Workshop on improving text flow - Sat 20 May (morning) Barcelona
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail
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Spanish to English
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May 6, 2006

Anybody living in the Barcelona area and in any way involved as a facilitator of 'international communications in English' may be interested in the following Workshop. For further details see:

20 May 2006, 10.00 – 14.00 h
Hospital de Sant Pau Barcelona

Practical Tools for Improving Text Flow: focus on punctuation & information ordering

What text elements go the farthest to improve writing? Punctuation has been described as the “traffic signs” of a text—the ones that help readers travel from one thought to the next safely. “Flow” is a feature readers name as a hallmark of good writing but rarely define. We’ll show you how an easy-to-grasp tool for understanding cohesion can help a manuscript editor manage flow.
We feel that writers—and the editors who review their texts—can’t afford to assume readers will fix unsystematic punctuation mentally or fit facts together for themselves. Readers are grateful for an editor’s help, especially with dense, scholarly texts. But as editors, we need to focus on text features under our control.
This workshop starts with a look at punctuation as a key element in providing clear, readable texts. We’ll show the syntactic basis for English punctuation, work our way logically through text examples muddled by unhelpful punctuation, and point you toward the best style guides and similar publications. We’ll then show you an approach to text cohesion borrowed from the new “functional grammarians” and show how their lens lets us think clearly about the flow of information across sentence boundaries. We’ll then apply these tools to a couple of short holistic editing tasks—talking about the variety of alternatives we have for improving manuscripts.

To create awareness of the role of punctuation in improving flow. To learn a new approach to improving cohesion in complex texts. To gain insight into the variety of editing solutions that can fix problematic prose.

We will briefly review the syntax-based punctuation rules of English—including a look at em- and en-dashes vs hyphens—and point you toward good references for modern rules. We’ll examine some syntax–punctuation mismatches that arise often in translated or Spanish-authored texts and show how the rules clarify and solve the problems. We’ll then look at the “theme–rheme” way of analyzing why choppy flow between sentences can be confusing. In each case, we’ll use examples from real life for illustration and practice. And we’ll end by tackling one or two holistic editing problems.

The workshop will be divided into two sections: a first part to present and discuss tasks that focus on new information and a second to work with hardcopy together. We’ll also leave a few minutes to look at difficulties you find in your day-to-day work—so we’d welcome your contribution of a short text with a thorny editing problem. Refreshments will be served during a break and, optionally, some might like to join us for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Who should attend
Editors and translators at any level can benefit from the exchange of knowledge in this session. Medical and scientific editors or translators will be interested because many—not all—of our examples come from such technical texts.

Outcome skills
Participants will be able to recognize good use and poor use of common punctuation marks and explain the reasons for their evaluation. They will be able to pinpoint why a text doesn’t flow and act appropriately to improve it.

Pre-meeting information
Punctuation can fascinate.
Are you familiar with Lynn Truss’s best-selling book on punctuation? If not, click here to enjoy a hilarious excerpt from Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
If you have children around 9 to 12 years old who write in English, try Truss’s punctuation game ( You may not agree with all the answers—we don’t—but it’s fun and it starts you thinking about why and how you do or don’t use a punctuation mark.
Editing’s a fine thing.
Can language doctors be dispensed with in the electronic age? Russ Sprague, author of the “Proofreading” chapter in the AMWA’s second volume of Essays for Biomedical Communicators* says, “It depends on the tolerance level ... for embarrassing, misleading, confusing, and indecipherable written language.”
Click here to read the start of Sprague’s plea for companies and institutions to use professionals. We think he’s talking about editors as well as proofreaders, and we’ll refer to some of Sprague’s ideas in our workshop.
edited by Florence M. Witte and Nancy Dew Taylor, PhD

About the developers
Thomas O'Boyle is a freelance translator, editor and language facilitator based in Madrid. His MA, from University of Salford, is in Translating and Interpreting.
Mary Ellen Kerans, a specific-purposes English instructor, biomedical translator and author’s editor, received her MA in TESOL. She is the MET council chair.

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Workshop on improving text flow - Sat 20 May (morning) Barcelona

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