The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing

By Michael Harvey | Go to book overview

3 Flow

AN ESSAY is made of passages, and a passage, as its name implies, involves motion—movement from point A to point B. A reader is thus a kind of traveler. If the writer has done his job, the travel will prove worthwhile and maybe even entertaining. On rare occasions the traveler may even feel magically transported by the grace of what she's reading. This feeling comes from hard work on the writer's part, yet there are tricks for getting a reader from A to B (or Z for that matter), for achieving writing that seems to flow. Consider the following:

OriginalRevision
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are among the five stages of the process of grief, said a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. Many people were influenced by the book, which was published in 1969 and was a bestseller. A refusal to accept the outcome commences the process.…In On Death and Dying (1969), the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross popularized the notion of grief as a process. According to Kübler-Ross there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the first stage, denial.…

The original's ungainly first sentence lists terms before offering any explanation or background. Among implies a partial list, and the reader may skip back and count the terms (we want the reader moving forward, not backward). Instead of building a bridge from the list to the last sentence by repeating the terms denial and stage, the original passage uses different words; its refusal to accept in place of denial is a distracting echo of a different term. The original's second sentence, on the book's influence, takes up too much space and diverts attention from the paragraph's main function, introducing Kubler-Ross' ideas.

The revision divides the long first sentence in two, shaping the flow of information and allowing a pause after introductory material. Its sentences end emphatically. The revision distills the original second sentence into one word, popularized. Its third sentence builds links by

-22-

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The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1: Concision 1
  • 2: Clarity 10
  • 3: Flow 22
  • 4: Punctuation 34
  • 5: Gracefulness 46
  • 6: Using Sources 56
  • 7: Paragraphs 69
  • 8: Beginnings and Endings 78
  • Appendix - Document and Citation Formats 86
  • Works Cited 103
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