User:Randyfisher/Learner Study Guide

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Initiated by --Randy Fisher 18:36, 3 November 2007 (CET)

Writing Course Tips

* Please see the full Assignment Checklist.

Module 1 Tips

Be Reflective in Your Thinking & Writing

What I’d like to ask you to do in this course, is ALSO be reflective in what you are writing about – think about the “why” of your readers, and what they may know or don’t know…

Keep Your Reader in Mind

A key learning tip, in this early part of the course, is to understand where the Reader is coming from. If you know what the Reader wants to know in general and in particular, then you can write up documents that clearly reflect your understanding of the Reader's needs. In fact, you could even put together a draft or Outline (see Below) - and show it to the Reader, and ask him / her for Initial Feedback - and then write the document, with the benefit of insight from the Reader... It's a very cool way to write a document, and one that almost guarantees that you'll have a higher level of acceptance of your writing!

It's VERY important to focus on THE READER - what s/he wants will guide you in preparing your documentation. Also, make sure you understand the history of the communication, and the Reader's level of comfort and expertise with complexity of general though, if you can write simply and clearly, you can reach any audience, regardless of their level...which is why I believe so strongly in short sentences - almost one idea per sentence.

Use Short Sentences in Dealing with Long Paragraphs

Use short sentences to improve Your Clarity, and the Readers' accessibility to your material. You’re more likely to improve if you use short sentences, with one subject per sentence. When you see a long and wordy sentence - or you are having trouble putting down your thoughts.....try to separate the information into 2 or 3 sentences.

I also recommend that you break a long paragraph into smaller paragraphs. It will help you to have one thought per sentence, and it’s easier on the eyes too. Then, after you have done all of your edits, you can recombine the sentences into a larger paragraph.

Use Periods to End Your Sentences Please

Please remember to put periods at the end of your sentences.

It's the crowning glory on all of your great work.

You don't want your great work to be discounted just because you forgot to put in a period! You will find in life and work, that people take this type of punctuation very seriously!

Learning Tips for Success

find someone internal to the organization, who has a senior mastery of the English language – ask them periodically to review your correspondence and give you some feedback. Try to put some dates on your plan ~ it will help you measure your progress To be a good writer, requires just that – writing! Writing is a craft – the more you do it, the better you will become – remember the Song of the Sentence…and remember to get feedback from others, as they look at your writing…Develop a friendly relationship with your own writing, as you strive to make it better…Please be gentle with yourself….ALL writing is a work in progress ~ mine too!

Applicability of Writing Principles

I just wanted to mention, that what you are learning in this course, APPLIES to other forms of writing - beyond memos and letters and briefs. Try to remember this!

Reduce Your Stress - Use The Outline Method

Stress means different things to different people. It might be that:

  • Lack of confidence in a certain subject area
  • Lack of English proficiency
  • Lack of resources, equipment
  • Lack of time

If you plan ahead and prepare, and use The Outline Method, then you will find that you have less stress to deal with.

Write an outline – of a sentence or two, or a thought or two. Then arrange them into a logical sequence, keeping in mind the reader. Once you have this logical sequence, then you can add evidence to support each point, and also keep in mind the overall length of the document you have to create – this way, you can save a lot of time, by only adding the words you need to add, instead of trying to cut them later on. The “Word Count” feature in MS Word, or any software program is very useful – use it often, to check your progress and word count!

Clarifying the Word "Environment"

First, let me say that I think this term's definition is not that clear and I have had students struggle with it. I think that is because the correct response contains a mixture of ideas. The definition for environment is the setting in which the communication took place. We know "setting" to mean "location", but, I think it also can include "potential obstacles".

For our purposes, the "environment" --- includes the channel and more obvious noise. In this case, it would be e-mail and the many e-mail messages. It would not be the locations that from which the email might be sent.

Here is another example:

Suppose an officer at headquarters receives a call from someone about how to get to headquarters. Both the officer and the caller do not speak English as a first language, yet this is the only common language in which the officer can give the directions. The environment would be telephone communication in a second language for both participants.

Other Important Notes

The Song of the Sentence

I remember from when I went to Journalism School, they had us write our sentences and paragraphs, and then read them out loud to ourselves ~ to get a sense of the song within (i.e., how the sentence 'sounds' to the ear and to the heart; so that it has an internal cadence, or rhythm, and it's pleasant, comfortable....just like a song....

I encourage you to do the same - if the sentence song doesn't sound right, then go back in and tighten up the sentence; add an article or two (that you may have omitted .. i.e., "a", or "the")...

Don't Assume that if You do One Thing, Readers will do Another!

In your writing, please do NOT assume the following:

  • If I change XXXX, then readers will change their behaviour.

Actually, the way it works in the world - and I'm sure everyone has stories about this .... If you change your language / communications, then it is likely that this will improve reader accessibility. However, given the fickle nature of readers, you cannot say - especially in your writing - that if you do one thing, the reader will do the right thing (i.e., what you want him or her to do!).

POOR EXAMPLE - This is an Example which does NOT work:

I want to improve the logical flow of my documents so that more readers will read it more - YOU cannot say this, because it's NOT TRUE - just because you change a document, or anything, doesn't mean that people will do anything...

GOOD EXAMPLE - This is an Example which DOES work:

    2. I want to improve the logical flow of my documents. When I do this, readers will find that this makes sense, and find the overall presentation more attractive. This may invite more readers to read my documents.

(In this example, the writer is taking responsibility for his/her work, and the reader may or may not do something. The writing certainly does make it more accessible to the reader, but it is still up to the READER to decide what and how s/he wants to do with it!)

Creating White Space: Readers Like Good Presentation Too

It’s important to think of the reader in terms of content AND presentation. This brings us to the subject of “white space”. It’s something I learned from my days at journalism school.

If possible, you want to avoid blocks and blocks of text. It’s very hard for the reader. Instead, you want to look at ways of “punctuating” the text OR breaking up the “white space”.

You can do this by any / all of the following:

  • use of headers and subheaders
  • breaking up paragraphs into shorter sentences
  • using bulleted or numbered lists – instead of having all of the text on one line.

Another quick and easy tip from the journalism world: Take a typical bank note or dollar bill --- spread it across a page of text….if there is text underneath the bill, and all the way around, then you probably need to break up the paragraph somehow, and create “white space”.

Using the Colon(:) to Separate Lists of Items

When there’s a list after a colon, use a semi-colon to separate items. For example: item1; item 2; and item 3. Got it?

Practice the Bonsai Way ~ Practice Makes for More Perfect!

It's a good discipline to get into - review the paragraph, and then let it sit for a while....then, go back and refine it, and make it tighter, and tighter...It's an art really, and a you hone your writing craft...When you write, practice really does make MORE perfect!

I tend to look at writing as what one would do when tending a garden, or even pruning a bonsai tree....With patience, care and dedicated pruning and trimming, slowly but surely a true form and shape emerges, and it becomes more beautiful day after day.

It's about Culture too!

Different words have different meanings and interpretations depending on a person's history, experience, perspective AND culture! Remember, “culture” is very important in defining exactly what something means, as one word might have multiple meanings in multiple cultures.

Find an English-Speaking Mentor

Another way to develop your proficiency in this, is to see if you can find an English-speaking colleague at work, who will devote 20-30 minutes to help you understand the ‘meaning’ and ‘interpretation’ of words from his/her perspective. Remember, “culture” is very important in defining exactly what something means, as one word might have multiple meanings in multiple cultures.


Assignment PREP 1 - Getting Started: Course Goals (preliminary) & Your Plan to Achieve Them

  • IMPORTANT NOTE 2 - This PREP 1 Assignment will identify your preliminary course goals. You will REFER BACK to this PREP 1 ASSIGNMENT when you do Assignment 1C - where you will revise your course goals - based on your learning, experience and achievements.
1. Your Goals 2. Importance of Your Goals 3. Plan to achieve Your Goals
Three (3) goals should be identified. These can be related to process or content. Specifically, state why these are important to you. Be thoughtful in your answer please. Write approximately one (1) paragraph outlining your plan for achieving your goals.
Your answer please... Your answer please... Your answer please...

Assignment 1A. Analysis of a Writing Sample

  • Please identify the Title of Your Writing Sample / Documentin your response.
1. Communication Objective 2. Ways in which the document can be improved 3. Reader Analysis form
Identify your communication objective: what you want to happen as a result of writing the document. Identify at least one or two ways in which the document could be improved (Please pay particular attention to the editing section in Module 1). Answer the questions in a substantive way - please think more deeply about the reader, or what you could have done to find out more about your reader(s).
Your answer please... Your answer please... Your answer please...

Assignment 1B; use more than one sentence

I've been noticing some patterns, and I wanted to pass along a tip to doing Assignment B ~ whether it's your first time around, or your resubmitting answers.

  • Learners are having some difficulty with wordy sentences.
  • Make your lives simple: break up wordy, long-winded sentences into 2 or 3 sentences.
  • Make sure that you keep the right tenses too ~ active.
  • Make sure to reflect what is being said in the sentence - when you rewrite / improve them, make sure you keep the original meaning!

Assignment 1C: Plan to Submit Your Achieved or Revised Goals (Bullet Points ARE Acceptable)

This Assignment is a revision of the Preliminary goals that you identified in the earlier "Getting Started" activity at the beginning of the course.

Original goals - for some of you, you will be doing this assignment on your original goals provided to be at the beginning of the course.

Revised goals - I do understand that your goals may have changes ~ while taking this course and reflecting....this does happen frequently by the way. In this case, please provide me with your Revised Goals - and do Assignment 1c on your revised goals. (You will not be penalized for this ~ it is all part of the learning process.)

Develop a plan - you can do this in list form. Use the SMART goals formula:

 * S - make your goals specific 
 * M - make your goals measurable 
 * A - make your goals achievable 
 * R - make your goals realistic 
 * T - identify a time frame

Integration / Application: - also known as "Marking Scheme" - when I mark your assignments, I am looking for confirmation that the student (i.e., you!) have related your goals, and how to achieve them to the Module principles. Go into some detail, and make this part of your plan and smart goals please.

Note / Feedback: As I review your assignments, I may pose questions about certain points that I feel may need more work, and how you might incorporate other principles, or expand on your existing commentary.

Assignment 2

  • Be sure to make effective use of outlines – one of the techniques I use, to make my life easier (especially when I have trouble coming up with the perfect wording, is to:
    • make an outline
    • then use bullet points to cover each point
    • then, create a paragraph to tie all of the points together…

Assignment 2a

One of my learners brought up the following situation:

Question: (regarding submitting an email as part of the assignment: Since I have chosen to analyze and rewrite an email I have received from someone else, do I have to I have to submit the Reader Analysis?

Answer: Yes. My advice is: Try to complete the Reader Analysis to the best of your ability - in a way, this is a situation where you will be trying to estimate what the reader thinks - and will likely want to be a bit conservative in your responses, just to be on the safe side. It's good practice - you cannot fail - it's really a basis for learning more and getting better at this!

Assignment 2C - Revised Instructions

I've had a chance to look at the instructions for Assignment 2, and they're somewhat here are some suggestions....

Pease look at the Introduction for Module 2b: file:///d:/Module_2b/002_introduction.htm

1. To get started, please send me the following: the working title of your report the nature of the report: is it a current work requirement with a deadline? is it a revision of a report that you have already written? anticipated length your intentions about its scope (i.e. how much it will cover). 2. Your Assignment is as follows:

  • Write and complete a short report
There is no set prescribed length or number of words. However, if you anticipate that your report will lie outside the range of 4-10 pages, then you should contact your tutor to ensure the scope is appropriate.

Please note that the kinds of summary reporting tasks that involve filling in templates with bullet points only are not suitable for this assignment task. If you have any questions, please contact your tutor to discuss the nature of the report you would like to write.

You should submit the following:

  • a statement of purpose;
  • a completed reader analysis form;
  • either a detailed outline or a first draft;

a final draft;

  • a short reflection on the report writing process undertaken and insights for future report writing. (A preformatted Word file, Reflections, has been provided for this task.)

Assignment Checklist