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Clemson UniversityTigerPrints

All Theses Theses

5-2009

The Rhetoric of the Comment Box: EditorialQueries as Arguments and Relationships inEngineering ProposalsAli FergusonClemson University, [emailprotected]

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Recommended CitationFerguson, Ali, "The Rhetoric of the Comment Box: Editorial Queries as Arguments and Relationships in Engineering Proposals"(2009). All Theses. 604.https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/all_theses/604

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THE RHETORIC OF THE COMMENT BOX: EDITORIAL QUERIES AS ARGUMENTS AND RELATIONSHIPS IN

ENGINEERING PROPOSALS

A Thesis

Presented to the Graduate School of

Clemson University

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

Master of Arts Professional Communication

by

Ali N. Ferguson August 2009

Accepted by:

Dr. Steven B. Katz, Committee Chair Dr. Sean D. Williams Dr. Summer S. Taylor

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Abstract

In today’s academic engineering environments, securing funding has become a volatile

process, requiring the hard work of and collaboration between many different people. Technical

editors are one of these important forces in the proposal writing process, as they help engineer

writers to develop their proposals and persuade reviewers of the value of their research.

However, to date, there have been very few studies on how editors convince engineer writers to

accept their proposed revisions. To fill this gap in the literature, this thesis offers an in-depth

style analysis of six proposals in order to determine what technical editors do when they edit

engineering proposals and how they create working relationships with engineers. In particular, I

will concentrate on how two editors in Clemson University’s College of Engineering and

Science argue for changes and create stylistic relationships—and the interrelationship between

argument and style—by querying writers through the Comment function in Microsoft Word.

The two analyses that I will complete are based on the theories of Stephen Toulmin et al. on

argumentation and Walker Gibson on style. Toulmin et al.’s theory will enable me to analyze

how the editors argue for revisionary changes in each of the technical proposals, whereas

Gibson’s theory will enable me to determine how editors create relationships with authors

through the language they use in the comment box. The findings revealed from this thesis

provide practical knowledge to technical editing students and to working technical editors.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Katz for guiding me through my graduate studies and for

reassuring me during the many times that I doubted myself. He has been so much more than

merely a professor to me; he has been a mentor and friend. Thank you, Dr. Katz. Without you,

this work would have never been possible.

I would also like to thank Dr. Taylor and Dr. Williams for being on my committee. I

have been extremely fortunate to have both of your help during my graduate studies and during

the time I was writing this thesis. Thank you so much.

Finally, I would like to thank the two editors who provided the proposals for my

analyses. Without their cooperation, this work would never have materialized.

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Table of Contents Chapter 1: The Importance of Arguing and Developing Relationships in Editing………. 1

Research Importance…………………………………………………………………… 2 Selected Materials……………………………………………………………………… 3 Organization……………………………………………………………………………. 6

Chapter 2: Querying the Literature…………………………………………………………. 7

Background: Engineering Writing……………………………………………………... 7 Background: Engineering Proposal Writing…………………………………………...10 Background: Technical Editors……………………………………………………….. 13 Research Questions…………………………………………………………………… 20

Chapter 3: Arguing for Change…………………………………………………………….. 21

Successful Arguments………………………………………………………………… 25 Unsuccessful Arguments……………………………………………………………… 33 Arguments as Consensus……………………………………………………………… 45

Chapter 4: Developing Successful Author/Editor Relationships with Style……………... 49

Common Gibson Grammatical Terms………………………………………………... 50 Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy Talkers…………………………………………………….. 51 The Tough Sweet Talker……………………………………………………………… 56 The Sweet Talker……………………………………………………………………… 63 The Tough Talker……………………………………………………………………... 70

Chapter 5: Concluding My Argument on the Comment Box…………………………….. 75

Style as Part of a Successful Argument……………………………………………….. 77 What Editors Can Learn………………………………………………………………. 77 Limitations…………………………………………………………………………….. 80 Future Research……………………………………………………………………….. 82

Works Cited………………………………………………………………………………….. 84 Appendix A: Editors’ Comments…………………………………………………………… 87 Appendix B: Toulmin et al. Charts for the Editors’ Comments………………………….. 93 Appendix C: Gibson Analysis Tables……………………………………………………… 158

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Figures and Tables

Chapter 3: Arguing for Change…………………………………………………………….. 22

Figure 1. The Component Parts of a Toulmin et al. Argument……………………….. 22 Figure 2. Toulmin et al. Charts for Comment 18 of the Mae.NIH.1 Proposal……....... 24 Figure 3. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 20 of the Mae.NIH.2 Proposal……….... 26

Figure 4. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 1 of the Benson.CAREER Proposal…… 27 Figure 5. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 14 of the Mae.AHA Proposal………….. 29

Figure 6. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 14 of the Mae.NIH.1 Proposal………… 30 Figure 7. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 5 of the Benson.MEM Proposal……….. 31

Figure 8. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 10 of the Benson.DARPA Proposal…… 34 Figure 9. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 19 of the Mae.AHA Proposal………….. 36 Figure 10. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 15 of the Mae.NIH.1 Proposal……….. 38 Figure 11. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 5 of the Benson.CAREER Proposal….. 39 Figure 12. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 9 of the Mae.NIH.2 Proposal………… 41 Figure 13. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 5 of the Mae.AHA Proposal………….. 47 Chapter 4: Developing Successful Author/Editor Relationships with Style……………... 49

Table 1. Common Grammatical Terms in Gibson’s Style Machine…………………... 51 Table 2. Characteristics of Gibson’s Categories of Style……………………………... 54 Figure 1. Rate of Style Characteristics in the Six Proposals………………………….. 56

Table 3. Predominant Stylistic Characteristics for the Six Proposals………………… 56

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Chapter 1

The Importance of Arguing and Developing Relationships in Editing

With a decrease in state funding and more demands from university

administrators, finding external funding continues to be a major issue for academic

engineering programs. As a result, proposals are one of the main forms of writing in

which engineers must engage, and technical editors frequently play a central role in this

writing process. According to Greg Myers, proposals are “the most obviously rhetorical

writing scientists do” (220) as they must convince a skeptical committee that the

engineers’ research is worthwhile, that they are capable of completing the research, and

that their preliminary findings are accurate. However, as Myers suggests, proposal

writing is paradoxal: the proposal itself (with its questions about background, goals, and

budget) and the scientific report within the proposal (with its passivity and impersonality)

are not ideal conditions for rhetorical appeals. As such, the purpose of technical editors in

these writing processes entails helping engineer writers to persuade reviewers of the

value of their research.

To date, there have been very few studies on how editors convince engineer

writers to accept their proposed revisions. Therefore, this thesis offers an in-depth style

analysis of six proposals in order to determine what technical editors do when they edit

engineering proposals and how they create working relationships with engineers. In

particular, I will concentrate on how two editors in Clemson’s College of Engineering

and Science argue for changes and create stylistic relationships—and the interrelationship

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between argument and style—by querying writers through the Comment function in

Microsoft Word. The two analyses that I will complete are based on the theories of

Stephen Toulmin et al. on argumentation and Walker Gibson on style. Toulmin et al.’s

theory will enable me to analyze how the editors argue for revisionary changes in each of

the technical proposals, whereas Gibson’s theory will enable me to determine how editors

create relationships with authors through the language they use in the comment box. Both

of these approaches and the connections between them will be discussed in detail in the

chapters dedicated to these analyses (i.e., Chapters 3 and 4, respectively).

Research Importance

As a technical editing student, I have had many professors try to explain how to

develop successful, productive relationships with technical writers in which each party

has their needs fulfilled: the editor is able to share his/her expertise to improve the

writer’s document, and the writer submits a more effective and strengthened text. While

my professors and the textbooks they used tried very hard to explain how to build

successful author/editor relationships, the suggestions they gave were always anecdotal

or hypothetical; they never provided a theory-based methodology to help students

understand the basics behind developing such rapport.

In addition, these professors and textbooks also tried to describe how to create

non-threatening, yet constructive comments that provide editorial suggestions without

offending writers. Again, these suggestions were based solely on editors’ and writers’

experiences with the editorial process but never on objective theoretical research. While

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both the teachers and textbooks provide examples of effective queries, I was always

unsure as to their ultimate effectiveness for one reason or another. How could I be

certain that implementing these experience-based, yet un-researched, suggestions would

enable me to develop good relationships with writers or write comments in which I would

be able to argue my position effectively without making the author uncomfortable or

angry?

The result of my educational experience is this research: I want to provide other

editing students and even working editors who have faced a similar dilemma with a

theory-based evaluation of how two technical editors argue for changes and develop

relationships through the comment box. I hope that the results from this research will

take some of the guess work out of creating effective comments, especially for students

trying to learn the basics behind the complex nature of technical editing. Even though

technical editors generally learn to fine-tune their skills with time and experience, I hope

the findings from this research will not only provide editing students with a firmer

foundation from which they can build their editorial expertise, but more specifically, I

hope it will provide insight into the connection between editor’s arguments and the

language they use.

Selected Materials

The six proposals I chose to analyze for this thesis were written by faculty from

Clemson University’s College of Engineering and Science (CoES). These proposals

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were edited by two CoES editors: one from the Bioengineering Department, Elizabeth

Mae, and the other from the CoES Proposal Development Office, James Benson1.

Both Mae and Benson provided me with several proposals that they had edited in

the recent past from which I chose three per editor for my final analyses. These six

proposals were chosen for three primary reasons: 1) they were written by native English

speakers, 2) they were written for major engineering funding agencies2, and 3) they had

enough comments to provide an accurate analysis. I chose to focus on native English

speakers’ proposals under the supposition that the editors’ comments for native speakers

would focus more on each proposal’s content and rhetorical appeals and less so on

grammar and word choice issues common to non-native speakers’ proposals. In addition,

I felt it was important to choose proposals from the major funding agencies that support

most of Clemson’s engineering research because the proposals written to these agencies

are the documents that the CoES editors revise most frequently. It is likely that

engineering faculty from programs similar to Clemson’s also write proposals for these

agencies and that the technical editors working for these other programs will edit such

documents as well. Accordingly, choosing to analyze proposals from these particular

institutions will make the results of this thesis more generalizable and thus more

applicable to a wider range of technical editors. Finally, it was necessary for me to select

proposals with enough comments to provide reliable results, as I knew that the more

1 The two editors’ names were changed to protect their identities. 2 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the American Heart Association (AHA).

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comments I was able to analyze, the more fortified and generalizable my results would

be.

For both the Toulmin et al. and Gibson analyses, I will concentrate solely on the

comments the editors made for each proposal. While every change an editor makes is an

argument of one kind of another, editorial changes within the text primarily amend

grammatical or mechanical errors, the basis for which can easily be defended by

consulting a grammar handbook. The comments, however, provide the editors’

arguments for changes that generally cannot be explained through established

grammatical rules or usage handbooks; rather, the editors’ comments consider revisions

that they made based on their accumulated experience of what does and does not work in

proposal writing. Thus, how they make their arguments in the hopes of convincing the

engineer to accept these non-rule-based suggestions and how they support these

arguments could reveal very interesting characteristics of both effective and ineffective

editorial argument strategies that technical editors should implement or avoid when

editing proposals, specifically, or technical documents, in general.

In addition, analyzing the editors’ comments as arguments opens up the

opportunity for undertaking a Gibson analysis, which will reveal not only how the

editor’s personality is reflected through his/her writing but also how style itself becomes

an essential part of an editor’s argument. It would be impossible to complete such an

analysis based on the in-text revisions, as the editors do not explain the revisions they

makes in text; consequently, analyzing the language style they use to develop a

relationship with the author would also be impossible. However, with the

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implementation of Gibson’s theory, as will be seen in Chapter 4, I expect to discover the

characteristics of the language that is most effective in developing editorial relationships,

especially in cases in which the editor and author have minimal face-to-face or oral

contact outside of the proposal comments.

Organization

This thesis is organized as follows: Chapter 2 is a literature review of the current

research relating to engineering writing, proposal development, and technical editing, all

of which inform the Gibson and Toulmin et al. analyses and results. Chapters 3 and 4

present a description of the Toulmin et al. and Gibson analyses, respectively, the results

of the twelve analyses completed for this thesis (six for Toulmin et al. and six for

Gibson), and how the findings are interrelated to form the editors’ arguments. Finally,

Chapter 5 provides the implications of these findings for editors and for students studying

editing, the limitations of the current study, and suggestions for further research in this

area. Appendix A includes the comments from the six proposals. Because of the

proprietary nature of the information, the full-length proposals could not be included;

however, the comments in Appendix A are word-for-word transcriptions of those in the

original proposals. Appendix B is a compilation of the Toulmin et al. analysis charts for

each comment, and Appendix C includes the Gibson tables of style results for each

proposal.

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Chapter 2

Querying the Literature

This chapter provides an overview of the current literature on engineering writing,

engineering proposal writing, and technical editing. The information from this chapter

provides the basis for this thesis and a foundation for both the Toulmin et al. and Gibson

analyses.

Background: Engineering Writing

According to Dorothy Winsor, a leading researcher in the field of engineering

writing, engineers, especially those new to the field, have a rather negative view of

writing: they tend to view writing as a necessary part of their jobs, but they do not believe

it is a part of engineering in general (“An Engineer’s” 276). Because most engineers

focus on research and spend most of their time collecting data and developing

technologies, “writing seems to be a rather uninteresting act of translating knowledge

they have encoded in another form” (Winsor, “An Engineer’s” 276), such as in graphs,

drawings, and calculations. Unlike most individuals in the humanities, engineers and

other technical workers generally see writing as an objective process that accurately

describes reality, while ignoring the possibility that their writing influences knowledge.

They tend to believe that the objects and data collected from measurements speak for

themselves and can then be translated to the physical world through writing (Winsor,

“Engineering” 60). For engineers, “engineering writing may be said to embody objects

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in the verbal form, and engineers depend a great deal on that writing for designing,

negotiating, modifying, testing, and producing objects” (Ding). In addition to viewing

writing as tedious, many engineers also view themselves as being poor writers, believing

they frequently make mechanical errors and use ineloquent language.

However, as engineers become more indoctrinated into the field, they realize the

importance of writing in engineering and usually view it less negatively. According to a

pilot study done by Arfken and Henry, as engineer writers become more educated and

experienced, they tend to enjoy writing more and worry less about errors. In addition,

they gain confidence in their writing abilities and in the documents they produce. This

lack of writing anxiety and increased confidence is also apparent in Selzer’s case study,

in which the engineer studied was self-assured in his ability to produce accurate,

organized documents that met his audience’s needs.

Because engineers view their writing as describing the natural world, they believe

that persuasion is unnecessary and has the potential to skew data (Winsor, Writing 69).

In fact, Winsor found that many engineers even attach a negative connotation to the term

“persuasion,” preferring to say that they are being “convincing” rather than “persuasive”

(Writing 3). In addition, engineers generally believe that if someone is an “expert” in

his/her field, he/she has the authority to tell others what to believe about their expertise

without needing to persuade them.

In terms of language usage, engineers value conciseness and simplicity. In most

engineers’ opinion, the goal of writing is to “transfer” knowledge accurately from one

form (data) to another (document), and they do this by speaking in the established forms

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and tongues of engineering (Winsor, “Engineering” 67). Ineloquence and the avoidance

of “flowery” language marks this style, which engineers believe makes them come across

as sounding serious and reliable. Therefore, “the ‘boring’ nature of ‘technical

documents’ is functional and actually increases the chance of readers getting what they

need…[without being] distracted by extraneous information” (Winsor, Writing 90).

However, for most people, even engineers themselves, reading technical documents

written in this way is often difficult. Therefore, technical editors frequently alter such

texts to increase their readability and comprehension.

Finally, when engaged in the writing process, most engineers use conventional

methods in terms of prewriting, writing, and rewriting. Selzer believes that engineers’

writing processes are more linear than recursive. In linear writing, once an author has

written text, he/she hardly reconsiders or revises it thereafter. Yet, Roundy and Mair

believe that engineers, like most writers, have more recursive types of writing processes

in which they do reconsider text after is has been written and frequently add and delete

information as they write. Regardless of this discrepancy, most researchers agree that

engineers engage in three major and distinct writing phases: prewriting/planning and

arranging, writing, and rewriting/revision (Selzer, Roundy and Mair). However, unlike

more typical writers who approach each stage more equally, engineers tend to place

“special emphasis on planning and arranging at the expense of revision” (Selzer 179).

Selzer found that planning and arranging accounted for about 80 percent of engineers

total composing process, whereas writing took about 15 percent, and revision accounted

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for less than 5 percent. Roundy and Mair also confirmed these findings and noted that

during the revision stage, engineers do not revise much past basic mechanical issues.

Background: Engineering Proposal Writing

In her article, “Finding Funding: Writing Winning Proposal for Research Funds,”

Laurel Grove states the following about the importance of proposal writing:

Even though thousands of organizations fund research, there are even

more researchers who need funds. What is more, not even Bill Gates

could afford to pay for every research project that researchers would like

to undertake. Funds are always limited. Because no researcher has

enough funds to do all the work he or she might like, researchers compete

for the limited funds available. And since no sponsor has enough money

to pay for all potentially valuable research, agencies must find ways to

select among potential recipients of their funds.

Grove goes on to explain that such agencies select recipients for their funds

depending almost exclusively on the form and content of the researcher’s

proposal and how well the writer conveys the value of and the plan for his/her

work.

While the importance of proposal writing is widely accepted, most literature on

proposal writing (including Grove’s piece) is genre oriented and describes how to create

successful proposals, while very little research has actually examined the writing and

revising process of creating a proposal. While such how-to guides are valuable in

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helping writers to shape their proposals and understand the review process, research that

goes beyond these formulaic rules could help both writers and editors create more

fundable proposals. There is, however, more research on editing that could inform the

proposal writing process, which will be discussed in the next section.

Greg Myers is one of the few researchers who has accepted the challenge of

studying proposals from a more analytical standpoint (though not those of engineers). In

his article “The Social Construction of Two Biologists’ Proposals,” Myers undertakes an

in-depth analysis on two biologists’ grant proposals. In this case study, Myers chose one

proposal from each biologist, collected all of their major drafts for each document, and

examined the comments and revisions from reviewers. By the end of his study, Myers

had three readings of the proposals: the writers’, the readers’, and his own. He found

that “the writing of proposals, which takes up such a large proportion of the active

researcher’s time, is part of the consensus-building process essential to the development

of scientific knowledge” (220). This consensus, Myers suggests, evolves out of the

scientist’s ability to create a credible persona by enmeshing his/her research with

established literature within the field. In the end, as Grove suggests and Myer’s study

supports, the decision to fund a research project is not only based on the quality of a

proposal but also on “the reputation of the investigator” (Grove, 2004).

Myers’ research adds to our understanding of the rhetorical nature of proposals;

however, his analyses do not go beyond the scientists’ writing and the reviewers’

reactions to that writing. He does not examine the relationships between the reviewers

and the writers but merely looks at how the writers implement the reviewers’ suggestions

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and address their concerns. In addition, Myers does not examine the reviewers’

comments in terms of their arguments or persuasiveness; rather, he examines how the

biologists respond to those comments and merely takes them at face value without

considering if their claims are substantiated or warranted or if they are effective in

convincing the writers to heed their propositions. (Myers, like the authors themselves.

assumes authority on part of the reviewers, which we cannot assume on part of the editors

of engineering proposals because, as we have seen, engineers take their authority for

granted by virtue of their subject matter expertise.)

Other research has looked at the difficulties associated with proposal writing,

especially in terms of collaboration and, thus, focuses on the need for writers to be

effective communicators. In his article “The Rhetorical Nature of Research Funding,”

Brad Mehlenbacher found that most researchers believe that proposal writing requires

“the ability to achieve group consensus, effectively manage large documents with

multiple authors, and resolve conflicts between the proposal writers and the intended

audience” (159). However, research suggests that similar to their limited ability to use

rhetoric effectively, engineers tend to lack adequate communication skills when it comes

to writing collaboratively. For example, Mehlenbacher illustrates how collaborators can

sometimes seem like “competitors,” vying for his/her own interests while neglecting the

group and document as a whole (159).

In the end, all of the research on proposal writing focuses on an issue that Grove

describes especially well: proposal reviewers ultimately hold “expectations that clear

thinking is linked to clear communication, and that someone who truly understands his or

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her subject can explain it to someone else” (“Finding Funding”). Thus, it is the technical

editor’s job in the proposal writing process to facilitate this communication, and it will be

interesting to examine how that it is done through the comment box.

Background: Technical Editors

When reviewing proposals, referees have very high and specific expectations.

They value clean copies without mistakes, omitted words, confusing language, etc., and

strict adherence to their specified format, but more importantly, they expect sound

arguments with convincing data and logical presentation. Distracting errors and

formatting issues can lead to a reviewer rejecting the proposal before giving it a thorough

read through, whereas, weak arguments will fail to convince referees of the importance of

the research or the engineer’s ability to conduct the research (Anderson and Garg).

Because there is a disconnect between what successful proposals require and engineers’

limited rhetorical knowledge, technical editors are often the solution for helping

engineers produce fundable proposals.

There are two main types of revising strategies that editors use when reviewing a

document: mechanical editing and comprehensive editing. According to Laurel Grove,

mechanical editing is rule-oriented editing, in which the editor reads through a document

line by line, word by word, ensuring that it adheres to a company’s style guide.

Mechanical editing focuses on correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence

structure, word usage, formatting, and number usage, while the unity of the document’s

content and the audience’s needs are ignored. Comprehensive editing, on the other hand,

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is audience-oriented and more rhetorically based. During comprehensive editing, the

editor takes on the reader’s perspective, ensuring that the audience will understand the

ideas and/or arguments easily. According to Grove, during a comprehensive edit, editors

will read the document at least twice: first to study the outline and structure and second to

analyze the discussion’s completeness, technical discrepancies, argument soundness,

definition clarity, proper tone, and the like. Additionally, during the comprehensive

editing stage, editors often query the author and comment on specific sections to ensure

clarity, avoid audience confusion, raise questions, and give explanations. However,

during these readings, the editor essentially ignores mechanics and format.

While editors clearly understand the importance of distinguishing between and

choosing from mechanical and comprehensive editing, many engineer writers do not fully

understand the necessity for editors to go beyond mechanical editing to revise more

substantial issues. As such, many engineers see editors as mere grammar fixers who do

not have the technical knowledge to revise content material and expect editors to ignore

how they approach persuading their reviewers. Such writers expect technical editors to

fix punctuation and grammar errors, while leaving a document’s content and language

untouched. Yet, what most engineer writers do not realize is that “technical editing

involves a wide-ranging, deeply probing, thorough review of a technical manuscript and

is performed for the purpose of improving the communication of scientific and

engineering concepts” (Van Buren and Buehler 5).

Most of the current research on technical editing involves developing best

practices for effectively revising technical documents, essentially creating how-to editing

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models. In 1980, technical editors Robert Van Buren and Mary Fran Buehler developed

“The Levels of Edit” for the Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology.

This document is often deemed the cornerstone of technical editing, as it provides editors

with an orderly approach to revising any technical document depending on its audience,

purpose, and time/money constraints. The levels-of-edit approach involves nine

categories: coordination (monitoring a document’s production), policy (ensuring a

document adheres to company policy), integrity (verifying that parts of a publication

match), screening (correcting aspects of the text and artwork, such as misspellings and

illegibility), copy clarification (neatening the document for typesetters and graphics

personal), format (ensuring that the manuscript adheres to format specifications),

mechanical style (conforming text and images to a particular style—abbreviations,

spelling, numbers, etc.), language (reviewing how ideas are expressed regardless of

format), and substantive (reviewing the document for meaningful content). These nine

categories are combined into five levels of editing from which an editor can choose

depending on the particular document.

While the levels of edit enable editors to provide thorough revisions, they are

usually more detailed than most editors need. As a result, several researchers and editors

have adapted the initial levels of edit, combining them to form smaller, more clearly

defined categories. For example, Prono et al. reduced the initial levels of edit into three

major categories (the proofreading edit, the grammar edit, and the full edit) based on “the

cumulative nature of the levels” (3). Corbin et al. also created three editing categories

similar to the levels of edit—comprehensive editing, usability editing, and copy editing;

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however, these editing guides’ categories focus on content first and mechanics last

regardless of what constraints are present.

In addition to describing how to approach technical documents, many of these

guidebooks discuss how editors can collaborate with writers effectively in hopes of

helping them prevent adversarial relationships with writers. Numerous editing guidelines

warn editors of the strenuous working relationships that often develop between technical

editors and writers, apparently due to writers’ fragility and editors’ super egos. As

Heather Crognale explains in her article “Long-Distance Editing,” “In information

development circles, one of the more precarious relationships is that between the editor

and writer. Too often, writers take edits personally and view editing comments as direct

attacks on their abilities, or editors begin to feel smug after finding many errors in a

document” (17). Along those same lines, Carolyn Rude asserts that author/editor

relationships fail for three reasons: “poor writing and editing, poor management, and

oversized egos” (36). However, problems can also arise when editors and writers have

different expectations regarding what the editing process entails (Bernhardt and Hart).

For example, an author may believe that his/her document only needs a mere grammar

check, while the editor may believe that same document needs to be completely

reorganized. These conflicting views will inevitably lead to stress in the author/editor

relationship if not handled appropriately.

Specifically considering the sciences and engineering, the tension between editors

and authors may arise because scientists “have a huge investment in [their written work],

and because the language of science loses its value if it is not 100 percent technically

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accurate, they are often loath to change even a single word or comma” (Firestone, 11).

Thus, technical editors working with subject matter experts (SMEs) in the engineering

field may face more problems when trying to convince writers to alter their documents,

as those writers feel that revising their text will inadvertently revise their meaning.

Because of the apparent tension in many author/editor relationships, numerous

editing guidelines provide suggestions on how to develop and maintain successful

relationships. Many of these guidelines suggest that the editor become the writer’s ally in

order to “mediate the writer-reader relationship” (Dragga and Gong 9) and create the

most effective document possible. In the end, as most of these articles suggest, the clarity

and communicative effectiveness of the final document is the ultimate goal. Thus,

overcoming the inherent tension in their relationship will ultimately benefit both writers

and editors: the editor “must make it abundantly clear that he and the writer share a

common goal; they are in no sense adversaries” (Bennett 9).

One common method cited in the literature for helping editors create and maintain

successful working relationships with authors is the construction of comments that are

both beneficial for and polite to the author. In years past, editors and writers generally

had to meet to discuss documents and potential revisions; however, today “the diffusion

of electronic editing in technical communication is continuing, driven by the increasing

use of telecommuting, dispersed work teams, single-sourcing, Web-based documentation,

and ever-compressed product development cycles” (Dayton). As a result of the increased

use of electronic editing, using the track-changes and commenting functions (such as

those in Microsoft Word) on electronic versions of technical documents has become

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standard in the technical editing field. Nevertheless, using the comment function is by no

means a substitution for face-to-face communication, as it limits editors’ ability to

elaborate on their thoughts and suggestions and may lead to author misinterpretation.

However, in today’s fast-paced electronic world, the comment feature allows editors to

discuss their revisionary choices with authors when other communication means are

unfeasible.

Since editors are generally unable to have face-to-face discussions with writers,

“carefully phrased comments are all the more important to convey not only useful

feedback but also an encouraging attitude” (Doumont 39). However, because “carefully

phrased comments” is a rather abstract concept, many editing guidelines suggest different

approaches for creating effective editorial comments. Some researchers believe that

politeness is the key to successful comments and author/editor relationships (Crognale,

Hart, Doumont, and Mackiewicz and Riley). For example, Hart suggests that editors

“remember to use the word please often, and to phrase [their] comments as suggestions

rather than demands” (27), whereas Doumont suggests using gentle feedback and

acknowledging the positive aspects of the writer’s text as forms of politeness.

While helpful, the concept of being polite is still rather vague. To mitigate the

ambiguity intrinsic in politeness, Mackiewicz and Riley outline a set of linguistic

strategies that editors can use when constructing comments that balance

directness/indirectness with communicating a need so that the editor can create the most

polite comments possible. According to Mackiewiz and Riley, depending on what

message the editor needs to convey and how he/she needs to do so, editors can choose

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from seven linguistic strategies; however, editors should generally choose from the five

most polite comments (from most polite to less polite): opinion (e.g., “I would include a

table here); derivable-active (e.g., You should probably include a table here); bald-on-

record (e.g., Add a table here. It will make the information easier to read); preparatory-

active (You could add a table here. That’s just a suggestion.); and interrogative (Could

you add a table here?). However, the authors advise that editors avoid using passive

voice and hints when making suggestions.

Forming comments in the form of questions is another method often cited in the

literature as a way to develop and maintain successful author/editor relationships.

According to Draga and Gong, “Questioning the author is an effective and judicious

manner of calling the writer’s attention to problematic passages” (32), while enabling

them to come across as suggestive, rather than demanding. Phrasing comments as

questions illustrates that editors acknowledge the SME’s superior technical knowledge

about the text but also allows editors to point out potentially problematic areas.

Regardless of how editors approach writing comments to their writers, the

literature suggests that authors want to know why editors make the changes they do, and

they often want to see such explanations in the comment boxes. According to Elaine R.

Firestone, “authors respect and trust editors who have [communication] knowledge and

who can explain the reasoning behind their changes” (12). Thus, “the best comments

identify a problem, diagnose why it is a problem, and offer a solution” (Bernhardt 463).

This three-step concept of a comment satisfies both the editor’s need to notify the author

of a potential problem and the writer’s desire to know why the editor was compelled to

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change his/her text, ultimately leading to a more communicative and effective working

relationship and a better document in the end.

Research Questions

After consulting the current literature on engineering writing, proposal writing,

and technical editing, I believe that there is a major gap in our understanding of editors’

work, especially in terms of how they communicate with writers through comments. As

such, my research questions for this thesis are as follows:

How do technical editors develop relationships with engineering proposal writers

and argue for important revisions through the language in their comment boxes?

How do the argument and style work together on a structural level to convince

engineer authors of the validity and necessity of changes?

As technical writing becomes more computer-based with editors and writers working in

different physical areas, this issue will gain more importance, as comment boxes become

the main means of communication between editor and writer.

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Chapter 3

Arguing for Change

On a fundamental level, the revisions and comments technical editors suggest to

writers are essentially arguments. I was thus able to perform an analysis on the editor’s

comments on the six engineering proposals based on Toulmin et al.’s model in An

Introduction to Reasoning. The Toulmin et al. method is particularly suited for

understanding editorial arguments, as it provides a systematic way to break down the

editors’ comments into their argumentative parts and examine their effectiveness. In this

model, any argument can be broken down into six constituent parts: claims, grounds,

warrants, backing, modals, and rebuttals. In general terms, the claim is a statement the

writer is asking another person to accept; the ground is the basic premise on which the

claim is built; the warrant is the link between the ground and the claim that provides

rational support for the claim; backing includes the general body of knowledge

accumulated over time on which a warrant is founded; modals are qualifiers that establish

the strength of the connection between the ground and the claim; and the rebuttal is the

writer’s anticipation and refutation of a counter argument. Figure 1 is an example of a

Toulmin et al. argument chart with each box representing its respective argumentative

component and a description of that component:

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Figure 1. The Component Parts of a Toulmin et al. Argument

The arguments in the editors’ comment boxes follow this basic outline with a few

specific characteristics: the ground always relates to something problematic or

questionable in the author’s text; the claim is always the editors’ revisionary suggestion;

and the warrant establishes the change’s necessity.

Interestingly, the claims, warrants, backing, modals, and rebuttals of each

argument may or may not be present in the actual argument but may merely be implied.

In opposition to strictly formal, syllogistic approaches to the study of argumentation,

Toulmin et al. developed a way to chart more informal arguments in terms of these

various parts in order to determine how writers convince (or fail to convince) their

audience of their argument’s validity. Toulmin et al.’s analysis method also enables one

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to analyze the parts of informal arguments (with missing argumentative components) and

how they work, in addition to more formal arguments that include all of the constituent

argument components. The goal in this argumentative situation, as Toulmin et al. puts it,

is “directed toward a consensus, or rational agreement, between the parties concerned”

(317). In this thesis, “the parties concerned” are comprised of the editors and the

engineer writers with whom they work.

Using Toulmin et al.’s charting technique, I graphed each argument that the two

editors from the College of Engineering and Science (Benson and Mae) presented in

Microsoft Words’ “Track Changes” function1. While the editors made numerous

separate comments on each proposal, several of the comments contained more than one

argument. For example, Comment 18 of the Mae.NIH.1 proposal has more than one

argument:“Don’t use a colon separate a verb from its complement, esp. when the bullets

make it very clear that this is a list. I changed the bullets to numbers to avoid the

redundancy of bullets and numbered aims.” “Don’t use a colon…” and “I changed the…”

begin two separate arguments: the first argument calls for a revision of colon usage based

on a grammatical warrant, and the second argument calls for the author to use bullets to

list his/her information. Below are the two separate Toulmin et al. graphs for each

argument:

1 A list of these comments can be found in Appendix B. Comments are labeled as with the editor’s name followed by the type of proposal (e.g., Comment 1 from the Benson.DARPA proposal refers to the first comment in the DARPA proposal edited by Benson).

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Figure 22. Toulmin et al. Charts for Comment 18 of the MAE.NIH.1 Proposal

Thus, when necessary, I had to break down comments into several arguments,

after which I was able to chart each argument the editors made throughout the six given

proposals. These Toulmin et al. analysis charts revealed several interesting facts as to

2 In each chart, blue boxes represent parts of the argument that were stated, and the white boxes with broken lines represent parts of the arguments that were unstated.

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what types of arguments the editors made to the engineer writers, what evidence they

used to support their arguments, and how they queried the authors when the engineers’

writing was particularly confusing. These charts also revealed several characteristics that

could potentially make the editors’ arguments weaker for one reason or another, which,

in turn, could have affected the writers’ acceptance of certain revisions.

Successful Arguments

According to Stephan Bernhardt, author of “Improving Document Review in

Pharmaceutical Companies,” “the best comments identify a problem, diagnose why it is a

problem, and offer a solution” (463). Bernhardt’s ideal comment can be understood as a

map for the three major component parts of a successful Toulmin et al. argument: the

ground identifies the problem and points to the argument’s exigency; the warrant

contextualizes the ground and generally describes why it is problematic; and the claim

offers the solution the editor believes will ultimately solve the problem. Both Benson

and Mae provided these three-part comments in the proposals that were analyzed, which

helped the engineering writers identify, justify, and fix problematic parts of their text.

For example in Comment 20 of the Mae.NIH.2 proposal, the three parts of her argument

are particularly evident:

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Figure 3. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 20 of the Mae.NIH.2 Proposal

In this comment, the problem is that the author bolds too many words in the sentence,

which makes it difficult to read. This bolding is problematic because “reviewers don’t

want to read every word, and any reader with a PhD will not need to read every word.”

With the editor’s solution—to unbold certain words in the sentence—“the sentence can

be read more easily and quickly.”

Comment 1 of the Benson.CAREER propsal is another query in which all three

constituent parts of the argument evident:

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Figure 4. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 1 of the Benson.CAREER Proposal

In this case, the problem is that the author uses the “e.g. [#]” as the citation method

throughout the proposal, which is problematic for the several reasons that the editor

points out: it does not follow NIH/NSF standard workbooks’ suggestions, the authors

“primary and secondary reviewers will be close enough to [the author’s] work to

recognize citations presented as author/year,” and the current citation method forces

reviewers to flip back and forth between the proposal and the references. Therefore, the

solution to this problem is simply using the author/year citation strategy.

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Each of these arguments provides the writer with clear reasoning as to why

his/her writing is problematic in certain areas and what he/she needs to do to fix the

problem. Also, in such comments, Benson and Mae do as the literature suggests and

provide the bases of their suggestions and the importance of incorporating the revisions

into the text. As individuals who commonly disbelieve in the social construction of

knowledge or in the influence writing can have on meaning, engineers are particularly

hesitant to accept changes to their technically sound documents, especially if they cannot

discern a good reason for doing so. However, it is probable that writers will accept

comments that explicitly state the problem, explain the problem, and provide solutions

more readily than comments that omit one or more of these argumentative parts because

such comments enable them to improve their writing and understand why they needed to

do so in the first place.

While three-part comments like Bernhardt’s are ideal, they are not the norm in

editing: more often than not, one of the three constituent parts of a comment’s argument

is missing. In the Benson and Mae proposals, warrants were frequently omitted and

claims were occasionally omitted. In each of these cases, the editor assumes either

knowingly or unknowingly that the writer will have enough writing experience to

understand what needs to be changed and/or why it needs to be changed.

In some cases, these assumptions are unproblematic, as the writers are familiar

enough with the proposal writing process to understand what needs to be changed and

why. For instance, there were several comments in each of the proposals that had the

same underlying, yet unstated warrant, for different arguments that most likely conveyed

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the reasons why the editors made the changes they did. For example, Comments 4 and

14 in the Mae.AHA proposal and comments 2 and 5 in the Benson.MEM proposal (to

name a few) each asked the authors to check the meaning of the revised text in some way

to ensure that the editors’ revisions did not change the technical content of the text.

Figure 5. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 14 of the Mae.AHA Proposal

In each of these cases, the underlying, unstated warrant was “Sometimes editors

inadvertently make changes that alter the author's meaning.” Although unstated, both the

editors and the writers understand that there are times when an editor implements

changes in a text that alter its technical meaning. For this reason, the argument for

comments like “check the meaning here” is still successful, as both parties understand the

importance of checking for potentially changed meaning.

The editors make similar assumptions about other underlying, yet unstated,

warrants, such as those related to coherence, overstating claims, and consistency. In each

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of the cases, the editors feel that they do not need to state the warrant behind their

arguments explicitly because they believe that engineering writers (who have written

numerous proposals in the past) will have the required knowledge to understand why the

revisions were necessary. That is, the editors assume that the engineering writers will

have enough knowledge about proposal writing to understand these particular arguments

in the comment boxes without further explanation; the editors’ assumptions are validated

if the writers do understand the argument and implement the proper revisions. For this

particular thesis, however, there is no way of knowing whether writers implemented the

changes or not; nevertheless, it is highly likely that the writers did understand the reason

for these particular changes and implemented them without hesitation.

In addition to these unstated warrants, there were also times when the editors did

not state a definitive claim as to what they wanted the writer to do to amend a problem.

Take, for example, Comment 14 of the Mae.NIH.1 proposal:

Figure 6. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 14 of the Mae.NIH Proposal

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In this case, the editor does not overtly state that the author needs to check the image for

him/herself or have someone else check it, but it is likely that the author will review the

image again after reading this comment to ensure that he/she did not overlook any errors

during the initial review process. In this case, Mae assumes that the writer will know

enough about the review process to understand that if she did not check the image, it

could still potentially contain errors, which could detract from the author’s credibility if

left uncorrected. Again, it is probable that the editor’s assumption in this case is correct

and that the author will indeed recheck the image.

There are also times when the editor presents whole arguments that are

completely implied in the wording of his/her sentence but are left unstated. These

implied arguments occur each time the editor asks the author a question. For instance, in

Comment 5 of the Benson.MEM proposal, the editor writes: “Check this; the original was

unclear. Are first responder and unit the same thing?” Below is the chart for this

argument:

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Figure 7. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 5 of the Benson.MEM Proposal

Benson revised the author’s original sentence (Ground 2) based on the assumption that

first responder and unit refer to the same thing; however, because he is not completely

familiar with the engineer’s research, he cannot be certain if the change will alter the

writer’s meaning. Thus, he asks the question “Are first responder and unit the same

thing,” which then becomes a rebuttal because the question has two possible answers, and

thus two possible counter arguments are formed. If the answer to this question is “yes,”

then the author can accept the change; however, if the answer is “no,” then the question

actually becomes a rebuttal to the editor’s change: if “first responder” and “unit” do not

refer to the same thing, then the editor’s change would be erroneous.

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In this case, the second, unstated argument outlined in this chart (that the editor

did not fully understand what the author was trying to say) becomes relevant: “first

responder” and “unit” are not the same thing, and the editor did not fully understand what

the author wanted to say, so the writer should disregard Benson’s revision. It is

unnecessary for the editors to state the arguments related to the questions they introduce

because if the answer to the question negates the revisions the editors made, the author

simply will not accept those changes. However, these questions do serve the purpose of

alerting the writer 1) to editorial changes that possibly changed his/her meaning and 2) to

areas in the text that could lead to a reader’s confusion.

Unsuccessful Arguments

Most of the time, the editors’ arguments are successful and the writer accepts their

revisions even when one or more argumentative components are missing from the

comment. However, there are also several reasons why certain editorial arguments have

a high potential for failing to convince writers to change their text. The majority of the

arguments that have a high potential for failing are characterized by six major features: 1)

the editor revises based on an improper identification of the ground; 2) the editor

provides a faulty warrant to support his/her argument; 3) the editor provides an unclear

warrant to support his/her argument; 4) the editor introduces an error into the text; 5) the

editor leaves ambiguity as to what the writer should do; or 6) the editor’s claim does not

seem to apply to the text it references. While not all of these features are identified

specifically in Toulmin et al.’s theory, they are based on his main principles of what a

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successful argument entails and are thus consistent with his ideas of what makes an

argument successful or unsuccessful.

Issue 1

The first issues that the Toulmin et al. analysis was particularly good at

identifying were those relating to the editors’ logic when creating a claim. In particular,

there were times when the editor misidentified a ground as being problematic, when in

fact nothing in the text was technically or stylistically wrong. Take for example,

Comment 10 of the Benson.DARPA proposal:

Figure 8. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 10 of the Benson.DARPA Proposal

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In the proposal, the author writes “S(he) can enter false information…,” (emphasis added)

which the editor changed to “they can enter false information…” (emphasis added) based

on the warrant that “it is best to be gender neutral” in scientific writing. However, the

ground for this argument is faulty because writing s(he) or he/she are common ways to

be gender neutral in writing, as they include both sexes equally just as writing they does.

Had the author written, “he can enter false information…” or “she can enter false

information,” then the editor’s argument would be valid; however in this case, the writer

was gender neutral and the change was unnecessary based on the erroneous identification

of a faulty ground.

Issue 2

In addition to faulty grounds, there are also several comments containing faulty or

unclear warrants throughout the six proposals I analyzed. This issue is particularly

interesting, as editors are supposed to be “writing experts” who improve documents

based on established (and obviously correct) writing, visual design, format, and graphic

design principles. However, there are times when the editors’ warrants for their

arguments are counter to formal logic; that is, given the text they reference, these

comments do not provide logical reasons as to why the writers’ text is problematic.

Comment 19 of the Mae.AHA proposal exemplifies this issue, as the editor provides a

warrant that does not logically justify her argument:

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Figure 9. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 19 of the Mae.AHA Proposal

Unlike the comment mentioned in the previous example, this comment actually refers to

an error in the writer’s text (i.e., the ground is correct), as he/she writes “...conjugates

(hydrogels) is preferential because the former...” In this case, the writer wants to use an

adjective derived from the root word prefer in order to show that he/she wants to use

conjugates over another material. The editor makes the correct revision for this particular

error and changes preferential to preferred, but her warrant for doing so—because

“preferential means ‘to show preference’”—is not correct. The warrant the editor

provides is the definition for an infinitive verb. The problem is that preferential is an

adjective; therefore, she needed to provide the definition for an adjective, which,

according to Merriam-Webster is “showing preference.”

This brings up the issue of whether or not the author would even notice the subtle

difference between these two definitions; however, that is not the point. The point is that

the “language expert” provided a faulty warrant behind her revision, which could

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ultimately lead to the writer’s confusion. If the engineer happens to be very

knowledgeable about grammar and does notice this error, he/she may have a lower

opinion of the editor’s work and thus question or even ignore other revisions. As Toulmin

et al. suggest, when choosing a warrant, one can only make an informed choice by “going

behind the warrant and looking to see on what basis its authority rests” (66). In this

particular case, the editor did not take the initiative to look behind the warrant carefully to

ensure that its authority could be upheld under close scrutiny. Perhaps providing the

definition of both preferential and preferred would have been the best strategy to show

the author why his/her original word choice was incorrect and convince him/her of the

change’s importance.

In both of the cases related to the editors erroneously identifying improper

grounds and providing logically unsound warrants, the flawed support that the editors use

to back their argument could ultimately be damaging to their credibility as editors and to

the rest of the work they do both with these specific proposal writers and other writers

they make work with. As such, it is important for the editors to ensure 1) that they are

actually correcting an error in the writer’s text (e.g., as in the Benson.DARPA proposal)

and 2) that they provide the correct reason behind why they made a particular change

(e.g., as in the Mae.AHA proposal). Thus, it becomes clear that “an important part of

sound reasoning therefore consists of ‘critical thinking,’ and this involves being prepared

to ask questions about the underlying backing for those ways of thinking and reasoning

our culture has drilled into us and normally takes for granted” (Toulmin et al. 67).

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Editors need to examine their warrants and grounds carefully to ensure that they are in

fact logically valid before arguing for an erroneous or unnecessary revision.

Issue 3

An editor’s argument can also become problematic when the warrant justifying

his/her claim is unclear or does not seem to make sense given the argument at hand.

Comment 15 of the Mae.NIH.1 proposal exemplifies this issue very well:

Figure 10. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 15 of the Mae.NIH.1 Proposal

In this case, the author wrote “The approach is designed as a platform technology based

on novel biomaterials developed in the PI’s lab over the last three years.” The editor

believes that the author should change last to past because “’last’ is slightly negative.”

However, this warrant may not seem to make sense to some individuals, especially

engineers: to the engineer, last may not seem to have a negative connotation because the

writer is simply referring to the research his/her lab has done for the “past” few years.

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However, editors are more attuned to the slight nuances that word choice can have on

audience perception, which is probably why Mae suggested this particular change.

Generally speaking, though, engineers are not accustomed to analyzing word choice so

deeply and may not understand the impact that one word could have on their reader’s

assessment of their writing. Thus, the editor’s suggestion is logical but may be unclear to

the engineer writer due to his/her limited knowledge of rhetoric. This point relates to

Toulmin et al.’s idea of argument as consensus building: if the editor cannot clearly

justify his/her reason for a change, the writer may not be able to understand the revision’s

significance, and thus consensus cannot be obtained.

Comment 5 of the Benson.CAREER proposal is another very good example of

problematic arguments with unclear warrants:

Figure 11. Toulmin et al. Chart of Comment 5 of the Benson.CAREER Proposal

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In this case, both of the warrants the editor provides do not quite make sense. First,

Benson says that it is “always best to refrain from using ‘if’ usage” because “it conveys

doubt that you [the author] can do what you say you’ll do.” Although this may initially

seem like the editor misidentified the ground, the editor has identified a problematic issue

in the author’s text: by saying “when successful…,” the author gives the impression that

there are times when his/her methodology is not successful, which may lead the

reviewers to question his/her ability to do the work. Yet, the author never uses the word

“if” in the sentence the editor refers to, which makes this line of reasoning confusing

because there is the chance that the author will not relate the editor’s comment of “if

usage” to this particular comment; thus, it is not unlikely that the author will merely

disregard this comment.

In addition to this problematic warrant, the other warrant that the editor provides

is confusing as well. Benson mentions that the author should use the word “expected” in

the revised version of this sentence because it “always lets reviewers know you plan to

succeed but gives you some ‘rhythm’ in case you do not.” While the editor’s change

does seem to improve the text, it is still unclear exactly what he means by “rhythm” in

this warrant. Perhaps his use of “rhythm” was metaphorical in this case and not based on

formal logic. However, because engineers are not adept at identifying the subtleties of

language, it is probable that this particular writer will not fully understand the meaning

behind this metaphorical language, and if he/she does not fully understand the importance

of the author’s justification, he/she may simply ignore the revision. Again, this may not

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necessarily be problematic if the author merely accepts the revision; however, if the

author does notice these two anomalies in this comment, it may lead him/her to reject the

revision and think more negatively about the editor’s work.

Issue 4

While it does not occur very frequently, the next unsuccessful argument that the

analyses revealed occurred when the editor actually introduced an error into the writer’s

text and argued for that revision based on illogical warrants. For example, Comment 9 in

the Mae.NIH.2 proposal introduces an error into the author text:

Figure 12. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 9 of the Mae.NIH Proposal

This comment was based on the author writing “Substrates (n=4 / group) were

maintained under static conditions for 3 days then transferred to bioreactors and subjected

to..." While this sentence does have an error that needs to be revised (there needs to be

some sort of conjunction or punctuation after “days”), the editor’s remedy (her claim) for

this error, along with her warrant for doing so, are incorrect. She revises the text based

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on the warrant that “There should be a comma between two full sentences.” Firstly, the

sentence Mae references is not made up of two full sentences. According to any English

grammar book, a full sentence must have a subject and a predicate. While the first part of

this sentence is a full sentence, the latter part (“…then transferred to bioreactors and

subjected to…” does not have a subject or a verb.

Second of all, those same English grammar books would state that one should

never put a comma between two sentences without a coordinate conjunction. A

semicolon would be required in such a case but is irrelevant for this particular sentence

because the editor is not dealing with two full sentences. As such, Mae’s revision to the

text—“Substrates (n=4 / group) were maintained under static conditions for 3 days, then

transferred to bioreactors and subjected to…” (the comma)—merely introduces an error.

Rather, to fix this grammatical mistake, the author either needs to write “…were

maintained under static conditions for 3 days and were then transferred to bioreactors…”

or “…were maintained under static conditions for 3 days; they were then transferred to

bioreactors…”

As mentioned before, such problematic arguments will most likely make the

editor lose credibility in the engineer writer’s eyes and make him/her less likely to accept

other revisions; however, introducing an error into the writer’s document also has the

potential to seriously anger a writer, or worse. What would happen if the author accepted

the editor’s claim without knowing any better only to have a reviewer discover the error

in the proposal review process? Writers send their documents to technical editors for

them to eliminate errors and obviously not for them to introduce mistakes. While

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everyone makes mistakes, editors need to be particularly careful to ensure that the

revisions they make are not erroneous and that the warrants they base their arguments on

well founded.

Issue 5

Another problematic argument arises when the editor leaves too much ambiguity

in his/her claim for the author to understand definitively how the text needs to be

changed. One can see this ambiguity in Comment 11 of the Benson.DARPA proposal in

which the editor writes “Looks like this sentence detailing a simple approach to [the] key

assignment works best as a segueway [sic] into a more sophisticated approach.” This

comment hints that something needs to be changed in this section of the writer’s text, but

the editor does not clearly identify a problem in the text, nor does he provide any kind of

solution. The writer is thus left wondering if the editor was merely making a statement in

passing, if he is suggesting that the author could develop a more sophisticated approach,

if he believes the editor should reword the statement, or any number of other possibilities.

As Toulmin et al. state, “Often enough, the particular words in which an asserter

(A) first presents a claim will not be wholly clear. The chosen words may contain

unresolved ambiguities and may lend themselves to alternative interpretations” (31).

This ambiguity could arise from the editor’s inability to clearly identify and state the

grounds for his claim; that is, he knows that something is wrong but is not sure what

exactly and thus cannot convey it in an unambiguous manner. They could also arise if an

editor does not understand the writer’s technical content. For example, in the comment

above, maybe the editor did not understand the simple approach enough to develop a

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more substantial claim. Nevertheless, comments that leave too much ambiguity leave the

author with a wide array of possible ways to revise the text but with no clear-cut answer

as to what the initial problem was.

Another example of too much editorial ambiguity is present in Comment 38 of the

Mae.NIH.2 proposal. In this comment, the editor simply writes “Better coherence.” The

ambiguity arises because it is unclear whether the editor means that the text needs “better

coherence,” or if the writer has “better coherence” in this particular section. If the author

mistakenly believes that the editor means the former possibility, then he/she may make

unnecessary revisions and waste time. However, if the writer mistakenly believes that

the editor means the latter possibility, then he/she may not make the necessary changes to

make the text more comprehensible. Either way, this ambiguity could cause issues for

the author later during the proposal review process.

It should be noted, that these ambiguous comments are slightly less serious than

the other unsuccessful arguments mentioned in this section mainly because if the author

ever comes across one of these comments, their reaction is most likely going to be one of

confusion. On realizing that they are unsure about how their text needs to be change,

writers are most likely going to contact their editor and ask for clarification. However,

given the time-sensitive nature of proposal writing, many engineer writers are on tight

deadlines and only have time to send a draft for one editorial review. Thus, when writers

do not have a great deal of time or the editor is out of the office, these ambiguous

comments could frustrate authors tremendously because they are left without solutions.

In addition, if the editor makes several ambiguous comments in one document, it is likely

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that the writer will become exceedingly frustrated and react negatively toward the editor.

As a result, editors need to review their comments to ensure that they are as clear as

possible regarding what is wrong with the writer’s text and what the writer needs to do to

fix the issue without allowing ambiguity to interfere with the argument at hand.

Issue 6

The final type of problematic argument that these analyses revealed occurred

when the editor’s claim did not seem to apply to the ground it referenced. For instance,

in Comment 4 of the Mae.NIH.2 proposal, the editor states that the author should “check

period usage with citations.” The sentence this particular comment was attached to read

“A bioreactor capable of cyclic strain and vibration was developed (Figure 1).” There

was not one citation in or around this particular sentence or in Figure 1 for that matter.

While Mae’s comment seems important, as a proposal’s format is one of the first things a

reviewer looks at, it is unclear exactly what the editor was doing or referencing when she

wrote this comment. Perhaps it was just an error, or perhaps she merely wrote the

comment there because there was not a better place for her to place it. Regardless, it is

confusing, and it is likely that the author will not implement the proper change as a result.

For this reason, it is important for editors to make sure that their comments and claims

are relevant to the text they reference. If, for some reason, the editor decides to add a

comment that does directly refer to the text it references, then he/she needs to explain that

comment and its purpose in more detail.

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Arguments as Consensus

If, as Toulmin et al. suggest, making an argument is “directed toward a consensus,

or rational agreement, between the parties concerned” (317), then editors need to provide

logical, well-founded arguments in order to reach this consensus with objective-minded

engineers. As was discussed in the literature review, engineer writers do not generally

acknowledge that language has a direct impact on the meaning of their text; they believe

that their experimental data and descriptions are strong enough on their own to show the

importance of their work, regardless of how the presentation of that data is undertaken.

As such, the arguments editors make to improve the rhetorical standing and

persuasiveness of a proposal need to be developed in a way that appeals to the objective,

logical mindset these engineer writers have when developing their text. Thus, arguments

that are based on misidentified grounds, that are justified by illogical warrants, that leave

too much ambiguity in their claims, or that do not seem to apply to the text at hand are

likely to fail as engineers want logical explanations for the changes editors make to their

text.

Based on Toulmin et al.’s theory, the arguments from the previous sections have

clear-cut reasons as to why they fail; however, another type of argument that would seem

to fail given engineers’ logical mindset includes arguments with warrants based solely on

the editor’s opinion. Yet, as we will see, opinion-based arguments are quite successful

and are very much a part of this consensus-making process between engineer writers and

editors. Take for example Comment 5 of the Mae. AHA proposal:

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Figure 13. Toulmin et al. Chart for Comment 5 of the Mae.AHA Proposal

In this case, the method the writer uses to list the components of his/her list is

perfectly acceptable in scholarly writing, and neither the proposal guidelines nor any

established writing authority advises not to list information in this way. Rather, Mae

bases her revision on her opinion that the author should “use Arabic numerals and only

one parenthesis” for the list because “numbered text is easier for the eye to find when, for

example, a reviewer scans the page.” This warrant is not wrong by any means and is

logically valid in its reasoning; however, the original method the author used to list

his/her series is logically acceptable as well. Thus, the editor’s change is based on her

opinion and practical experience from her many years of editing that one way of listing a

series is better than another. In cases such as these, Toulmin et al.’s idea of backing

comes into play. Although the backing for this argument is left unstated, Mae develops

her warrant on an established body of editorial and writing knowledge that she has

accumulated throughout her career as both a student and a professional. Most engineer

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writers are not aware of this knowledge, or backing, for the writing/editorial process, so it

may be difficult at times for editors to translate the foundation for some of their warrants.

One would assume that because engineers generally accept arguments only when

their claims are supported by established warrants, such opinion-based warrants, with

their subjectivity and the editor’s personal influence, would ultimately fail to convince

them to accept editorial arguments. However, counter to intuition, these opinion-based

arguments are very likely to succeed most of the time. How could this be? As we will see

in the next chapter, the language style editors use when crafting their comments

contributes directly to this consensus building process in author/editor relationships and

engineer writers’ acceptance of both theory- and opinion-based arguments.

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Chapter 4

Developing Successful Author/Editor Relationships with Style

The second analysis I preformed on these six proposals was based on Walker

Gibson’s essay “Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy,” which examines how authors’ choices in

language create the relationships they have with their audience when there are no other

cues for doing so. That is, Gibson’s analysis reveals how authors create relationships with

their readers when no other verbal or face-to-face communication is possible. Given the

current surge of electronic editing, such an analysis could provide us with useful insight

into how editors create working relationships with writers through the comment box

when no other means of communication are available.

The Toulmin et al. analyses provided insight into how editors create arguments to

justify their revisions; the Gibson analyses will add to those findings by identifying what

language is best suited to create author/editor relationships in which editors can

effectively persuade engineer writers to accept their revisionary comments. The Gibson

analysis reveals this language dimension of the author/editor relationship because it

allows us to examine how editors’ vocabulary, syntactical structures, and grammatical

usage influence the messages they wish to convey and how readers may potentially

interpret those messages. According to Gibson,

When a writer selects a style, however unconsciously, and so presents

himself to a reader, he chooses certain words and not others, and he

prefers certain organizations of words to other possible

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organizations…every choice he makes is significant in dramatizing a

personality or voice, with a particular center of concern and a particular

relation to the person he is addressing. (x)

Gibson includes an appendix in his essay called A Model T Style Machine, which is

derived from traditional grammar and modern linguistics to determine the tone of a

written passage. Gibson’s method includes analyzing sixteen grammatical variables

broken down into six categories: word size, substantives, verbs, modifiers, subordination,

and other effects on tone. Using Gibson’s Style Machine, I analyzed the editors’ word

choices and syntactical structures to examine how the language they use helps them to

develop successful working relationships with engineer writers.

Common Gibson Grammatical Terms

Before a review of my Gibson analyses can be done, it is important to understand

exactly what the characteristics of Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy writers are. However,

before delving into the characteristics of the Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy talkers, it is

important to become familiar with the specific grammatical terms that Gibson uses in his

Style Machine (Table 1). While this is not a comprehensive list of all the terms Gibson

uses, these are the terms relevant to my analyses.

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Table 1. Common Grammatical Terms in Gibson’s Style Machine

Grammatical Term Definition Examples Finite Verb A verb that shows tense,

person, or singular plural; a verb that has a subject and shows tense

She goes to the movies. The boy owned a bike.

“To be” Form of Finite Verb The infinitive “to be” is inflected to show tense, person, or singular plural; the infinitive “to be” has subject and shows tense

The cats are sick. That is not the book I wanted.

Passive Voice The object of a sentence becomes the subject

The cake was eaten by the children.

True Adjectives Adjectives that can be put into the superlative form

Good, better, best happy, happier, happiest

Noun Adjuncts One or more nouns are used to modify another noun. Used to coin new terms based on existing vocabulary.

Chicken soup Bird house Amusem*nt Park

Subordinate Clause An incomplete sentence attached to an independent clause that has both a subject and a verb and begins with a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun.

She is driving the car that her parents bought for her a year ago. The dog does not like him because he took away her bone.

Sentence Fragments A sentence that is missing its subject, verb, or both

Because I said so! Whereas, he likes her.

Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy Talkers

With an understanding of the common Gibson terms, one can examine the

particular characteristics of the Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy talkers:

Tough talkers’ language creates a close, yet hard, intimacy with their reader in

which the writer assumes that his/her readers will be very knowledge about the subject

being discussed. Tough talkers create this sense of intimacy by using a high proportion

of monosyllable words, personal pronouns, subjects referring to people, finite verbs,

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minimal subordination, and informal speech features, such as contractions and sentence

fragments, all of which are common to colloquial language. However, the intimacy that

the Tough talker creates is centered on his/her own feelings and attitudes, with little

consideration given to the reader, which Gibson refers to as “I-Talk.” This characteristic

of Tough talk is a result of the writer’s choice to use first-person pronouns (e.g., “I”),

which tend to reflect only the writers needs, thoughts, and feelings.

In addition, the Tough talkers’ lack of modification and his/her heavy use of

monosyllable words are also a result of his/her self-centeredness, as the writer assumes

without hesitation that the reader will know exactly what he/she is talking about without

needing to explain the information further with descriptions or verbosity. This leads to

the Tough talkers “this-is-that” way of speaking (characterized by its use of “to be” forms

of finite verbs), which allows the writer to enforce his/her knowledge as fact without

providing any further details to the reader (Gibson 113-133). As my analyses will reveal,

these characteristics combine to create author/editor relationships in which the editor can

effectively convey his/her knowledge and argue for revisions in a manner that engineer

writers will respect.

The language Sweet talkers employ also creates a close intimacy with their

audience; however, unlike Tough talkers, the intimacy Sweet talkers create is explicitly

considerate of the reader’s needs and feelings. Like Tough talkers, Sweet talkers also

create a sense of intimacy through their use of everyday language characteristics: the use

of monosyllable words, personal pronouns, subjects referring to people, finite verbs,

minimal subordination, and informal speech features, such as contractions and sentence

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fragments. However, the Sweet talker goes a step beyond the Tough talker in terms of

his/her use of colloquial language and actively tries to mimic speech patterns; according

to Gibson, Sweet talkers achieve this speech-like quality in their writing by using

parenthesis, italics, dashes, question marks, and exclamation marks, each of which adds

emphasis and feeling to writing that traditional, more formal writing conventions hinder.

Also unlike the Tough talker, the Sweet talker is overtly concerned about the

reader’s needs, attitudes, and desires but much less so on his/her own. The Sweet talker

creates this audience-centered intimacy by using the second-person pronoun “you,”

which allows him/her to engage the reader directly in the text (Gibson calls this “You-

Talk”). In addition, Sweet talkers go out of their way to make sure their reader knows

what they are talking about and, therefore, use heavy modification when constructing

their prose; Sweet talkers do not assume that their reader will know what they are talking

about, and they want to make sure that they clearly describe it for their audience (Gibson

113-133). My Gibson analyses relating to the Sweet talker will reveal how the two

CoES editors effectively use certain characteristics of Sweet talk to demonstrate that they

value the engineer writers’ concerns and opinions and to convey their own opinions in a

non-threatening manner.

Unlike both the Tough and Sweet talkers, Stuffy talkers do not want to create a

sense of intimacy with their readers; rather they take on an air of “no-personal-

responsibility” (121), as Gibson states, and maintain a distance between themselves and

the reader. Stuffy talk is characteristic of formal academic writing and of organizational

writing, both of which want to come across as being official and objective. As such,

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Stuffy talkers tend to use many polysyllable words, few personal pronouns, subjects

referring to neuter objects, and passive voice in order to develop and maintain a

professional voice characterized by a “legalistic” repetition of words and by language

lacking personal influence. This legalistic, professional tone is enhanced by the Stuffy

talker’s use of noun adjuncts, which “roll off the stuffy tongue in great official bundles”

(126), again making the Stuffy talker’s prose more formal and less colloquial.

In addition, Stuffy talkers want their prose to be clear at all times but do not rely

on their reader’s ability to understand their meaning, almost as if he/she does not “trust

his reader to make the proper reference” (119). As a result, Stuffy talkers employ heavy

modification and subordination to eliminate any ambiguity and to ensure that their reader

understands exactly what they are trying to convey (Gibson 113-133). Even though

Benson and Mae work in a very professional environment and actually edit documents

that Gibson would classify as being Stuffy, the language they employ to create

relationships with engineer writers has very few occurrences of Stuffy language.

Table 2. Characteristics of Gibson’s Categories of Styles

Style Characteristics of Style Tough ‐ Hashard,curt,self‐absorbedmanner

‐ Concernedforhis/herownneeds‐ Assumesintimacyandcommonknowledgewithreaders—

beyondexplanationandpoliteness‐ Awareofhis/herlimitations‐ Usesshortsentences,wordrepetition,simplegrammatical

structures,andcolloquialspeechpatterns‐ Avoidsmodificationanddescriptionaswriterassumesreaderwill

knowwhatisbeingtalkedaboutwithoutfurtherassistance

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Sweet ‐ Hasexplicitintimacywithreader,asifhe/sheknowsthereaderwell—forcesintimacy

‐ Concernedforthereader’sneeds—addressesreaderpersonallyandasksquestions

‐ Usespolysyllabicwords,nounadjuncts,modifiers,colloquiallanguage,conversation‐likepunctuation

Stuffy ‐ Speaksforanorganizationandlackspersonalresponsibilityforhis/herwriting

‐ Usesahighproportionofpolysyllabicwords,neutersubjects,passivevoice,nounadjuncts,andsubordinateclauses

‐ Avoidsfeaturesofcolloquiallanguage:conversation‐likepunctuation,fragments,andcontractions

After completing the analyses, I found that the editors’ primary style in these

documents was Sweet (see Figure 1). The Sweet style dominated in four out of the six

proposals; the Sweet and Tough style were equally present in the Benson.MEM proposal;

and the Tough style dominated in the Mae.NIH.2 proposal. Even though the Sweet style

dominated throughout the editors’ comments, the Tough style was also strong throughout

the queries. Thus, it appears that these two stylistic voices work in conjunction with one

another to create the editors’ personality through their words and ultimately help them to

convince the engineer writers to accept the arguments they make. However, there are

also characteristics of both the Tough and Sweet styles that work separately to create

successful author/editor relationships. Table 2 summarizes which style characteristics

were dominant in these six proposals.

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Figure 1. Rate of Style Occurrences in the Six Proposals

Table 3. Predominate Stylistic Characteristics for the Six Proposals

The Tough Sweet Talker

According to Gibson, both the Tough and the Sweet talkers’ styles are marked by

informal, colloquial language that creates a sense of intimacy between the author and

reader (71). Because both of these styles take on a more informal communication

approach, several of the comments’ characteristics could be characterized as both Sweet

and Tough talk: i.e., the editor’s use of pronouns, subjects referring to people, finite

0246810121416

NumberofStyleOccurances

Proposal

Sweet

Tough

Stuffy

Style Predominate Gibson Characteristics from the Six Proposals Sweet Monosyllables, Words with 3 or More Syllables, 2nd-Person Pronouns,

Adjectives Modified, Use of “The,” and Parentheses and Other Punctuation

Tough 1st-person pronouns, “To Be” Form of Finite Verbs, and True Adjectives Tough/Sweet Subjects Relating to People, Finite Verbs, Passive Verbs, Average Length

of Clauses, Proportion of Total Words in Clauses, Embedded Words, Contractions and Fragments

Stuffy Noun Adjuncts

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verbs, clauses, contractions, and fragments. Each of these five characteristics directly

contributes to the intimate, conversation-like style of the editors’ comments.

Firstly, the editors’ high frequency of first- and second-person pronouns actively

engages the author’s attention because the editor is essentially asking him/her to

participate in the conversation. For example, in Comment 31 of the Benson.DARPA

proposal, the editor’s engaging use of pronouns is particularly evident: “Do you mean

simple or do you mean not previously subjected to experiment. If simple, [I]2 suggest a

change since this word is usually associated with people, emotions, etc.” From the

second-person pronoun usage in this comment, the writer knows that he/she is personally

being addressed by the editor and that he believes the wording he/she uses in the sentence

is unclear. Additionally, the editor’s use of the first-person pronoun “I” allows him to

establish himself in the conversation. It also engages the writer because it directly

follows second-person pronoun usage and creates a “you-and-I” type of conversation3 in

which both parties are important; however, the editor’s use of “I” in this situation also

enables him to take a dominant position in the conversation, as he is suggesting what he,

the technical editor and language expert, believes is the best revision for this particular

text. This particular comment and those similar to it can be characterized as both Tough

and Sweet because the use of personal pronouns is common of both styles’ conversation-

1 These comments can be found in Appendix A. 2 The “I” was only implied in this case. As will be discussed below, editors commonly use fragments when writing comments in order to save time and effort. Thus, their elimination of first- and second-person pronouns is not uncommon. However, the first- and second-person pronouns are clearly implied: in this case, for example, the verb is conjugated in the first-person singular case, and since the editor wrote the comment, it is obvious that he is referring to himself. 3 As opposed to an “I-Talk” conversation in which the speaker is only concerned with his/her needs, or a “You-Talk”” conversation in which the speaker is only concerned about the other person (Gibson 119).

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like tone. However, there are differences between first- and second-person pronoun

usage that differentiate the Tough style from the Sweet style, which will be discussed

shortly.

Another example of how editors engage writers is through the use of “we.” The

use of “we” clearly incorporates the author’s opinion and makes him/her feel actively

included in the editorial conversation. Take, for instance, the first question in Comment

16 of the Mae.NIH.1 proposal in which the editor asks “Do we need this definition?” By

using “we,” the editor seems to be trying to include herself in the decision-making

process for this particular writing choice, while actively speaking with the author, not to

override the writer’s ultimate authority but to communicate her opinion about this

particular definition. If an editor thinks that an author may find a particular comment to

be rude or unnecessary, he/she could use “we” in the comment to mediate any tension in

the relationships and to convey his/her suggestions. While Mae was writing this

comment, she may have felt that the author would believe the definition of RNAi to be an

obvious need, so saying “do you think…” would be ineffective, since the writer wrote it

in the first place and so at least might have meant it, if it is not a mistake: obviously if the

author included the definition in the original draft, he/she thought it was important. By

including herself in the comment, however, the editor becomes a part of the writing

process as a team player and thus has a better leveraging position to voice her opinion:

that if reviewers know what SMAD is, they will know what RNAi is. Using “we” allows

the editor to establish a close, intimate relationship with the writer as a teammate (as

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opposed to being a dominant figure, as in the hypothetical example above) in order to

convince a potentially hesitant writer of a necessary change.

This personal relationship between the author and the editor is further enhanced

by the editors’ recurrent use of subjects referring to people and their use of active finite

verbs (as opposed to passive verbs), which again are characteristics of both Sweet and

Tough talk. Both of these categories are traits of everyday conversational patterns

because we generally speak of people doing rather than of things being. Consider

Comment 3 of the Benson.CAREER proposal: “Since you’ve eliminated these items, [I]

removed the second mention of Michelin as well.” This comment has both a human

subject and an active finite verb, which creates a personal connection between the editor

and writer. The editor could have taken a more impersonal approach through passive verb

and neuter subject usage, both of which mark more formal (Stuffy) writing; however, this

would have taken away from intimate relationship he is trying to create.

Rewriting the previous comment in passive voice with a neuter subject (i.e.,

“Since these items have been eliminated, the second mention of Michelin should be

removed as well”) clearly demonstrates this point. Not only does this revised sentence

create a much more formal, distant relationship between the writer and editor, it also

eliminates the personal quality of the conversation at hand. Instead of two people

discussing what actions they took, the revised version creates a sense of actions merely

being done without human intervention. In a sense, the humans are erased. As such, the

editors’ choice to avoid using passive voice and instead address authors in active voice

strengthens the intimate relationship created by their use of colloquial language.

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Finally, the informal communication and intimacy between editor and writer in

both Tough and Sweet talk is created through the editors’ avoidance of excessive

subordination and their use of contractions and fragments. When speaking to someone

familiar, most individuals use short sentences with minimal subordination in order to

clearly articulate their ideas. In addition, subordination also involves evaluations; based

on syntactical structure, information placed in the main clause will appear to be more

important than information placed in the subordinate clause. Therefore, to make clear

comments and avoid this issue of evaluation, the editors tend to use simple and

compound sentence structures, as opposed to complex and compound complex sentences.

Take for example Comment 23 of the Mae.AHA proposal: “in the figure, terms used in

descriptions 1, 2, and 3 are inconsistently capitalized. Suggest capitalizing only the first

word in each phrase.” When examining this sentence, the writer gains a sense that Mae is

sitting right next to him/her pointing to the text as she makes her suggestion.

However, if this comment is rewritten to create more complicated sentence

structures, it becomes more verbose and more difficult to read, and it loses that sense of

closeness that the simple syntactical structure created: “In the figure, the terms used in

descriptions 1, 2, and 3 are inconsistently capitalized, so I suggest that you capitalize only

the first word in each phase in order to remain consistent.”4 Such a revision makes this

sentence less conversational: this is simply not how people talk in everyday situations.

The result of choosing such complex sentence structures could negatively affect the

4 Obviously, this revised comment and the one in the following paragraph are not exemplar of how a person would generally go about making a suggestion. They are merely examples of how heavy subordination can affect a reader’s perception and understanding.

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intimate, trusting relationship the editor needs to develop to effectively convey his/her

argument. In addition, if the editors chose to write with heavy subordination, their use of

the other colloquial language characteristics described above would seem out of place in

such formal syntactical structures; for instance, it may seem odd for the editor to use

fragments in such complex sentences, but using fragments in simpler sentence

constructions adds to the conversational tone. As such, the editors’ use of simple

sentences is effective in strengthening intimate, personal relationships with writers.

In addition to taking away from the conversational tone of an editor’s comments,

heavy subordination also seems to make their recommendations more difficult to

decipher quickly. For instance, in Comment 12 of the Benson.CAREER proposal, the

editor writes: “Recommend explaining PEER and WISE since they definitely work with

underrepresented groups—only a line or two, ties into comment 10.” If this sentence is

rewritten to have more subordination, its verbosity makes it more difficult for the author

to determine quickly what revisions the editor is suggesting: “I recommend that you

explain in a line or two what PEER and WISE are since they definitely work with

underrepresented groups, which ties into what I said in comment 10.” The more complex

comment, with its heavy subordination, full sentences, and increased number of

prepositional phrases, makes it more difficult for the author to identify the editor’s

suggestions. In the original comment, the author clearly makes a suggestion for revision,

explains the reasoning behind the suggestion, and explains how to incorporate the

revision; each of these components is easily identifiable. However, in the revised version

of this comment, the suggestions about how to revise this section and how it ties into

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Comment 10 are embedded in the sentence. Therefore, the editors’ choice for using

simple sentences not only adds to the conversation-like tone of their comments but also

makes their suggestions easier to identify and thus implement.

The editors’ use of contractions also makes their comments seem more

conversational. In Comment 3 of the Benson.MEM proposal the editor writes: “What’s

the dif?” This comment, with the contraction and the abbreviation of difference, “echoes

speech patterns” (131) as Gibson says, making it seem like the editor is actually there

talking to the writer. The editors’ use of sentence fragments, or “groups of words

punctuated as sentence, but lacking a subject or a verb or both,” (131) also contributes to

the apparent open conversation between the editor and writer. Many of the editors’

comments were comprised of sentence fragments: “Best to remove…”

(Benson.CAREER, Comment 14), “since you asked for a synonym” (Mae.NIH.2,

Comment 31), or “moved text to be near similar text, above” (Mae.AHA, Comment 8),

just to mention a few. These fragments5, like minimal subordination and contraction

usage, are common to everyday informal speech. Because the editors feel a sense of

intimacy with the writer, they do not go out of their way to formalize their speech. They

assume that the writer will be very familiar with the document and will therefore know

exactly what they mean in their comments; as such, they do not feel as though they have

to use complete sentences or formal language to convey that meaning.

5 It is also likely that editors choose to use sentence fragments due to the limited space provided in comment boxes. While Microsoft Word does not limit how much an editor can write in the comment box, both Benson and Mae generally kept their comments short, probably due to time considerations and because lengthy comments become difficult to write and see in the small comment boxes.

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The intimacy that the editors create with the engineer writers contributes to their

ability to convince them to accept the revisions. Obviously, proposal writing is a serious

activity that needs to be approached with a certain level of gravity and professionalism;

however, using a more formal language style could make the editor come across as being

pompous and overly verbose with how he/she conveys his/her knowledge and expertise.

If, as result of a more formal style, the engineer writer feels that the editor is merely

being pretentious, he/she may simply ignore the comments. In addition, a more formal

style marked by long-winded wordage and complex subordination may make the editor’s

arguments unclear, which again may lead to the writer simply ignoring the suggestions.

The editors’ more informal tone, however, enables them to impart their knowledge non-

confrontationally in a clear and understandable way.

Although both the Tough talker and the Sweet talker use colloquial language to

create an intimate relationship with their reader, the intimacy each creates is slightly

different: the Tough talker creates a tense intimacy with his reader that is focused on

his/her own needs, while the Sweet talker creates a welcoming intimacy that is based on

the reader’s needs. In these analyses, this difference in intimacy was caused by the

editors’ use of more Tough or Sweet style characteristics when constructing certain parts

of their comments.

The Sweet Talker

The Sweet talker creates a welcoming intimacy with his/her reader in which the

reader’s needs and concerns are put first. As Gibson says, the Sweet talker writes “as if

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he knows [the reader] exceedingly well” (76) and “may use rhetorical devices of informal

speech…to secure [this] intimacy” (85). In these proposals in particular, the editors’

Sweet style is apparent in their use of informal punctuation, monosyllabic words,

questions, second-person pronouns, and modal auxiliaries.

Because traditional modes of writing limit a writer’s ability to mimic

conversational speech, both Benson and Mae adopt the more informal writing strategies

characteristic of the Sweet style in order to sound as though they are actually engaged in

a conversation with the engineer writers. In particular, the editors’ use of punctuation

(namely dashes), monosyllabic words, and questions create this close conversation-like

feel in terms of the language they choose for developing their comments.

According to Gibson, “The liberal use of the dash gives an effect of

breathlessness—literally a characteristic of an actual speaking voice…furthermore,

relations between parts of a sentence connected by dashes remain logically in the air,

another characteristic of our elliptical and loose syntax in conversation” (133). As such,

the editor’s use of dashes echoes the sound of informal discourse, such as in Comment 5

of the Benson.CAREER proposal: “Always best to refrain from ‘if’ usage—weak word

again, conveys doubt that you can do what you say you’ll do.” The dash, in conjunction

with the contraction and the sentence fragments previously discussed, makes it seem like

the editor is actively engaged in a personal conversation with the author, almost like he is

sitting right next to the writer and referencing the text as he speaks.

In addition, the majority of words in the editors’ comment (like in the comment

above) are monosyllabic, which again reflects the colloquial aspect of the editors’ speech.

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In informal, everyday conversation, people are generally less verbose and tend to employ

simple vocabulary as opposed to multisyllabic and/or complex words. In fact, a great

deal of the multi-syllabic words the editors use in their comments come directly from the

engineer writers’ proposals; the editors use these words simply because they must in

order to effectively comment on the text at hand. For example, in Comment 3 of the

Mae.AHA proposal, the editor writes: “You first use both PLA and polylactic acid

nanoparticles on page 5. Polylactic acid nanoparticles is not used again.” In this

comment, like in many of the editors’ other comments, the only words with more than

two syllables (i.e., polylactic and nanoparticles) directly reference the author’s text. The

rest of the comment is comprised of predominately monosyllabic words and a few

disyllabic words. These simpler words, which are more common to everyday

conversation, are more effective in conveying the editors’ concerns and are also easier for

the writers to comprehend. Thus, the editors’ use of simple, monosyllabic words

characteristic of the Sweet style is yet another way that they create an intimate, familiar

relationship with writers in which the editor shares his/her knowledge and the author’s

needs are considered as well.

The editors’ use of questions also adds to the conversation-like feel of their

comments. As Gibson states “More than any other mark of end-punctuation the question

mark engages the assumed reader directly” (134). In addition to engaging writers, by

asking them questions directly, the editors are reinforcing the idea that they care about

the authors’ input and opinions, such as in Comment 7 of the Benson.MEM proposal:

“Maybe your could drop this sentence? It’s best for tasks to be independent of one

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another (e.g. what happens if you have difficulties with 1 and 2?—is that a

showstopper?)” Not only is the editor speaking directly to writer, but by writing

“maybe” he is also soliciting the writer’s feedback. In addition, the parentheses and dash

in this sentence add to the closeness created by this sentence: the parentheses make it

seem like the editor is whispering a secret to the writer, and the dash echoes the breath-

like feel of everyday conversation.

Questions also make the writer feel as though the editor is present, soliciting

feedback about various questions he/she had while revising the proposal. For example, in

Comment 24 of the Mae.NIH.2 proposal, the editor asks “is this name correct?” and then

explains that she “can’t find in on the Internet.” In this case, the editor needs to solicit

the writer’s feedback in order to determine the proper spelling of a product because her

other resource for doing so (i.e., the Internet) is insufficient. Comment 19 of the

Mae.NIH.1 proposal is similar. In the text, the engineer writer wrote “This represents not

a competing, but a complementary approach, as investigated in Aim 3.” In response to

this text, the editor asks “Complementary to what?” Again, the editor needs the author to

share his/her knowledge about this particular piece of text in order to revise it for clarity

because Mae does not have the technical knowledge to do so on her own.

This also relates to the function of questions in the Toulmin et al. analyses, in

which questions take on the form of a rebuttal to the editor’s warrants or claims. Being

asked such questions directly signals to the reader that the editor is unsure about the

particular claim he/she is making and that, depending on the answer to the question, the

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author him/herself has to make the ultimate editorial decision because the editor does not

have enough information to do so.

Although the editors frequently comment on their own thoughts and actions, they

also concentrate a great deal on the writers, addressing them directly through the use of

“you.” For example, in Comment 5 of the Benson.MEM proposal, the editor writes a

rather long comment in which he uses both first- and second-person pronouns:

The first version was a little vague; [I] tried to clarify this and this sounds

correct as differing from the other two tasks, but [I] wanted you to see it.

Also, in the subsequent sentences, can there be more than one unit per

district? I changed that too under the supposition that most EMT fixed

assets have several ambulances, but because you refer to single unites

more than once, [I] am not sure.

While the first-person pronouns are characteristic of the Tough style and generally make

the editor’s speech seem self-centered6, the editor’s use of “you” here and the content of

this comment show that Benson is more concerned about the author’s thoughts and

choices regarding the text this comment references and not so much on his own. Using

second-person pronouns and addressing the author directly enable the editor to show that

the author is the ultimate decision maker in the proposal writing situation and that his/her

technical knowledge of the content is superior than the editor’s.

6 When writing an editorial comment, it is often difficult for an editor not to include him/herself specifically, especially when he/she is conveying an opinion. As a result, it is difficult to find a comment without any personal reference on the editors’ part. This particular comment was chosen because, although it does contain first-person pronouns, many of those first-person pronouns were not directly written, but were implied. Additionally, in this comment, it is clear that the editor is more concerned with the writer’s opinion as opposed to his own.

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It is also interesting that the editor did not actually write “I” in this comment but

merely implied it, even though he obviously revised the text and is stating his uncertainty.

Again, this seems to relate to his desire to concentrate on the writer’s concerns and less

so on his own. So, in this particular comment, the editor’s use of “I” merely described

what steps he took but had nothing to do with his knowledge, whereas his use of “you”

engaged the writer and demonstrated that he/she had the ultimate authority. This use of

“you” may be especially important when editing engineers’ documents, as the literature

suggests that they are particular wary to implement revisions suggested by a “non-

expert,” or someone outside of their technical field. However, by focusing the comment

around the writer’s needs and demonstrating that the change will improve his/her writing

or credibility, the editor can suggest revisions in an effective manner. At the same time,

the editor is the writing expert and thus needs to do his/her job to improve the document;

therefore, the editor needs to balance this “you-centered” aspect of Sweet talk with the

more “me-centered” aspect of Tough talk in order for engineer writers to accept sound

claims and warrants.

In addition, the editor’s use of modal auxiliaries7 and qualifiers, also discussed by

Toulmin et al., also adds to this focus on the writer’s needs. As Gibson says, modal

auxiliaries “express some kind of attitude (it has been called ‘emotional’) toward the

action that the verb names” (122). Through their comments, the editors’ attitude reveals

that they are concerned about the writers’ opinion: “[You] may need to…,” “[You] might

want to…,” “Can anything else be unbolded,” etc. Although the editors are ultimately

7 I.e., may, might, can, could, would, should, must, and ought.

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making suggestions about what they believe the writer should do, through their use of

modal auxiliaries, it appears that they are leaving the final decision up to the writers

themselves, which, in turn, most likely makes editors’ arguments more appealing to

writers, as they are given a voice in the decision making process.

Modal qualifiers have a similar affect on the editors’ comments. Take, for

example, the following comments: “We probably should...,” or “Montessori is generally

perceived...” When modals like these are omitted, the editors’ tone becomes much more

demanding: the comments “You need to…,” “You want to…,” “We should,” and

“Montessori is…” are all much more straightforward; however, they may also come

across as being overly harsh, possibly making the authors feel as though the editor is

trying to force them to take actions or think in a particular way.

Clearly, the modals enable editors to develop their arguments without coming

across as tyrannical or overstepping their role in the author/editor relationship. Again,

this may be particularly crucial when working with engineers, or subject matter experts,

as they often believe that the way something is written does not affect its meaning. If

editors create their arguments with modals (which imply that their claims could be wrong

in the end), their tone may be more persuasive than if they give direct commands. Thus,

when editors create arguments to convince writers to accept their revisions, it seems

advisable that they use modal qualifiers whenever they can. Again, doing so allows them

to convey their suggestions as to how the text should be changed but also allows the

author to know that the claims could be wrong and that ultimate decision is his/hers.

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The more personal relationship that the editors’ use of Sweet talk creates is very

important as they try to convince writers to accept their arguments for revision. By

creating the impression that they do in fact care about what the writers have to say, the

editors seem to engage the authors in the revision process more actively, allowing them

to provide their input and knowledge. When individuals feel that their input will be

positively accepted in any given situation, they are much more likely to participate

reciprocally in the activity at hand. In addition, the editors’ use of modals also allows

them to demonstrate that they are aware that some of their claims may be incorrect and

that the writer’s advanced technical knowledge is necessary to prevent errors from being

introduced into the text. As such, if writers feel that they have a say in what the editor is

revising, that the editor actually values their opinion, and that their counter-arguments to

the editor’s claims will be acknowledged, it is likely that they will be more open to the

editor’s arguments and accept more of the revisions.

The Tough Talker

While the Sweet talker creates a more welcoming, reader-centered relationship

with his/her audience, the Tough talker’s intimacy with his/her reader is based on

assumed shared knowledge and centers on the editor’s goals, knowledge, and concerns.

The editor’s use of “to be” forms of finite verbs, first-person pronouns, and modifiers, are

distinct to the Tough talker. According to Gibson, the Tough talker puts the reader in a

position “where he is expected to assume that he does know what the speaker is talking

about…as if, for the assumed reader, a conversation had been going on before he opened

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the book [or proposal in this case], a conversations that lad the groundwork for all this

assumed intimacy” (38). Because of this assumed closeness and common knowledge

with the reader, the Tough talker uses a simple style and does not go out of his way to

explain every detail about what he is discussing, nor does he flourish his language with

modifiers. This aspect of Tough talk can be seen in several of the editor’s comments.

For instance, in Comment 3 of the Benson.CAREER proposal, the editor writes “Since

you’ve eliminated these items, [I] removed the second mention of Michelin as well.”

Anyone other than the writer of this piece would be confused as to what “these items”

refers to8; however, because the editor feels a sense of close intimacy with the writer, he

believes that the writer will know exactly what he is talking about. Thus, as the Tough

talker, the editor does not bother to explain what “these items” refers to; he merely

expects the writer to know. The writer is “reminded that the narrator [the editor in this

case] knows [him/her], speaks familiarly, doesn’t in fact go out of his way” (Gibson 35).

Because the editors frequently chose to use “to be”9 forms of finite verbs and

first-person pronouns, the intimacy they create with the writers is quite often focused on

their own knowledge. By using “to be” forms of finite verbs, the editors leave no room

for the writer’s counter-arguments. Take, for example, Comment 7 in Mae.NIH.1

proposal: “it’s easier to read the main words if all words are not underlined,” or Comment

12 in the Benson.DARPA proposal: “Chicago Manual plural for edited by is eds.”

Through the editors’ use of “is” in both cases, they make it appear that the knowledge

8 In this case, the comment box does not point to the text being referred to the way Word’s Comment function ordinarily does. Thus, this example is probably the exception rather than the rule. 9 E.g., “You are good,” “the plane is small.”

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they impart is the absolute truth and that alternative ideas are ultimately wrong. In the

second case, the knowledge the Benson provides is certifiable: if the author questions this

statement, he/she can reference the Chicago Manual of Style.

However, the first comment, is not certifiable but is based on opinion, so the

editor is ultimately trying to show that her opinion in this case is true. In this case, Mae

could have qualified this statement by saying “For most individuals, it’s easier to read…”

or “generally, it’s easier to read…,”but doing so would take away from Mae’s assertion

of her own expert writing knowledge. The editors’ ability to focus comments around

their knowledge and intentions may be particularly important when working with

engineers, who often want reasons behind the changes editors make. If the editor can

describe why he/she made the change in a strong manner, then engineer writers may be

more willing to heed the comment’s advice, as they believe the editor’s revision is well

grounded. As the literature suggested, engineers respect editors who can edit effectively

and who can explain why they make the changes they do.

This finding of my Gibson analyses relates directly to my discussion of opinion-

based warrants that initially seem to lead to unsuccessful arguments but will most likely

result in engineer writers accepting the editors’ claims. While engineer writers prefer

evidenced-based facts and explanations as opposed to those based only on personal

opinion, there are instances when editors face time and space constraints that limit their

ability to provide theory- or handbook-based explanations for their revisions. In addition,

there are also cases when editors may simply base their revisions on the practical

knowledge they have gained through years of experience; thus, in such cases, it is likely

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that they do not have a definitive source from which they can develop the warrant to

support certain claims. In most of these instances, because editors are language experts,

engineer writers may accept changes and explanations even when editors do not provide

substantiated warrants for their revisions. That being said, however, editors should also

realize that their audience, in this case engineers, may not value or rely on just their

opinion, so such arguments may fail in the end.

This seemingly self-centered presentation of the editors’ knowledge is also

apparent in their use of the first-person pronoun, “I.” The use of “I” makes it appear that

the editors believe that their actions and thoughts are more important than the writer’s.

This idea is seen in several of the editors’ comments: “I added…,” “I took out…,” “I

have…,” “I made…,” I thought…,” and so on. In each of these instances, the editor

seems to reveal “himself to be more concerned with his own attitudes and feelings” (119)

and less so with the writer’s. However, the use of first-person pronouns is necessary for

the editors to discuss the changes they made with the author in addition to their opinions

and feelings about the text. It is likely that writers will not be put off by the editors’ use

of “I” in these comments because the writers are asking for the editors’ assistance and

thus expect their opinions in the form of “I” statements. The editors’ use of “I” does

revolve around their knowledge and opinions, but combining this particular aspect with

the “You-Talk” of the Sweet style enables the editor to argue for changes without

becoming too intrusive on the writer’s “you.” This way of speaking is simply based on

the editor’s authority in the writing situation, which is formed from his/her language and

writing expertise.

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Although Gibson seems to believe that the Tough talker is a bit forceful and self-

centered, the editors’ use of the Tough style is necessary for them to share their

knowledge with the writer. By using “to be” finite verbs and centering their comments

around their own knowledge, editors can tacitly demonstrate to the author that they know

what they are talking about without having to provide excessive explanations or

constantly justify their actions with excessive warrants. This, in turn, may give the writer

more confidence in the editors’ ability, which, as discussed before, is essential for

creating author/editor relationships in which the writer heeds the editor’s revisionary

advice.

At the same time, however, by using such forceful language and centering their

comments on their own thoughts and attitudes, editors risk pushing writers too far out of

the decision-making process and even offending them, which could result in the writers

ignoring or rejecting suggestions and arguments that could greatly improve their

documents. Therefore, editors should also implement various features of Sweet talk in

order to balance their claims with the writers’ opinions and concerns, which will be

discussed in the Chapter 5.

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Chapter 5 Concluding My Argument on the Comment Box

The Toulmin and Gibson analyses of the comments in these six proposals

revealed many interesting characteristics about the relationship between the CoES

technical editors and the six engineers they worked with. These analyses reveal the main

stylistic choices and argumentative strategies that two successful editors1 in academic

proposal writing environments utilize, whether consciously or unconsciously, to develop

relationships with the writers they work with and reason for revisions. The main point

that current and prospective editors should take away from these analyses is that writing

effective comments and arguing for change is about balance: balance between

concentrating on one’s own needs and beliefs and those of the writer, between sharing

one’s own language expertise and knowledge and knowing when to ask questions, and

balance between using conversational speech and providing quality suggestions. More

importantly, however, there needs to be balance between warrants grounded in the

engineers’ assumption and in the editors’ ethos established in the language they use to

create relationships with writers.

Creating this balance will ultimately help editors to create successful arguments

and have the writers they work with accept those arguments. Balancing Tough and

Sweet talk allows editors to share the knowledge and skills they have developed as

language experts in a non-threatening way such that writers will heed their advice but still

1 We can assume that they are in fact successful because 1) writers return to these editors recurrently for advice of their own free will and 2) they have edited proposals that have been funded, some of which received million-dollar grants. This will be discussed further in this chapter in the Limitations section.

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feel as though they are a part of the writing process. Benson and Mae’s use of both

Tough and Sweet talk, both of which are characterized by intimacy with the author and a

conversation-like tone, allowed them to develop close, yet comfortable, relationships

with the engineer writers in order to provide the conditions that seemed to allow for equal

contributions for both parties. The characteristics of Tough talk, which center around

editors’ expertise and attitudes, allow editors to state warrants and claims in a way that

demonstrates that they are the language experts and have the resources necessary to make

the writers’ prose most effective. The characteristics of Sweet talk, on the other hand,

allow the editors to demonstrate to the writers that they are still an important part of the

writing process and that the editors value their opinions in the argument. In addition,

Sweet talk enables editors to qualify their comments (especially through the use of

modals) such that the writer knows that he/she is the content expert and that the editor’s

claims could ultimately be wrong. Thus, the balance between both Sweet and Tough talk

sets up the relationship and conditions editors need in order to have the writers they work

with accept their sound arguments and implement their suggestions.

Style as Part of a Successful Argument

Both the Toulmin et al. and Gibson analyses independently provide a great deal of

insight into how editors develop arguments for their revisions and how they create

successful relationships with writers, respectively; however, when taken together a more

substantial finding emerges: the stylistic choices editors use when developing their

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comments actually become an important part of how they create successful arguments

that result in writers accepting and implementing their suggestions for revisions. Style

essentially becomes an unstated warrant in itself. As these analyses have revealed, this

stylistic influence is particularly evident when editors develop arguments based solely on

their opinions and on the practical knowledge that they have gained from years of

experience. This finding is extremely significant because editors frequently encounter

situations in which they realize a writer’s text needs to be revised but know that they

cannot provide the theory- or handbook-based warrants necessary to convince logical-

/objectivist-minded writers that their claim is valid. This research reveals that when

editors combine the characteristics of the Sweet and Tough styles discussed in Chapter 4,

they can create successful arguments (opinion-based or otherwise) that seem to provide a

firmer basis with which editors can share their knowledge effectively and persuade

writers to accept their changes.

What Editors Can Learn

As the literature suggested in Chapter 2, engineers have specific goals in mind

when they create a document; however, it may take a technical editor for engineers to

fully realize their persuasive potential. For novice engineers, the editor might make the

overall writing process seem less tedious by providing overall guidance, examples, and

corrections. For the more experienced engineer writer, the technical editor may serve as

a final reviewer before the document is sent out for a more formal review. In any case,

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however, argumentation and style are important aspects of editing. Therefore, the

findings from this thesis can also be applied practically when editing for engineers and

other technical writers. The following two sub-sections reveal these practical

implications.

What Editors Can Learn From Toulmin et al.

Firstly, the Toulmin analysis revealed what strategies editors take when they

develop successful arguments and what factors seem to make their argumentative

suggestions less successful. Learning from this analysis, editorials students and even

current editors should remember the following major points:

Use the three-part comment structure whenever possible: provide the

ground, warrant, and claim for each argument made, especially when

establishing new author/editor relationships.

Provide clear and accurate warrants; providing faulty warrants may

diminish an author’s trust.

Make sure that comments are not arguing for revisions that introduce

errors into the text; again, this may diminish the author’s trust in the

editor’s knowledge and abilities.

Provide clear claims so the writer will know exactly how to change the

text; writing unclear comments may leave authors frustrated and confused.

Make sure that the comments refer directly to the text they reference;

again, not doing so may leave writers confused and frustrated.

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Each of these points can be easily implemented into the editorial process. At first, editors

may need to take more time to review their comments to ensure that they have addressed

all of these points when arguing for revisions. However, after several rounds of actively

checking for and amending these issues in their comments, it is likely that the editor will

internalize these points and create successful arguments from the onset.

What Editors Can Learn from Gibson

While the Toulmin et al. analyses revealed the argumentative characteristics of

editor’s comments, the Gibson analysis uncovered several useful features about the

language editors use to communicate with editors and how that language builds

relationships with writers. The following list includes the language characteristics that

lead to successful2 working relationships with authors as evidenced by the two CoES

editors at Clemson:

Use a conversational tone when writing author queries, including the use

of one-syllable words, simple sentence structures, personal pronouns,

active voice, subjects referring to people, sentence fragments,

contractions, and informal punctuation.

Avoid using overly formal language marked by a high number of

polysyllabic words, passive voice, subjects referring to objects, and heavy

subordination.

2 Again, it can be assumed that the relationships between the CoES editors and the writers at hand are successful because the writers have voluntarily had several of their pieces revised by these two editors.

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Balance the use of first- and second-person narrative voice in order to

convey your motivations, suggestions, and concerns, while acknowledging

the author’s concerns and expertise.

Use modal modifiers and verbs when you are unsure about the necessity

of a revision.

Use language and ask questions that actively engage the writer, so he/she

feels included in the revisionary process.

When creating comments based more on your practical knowledge,

experience, or opinion, balance your concerns and attitudes with those of

the writer by adopting the characteristics of Sweet and Tough talk.

Limitations

While the results of this thesis will can help current and future editors in the

technical editing field, there are also some limitations to this study that may hinder its

applicability and generalizability to some extent. Probably the biggest limitation to this

study is that the corpus of material was rather small and came from only two technical

editors. In an ideal situation, a larger sample of technical editors and their respective

proposals would have been available from which to choose, but there were few technical

editors who were willing to subject their proposals to analyses. In addition, the limited

scope of this paper made it impossible to look at documents other than technical

proposals; however, it is possible that analyses based on comments from other documents

could reveal findings different from those of this thesis.

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Another major limitation to this study was the inability to determine which

revisions the engineer writers implemented and which they ignored. Because of the

limited scope of this thesis, conducting interviews with the engineering writers was

beyond the means of this study; however, it would have been interesting to examine what

engineering writers do when confronted with a comment, how they interpret editors’

arguments, and how they interpret the editors’ particular language choices.

Next, the proposals that were analyzed came only from native English speakers

from Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science, which makes one wonder if

comments directed to non-native English speakers would have similar characteristics as

those from this study. Finally, this study has limited formal inter-rater reliability because

no one available had a strong grasp of both the Gibson and Toulmin analyses techniques;

as such, it was impossible for a novice analyzer to develop enough familiarity with these

techniques to complete full analyses and obtain accurate results. That being said, many

individuals did review this work closely to ensure that the findings were sound. These

analyses have revealed several results that are both generalizeble and transportable to

other technical editors and documents. And it is likely that if similar studies were

undertaken, they would reveal findings similar to those in this study as a result of the

objectivity inherent in these particular methods of analyses themselves.3

3 Toulmin et al.’s analysis is based on the diagramming of logic, Gibson’s on a statistical breakdown of grammatical categories.

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Future Research

This thesis has provided several useful suggestions that both novice and practiced

editors can implement when querying authors; however, as this is only a pilot study, a

great deal of research relating to this work could also benefit the technical editing field.

The next step in this research would be expanding the analysis corpus to include editors

from other technical fields and more types of proposals. If the results such studies are

similar, they would make the results from this study and those from future studies

sounder and thus more generalizable. In addition, the method I developed for this thesis

could eventually go beyond comments from proposals to include queries from other

genres, such as research articles, books, letters, and other technical documents and could

even expand to include editorial comments from non-technical editors in traditional

publishing houses or magazines.

Additionally, because of the influx of non-native English speakers in technical

fields, it would be beneficial to study proposals and other documents from non-native

English speakers to determine if these same principles apply to these writers or if the

analyses reveal a whole other set of guidelines for working with such individuals.

Finally, gaining first-hand information about the findings from this research from both

editors and writers involved in the editorial process would further enhance the results

from this thesis. Namely, interviews from these two parties, within the limits of

interview protocols and human consciousness, could confirm the results obtained here

and reveal other valuable characteristics of argumentation and relationship development

in the comment box that these more formal analyses could not uncover. Nevertheless,

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this research has provided the foundation for other studies attempting to unveil the

complicated features behind developing successful author queries. More importantly, the

results of these analyses provide student editors with some theoretically-based, yet

practical, methods for developing successful author queries, creating effective tactful

arguments, and building trusting author/editor relationships.

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Works Cited

Anderson, Gary L., and Devendra P. Garg. “Suggestions for Skillful Proposal Writing.”

Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures 12 (2001): 409-413. SAGE.

Clemson University, Clemson, SC. 18 April 2008.

Arfken, Deborah E., and Jim M. Henry. A Survey of Engineers: Writing Attitudes and

Productivity. Annual Meeting of the Southwest Educational Research

Association, 31 Jan. 1986. 20 Apr. 2008 <A Survey of Engineers: Writing

Attitudes and Productivity>.

Aristotle. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric: Book 1- Chapter 2.” Rhetoric: 1356a. Iowa State

University. 21 Jan. 2009. < http://www.public.iastate.edu/~honeyl/Rhetoric/rhet1-

2.html>.

Bennett, John B. Editing for Engineers. New York: Wiley-Intersceince, 1970.

Bernhardt, Stephan. “Improving Document Review Practices in Pharmaceutical

Companies.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 17.4 (Oct.

2003): 439-473.

Corbin, Michelle, Pat Moell, and Mike Boyd. "Technical Editing as Quality Assurance:

Adding Value to Content." Technical Communication 49 (2002): 286-300.

Crognale, Heather. “Long-Distance Editing: Tips for Editors on Managing the

Editor/Writer Relationship.” Intercom (July/Aug. 2008): 17-19.

Dayton, David. “Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A Survey of Practices

and Attitudes.” Technical Communication 50.2 (May 2003): 192-206.

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Ding, Daniel. “Object-Centered—How Engineering Writing Embodies Objects: A Study

of Four Engineering Documents.” Technical Communication 48.3 (Aug. 2001):

297-308.

Doumont, Jean-Luc. “Gentle Feedback that Encourages Learning.” Intercom (Feb. 2002):

39-40.

Dragga, S. and G. Gong. Editing: The Design of Rhetoric. Amityville, NY: Baywood

Publishing Company, Inc., 1981.

Firestone, Elaine R. “Scientific Writing and Editing: Problems, Pitfalls, and Pratfalls.”

Intercom (Mar. 2005): 11-13

Grove, Laurel K. "When Basics Aren't Enough: Finding a Comprehensive Editor." IEEE

Transactions on Professional Communication 37 (1994): 171-174.

Hart, Geoffrey S. “Softening the Blow: Taking the Sting out of Editorial and Other

Reviews.” Intercom (Sept./Oct. 2005): 25-27.

Mehlenbacher, Brad. "The Rhetorical Nature of Academic Research Funding." IEEE

Transactions on Professional Communication 37 (1994): 157-162.

Myers, Greg. "The Social Construction of Two Biologists' Proposals." Written

Communication 2 (1985): 219-245. SAGE. Penn State University, State College,

PA. 31 Mar. 2008.

Prono, Judyth, Martha Delanoy, Robert Deupree, Jeffrey Skiby, and Brian Thompson.

Developing New Levels of Edit. Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos National

Laboratory, 1998. 10 Apr. 2008

<www.stc.org/confproceed/1998/PDFs/00055.PDF>.

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Roundy, Nancy, and David Mair. "The Composing Process of Technical Writers: a

Preliminary Study." JAC 3 (1981). 18 Apr. 2008

<http://www.jac.org/Archived_volumes/Text_articles/V3_Roundy_Mair.htm>.

Rude, Carolyn. Technical Editing. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Longman, 2005.

Selzer, Jack. "The Composing Process of an Engineer." College Composition and

Communication 34 (1983): 178-187.

Van Buren, Robert, and Mary F. Buehler. The Levels of Edit. 2nd ed. Pasadena, CA:

JPL, 1980. 4 Apr. 2008 <http://www.iit.edu/~mackiewicz/levels_of_edit.pdf>.

Winsor, Dorothy A. "An Engineer's Writing and the Corporate Construction of

Knowledge." Written Communication 6 (1989): 270-285. SAGE. Penn State

University, State College, PA. 4 Apr. 2008.

Winsor, Dorothy A. "Engineering Writing/Writing Engineering." College Composition

and Communication 40 (1990): 58-70.

Winsor, Dorothy A. Writing Like an Engineer: A Rhetorical Education. Mahwah, NJ:

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996.

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Appendix A

Editors’ Comments

Mae.NIH.11

1. I took out the double spaes after periods. I will put the doubles back in if you prefer.

2. Check meaning; I deleted “primarily.” The revised statement’s true, but may not have the emphasis you want.

3. “changing demographic trends resulting in”—these trends are a reflection, not a cause, right?

4. need to rewrite for coherence, but i think your ltg needs to be stated here 5. i have a question about clarity 6. not sure from the discussion above what the other essential characteristics are 7. it's easier to read the main words if all words are not underlined 8. try not to use "significant" in scientific/medical writing unless the reference is to

statistical significance 9. great usage of this term 10. to make parallel with subsequent phrase 11. need some punctuation here; not sure this is it 12. since the study is so old? 13. would be less distracting if we could use the same tense throughout 14. did not check image since it was moving around 15. "last" is slightly negative 16. Do we need this definition? If the reviewers know SMAD, won’t they know

RNAi? 17. Does this refer to RNAi (not the process)? May need to make the text a little

clearer. 18. Don’t use a colon separate a verb from its complement, esp. when the bullets

make it very clear that this is a list. I changed the bullets to numbers to avoid the redundancy of bullets and numbered aims

19. complementary to what? 20. don't need to qualify your search; they know when it had to have been conducted 21. need to talk about this section; need to make a clearer case for "WOW!"

1Allofthecommentsarewrittenastheeditorwrotethemintheproposals.Anyerrorswereintheoriginalcomments.

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22. may want to get an opinion about this; probably need to state a little more positively

23. this is very good; we probably should highlight it in some way

Mae.NIH.2

1. Reviewers could read this more quickly with some changes that apply to any closely written text: ----use parentheses to enclose one or more words; when used for numerals or single letters, especially in text blocks, they detract from readability by increasing clutter ----format key figure letters in bold; parentheses here decrease readability ----don’t bold complete sentences within a text block ----in figure text, place the key letters prior to the related text, so readers know where to look when they’re reading

2. vibratory groups; vibratory sample groups: use the same term consistently throughout. Also, use the plural consistently—group, groups

3. if you accepted the paragraph indentations to .3, make this change throughout 4. check period usage with citations 5. Still too much bolding, esp on this line; can anything else be unbolded? 6. i removed a period and space in the title of the figure to match this usage 7. period usage is inconsistent in text under figures. See 2B 8. spaces around "/" make it more difficult to read quickly 9. comma between full sentences 10. In all figures, increase ease of reading and the reader’s ability to switch between

the text and the figure, by ----formatting figure letters in bold (but not italic) as in Figure 10 below; parentheses here decrease readability ----placing the letters prior to the related text (period is optional), so that readers know where to look when they’re reading

11. Is relatively necessary? If so, relative to what? In general relatively 12. better not to use this word in proposals unless you support the claim; alternative:

notably 13. easier to understand if we know what we're reading about before we read details 14. no comma because the adjectives can’t be interchanged 15. do we also want to put this earlier per our conversation yesterday? 16. Next time, change Fig. 7 so that fibromodulin is capitalized (to parallel the rest of

the list) 17. needed ";" or "and"; comma alone is incorrect 18. just wanted to point this out; I know this is how chemists write

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19. These two sentences succinctly describe some of what you want to say in the intro.

20. With the revised bolding, the sentence can be read more easily and quickly. Remember, reviewers don't want to read every word, and any reader with a PhD will not need to read every word

21. must have this comma or write "the increased MMP/decreased TIMP expression" 22. because you don't want to appear to assume that it definitely alters one of these,

right? 23. the flowchart is not experimental 24. is this name correct? I can’t find it on the Web 25. I made regularizing changes in text accompanying most of the figures in this

proposal; if you approve, please paste the changed text into the final version 26. “ is correct, not ‘ 27. "from" carries the meaning; don't need "instead" 28. these are en dashes 29. “vibratory” is used in the Aims, and I think it was the usage chosen for the

manuscripts 30. italicization of these terms is inconsistent throughout 31. since you asked for a synonym 32. do you want to say he’s professor of cell biology? 33. don't use "greater than" symbol unless it has a special meaning here 34. periods always inside quotation marks 35. visually easier to follow the series if the numerals are not underlined 36. need “1” and “1.1” 37. second set of parentheses should be "[ ]" 38. better coherence 39. sentence needs a verb 40. no capitals unless referring to Promoter Extraction from GenBank (PEG), right?

Mae.AHA

1. Turned off Track Changes to replace double spaces after periods with single spaces.

2. check indentations at the beginning of paragraphs; I do not see a pattern 3. You first use both PLA and polylactic acid nanoparticles on page 5. polylactic

acid nanoparticles is not used again. 4. check to see if revision is OK with you 5. use Arabic numerals and only 1 parenthesis; doing so makes your numbered text

easier for the eye to find when, for example, a reviewer scans the page 6. this transition isn’t very coherent. The first several sentences 7. check this transistion and the following paragraph for coherence 8. moved text to be near similar text, above

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9. is this strengthened claim OK? 10. many people write previously studied, but it’s usually redundant 11. reviewers will still see the unbolded words 12. I think parentheses can sometimes make text more readable than the use of

several commas, esp. when terms are lengthy 13. see what you think of this change 14. check meaning 15. check wording 16. check meaning; this change makes a big difference in meaning 17. don’t need a hyphen after an “ly” word 18. don’t need hyphen if the word modified comes before the modifiers (there are no

words following the modifiers, so we can’t be confused about which words go together)

19. “preferential” means “to show preference.” 20. Check pluralization 21. term is not used again in this text, so I deleted abbreviation 22. check 23. in the figure, terms used in descriptions 1, 2, and 3 are inconsistently capitalized.

Suggest capitalizing only the first word in each phrase 24. check meaning; an "amount" of a substance or a "number" of samples 25. i thought the original wording was unclear; not sure if this revision is what you

meant 26. if the claim is too strong as revised, place "future" immediately before

"development." 27. not sure why the alternative is more efficient? makes it sound like this should

have been the primary design 28. check this big change

Benson.DARPA

1. To do what? 2. NSF/NIH standard workbooks suggest using the author/year e.g. (Brooks et al.,

2004) citation strategy. Your primary and secondary reviewers will be close enough to your work to recognize citations presented first as author/year. Regardless of suggest familiarity, current citation strategy forces reviewers to “flip” to the citation section and look. It’s not really reviewer friendly.

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3. Do you mean simple or do you mean not previously subjected to experiment. If simple, suggest a change since this word is usually associated with people, emotions, etc.

4. Might want to change a bit so reviewers know what “this” is. 5. Changed to remove “we” use as a pronoun for the system 6. Try to avoid the pronoun “this” when starting a sentence. It always leads a

reviewer to ask what the “this” is. 7. Cliché. 8. Weak phrase 9. Can current applications automatically add their own security attributes for an

Application Programming Interface or does a develop need to? Rewrote in the past tense to recover the bases.

10. Best to be gender neutral. 11. Looks like this sentence detailing a simple approach to key assignment works best

as a segueway [sic] into a more sophisticated approach. 12. Chicago Manual plural for edited by is eds. 13. Retabulated [sic] employment info—first entry had a hanging indent.

Benson.MEM

1. Don’t think this sentence is necessary since you’re dealing primarily with medical units. Research you’ve cited is adequate.

2. Sentence needed clarity but unsure if technically correct 3. What’s the dif? 4. By whom? May be good to say. 5. Check this; the original was unclear. Are first responder and unit the same thing? 6. The first version was a little vague; tried to clarify this and this sounds correct as

differing from the other two tasks, but wanted you to see it. Also, in the subsequent sentences, can there be more than one unit per district? I changed that too under the supposition that most EMT fixed assets have several ambulances, but because you refer to single units more than once, am not sure.

7. Maybe you could drop this sentence? It’s best for tasks to be independent of one another (e.g. what happens if you have difficulties with 1 and 2?—is that a showstopper?)

Benson.CAREER

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1. Dr. Summers, no need to use e.g. here if this is a citation. NSF/NIH standard workbooks suggest using the author/year e.g. Summers, 2004 citation strategy. Your primary/secondary reviewers will be close enough to your work to recognize citations presented as author/year. However, they will not be able to recognize them unless they flip to the lit cited section. Because this is not user friendly, best to refrain from doing so.Since you’re citing yourself some, this is also a clever way to get across the idea that you’ve done the work being cited.

2. Should is a weak word. Do you plan to investigate how the tool impacts the design process? It sounds like it, so you can simply say will.

3. Since you’ve eliminated these items, removed the second mention of Michelin as well.

4. FYI: no colons when introducing a series with a verb. 5. Always best to refrain from “if” usage—weak work again, conveys doubt that you

can do what you say you’ll do. Expected always lets reviewers know you plan to succeed but gives you some “rhythm” in case you do not.

6. Cliché 7. Weak words, “might be”. [sic] 8. In scientific writing passive voice is de rigeur [sic], but with proposals it’s okay to

use “We” when you feel like it. 9. Be detailed about transparency; this sounds like a generality which doesn’t

convey much. Do you mean that you’ll conduct surveys to see if engineers want “total hands-on” control from start to finish?

10. Not sure that this section really hits your underrepresented groups that NSF Career reviewers look for. Montessori is generally perceived to cater to upscale kids. However, on page 2 of the Broader Impacts Merit Criterion, this might be addressed by the quote “certain types of academic institutions”. [sic] Maybe a little rewrite on how this work might be targeted to GIRLS/MINORITIES at Montessori could expand your underrepresented groups.

11. [Beginning of comment includes all of comment 10 and then moves into newer comment] I’ve read some other work where professors actually bring primary and secondary kids out of the school and into a Clemson lab environment. Since you’ve got the lab facilities, maybe you could do the same?

12. Recommend explaining PEER and WISE since they definitely work with underrepresented groups—only a line or two, ties into comment 10.

13. Growing pains; Cliché 14. How? Best to remove. Supporting in part or in whole is support, regardless. 15. Tautological. Since you’ve cited it, no need to say what it agrees with.

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Appendix B

Toulmin Charts for the Editors’ Comments

Mae.NIH

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Appendix C

Gibson Analysis Tables

Mae.NIH.1—Total word count: 289

Sweet: 14

Tough: 7

Stuffy: 2

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 202 69 Sweet2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore35

12.1

Sweet

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:92nd:2

Tough/Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:18People:27

Tough/Sweet

5. Finiteverbs 44 15.2 Tough/Sweet

6. Tobeformsasfiniteverbs

11

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:25

Sweet/Stuffy

7. Passives

Sweet

8. Trueadjectives 11 3.8 Tough9. Adjectivesmodified 6 Sweet10. Nounadjuncts 15 5.2 Stuffy11. Averagelengthof

clauses6.4wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

77

26.6

Sweet

13. “Embedded”words 7 Tough/Sweet14. The 15 5.2 Sweet15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:4Fragments:6

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,

dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:1Italics:1Dashes:1QuestionsMarks:6ExclamationMarks:1

Sweet

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Mae.NIH2—Total word count: 556

Sweet: 10

Tough: 11

Stuffy: 2

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 335 60.3 Sweet2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore75

13.5

Sweet

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:92nd:7

Tough/Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:31People:41

Tough/Sweet

5. Finiteverbs 66 11.9 Tough/Sweet

6. Tobeformsasfiniteverbs

21

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:31.8

Tough

7. Passives

7

Tough

8. Trueadjectives 8 1.4 Tough9. Adjectivesmodified 0 Tough/Stuffy10. Nounadjuncts 52 9.4 Stuffy11. Averagelengthof

clauses5.7wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

115

20.7

Tough

13. “Embedded”words 17 Tough/Sweet14. The 25 4.5 Sweet15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:8Fragments:17

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:4Italics:12Dashes:0QuestionsMarks:6ExclamationMarks:0

Sweet

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Mae.AHA—Total word count: 306

Sweet: 11

Tough: 8

Stuffy: 3

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 201 65.7 Sweet2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore54

17.

Sweet

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:52nd:4

Tough/Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:19People:31

Stuffy

5. Finiteverbs 45 14.7 Tough/Sweet

6. Tobeformsasfiniteverbs

14

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:31.1

Tough

7. Passives

3

Tough

8. Trueadjectives 10 3.3 Tough9. Adjectivesmodified 5 Sweet10. Nounadjuncts 16 5.2 Stuffy11. Averagelengthof

clauses6.9wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

83

27.1

Sweet

13. “Embedded”words 10 Tough/Sweet14. The 15 4.9 Sweet15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:5Fragments:7

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:1Italics:0Dashes:0QuestionsMarks:1ExclamationMarks:0

Sweet

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Benson.DARPA—Total word count: 205

Sweet: 11

Tough: 8

Stuffy: 3

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 117 57 Stuffy2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore43

21

Stuffy

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:02nd:2

Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:11People:10

Tough/Sweet

5. Finiteverbs 23 11.2 Tough/Sweet

6. Tobeformsasfiniteverbs

6

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:26.1

Tough

7. Passives

Sweet

8. Trueadjectives 17 8.3 Tough/Stuffy9. Adjectivesmodified 5 Sweet10. Nounadjuncts 21 2.4 Sweet11. Averagelengthof

clauses6.7wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

20

9.8

Tough

13. “Embedded”words 4 Tough/Sweet14. The 6 2.9 Sweet15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:1Fragments:10

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:1Italics:0Dashes:1QuestionsMarks:3ExclamationMarks:0

Sweet

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Benson.MEM—Total word count: 150

Sweet: 10

Tough: 10

Stuffy: 2

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 96 64 Sweet2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore19

12.7

Sweet

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:12nd:6

Tough/Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:14People:12

Tough/Sweet

5. Finiteverbs 24 16 Tough/Sweet6. Tobeformsasfinite

verbs12

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:50

Tough

7. Passives

Sweet

8. Trueadjectives 7 4.7 Tough9. Adjectivesmodified 1 Tough10. Nounadjuncts 6 4 Sweet/Stuffy11. Averagelengthof

clauses5.5wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

33

22

Tough/Sweet

13. “Embedded”words 2 Tough/Sweet14. The 7 4.7 Stuffy15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:4Fragments:6

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:1Italics:0Dashes:1QuestionsMarks:6ExclamationMarks:0

Sweet

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Benson.CAREER—Total word count: 398

Sweet: 12

Tough: 7

Stuffy: 2

Category NumberofWordsforCategory

PercentageofTotalWordCount

Style

1. Monosyllables 259 65 Sweet2. Wordsof3syllables

ormore45

11.3

Sweet

3. 1stand2ndpersonpronouns

1st:12nd:19

Sweet

4. Subjects:neutervs.people

Neuter:22People:28

Tough/Sweet

5. Finiteverbs 50 12.6 Tough/Sweet6. Tobeformsasfinite

verbs9

Percentageoftotalfiniteverb:18.4

Sweet/Stuffy

7. Passives 1

Tough

8. Trueadjectives 18 4.5 Tough9. Adjectivesmodified 4 22.2 Sweet10. Nounadjuncts 39 9.8 Stuffy11. Averagelengthof

clauses6.4wordsperclause

Tough/Sweet

12. Clauses,proportionoftotalwords

102

25.6

Sweet

13. “Embedded”words 21 Tough/Sweet14. The 11 2.7 Sweet15. Contractionsand

FragmentsContractions:9Fragments:10

Tough/Sweet

16. Parentheses,italics,dashes,questionmarks,exclamationmarks

Parentheses:0Italics:0Dashes:2QuestionsMarks:4ExclamationMarks:0

Sweet

The Rhetoric of the Comment Box: Editorial Queries as - [PDF Document] (2024)

FAQs

What is an example of rhetoric? ›

Politicians deliver rallying cries to inspire people to act. Advertisers create catchy slogans to get people to buy products. Lawyers present emotional arguments to sway a jury. These are all examples of rhetoric—language designed to motivate, persuade, or inform.

What is a simple definition of rhetorical analysis? ›

A rhetorical analysis considers all elements of the rhetorical situation--the audience, purpose, medium, and context--within which a communication was generated and delivered in order to make an argument about that communication.

What is an example of a rhetorical context? ›

An impassioned love letter, a prosecutor's closing statement, an advertisem*nt hawking the next needful thing you can't possibly live without—are all examples of rhetorical situations.

What is an example of a rhetorical situation analysis? ›

Example of purpose analysis for the rhetorical situation: (President Trump's Inaugural Address): President Trump's purpose in the inaugural address was to set the tone for his presidency, to share his vision with Americans, and to attempt to unite the country and prepare it for moving forward with his agenda.

What is rhetoric in simple terms? ›

Rhetoric refers to the study and uses of written, spoken and visual language. It investigates how language is used to organize and maintain social groups, construct meanings and identities, coordinate behavior, mediate power, produce change, and create knowledge.

What is a rhetorical analysis pdf? ›

Rhetorical analysis is the process of evaluating elements of a text and determining how those elements impact the success or failure of that argument. Often rhetorical analyses address written arguments, but visual, oral, or other kinds of “texts” can also be analyzed.

How do you explain a rhetorical question? ›

A rhetorical question is a question asked to make a point, rather than get an answer. If you have ever been late, someone might say: 'What time do you call this? ' This person doesn't want an answer to the question. They are making the point that you have arrived at an unacceptable time.

What is a message in rhetoric? ›

• Message: the main idea the speaker communicated to the audience in order to achieve the purpose. Messages can be overt or subtle, and they go beyond mere description of content.

What is a rhetorical situation in writing? ›

The rhetorical situation can be described in five parts: purpose, audience, topic, writer, and context. These parts work together to better describe the circ*mstances and contexts of a piece of writing, which if understood properly, can help you make smart writing choices in your work.

What is the rhetorical context of a text? ›

These factors are referred to as the rhetorical situation, or rhetorical context, and are often presented in the form of a pyramid. The three key factors–purpose, author, and audience–all work together to influence what the text itself says, and how it says it.

What is a real life example of rhetoric? ›

Examples include an academic essay, a commencement speech, a cover letter or a social media post. Each category calls for adjustments to style, content and the conventions of the genre.

What is a rhetorical situation in everyday life? ›

A quick text message, a wave to someone that you know, and your body language as you sit in class or in a meeting are all examples of rhetorical messages that can result in positive or negative consequences depending on the context of the situation and the audience's interpretation of the message.

What is the first step of a rhetorical analysis? ›

Because this genre is rooted in analyzing source material, the first step in constructing a rhetorical analysis is to become an expert on the text to be deconstructed. Similar to a research paper, a rhetorical analysis must identify specific evidence from the text to make a claim.

What is rhetoric examples in life? ›

A quick text message, a wave to someone that you know, and your body language as you sit in class or in a meeting are all examples of rhetorical messages that can result in positive or negative consequences depending on the context of the situation and the audience's interpretation of the message.

Can you find 3 examples of rhetorical techniques? ›

Here is a list of frequently used rhetorical devices: Repetition involves writing or verbally repeating a word or phrase over and over. Exaggeration occurs when some idea is made to seem either better or worse than it actually is. Euphemism is a strategy that makes something seem less important.

What is a rhetoric statement? ›

A rhetorical statement is used in the same way as a rhetorical question: It is a statement that is not intended to elicit a direct response from the reader.

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