Thesis finished.

I was completing a Master’s thesis over the past year, concentrating on language and the Internet (primarily Netspeak). In September I finally made arrangements to print and turn it in – an admirable feat in itself, considering my department is across an ocean. Now I just have to wait for the marks.

For those who are studying, what do you use to help you study or write? I ended up using several books, mostly published by Open University Press, regarding crafting research questions and doing the research writing process. I majored in English as an undergraduate, but research-writing is a different beast than creative writing (and technical writing is a different sort than research writing, and so forth).

For those who are working, how do you go about the process of writing documentation, or memos, or other profession-related writing? Do you even use a process? How is this different from the writing style you learned in school?


1 Comment

  1. mistersaxon said,

    October 15, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I think the most important thing with professional writing of stuff like reports is not the style, it’s the structure. Ordinarily that should be so rigidly defining that there is little room for personal style.
    Within that structure it’s always necessary to apply a level of “professionalism” to the writing which typically means being business-like: no jokes, no slang, no acronyms that haven’t been expanded on first use (or a glossary if there are a LOT of them); stick to the point and stay with it until it’s covered and only then move on (super-fine structure can help with this but you need to be flexible about editing the structure to fit); avoid sentences with clauses, sub-clauses, em-dash breaks, parentheses and excessive length (like this one!!). Done correctly and read by someone with intelligence it shouldn’t be a problem but it’s based on an assumption about the reader. I have trouble with this, by the way, and find that ruthless editing and re-writing is the only cure. Short sentences sound staccato to me – harsh, clumsy and even brutal. But I’m an old fart so what do I know? You’d think Twitter would have sharpened me up 🙂

    Oh yes, no smilies and also no starting sentences with a conjunction (but, or, and, then, so, for, yet). Opinion is divided in a technical report on whether you should write out numbers in full when they are lower than 11 and integers. For written English that’s at least one iteration of “the rule” but for technical writing I always use the digit.

    In school I was taught that one sentence should convey one piece of information about one subject, be it a description or an action. In that world a long rambling sentence describing a scene or event was anathema and each aspect of the scene should be conveyed with a separate sentence. Conjunctions were NOT for tacking disparate items together. Compare:
    “It was a dark, stormy night and the wind was howling fiercely. The castle stood solidly against the rain illuminated only by flickers of lightning. No windows showed a light and the doors were barred.”
    “It was a dark, stormy night and the fierce wind lashed the castle standing solidly against the rain, its doors barred, its darkened windows showing no light apart from reflections of the flickering lightning.”
    I’d have got into trouble for the second sentence and it’s true that it’s not as clear on first reading but it IS more evocative.
    Mind you I generally ignored the instruction I was given. They tried to force me to write with my right hand for pity’s sake!

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