Apr 012014

ReformulatingPreviously I spoke about the problems incurred when you plan your writing to death. An interesting phenomenon I’ve found also occurs when a student is suffering from such a problem. That is they struggle to write a topic sentence from their notes – to begin a fully formed paragraph. In this post I’m going to explain how you can overcome this problem by reformulating the topic sentence.

So you’ve taken your notes, you’ve got your headings, you’ve done all the readings, you begin to write and you look at your work and you think, “Oh crap”.

You begin to think you should be holding one of those “slow” signs. Because that’s how you’re acting, and that’s how you fear your writing is going. It’s like you are stuck in road-works.

Chances are you’ve been used to writing notes, thinking in short bursts and have been thinking through your writing in small chunks – not in fully formed sentences.

If you are suffering from this affliction one of the best strategies you can do is not to write. That’s right. Not to write.

You should speak it.

Read out what you have written. Read out what you should have written.

Speak what it is you want to say.

You will find that you are saying what it is that you have wanted to write.

Then write what it is that you have said. Easy.

I found out on the weekend that this process is actually called reformulation, reformulating, or sentence reformulation.

It works because you have developed a routine for writing something that is not fully formed writing. Speaking out loud and then writing that breaks that habit. We write with speech in our head, and this process connects thought with words.

I also used this strategy to great effect when writing my thesis. When going through sections of my work together, my supervisors would get me to say what it was that I wanted to say (it’s something I now use whenever tutoring by the way). This worked extremely well when introducing paragraphs.

In the end, I took my Dictaphone and later my phone, to record these sentences which I would later write. It worked brilliantly. Once I had a well formed topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph would flow.

From time to time I use dictation software to do exactly this – to write my topic sentences. It works for me when I am struggling with my writing.

And it probably works in exactly the same way that writing on paper to get started does; as opposed to writing directly into the computer. It can take the visual aspect away from the blank page.

So if you’re struggling to write fully formed topic sentences, especially after you’ve taken plenty of notes and done plenty of planning, I encourage you to try reformulating your sentences by speaking them out loud.

Let me know how you go and if this helps in any way!