Workshop in Basic Writing and Rhetoric for Scientists
A seminar entitled Workshop in Basic Writing and Rhetoric for Scientists was held September 17, 2012 at the National Institute of Physics, U.P. Diliman. The participants are a mix of PhD faculty members and graduate students in the natural sciences. The workshop was conducted by James Howe, an expert in language engineering, particularly in the reception of text written under different protocols. Currently, he is editing Elizabethan drama, mainly
Shakespeare, to make the plays accessible in real time to advanced non-native English speakers.
After summarising what research and experience tells us about readers’ expectations, the facilitator discussed what writers must do to meet those expectations. To meet them, writers must use grammar precisely, make informed syntactical choices, provide clear navigational aids, follow the principles of governance, and punctuate clearly. The facilitator then identified some features of the environment that helps good grammar and syntactical choice flourish; this environment includes partner editing, and the creative use of recent software. After a presentation of grammatical classification, syntax structure and a new view of punctuation that described what readers expect to follow a particular punctuation mark, the participant completed exercises in punctuating text, in correcting grammar, and in making principled syntactical and stylistic choices. In these exercises participants aimed to write sentences that correctly transmitted the intended information to readers, that met their expectations, and
that minimized the processing load on them. The workshop was designed to lay down a foundation towards a culture of critically informed and well-tooled science writing; continuing efforts are being exerted to realise that culture.