Advanced Academic Writing Course Week 5-6 Summary: Grammar & Meaning

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5-6/13 Week 5 & 6 Summary: Grammar to Make Sense and Choice Advanced Academic Writing: Tips and Ideas

Hello! Happy weekend! I must have skipped a week; please bear with me — it must be the typhoon(s)!

Over the past weeks we explored the ideas of “packing” ideas into noun groups, “compacting” ideas from two clauses into one, “converting” conjunctions into verbs, and many other ways to change the grammatical structure of some elements in a sentence in order to paraphrase.

See also Advance Writing Course Week 4 Summary: Nominalisation, What Makes Academic Texts Complex? and Beyond “In Your Own Words”: Paraphrasing with “FANBOYS” in Mind

We also talked about “unpacking” or “decompressing” ideas from dense, complex noun groups into sentences, basically “reverse-engineering” our understanding about nominalisation.

I tried my best to avoid technical labels for these processes because those are not supposed to be what you’re learning; I only wanted you to learn the specific skills for paraphrasing ideas from the source texts as you summarise passages.

It can be quite frustrating when we seemed to be bulldozing everything and start from scratch: some of you lamented about having the rights ways to do it but not having the right ways to describe the processes. I understand — it can feel helpless.

That was why I introduced some ideas that you and I would understand, based on the grammatical knowledge we have all learnt before, e.g. subject, verb, object, adjectives, conjunctions… the only thing I added was “meaning”: how meaning is connected with a particular grammatical feature, or a combination of them.

That’s why you would learn again, nouns are often not just those single-word nouns, but in noun groups that come with pre-modifiers and post-modifiers, making the meaning of the noun groups more specific and accurate.

Nominalisation is not just a one-go process turning some nouns, adjectives or conjunctions into nouns, but a more complex process of changing features surrounding the noun.

There are a number of ways paraphrasing cause-and-effect with different levels of “advancedness”, from spoken-like towards more news-report-like. Reading it doesn’t feel natural, because that’s not our usual way to communicate with language with our “common sense”. Yeah, as we go to school, we learn the way to write and speak technically, a more concise and condense way to convey our ideas.

Grammar that “Makes Sense”

I also know you might ask, “why going back to grammar again?” First, as you pointed out very clearly you would want to brush up your grammar to overcome your fear for it, the best way to improve it is to face your weakness, and reestablish your mental connection between “grammar” and “meaning”.

You need grammar to “make sense”, and to “make sense” of a language you’re less familiar with, you have to go back to grammar — the grammar that is beyond “proofreading”, tense and subject-verb agreement, etc.

This grammar also involves “choice”, choosing the right style through shifting the grammar; choosing the right words that reflect your understanding of the subject and its logic, manage your stance and organise your text.

I may be ambitious, but I want you to be ambitious, too.

Grammar as Writing & Thinking Skills

Second, as an advanced course, I want to combine writing skills with thinking skills, and thinking skills involve reading comprehension and working out the logic among sentences.

If you know how to read a complex text, beyond looking up the dictionary for every single word you don’t understand, you are halfway there to be able to form a text roughly at the same level.

Then, from reading smartly, you are going to learn how expert texts form their sentences, logically link the ideas together, organise topics in sections and paragraphs, and express stances in an expert’s voice.

What’s left is, therefore, how to apply the strategies, word choice, sentence forming, paragraph organising, stance-taking, to your writing based on how technical the topic is about, how formal the essay should look, how objective the tone should be.

Most importantly, the grammar you learn in this course is not just for writing academically. Once you know how to shift the grammar, you are able to write casually, speak like an academic, and persuade like an influencer.

Let me wrap up before I let you prepare for the upcoming writing task on Thursday: I know you’re struggling, but struggling is good.

Struggling means you are making a conscious effort. Making an effort in the process will lead to the final success — you just need to grit your teeth and get through it.

Remember what brought you here to this programme, to this subject and to this classroom — it’s your passion, your curiosity, and your desire to success. You deserve the final victory and we’re all in this together.

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