Writing for Development

The easiest way to distinguish effective writing from ineffective work is its development. According to Donald Murray, “Fine writing make the writer’s vision of an idea, a place, a person, an event clear to the reader with a rich blend of revealing, specific details, observations, references, patterns of thought.” (The Craft of Revision). Undeveloped writing happens when the writer doesn’t take the time to translate the rich ideas of their mind to paper, leaving the reader a shadow of the original effective thought. Fully developed writing encourages the reader to go on, to read more, in the expectation that they will gain something from the experience, and that their questions will be answered.

Develop with Information

Don’t leave the reader to guess about specific elements in your writing. Either your meaning will be lost on the reader, or he/she will lose interest as you fail to paint a picture for them. Never ask the reader to fill in the blanks with loaded words. “It was terrible” is only terrible as writing—tell the reader what was terrible, how it was terrible, and why.

Technique

Explanation

Example

Reveal with Specifics

Effective writers write with information, revealing specific, accurate, interesting information. Words have no value unless they are loaded with information.

She was beautiful.

Provide an example of your own here.

Write with Abundance

While it is possible to over-write any sentence or idea, most emerging writers under develop their ideas. Writing an essay is not an Instant Message—where rapid conveyance of the idea is the critical element of the communication, but a medium that rewards full development of thought.

The environment should be saved.

Wetlands are a vital resource, providing benefits to both human and animal populations. It is critical that we protect them in the present, and for the future.

Develop with Authority

Most writing is argument. We want to persuade the audience that our vision of the world is the correct one. To persuade the reader, the writer must deliver evidence that will resonate with the reader and be believed.

Technique

Explanation

Example

Objective Documentation

A writer should build her case with an abundance of information from credible sources. Any factual claims that are outside the realm of “common knowledge” should be researched and attributed in a credible essay. Failing to include such citation is plagiarism, and failing to include it means a paper that will not be taken seriously.

Most people who vote for Republicans are not terribly bright.

Most people who vote for Republicans are not very bright. Professor I. M. Right studied the relative IQ of voters and found that “on average, consistent Republican voters had an IQ of 78 (54-55).

Personal Documentation

Personal documentation can be a powerful addition to a paper. A friend, relative, yourself, or other person close to the author can provide specific insight, but is generally not as credible as an outside authority.

Most people who vote for Republicans are not terribly bright.

Most people who vote for Republicans are not terribly bright. My experience as a campaign worker showed that they tended to be less informed and prepared.

Develop with Clarity

Description is the mother of all writing. With words we describe our worlds, physical, intellectual, and emotional. Effective use of words means that each is employed with meaning and that each helps the reader understand better than before.

Technique

Explanation

Dominant Impression

Each paragraph should have a dominant idea or central concept that is supported by the text in the paragraph. If an idea diverts the reader’s attention from this central idea, no matter how interesting the fact is, it needs to go—perhaps to its own paragraph or the place where unlinked ideas go to die.

Natural Order

The reader should receive the essay in natural order—a story built on chronology, time passing, an argument that progresses from one side to another or from weaker arguments to stronger.

Choose an order for your essay that has more meaning than “this was the order I thought of my three points.”

Put Meaning in Context

Many writers deliver information—facts, opinions, quotations, and more in their writing without taking the next step, answering “So what?” Make sure that your writing always answers the critical questions—How? Why? So What?