment in time about 15 minutes into the concert. What do you expect in the next minute?

  • Movies –

    • Watchers/Listeners/READERS have expectations

    • If you break expectations

      • They get confused (the muddled feeling you get)

      • They distrust you (this is difficult to recover from)


Reader expectations of a sentence

Reader Expectations of a Sentence

  • Word Order Counts!

    • Talk welcome this to

    • Welcome to this talk

  • Why?

  • Reader expects certain conventions

  • Readers of English expect that the action of a sentence will be articulated by its verb

  • Therefore: always make sure that the verb of a sentence is the action of what are you saying.


Reader expectations of a sentence1

Reader Expectations of a Sentence

  • Readers of English expect that the action of a sentence will be articulated by its verb

  • Therefore: always make sure that the verb of a sentence is the action of what are you saying.

  • Note what is perceived from the following:

    • What would be the student reaction accorded the imposition of such a requirement?

    • How would the students react to such a requirement?

    • How would the students react if the Dean imposed the new requirement?

  • The main question is: what is the authors intent? This is formalized by the verb


Reader expectations of a sentence2

Reader Expectations of a Sentence

  • Readers of English expect that the action of a sentence will be articulated by its verb

  • Persuasion example:

    • We are firing you because you failed to meet your sales quota, as required by clause IV(b) of your employment contract.

    • Discontinuation of your employment contract has become necessary because of noncompliance with clause IV(b).

  • Which is easier to take? For everyone? How much easier? Is their a ceiling/floor?


Whose story is this anyways

Whose Story is This Anyways?

  • Readers expect the a clause will tell the story of whoever or whatever shows up first

  • Why?

    • The mind synthesizes words as they arrive

  • The order of arrival significantly affects synthesis

  • Example: Jack loves Jill.

  • What does the reader process?

  • What about:

    • Jill is loved by Jack

  • The point is when starting a sentence, ask yourself: Who is the story about?

  • What else does this imply:

    • You shouldn’t wait to tell the reader the subject


What are you waiting for

What are you waiting for?

  • Readers expect the grammatical subject to be followed almost immediately by the grammatical verb

  • Ex. The combination of such confidence in understanding situations and such unwillingness – or perhaps inability – to step forward and be assertive was completely new to her

  • Completely new to her was the combination of such confidence in understanding situations and such unwillingness – or perhaps inability -- to be step forward an be assertive.


What are you waiting for1

What are you waiting for?

  • Readers expect the grammatical subject to be followed almost immediately by the grammatical verb

  • Make the first word is the subject

  • Make what the subject does the second word

  • A side effect: If you don’t readers will less likely remember what you place between a subject and verb!

  • Example: Participants, in the second study, took twice as long to complete the task as those in the first study.


A reminder so what

A reminder… so what?

  • So what if I don’t follow these guidelines?

  • SUBJECT VERB…

  • ?


Save the best for last

Save the Best for Last

  • Humans like to save the best for last

  • Like eating! Dessert is last!

  • Tool: Readers of English expect the material most to be emphasized in the sentence will appear at a moment of full syntactic closure, called a Stress Point (SP).

  • Corollary: Readers of English expect that every Stress position will be filled with material intended to receive significant emphasis.

  • Ex. Jack loves Jill

  • What do we expect is the author’s main point?

  • What do we expect to follow?


Emphasis example

Emphasis Example

  • I went downtown yesterday, and I had a car accident.

    • Weird that both seem equivalent!

  • I went downtown yesterday. I had a car accident.

    • Both are equivalent, and the author clearly intended it.

  • When I went downtown yesterday, I had a car accident.

    • Car accident is most important.

  • Downtown yesterday, I had a car accident.

    • Car accident is by far the most important.

  • When I had the car accident yesterday, I was downtown.

    • Being downtown was the most important part.

  • Again, order matters, not word choice.


Summary

Summary

  • Word order is important

  • Subject should be the first word

  • Verb should follow

  • Stress point should in the last part of the sentence.

  • Foreshadowing: You can manipulate the reader!!!


Another emphasis example

Another Emphasis Example

  • Please Score: 0-100:

  • Overall, although the proposal is scientifically sound, the preliminary results are not persuasive.

  • Although the preliminary results are not persuasive, overall this proposal is scientifically sound.

  • Overall, this proposal is scientifically sound, but the preliminary results are not persuasive.

  • The preliminary results are not persuasive, but overall this proposal is scientifically sound.

  • Avg scores 30, 70, 40, 60.


Topic position

Topic Position

  • Tool: Readers expect the material at the beginning of a sentence to provide a connection backward to the previous sentence.

  • Look at a paragraph’s topic positions!

  • Backward-Linking old information + Whose story = CONTEXT


Subject sp relationship

Subject->SP relationship

  • Tool: Readers expect the material at the beginning of a sentence to contextualize them for the new and important material to be presented later in the sentence.

  • Tool: Readers form that context by answer two questions: (1) Whose story is this? And (2) How does this sentence link backward to the sentence before it?

  • How am I to use this to help me write?

    • Tool: Make sure that your subject and stress points in a paragraph are connected!


Paragraphs connect sentences

Paragraphs connect sentences

  • Eg. Asbestos insulation installers who have inhaled asbestos fibers over a period of many years regularly contract these diseases.

  • What is the most important things?

    • Could be installers, asbestos fibers, insulation, over a period of many years

    • You control things. AND the reader expects things (SP).

    • If you don’t the odds of them picking up on what you meant drop considerably


But it feels too restrictive

But it feels too restrictive!

  • You can add phrases, etc. however you just need to know how they will be perceived

  • Boredom does not rise from structure, but from content

  • Lots of freedom!

  • If your Topic and Stress points are full of stupid and boring things, perhaps your idea is too.


Take home points

Take Home Points

  • Write most sentences as:

    • Subject -> Verb ->Stress Point

  • Whose Story – Action – Stress


Take home points1

Take Home Points

  • Paragraph

    • The *point* of your paragraph should be in the first two sentences (almost always)

    • The point of your entire paper should be at the end of the first paragraph

    • Subject1 -> Verb1 ->Stress Point1. Subject2 -> Verb2 ->Stress Point2.

      • Stress Point1 should be clearly related to Subject2.

  • Controlling movement->controlling thought

    • Controlling the whose story let’s you say what is the ‘star’ of the text. Controlling the stress points means you control what is important.


Bad advice

Bad Advice

  • Myth: “Write the way you speak”

    • Speaking has more information (verbal/nonverbal cues)

  • Instead: “Write the way your readers read”

  • Myth: “To see if your writing is good, read it out loud”

    • You only reinforce the w->X linkage, not whether someone will comprehend w->X

  • Myth: “To make it better, make it shorter”

    • Longer sentences are harder to write, not read!

  • Myth: “Avoid the verb to be and other weak verbs”

    • Verbs gain meaning through context. This is more important

  • Myth: “Vary the way you begin sentences to keep your reader interested”

    • Linkages, plus beginning of a sentence is just too important for variety sake. What is the role of your writing?


The sense of structure writing from the reader s perspective by george d gopen

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0205296327/104-7959275-5021534?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155

  • Remember: Writing is a part of the thinking process.


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