PWP121 – WEEK ONE… a little nervousness…

I am now studying PWP121, which is a unit titled ‘Writing, Rhetoric and Persuasion’. I am feeling a little out of my comfort zone, as, while I’m mostly comfortable writing, I now feel that I am going to be assessed on my writing, which hasn’t really occurred since high school. I didn’t take criticism well back then… but, I’m sure I’ll be able to take it now. I really want to succeed with this unit! So, the first topic is ‘Professional Writers and Their Trade’, and here is what is being asked of me…

TUTOR:
The writing task involves making notes on the lecture (by Liz Byrski) and the reading (by Judith Dwyer) about the following:

  • Do you agree with their ideas about Professional Writing?
  • Can you think of other areas that could be called professional writing that are not covered in this material?
  • Have you been employed in positions that require you to undertake professional writing tasks?

After you have completed these tasks, I invite you to contribute your writing task, or a part of it which you choose yourself, to this thread to share with the other students. From this sharing I hope you will then post short comments on the work of others, such as regarding its content, the ideas it gives you and/or stylistic aspects.

We will each week ask you to complete a particular writing exercise and contribute it to the discussion board (I will open a thread for it each time). In addition, you need to keep a copy of all your weekly writing activities in a personal written or electronic journal, as you will use them again for assessment 4.

Looking forward to working with you all this study period.

MY RESPONSE:

Do you agree with their ideas about Professional Writing?

I agree with ideas Dwyer conveyed about professional writing. Initially, I thought her comments about democracy and citizen rights, while true, were a little sugar-coated. I guess I’m a cynic too – even though we aspire to these levels in our writing, it is not always attainable. This is particularly true in the areas of business and financial contracts.

Another point that crossed my mind… if language was as plain as Dwyer prescribes in all cases, would there be such a strong need for lawyers?

However, I was in complete agreement with her statement about “writers who put themselves in the place of the receiver” – I have found this to produce effective results, especially when trying to write an exercise for students, or when trying to pass on knowledge or skills of some kind.

Can you think of other areas that could be called professional writing that are not covered in this material?

As mentioned above, I first thought of educational contexts. An academic or teacher can write professionally for the development of their work, or to educate another about any given subject area. But, professional writing can be used in many other areas, as Liz Byrski mentioned in the lecture. Fiction, non-fiction, for journalistic purposes, procedures manuals, business reports, email, conference papers, academic journals, promotional materials… the list goes on. Actually, any outlet that requires some form of professional communication.

Have you been employed in positions that require you to undertake professional writing tasks?

As I have mentioned in my introduction post, I previously worked as a librarian, so was responsible for writing procedures manuals, emails, conference papers, promotional brochures, subject guides, class handouts, etc. However, in my current position, I am working in the area of eLearning, so I’m writing more directly for learning modules and discussion posts on Blackboard for students in MOOCs as well as postgraduate studies. Other than that, essay writing for my studies with Curtin!

REFERENCE:

Dwyer, Judith. “Business writing style: Plain English.” In Communication in Business. Sydney: Prentice Hall, 2002. Chapter 9. pp. 184-205.

======================

AN UPDATE (June 21st, 2014)

Based on the reading above, one of the things that Dwyer asks writers to avoid are the use of clichés. Naturally, the cheeky side of me couldn’t resist posting the following to the discussion forum for my fellow students:

The objective of this exercise was to find viable alternatives to the overuse of clichés in my writing.I powered full steam ahead and firing on all cylinders, I bit the bullet and discovered that, at this point in time, I am riddled with clichés. That’s the bottom line. So, I guess it’s back to the drawing board for the likes of me. At the end of the day, I need to recognise the writing on the wall and raise the ante. I give myself a conservative estimate… and pray that I will be able to desist from using all these clichés by the end of these thirteen weeks. Otherwise, you’re all in for a tedious time ahead!

I received a few responses, but one in particular caught my attention:

“… I feel in some cases Clichés are simple plain english understood by every reader unless of course they are a person to whom Enlish is a 2nd Language … How many times do we hear in speeches by politicians that say …The Buck Stops With Me …”
(Thanks to Nellie)

I thought that Nellie made an excellent point. I wrote her the following reply, as she made me think a little more deeply about my own use of clichés:

Hi Nellie,

An interesting point you make about clichés. If the person is a native speaker, they can work to simplify the language, as Dwyer recommends. Likewise, they aren’t the best tactic when trying to communicate with people who have English as a 2nd or 3rd language.

Alas, I have been known to use them and I try to excuse them by forewarning the person I am speaking to by saying something like “pardon the cliché, but…”

I think that when speaking and trying to do so at an even pace, sometimes a cliché is necessary in order to retain someone’s interest. Stammering and using fillers like “um” and “ah” is the worse option in this instance. I’d rather hear a cliché, if this is the case.

But, I do agree with Dwyer that, in writing, it’s not the best course of action. I try to avoid using them in writing, but they do creep in on occasion… especially when I’m taking an informal tone and writing a quick email to a friend or sending a text message on my mobile.

Thanks for your comments, Nellie. Good food for thought.

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About Maha @ Uni

Studying online, and want to keep a record of my progress and experiences...
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