On Writing 1: An Approach to Academic Writing

谈谈英文写作1:学术写作方法

本系列内容基于“Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 3rd Edition by John M. Swales & Christine B. Feak”这本书(简称AWG)。虽然这本书主要是面向研究生写学术论文的,但我个人觉得是里面的很多思路同样适用于General Writing或者说Writing for General Audience。

本篇为第一篇,基于书中的第一章‘An Approach to Academic Writing’,主要是写作动笔前要考虑的一些东西。

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Audience Even before you write, you need to consider your audience. The audience for most graduate students will be an instructor, who is presumably quite knowledgeable about the assigned writing topic and will have expectations with which you need to be familiar. Other possible audiences include advisors, thesis committees, and reviewers. Your understanding of your audience will affect the content of your writing.

Purpose and Strategy Audience, purpose, and strategy are typically interconnected. If the audience knows less than the writer, the writer’s purpose is often instructional (as in a textbook). If the audience knows more than the writer, the writer’s purpose is usually to display familiarity, expertise, and intelligence. The latter is a common situation for the graduate student writer.

Organization Readers have the expectation that information will be presented in a structured format that is appropriate for the particular type of text. Even short pieces of writing have regular, predictable patterns of organization. You can take advantage of these patterns, so that readers can still follow, even if you make some language errors.

写作是一个交流的过程,而交流的对象就是你的读者。动笔之前,想想你的读者是谁,了解你的读者,才能更好地把你的内容传达给读者。通常学生的写作都是给老师看,而老师一般对写作的内容知道的都比较多,所以即使文章很零散,老师也能看懂意思。但我想说的是,那只是老师,如果你的作品是面向一般的读者,写作就必须要有清晰和组织结构,让读者能够‘predicte’你接下去要说的内容。

我有个师兄跟我说,写作要‘think the reviewers as babies, and lead them by hands’,也就是要像能牵着读者的手一样,去引导读者去读完你的文章。很多人(包括我自己有时候)对英语写作的态度就是写完就好,字数够了就行,以为写出来了别人就一定能看懂,却没想过读者读文章的时候是什么心情,如果文章毫无逻辑结构,七零八落,读者肯定看不下去,甚至会骂娘的。所以尊重你的读者,认真对待写作,写的时候把自己当成读者,感受下自己读出来是什么样的。

Style The style of a particular piece should not only be consistent but also be suitable both in terms of the message being conveyed and the audience. A formal research report written in informal, conversational English may be considered too simplistic, even if the actual ideas and/or data are complex.

Flow Another important consideration for successful communication is flow—moving from one statement in a text to the next. Naturally, establishing a clear connection of ideas is important to help your reader follow the text.

Style主要是说在语言使用上的风格,根据写作的目的和读者不同,可能需要不一样的表达。比如对比下面两句,第一句更适合学术性正式性的文章,而第二句更非正式些:

The emergence of English as the international language of scientific communication has been widely documented. English has emerged as the international language of scientific communication. This phenomenon has been widely documented.

Flow指文章的连贯性,即内在的逻辑关系,好的文章需不仅段落之间要有结构性,段落内句子之间也需要串联起来。一种比较常见的表达方式是使用this/these+noun:

According to a recent survey, 26% of all American adults, down from 38% 30 years ago, now smoke. This improvement/decrease/decline can be partly attributed to the mounting evidence linking smoking and fatal diseases, such as cancer.

通过this/these+noun指代前一句,来达到连贯表达的目的。更多的时候,连贯性是借助于各种连接词。

Presentation We believe that if the flow of ideas is good, small errors may not be noticed; when the flow of ideas is not strong—i.e., does not follow the old-to-new principle—grammar errors may be more pronounced. Thus, it makes more sense to us to focus more on content and information flow first and then tend to matters of grammar only after all other aspects of the paper are in good shape.

写作之前先考虑Audience&Purpose,然后拟定文章的大纲,即全文的Organisation,接下去才是具体到写的时候采用什么样的Style和Flow,而最后就是Presentation,把自己当成你的目标读者来审视自己的文章。

以上只是简要介绍了下书中的内容,有兴趣的可以下载本书并打印出来,试着做些书中的习题。有问题的话欢迎到论坛交流。