writing

7 Writing Tips for Communicating with Diverse Cultures

Business Writing

(Photo Credit: Christian Science Monitor)

When sending written communication to business professionals from a culture different than your own, familiarize yourself with their written communication preferences and acclimate your approach, style, and tone to meet their expectations.  The following is a list of 7 highly recommended tips to consider:

1. Use simple, clear language. Use precise words that don’t have the potential to confuse with multiple meanings.

2. Be brief. Use simple sentences and short paragraphs, breaking information into smaller chunks that are easier to capture and translate.

3. Use transitional elements. Using transitions from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph helps your writing to achieve the cohesion and clarity it needs.

4. Address international correspondences properly.

5. Cite numbers and dates carefully.

6. Avoid slang, idiomatic phrases, and business jargon. Mundane writing is full of slang and idiomatic phrases, phrases that mean more than the sum of all of their literal parts. Your readers may have no idea what you’re saying when you use idiomatic phrases.

7. Avoid humor and other references to popular culture. Jokes and references to popular culture usually rely on subtle cultural issues that might be completely unknown to one’s readers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Prewriting: A Neglected Stage of the Writing Process

 

The Writing Process

If you’re to become an effective writer, you’re going to have to embrace the notion of writing as a process.  A carefully prepared piece is one that takes full advantage of each stage of the writing process.  Unfortunately, prewriting, the first stage of the writing process, is often omitted by many writers.  Many writers feel like prewriting wastes time.  If one would fully understand that prewriting is not simply about using strategies like clustering, freewriting, mapping, and etc., he or she will begin to embrace prewriting more.

The prewriting stage of the writing process does not require you to conduct all of your efforts on paper.  When a writer discusses his or her ideas with another person, this is a meaningful part of the prewriting process.  You will find that engaging in serious discourses about your topic during the prewriting stage will benefit you tremendously.  You might discover that the idea you thought was a novel one is really something that many others have done.  However, the person or persons you discuss your topic with can assist you in coming up with novel approaches to doing something others have already done.

Discussing your topic with others during the prewriting process can enable you to gain new ideas and refine your extant ideas.  People can lead you in the right direction on your topic.  You might have been headed in a direction that would lead you to say, “I have writer’s block.”  What you would experience is not “writer’s block” but the frustration that emerges from a lack of meaningful discussion about your topic before you moved into the drafting stage of the writing process.  If you experience “writer’s block” during the drafting stage, then it could mean you completely abandoned the prewriting stage or you did not devote enough time to the prewriting stage.

I have an opportunity to read a number of essays and blogs weekly.  I have discovered that many writers and bloggers could benefit from dedicating more time to the prewriting stage of the writing process before they begin drafting their pieces.  Many writers and bloggers begin with an idea that they’ve given themselves only a short amount of time to think about and then they move immediately to the drafting stage.  You can detect the weaknesses of their ideas when you see how their ideas lack development and/or when they go off topic often.

It would not hurt you to begin a conversation with someone about a topic you have in mind for an essay or blog piece before you start to compose it.  You will find that your writing will improve dramatically when you start to embrace the prewriting stage of the writing process.  Even when you think you have everything figured out about a piece you plan to write, don’t omit prewriting—engage in at least one prewriting activity.

Before you begin drafting your next piece, be sure you devote enough time to prewriting to give yourself the best opportunity to have a truly well-written piece.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Black Bloggers Unite!

In general, I think more bloggers should engage in collaborative efforts, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, and etc. Those aforementioned things, however, can be used as vehicles for collaboration. I contend that African-American bloggers need to increase their influence in the blogosphere by joining forces through collaborative blogs, guest blogging, visiting one another’s blogs regularly (not every now and then), comment on one another’s blogs regularly (not every now and then), find mediums like Twitter, Facebook, email, telephone, and etc. to discuss blog posts ideas and future directions for one another’s blogs, and etc. Now, this is not an effort to try to increase my own readership, especially since I will soon be well over 100,000 readers in just my first year of blogging, I just want African-Americans to have a greater influence in the blogosphere.

Many Black people have a problem with sharing and helping one another. It seems like many African-Americans are concerned about not letting others outdo them, which ends up causing us to divide and conquer ourselves without any person to blame for this but ourselves. In my little over 6 months of blogging, I have had the pleasure to read the writing of some tremendously talented Black writers like The Realest Dude in the Room (http://realestdudeintheroom.com), I Likes It Raw (http://ilikesitraw.com), Uptown Notes (http://www.uptownnotes.com), New Black Man (http://newblackman.blogspot.com), The Black Sphere (http://theblacksphere.net), Pampered Sweet Tooth (http://pamperedsweettooth.blogspot.com), and many more. These previously mentioned Black bloggers provide a diverse range of topics, interests, ideas, and approaches that represent some of the best of what Black bloggers have to offer.

Unfortunately, Black bloggers are not as organized and collaborative as White bloggers, which results in much our talent not being given the recognition, focus, and attention it merits. It is up to Black bloggers to change this problem. No one is going to take us more seriously until we start taking ourselves more seriously. When you visit the aforementioned bloggers, you have an opportunity to see why Black bloggers need to be more visible and heard. For those who say that Black males are not doing anything but getting into trouble, I would like you to know that all of the aforementioned Black bloggers except for one are Black males.

One of the ways in which we can work to remedy this problem is by encouraging more Blacks to start blogging. Without a doubt, most African-Americans have something valuable to offer and say to America, so we need to encourage them to begin blogging immediately. Blogging gives them a free opportunity to get their voice acknowledged nationally and internationally. If anyone needs assistance with starting a free blog, then just contact me and I will help you to get started.

In closing, I just want to say that Black bloggers need to find ways to collaborate to increase our readership and impact in the blogosphere. I am not for us simply carving out our own “Black space” within the blogosphere, but I am for us having much more significance and power in the blogosphere. I hope that Black bloggers will soon unite!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Importance of Instructors’ Feedback in Improving Students’ Writing

Writing

Although I have a tremendous love of writing, I have found that many students hate writing and are afraid of submitting their work for anyone to evaluate or review. I do not believe that this lack of love for writing emerges from just difficulties many students have with writing, but I also see it resulting primarily from the reality of instructors not providing students with adequate and substantive feedback. Students at all levels of the educational pipeline, including those situated in higher education, need their instructors to give them substantive feedback on their writing. Even if a student writes tremendously well, the student needs to benefit from the instructor telling him or her specifically why his or her writing is so good. The purpose of this article is to discuss the significance of instructors’ substantive feedback in ameliorating students’ writing.

Working in an athletic department at a research university in the South, I had the opportunity to personally experience African-American male student-athletes who felt the need to plagiarize because they were not receiving substantive feedback on their writing from their instructors and tutors. While one might say that cheating can never be justified, I contend that instructors need to ensure that they are doing all that they can do to not give their students any feeling of the need to engage in plagiarism. From my experience working in this athletic department with a number of poor writers, I found that they had a serious fear when it came to producing essays. One of the common themes that I noticed about these African-American male student-athletes at this institution was they were not receiving serious feedback on the drafts they were submitting to their instructors for review. Their instructors were more focused on giving them a grade and not on telling them specifically what was problematic about their papers, and how they could improve their papers.

One of my professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently admitted that he thinks that the dominant reason that most students who have serious writing problems have them is they do not receive substantive feedback from their professors. This professor even admitted that throughout his undergraduate and graduate training he never really received substantive feedback from his professors. He disclosed that the majority of the feedback he received pointed out grammar and punctuation problems, but not anything substantive beyond pointing out the few grammar and punctuation errors he often committed in his work. He has found that in providing his students with substantive feedback that their writing has improved significantly.

Similarly, in my own teaching of college students at the University of Arkansas, I found that giving them substantive feedback on their papers greatly improved their understanding of their writing struggles and helped them to become better college writers. Although many of my students thought that I was too difficult of an English instructor, most of them appreciated the tremendous service I provided them by engaging in a thorough evaluation of their papers, which included providing them numerous substantive comments throughout their paper. I always made myself available to them during scheduled office hours and during non-scheduled office hours. I was always willing to talk through their papers with them and help them to develop their papers.

During my undergraduate studies, one Writing Laboratory Instructor asserted that the primary reason that students struggle with their writing is they do not have enough knowledge to feel comfortable with producing the necessary content for their papers. I disagreed then with her and still do today. As an English tutor during my undergraduate studies, I found that most of the students that I tutored have significant knowledge about their topics, but they just desired to have someone to explicate for them how to write an effective essay. What they needed was someone to help them to understand the process of writing an essay from the introduction to the conclusion. I think it is highly unfair to assume that students do not have enough knowledge to respond to their own topics or ones assigned by their instructors. When one thinks that students do not have the appropriate knowledge to respond to their topics, this diverts attention away from the true problem that they have: the lack of specific knowledge about how to craft an effective essay from the introduction to the conclusion. I contend that they need substantive feedback from their professors to make this possible.

In short, college instructors need to make a commitment to providing their students with substantive feedback on their writing to give students a fair opportunity to know what they are doing well and what they are not doing well. On many of the syllabi that I have received at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have seen professors disclose that they are going to provide “limited feedback” on papers. This type of approach to responding to students’ writing must end in order us to witness the growth of more confident writers. To all students, you need to demand that your instructors provide you with thorough and substantive feedback on your papers. Substantive feedback must go beyond simply circling some grammar and mechanics errors.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison