“The Science of Scientific Writing”

This excellent 1990 article from American Scientist discusses how writers can work within paragraphs to improve clarity.  Section 9 summarizes what composition people call the “known-new contract”: readers expect that the beginning of a sentence will refer to what was just discussed (the known) and present new information after that.

An example from today’s Washington Post:

Friday, President Obama intends to sign a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits longer, reflecting the rise of long-term joblessness. The bill [KNOWN] also extends a first-time home-buyer tax credit and expands it [NEW] so current homeowners are eligible…

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Getting the Writing DONE

Faculty writers, are you having trouble carving out the time to write … and therefore publish?

In a casual series of columns for Inside Higher Ed, writing coach and social psychologist Peg Boyle Single pulls together some  research to argue for … [drumroll] a regular writing routine.

What did you expect–a pill?

Single is talking first to dissertation writers, but her message holds for most academics. The first article demolishes the usual procrastination-feeding myths about the need for large chunks of time and blessings by the muse.

More interesting are the connections she makes between writing and research on expert performance.  Daily attention to the process will improve the product, she extrapolates, because you will become more attuned to big-picture issues (ideas and organization) rather than minutiae (sentence-level concerns).

Stay tuned for two more installments in her series.