1. Go to Alderman Library and find a professional journal in your
field. [Discuss with students what constitutes a professional journal
and how to find one.] Choose a passage (at least twenty-five lines)
that is difficult to understand. Rewrite the passage so that the
nominalizations appear as verbs.
2. Find a passage in a general interest/popular magazine that describes
a topic or debate in your field, and re-write it for an audience
3. Choose a topic/debate/process/theory in your discipline that is
difficult for outsiders to understand. Ask a professor or other specialist
to describe it to you as they would to another specialist. Tape the
conversation or transcribe it. Translate that description into a
description (at least one page in length) that outsiders could understand.
Bring the tape/transcription to class. (Adapted from an assignment
by Betsy Winakur.)
4. Choose a piece of equipment used frequently by specialists in
your discipline. Find an instruction manual for the equipment (often
available online) , and rewrite it for non-specialists.
5. You are on the staff of __________________ . S/he is scheduled
to give a speech to _________________, who are very interested in
______________________. It's your job to research the topic and write
a brief about it. You know that your employer isn't a great intellect,
and doesn't have much time to read the brief. The brief, then, must
be clearly written in order for him/her to understand it (and in
order for you to keep your job. [Brainstorm employers/audiences/topics
in class, to ensure that students have picked topics in their fields
that are specific enough for them to write about in a couple of pages.
During the workshop, ask readers to write memos explaining why the
brief was helpful/unhelpful.] (Adapted from an assignment designed
by John Knapp.)
6. You are on the public relations staff of ________________. There
has been an embarrassing mishap, for which your employer is seen
to be responsible. Basically, what happened was ___________________________________________________.
The press is demanding a statement, and it's your job to write one
that will obfuscate the facts enough to confuse everyone and make
it seem as if your employer is not especially at fault. [Brainstorm
employers/disasters in class. During the workshop, ask readers to
pose as members of the press, asking questions in response to the
memo, or to pose as the employer, explaining why the press release