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common challenges for academic writers Mark Phillips BA Communication Studies with Biological Sciences, English Language Editor, STAKES. Managing complexity. the big idea. the big idea. Recognise complexity and you will manage it better. What I’m going to do today:.

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common challenges for academic writers

Mark Phillips BA Communication Studies with Biological Sciences, English Language Editor, STAKES

Managing complexity



The big idea1
the big idea

Recognise complexity and you will manage it better



What i m going to do today1
What I’m going to do today:

  • Say a few things about language editing


What i m going to do today2
What I’m going to do today:

  • Say a few things about language editing

  • Tell you a bit about complexity and mental processing


What i m going to do today3
What I’m going to do today:

  • Say a few things about language editing

  • Tell you a bit about complexity and mental processing

  • Show you some words that add complexity to a sentence – the ‘little beasts’ of English


What i m going to do today4
What I’m going to do today:

  • Say a few things about language editing

  • Tell you a bit about complexity and mental processing

  • Show you some words that add complexity to a sentence – the ‘little beasts’ of English

  • Give concrete examples of those words in action


What i m going to do today5
What I’m going to do today:

  • Say a few things about language editing

  • Tell you a bit about complexity and mental processing

  • Show you some words that add complexity to a sentence – the ‘little beasts’ of English

  • Give concrete examples of those words in action

  • Give you an exercise to practice what you have learnt



English language editing1
English Language Editing

  • Non-native work is rarely 100% error-free


English language editing2
English Language Editing

  • Non-native work is rarely 100% error-free

  • If possible, work should pass through the hands of a native language editor/reviser


English language editing3
English Language Editing

  • Non-native work is rarely 100% error-free

  • If possible, work should pass through the hands of a native language editor/reviser

  • A language editor will focus on:

    • Accuracy

    • Clarity

    • Readability


English language editing4
English Language Editing

  • Non-native work is rarely 100% error-free

  • If possible, work should pass through the hands of a native language editor/reviser

  • A language editor will focus on:

    • Accuracy

    • Clarity

    • Readability

  • Language editing is a negotiated process



Complexity1
Complexity

  • Complexity in academic writing is unavoidable


Complexity2
Complexity

  • Complexity in academic writing is unavoidable

  • Too many bits leads to confusion – i.e. making it unclear, unreadable and even inaccurate


Complexity3
Complexity

  • Complexity in academic writing is unavoidable

  • Too many bits leads to confusion – i.e. making it unclear, unreadable and even inaccurate

  • The complex can be made simple! If you can pack it, you can unpack it!


Complexity4
Complexity

  • Complexity in academic writing is unavoidable

  • Too many bits leads to confusion – i.e. making it unclear, unreadable and even inaccurate

  • The complex can be made simple! If you can pack it, you can unpack it!

  • Keywords: length & clarity (1+1+1+1)‏



Complexity 21
Complexity (2)

  • Simple: A does B (to/in/for/behind C)‏


Complexity 22
Complexity (2)

  • Simple: A does B (to/in/for/behind C)‏

  • Complex: A + B = C (logical arguments)


Complexity 23
Complexity (2)

  • Simple: A does B (to/in/for/behind C)‏

  • Complex: A + B = C (logical arguments)

  • Very complex: A (fixed) + B (varying) = C (yes, if conditions D and E are also true, but no if condition F is true)



Processing 11
Processing (1)

  • Processing begins e.g. ? + ? = ?


Processing 12
Processing (1)

  • Processing begins e.g. ? + ? = ?

  • However, imagine if you had a sum ?+13+6+4= , you wouldn’t get very far with the answer.


Processing 13
Processing (1)

  • Processing begins e.g. ? + ? = ?

  • However, imagine if you had a sum ?+13+6+4= , you wouldn’t get very far with the answer.

  • So, are your terms clear?


Processing 14
Processing (1)

  • Processing begins e.g. ? + ? = ?

  • However, imagine if you had a sum ?+13+6+4= , you wouldn’t get very far with the answer.

  • So, are your terms clear?

  • The reader of academic writing also questions the idea of the sentence. Is it true that A + B = C?


Processing 2
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:


Processing 21
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:

    • the sentence parts


Processing 22
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:

    • the sentence parts

    • the possible meanings of each


Processing 23
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:

    • the sentence parts

    • the possible meanings of each

    • the perceived truth of those meanings


Processing 24
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:

    • the sentence parts

    • the possible meanings of each

    • the perceived truth of those meanings

      …until we are happy we have found both the author’s intended meaning and our response to it.


Processing 25
Processing (2)

  • So, when processing a sentence, we hold in memory:

    • the sentence parts

    • the possible meanings of each

    • the perceived truth of those meanings

      …until we are happy we have found both the author’s intended meaning and our response to it.

  • We are not usually efficient at remembering more than 5–7 items at a time


The reader stumble
The reader ‘stumble’

We often ‘stumble’ as we read. A stumble is when we say to ourselves ‘maybe the author means this?’

“For a sub-editor, saying, "I don’t understand this" is not an admission of failure or inadequacy; it is a vital first step in turning the article into something that is easily understood"

Peter – Managing Editor, Nature.


The reader stumble1
The reader ‘stumble’

We often ‘stumble’ as we read. A stumble is when we say to ourselves ‘maybe the author means this?’

“For a sub-editor, saying, "I don’t understand this" is not an admission of failure or inadequacy; it is a vital first step in turning the article into something that is easily understood"

Peter Wrobel – Managing Editor, Nature.


Simple words that add complexity
Simple words that add complexity

WordsEffect

if conditional

no/not/un-/but negate

on/in/with expand

and/also connect

by agency

Instensibility* abstract



Examples1
Examples

  • For each of these words, I will give an example – a monster sentence.


Examples2
Examples

  • For each of these words, I will give an example – a monster sentence.

  • Then we will look at tips for improving that sentence.


Examples3
Examples

  • For each of these words, I will give an example – a monster sentence.

  • Then we will look at tips for improving that sentence.

  • All these tips are on a separate handout for you


Example if
Example – if

“If you take a sentence as being made upof a series of parts and you were to analyse the complicating effect of those parts separately, then you wouldseethatthe more parts you have, and the more complicated those parts are, the more complex is the sentence and the more potentially difficult itis to understand that sentence, although itisnot just about the length, itis also often about the kinds of structures that you are using.”


Example if1
Example – if

Suggestions: Is the if-clause really necessary? Remove weak ‘to be’ verbs; keep your main point clear and uncluttered; where possible, avoid mixing complicated parts in the same sentence, e.g. ‘if-clauses’, negatives, comparatives, that-clauses, etc., an example goes a long way to helping your reader understand.

“Longer sentences are potentially more complicated and difficult to understand. Some words naturally add to the complexity of the sentence, such as ‘if-then-but’.


Example no not un
Example – no/not/un-

“In spite of the fact that there were unconvincing reasons for less attention being paid to the lack of funding for the new development plans, the implementation of the plans was not anyhow unsuccessful.”


Example no not un1
Example – no/not/un-

Suggestions: remove unnecessary parts, replace weak ‘to be’ verbs (there is/are/were etc.), turn negatives into positives where possible (from 5 to 1), avoid unnecessary nominalisations.

“Although funding for the new development plans was not given adequate attention, they were still implemented successfully.”


Example on in with
Example – on/in/with

“While age progresses in a fixed way for all people, diet can vary from one person to another, although both factors can have an impact on the level of healthof individuals, with the impact being positive in combination with exercise andgood genes, butnot so positive if combined with, e.g., a stressed work life.)‏


Example on in with1
Example – on/in/with

Suggestions: Split the sentence; reorganise the content, make it shorter (some 40%), reduce prepositions (from 10 to 3); bring keywords nearer the front (i.e. health):

“Although health naturally deteriorates with advancing age, the choice of a healthy diet and regular exercise can improve health prospects. Potential negative risksto health include inherited factors and life stressors, such as work-related stress.”


Example and
Example – and

“Other support structures were shared posts between hospitals, health centres, universities and polytechnics, regional workgroups and persons in charge in organisations, educations and collaboration practices. In the regions, strategic plans and leadership, evidence-based practice, know-how of personnel and regional collaboration were developed.”


Example and1
Example – and

Suggestions: reduce conjunctions (from 6 to 3); move keywords closer to front; reduce length (managers); turn passive into active; avoid preposition phrases (use inanimate agent); sequence the lists from simplest to most complex.

“Support also took the form of training, collaboration practices, regional workgroups for managers, and shared posts between hospitals, health centres, universities and polytechnics. Development at the regional level focused on strategic plans, leadership, evidence-based practice, knowledge enhancement, and regional collaboration.”


Example by
Example – by

“As a result of the increasing pressure of an ageing population in Finland, new models for the integration of home care and home nursing services, discharge practices from hospital to home and use of confidential electronic patient information records to share information between agencies have had to be developed by policy makers in Finland. This has brought about many changes in the work practices for home care and home nursing staff.”


Example by1
Example – by

Suggestions: Turn passive into active; remove repetition (in Finland); remove some information (don’t cram); clarify the pronoun ‘this’; simplify the list elements and noun clusters; remove prepositions.

“With the increasing pressure of an ageing population in Finland, policy makers have developed new models for integrated home care services, hospital discharge practices, and electronic patient records. These new models have led to changes in the work practices of home care and home nursing staff.”


Example abstract
Example – Abstract

“The different mediated activities constitute and perform the organisation and its orders as a continuous consequence.”


Example abstract1
Example – Abstract

Suggestions: Split into two sentences; bring keywords to front (organisation); reorganise content (perform and continuous are natural partners). Make important and implicit concepts explicit (i.e. mediated technology, and fixed entity) – less is not always more. Remove complicating ideas until main idea has been made clear (orders/hierarchy).

“An organisation is constituted through its activities, which are mediated by technology. The organisation is not a fixed entity, but a continuous consequence of the different and changing activities performed within it. The same applies to the hierarchy within the organisation.”


Further resources
Further Resources:

Online Academic Writing Lab

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

Publishing Addiction Science

http://www.parint.org/isajewebsite/isajebook2.htm


Group activity
Group Activity

  • In groups of 3 or 4, write a sentence detailing some of the things you have learnt today. TRY to make that sentence as complicated as possible, using any linguistic device you can.

  • Rules:

    • Make the sentence grammatical.

    • Do not use more than five lines


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