Thinking… and Writing Part 2: Be a thinking writer 思考與寫作 第二步:當個會思考的作者

As a scholar, an academic writer has a responsibility to read critically. This is not a difficult task for a person dedicated to scholarship; critical thinking comes naturally. Even so, sometimes there is a tenuous relationship between reading, thinking and, ultimately, writing. This 2-part series examines how mental activity translates into richer academic papers.

Part 2: Be a thinking writer

Having developed skills as an engaged and reflective reader, an academic writer’s next step in enriching a paper is to become an engaged and reflective writer. By doing so, a scholar is able to critically analyze a subject and paper as a writing project proceeds. This leads to constant refinement of a paper. Status quo is not a mental condition that serves a scholar well. The better condition is progressive evaluation, in which a writer keeps an open mind to fleeting thoughts, tangential considerations, and nuanced angles. In this way, a writer can surprise even himself.
學會做一個積極閱讀的反思性讀者(reflective reader)後,學術寫作的下個步驟即是豐富文章內容,成為積極並具反思性的作家。只要做到這點,在寫作的過程中便能從批判的角度來分析主題和文章。要達到這個目的,必須不斷地精煉文章。作為一名學者,切忌安於現狀,最好是不斷檢討,並時時放開胸懷捕捉偶發想法、注意相關細節、見微知著,這樣一來,就連作家也會對自己的作品感到驚訝。

Where beginning writers sometimes go wrong in this is to become chronic in their open-mindedness. While an open mind assures that the topic of a paper is explored thoroughly, resulting in few if any gaping holes in logic or fact, only pure philosophers perched on mountaintops have the luxury of pondering endlessly. The rest of us must reach conclusions and, in respect to academic papers, express them conclusively. So at some point, exploration must cease. Shallow scholarship can occur from too much indecisive exploration just as it can from material-skimming.

To avoid the embarrassment of being unable to sum up and finish a paper, a writer should be systematic in his exploration. Don’t just have a flash of insight, ponder it a moment, and work ahead with the good intention of returning to it. Rather, take time to write down the essence of the thought in a ledger. Then in a free moment, return to the noted thought and really examine it. Does it have sufficient merit to develop and include in the paper? Does it add value to the paper? If not, dismiss it. If it has possibilities, take time to explore it. Stay alert to insight; it can change a paper.

Last Update at 2013-02-01 PM 1:24 | 0 Comments

0128 TPS Verbalize Contest-Answer and Explanation你能找出關鍵的動詞嗎? 正確解答!

Suggested answer: “His son, tall and bulky, reminded him of a walrus, swaying through the crowd like a ponderous and graceful pendulum.”

Something “tall and bulky” doesn’t always bring to mind the adjective “graceful.” Yet the biggest animals on the planet, such as elephants and whales, move through their respective realms with amazing grace. The father watching his larger son move was taken by the slippery way his son made his way through oncoming walkers. In fact, “slipping” would not be a bad choice of verb. Yet “swaying” captures both the idea of unimpeded movement and the sideways motion of a blubbery animal undulating along, lifting and dropping its massive shoulders and dragging itself forward. Other possible “s” words in this situation are shifting and swerving.

Last Update at 2013-02-01 PM 1:22 | 0 Comments

0128 TPS Verbalize Contest-Win Your NTD200 7-11/Starbucks Prize! 你能找出關鍵的動詞嗎?有機會獲得200元 7-11/星巴克咖啡禮券!

The sentence below is missing a verb. However, the first letter of the verb is provided. Insert a word that starts with the given first letter and best fits the tenor of the sentence, and then defend your word choice in five or fewer words. The first TPS Fan to respond with the judge’s choice of verb—or the most effective alternate verb— will win a ¬¬¬NTD 200 Starbucks Gift Certificate. The name of the winner will be published tomorrow on this TPS Fans page. Good luck!
以下句子缺少動詞,請加入一個最符合句子意思且符合空格開頭字母的動詞,以及五個字以內的理由,我們將提供7-11/星巴克咖啡禮券兩百元,頒給第一位想出最佳解答或是最佳替代字的第1位粉絲。解答與獲獎粉絲姓名將在明天公布於本 TPS 專頁。請將答案寫在下方,幸運兒可能就是你!

題目Contest Sentence:

“His son, tall and bulky, reminded him of a walrus, s_____ through the crowd like a ponderous and graceful pendulum.”

Last Update at 2013-02-01 PM 1:22 | 0 Comments

What does that mean? 你真的瞭解這個慣用語嗎?

Imagery buries itself in language and takes on new meaning. The transplanted and transformed word or set of words is called a “figure of speech.” For a figure of speech to be effective, however, a writer must first understand the original meaning of the word or phrase. The following sentence contains a common figure of speech. Its original meaning is explained.

“The screened-in sleeping hut still brimmed with comfort in November when insulated tarps were lowered to protect sleepers from cool winds.”
「 儘管時值十一月, 低放的防水布保護睡於小屋內的人免受冷風吹襲,讓受遮蔽的小木屋內充滿了舒適的氛圍。」

“Brim” is an upper or outer limit of something—of a container, an area, a structure—the opposite being a bottom or inner limit. Thus, there is the brim of a cup (the top of the surrounding sides) and the brim of a hat (the projecting outer rim that surrounds the crown). The top edge of a depression in the ground or of a bathtub also is referred to as a brim. A common phrase is “filled to the brim,” meaning filled to the top: “My tea cup was filled to the brim.” The person doesn’t actually mean that the cup is on the verge of spilling over, but that it is nominally full.
「Brim」(邊緣)意指超過某樣東西的限度之上或外在侷限,通常指容器、區域或者是結構體,相反的概念即是底部或者界線內。因此,我們可以說杯子的「brim」(杯子最上緣環狀的部分),也可以說帽子的「brim」(環繞頭部突出部分的外緣)。一個地面低窪處、或是浴缸的最頂端邊緣亦能以「brim」稱之。有個常聽到的用語「filled to the brim」,意思就是到頂為止。如果聽見有人說:「我的茶裝到滿」,說話的人並非指茶杯裡的茶真的都要灑出來了,只是形容很滿而已。

In saying that the novel sleepers’ building “brimmed with comfort,” the writer isn’t suggesting there was so much comfort poured into the building that it might spill out from under the eaves at any moment. Rather, the writer is suggesting that the closing off of the screened walls has sealed the interior so well that chilling winds cannot enter it. Therefore the comfort level is more than adequate; it is wholly comfortable. Brimming used in this sense always implies fullness… of comfort, of a beverage (tea), of a feeling (happiness), of credentials (authority), and so on.

Last Update at 2013-01-25 AM 10:37 | 0 Comments

Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I have been told I write well in two languages, but I also have been told that my English writing runs too long. Is there a guideline that helps academic writers write succinctly in a second language?

First of all, never devalue in your own mind your ability to communicate in two languages. Many people around the world would like to express themselves in a second language and wouldn’t care one whit if they “ran long” in doing so. Your interest in refining your writing in a second language is an indication of your professionalism and ambition as a writer. Languages, as you know, don’t always translate exactly in terms of number of characters, imagery, and, yes, number of words. So first of all I would suggest that word count not be a deciding factor in a translation.

The “length” standard in a translation or in an original language always is… however many words are needed to produce clarity. That might seem like an unhelpful guideline, but it is absolutely valid. A professor never will complain about wordiness if each word has value and helps express a thought. That might be two words or ten. The trick is to become proficient in choosing words so that excessive numbers of words are not employed. This is a skill that comes to a writer only one way: by writing and re-writing. Experience teaches a talented academic writer about succinctness.

The task is doubly difficult when a thought conceived in one language must be communicated in a second one. So I would suggest that little or no effort be made in a rough draft to write succinctly. The better course is to write an original draft freely, with little concern for numbers of words used to explore a thought or to express an argument. Second and, if necessary, third drafts are where tightening should occur. That is when you should look for extraneous language and other padding. After a while, lean writing will come naturally to you—in both languages.

Last Update at 2013-01-25 AM 10:34 | 0 Comments

0121 TPS Punctuation Mastery Contest-Answer and Explanation你是善用標點符號的高手嗎? 正確解答!

Corrected sentence:

The algorithm is simple enough. The difficulty lies in mastering it in the short time my reality-challenged professor allowed: He clearly doesn’t understand my frenetic, exhausting schedule.

These sentences are straight-forward explanations of a student’s lament. The capitalization gives all the clues one needs to know where the sentences break. The trick is to end the sentences correctly. The first sentence is not closely associated with the second sentence, so a period is the best punctuation mark. However, the second sentence and third sentence have a shared mission of explaining the student complaint, therefore a colon is the best choice to join them. The compound adjective “reality-challenged” needs a hyphen, and the two adjectives describing the student’s schedule should be separated by a comma. The sentences then become clear and readable.

Last Update at 2013-01-22 AM 11:14 | 0 Comments

0121 TPS Punctuation Mastery Contest-Win Your NTD200 eslite Gift Certificate! 你是善用標點符號的高手嗎?有機會獲得200元誠品圖書商場購物禮卷!

文字就像汽車,需要交通標誌與燈號才不會打結,標點符號可以釋放文字,讓字句能打動、指引、啟發讀者。以下範例可能標點符號不正確,或少了必需的標點符號。注意,句中可能不只有一個標點符號錯誤。最先改正錯誤,並寫出最佳解答的一位 TPS 粉絲,將能贏得兩百元誠品圖書商場購物禮卷。
Words, like motor vehicles, need signposts and signals to keep them from running together. Punctuation frees words to move readers, to instruct and inspire them. The following example of writing either contains inappropriate punctuation or lacks marks that are needed. Note: The example may contain more than one punctuation error. The first TPS Fan to correct the writing sample as we believe it should be corrected will win a NTD200 eslite bookstore and shopping mall Gift Certificate.

題目Contest Sentence:

The algorithm is simple enough; The difficulty lies in mastering it in the short time my reality challenged professor allowed; He clearly doesn’t understand my frenetic exhausting schedule.

Last Update at 2013-01-22 AM 11:12 | 0 Comments

This is not academic writing 學術文章不是這麼寫的

Not all articles written on academic topics are written in proper academic English. This column examines short excerpts from academic texts to illustrate common writing errors and to explain how to correct them.

Unacceptable 不被認可的文章

“Setting up an observation post, the group of young scientists prepared to study the planet Saturn as it dramatically rose in the night’s sky. The person chosen to lead the group went out and carefully selected the night’s observation platform, which was a gently sloping cleared area in the Rocky Mountains in the vast interior of the United States. The scientists were extremely hopeful of capturing some crystal-clear shots of Saturn because the April sky was cloud-free and the clearing far enough from municipal lighting to escape its ugly glare. The last telescope had been set up and focused when someone shouted: “Oh, no! A cloud bank!”

This prelude to a report of an astronomy outing is appealing in its detail and drama. However, the writer lapsed into cliché and the writing falls well short of being smooth. It reads, in fact, like a draft rather than a final version of a paper. Scientists who study the stars and planets are astronomers, for example, yet they are never called such in this passage. The group has assembled to study “the planet Saturn,” which is wordy: “Saturn” says it all. That the planet “dramatically rose” is subjective and hackneyed phrasing and that it did so in “the night’s sky” is tongue-twisting; “nighttime sky” reads more comfortably. These are examples of marred writing.

Acceptable 認可的文章

“Setting up an observation post, the young astronomers prepared to study Saturn as it ascended in the nighttime sky. The designated field trip leader had carefully selected the observation platform—a gently sloped clearing in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in the western United States. The scientists hoped to capture sharply defined photographs of Saturn because the April sky was crystalline and the mountain slope sufficiently distant from municipal lighting. The last telescope had been set up and calibrated when a cry went up: “Oh, no! A cloud bank!”

Last Update at 2013-01-22 AM 11:09 | 0 Comments

Thinking… and Writing Part 1: Be a thinking reader 思考與寫作 第一步:當個會思考的讀者

As a scholar, an academic writer has a responsibility to read critically. This is not a difficult task for a person dedicated to scholarship; critical thinking comes naturally. Even so, sometimes there is a tenuous relationship between reading, thinking and, ultimately, writing. This 2-part series examines how mental activity translates into richer academic papers.

Part 1: Be a thinking reader

Sometimes we sit and read for pure pleasure. The book being read often is escapist material of some sort—an adventure story, perhaps—and our conscious minds usually don’t play an active role in evaluating what we are reading. But when we research books and other materials in preparation for writing a paper, unthinking reading is verboten. A scholar collecting material must be fully engaged during his reading of relevant material to extract from it not only the facts, but the nuances, such as valuable contextual material and allusions to previously unknown sources.

Being fully engaged means more than following the gist of an author’s argument or report. That is important, of course; when we don’t understand what we are reading, we have a problem right from the start. Presuming we can follow the thread of an author’s writing, we have only begun our engagement with the author. A critical thinker is free to challenge a writer’s assertions, or question a premise. A scholar should not be a sponge reader, soaking up every word and opinion. Rather he should be a reflective reader, actively evaluating what he is taking into his head.
「完全置身其中」意指明白作者的論點或者報告綱領。這當然是相當重要的;如果我們不能明白正在閱讀的內容,那麼研究一開始就出問題了。假設我們能夠理解作者寫作的脈絡,就能與作者一同置身作品之中。具批判性的思考寫作有可能挑戰作者的主張,也可能質疑作者假設的論點。一個學者不能當一個只進不出的海綿,把每一個字或想法都吸收進去。相反地,他應該要當一個反思性讀者(reflective reader),能積極地評斷所獲得的想法。

Reflective reading is facilitated by reading with pen or pencil in hand. A sentence that seems brimming with truth or falsehood might be underlined. A conclusion that seems very awry might deserve a notation in the margins of the page. A phrase that stirs your emotions—negatively or positively—warrants underlining for later examination. This is how a thinking person explores research material. The fruit of it is better grounding in a subject, finer understanding of an author, and perhaps inspiration for a related academic paper that he didn’t even know he had in him.

Last Update at 2013-01-22 AM 11:06 | 0 Comments

0114 TPS One Word Away From Confusion Contest-Answer and Explanation你能找出混淆字嗎? 正確解答!

Correct best answer: Replace “scents” with “sense.”

“The new perfume formula made no sense to the lab assistant, who experimented with several fragrant oils before finding the correct combination.”

Working in an olfactory factory must be overpowering at times. The nose can only take on so many fragrances before the brain protests at the smell overkill. In this sentence, the writer seems to have lost his “sense” in describing a chemistry assistant’s confusion about a formula. By substituting “scents” for “sense,” the writer confused readers. In fact, he might have utterly interrupted their concentration by introducing what appears to be a pun. Punning is not acceptable in academic writing. More likely, in this case the writer simply was thinking of fragrances and accidentally wrote “scents.” So the error was inadvertent, rather than egregious.

Last Update at 2013-01-22 AM 11:04 | 0 Comments