The Neuroscience of Writing

“Writing is, by nature, an opportunity for creativity and personal expression. When writing is incorporated in learning and assessment, there is increased opportunity to produce the ideal situation for active, attentive learning” – J. Willis, “Writing and the Brain: Neuroscience Shows the Pathways to Learning”

The written word is everything to our brains. It is the intake of information, the passing of ideas. It’s no surprise that there is a type of science behind the writing, supporting everything you say and how you write.

Think about how sometimes a paragraph simply flows, the ideas connect and the whole passage just makes sense. Oppositely, you can find yourself reading the same sentence over and over again without fully comprehending exactly what is being said. According to Yellowless Douglas, the sensation does not only affect the reader but the writer as well. Our understanding is based on the idea of clarity, continuity, coherence, concision, and cadence.

Why does this matter? Well when you write a book, you want it to be understood. You want to leave an impact on your reader, make them remember what you wrote.

Writing something memorable takes more than simply hoping for your paragraphs to flow, it takes the precise placement and creation of a connection.

What happens exactly? Where you place your important information will affect when, and if, the reader remembers it. We have to work with an idea called “recency,” that the last thing mentioned is what we will remember the best. That’s why whatever you tell them in the middle of the paragraph should not be as important as what you mention in the end.

It comes in handy when describing a bad situation. Put the worst information, or situation, in the middle of the paragraph. When you do this and then end the paragraph with something a little less offensive, like a petty insult. Ending with the insult takes the brunt of the negative reaction caused by the middle of the paragraph.

How do we create the connection? The same way we connect everything else. Cause and effect. We don’t want to skip straight to the result, we want to know how we got there. Mention the reason for the failure, let the reader understand why and connect to those experiences.

When they understand the reason, they’re more likely to accept the explanation of the situation. It’s when you jump straight into the failure you get them all riled. Then instead of reason, all you have is an excuse.

Stay engaged. If you want your readers to follow your writing, you need to write in a way they understand. As the University of Florida puts it, “we expect the order of items in a sentence to reflect the order in which they occurred in the world” and when the sentence fits this order, the brain of the reader shows more activity.

The way we think affects the way we read, the way we read affects how writers should write. When the brain is engaged by the content, the reader takes away information efficiently and effectively.

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