Tag Archives: Writing

Imagining a dialog may improve writing skills

29 Mar

There is a line of evidence suggesting that visualizing a task improves subsequent performance. Now a paper published in Psychological Science suggests that imaging a dialog improves writing. Here is the abstract:

Young adults received information regarding the platforms of two candidates for mayor of a troubled city. Half constructed a dialogue between advocates of the candidates, and the other half wrote an essay evaluating the candidates’ merits. Both groups then wrote a script for a TV spot favoring their preferred candidate. Results supported our hypothesis that the dialogic task would lead to deeper, more comprehensive processing of the two positions, and hence a richer representation of them. The TV scripts of the dialogue group included more references to city problems, candidates’ proposed actions, and links between them, as well as more criticisms of proposed actions and integrative judgments extending across multiple problems or proposed actions. Assessment of levels of epistemological understanding administered to the two groups after the writing tasks revealed that the dialogic group exhibited a lesser frequency of the absolutist position that knowledge consists of facts knowable with certainty. The potential of imagined interaction as a substitute for actual social exchange is considered.

While I am intrigued, I do have some skepticism about the “epistemological understanding” outcome measure. This approach is based upon a Kuhnian model of science, an approach that is largely rejected by philosophers and historians of science.

“That”

18 Jun

One piece of advice I have received about writing is to try to eliminate the word “that.”

Looking at my manuscript I find I use the word “that” a lot and I struggle to remove it. Grammar Girl writes:

 “When you’re deciding whether to keep or omit your that, you need to consider how your sentence flows. Many times, it’s just a matter of personal preference. Some people think adding that improves the flow of the sentence and makes it easier for the reader to understand. Others believe they should delete every seemingly unnecessary that because they want to maintain an economy of words”

This seems like good advice but I struggle to implement it. Here is a sentence from my manuscript with and without a “that.”

a. However, it is likely you have a perfectly good memory that you could learn to use much more efficiently.

b. However, it is likely you have a perfectly good memory you could learn to use much more efficiently.

In this case the that seems necessary to me. On the other hand

a. It is likely that every reader has encountered someone suffering from clinical memory loss.

b. It is likely every reader has encountered someone suffering from clinical memory loss.

Here the that does feel superfluous.

I am curious to know what my readers think. Which versions of the sentences would you choose and why? Please let me know.

 

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