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#FridayFact: There Are Lots of Bad Ideas About Writing

#FridayFact: There Are Lots of Bad Ideas About Writing published on 7 Comments on #FridayFact: There Are Lots of Bad Ideas About Writing

Cover of the book Bad Ideas About WritingThere are lots of misconceptions about how writing works. I bet everyone in this course has had teachers who followed different rules for the same situation.

Formatting was always different from one teacher to the next when I was in college. One teacher would want the page numbers in the upper right corner. Another would want the page numbers center bottom. Still another would want your last name at the bottom left and the page number at bottom right.

When it came to writing, one teacher insisted on a formal outline before you began a first draft. Another said the best way to write was to just start freewriting. Yet another teacher wanted brainstorming or cluster maps.

Who’s right about all these things? Who decides on the rules that we follow? Monique Dufour and Jennifer Ahern-Dodson suggest

Think of good writing as the thoughtful use of an evolving repertoire, rather than adherence to a static list of commandments. In order to become a skillful writer, one discovers and experiments with a range of techniques. A writer draws upon this repertoire to meet the needs of the project, the ideas at hand, and the rhetorical situation. (p. 123)

It turns out all those very specific techniques that people believe are “the only way” to write are just another bad idea about writing. Dufour and Ahern-Dodson explain why in their piece “Good Writers Always Follow My Rules” in the online textbook Bad Ideas About Writing (2017).

Read through Dufour and Ahern-Dodson’s chapter and/or browse some of the other topics covered in Bad Ideas About Writing. All of the pieces are short, four to five page on average.

Once you have looked at the variety of bad ideas about writing in general, consider leaving a comment that explains a bad idea about technical writing that you have witnessed in your experience in your field. Your comment should explain the idea and why it’s a bad idea. You can include details about your experience as well, but you do NOT need to write a whole entry like those in Bad Ideas About Writing.




This may not be related to physical writing, but it is more related to speech and public speaking, obviously there is a skill in itself to be able to come up with words in your head on the spot, and be able to deliver an idea in front of an audience. My example relates to when I coached summer swim during highschool. There were multiple coaches I worked with during the 4 years I was coaching, and a major problem I had with some of the coaches was that they did not know how to talk to children. As a coach you are working with 5-18 year olds, so depending on which group you are working with, you have to explain techniques differently, and use different language when talking to 18 year olds compared to 8 year olds. One of the coaches would know how to communicate with the older kids, but a lot of the younger kids would not listen/understand what he was trying to say.

He would just use language he would use with his friends, instead of “dumbing” down and using gestures to communicate technique skills. Additionally, using examples that kids could relate to instead of examples that only older kids could relate to. This is a bad idea because you should not think that one speech can only relate to a specific group of people. The same message can be relayed to different audiences by changing small details in the delivery.

I have had Dr. Dufour for a couple of history classes, so I have heard these ideas first-hand from the author herself! In my writing for her class, I have definitely tried to follow what she espouses in this chapter. The pomodoro method is one–writing in short, focused chunks of time (she briefly mentioned this in the piece). I also have found the draft method something that has stuck with me–don’t be afraid to show people a messy product. I’ve used that advice in this class, spending more time on ideas and avoiding a perfectly polished first draft. I think these (and the other ideas, these were just examples) have a place in technical writing as well as literature. I have used them both in my co-op/internships in the workplace, and have found a distinct advantage over those who do not.

During my summer internship I recognized that when it comes to writing reports about an infrastructure project, sometimes my coworkers and other companies that we worked with had a bad technical writing technique. A lot of times when I would read through the report, I realized that it was all super technical and some of the information was beyond my comprehension. I understand that most of the people reading the report have a lot of experience in the field. However, I feel like most times the client might not be able to understand all the technical aspect of the report because after all they most likely aren’t a Civil Engineer. So this is a similar situation to what Mark was talking about. I feel like the report should be “dumbed” down a little bit, in order for people who do not have a Civil Engineering background can have a better understand of the information that was found about an infrastructure.

I agree with you. I think a lot of times people can be too technical in their email writing and it provides more confusion rather than clarity. It’s important to be able to explain what you need in a formal manner without having to be technical because it deters people from wanting to ask questions because they feel like they should already know it.

From my personal opinion, I have not found the ideas given to me before as bad ones just that it may not be suitable for a specific case so the mistake is usually when an idea is generalized or been set as a rule like what the passage above suggested. One of those ideas is when they say that writing a draft should have no revision at all. I understand that a draft should be a free flow of ideas without any sort of blockage but I feel that we should at least proofread it once before giving to others for review to make sure we are in the right track. All the details may not need to be take into attention yet at this stage but things such as headings and main contents should be made sure it is consistent with the assignment requirements.

The misconception that I related to the most was “Strong Writers and Writing Don’t Need Revision” which I have experienced in 2 different areas: my professional and academic careers. There are have been many individuals that I have encountered in both areas that do not put any real thought into what they are writing or who they are writing for simply because they are able to put the thoughts in their heads into words in an email, report, paper, or any other type of document. As someone who is puts a fair amount of thought into how things read and sound to others, this annoys me. Especially in a field that is heavily reliant on communication and where that communication isn’t always pleasant to send.

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