How to rewrite a complicated story

Many hundreds of presentations were available to those who attended this year’s annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, but one I found particularly interesting was a session on how to write well.
As a former English major and composition teacher I’m always attuned to anyone who can share tips on writing more effectively. The SOCO for this session was: Know Your Audience.
SOCO? The Single Overriding Communication Objective (Thank you, Lucy Harr).
Denise McKeon of the National Education Association presented a session for academics who want to communicate with a general, non-academic audience. (Three cheers! God Bless 'em.)
One very important way to communicate your education story to a general audience is to translate everything into Plain English. Step back from what you have written, recognize the jargon and ‘insider speak’ you may use, and translate it into everyday English.
But this can be difficult to do. Researchers, for example, do not want to compromise the subtleties and complexities of their work, to which they devote their professional lives.
But let’s admit: Academic writing is notorious for being written in passive voice. Do you write in passive voice? Change to active voice.
How long are your sentences, and how many parenthetical thoughts do they contain? If you or your colleagues use long, complicated sentences, you risk putting your audiences to sleep. Take compound sentences and complex sentences and break them down into shorter sentences. If you want to get the attention of a reporter, or a policy maker, or a PTA member, it’s important to talk about the implications of your story.


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