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Webinar Transcripts

Engaging Your Reader With Sentence Structure

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Presented July 8, 2019

Last updated 8/14/2019

 

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Recording
    • Will be available online within 24 hours.
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    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Now: Use the Q&A box.
    • Later: Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu or visit our Live Chat Hours.
  • Help
    • Ask in the Q&A box.
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right-hand corner of the webinar room

Audio: Melissa: Hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar. My name is Melissa Sharpe and I'm a writing instructor here at the Walden University writing Center. Before we begin, and I hand the session over to Michael I want to go over a few housekeeping items. First, we are recording this webinar so you’re welcome to access it at a later date through the webinar archive and in fact note that we record all of our webinars so you're welcome to look through the archive for other recordings that might interest you. Also, whether you are attending this live or watching the recording you will find that Michael has interactive elements for you including links on the slide, chats and the files pod where you can find a copy of today's slides. You can interact with all of these things throughout the webinar and we encourage you to do so.

We also welcome questions and comments throughout the session and you can use the Q&A box for these. I will be watching the Q&A box and I'm happy and excited to answer your questions as Michael is presented. You are also welcome to send any technical issues you have there as well although note there is a help option in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. This is adobes Technical Support so it's the best place to go if you need technical help. Alright, with that, I will hand it over to Michael.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Engaging Your Reader with Sentence Structure” and the speaker’s name and information: Michael Dusek Writing Instructor, Walden University Writing Center

Audio: Michael: Hey cool, yeah, welcome everyone to today's webinar entitled engaging your reader with sentence structure. Thank you, Melissa, for that awesome lead in. Today's webinar is really about varying your sentence structure so that you can maintain, kind of gain and maintain the reader’s attention throughout your work. I think this is a really interesting idea and this webinar also encourages you to find your own scholarly voice. Varying your sentence structure can get to something that we in the writing community refer to as a scholarly voice or your own writing style, your own writing voice. Right? I'm going to look at some techniques for doing that, maintaining the reader’s attention. And we also going to look at things you might want to avoid when cultivating your own writing style. Without further ado let's go away with this webinar.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Today’s Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the tools that can be used to create engaging writing
  • Revise writing to create more engaging sentences
  • Recognize the engaging writing do’s and don’ts for revising sentences

Audio: Today's learning objectives then, we’re going to identify some tools that can be used to create engaging writing. Sentence level construction sentence structure is a big factor in crafting engaging writing, so were are going to look at some tools to use to do that. Revise writing to create more engaging sentences. We’re going to take a look at sentences; some example sentences that we've crafted for this webinar that clearly aren't the best sentences. And then you guys are going to have the opportunity to revise those make them better. Lastly, recognize the engaging writing do’s and don'ts for revising sentences. There are some things you should stay away from and there are some techniques that you should employ. What we are going to do today is look at both of those as the end to this webinar.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Engaging Your Reader        

Chat #1:

What characteristics of writing engage you as a reader?

Engage:

  • “to hold the attention of”
  • “to attract and hold by influence or power”
  • “to induce to participate”

Audio: To begin then, let's do a bit of a chat. Thank you, Melissa, for changing that layout. What I'm looking for in the chat box is what characteristics of writing engage you as a reader? Let's do a little reflection here. When you pick up a piece of writing and after reading a little bit you find that you are very engaged in it, it is holding your attention, it attracts and holds an influence or power over you. What does that look like? What is engaging in writing for you as a reader? I’ll just give you a guys a couple of minutes to respond, so I’m going to go on mute here. What characteristics of engaging writing do you recognize?

[Silence as participants respond]

Alright, yeah. Thanks for participating you guys. Go ahead keep dropping those in because I'm seeing some really interesting stuff. A lot of people are talking about the topic. You want to initially be interested in the topic that you're reading so I hope that is something that you can use as a place to start. But from there, varying sentence lengths was one that I saw, kind of mixing in long and short sentences can be a good way to shake the reader up and keep them engaged. A logical flow of ideas was another response that I saw. That’s another thing that you layout for the reader. That can really garner the reader’s attention. Unique and easy-to-understand phrases. Talking about maybe a writer’s unique way of putting things, clarity also being a really strong element here. If a writer is having trouble understanding what you're saying, that's really kind of a bad thing. Often a sign that they’re going to be losing your attention. You’re going to be losing the reader’s attention. From there then let's go ahead and move on. Thank you, guys, for doing a little bit of reflection and thinking about what engages you as a reader. Thanks for changing that layout Melissa.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: How do we engage our readers?

              Writing Toolbox:

  • Syntax: The order in which words appear to form a sentence.
  • Sentence structure: How phrases and clauses combine to create a sentence.
  • Punctuation: Commas, periods, colons, and semicolons.

Audio: How do we engage our readers? This is the promise toolbox. A couple of things that we use as writers to engage readers, one a syntax or the order in which words appear to form a sentence. The order in which that you express things is one way that you can develop your own voice as a writer -- the way that you specifically want to express an idea. And this can often be something that is different than a reader is use to encountering. A writer puts something in a novel way can be one way for reader to perk up and be interested or engaged in the writing. Syntax is one tool that’s available to you. Thinking about the order in which words appear in.

Second, sentence structure, how phrases and clauses combine to create sentences. Crafting interesting sentences or varying the set up or the construction of your sentence is something that can engage your reader also. So, thinking about your sentence structure as being a tool to engage the reader I think is a useful approach.

Punctuation. Punctuation can engage the reader. Think about punctuation as road signs for a sentence, you are telling the reader when they should stop, when they should pause, what things should be grouped together as you're reading the sentence. And that can be something that is engaging to readers in addition to showing relationships between ideas. Punctuation again can be thought of as a tool to garner the reader’s attention, to really maintain the readers engagement.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Syntax: The way words are put together to form a sentence

Repetitive syntax can become burdensome:

Nurses care about their patients. Nurses who care about their patients are better nurses. Better nurses who care about their patients have better patient outcomes.

Audio: To break this down a little bit, syntax, the way that words are put together to form a sentence, repetitive syntax can be burdensome. I will read the sentences and you can see what I mean by this. Nurses care about their patients. Nurses who care about their patients are better nurses. Better nurses who care about their patients have better patient outcomes. There is obviously a lot of repetition going on here. The first 2 sentences are essentially constructed the same and the phrase better nurses or nurses who, appears here a lot. This is a repetitive 3 sentences and as a reader, I'm kind of bored here.

This is just different variations of the same sentence presented over and over again. You are reminding the reader again, over and over again, the same basic ideas and you're failing to move on from that. As always in academic writing, we want to state an idea, stated clearly, discuss it fully and then move on to the next idea. You can always assume that the reader remembers what they just read. That's one of the assumptions that we can make in academic writing. This kind of repetition is not only boring to read, it's also ineffective in getting your point across.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Syntax: The way words are put together to form a sentence

              Repetitive syntax can become burdensome:

Revision:

For better patient outcomes, nurses should endeavor to care about their patients since patients who have caring nurses consider their nurses better at their jobs.     

Audio: To revise this then, the same ideas can be expressed in this way. With a little bit more sentence variety. For better patient outcomes, nurses should endeavor to care about their patients since patients who have caring nurses consider their nurses better at their jobs. In addition to being a more eloquent way to put those ideas, crafting, the order in which sentences, the words appear, makes a big difference in terms of reader engagement. In addition to that, think about the idea of scholarly tone or of authority or professionalism within writing. The sentence -- the 2nd example, the revision, really has this kind of authoritative tone to it. When I read this, I get the idea that this person is very well researched, and that they know what they're talking about.

                                         

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Syntax: The way words are put together to form a sentence

Repetitive syntax can become burdensome:

Nurses care about their patients. Nurses who care about their patients are better nurses. Better nurses who care about their patients have better patient outcomes.

Audio: To return to the previous slide, you get this almost feeling that the reader isn't really skilled in expressing ideas within the nursing context. Which hurts their authority to the reader. Again, making them less likely to be engaged in this writing. If you're reading a piece and believe that the person who's writing this piece doesn't really know what they're talking about, it doesn't give you a lot of incentive to keep writing especially in academic community.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Syntax: The way words are put together to form a sentence

              Repetitive syntax can become burdensome:

Revision:

For better patient outcomes, nurses should endeavor to care about their patients since patients who have caring nurses consider their nurses better at their jobs.

Audio: So, using this tool of syntax can really make your reader more engaged, make your writing more interesting and you can then present yourself as the authority in your field that you are. You are doing all of this research, presenting these ideas in a way that shows that you’ve done your homework, is an important step. So, syntax can be a way to approach that into that.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Varying Syntax

The subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. The subjects then had to seal the test in an envelope. The subjects did this to protect their anonymity. The subjects then handed the envelope to the moderator.

  • Pros
  • Clear, correct grammar
  • Specific description of subjects’ steps
  • Cons
  • Boring
  • Repetitive
  • Clunky

Audio: Varying syntax, the subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. This is another example sorry. The subjects then had to seal the test in an envelope. The subjects did this to protect their anonymity. The subjects then handed the envelope to the moderator. These sentences all start the same way. This is again, boring for the reader, it's repetitive. As I read this, I get it dude -- it could be presented in a better way. By varying the order in which the words appear.

But this is still effective writing in the sense that it gets the message across. Some pros for this writing is that it's clear, there's correct grammar so you are expressing your ideas in a way that can be read easily. Specific description of subject’s steps. You’re relating the reader through these steps. But it's a boring, repetitive, clunky and not very interesting to read.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Varying Syntax

Revision:

The subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. Once completed, the subjects sealed their test in an envelope to protect their anonymity and then handed the envelope to the moderator.

  • Pros
  • Clear, correct grammar
  • Specific description of subjects’ steps
  • Cons
  • Boring
  • Repetitive
  • Clunky

Audio: To revise it then, you're going to vary the syntax and start to switch around some of the words in the sentence to make it more interesting for the reader. The subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. Once completed, the subjects sealed their test in an envelope to protect their anonymity and then handed the envelope to the moderator. This revision essentially expresses the same ideas that the previous sentences did. If I go back, you can verify that that is the case. However, by varying the syntax and changing around the order of the words within the sentence, you're really providing something to the reader that is more interesting to read. It’s more engaging, it’s more eloquent and again that authority piece it demonstrates that this author knows what they're talking about, right? And can express the ideas they're working within their field in an effective way.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Varying Syntax

Chat #2:

Write a revision of these sentences in the chat box.

Business leaders have many responsibilities. Business leaders’ responsibilities include their employees, any company investors, and even the community. Business leaders have to consider their responsibilities when making decisions.

Audio: Let's go to our 2nd chat here. Here we have an example sentence and what I would like you to do is revise this to make it, to vary the syntax here. Our example sentences are as follows. Business leaders have many responsibilities. Business leaders’ responsibilities include their employees, any company investors, and even the community. Business leaders have to consider their responsibilities when making decisions. Let's take a few minutes and take a swing at revising these sentences. Again, the goal here is to vary your syntax, vary the order of the what you're saying to make it more interesting for the reader. I'm going to go on mute and give you a couple minutes to do this.

[Silence as participants respond]

I am seeing some awesome responses coming to the chat box here. I'm going to give you a couple minutes for those of you who are still typing to participate in this chat but really am seeing some great variations on the syntax used here. Again, I’m going to go on [indescribable]

[Silence as participants respond]

All right yes, for the sake of time, we are going to move forward but I'm seeing some great examples here in the chat box. For example, business leaders have many responsibilities when making decisions for example they need to include their employees, investors and the community at large in their thinking. That's an awesome example of how the syntax can be varied here. In fact, I saw a lot of you guys using serialized list to kind of list out some of these things. In repetitive sentences like this that's a great idea. Instead of saying, business leaders have to do this, business leads have to do that, business leaders have to do this third thing. You could just say business leaders to do 1, 2, 3. And do -- craft a serialized list there. So I think that’s a great move. In general, I saw much more engaging sentences in the chat box so that's awesome. Well done.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Sentence Structure: Combining phrases and clauses together to create a sentence.

Sentences consist of clauses and phrases

Mixing and matching clauses and phrases creates variety

Teachers create lesson plans.

Teachers revise lesson plans.

Students benefit from good teachers.

Students learn more from good teachers.

Audio: I'm going to move on to sentence structure. Thank you, Melissa. Sentence structure is really about combining phrases and clauses together to create interesting sentences. Sentences that not only convey the appropriate meaning or the meaning that you're trying to get across to the reader, but sentences that do that in a way that is interesting and perhaps even somewhat pleasing to the reader.

Sentences do consist of clauses and phrases. Mixing and matching clauses and phrases creates variety. Yes. Teachers create lesson plans. Teachers revise lessons plans. Students benefit from good teachers. Students learn from good teachers. Again, we have these repetitive simple sentences. And I guess this would be a good time to talk a little bit about simple sentences in general. For the rest of this webinar we will look at ways to combine ideas in interesting ways, but I don't want to diminish the importance and the power that can be held within a simple sentence like, just a straightforward subject verb predicate type sentence.

Although these sentences, for the examples here, aren’t particularly interesting or powerful. A simple sentence well-placed in academic writing can really drive a point home to the reader. I think there's a really strong argument that could be made for the importance of simple sentences in general. Although we are going to go on and talk about combining ideas in compound sentences, looking at using dependent and independent clauses in complex sentence and other ways to vary your sentence structure, I want to drive home the idea that sentences, simple sentences are important and certainly have a place within academic writing and they can be a really strong tool for creating emphasis to a point.

Although we’re going to be working in the more complicated -- a simple sentence is a really powerful and great way to get a point across to the reader but I just don't want that to get buried in our conversation about varying your sentence structure. So again, we have a couple of examples here of basic sentences. Teachers create lessons plans. Teachers revise lesson plans. Students benefit from good teachers. Students learn more from good teachers.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Sentence Structure: Combining phrases and clauses together to create a sentence.

Sentences consist of clauses and phrases

Mixing and matching clauses and phrases creates variety

Revision:

Teachers are responsible for creating and revising lesson plans.

When teachers do this well, students benefit in many ways.

One benefit can be increased learning.

Audio: To revise these, we could create sentences that sound something like this. Teachers are responsible for creating and revising lesson plans. Sure, that's a pretty straightforward idea but we are combining some of the ideas, the clauses and phrases from our previous examples. When teachers do this well, students benefit in many ways. One of benefit can be increased learning. So, we have a number of different sentences here to pick from. We have a straightforward sentence in the beginning that’s combining two ideas. A 2nd sentence, when teachers do this well, students benefit in many ways is a complex sentence. When teachers do this well is a dependent clause and students benefit in many ways is an independent clause so that's a complex sentence. One benefit can be increased learning -- so a simple structure there. This is some ways that ideas can be expressed with having differing or varying sentence structures.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Varying Sentence Structure

  • Option 1
  • Counseling can be an emotionally draining profession, and counselors must ensure they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients.
  • Option 2
  • Because counseling can be emotionally draining, counselors must ensure they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients.
  • Option 3
  • Counselors must ensure they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients because counseling can be emotionally draining.

Audio: As always, there’s options for doing this. One writer might do this different than another writer and they can do them equally -- and an equally effective way. Excuse me I couldn’t find my words there. And that's really what I meant when I'm talking about developing your own voice as a writer. Developing your own kind of writing style. That's something to keep in mind. In writing there are always options to do something. As we move forward, I want just you to keep in mind that when you make these choices, in writing, between say options 1,2 and 3 options, I want you to think about why maybe you would choose one or the other. What specific emphasis or effect does one choice have over another? In writing, generally speaking, you are always making these choices with how you want to present your ideas. And what is the best way to present those ideas.

Thinking about why one way is better than another is a great way to approach writing in general and to really strengthen your writing. If you can have a solid reason for why you set an idea -- expressed an idea one way or another, what you're really doing is thinking about your writing process which is really a vital step in becoming a better writer because it allows you to recognize what is working and what is not. But anyway, I don't want to get too far off the trail here.

We have a number of options in expressing an idea and varying your sentence structure is a way to pull the reader in. Here's one option in expressing this idea. Counseling can be an emotionally draining profession, and counselors must ensure that they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients. That’s pretty straightforward. I get the idea there. There couple of other ways you can say this. As always you can express an idea differently. Because counseling can be emotionally draining, counselors must ensure that they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients. We have a dependent clause here that starts the sentence and leads the reader in.

Another option. Counselors must ensure they take care of themselves before they will be able to take care of their patients because counseling can be emotionally draining. Option 2 and 3, they are the same sentences only we are taking this introductory clause from option 2 which is at the beginning of the sentence and we’re putting it at the end of the sentence. This is just switching up the structure of the sentence. As a person, as a writer, as an individual, it is your choice which one sounds better to you or which one carries more of an engaging tone from your point of view. That is where the style portion comes in but as always, there are options.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Using Punctuation: Commas, periods, colons, semicolons, etc.

Helps you vary sentence structure

Show different relationships between ideas

Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication. This includes telling employees about organizational changes.

Audio: Punctuation. I use the metaphor of road signs earlier when talking about punctuations, commas, periods, colons, semicolons, etc . And that's really what they are and how they function in writing. They tell the reader when to stop, when to pause, what ideas should be grouped together. They send these signals to the reader.

Using punctuation can add emphasis, can bring engagement to your writing for sure. These help you vary sentence structure so when you put ideas in different ways, you really want to get this cadence of writing across. You want the reader to read the sentence the way that it sounds to you in your head. Punctuation helps you do that. If you're pausing at a certain place as your thinking about this sentence, that would be a good indication that you want the reader to pause so some punctuation needs to be there to tell them to, hey pause here. And again, you can group ideas together and show different relationships with ideas. Here's our example.

Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication. This includes telling employees about organizational changes. What we are going to do here is we are going to look at some options for combining these 2 sentences using punctuation and see what kind of effect that has on how the message is expressed.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Using Punctuation: Commas, periods, colons, semicolons, etc.

Helps you vary sentence

Show different relationshistructureps between ideas

  • Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication; this includes telling employees about organizational changes.
  • Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication, and this includes telling employees about organizational changes.
  • Managers, who are responsible for accurate and effective communication, must tell employees about organizational changes.
  • Communication from managers about organizational changes needs to have two characteristics: accuracy and effectiveness.

Audio: Here are some options. The first one, we're going to use a semicolon. I personally love semicolons.  What you're doing is you’re taking 2 independent clauses; two complete sentences and you’re putting them together. And the juxtaposition or putting one next to the other can have a really strong emphasis for the reader. You're forcing the reader to see a relationship, a strong relationship between these 2 ideas. Here's how this could sound from our example.

Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication this includes telling employs about organizational changes. So, we’re saying, you can see how one idea picks up off the other and it shows a strong relationship between these 2 complete thoughts. As I mentioned, with options, with choice, you should have a reason why you're using us semicolon. I would never recommend, oh hey I haven’t used a semi colon in a while, maybe I should throw a semicolon in to this sentence. You want to have a reasoning to why you're doing that. In the sentence, you're using a semicolon to put these to complete ideas together to demonstrate a strong relationship between the two. That would be my justification in using a semicolon here. But again, the point I'm trying to make is you want to have reasons for doing this. Semicolon takes two independent clauses and puts them together without using a conjunction and the lack of a conjunction there can be a little bit jarring for the reader. Which can one add emphasis and two make them more engaged in this point.

Another option for taking these to complete thoughts and putting them together is to use a comma and coordinating in conjunction and in this case and, that sound like this. Managers are responsible for accurate and effective communication and this includes telling employees about organizational changes. This is just another way to express this and a compound sentence is a great way to bring to complete thoughts together. As you can see the difference between this and using a semicolon, is it has an effect on the sentence. The use of punctuation here changes the way the reader reads the sentence so as an author yourself you can choose which one sounds the best to you.

Third, managers who are responsible for accurate and effective communications, must tell employs about organizational changes. Here we are using commas to change the structure of the sentence. We have this bit of non-essential information here, managers who are responsible for accurate and effective communication, essentially that bit of information isn't needed in this sentence. It's necessary to get your meaning across but for the sentence to be grammatically correct, that portion of the sentence can be removed. Again, my point here is to show you this information can be expressed in a different way. Through the use of punctuation.

Lastly, communication from managers about organizational changes needs to have two characteristics colon, accuracy and effectiveness. A colon like a semicolon, I love this punctuation mark, it's great, in this case it's introducing two particulars, which is correct. When you’re numbering the things that are coming here, like a list of particulars is how it’s generally expressed in grammatical language, it's appropriate to use a colon and it adds emphasis. You’rer pointing directly to the things that you're talking about. Communication from managers about organizational changes needs to have two characteristics and what are those two? Here they are – accuracy and of effectiveness. Like the other examples that we've looked at, changing the punctuation here, adding a colon can bring emphasis to this piece or to the sentence and make your reader more engaged in what you're talking about.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Sentence Structure & Punctuation

Innovations in computers affect many aspects of people’s everyday lives. Improvements in cell phones, like smartphones, have changed the ways many people go about their daily lives.

Chat #3:

Write a revision of these sentences in the chat box.

Audio: Sentence structure and punctuation. Let's practice this idea a little bit. Thank you Melissa. These are example sentences and what I’m looking for you to do is revise the punctuation in the sentence structure here to express this idea in a different way. Here's our example that we are going to revise in the chat box. Innovations and computers affect many aspects of people's everyday lives. Improvements in cell phones, like smart phones, have changed the ways many people go about their daily lives. Let's take a second and revise these sentences, changing the sentence structure and the punctuation to make them more engaging. I will go on mute and give you a second to do this.

[silence as participants respond]

Alright, I'm seeing some great responses coming into the chat box. I’m going to give you guys a couple of more minutes as I see multiple attendees are still typing. Make sure that you use some punctuation here and try on some of these different sentence forms. Maybe a semicolon or maybe use a compound sentence or maybe use a colon to express the ideas. I also saw some good use of non-essential information using commas, so let's give this a try and take a minute and try on some of these different punctuation marks. Maybe one's that you are not accustomed to using.

[silence as participants respond]

In the interest of time I’m going to move on here. There are some great examples that I saw here. For example, computer and innovations affect aspects of everyday lives. Many people go about their daily lives differently because of cell phone improvements. That's a great example of taking these two ideas and expressing them differently. I saw others that use a colon to present these ideas. Great! Semicolons also work really well when you have two independent clauses to put them in the juxtaposition that kind of forcing them together to bring emphasis to these ideas. But the important idea that I'm trying to get across here is that using punctuation can really vary the structure of the sentence and make it more interesting for the reader to encounter. This is one way that you can add your personal style, your writing style to your work. I would encourage you guys to do that.

One footnote about colons and semicolons, as a writing instructor, when I'm reviewing people’s essays, I often see these misused. Oftentimes people use a colon when they should use a semicolon, is one example of this; or they’ll use a semicolon when they should use a comma. If you are going to employ these in your writing, it's important to know how to use them correctly. I’m going to get back to the notion of authority here again. Using these punctuation marks correctly can build your authority with the writer and make you appear like you know what you're talking about, your skilled at expressing these ideas. Using them incorrectly has the opposite -- opposite effect and it can make you appear like you're over your head academically or like a charlatan. I don't want you to be afraid to use them but just make sure you are using them in the correct way if you're going to use them in your writing. It can be a great tool to be bring emphasis and variety to your writing but just make sure that you're using them in the correct way.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What does this mean in a paragraph?

  • Consider structure, syntax, and punctuation as you write each paragraph.
  • Try to vary things to create interest
  • Read aloud to hear repetition—as it can be easy to miss as a reader
  • Get a second reader to assist you
  • Write as you normally would, then go back to revise

Audio: Okay. Hey thank you for changing the layout Melissa. What does this mean in a paragraph? Consider structure, syntax and punctuation as you write each paragraph is a really good idea because you can say I've done two simple sentences in a row and it's time to switch this up, it’s time to give the reader more variety. Thinking about the context in the paragraph and the sentences you've already used as a good way to let you know that I need to change the structure of this sentence or I need to change the order of the words of this idea that I'm expressing because I referred to in the same way three times in a row and that is getting repetitive for the reader. Try to vary things to create interest. Yeah that’s kind of the point of what -- this webinar thus far. Giving the reader variety is a great way to engage them and to keep their attention. Read aloud to hear repetition as it can be easy to miss as a reader. Just in general, I think in writing the tendency is to get so into the piece that your writing that you can't really immediately see areas where you're being repetitive or where there is repetition present. So, one way to do this is to, one way to identify these areas is to read your work out loud and this will help you to see that I've said that word four times in the sentence and maybe I don't need that many.

Get a second reader to assist you is another way to get an arm’s length from your piece and get new eyes to the sentences you're crafting which can be really great. The second reader can suggest changes that should be made, suggest other ways that you can express this idea to make your idea more interesting and engaging. Write as you normally would and then go back and revise. That's good writing advice in general. Putting your ideas out there and then go back and pick things apart and so you could express this differently. I've used the same phrase three times in this paragraph and maybe it's time to change things up. Those are good general tips about varying your sentences and punctuation.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Questions

Audio: Let's pause for a 2nd, are there any questions that the group could benefit from?

Melissa: We haven't had to any questions come in but one thing I did get a few questions about was how does culture affect syntax, punctuation or other sentence rules? Are there any things that students should keep in mind?

Michael: Yes, yes, thank you Melissa. we were talking about this in our side chat a little bit, but culture is a really interesting idea. And yes, culture affects everything, right? Culture is something that we really can't escape in any facet of our lives including writing. So, to answer the question directly, culture does influence how syntax, punctuation really are employed. If you have ever read a French philosopher, you can really see this because they have a tendency to continue on expressing examples of an idea within a sentence making for a very, very long and complicated sentence. That is a convention of their academic world in that community. Here at Walden, I think it's important to remember that we are writing in the context of the US academic writing, academic writing within the United States.

We are using APA style. The style of the American psychological Association. These are really the context, the cultural context that you want to stay within. You're going to be expressing things as they are typically expressed in US academic writing. That would be how I would answer that question. Knowing the conventions of academic writing within the United States, knowing some of the conventions or the characteristics would be another way to say conventions of APA style and APA writing in general would be a good inroad for you to kind of make sure that your writing in the right culture or stepping into an academic community that all uses the same culture or is derived from the same culture. It's a complicated question and I could probably do a whole webinar about the influence of culture in expressing ideas to be sure. But the point that I'm trying to make here is that we want to stay within the culture and the context of US academic writing specifically US academic writing within the social sciences which is, wherein the preferred notation is American psychological Association.

Did that make sense, Melissa?

Melissa: Yes, that did, thank you so much for all of those tips and for that reminder. That is the only question that I have for you right now.

Michael: Okay great. So then, let's move on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Revision Tips for Engaging Your Reader

              Avoid

  • Vague wording
  • Wordiness and redundancy
  • Casual language

Use

  • Transitional words, phrases
  • Active voice
  • Vary sentence structures

Audio: Revising tips for engaging -- revision tips, excuse me for engaging your reader. Some avoids and do’s, some do’s and don’ts. First you want to avoid using vague wording. In academic writing you always want to be as specific as you can. Right? So, avoid instances where you're being vague. One that I often encounter when reviewing essays is the word, we. The word, we, should be avoided in academic writing, because who the heck is, we? Are you talking about me and you or are you talking about a group of people that you belong to?  Or are you talking, sometimes students will use, we, to refer to humans in general. That is vague and I want to know exactly who your meaning. Or who you are referring to.

Wordiness and redundancy, you don't need to repeat yourself. Oftentimes in writing assumptions aren't really your friend. But one assumption that you can make, is that the reader remembers what they just read. You don't need to be redundant and repeat yourself.

You want to avoid casual language. When I talk about things like writing style or voice or writing voice, I think students think that means throwing in a couple of phrases that I would say -- colloquialisms or other terms or phrases that I use in my conversational life. This is too casual for academic writing you want to maintain that professional tone and you also want to make sure that your writing in a way that people in other cultures can understand. If I say like using a term or phrase that might not have the same meaning in another culture, that might not even really have the same, it might not even be an expression. That will be confusing for someone who's trying to approach her writing. I mentioned in the US culture, the US culture in general but the US academic culture avoids casual language and terms and phrases and colloquialisms so staying in that realm is a thing you should do so avoiding casual language is also something you should also do.

Do use transitional words and phrases, transitions are awesome they show relationships between ideas. So, you should use them. They smooth out your writing and create what is referred to as a flow of ideas. You want to use active voice. We will talk a little bit more on a slide to come about what that looks like and what that it is. And you want to vary your sentence structure to make it more interesting and more engaging for the reader.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Avoid: Vague Wording

Unnecessary adverbs like very and really often give a sentence an informal, embellished tone, rather than presenting ideas as specifically and directly as possible.

Instead of this:

The teachers were very well informed.

The manager really understood his employees.

Use this:

The teachers were well informed, as illustrated by the lengthy discussion they had about English language learners.

The manager understood his employees in depth, valuing them as people as well as employees.

Audio: Avoid vague wording so we are going to break these apart. First, don't include unnecessary words, adverbs like, very, or really. These are kind of exaggerations that don't have a place within academic writing. It’s better to be direct. You want to avoid phrases like, excuse me adverbs like very, really because they give us sentence and informal, embellished tone rather than present an idea specifically and directly. Here's an example of what this could look like. The teachers were very well-informed. You're either well-informed or not well-informed. You're not very well-informed in general. You want to be direct and specific. This is something of an embellishment or an exaggeration. That should be avoided within academic writing. It then becomes something like this. The teachers were well-informed, as illustrate by the lengthy discussion they had about English language learners. So again, the word very there adds a kind of embellished tone that is not necessary within academic writing.

The manager really understood his employees. So again, you either understand someone or you don't. There isn't a great -- I super understand this person. Understanding is enough of a word understood is enough of a work to understand the idea there. You don't need the word really to embellish that. It's makes it more conversational. In the academic world things are either one way or the other and it's not very one way or lot another, if that makes sense.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Avoid: Wordiness

Redundancy refers to repeated information unnecessarily

              Instead of this:

As a counselor, it is important to have good listening skills for counseling patients, as good listening skills for counseling patients leads to better understanding of a patient, which, as a counselor, is the purpose of a counseling session.

Use this:

Good listening skills are important for counseling patients as they lead to better understanding of a patient, which is the purpose of a counseling session.

Audio: Redundancy, avoid repetition within your writing. Here's an example. Instead of -- as a counselor it's important to have good listening skills for counseling patients as good listening skills for counseling patients leads to better understanding of a patient which as a counselor is the purpose of a counseling session. That was even tough for me to get through as I'm reading it. You have this repetition, the phrase good listening skills for counseling patients gets repeated there and throws the reader off. You want to avoid repetition.

This could become something like this. Good listening skills are important for counseling patients as they lead to better understanding of a patient, which is the purpose of a counseling session. It's more direct and flows better and has more power and you're not repeating yourself.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Avoid: Casual Language

 Clichés and colloquialisms cannot be universally translated and might confuse some readers. Additionally, these are often not as clear and specific as they could be.

              Instead of this:

The doors were closed to advancement.

In light of recent research…

It was a slippery slope to failure.

The researchers were getting results.

My journey through the literature has lead to…

Use this:

There was not an option for advancement.

Based on recent research…

Failure occurred easily.

The researchers collected results.

Based on the articles I read…

The literature caused me to conclude…

Audio: Cliché’s and colloquialisms, I mentioned before are too informal for academic writing and to be avoided. Here are some examples. The doors were closed to advancement. This is a term or phrase that many of you may recognize and use all the time. But in academic writing this is ineffective because it's metaphorical, right? The closing of a door. You want to instead be direct. The word becomes this -- there was not an option for advancement. It's direct, it’s professional. It has a strong academic tone to it.

In light of recent research, again this is a turn of a phrase it’s a cliché. Based on recent research is stronger. It was a slippery slope to failure. The slippery slope metaphor. Lose it. Failure occurred easily is a stronger way to say that, a more academic, a more professional way to express that idea. The researchers were getting results. Could then become, the researchers collected results. My journey through the literature has led to -- your journey -- instead of journeying through the literature -- based on the articles I read; the literature causes me to conclude -- these are stronger more academic ways to express the same idea.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Avoid: Casual Language

When I got my students to think science was super cool, their test scores went through the roof!

The new CEO Susan Jones shed a lot of light on the topic.

Chat #4:

Choose one of these sentences and write a revision that removes the casual language:

Audio: Casual language. Let's go ahead and skip this chat, in the interest of time we are running out of time for the webinar so let's burn on through this one and go to the last chat instead we will do that one. Thank you, Melissa.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use: Transitional Phrases

Transitions guide the reader between ideas; from sentence to sentence; and between your voice and sources’ ideas.

              Type 1: Transitional Phrases

  • Time: then, next, after, while, since
  • Cause-effect: therefore, consequently, as a result
  • Addition: in addition, moreover, furthermore, similarly
  • Contrast: but, conversely, nevertheless, however

Type 2: Repeated Words

  • A key danger for patient health in hospitals are falls. Falls can result in more injuries that pose a threat to patient health.

Type 3: Punctuation

  • Learning style can affect how well a person understands information; it also affects how well a person retains that information.
  • There are many kinds of learning styles: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and so on.

Audio: Transitions. They are super important because they show relationships with ideas and smooth out your writing. This makes your writing more pleasing and more engaging to the reader. As this slide says, transitions guide the reader from ideas -- from sentence to sentence and between your voice and sources ideas. A couple of options here for transitions. One, transitions can show time like a chronology. This happened then this happened, next there was this and after that came this. Since then this is been the case. You can show chronology there. You can show cause and effect relationship by using phrase like therefore, consequently, as a result. You can show in addition to something like in addition, moreover, furthermore, similarly. Or you can show a contrast or disagreement -- but, conversely, nevertheless, however. Important to note here is that these words, these phrases have meanings. They have specific meaning they are highlighting a specific relationship. So be sure you're using the right one that shows the actual relationship that exists. Don't just grab a stock transitional phrase and plug it in because it might not be showing the relationship that’s actually there.

Repeated words can also be called a word link between sentences. In this case you repeat words to show a transition. A key danger for patient health in hospitals are falls. Falls can result in more injuries that pose to a threat to patient health. So, we see there how these words can link these two senses together. Thirdly punctuation can play a role here. Learning style can affect how well a person understands information semicolon, it also affects how well a person retains information. Here are a semicolon and juxtaposition also include a transition. Transition it, referring to the previous sentence. Or independent clause. There many kinds of learning styles. Auditory, visual, kinesthetic and so on. In this case the colon is signaling to the reader that what follows is a list of these specific styles of learning. In this way the colon functions as a transition.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use: Transitional Phrases

No Clear Transitions:

              There is a problem within public schools today regarding meeting No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. NCLB mandates that all children achieve benchmark levels for the subject areas of reading and mathematics. Standardized test scores typically do not reflect successful attainment. The cause is the traditional teaching practice toward a single approach to learning instead of the differentiated instruction practice of teaching toward a variety of modalities (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2). Traditional instruction has not worked for all students. The focus of this study is to explore how teachers can best make use of differentiated instruction to help children learn.

Audio: Here's an example paragraph that does not have transitions, that omits transitions. I will let you guys download and read this yourself in the interest of time but here's what the paragraph would look like if you included transitions.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use: Transitional Phrases

Added Transition Types: Transitional phrases, punctuation, repeated key words

Revised:

              Within public schools today there is a problem regarding meeting No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Traditionally, NCLB mandates that all students achieve benchmark levels for the subject areas of reading and mathematics; however, standardized test scores show that typically students do not achieve these benchmarks. The cause for this lack of achievement is the traditional teaching practice toward a single approach to student learning instead of the differentiated instruction practice of teaching toward a variety of modalities (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2). Thus far, traditional instruction has not worked for all students. Because of this lack of achievement, the focus of this study is to explore how teachers can best make use of differentiated instruction to help all students learn.

Audio: Traditionally so we have a traditional phrase there. However, the transition here it shows that there's going to be a contrast, there is going to be something of a disagreeing idea. Thus far, all students, you see there is a link there. Because of this lack of achievement is referring to the content in the previous sentences that’s a strong transition there. My point in discussing this, in bringing up transitions is that they lead the reader from one idea to the other. In the beginning of this presentation, I asked you to reflect on what was engaging to you and one thing I saw come up a few times was this logical progression of ideas. Transitions are really a strong tool that you can use to bring this logical progression of ideas to your writing. You're showing the reader how one idea is -- what the relationship idea is to another followed by another and it creates this line of thought that leads the reader through your argument in an effective and engaging way.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use: Active Voice

Active voice means the subject of the sentence performs the action that the verb expresses.

Passive voice puts the emphasis on the object, as the “doer” or actor of the sentence isn’t stated or clear.

              Instead of this:

The surgery was performed.

The children were assessed at the end of the school year.

Use this:

The cardiovascular doctor performed the surgery.

The board members assessed the students at the end of the school year.

Audio: Active and passive voice. I mentioned I was going to talk about this also. Active means that the subject of the sentence performs the action that the verb expresses. Passive voice puts the emphasis on the object or on the predicate of the sentence as the doer or actor of the sentence is not stated or clear. Here are some examples of what this could look like. The surgery was performed is an example of passive voice because the subject is not the doer of the action. This inactive voice is expressed this way -- the cardiovascular doctor performed the surgery. The doctor performed. Here we have the subject the doctor and what are they doing? Receiving the action, performing the surgery. That's an active way to say that.

The children were assessed at the end of the school year. Instead, the board members assessed the students at the end of the school year. In this case you can see that the children are not assessing, they're not the ones performing the action. They are the object of the sentence, what is being assessed. So, the active example adds a subject and has that subject actual performing the action of the sentence.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Avoid: Casual Language

The literature was analyzed.

A location for the company’s headquarters was acquired by the management team.

Chat #5:

Choose one of these sentences and write a revision to incorporate active voice:

Audio: Let's do this chat and take 2 or 3 minutes to do this chat because this has to do with casual language. Here we have some sentences that are in passive voice and I would like you to revise these and make these active. The literature was analyzed is one sentence. A location for the company's headquarters was acquired by the management team, is another sentence. Take a couple minutes and give it a try and turn these into active constructions instead of more casual passive constructions.

[silence as participants respond]

I'm seeing some great examples come in here and the teacher analyze the literature. The researcher analyzed the literature. You're adding a subject there, you’re saying who was actually doing the analysis.

[silence as participants respond]

I’ll give you guys another minute to drop your answer in. The second sentence, the management team acquired the location for the company's headquarters. Exactly you are doing a great job here. The thing to remember is that the subject of the sentence should be performing the action. Why we use active voice rather than passive voice is it's more direct. You're being more straightforward in saying this thing is doing this thing. Instead of going around about way and giving the object of the sentence the action. Good job there. Let’s move on then.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use: Vary Sentence Structure

Use a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences

Vary the kind and order of phrases and clauses

              Instead of this:

  • The nurses attended the training. The nurses received credit for attending the training.
  • According to Jones (2016), users are increasingly accessing websites via smartphones. According to Smith (2016), most websites are not optimized for mobile use.

Use this:

  1. The nurses attended the training, for which they received credit.
  2. The nurses attended the training. After they completed this training, they received credit.
  • According to Jones (2016), users are increasingly accessing websites via smartphones. Most websites are not optimized for mobile use (Smith, 2016).  

Audio: Thank you Melissa. So, do use varied sentence structure. Use a mix of simple, compound and complex sentences. As I mentioned earlier, using compound and complex sentences, it's a great idea and adds variety and makes your writing more interesting. A simple sentence is also part of this equation. You don't want every sentence to be a compound sentence. You don't want every sentence to be a complex sentence. The key here is to use all three. And to work, to vary your sentence structure is the slide says. Vary the kind and order phrases and clauses. Try a different sentence construction to make your writing more interesting.

Instead of, the nurses attend the training, the nurses received credit for attending the training. It can be changed in a number of ways, here are two of them. The nurses attending the training for which they received credit, we have a complex sentence there. The nurses attended the training, after they completed this training, they received credit. The point that I'm trying to drive home is that you need to vary the sentence structure that you use to make your writing more interesting and more engaging.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Collection of Our Resources:

Audio: Here are some resources that we offer through the writing center that can help you do this. Catering to the short answer span in syntax, it’s a blog post. Using verbs carefully, another blog post. Steer your reader right with effective transitions, another blog post there. The 3rd from the bottom we have a link to our transitions page that can be really helpful. If you're working to bring transitions into your writing. We also have a link to our active and passive voice page which elaborates on the ideas of active and passive voice that I brought up here today. Another webinar that might be interesting or useful to you is cohesion and flow. Bringing your paper together. Using transitions, using these transitional phrases and these idea links to get this flow of information or cohesive line of thought into your writing. That's what the webinar really focuses on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later

writingsupport@waldenu.edu •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Check out the recorded webinars Cohesion and Flow: Bringing Your Paper Together” and Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs"

Audio: So, with that I’ll ask you Melissa, are there any other questions you want me to talk through?

Melissa: We didn't have any other questions come through. That I think had any themes worth continuing to reflect on. And all those links you shared are definitely helpful in answering students’ questions about things like transitions and punctuation and flow so we are all set.

Michael: Okay cool. I mentioned some stuff here we had an opportunity to ask some questions. If you have questions, beyond this webinar, here's the email address that we in the writing center monitor daily. Writingsupport@waldenu.edu. So, go ahead and shoot your request there and you’ll get a response within 24 hours. The writing center offers all live chat certain hours of the day and you can find the chats schedule on the homepage. If you want a quick confirmation or have a quick dialogue with the writing instructor like myself or Melissa about some idea and you want that response in real time, you can -- you're welcome to engage in our chat service. Couple more webinars that I mentioned, the cohesion and flow which I already brought up in this presentation and that something if it interests you, I encourage you to take a look. Also Writing effective academic paragraphs is another webinar for crafting an academic paragraph. So with that, keeping in mind to vary your sentence structure I think you’ll have a pretty good start at working in crafting an engaging piece. With that then I’m going to bid you guys farewell, have a great day. Thanks for being a participatory group. Have a good day.