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Continuing Education for Natural Resource Professionals

Plain& Simple! Document Writing (PSDW)

Objectives:

Write clear, concise analytical documents readily understood by the average reader; effectively communicate technical and scientific information to a variety of audiences.

Focus on writing documents pertinent to the work you do. Designed for natural resource professionals who are involved in preparing NEPA documents, biological assessments/evaluations, and other types of analytical documents, but open to everyone. During the workshop participants will edit their documents, leaving with improved products. Participants also leave with a "short book" of what they learned at the workshop.

Participants will submit excerpts of example documents (double spaced) to the instructor prior to workshop. During the workshop participants will edit their document (sections), leaving with an improved product.

You take home ...

  • Edited products
  • Network of fellow writers (bounce future writings off of each other)
  • CD summarizing the workshop
  • Post-workshop instructor support (for 6 months)
  • Internet Resources

Workshop Information

Agenda

Tuition: TBD

Paying Tuition: TBD

Dropping from the Workshop: TBD

Writing Style: You will write, re-write and edit sections of a document(s) during the workshop. You will edit your document and fellow participant documents. Please bring a laptop.

Graduate Credit: None.

What to Bring:

  • The document you are writing, re-writing and editing - in electronic format; an EA, an EIS, a regulation, a bio-appendix to an EA, et cetera. This is about skills and techniques. Obviously in an electronic format as you will edit it on your laptop computer.
  • Laptop computer for editing examples; Pen and paper for note taking
  • "Down time" material (i.e., additional document sections, good book)
  • Picture Identification (for getting in the Regional Office)

Look over the agenda and consider the work the class will be doing. You will have considerable time to work with the instructor and participants (as well as by yourself). Be sure you have everything you will need, so you can get as much accomplished as possible (before heading home where the alligators are waiting to resume nibbling).

Description:

From the original instructor ..."This really is a kind of science of writing workshop and so I tried to capture that idea in a short passage...

For example, there is this really neat pattern of grammatical elements to the declarative sentence. The various grammatical elements go in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 order. You don't always need all of them, but they must go in the 1 to 12 sequence. So, you can have 3,4,5,10. But you can't have 5, 3, 2, 10, 9. (You can do 5,3,2,10,9 in French or Italian, but not in English.) If you get them out of sequence, you lose clarity (and you can precisely quantify the potential for clarity loss based on measurements you can do with a ruler in class). If you know the sequence, then you can quickly check to see whether your sentences are in the right order. And the issue of "right order" is not a matter of personal preference -- there are very strong statistical relationships between the sequence and reader preceptions of "clarity." You just learn 12-pattern by trial and error if you write, say, 1000 pages a year. But you can learn it systematically in a very short time. Once you learn it, you can instantly spot sentence structure problems and fix them -- you just put the problem item back into the numerical slot where it belongs. Or, you learn how to move 2's to the 4 position by changing their form. . . and so forth. It's amazingly simple and it means you don't have to think your way out of problems.

When I first show people this pattern, they generally look at me as if I am crazy. Then they stumble about for a few hours trying to learn it. And in about 2-3 hours they're talking in code -- "I've got too many 1's, so I'll move a 1 to the 12 position." (1's and 12's are interchangeable, with minor adjustments). They usually end up asking me why nobody ever taught them this in Freshman English. It's the same question I had when I learned it."

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Disclaimers | Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) | Privacy Notice

Forest Service Continuing Education for Natural Resource Professionals
Author: Shelly Witt, National Continuing Education Coordinator,
WFW staff
Email: switt01@fs.fed.us
Phone: 435-881-4203
Publish_date:2/24/98
Expires: none

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USDA Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
(202) 205-8333

 Last Modified: November 2014