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Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm going to do this, but first let me do that...

The form of signposting that postpones one task for another is particularly irritating. I can see it in an oral presentation, but in writing it signals a lack of organization. You know what I'm talking about: "Before going into the question of x, it is first necessary to explain y."

9 comments:

Clarissa said...

How about "In the last chapter we will see how this trend is subverted in later Bildungsromane"? Is that a bad thing to do?

Jonathan said...

Short answer. No.

Longer answer: it depends. Is there a more elegant way of saying it?

Andrew Shields said...

"I can see it in an oral presentation, but in writing it signals a lack of organization."

That's the problem with a lot of signposting.

*

Clarissa's example is tricky. The "we will see" is indeed inelegant. How about this:

"This trend is subverted in later Bildungsromane (see chapter N)."

Still not entirely ideal?

Jonathan said...

Even better, something like "These novels, unlike those of the 1980s (the subject of Chapter 5), ..." Don't use a sentence just to signpost, but to also say something substantive.

Andrew Shields said...

"Don't use a sentence just to signpost, but to also say something substantive": Excellent advice.

Jonathan said...

What is it, like 5:30 in the morning where you live?

Andrew Shields said...

Yup, seven-hour time difference with you. I'm up early to do some last bits of grading before an 8:30 class. And the kids get up at 6:30 anyway!

fjb said...

I don't know if I agree that something like this is preferable to some of the other options:

Even better, something like "These novels, unlike those of the 1980s (the subject of Chapter 5), ..."

There's a risk that the parenthetical 'flag' will be irrelevant to the substance of the sentence -- it makes the reader have to think about what's going to happen somewhere else in the book right in the middle of a point in progress. It's more compressed than a separate sentence would be, but is it actually more organized?

Andrew Shields said...

It crossed my mind to put the comment about the later chapter in a footnote, but then it also crossed my mind that footnotes are rare these days, with endnotes being preferred.

Sometimes you have to have three bookmarks: the one for the page you're on, the one for the corresponding page in the endnotes, and the one for the bibliographical references.