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The plain English writing movement

A look into the plain English writing movement and how this has impacted newspapers, and social media as well as academic, professional and contemporary writing.

Has the plain English writing movement improved writing standards and expectations?

Or has is simplified and ‘dumbed’ down writing skills such as comprehension and interpretation?

  • I did update this but it didn't work. Plain English (or layman's terms) is a style of communication that uses easy to understand, plain language with an emphasis on clarity, brevity, and avoidance of overly complex vocabulary. The movement began in the 1970's to improve legal documents. The purpose was to remove the confusion to the layperson because of the obscurities of the style of writing. Fast forward to today and we are seeing organisation who's sole purpose is to teach anyone involved in writing documents or online content how to write in layman's terms. The movement has penetrated universities, government and others. – mattcarlin 1 year ago
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  • I think that depends on what/why you are writing. Plain language is less precise, and is often less poetic and eloquent (although not always- I'm thinking writers like Hemingway). That said, it makes the writing accessible to a larger population. Personally, I find it frustrating that many people would rather have easy content than improve their comprehension abilities, but it's undeniable that in certain circumstances plain English is for the best. There is probably an argument to be made that overuse could lead to an increasing lack of intellectual acuity in the content and in the readers, as well. – Ben Woollard 1 year ago
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  • Oooh, there are so many different angles to approach this from. I'd recommend a sociolinguistic one for the reason that form VS function, linguistic shift etc are easier to frame and explore if you look at it from the perspective of how language is commonly used. The prescriptive VS descriptive debate is a longstanding one and there will be a lot of literature on the topic to wade through, but otherwise, should be fascinating to read and write about. – Cat 1 year ago
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3

Merits of writing longhand versus typing

Many of the old "classic" writers chose to write all their work by hand first and then type, if typing was available at all. Has the use of the computer and typing improved writers ability to perform their craft? Do writers today who choose to write long hand have an advantage?

  • Typing definitely reduces the amount of time spent for writing. However, some writers who choose to write longhand do so because it's their work habit. I think writing longhand helps them spot errors more because looking at a screen might be more difficult for some writers. – seouljustice 2 years ago
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  • The act of writing with an instrument in hand infuses one's heart and soul into the work. It is like a tear sliding down the cheek: you feel it. Typing is more like work - just getting it on the page. Forming letters, words, and phrases in ink from a perfectly proportioned pen with the color that fits the mood allows the writer to bleed out on the page. No keyboard can replicate the bond that ink from the hand creates. – ajforrester75 2 years ago
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  • The writer might also look into the way the brain works when handwriting versus typing. Handwriting is more engaging than typing. You can cross out words and write small notes to yourself as you go along. There are ways to do that in a word document; however, it really isn't the same. – krae29 2 years ago
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  • It may be individual. For example, when I write with a pen, it makes me feel kind of secure. Not just because, unlike with computers, I’m sure my writing will not be accidentally erased or deleted but also because it gives this unexplainable feeling of close friendship with pen & paper) It’s the kind of feeling you have if you prefer printed books over e-books. It also makes my piece feel more real, for some reason. Writing longhand is time-consuming, it’s true. But for someone like me, it reduces anxiety, which is more important to me (if only I don’t feel the deadline’s breath against my back – then the anxiety is inevitable, anyway :)). So, I usually write my stuff down and then put my headphones on with some Aretha playing and start typing it on my computer almost automatically – weirdly enough, I enjoy typing as a separate activity which I cannot properly combine with the writing process that requires concentration deeper than one I have when just typing comments or messages. Plus, papers with handwriting gain even sentimental value through the years. I suppose, I’m a bit old-fashioned and embarrassingly not ‘technology-fluent’ as for a millennial (first time calling myself this way)). I guess, the perfect option for me would be a typing machine – a vague compromise between velocity and cosiness. Unfortunately, I would still have to either type it once more on my computer or use some damn good scanner and a bunch of software tools to convert images into text so I could put my work on the net and have it mobile. So, objectively, it’s most beneficial to do it all A to Z on the computer, but, from an individual point of view, writing with one’s hand has some personal advantages. The evolution of technology has played a crucial role here, but the evolution of people in the context of their readiness or refusal to accept those changes is what really should be examined. – funkyfay 2 years ago
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What Writing Can Do For You, Career-Wise

REVISION: How can writing benefit a student in all jobs/careers?

  • ProtoCanon, I thought your response/note was a little harsh. In no way am I judging or millennial-bashing anyone. In fact, I am one of those thousands of millennial undergraduate students studying English, so I would not submit a topic to bash myself. But thank you for the destructive criticism. – Marina 2 years ago
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  • Marina, this is too simplistic. I know you've revises the edits but the topic requires more detail before someone can write it. Honestly if you just add some background (why is this relevant? important?) than it will be perfect. – Mela 2 years ago
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  • I think one of the many benefits of writing is that they can improve their communication skills. But I do agree with Mela. The topic is interesting, but it wouldn't hurt to add more details. – seouljustice 2 years ago
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  • You could almost instantly narrow this topic down if you talked about its polar opposite. What can't writing do for you career-wise? Which aspects of professional life remain unexplored by written expression? This next suggestion is a slight deviation but someone could consider talking about the aspects of life (both professional and otherwise) that are beyond written expression. Does recognising these limitations provide any worthwhile information about how to better use writing to one's advantage in all domains? – IsidoreIsou 2 years ago
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4

All Writing is Rewriting

As writers, we ground ourselves in the do’s and don’t’s of writing and study those who come before us. But, if you strip every fiction story ever told to the bare, bare bones, you’ll find that stories all move in a similar way. One of two things happens: Someone leaves town to go on an adventure, or a stranger comes to town. What does this mean to us as writers? Do we write the same stories or do we refine the same stories as time passes?

  • This topic looks like it may also want to reference The Hero's Journey (a nice summary available here: http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/the-hero-journey-mythic-structure-of-joseph-campbell-monomyth.html) What additional insight could this topic contribute to the discussion started by Joseph Campbell regarding storytelling? Maybe a look at other incarnations or types of journeys? – Kevin 2 years ago
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  • Research into Post-Modernism would be useful for this topic as well. – Matt Sautman 2 years ago
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  • Is there a contradiction between coming to town and leaving town? After all, when someone arrives someplace it's only because they've left somewhere else. – albee 2 years ago
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  • To strengthen this article, I believe you could compare and contrast two stories, analyze their plots, and conclude that most plots are formulaic based on the two stories you compared and contrasted. – Sjohnida 2 years ago
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  • For this topic I recommend looking at old myths and legends, I believe that it would be beneficial since myths were some of the first stories ever told and recorded – RSison93 2 years ago
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Can anything new really be said?

Even a brief examination of the history of literature, poetry and playwriting reveals that much of humankind’s essence has already been explored in a myriad forms. We, as modern writers, are trying to find new things to say about emotions, beliefs, states of mind, and ideas that have been with us for millennia. Can anything new be said, or is everything just a reformulation of old things? Has writing exhausted its potential for innovation?

All said, does novelty even matter? It could be that there is "nothing new under the sun" in terms of literary explorations of emotions, thoughts and human experiences. However, is it more important that something new actually be said or that an artist tries to do so? Why? What makes either attempt successful or unsuccessful?

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    What the author meant doesn't matter: what the reader thought they meant does.

    To what extent should a reader consider the author’s intention in producing the work? Is the reader’s individual relationship to the written work more important than the author’s intended effect? Does the author have any right to dictate what the work should mean to the reader? Or, can the author only provide an interpretation of their own work and leave the rest to the reader? Consequently, are all interpretations of a written work, however absurd, valid and worthwhile? Whose opinion matters more?

    • I really like this topic. An author's intent is important. – Tigey 2 years ago
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    • One thing: your title seems leading. – Tigey 2 years ago
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    • Authorial intent is a massive can of worms - one that I hope someone has the guts to open. I would love to see this article written, but I do caution anyone that tries will risk earning the ire of literature PhD's everywhere. – Tarben 2 years ago
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    • It's important that people read and interpret things on their own but also with knowledge of the culture the writer was producing in and that's what should be focused on. – Slaidey 2 years ago
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    • To do this topic justice, it'll be necessary for whoever writes this topic to discuss the importance of New Criticism, namely the theoretical contributions of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, I.A. Richards, T.S. Eliot, Stanley Fish, and particularly William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley (for their essay "Intentional Fallacy," which is about precisely this). – ProtoCanon 2 years ago
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    • Tarben, is the "can of worms" you mention the tension between old historicism and New Criticism, or something else/more? – Tigey 2 years ago
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    • It would be interesting to look at Wolfgang Iser's reader response theory in relation to this too. – Lauren Mead 2 years ago
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    • The author's intention is really important, for instance if you want to do Thomas Hardy or Sylvia Plath, you need to understand how they feel...otherwise you'd end nowhere. – Anya 2 years ago
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    • As mentioned above, it's definitely worth reading up on Literary Criticism before attempting this (and even then, there has never really been one definitive answer to this question). It's definitely worth checking out Roland Barthes' "Death of the Author" as that has been the, possibly now slightly outdated, backbone of the authorial intent debate for a while! – LucyViolets 2 years ago
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    Writing through History; how Writing has Impacted America

    Through the centuries, writing has been a powerful form of communication. Whether be it a political pamphlet, a provocative essay, or a news article, writing was an important way to translate individuals’ ideas and viewpoints. Analyze how writing has helped to empower and shape American history. Compare and contrast historical speeches and/or important, influential writers, authors, or essayists. Simply put, writing helped shape our country.

    • Love this topic, it would really be interesting to maybe also cover the change as to who people see as influential. Nowadays, many people look towards comedians and TV/Film writers as influential towards politics instead of journalists and politicians. – Austin Bender 3 years ago
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    • I think there are plenty of great examples to delve into where the written word ventures into sociopolitical territory. – MichelleAjodah 2 years ago
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    • Would it be better to focus on a specific part of American history i.e. American culture in evaluating this topic? – Ryan Errington 2 years ago
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    • I think this is an excellent topic and I do agree that whomever decides to take this one should concentrate on a particular period in time. While reading this topic suggestion, I immediately thought of the civil rights movement due to the amount of varying literature that was disseminated at the time. Some was bitter, and visceral, while other writings were beautiful and unifying. This is a very important topic...nice contribution, and one that I do hope to see as an article! – danielle577 2 years ago
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    • You might want to be careful with your title. America is actually misused by many Americans; it refers to the entirety of North and South America. You may want to alter your title to "How Writing has Impacted the United States" or something of the sort. I know it wouldn't bother Americans, but it might bother readers from elsewhere in the Americas. – Laura Jones 2 years ago
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    Published

    The Neediness of a Writer

    As we all know, when you write something, you put yourself "out there." You put your work up for criticism. We all dream of everyone loving our writing, and be respected, or loved, or both. A simple "good work" can make your day. However, your writing is not that special. People will disagree. Some will not like it. Others will hate. How do you deal with that? Answering this question would be the thesis for whoever wants to pick this topic.

    • The beauty of creative expression, including writing, art and film, is that it does provoke some kind of feeling. A good example is Van Gogh. Even if people hate the work, feedback is useful but your creation is still your baby. Perfect in your own eyes. – Munjeera 2 years ago
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    • There's an awkward balance between the "good works" and criticism for people who create art. You want people to think your art is good, but you also want them to provide their thoughts and feelings so that you can make it better. The fact of the matter is no matter what you write and how much time you spend on it, someone in the world will have issue with it. And then there will be people who don't provide any assistance and just say it's "really good." Finding the right balance between the two is the eternal struggle for artists and writers. – Nayr1230 2 years ago
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    • Right, and then you can have a hundred good impressions, but if only one person doesn't like it, it will bug you. I tend to focus on that one person who didn't like it even though the overwhelming majority thought it was good. I don't like to do that, but it is just my unconscious reaction. I also always suspect whether those people who say that is good are telling the truth. – ismael676 2 years ago
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    • Having people disagree does not necessarily mean that the writing is bad or not special. It just provokes further argument or creates the need for more writing. Look at academic writing. Every article posted is well thought out and edited. However, I have written plenty of essays that are grounded on refuting one of those said articles. Negative criticism is a way of life, but as long as you continuously look at it as criticism that you can build off of and not as just someone telling you "you're terrible," then I think you will survive as a writer. – cletkiewicz 2 years ago
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    Race and Film

    Analysis of films as they relate centrally to race as a primary lens.

    • Examples? – Darcy Griffin 2 years ago
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    • Hmmm...what comes to mind is actually Disney's recent film, Zootopia. Totally hilarious, classic Disney fare. But also a pretty clear race allegory, as many reviewers have noticed. Gets to the heart of racialized discourse: are people of certain races (or in Zootopia's case, bunnies) inherently passive, while others (see wolves in the film) are aggressive and still others (see foxes) sneaky and conniving? Of course not, but these are the assumptions we inherit and perpetuate, even on the subtlest levels. Ruminating on these topics in animated form is, I think, rather ingenious. – alissac 2 years ago
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    • There are a ton of different ways this could go. Some specification is probably needed: films from a certain era? Country or region? About certain race(s)? Different genres? There are a lot of different factors that will affect the role race plays in a movie. – chrischan 2 years ago
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    • Qu'Allah bénisse la France (2014) a French film, shot in black & white that takes a look at the racism, France's well-known unemployment issue as well as heavy drug use and how these factors affect the youngsters in a devastating manner. The film is based on a true story. – oksly 2 years ago
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    5

    Allow Writing Students to Choose Their Own Courses

    With Journalism, English, or other writing-based majors, students should be able to choose what classes they want to take, rather than forcing them to take general electives and studies that will not benefit their chosen career path. The student can choose which courses will best help them develop their sense of writing style and technique. Students will then be able to take classes about topics they are interested in writing about.

    With all majors, there a certain core classes one must take, and then there are electives that they can take, but most of these electives need to be in their school– Journalism College, or College of Arts and Sciences. Instead of restricting their electives to their college of degree, students could take a course from any college that would best fit their chosen category of writing. For example, let’s say a student is majoring in creative writing. That student might creatively write about cultural differences, or even hotel management experiences. That student would normally have to take electives that are other forms of creative writing, but with my idea, they could cover the aspects they want to creatively write about, and still receive credit for them.

    Also, if a writing student wants to take another beneficial writing course, rather than a mandatory math class, they would be able to swap out for certain courses.

    • This could also translate to other categories other than writing. For example, a theatre major would be well served to take certain Business classes, since Theatre Management is a lucrative career and offers employment possibilities outside of acting and technical theatre (which are what most undergraduate theatre programs are centered around). Ditto Computer Science courses. It would be interesting to argue the angle of taking an elective instead of mandatory general education course (swapping writing for math), but I think that might be a separate article; additionally, it would be easier to argue why they are important rather than superfluous. Students often underestimate how often they will use courses such as math in their chosen field. Algebra, for example, is often used in scenic construction and design, and even writers still need to do their taxes! While they may seem like a waste of time when pursuing a specific degree in the arts, often they are useful later on (especially when looking for alternate means of employment to support yourself while you write/act/illustrate/film/animate/etc.). – Katheryn 2 years ago
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    • A thought to consider would be the cost of these classes and finding staff to run them. The university I attend has cut back staff so we have to video call into another campus in order to take our class. Not only is this disruptive to the learning process it would also would assume that it would be frustrating to teach. I do however love this idea as I have been forced to take journalism classes for my degree to make up credit points, all that time spent learning how to write media releases will be wasted in my field. Good luck to the writer of this topic i look forward to hearing your ideas. – geopikey 2 years ago
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    • I'm not exactly sure what this topic is exactly. What exactly do you want the author to write about that you haven't already stated? – Lexzie 2 years ago
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    • I think you should narrow down what you're trying to say here. I think it's extremely beneficial for budding writers NOT to study literature straight away, and instead study something that will broaden their views on the world, thus allowing them to have interesting ideas that will then lead to creative writing. As an author myself, I have extremely benefited from not studying creative writing at university. – CJFitpatrick91 2 years ago
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    • As an English undergrad, I would love to read about the possibility of having a more open course that would facilitate more creative writing about topics that the students could choose, and the pros and cons of the class. – HelenaH 2 years ago
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    • The University of Indiana's Individualized Major Program (I. M. P.) allows one to designs their own curriculum. Under this program, Will Shortz, the New York Times' crossword puzzle editor, became in 1974 the only degree holder in enigmatology, the study of puzzles. Your topic could start out by reporting how students at that university have used the I. M. P. to create new majors related to the traditional English major. – Tigey 2 years ago
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