“If you find yourself doing something over and over,” Omar tells me and the developers that work under him, “that is something you can automate.”
How often as teachers do we write the same comments again and again in feedback and emails? Maybe you have a document with common comments that you copy and paste from, but there is an easier way that will save time and allow you to give more detailed messages: text expansion. Mac computers have a built in text expander, but I use aText, which costs five dollars and is more convenient.
For a text expander, you enter codes and then type in the text that goes with it. I always use a semicolon at the beginning of my codes to distinguish them from ordinary writing. For example, I use “;topic” for the subject line of an email: “English 214: Feedback on Your Topic Proposal.” As soon as I have written the code, the expanded text appears with a satisfying click. I love that click!
Let me give an extended example. Here is what I might actually type:
;weekend It was great to talk with you yesterday during office hours. I hope I was able to clarify your questions about the blog project.
;send topic proposal. ;liketopic ;morenarrow
;title ;mainidea Otherwise, ;goodorganization
;goodsources ;credible? ;moreevidence
;sentencefocus For example, instead of “The way that nurses treat their patients needs a knowledge of psychology,” which uses the abstract subject “way,” you could choose “nurses” as your subject (after all, they are your topic!), and write, “Nurses need a knowledge of psychology to treat their patients well.”
;clear ;voice ;forward
Notice that I do add some personal messages and examples. This is what I get:
Subject: English 214: Feedback on Topic Proposal / First Blog Post
I hope you are having a great weekend!It was great to talk with you yesterday during office hours. I hope I was able to clarify your questions about the blog project.
Thanks for sending me your topic proposal. I really like your topic and think it will be interesting enough to explore for a whole semester. Plus, it looks like it will be useful in developing knowledge of your major and the writing conventions in your field. However, I wonder if you can make it a little more narrow for this series of five blog posts and a persuasive essay. Can you find some aspect of this topic to focus on for a few months? Later, if you want, you can expand your blog to include a wider range of subjects.
Consider making your title more specific so that readers will know if the post is interesting for them. Include key words so your post will appear higher in search engines (search engine optimization). You should try to state your main idea near the beginning of the post, so readers can get your point quickly. Often blogs open with the main idea, instead of putting it at the end of the first paragraph in a typical essay. Otherwise, your organization was clear and easy to follow.
Good use of sources. The sources you chose support your points well, and you have effectively introduced and explained them. Don’t forget to analyze your sources to explain why they are–or are not–credible sources. Add more evidence and examples to back up your points. Imagine that you are writing for a skeptical reader. What will it take to convince her?
Sentence focus will greatly improve your writing. When writers use abstract or empty subjects for their sentences, those sentences tend to be unclear, wandering, redundant, illogical, and grammatically inaccurate, but when they use specific, concrete subjects, especially people, the sentences tend to me clearer, more direct, more active, more concise, more logical, and more grammatically accurate. For example, instead of “The way that nurses treat their patients needs a knowledge of psychology,” which uses the abstract subject “way,” you could choose “nurses” as your subject (after all, they are your topic!), and write, “Nurses need a knowledge of psychology to treat their patients well.”
Your writing is clear and effective, for the most part. You write with an engaging voice that draws your readers in and makes your writing a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading more of your writing.
Let me know if you have any questions about my feedback or if there is anything else you would like to ask me about your writing. Send me an email or come see me during office hours.
Ronald B. Richardson
San Francisco State University
Sometimes when I am typing, I realize that I am typing something I have typed before, so I should add it to aText. My inclination is to keep typing since I am already part way through, but I try to stop, copy and paste what I have written and put it into aText. The little bit of extra effort will save so much later on!