Thursday, March 14, 2013

Getting Write to the Point

I lament the days of creative intros. The love that resides inside of me for a good analogy or an interesting personal narrative experience in an introduction is immense.

It seems that introductions such as these have gone by the wayside.

When I sit down to write a paper, I now get right to the point all the while sitting there thinking, "Shoot. I've sold my soul. This is boring." I used to be all about those fun and flowery introductions.

For a long time, I thought that the difference between story-like introductions and scholarly "get right to it" introductions was simply writing experience. There is some truth in that because much of my early writing generally started with either an analogy or humorous bit to grab my reader's attention. I honestly did not know how to start a piece of writing any other way.

But after two years of  Graduate school, I reckon I've changed. 

My writing now gets right to the point even though I tried to meander a bit in the opening of this post.
This tendency has caused me to wonder if this is a sign of writing experience or perhaps a sign of the times.

Yes, people do seek to be entertained (almost all of the time) as if we are terribly afraid of being bored. Yet, when it comes to reading audiences want to get to the important information first. Perhaps people want to form an opinion as quickly as possible or to simply get that need-to-know information. I'm not sure.

Could it be that the most important information is what entertains us the most?

I figure that we as people have forgotten how to wait and also how to converse (in writing and speech).

We have gotten used to the 24/7 hustle and bustle. We want what we want when we want it.
We argue that we don't have time for many things and so lengthy conversations have started to disappear, replaced by character limited tweets and status updates.

In her article "The Flight From Conversation" Sherry Turkle writes, "We are tempted to think that our little 'sips' of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation. Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, 'I am thinking about you.' Or even for saying, 'I love you.' But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view" (Sherry Turkle's article can be found here).

Isn't that what an introduction is supposed to do, call upon one to see things from another's point of view?

I find myself wondering if this shift in conversation has anything to do with the shortening of introductions?

Do we no longer have time for a good story, metaphor, or analogy?

Possibly the difference in introductions is that "flowery" introductions can be considered creative writing, and scholarly writing is often not thought of as creative. In fact, I hear "tone needs to be less creative and more scholarly" all of the time in a lot of my academic writing.

This frustrates me. So, scholarly cannot be fun? Who has decreed that scholars aren't creative writers?

Isn't all writing creative? 

Why is flowery not considered intelligent and smart writing?

This made me think of scientific writing, which is most often straight to the point. A lot of scientific writing states final outcomes in the beginning of the document -- and will even go so far as to list what will be written about in the document right off the bat.

Maybe academic writing is becoming more scientific and formulaic?

Should I be angry at WAC?

I really don't know.

Things I do know:  I appreciate an entertaining and bold introduction, and scholarly writing tends to bore the pants off of me, and although I'm 35, I seem to be a product of the current generation (what is it now...I think I'm technically a Gen. Xer...).

I believe that introductions will continue to follow this trend.

Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if 20 years from now academic papers start with the thesis statement (I'm talking first sentence type of start). Perhaps someday, all that writers produce will be abstracts.

The world seems to to have forgotten how to caress its readers, ease them into the paper, make them want to read the paper, and enjoy reading their paper--seduction of the reader has been replaced by timeliness.

These are the musings of a graduate student on Spring Break.

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