Tag Archives: Writer

Writing Styles and Ethics

Consider this, you are tasked with the responsibility of writing a piece on what the people around you are doing. Sounds easy right? Sally eats a sandwich, and Bob reads a newspaper, done. But wait, the piece that you are writing needs to be in the form of a scientific report. Well, this little detail changes everything.

This semester I wrote a workplace analysis ethnography for my capstone course and it was probably the most frustrating experience that I have ever had writing anything. I am used to adapting my writing to fit the style that the paper has been assigned (MLA, APA, etc.). Typically if I am using MLA I write in a more personal and humanistic way, I use personal pronouns, and I use pathos to persuade my audience. On the other side of that, when I use APA I am usually writing a paper that includes research so I talk less about the personal characteristics of the people involved and more about whatever research was done on them.

The ethnography report that I wrote felt like an entirely different animal. As I wrote the paper I found myself painfully aware of the coldness of it. Scientific writing most often uses APA style but there is, I have found a big difference in a typical research centered article and a scientific article. I tried to structure my paper to resemble that of a science article, cold, clinical, void of any emotion and in doing so found myself questioning the ethics of the way that scientists construct present their arguments.

Let us not forget that the articles, and reports that we take as “fact” are indeed arguments, even the reasoning behind the style of scientific writing is an argument. Language and writing are ever-evolving. Charles Bazerman says in his essay “Codifying the Social Scientific Style,” from The Rhetoric of Human Sciences  language is “a human accomplishment,” which “must be constantly reevaluated and remade as the human world changes” (125). Science hasn’t always been as detached as it is today, it has changed and I’m sure scientists would like to think that it has evolved. Audubon for example was a scientist who recorded his findings on birds and plants in essays that he sometimes wrote in the forms of letters. This old style of scientific writing was accessible; one reading it could see the argument being made and then decide whether or not to accept it.

Today scientists construct reports that are unintelligible to most people. Why? Because scientists have an agreed understanding that the best way to communicate their findings is to remove any trace of pathos or humanizing qualities. If people don’t understand what they are reading they won’t question it right? But there is an ethical problem with this writing style. When information is presented in a way that the audience cannot understand they are cheated of the ability to make their own decisions about the information they are receiving. Scientific writing often assumes that the audience either knows nothing about the subject or knows quite a bit. Where does that leave us, your everyday people?

I cannot say that I agree with the style of scientific writing, or that I particularly enjoyed writing in the style, as I wrote I was faced with the overwhelming urge to change the style to something more reasonable. I understand the motive behind the control technique, but as a writer and a technical communicator, I say there has got to be a better way to communicate scientific information. Luckily, as Bazerman noted, language grows and changes as people grow and change. Maybe one day writers and scientists can find a middle ground between the old style and what is used today.

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Stop! Write a minute.

Boardwalk

With graduation looming closer and closer everyday, this week I have made it my mission to reach out to people who hold job positions that I would like to one day have the privilege of holding myself. This afternoon, as I wrote letters and questions to ask these people I found myself becoming sidetracked. I have to admit, I did find myself veering off to Facebook once or twice but what really stole my attention were the multiple opportunities that I found to complete Artist residencies. Artist you ask, like drawing? I draw, not well enough to make a living off of, but the opportunities weren’t just for that sort of artist. There are organizations that provide days and weeks of training to people looking to better perfect their craft. Artsmith for example offers an up to four week residency where artists can write, paint, and sketch their hearts out on Washington State’s San Juan Island. Yes I did just imply that a writer is an artist, because we are! This lavish residency might sound more like a retreat or vacation but the truth is I think it is, the best vacation ever! Think about it, doing what you love and at the same time getting things accomplished, in a beautiful and relaxing setting. Sounds amazing right?

Like most of my fellow senior students, I have been stressing over finding a job, and making connections in preparation for graduation. I have been emailing editors, researching publishing companies, and in doing so have neglected to do the one thing that well makes me, me. Going through Brevity and Rock & Sling reading all of the amazing works reminded me that the one big success that I hope to one day achieve is to write something worthy of publication. I don’t really have the luxury of being able to attend such a retreat as the one offered by Artsmith, so as hinted at by the very cheesy title of this post, I have resolved to take out a minute of every day to write something for me. Of course a novel can’t be written in a single  minute but dedicating myself to at least a minute of personal writing everyday will form a habit that I hope to carry with me long after I graduate and get a job, and that is to never stop working towards achieving my dreams in writing.

Getting it out

Alder Favorit Typewriter

I am in a Non-fiction class this semester and the only assignment that exists for this class is to write a thirty page portfolio. That’s it, any type of non-fiction, any subject. I chose to write about the death of my mother when I was nine years old and my attempts to save her, and at the risk of sounding like a cliche, I must say that maybe it chose me. Writing this portfolio has been crippling , nearly impossible and all over enlightening. I have written about a subject that I cannot verbally talk about. My professor, who has more confidence in my writing than I do, has led a couple of conferences with me, each of them more difficult than the last. Today was exceptionally hard. I found myself in a bad mood later that I cannot explain. Part of me regrets writing the pieces in the first place and the other part of me is just happy to have it out there. In the end I’m just so grateful for the power of words. I am able to write what I can’t say.

Gallery

You Suck!

Dear fellow bloggers,     Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the “you sucks” supposed to start after you graduate? I am in an Environment and Literature Course this semester and for those of you who think “Oh that … Continue reading