3.5- Paragraph Editing I
The authors are writing about this in a limitation section of their menu script, they're basically just trying to answer the question, were the perfume concentrations in the experiment appropriate? I'm going to change this and say, make it a little bit shorter by saying, classic epidemiologists pose a question about the etiology of a disease in a population of people. That'd be remain parallel with the first sentence, clinical epidemiologists pose a question about the prognosis of a disease in a population of patients.
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In this next module, we’re going to edit two paragraphs. I’m going to layout the logical structure of the paragraphs and use that logical structure to help guide my editing. I’m actually going to write out formal outlines for the logical structure of each paragraph. I don’t normally do that in my writing and editing. But I think it will be helpful here to explicitly write out the logical structure using formal outlines. Here’s the first example. This is from a published scientific paper. In the paper, scientists had had participants smell a bunch of different perfume scents in the laboratory and rate them on a sliding scale from zero to ten, where ten means you really liked the scent. Then, they measure the participant’s genes and they try to determine whether a person’s preference for various sense correlates with their genetics. So that was the experiment. I pulled this paragraph from the limitations section of that paper. And now I want you to take a moment and pause the video and read this paragraph on your own and then restart the video. The point of this paragraph is that the authors are addressing a concern about the choice of the concentrations for the perfume scents in their experiment. It turns out that when there’s a really high concentration of a scent, it’s so intense and overpowering that most people will just be turned off to that scent. So you don’t want to put everything at too high of a concentration. In this paragraph, they’re trying to convince the reader that they chose the right concentrations. Because, one, they standardized to a reference substance. And two, they got a reasonable amount of variation in the participants’ preference for the scents, suggesting that none of the scents were universally overpowering. I want to point out a few things about this paragraph. Notice all of the sentences that begin with transition words. We have nevertheless, hence, however, interestingly. So there’s a lot of telling the reader hey, I’m going here, I’m going there. If you need to keep telling the reader where you’re going, this usually indicates problems with the underlying logic. Another quick thing I want to point out is that I noticed a spelling error in the paragraph. This is the kind of spelling error that your word processing program might fail to pick up. It says the final concentrations were in principal, this is the wrong principle. Remember, principal ends in P-A-L, pal, and that’s how you can remember that this principal means the principal of a school, because the principal is your pal. What the authors actually wanted here was principle, ending in P-L-E. Not the principal of a school, but a principle as in a fundamental tenet. One thing I want to point out in this paragraph is that the authors stuck some extra thoughts inside of parentheses. Interestingly, I really liked the stuff that was in the parentheses. That was where the authors were being most clear, simple, and direct. They clarify for the reader, meaning that people could decide whether they liked a scent or not. As soon as they say it so blatantly, now, I get it. And we get, people agreed largely on the quality of these two scents. Again, everything suddenly becomes clear and simple when you put it that way. So I’m going to try to take this clear and simple language and get it out of the parentheses, and have the rest of the paragraph read more like this. When I edit a paragraph like this, I start by approaching it from a high level. I take a big picture view. I just try to figure out, what is it that the authors were trying to say? Now, I don’t usually write out a formal outline. I usually just do this in my head. But I wanted to write it down here top make it very explicit. I believe that the main Idea of this paragraph is to address potential criticisms about the choice of perfume concentration. The authors are writing about this in a limitation section of their menu script, they’re basically just trying to answer the question, were the perfume concentrations in the experiment appropriate? The first point they bring up is they address the issue about concentration. If concentrations are too high, a smell can become too intense and too overpowering. And it might be uniformly aversive, just because of this. So we have to worry about very high concentrations. They defend their experiment against this potential pitfall by noticing that they standardize the intensity. So they’re saying it shouldn’t be a problem here. The second major point they make is that, one way to tell whether or not the concentrations were appropriate, is to look at how much variation there is in participant preference. Presumably, if they got the concentrations right, there’d be a wide variation in participant preference. It wouldn’t be like all the participants hated this end because it was too overpowering and the authors say, hey, this appeared to be true. We got good variation, for most scents, but with two exceptions. So those are the main points that the authors were trying to convey. The goal of my editing is going to be to bring out all of those main ideas in simple language. I want to get rid of everything that doesn’t contribute to those main ideas. Using this outline, it makes it a lot easier to do a good edit. So I want to head and I edited this down to the following. I reduced it from 212 words to 91 words. It reads, perfume intensity and quality are negatively correlated at high concentrations. If the scent is too strong, people will rate it unfavorably. Hence, we chose the final concentrations of each perfume ingredient so that it had similar intensity to a reference scent. The resulting concentrations appeared appropriate for most scents. As participants preferences varied along the sliding scale between 0 and 10. However, participants largely agreed on bergamot and vetiver, so lower or higher concentrations may have been needed for these scents. You can see that I have edited this down to match my outline. I get across just those key points and I remove all the clutter that’s detracting from those key points. And you can check back to the outline and make sure that we hit all of these main points. You’ll see that it matches very closely. Again, I don’t expect you to write out formal outlines like this, but you need to think through the logic this carefully in your head. All right, one more example that we can edit. This one’s a little bit easier to understand. But I’m going to ask you again to pause the video, read it through on your own, and then restart the video. Okay, I think this one’s a little bit easier to follow than the last example. It’s basically just a compare/contrast comparing classic epidemiology to clinical epidemiology. So I went ahead and made a formal outline. I think the main idea of the paragraph is just to say that classic and clinical epidemiology differ. It’s going to tell you how they differ. And then, they have to say what is classic epidemiology and what is clinical epidemiology. Again, it’s a compare and contrast, they’re going to point out the differences between those two things. And then, within each of those, they used a word that might need a definition, so in talking about classic epidemiology, they use the word etiology, in talking about clinical epidemiology, they use the word prognosis. The author felt like they needed to define those words to the reader. So it’s a pretty simple structure, that we have here. And what I’m going to do for this example, is actually, I’m going to go through and do some sentence level editing, now for you, as well. As we try to edit this down, and get just to these main ideas. So for this example, I’m going to walk you through my sentence level editing. We’ll start with the first sentence. Although the methodological approaches are similar, the questions posed in classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology are different. You can hear the wording is here so we can get rid of some of this wordiness. I think we can just say get rid of all of this. How about we just say, despite similarities. That captures all of, everything that’s in there, despite similarities. I don’t think we need to say the questions posed, that’s very wordy. How about we just say despite similarities, classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology are different and we can do a little better than are different. We can just say they differ. And if we want to get the idea of differing about questions, we could say they differ in aim. That’s my putting back the questions posed part. So we can edit that down to despite methodologies similarities, classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology differ in aim. And we’ve hit now the main idea of the paragraph. All right, in the next few sentences, I want to point out that the authors have used parallel sentence structure across multiple sentences. This is great, they just need to bring it out a bit more. Notice the structure here. They say, in classic epidemiology, epidemiologists pose a question about the etiology of a disease in a population of people. Later on, we get something very similar. In clinical epidemiology, clinicians pose a question about the prognosis of a disease in a population of patients. Notice the parallel structure, what we get is in discipline 1, group 1, poses a question about X in a population of people and that’s very similar to what we get later. We get some interim garbage here but then we get to in discipline 2, group 2, poses a question about Y in a population of patients. So we have this nice, parallel structure that’s going to help with paragraph flow. And notice there’s a transition phrase here, on the other hand. We don’t really need that transition phrase because we can use the parallel structure to help with flow. We’re just going to need to bring it out a bit more. So I’m going to do my sentence level editing now on these few sentences. I’m going to change this and say, make it a little bit shorter by saying, classic epidemiologists pose a question about the etiology of a disease in a population of people. I am going to get rid of all this stuff about causal associations for now, because I want to get right to that parallel sentence. And later, I’ll put back in a little definition of etiology, but we can do it much more quickly. Then, I’m going to remove, on the other hand, we don’t need that transition anymore. because we have this nice, parallel set up and then I’m going to say, in clinical epidemiology, again, I’ll change that to clinical epidemiologists. That’d be remain parallel with the first sentence, clinical epidemiologists pose a question about the prognosis of a disease in a population of patients. So that reduces nicely down to this nice, shorter version. Classic epidemiologists pose a question about the etiology of a disease in a population of people. Clinical epidemiologists pose a question about the prognosis of a disease in a population of patients. We get that nice parallel structure and we’ve hit A and B on the outline now, we’ve compared and contrasted clinical to classical epidemiology. All right, one more sentence to go here. That last sentence was just a definition of prognosis. You can see that there’s a lot that can be cut in this sentence. So we get prognosis can be regarded as, we can just say is instead of can be regarded as. Then, we get a set of outcomes and their associated probabilities following the occurrence of, this is all very wordy. I’m just going to change this to, prognosis is the probability. The probability that an event or diagnosis will result In a particular outcome. So I’ve trimmed this up quite a bit. And get rid of a lot of this wordiness. So prognosis is the probability that an event or diagnosis will result in a particular outcome. I think that’s it in a nutshell, and now I think we’ve hit upon the definition of prognosis which was that final point in the outline. So altogether, you’ll notice that I did put in a little definition of etiology, I just slipped it in after a semicolon so we get, despite methodologic similarities, classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology differ in aim. Classic epidemiologists pose a question about the etiology of disease in a population of people and here, I’m slipping in the definition of epidemiology. Etiologic factors can be manipulated to prevent disease. Clinical epidemiologists pose a question about the prognosis of a disease in a population of patients and then I get flipping the definition of prognosis, prognosis is the probability that an event or diagnosis will result in a particular outcome. And I have cut this down, from 111 words down to 65. And you can check back with the outline, and you can see, that I’ve hit all the main points on the outline.
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