Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Challenges of Good Writing
Not every scholar has the natural ability to articulate ideas fluently. Similar to the artistry of any craft, although the mechanics of the process are elementary and fairly easy to follow, the finished product will vary greatly between one individual and another. Several factors influence the process as well as the final product. The strength and grace of one's vocabulary contributes to fluent writing as does one's expertise at grammatical accuracy. Something else, though, is contained within good writing. Some might say there must be an arcane or Zen element of the process, or love or passion for writing (Bradbury, 1990), although I believe practice can transform even the awkward writer to a most eloquent one.
In many vocations, good reasons exist to learn how to write well. Beam (1983) believed that some of the more brilliant minds used good writing to influence people and public opinion. I agree that it is much easier to listen to and comprehend a well-penned document rather than an awkwardly written, thesaurus-amplified piece of writing.
Many students have had a limited personal history with writing, or perhaps have had considerable experience, without the constructive feedback of a knowledgeable instructor or mentor. Constructive criticism is valuable at any level of proficiency, and feedback on the mechanics of formatting are a tremendous influence for most scholars. Students should not hesitate to ask for help (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012).
If a student has fears, it may be worthwhile to explore them (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012). I think, though, rather than conducting an exploration on why writing is difficult or challenging, in my experience, just writing (as in just do it!) works wonders. The more one writes, the easier writing will be. I recommend reading the scholarly prose of others because it will expand vocabulary and help the reader become familiar with the sound of good writing, both of which will promote writing development. Writing is almost as basic as speaking. Learning to do it well makes it easier to disseminate knowledge and presents the writer as an articulate knowledgeable source.
Another hurdle is, of course, the formatting required by the American Psychological Association (APA) (2010). With practice, though, and reference to the APA (2012), students will quickly learn how to navigate this formatting. Good scholarly writing skills are developed on a learning curve. Patience during the process can help the learner find small rewards along the way.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Beam, H. H. (1983). Good Writing: An Underrated Executive Skill. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 11(2), 54-58. doi: 10.1109/EMR.1983.4305990
Bradbury, R. (1990). Zen in the art of writing: [essays on creativity]. Santa Barbara: Capra.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2012). Introduction to Scholarly Writing: Tips for Success [Streaming Video]. Baltimore: Author