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PhD Seminar Hints on Writing (A) Rules for Quality Writing With thanks to Robert Geist Jeff Offutt http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~offutt/
© Jeff Offutt2 General Hints A paper should have 3 parts: 1.Tell em what youre gonna say. 2.Say it. 3.Tell em what you said. If you make a mistake, it should be on something you dont know Outline at the detailed design level
© Jeff Offutt3 General Hints Tense in experimental papers is hard! –End of paper is future (in summary, we will …) –Study is in the past (the programs were written …) –Conclusions in the present (my ideas are great!) MS Word : Turn off the annoying hyperlinkshyperlinks Dont depend on color Edit the last version before submitting Edit, edit, edit …
Structure and Motivation Structure your paper for the reader Motivation is hard but essential –Why did you make choices ? –Why did you do this research ? –Why should I read your paper ? –Why does section 3 follow section 2 ? What problem did you work on ? –Did you solve the problem ? Dont skip stepsthe reasoning must flow from A to B to C … © Jeff Offutt4
Writing Rules Nuts and bolts of writing In English
© Jeff Offutt6 Rule 1 My first trip to Skövde shall always be remembered by me. I will always remember my first trip to Skövde. There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground. Dead leaves covered the ground. It was not long before he was very sorry that he had said what he had. He soon repented his words. Use active voice
© Jeff Offutt7 Rule 2 He was not very often on time. He usually came late. The Taming Of The Shrew is rather weak in spots. Shakespeare does not portray Katharine as a very admirable character, nor does Bianca remain long in memory as an important character in Shakespeares works. The women in The Taming Of The Shrew are unattractive. Katharine is disagreeable, Bianca insignificant. Use the positive form
© Jeff Offutt8 Rule 3 A period of unfavorable weather set in. It rained every day for a week. He showed satisfaction as he took possession of his well- earned reward. He grinned as he pocketed the coin. Use definite, specific, concrete language
© Jeff Offutt9 Rule 4 He is a man who … He … This is a subject that … This subject … I was stung so many times that I couldn't think straight. I was stung senseless. We say this in order to be more concise. Omit needless words
© Jeff Offutt10 Rule 5 He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center of the rug. Commuter tax on New Yorkers killed in New Jersey. Squad helps dog bite victim. Keep related words together
© Jeff Offutt11 Rule 6 This steel is principally used for making razors, because of its hardness. Because of its hardness, this steel is principally used in making razors. Place emphatic words of a sentence at the end
© Jeff Offutt12 Rule 7 Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the laboratory method is employed. Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now it is taught by the laboratory method. Express coordinate ideas in similar form
© Jeff Offutt13 Rule 8 Ich Bin Ein Berliner. Come alive with the Pepsi generation! –China: Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead! Hotel Signs: –Japan: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid. –Bucharest: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable. –Mexico: The manager has personally passed all the water served here. –Bangkok (cleaners): Drop your trousers here for best results. Take care not to get lost in translation
© Jeff Offutt14 Which Hunting Van Leunen, A Handbook for Scholars, pg 135 US English : Use that for restrictive clauses,which for non-restrictive British : They are interchangeable Non-restrictive clauses are set off by commas Restrictive clauses are essentialremoving them changes the meaning of the sentence
Summary Good writing is hard work –But it does not require the intellectual abilities that you needed to get this far in your studies Good writing requires skills –Anyone can learn most writing skills Good writing requires practice –I am a native English speaker and I have been writing professionally for more than 25 years –I am still learning © Jeff Offutt15 Never stop learning
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