Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication

By Christopher Turk; John Kirkman | Go to book overview

3

Starting to write: a practical approach

The next task the writer faces is turning this preparatory work into an actual document. You are not alone if you tend to delay your start on writing. The vast majority of writers find getting the words flowing difficult; it may comfort you to know that we found it difficult to get started on this book about writing. The solution to the problem of procrastination is not to worry about your hesitation. Hesitation is normal and nearly universal.

Writers create the problem themselves by facing the task in the wrong way. They sit down, take out a sheet of clean, white paper, and only then do they start to think. Their position reminds us of a man who has been left to make his own supper for the first time. He first of all gets out a clean plate, and puts it on the table in front of him; then he sits and stares at it, and wonders why the meal does not suddenly appear by inspiration. Such behaviour is absurd, of course, but it approximates very closely to the behaviour of the writer, panicking over an empty sheet of paper. The paper is like a plate, merely a receptacle for what has been carefully prepared before. Writing is a process of dishing up information. It is the last thing you do, and in itself is perhaps one of the easiest of the tasks.

Because the writer's problem in getting started is a psychological one, we suggest psychological solutions. We have a 'seven-point' plan. We have already taken you through the first two stages of this plan. First, analyse your aim; preferably write it down. Already the act of formulating words has started the flow of language. Already you have some phrases which can be worked into the final text. Second, consider your audience. Thinking about their needs will help you to orientate your information in a way which is reassuringly planned and decisive.

-36-

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Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • From the Reviews of the First Edition vi
  • Preface vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • 1 - Writing is Communicating: Revising Basic Assumptions 1
  • References 20
  • 2 - Thinking About Aim and Audience 21
  • 3 - Starting to Write: a Practical Approach 36
  • 4 - Organization and Layout of Information 44
  • References 76
  • 5 - The Use of Headings and Numbering 77
  • 6 - Algorithms for Complex Possibilities and Procedures 82
  • 7 - Style for Readability 90
  • References 117
  • 8 - Writing with a Computer 119
  • 9 - Informative Summaries 127
  • 10 - Choosing and Using Tables, Illustrations and Graphic Presentation Techniques 148
  • 11 - Writing Instructions 195
  • 12 - Writing Descriptions and Explanations 216
  • 13 - Writing Letters and Memoranda 225
  • 14 - Writing Minutes and Reports of Proceedings 240
  • 15 - Writing in Examinations 251
  • Appendix A 267
  • Appendix B 269
  • Index 273
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