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October 21, 2006

EL236 Ask Tog (and get your own style)

It's so funny when writers try to emulate other, more experienced, self-styled writers like the report writer did in the Ask Tog response we read.

Had this student ever read a real usability report--like, one that went to a company and not the articles like Tog writes titled "10 Reasons Why the Apple Dock Sucks!"? Just wondering. This Tog gentleman obviously has a developed style in his highly informational genres, which is an accomplishment. Trying to emulate that is like sitting down one day and deciding I'd like to write just like John Grisham or Edgar Allan Poe: it's just not going to happen.

Developing your own style, while it's difficult and might test your will to grow as a writer, will go farther in the long run since you won't be another [fill in the blank], but your own writer. If I want to see how an academic article is written, I find some articles on the topic I'm interested in writing about and see what kind of style, voice, format, and citation they use. What this guy needs is an internship, stat. Real-life experience is nothing but the best teacher when it comes to writing.

It was pleasant to read Dr. Jerz's response, though. Since the back-and-forth between the student and Tog seemed to be an argument of "I'm right because I'm me" and "I'm right because I'm me," his response cut to the quick of the whole problem:

If I may, I’d like to amplify the advice you give in “How to Deliver a Report...” When I review student work, I try to praise the *writer* and find fault only with the *text*.

Now that was easy, wasn't it?

Sure, giving specifics about what went wrong and where is great--but Tog almost did to the student what he was suggesting for the student not to do. It seemed less like attack mode than I'm assuming) the student's report was, but giving guidelines (which Tog did do at certain points) is more effective than point-by-point refutation of a solitary document. Tearing the one report apart might show the writer how to fix this report, but what about the next one? Will he have any meat left from Tog's reply? It's that "give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime" kind of thing... Who says teaching isn't important?

Posted by KarissaKilgore at October 21, 2006 11:08 PM


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