No. 003   May 2014


I write to discover what I know.

~ Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964), an American novelist and short-story writer, was best known for her short story collections. Her writing often reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics
Toward a Holistic Look at Flow
Flow, in a nutshell, is the way a text is organized, and is emphasized in most writing textbooks as an element any good piece of writing should have. There is good reason for this. Writing, especially for academic purposes, requires not only a strong and knowledgeable discourse, but also a way to successfully communicate it. This common goal provides justification both for valuing flow and, from a teacher’s perspective, for valuing teaching it. This article introduces an alternative to understanding and employing “flow” that may prove more helpful than one that merely identifies it with “coherence.”

It is customary for many to equate flow with coherence. Students, particularly those who are novice writers, are repeatedly told to achieve coherence — via techniques like repeating key words and using synonyms, pronouns, and transition signals — in their writing. However, the concept of coherence has since Halliday and Hasan (1976) incorporated elements that, to a greater or lesser degree, break away from its linguistic tradition. In a narrow sense, coherence refers to the state in which sentences in any portion of a text are linked in a way that allows the reader to understand it. In a broad sense — a sense many authors believe the term should now encompass — it is concerned not only with the semantic access to the text, but also with the effectiveness of its overall design (Roen 1996; Weiser 1996; Clark 2006).

These two senses of coherence point to distinct purposes to be satisfied in writing. One problem with using coherence the way many students do, it seems, is that they may be misled into thinking that when key words, synonyms, or transition signals are used, coherence is in place, whether in the narrow or broad sense. This is in fact understandable when we see, for example, Alice Oshima and Ann Hogue (2006) point out that among the “ways to achieve coherence” are “repeat[ing] key nouns,” “us[ing] consistent pronouns,” and “us[ing] transition signals to link ideas” (22). However, what these techniques actually achieve is what is known as “cohesion” — a syntactic property that is neither sufficient nor necessary for coherence to obtain. While using those cohesive ties in one’s writing is often helpful, one risk on the flip side of this utility is negligence of whether the text is really “coherent.” A primary reason for this lies exactly in the intricacies of this term. There is, first, a need to distinguish between coherence and cohesion. In fact, that the two words are both from Latin cohaes (“to cling”) and look similar has made some mistake one for the other, or suppose that they carry interchangeable meanings, or attempt to end the confusion by a replacement of one word (e.g., “coherence”) with another (e.g., “internal cohesion”) that is not of much help. There is, further, a substantive distinction between the “local” and “global” senses of coherence, each of which conveys something integral to an effective piece of writing.

To ease complications, this is where “flow,” a less theory-laden term, may come in. Presumably, for an essay to be truly smooth, it should achieve not only a “flow of sentences” but also a “flow of thoughts.” Steering from this view, this article draws a distinction between an “outer flow” and an “inner flow.” When a text has an outer flow, the sentences are expressed and arranged in ways that make it easy for readers to understand what the author wants to say. When a text has an inner flow, it fulfills three conditions: (1) that it is unified and well-developed; (2) that its content is well-organized; and (3) that it does not commit any logical fallacies. This distinction has two important advantages. First, it preserves the fundamental elements of the two senses of coherence while self-expressing a need for recognition of a contrast. Second, it complements what an essay with genuinely smooth flow would entail. Given that unity and logicality mirror one’s flow of thoughts, for instance, they are of an “inner” relevance even if typically dissociated with coherence.

Achieving an inner flow does not by itself yield an outer flow, or vice versa. While a smooth essay has to achieve both, the inner flow should take precedence as it lays the groundwork. The following passages illustrate this priority:

A. One difference among the world’s seas and oceans is that the salinity varies in different climate zones. The Baltic Sea in northern Europe is only one-fourth as salty as the Red Sea in the Middle East. There are reasons for this. In warm climates, water evaporates rapidly. The concentration of salt is greater. The surrounding land is dry and does not contribute much freshwater to dilute the salty seawater. In cold climate zones, water evaporates slowly. The runoff created by melting snow adds a considerable amount of freshwater to dilute the saline seawater.

B. One difference among the world’s seas and oceans is that the salinity varies in different climate zones. For example, the Baltic Sea in northern Europe is only one-fourth as salty as the Red Sea in the Middle East. There are reasons for this. First, in warm climates, water evaporates rapidly; therefore, the concentration of salt is greater. Second, the surrounding land is dry, thereby contributing little freshwater to dilute the salty seawater. In cold climate zones, on the other hand, water evaporates slowly. Furthermore, the runoff created by melting snow adds a considerable amount of freshwater to dilute the saline seawater. (Oshima and Hogue, 2006)

We find paragraph B smoother than paragraph A despite their apparent similarity, but we do not find A hard to follow. The reason is that A has achieved as much an inner flow as B has. What makes B smoother is an improved outer flow — with the addition of appropriate transition signals — that allows the reader to grasp the message more easily..

Problems associated with the assumption that the use of transition signals or other cohesive ties alone creates flow may come from reversing the priority order at issue. This reversion obscures the extent to which the inner flow touches on something of higher order and irreplaceable. Take for example the excerpt of a student’s essay:

Gay couples are as capable and loving parents as heterosexuals. First, there should be no discrimination against gay parents. They can love children just as much as heterosexual couples can; as a result, a couple’s being gay does not mean that they cannot be good parents. Furthermore, in some cases gay couples make better parents because they are more caring and sensitive compared to heterosexuals… Finally, no matter what a couple’s sexual orientation is, if they genuinely want to give children a good life, they could be competent parents.

The topic was regarding whether same-sex couples should be allowed to parent a child. The author addressed one reason why they should, captured mainly in the first sentence — in this case the topic sentence (TS). The major problem with this paragraph is that the TS is left undeveloped. The author, however, wrote as if it were supported, and this was attempted with the aid of a bunch of transition signals. On the surface they appear to be linking the sentences, but in fact almost none of them comes out effective as the key step to smoothing the inner flow has been disregarded.

Take a look at the first signal word “first.” It is hard to see how the sentence that follows it endorses the TS. It would serve better either as a conclusion for which the TS may lend support, or as another subtopic that backs up the author’s position. The two clauses that constitute the third sentence may appear to cohere via the phrasal connector “as a result,” but the “result” turns out to be precocious at that juncture due to its lack of adequate support, which can hardly be provided by the former clause as it is a mere repetition of the TS. The next sentence begs the question, again, by assuming the TS to be true. The last sentence is suitable neither as a final supporting point nor as a concluding remark with a “finally.” Prioritizing the inner flow, as is now reasonable to conclude, makes it easier to devise an outer flow, but the reverse does not hold.

In a sense, “teaching” flow is a futile task. Every writer has a particular way of telling stories, and given the plethora of individual logics that may result, it is simply hopeless to try to decode them in a systematic and principled manner, and keying them into useful rules is even harder to pull off. However, this line of thought merely illuminates the fact that what would be sufficient, individually or jointly, to produce smooth flows cannot possibly be exhausted. It does not show that nothing can be done to improve them one way or another. The progress would largely depend on a set of conditions necessary for the flow to emerge. These conditions, as may be conceivable, derive from the three elements that characterize the inner flow. They are: (1) that supports for the author’s view are unified, specific, and adequate; (2) that the organization is clear to such an extent that the reader would be able to outline the text for the author; and (3) that the “author’s logic” can withstand logical scrutiny. Gaining mastery of these core conditions of flow would help novice writers sort out their own path of logic to develop their individual ways of writing.

1. Clark, Roy Peter (2006): Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Little, Brown and Company.
2. Halliday, M.A.K. and Ruqayia Hasan (1976): Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
3. Oshima, Alice and Ann Hogue (2006): Writing Academic English (4th Edition). Pearson Longman.
4. Roen, Duane H. “Coherence.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Theresa Enos (1996). Taylor & Francis.
5. Weiser, Irwin. “Linguistics.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Theresa Enos (1996). Taylor & Francis.
文 / 張晨 (本中心教師)
【MY TUTORIAL】學術寫作個別輔導
【徵求短句】 “對我而言,寫作是……”入圍揭曉
短句徵選活動 “對我而言,寫作是….” 收件已截止,共有106個短句參與競逐。經過評選,有15個短句入圍。入圍佳作刊登於本期電子報《我有話要說》專欄,並開放校園網路票選。中心將另行通知入圍者領獎事宜。

投票自即日起至6月15日截止,前15名參與投票者可得中心紀念品乙份。歡迎您用選票和我們分享,寫作對你而言是什麼?   前往投票!

本學期 (102-2) 英文寫作基礎精進班《Writing-Pick-Me-Up》自4月8日至今已舉辦五場,每一單元針對不同文法主題進行講解討論,受到熱烈歡迎。歡迎同學們把握機會報名參加本學期最後一場。

時間: 2014/6/4 (Wed) 18:00-20:00
地點: 普通教學館505
主題: How to Make our Writing More “Academic”: Essential Dos and Don’ts

*報名網址(場次前兩週接受報名):myNTU報名系統 (活動編號20141260_04)
A組 - 限本學期寫作教學中心課程之修課學生
B組 - 本校學生

活動細節詳見中心網頁: http://www.awec.ntu.edu.tw

【My Tutorial】英文學術寫作個別輔導
My Tutorial 免費英文學術寫作個別輔導本學期(102-2)英文學術寫作個別輔導即將於6月13日結束,且六月份輔導時段將調整為週四上午、週五下午。歡迎同學們至活動網頁查看最新消息,並善加利用此一難得的資源!

申請辦法請見活動網頁: http://www.awec.ntu.edu.tw/My_tutorial.html




講題:學術英文口頭發表技巧 How to Speak Like a Professional
講員:Marc Anthony

在電影“國王的演講”中,英國國王喬治六世因為口吃,一直不能在公眾面前演講,在接受一連串的語言訓練之後,喬治六世才能發表歷史著名的演說。同樣地,美國總統歐巴馬透過口才培訓,也成為了一個能夠振奮人心的演講者。對許多人來說,上台演說或是簡報可能是一件非常可怕的事,特別是在以英語發表的學術場合,然而,你曾經想過在發表演說過程中除了語言本身之外的元素嗎? 在此次演講中,Marc老師介紹聽眾如何透過鼓起勇氣及掌控訓練獲得優秀演講者的口才。

身為演講中的聽眾和期刊閱讀的讀者最大的不同點在於,期刊閱讀者無法從學術期刊上的文字感知作者的情感,而演說過程中,訊息的傳遞除了文字、語言之外,非言語的表達更佔了重要角色。加州大學洛杉磯分校(UCLA)的心理學教授Albert Mehrabian指出,在訊息的溝通與傳遞上,有55%是來自非言語的溝通,38%來自聲音的頻率與高低,而文字內容事實上只佔7%。這說明了演講者發表的重點在於整體感覺的傳遞,不僅僅是你說了什麼,而是你怎麼去說。也就是說演講者本身就是一個訊息而非單純只是訊息傳遞者,聽眾往往不會記得你說了什麼,只會記得你怎麼說。

透過發聲技巧的訓練與控制可以幫助你提升口才,其中包括發音、腔調、速度、重點及音量的控制。藉由盡可能的加強嘴部肌肉的訓練來改變講話的速度和加重語氣可使演講更生動有趣。除此之外,遵循重音音節的規律可以幫助你更清楚發音單詞和片語。例如字首 (Prefixes)、字尾 (Suffixes) 及字根 (Roots) 通常很少會強調發音 (representation, re->not stressed; collaboration, co-> not stressed)。

更重要的是如果你想要變成一個像歐巴馬一樣的傑出演講者,掌握節奏的控制 (regulating voice) 是演說升級的關鍵。透過適時的停頓 (chunking technique) 不僅幫助你在有濃厚的口音的狀況下還是可以被理解,同時也能消弭觀眾認為你表現緊張的觀感 (因為大部分的人覺得緊張時講話速度會變快)。另外要注意的是,不是每個字都加重或是放慢就代表精采的演說,過度強調反而會造成反效果。而藉由改變說話的聲調也能提高信服力。相較於男性,由於女性聲線天生就比較高亢,所以聽起來會較男性講者較不專業、嚴肅的感覺,但這是可以藉由改變說話的聲調改進,例如電影『鐵娘子』中的瑪格麗特努力地訓練其聲音從原來非常尖銳、高昂到後來轉為沉穩而具有說服力。


紀錄 /  周芳如、羅偉成 (本中心教學助理)
Marc Anthony has been an instructor with the Academic Writing Education Center since its inception. He teaches courses in academic writing and presentation skills.

  • 對我而言,寫作是在知識的國度,為自己的旅程留下軌跡
(王  悅/社工所)

  • 對我而言,寫作是統整、闡述、傳達,紙筆間碰撞的火花

  • 對我而言,寫作是將你的內在,包含情緒、思考,轉化為具體的文字,藉以將無形的靈魂傳播並留存。

  • 對我而言,寫作就是海蚌養貝,在歷經艱辛和痛苦的淬礪後,將平凡的小事潤飾為閃耀璀璨的珍珠。

  • 對我而言,寫作是在不斷前進的動態生命旅程  留下一幕幕靜態瞬間的方式

  • 對我而言,寫作是思緒的收納櫃  將腦袋裡的靈光傾洩,然後瞬間有條不紊地分門別類。

  • 對我而言,寫作是件頂悶騷的事。文字再冷,骨子裡也是熱的。

  • 對我而言,寫作是在捕捉。思想本如空中流螢,當作者將它網進稿紙的框格裡,就成了永恆的標本。

  • 對我而言,寫作就像啜飲一杯藍山,蓄集了所有情緒的苦澀,換一口宣洩後的甘甜。

  • 對我而言,寫作是問號,越寫越迷惑;也是驚嘆號,越寫越開闊。

  • 對我而言,寫作就像在紙上建立一個屬於自己的王國,雖然是二維空間,卻比三維的世界還要自由。

  • 對我而言,寫作是思想上的反芻,從外界吸收新的事物,在由內緩緩吐出,反覆咀嚼。

  • 對我而言,寫作像是思緒片段的凝結,從腦海中抽出,鎔鑄進文字裡,封存。

  • 對我而言,寫作是與內在自我的對話,寫下源源不絕的感受,在無止境的文字裡與自己共舞。

  • 對我而言,寫作是與過去、現在、未來自己的對話管道

亦可以文字方式表達您對這些作品內容的聯想 -- 寫作對你而言是什麼? 
(不限字數,請寄 awec2014@ntu.edu.tw)


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