A way of writing. You have to read the article and wrote 450 word, double space. Stanford’s ideas write about this article like metaphors for writing or talent or how different you will do if it’s was you
You have to read the article and wrote 450 word, double space. Stanford’s ideas write about this article like metaphors for writing or talent or how different you will do if it’s was you
Writing is hard.
I’m a writer and a writing professor, the daughter and granddaughter of writers and writing professors, and I still sit down at my keyboard every week and think, writing is hard.
I also think, though, that writing is made harder than it has to be when we try to follow too many rules for writing. Which rules have you heard? Here are some I was taught:
Always have a thesis. I before E except after C. No one-sentence paragraphs. Use concrete nouns. A semi-colon joins two complete sentences. A conclusion restates the thesis and the topic sentences. Don’t use “I,” check your spelling, make three main points, and don’t repeat yourself. Don’t use contractions.
Cite at least three sources, capitalize proper nouns, and don’t use “you.” Don’t start a sentence with “And” or “But,” don’t end a sentence with a preposition, give two examples in every paragraph, and use transition words. Don’t use transition words too much.
When we write to the rules, writing seems more like a chore than a living process that connects people and moves the world forward. I find it particularly hard to cope with all those “Don’ts.” It’s no wonder we get writer’s block, hands poised above the keyboard, worried about all the ways we could go wrong, suddenly wondering if we have new messages or whether there’s another soda in the fridge.
We can start to unblock the live, negotiated process of writing for real people by cutting the thousand rules down to three broader principles:
When we write this way, we write rhetorically: that is, we pay attention to the needs of the author and the needs of the reader rather than the needs of the teacher—or the rules in the textbook.
Everything that matters from the preceding list of rules can be connected to one of those three rhetorical principles, and the principles address lots of aspects of writing that aren’t on the list but that are central to why humans struggle to express themselves through written language.
Write about what you know about so that you can show not just tell in order to adapt to your audience’s needs and accomplish your goals.
(Unless you do a good job showing what you mean, your audience will not understand your message. You will not meet their expectations or accomplish your goals.) Make clear points early so that your audience can spot your expertise or passion right from the start.
Write multi-sentence paragraphs in which you show key ideas in enough detail that your audience doesn’t have to guess what you mean. Use a semi-colon correctly in order to show how your carefully thought out ideas relate to one another—and to win your reader’s confidence.
Writing will still be hard because these are some of the hardest principles in college; they may be some of the hardest principles in the galaxy. But if you write from those three principles, and use some of the strategies listed below, your writing will finally have a fighting chance of being real, not just rules.
And that’s when writing gets interesting and rewarding enough that we do it even though it’s hard.
What does that “show, don’t just tell” idea really mean? Let’s try some time travel to get a better idea. Can you remember being in kindergarten on show-and-tell day? Imagine that a student gets up in front of you and your fellow five-year-olds, empty-handed, and says, “I have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron that’s in perfect condition, but I can’t bring it to school.” You’re only five years old, but you know that she’s got two problems, right?
Not only can you not see the ball to know exactly what “perfect condition” looks like, to eyeball the signature and smell the leather and count the stitches, but you have no reason to believe this kid even if she describes it perfectly. If you tell without showing, your reader might not only be confused but might entirely disbelieve you. So you’re two strikes down.
Another way to explain show vs. tell is with a story. There is a very, very short science fiction story in a collection of very short science fiction stories entitled “Science Fiction for Telepaths.”
This is the entire story, just six words: “Aw, you know what I mean” (Blake 235).
“Wah-ha-ha!” go the telepaths, “what a great story! I really liked the part about the Martian with three heads trying to use the gamma blaster to get the chartreuse kitchen sink to fly out the window and land on the six-armed Venusian thief! Good one!”
Since the telepaths can read the storyteller’s mind, they don’t need any other written details: they know the whole story instantly.
This story is a little like when you say to your best friend from just about forever, you know what I mean, and sometimes she even does, because she can almost read your mind. Sometimes, though, even your best buddy from way back gives you that look.
You know that look: the one that says he thinks you’ve finally cracked. He can’t read your mind, and you’ve lost him.
If you can confuse your best friend in the whole world, even when he’s standing right there in front of you, think how easy it could be to confuse some stranger who’s reading your writing days or months or years from now.
If we could read each other’s minds, writing wouldn’t be hard at all, because we would always know what everyone meant, and we’d never doubt each other. If you figure out how to read minds this semester, I hope you’ll tell us how it works! In the meantime, though, you have to show what you mean.