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Effective Academic Writing:

Being Concise and Precise


Academic Writing
Diction
Retronyms
Semantics
Connotation
Denotation
And since words survive the chops and
change of time longer than any other
substance, therefore they are the truest.
Buildings fall; even the earth perishes.
What was yesterday a cornfield is to-day
a bungalow. But words, if properly used,
seem able to live for ever.
Virginia Woolf (1937)
Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
Lecturer
Department of History
University of Houston
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A VERY, VERY BRIEF AND SELECTIVE
HISTORY OF
WRITING/COMMUNICATION
Writing Around the World
Writing Around the World
Writing Around the World
It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and
they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way,
then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person,
another thing to another person; they are unintelligible to
one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is
because of this complexity, this power to mean different
things to different people, that they survive. Perhaps then
one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic
writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty.
We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning,
the meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning
which makes us pass the examination. And when words are
pinned down they fold their wings and die. Finally, and
most emphatically, words, like ourselves, in order to live at
their ease, need privacy.
Virginia Woolf (1937)
UNIVERSITY WRITING:
A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES
Freedom
Evidence
Analysis
Originality
Revision
Five Characteristics
of College Writing:
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College A paper
A VIEW OF ACADEMIC WRITING
The Academic Essay
Content
Mechanics
Academic Writing
Content
Thesis
Evidence
Organization
Originality
Clarity
Multiple Drafts
Research
Academic Writing
Mechanics
Capitalization
Usage
Punctuation
Spelling
Diction
Sentence Structure
Format
Academic Writing
Unlike math,
there are
countless correct
answers when it
comes to writing
15
CLARITY:
CLEAR, ACTIVE, & POWERFUL WRITING
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Words and Clarity?
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Words and Clarity?
The book Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in
American Life (2005) written by Steven Deyle discusses the
internal slave trade in the United States.
I need to call my grandmother at six p.m. in the evening on
the phone.
The restaurant McDonalds is taking applications at this point
in time.
I commute back and forth to the University of Houston.
The large meat packers were not seriously hindered by the
resulting regulations, but many smaller packers were
bankrupted.



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Words and Clarity?
handicapped
Illiterate
race
feminist
civilization
Native American
slave


How is it used in society and by
individuals?

Strengths of this word/phrase?
Weaknesses?

Alternatives to this word/phrase?
Words and Loaded Language
Were I to write Arnt I a Woman? Today, I
would use the verb enslaved rather than the
noun slave to implicate the inhumane action
of white people. The noun slave suggests a
state of mind and being that is absolute and
unmediated by an enslaver. Enslaved says
more about what happened to black people
without unwittingly describing the sum total of
who they were. Enslaved forces us to
remember that black men and women were
Africans and African-Americans before they
were forced into slavery and had a new-and
denigrating-identity assigned to them.

Hispanic
White
Black
Asian
American
Indian
Hispanic
White
Black
Asian
American
Indian
Hispanic
Hispanic Hispanic
Black
Asian
Asian
Asian White
Black
Indian
Writing with Clarity and Appropriate
Diction Activity
Does every sentence and every word and
every punctuation mark have a purpose?
And does it serve the right purpose?

Video Clip,
Where is Matt?
28
SEMANTICS:
CONNOTATION VS. DENOTATION
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Connotation vs. Denotation
Whats up, man?
Whats up, man?
Connotation
The World of Connotation
Body language and tone
Culture
Context
Historical events
Popular usage
Other words
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

desegregation, integration
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

aggressive, assertive, domineering, dynamic,
pushy, forceful
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

staggered, limped, waddled, crept, strolled
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

homeless, vagrant, without a permanent address
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

uprising, riot, demonstration,
unlawful gathering, protest, disturbance,
civil war, revolution, civil disobedience
Connotation and Denotation
Class Activity
What is the shared denotation of the words?
What are the various connotations of the
words and appropriate/inappropriate uses?

guerilla, freedom fighter, mercenary, soldier,
terrorist, activist, revolutionary
Quickly skim the article
Looking at the assigned paragraph and bolded
words
Discuss the connotation of each word
Consider why other words were not used OR consider
if a better word could have been used
Consider different ways to write the same sentences
Reflect on how this will inform your academic writing
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Connotation and Denotation
Group Activity
WRAPPING UP:
NINE AJP WRITING HINTS
Write where you
are comfortable;
write with your
comfort food
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43
44
Do not
use the
Internet
Before you
worry about
editing, just
write
46
Read grammar books
47
Show, dont tell
Don't say the old lady
screamed. Bring her on and
let her scream.
Papers are never finished,
but always due
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Although clich,
practice makes perfect
What did you learn today about
writing?

How are you going to actively take this
information and apply it?

What did you enjoy most, least? What
suggestions do you have?

Thanks.
Andrew Joseph Pegoda (AJP)