The idea I am showcasing here derives from a blog authored by Dr Inger Mewburn aka Thesis Whisperer, who dedicates much of her writing to the crafting aspects of academic writing on her blog. In my discipline- art history- students spend much of their time writing a series of essay-based assessments, and writing is a source both of much enormous satisfation for them as well as causing considerable anxiety. So, in my teaching, I have learnt to pay increasingly more attention to all aspects of word-smithing, be it structure, essay plans, paragraphs, building blocks, etc etc. I have found that I keep returning to the Thesis Whisperer blog, and in particular to the ‘On Writing’ section. Thesis Whisperer is predominantly aimed at research students but this does of course not preclude anybody else from finding plenty of interest! In particular, I like working with the verb sheets she provides:
Thesis Whisperer’s Verb Cheat Sheet Here, the key statement is really the opening sentence ‘verbs are judgmental’. So, I take the verb sheets, give students a number of sentences, and then ask them to swap the verbs, nothing else. The result can be dramatic, and can totally change the tone of a statement. Its quite a powerful way of getting writers to pay more attention to their choir of words, to make every word count, and to remind them that words are all beautiful and subtly different, and that these differences matter. The verb cheat sheet works well as a reminder of another powerful writer’s aid: the humble, much neglected, often forgotten about dictionary and thesaurus. And no, not the online kind, but a printed copy you can pick up, flick through, think about.