The Three C’s of Writing. Clarity Cohesion Cogency Presentation by Charles J. Shields. What’s the writing job you have to do?. Create the next Great American novel?. Submit a report that explains a procedure ?. “Nuclear Fission Made Easy”. Argue your point of view?.
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Presentation by Charles J. Shields
Create the next Great American novel?
“Nuclear Fission Made Easy”
1. It keeps the reader engaged;
2. It flows from point to point, step to step, scene to scene;
3. It provokes the reader into thinking.
the quality of being clear;
of being certain or definite;
the quality of transparency or purity.
Your first aim in any kind of writing
is to be understood.
Here it is! Banish it— Evildoer! Confounder! Obfuscator!
The dreadful, passivevoice;
And the clingy, dependentclause.
“It was determined by the committee that the report was inconclusive.”
“We were invited by the instructor to attend the review session.”
“The religion of the pagans was able to survive the onslaught of new ideas until the old gods were finally displaced by Christianity.”
The committee determined that the report was inconclusive.
The instructor invited us to attend the review session.
The religion of the pagans survived the onslaught of new ideas until Christianity displaced the old gods.
This way of writing makes us wait. We have to hang on to a dependent clause
until we get
to the point!
Ironically, Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species, the centerpiece of his voluminous scholarship, in only thirteen months.[break] He intended it to be the introduction of some grander, future work.
Another way of making us wait is tacking on clingy, dependent clauses.
“In contrast to his father, who was conservative, retiring, and extremely modest and unassuming, Albert was extroverted, flamboyant, sociable, and a big spender, who always lived on a very lavish scale in various large houses with lots of servants, horses and carriages and then the earliest and finest motor cars, having at one point an English butler and a footman. He entertained his friends without thought of cost: the choicest viands, rare wines, flowers, the whitest linens, and choicest porcelain chinaware, acquiring the reputation of a millionaire who counted the cost of nothing.”
— from a private family history
Albert was extroverted, flamboyant, sociable, and a big spender,[inverted the order] in contrast to his father, who was conservative, retiring, and extremely modest and unassuming. [break] He always lived on a very lavish scale in various large houses with lots of servants, horses and carriages and then the earliest and finest motor cars. [break] At one point, he had an English butler and a footman. He entertained his friends without thought of cost: the choicest viands, rare wines, flowers, the whitest linens and choicest porcelain chinaware. [break] He soon acquired the reputation of a millionaire who counted the cost of nothing.
“Good writing sounds like good conversation.”
— Virginia Woolf
The quality of being united, forming a whole
Lack of Structure
Novels have chapters
Chapters have four to six scenes
Plays have three acts
Essays and speeches have a beginning, middle, and end
Processes are explained step-by-step
Arguments have a series of supporting points
Newspaper articles go from general to specific
Experiments are shown as cause and effect
Technical manuals go from whole-to-parts, or parts-to- whole
Thesis/supporting points/ summary or conclusion
First, second, third
Watch how he goes from a broad idea, to specifics, to a broad conclusion about what happened, and what it meant.
“The first ironclads to wage war were designed and constructed for the Union in late 1861 by naval engineer James B. Eads of St. Louis.” (general)
Topics sentences of paragraphs that follow in order:
“The first battles between ironclads occurred in March 1862 in Hampton Roads, were the James River enters the Atlantic.” (battles— more specific)
“The opposing ironclads that dueled there bore little resemblance to anything ever seen afloat.” (the ships themselves— more specific)
“On March 9, the two bizarre ironclads met in Hampton Roads for their historic duel.” (more specific— the day of the first fight)
Final paragraph, topic sentence:
“The battles in Hampton Roads were heralded as the end of wooden ships and the dawn of the iron age in naval combat.” (broad again— a summary— looking ahead to the future)
A Tip: If your ideas and points are logical, then transitions should come smoothly, sensibly:
Addition: also, again, as well as, besides, coupled with, furthermore
Consequence: accordingly, as a result, consequently, for this reason
Direction: here, there, over there, beyond, nearly
Illustration: for example, for instance, for one thing, as an illustration
Summarizing: after all, all in all, briefly, by and large, in any case, in any event
Being (of an argument or case) clear, logical, and convincing.
Anemic, ordinary verbs
Weak, apologetic, handwringing phrases
“I was going to explain that, in my opinion, there are three reasons for the slump in the housing market. This first one is a problem with consumer confidence. The second one is the stock market. The third is joblessness.”
Put energy into your writing. Use verbs and other parts of speech that suggest action.
“I will argue… the housing market collapsecauses… consumer confidence suffers…the sudden upswings and downturns of the stock market… the spread of joblessness that casts a chill on real estate sales.”
With her hands clasped behind her back, the only sign of her former life as a farmworker and washwoman was the stumpy shape of her forearms, their muscles enlarged from years of twisting and squeezing soap through waterlogged sheets and tablecloths. But of course it was her hair that she wished to emphasize. Madam Walker had pinned her now healthy tresses into a carefully coifed crown, styled so that it gracefully swooped away from her face.
— A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (2001)
And never, never be humble or apologetic! Do not say “In my opinion… I think…from my point of view….it seems to me.” Don’t communicate doubt— be bold!
Government is not the enemy. Not always. Don’t believe that right-wing malarkey. In fact, for millions of Americans down on their luck and at the end of their rope, they can quickly find that government is their last friend left. Governmental assistance can prevent the certainty of a hungry night and a homeless tomorrow. It can mean the difference between the comfort of stability and the ravages of poverty….The lack of empathy for the poor and suffering on the part of the
right is nothing short
— Charles M. Blow, “Friends with Benefits,”
New York Times, Nov. 12, 2011
Government is not the enemy.[declarative sentence] Not always. [declarative] Don’t believe that right-wing malarkey. [imperative— clearly said!] In fact, for millions of Americans down on their luck and at the end of their rope, they can quickly find that government is their last friend left. Governmental assistance can prevent the certainty of a hungry night and a homeless tomorrow.[strong, parallel, alliterative] It can mean the difference between the comfort of stability and the ravages of poverty….[ “comfort” versus “ravages”— good contrast] The lack of empathy for the poor and suffering on the part of the right is nothing short of breathtaking. [not “wrong,” not “foolish,” but breathtaking.]
By being direct and plainspoken, you make your meaning clear.