Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How to Write Articles and Essays Quickly and Expertly

Translations: Belorussian



Introduction: Four Types of Discursive Writing

From time to time people express amazement at how I can get so much done. I, of course, aware of the many hours I have idled away doing nothing, demur. It feels like nothing special; I don't work harder, really, than most people. Nonetheless, these people do have a point. I am, in fact, a fairly prolific writer.
Part of it is tenacity. For example, I am writing this item as I wait for the internet to start working again in the Joburg airport departures area. But part of it is a simple strategy for writing you essays and articles quickly and expertly, a strategy that allows you to plan your entire essay as you write it, and thus to allow you to make your first draft your final draft. This article describes that strategy.

Begin by writing - in your head, at least - your second paragraph (that would be the one you just read, above). Your second paragraph will tell people what your essay says. Some people write abstracts or executive summaries in order to accomplish this task. But you don't need to do this. You are stating your entire essay or article in one paragraph. If you were writing a news article, you would call this paragraph the 'lede'. A person could read just the one paragraph and know what you had to say.

But how do you write this paragraph? Reporters will tell you that writing the lede is the hardest part of writing an article. Because if you don't know what the story is, you cannot write it in a single paragraph. A reporter will sift through the different ways of writing the story - the different angles - and find a way to tell it. You, because you are writing an article or essay, have more options.

You have more options because there are four types of discursive writing. Each of these types has a distinct and easy structure, and once you know what sort of writing you are doing, the rest of the article almost writes itself. The four types of structure are: argument, explanation, definition, and description. So, as you think about writing your first paragraph, ask yourself, what sort of article are you writing. In this article, for example, I am writing a descriptive article.

These are your choices of types of article or essay:

Argument: convinces someone of something
Explanation: tells why something happened instead of something else
Definition: states what a word or concept means
Description: identifies properties or qualities of things

An argument is a collection of sentences (known formally as 'propositions') intended to convince the reader that something is he case. Perhaps you want to convince people to take some action, to buy some product, to vote a certain way, or to believe a certain thing. The thing that you want to convince them to believe is the conclusion. In order to convince people, you need to offer one or more reasons. Those are the premises. So one type of article consists of premises leading to a conclusion, and that is how you would structure your first paragraph.

An explanation tells the reader why something is the case. It looks at some event or phenomenon, and shows the reader what sort of things led up to that event or phenomenon, what caused it to happen, why it came to be this way instead of some other way. An explanation, therefore, consists of three parts. First, you need to identify the thing being explained. Then, you need to identify the things that could have happened instead. And finally, you need to describe the conditions and principles that led to the one thing, and not the other, being the case. And so, if you are explaining something, this is how you would write your first paragraph.

A definition identifies the meaning of some word, phrase or concept. There are different ways to define something. You can define something using words and concepts you already know. Or you can define something by giving a name to something you can point to or describe. Or you can define something indirectly, by giving examples of telling stories. A definition always involves two parts: the word or concept being defined, and the set of sentences (or 'propositions') that do the defining. Whatever way you decide, this will be the structure of your article if you intend to define something.

Finally, a description provides information about some object, person, or state of affairs. It will consist of a series of related sentences. The sentences will each identify the object being defined, and then ascribe some property to that object. "The ball is red," for example, were the ball is the object and 'red' is the property. Descriptions may be of 'unary properties' - like colour, shape, taste, and the like, or it may describe a relation between the object and one or more other objects.

Organizing Your Writing

The set of sentences, meanwhile, will be organized on one of a few common ways. The sentences might be in chronological order. "This happened, and then this happened," and so on. Or they may enumerate a set of properties ('appearance', 'sound', 'taste', 'small', 'feeling about', and the like). Or they may be elements of a list ("nine rules for good technology," say, or "ten things you should learn"). Or, like the reporters, you may cover the five W's: who, what, where, when, why. Or the steps required to write an essay.

When you elect to write an essay or article, then, you are going to write one of these types of writing. If you cannot decide which type, then your purpose isn't clear. Think about it, and make the choice, before continuing. Then you will know the major parts of the article - the premises, say, or the parts of the definition. Again, if you don't know these, your purpose isn't clear. Know what you want to say (in two or three sentences) before you decide to write.

You may a this point be wondering what happened to the first paragraph. You are, after all, beginning with the second paragraph. The first paragraph is used to 'animate' your essay or article, to give it life and meaning and context. In my own writing, my animation is often a short story about myself showing how the topic is important to me. Animating paragraphs may express feelings - joy, happiness, sadness, or whatever. They may consist of short stories or examples of what you are trying to describe (this is very common in news articles). Animation may be placed into your essay at any point. But is generally most effective when introducing a topic, or when concluding a topic.

For example, I have now concluded the first paragraph of my essay, and then expanded on it, thus ending the first major part of my essay. So now I could offer an example here, to illustrate my point in practice, and to give the reader a chance to reflect, and a way to experience some empathy, before proceeding. This is also a good place to offer a picture, diagram, illustration or chart of what you are trying to say in words.

Like this: the second paragraph sill consist of a set of statements. Here is what each of the four types look like:

Argument:

Premise 1
Premise 2 ... (and more, if needed)
Conclusion

Explanation:

Thing being explained
Alternative possibilities
Actual explanation

Definition:

Thing being defined
Actual definition

Description:

Thing being described
Descriptive sentence
Descriptive sentence (and more, connected to the rest, as needed)

So now the example should have made the concept clearer. You should easily see that your second paragraph will consist of two or more distinct sentences, depending on what you are trying to say. Now, all you need to do is to write the sentences. But also, you need to tell your reader which sentence is which. In an argument, for example, you need to clearly indicate to the reader which sentence is your conclusion and which sentences are your premises.

Indicator Words

All four types of writing have their own indicator words. Let's look at each of the four types in more detail, and show (with examples, to animate!) the indicator words.

As stated above, an argument will consist of a conclusion and some premises. The conclusion is the most important sentence, and so will typically be stated first. For example, "Blue is better than red." Then a premise indicator will be used, to tell the reader that what follows is a series of premises. Words like 'because' and 'since' are common premise indicators (there are more; you may want to make a list). So your first paragraph might look like this: "Blue is better than red, because blue is darker than red, and all colours that are darker are better."

Sometimes, when the premises need to be stressed before the conclusion will be believed, the author will put the conclusion at the end of the paragraph. To do this, the author uses a conclusion indicator. Words like 'so' and 'therefore' and 'hence' are common conclusion indicators. Thus, for example, the paragraph might read: "Blue is darker than red, and all colours that are darker are better, so blue is better than red."

You should notice that indicator words like this help you understand someone else's writing more easily as well. Being able to spot the premises and the conclusion helps you spot the structure of their article or essay. Seeing the conclusion indicator, for example, tells you that you are looking at an argument, and helps you spot the conclusion. It is good practice to try spotting arguments in other writing, and to create arguments of your own, in our own writing.

Arguments can also be identified by their form. There are different types of argument, which follow standard patterns of reasoning. These patterns of reasoning are indicated by the words being used. Here is a quick guide to the types of arguments:

Inductive argument: the premise consists of a 'sample', such as a series of experiences, or experimental results, or polls. Watch for words describing these sorts of observation. The conclusion will be inferred as a generalization from these premises. Watch for words that indicate a statistical generalization, such as 'most', 'generally, 'usually', 'seventy percent', 'nine out of ten'. Also, watch for words that indicate a universal generalization, such as 'always' and 'all'.

A special case of the inductive argument is the causal generalization. If you want someone to believe that one thing causes another, then you need to show that there are many cases where the one thing was followed by the other, and also to show that when the one thing didn't happen, then the other didn't either. This establishes a 'correlation'. The argument becomes a causal argument when you appeal to some general principle or law of nature to explain the correlation. Notice how, in this case, an explanation forms one of the premises of the argument.

Deductive argument: the premises consist of propositions, and the conclusion consists of some logical manipulation of the premises. A categorical argument, for example, consists of reasoning about sets of things, so watch for words like 'all', 'some' and 'none'. Many times, these words are implicit; they are not started, but they are implied. When I said "Blue is better than red" above, for example, I meant that "blue is always better than red," and that's how you would have understood it.

Another type of deductive argument is a propositional argument. Propositional arguments are manipulations of sentences using the words 'or', 'if', and 'and'. For example, if I said "Either red is best or blue is best, and red is not best, so blue is best," then I have employed a propositional argument.

It is useful to learn the basic argument forms, so you can very clearly indicate which type of argument you are providing. This will make your writing clearer to the reader, and will help them evaluate your writing. And in addition, this will make easier for you to write your article.

See how the previous paragraph is constructed, for example. I have stated a conclusion, then a premise indicator, and then a series of premises. It was very easy to writing the paragraph; I didn't even need to think about it. I just wrote something I thought was true, then provided a list of the reasons I thought it was true. How hard is that?

In a similar manner, an explanation will also use indicator words. In fact, the indicator words used by explanations are very similar to those that are used by arguments. For example, I might explain by saying "The grass is green because it rained yesterday." I am explaining why the grass is green. I am using the word 'because' as an indicator. And my explanation is offered following the word 'because'.

People often confuse arguments and explanations, because they use similar indicator words. So when you are writing, you can make your point clearer by using words that will generally be unique to explanations.

In general, explanations are answers to 'why' questions. They consider why something happened 'instead of' something else. And usually, they will say that something was 'caused' by something else. So when offering an explanation, use these words as indicators. For example: "It rained yesterday. That's why the grass is green, instead of brown."

Almost all explanations are causal explanations, but in some cases (especially when describing complex states and events) you will also appeal to a statistical explanation. In essence, in a statistical explanation, you are saying, "it had to happen sometime, so that's why it happened now, but there's no reason, other than probability, why it happened this time instead o last time or next time." When people see somebody who was killed by lightening, and they say, "His number was just up," they are offering a statistical explanation.

Definitions are trickier, because there are various types of definition. I will consider three types of definition: ostensive, lexical, and implicit.

An 'ostensive' definition is an act of naming by pointing. You point to a dog and you say, "That's a dog." Do this enough times, and you have defined the concept of a dog. It's harder to point in text. But in text, a description amounts to the same thing as pointing. "The legs are shorter than the tail. The colour is brown, and the body is very long. That's what I mean by a 'wiener dog'." As you may have noticed, the description is followed by the indicator words "that's what I mean by". This makes it clear to the reader that you are defining by ostension.

A 'lexical' definition is a definition one word or concept in terms of some other word or concept. Usually this is describes as providing the 'necessary and sufficient conditions' for being something. Another way of saying the same thing is to say that when you are defining a thing, you are saying that 'all and only' these things are the thing being defined. Yet another way of saying the same thing is to say that the thing belongs to such and such a category (all dogs are animals, or, a dog is necessarily an animal) and are distinguished from other members in such and such a way (only dogs pant, or, saying a thing is panting is sufficient to show that it is a dog).

That may seem complicated, but the result is that a lexical definition has a very simply and easy to write form: A (thing being defined) is a type of (category) which is (distinguishing feature). For example, "A dog is an animal that pants."

This sentence may look just like a description, so it is useful to indicate to the reader that you are defining the term 'dog', and not describing a dog. For example, "A 'dog' is defined as 'an animal that pants'." Notice how this is clearly a definition, and could not be confused as a mere description.

The third type of definition is an implicit definition. This occurs when you don't point to things, and don't place the thing being defined into categories, but rather, list instances of the thing being defined. For example, "Civilization is when people are polite to each other. When people can trust the other person. When there is order in the streets." And so on. Or: "You know what I mean. Japan is civilized. Singapore is civilized. Canada is civilized." Here we haven't listed necessary and sufficient conditions, but rather, offered enough of a description as to allow people to recognize instances of 'civilization' by their resemblance to the things being described.

Finally, the description employs the 'subject predicate object' form that you learned in school. The 'subject' is the thing being described. The 'predicate' is something that is true of the subject - some action it is undertaking, or, if the predicate is 'is', some property that it possesses. And the 'object' may be some other entity that forms a part of the description.

As mentioned, the sentences that form a description are related to each other. This relation is made explicit with a set of indicator words. For example, if the relation is chronological, the words might be 'first'... 'and then'... 'and finally'...! Or, 'yesterday'... 'then today'... 'and tomorrow'...

In this essay, the method employed was to identify a list of things - argument, explanation, definition, and description - and then to use each of these terms in the sequence. For example, "An argument will consist of a ..." Notice that I actually went through this list twice, first describing the parts of each of the four items, and then describing the indicator words used for each of the four items. Also, when I went through the list the second time, I offered for each type of sentence a subdivision. For example, I identified inductive and deductive arguments.

Summary

So, now, here is the full set of types of things I have described (with indicator words in brackets):

Argument (premise: 'since', 'because'; conclusion: 'therefore', 'so')
Deductive
Categorical ('all', 'only', 'no', 'none', 'some')
Propositional ('if', 'or', 'and')
Inductive
Generalization ('sample', 'poll', 'observation')
Statistical ('most', 'generally, 'usually', 'seventy percent', 'nine out of ten')
Universal ('always' and 'all')
Causal ('causes')

Explanation ('why', 'instead of')
Causal ('caused')
Statistical ('percent', 'probability')

Definition ('is a', 'is defined as')
Ostensive ( 'That's what I mean by...' )
Lexical ('All', 'Only', 'is a type of', 'is necessarily')
Implicit ('is a', 'for example')

Description
Chronology ('yesterday', 'today')
Sensations ('seems', 'feels', 'appears', etc.,)
List ('first', 'second', etc.)
5 W's ('who', 'what', 'where', 'when', 'why')

Complex Forms

As you have seen in this article, each successive iteration (which has been followed by one of my tables) has been more and more detailed. You might ask how this is so, if there are only four types of article or essay.

The point is, each sentence in one type of thing might be a whole set of sentence of another type of thing. This is most clearly illustrated by looking at an argument.

An argument is a conclusion and some premises. Like this:

Statement 1, and
Statement 2,
Thus,
Statement 3

But each premise might in turn be the conclusion of another argument. Like this:

Statement 4, and
Statement 5,
Thus,
Statement 1

Which gives us a complex argument:

Statement 4, and
Statement 5,
Thus, Statement 1
Statement 2
Thus Statement 3

But this can be done with all four types of paragraph. For example, consider this:

Statement 1 (which is actually a definition, with several parts)
Statement 2 (which is actually a description)
Thus,
Statement 3

So, when you write your essay, you pick the main thing you want to say. For example:

Second paragraph:

Statement 1, and
Statement 2
Thus
Statement 3

Third paragraph:

Statement 4 (thing being defined)
Statement 5 (properties)
Statement 1 (actual definition)

Fourth Paragraph

Statement 5 (first statement of description)
Statement 6 (second statement of description)
Statement 2 (summary of description)

As you can see, each simple element of an essay - premise, for example - can become a complex part of an essay - the premise could be the conclusion of an argument, for example.

And so, when you write your essay, you just go deeper and deeper into the structure.

And you may ask: where does it stop?

For me, it stops with descriptions - something I've seen or experienced, or a reference to a study or a paper. To someone else, it all reduces to definitions and axioms. For someone else, it might never stop.

But you rarely get to the bottom. You simply go on until you've said enough. In essence, you give up, and hope the reader can continue the rest of the way on his or her own.

And just so with this paper. I would now look at each one of each type of argument and explanation, for example, and identify more types, or describe features that make some good and some bad, or add many more examples and animations.

But my time is up, I need to board my flight, so I'll stop here.

Nothing fancy at the end. Just a reminder, that this is how you can write great articles and essays, first draft, every time. Off the top of your head.

62 comments:

  1. Perhaps next time you can write us an essay on the word concise.

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  2. I have one on politeness to finish first.

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  3. Funny you mention that you get so much done by using the time most people waste, I have just written about that here - http://www.bmindful.com/articles/Two_productivity_tips.aspx

    I have just read your article while waiting for someone, late again, but at least I haven't wasted any time :)

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  4. Thanks for the information. I have been sitting on a premise for an article lately but putting it off because of the time investment it could end up taking. I will apply your method for this one and see how it helps and let you know.

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  5. 1. But part of it is a simple strategy for writing you essays and
    2. ou cannot write it in a single
    3. These are your choices of types o article or essay
    4. intended to convince the reader that something is he case
    5. First, you need to identify the hing being explained.
    6. And in addition, this will make easier for you to write your article.


    I hate to burst your speed-writing bubble, but maybe you should take some time for proofreading. Presentation of written work, though not as important as content, makes a HUGE impression on the reader.

    You should never publish the first draft.

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  6. proofreadnig Vs fristdartf is unencseasry if yuo're smrat enuogh to gte teh piont. Olny teh bsos of teh autohr shuold wrry abuot it adn beisdes, teh pwoer is nto in teh imprsseoin btu in teh knwolegde!

    Thanks for sharing it with us :)

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  7. Aaron:

    My keyboard sticks. I'm very sorry, but I cannot afford a better computer at the moment.

    Moreover, I was, as you may recall, in an airport waiting for a flight. So it's not like I had a whole lot of time for proofreading.

    Firther, this isn't a publication, it's a blog. Typos and other errors come with the territory.

    Fourth, I don't care what kind of impression I make with the reader. I'm not out to score brownie points. I'm just trying to be helpful. If you didn't find this helpful, I'm sorry, but perhaps my blog isn't the place for you.

    Fifth, if you are the sort of reader who would leap to a judgement of a writer based on spelling mistakes then probably what I have written here won't be of help, because it's about substantive content, not style and appearances.

    Sixth, I do thank you for your comment, though.

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  8. p.s. I'm still on the road - I'm now in Dunedin, New Zealand, using an internet cafe.

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  9. Downes,

    Thank you for the useful information I have been at loose ends trying to get some ideas down on paper. I found a link to your blog on James Keatings web page.

    Again thanks for your help to new writers like me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. whoa.... Will have to read this one over again - a bit heavy on the theory. I simply attempt to write in a way, and about things that are worthwhile for people to read. Instead of posting everything on my mind and every action of my day - cut my nails, uploaded that MP3 - I try to create essays that hopefully add to humanity.

    You can see my essays here:
    www.pelicancafe.net where many of the blogs are about my year here in Guatemala. Keep writing Mr Downes. You are on the "good guys" team.

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  11. Thanks for the blog. Its been alot of help to me. I just started a blog last week for the sole purpose of becoming a better writer. This essay is going to be a good point of reference. However, I think over the week I have been posting I have gotten much better.

    Check out my blog everyone and tell me what you think I welcome feedback and comments. It is Here!

    Thanks everyone who comes to take a look. Just remember its my first attempt.

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  12. This is the bestest advice and info on article writing that I found - and I have been researching for a while now! I am extatic to have read such a structured and entertaining guide. Thanks a million for taking the time to write it!!!!!!! You rock!!

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  13. Thanks for a useful page that I can refer adult post-experience students to. My Moodle logs tell me that these people are active after 10pm to 1am - ie the children are in bed so we can study.

    As I travel by public transport to and from the college at which I teach, I have bought an AlphaSmart A3000 from the Well Known Auction Site. The current model is the AlphaSmart Neo.

    This simple device with a battery life of hundreds of hours allows me to use odd corners of time to write. As the device is ASCII based, I can even compose Maths worksheets in TeX format.

    Keith Burnett

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  14. How about spellcheck? You're an excellent writer, but all of us make the kind of errors that show up in your essay, and the easiest way to remedy that is to use the handy-dandy, built-in spellchecker. I never send even a first draft without using it, because it embarrasses me to see the simple mistakes taht I coudl haev chnagd so esaily.

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  15. Thanks for the advice...

    I have been considering taking a job for an online magazine as the editor for their action movies page.

    While I'd really like to do this, I've been freaking out about everything from, article structure to running out of ideas within the first month.

    I find this information very helpful, I can see now my fear was predominantly because this will be my first time doing this. I don't want to submit unprofessional looking material.

    I think I will give it a try...I've bookmarked you in case I feel another panic attack comming on! :)

    Thanks again!

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  16. Thanks for posting such a useful article, this has helped me lots with an article I am writing at the moment and I will be sure to refer to it again in the future. Cheers!

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  17. Very comprehensive; I like to throw in a little humor.

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  18. I am single mom of two little ones so i get to work on my school stuff late at night when writers block sets in. I have searched and searched and so far your blog is the most useful I have found. Thank you so much!

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  19. Gr8 artocle and interesting comments. What I would loke to add about spellings and all is that when you need to travel, it does not matter whether the bus is clean or not as long as it can take you to your destination.

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  20. Absolutely excellent article!!
    Gives us a clear view as to which steps to take when writing articles. Thanks so much!!!
    Keep up the good work:)
    Learner

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  21. Great article on article writing. Those who knit-pick at the presentation are losing the forest for the trees.

    Again, GREAT POST!!

    -Ray

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  22. Downes,

    Thank you for your time spent on this article.

    I have found it most helpfull.

    Chris

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  23. Hi, I agree with most of the previous posters. I find writing really difficult, I'm studying computer science, so formulaic tips help. I'll link to this article on my blog, it’s not as good as this one, but perhaps you would be interested in a link on how not to write.
    http://www.declanmeenagh.com

    Thanks again for a brilliant article,

    Declan

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  24. Thanks for the article!

    I was always scared of writing.Your post is of great help to me to overcome the fear. Now i am more clear about what my problem areas are.

    Thanks a lot again ! Please keep writing :-)

    Saikrishna

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  25. Umm....wow! I feel like I'm back in college. Well done on this extremely informative and lengthy (hehe) piece of work.

    I think this deserves to be printed out and read on the train. That way I can highlight and circle the important bits.

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  26. I have written so many papers already but I still get stressed whenever I start a paper.

    Your advice on keeping the "purpose of the paper in mind" because it guides the structure, and helps you avoid getting stalled and confused while writing is an effective writing advice.

    We were all taught that but stressed working students need to be reminded once in a while.

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  27. This was very handy I got to say, I have a hard time writing essays and research papers and this helpe dme find teh outline I wanted, (which for me is teh hardest thing I know lame.)
    but thanks anyways!

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  28. Wow.. All I have to say isssss bravvvvoooo! Honestly, most people look @ life and really see that there is just sooo much to accomplish that they don't even know where to begin. And then, years down the line they end up regretting not taking the first steps to help them excel in their career. But you, you are the definition of true efforts and really, I think you got to where you want to be by 'planning'
    Planning is something that sounds so simple, but while in Oxford, we learned that if you want to make it big in life just like those wealthy people, you have to A) Start Young (and) B) Plan ahead
    And literally planning ahead got me to where I want to be in life with a six figure income and I bless every day that I live, really. All I have to say is kudos to another individual that lives his life successfully like I do :)

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  29. Can article writing be this easy? you are good.

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  30. Good job! You explained everything well. This would help a lot of writers

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  31. I would like to personally thank you for taking the time to write, in depth, on the process of creating an article efficiently and effectively.

    I'm confident that this will save me countless hours of rewriting, which has made an otherwise enjoyable activity burdensome.

    It is so refreshing to find a blog post where the author wants to communicate something of value without enticing the reader to buy their latest ebook.

    Thanks again for giving 100% content and not indulging in a marketeering pitchfest.

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  32. I am delighted to have found this article- I'm vey glad you took the time to post it! I'm in college after nearly 20 years, online at that, my eng profs instructions are often multiple differing requirements posted in multiple places....it's crazy! lol so I was stressing pretty badly over exactly hat was needed in my explanation essay. I'm clear now!!! THANK YOU A BIG GIANT TON!!!! and screw everyone pcking at your typos...I'm so greatful to find this info

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  33. This is one of the best article I have ever come across about writing article. I like your terminology about dividing article into Explanation, Definition and Description. May be conclusion can follow after it as well. Thanks for your great tips.

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  34. Haaha! Can you believe those guys! They are reading a nice article with useful from any aspect information writen for non-profit and not proffesianally in a blog and the only thing that have to say is 1-2 misspellings.

    Good article Stephen, I was searching for something like that and it helped it to follow a 'right direction'. Thanx..

    Di

    PS.. The arrow-keys and home-end keys are not working on purpose on the comment text-box or not.. just curious

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  35. Hey Stephen,
    Being adept at writing articles and essays is one thing... and writing ,for me, well,it just flows on and on. What I am also working towards learning is being concise. So, looking forward to post on that.
    :)

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  36. If it just flows on and on, it's probably because you're writing stream of consciousness instead of to a structure.

    If you apply the principles shown here, you'll find that you write shorter and more concise articles.

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  37. Your article inspires me. You are as great as someone can be to help me. I am following your way of writing. Although I write for many of must clients, one client really taught me step-by-step how to write. Extremely thankful my client for teaching me how to write. Believe me I struggled for long time to find the structure for an article. Your blog post made it possible for me. It is a piece of excellence. Forget about spelling and typos. Your message got conveyed well and it has been recieved. Keep writing!!! I am your big follower and the new found Fan!!! Its like holding my hand and teaching me how to polish and write!! Keep it up. May God Bless you and your writing!

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  38. Just found ur web page. I plan to break down ur info and reduce my writing time. It looks like a winner. Thanx for sharing and for ur time.

    ReplyDelete
  39. S.L said...

    Just browsing, good advice, will try to apply the next time I write an article esp.What really inspired me though, was that you wrote this while waiting for a plane.No excuses for not having time to write, or waiting till you're in the zone.
    Cheers.

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  40. Really informative Stephen.
    Many thanks for your help.

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  41. Thanks very much for such a great blog!

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  42. What an in-depth, helpful post. It's hard to find information online about writing that goes beyond just simple commonsense "tips." Thank you for a well organized guide on the nuts and bolts of how to write a well organized article. I can see how getting a handle on basic structure could really help one be a more efficient writer.

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  43. For all of you poor souls who can't see the forest for the trees; this guy is probably on of the best contributors about writing on the net.
    So when you learn to write as well as this guy; then you can start sledging and slagging him. Until then shut up.

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  44. I think we need back the writers who took a long time to write essays. I'm not talking about using 2 hours instead of half an hour. Good essays, that push the knowledge, need more time. Maybe you bloggers just write for the money, or for your readers, or to get more visitors, but do you think to actually change the world of knowledge? I think that the big thinkers of other ages took more than a couple of hours to write something really valued. I don't imagine Platon, Aristoteles, Adam Smith, Keynes, Marx, Hegel, etc. writing essays in such a short time.

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  45. What is the difference between an essay and an article?

    May I ask?

    Thank you.

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  46. Strictly speaking, there is no difference, and I use the terms interchangeably, though an essay is more academic and formal, and more likely to have references and citations.

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  47. A very good article/essay on how to position your articles and ensuring each sentence follows or explains the previous sentence. I enjoyed reading the article. I'll will come back again for another bite ;-) Really good content.

    Youpele

    UK

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  48. Great article. You must really know your stuff to write this while waiting for your plane. Anyhow, I will use this material to study the art of writing constructive blogs. I understand the nature of the blog too, that it is not intended to be a work for grammatical critique. At least people are paying attention to what you're writing, huh?

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  49. Actually, bad spelling and punctuation tell people you don't care enough. They ruin your reputation and show that you aren't really an expert writer. Saying that they "come with the territory" is an excuse for poor writing. Most people will not take you seriously, because you don't take your own work seriously enough to correct these simple mistakes.

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  50. With out a doubt the most comprehensive I've seen. Very well done!!! appreciate the hard work and time taken to do this write up.

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  51. Thanks Mr Downes, This article will help me alot as I needed to find out how to structure everything into a readable format.

    KWynyard from New Zealand

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  52. I believe the key is in being passionate about what you write, being focused, and being dedicated to get the work done. Of course, you an write about pretty much any topic, but you need to have faith and ability to get the job done.

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  53. Thanks Downes it was great to read this article, I think now its easy for me to write a powerful article.

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  54. Thanks a lot for this article. I will certainly try to apply your method!

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  55. Thats inspiring, i write articles and am going to apply your techniques so that i can continue producing high quality articles for my clients.

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  56. This topic is something that I have been looking into for a while now and your insight is exceptional. Thanks for sharing this information.

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  57. Thank you, somewhat helped me I have a school essay I must write in one hour so I learned a few tips to help.

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  58. Dear Mr. Stephen Downes,

    Can you please give some examples of a type of discursive writing you identified as "Definition". Can you please give me links of articles online corresponding to your all identified types of discursive writing styles.

    Best.

    Shameel Qureshi

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  59. fantastic information. great help. thank you!

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  60. I wish you could be my tutor to make it through university. I probably would only need it while I get my bearings and then be able to finish the next three years without it. Very helpful article.

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