The Balance Between Being Authoritative and Bossy

Political theory and public policy writing demand a certain succinctness and clarity. The audience for these types of papers does not want to be bothered with background information they are already familiar with or anecdotal notes that connect the author and the reader on a personal level. Therefore my writing tends to have a bit of an authoritative tone; I’m trying to convey to the reader what the problem is, what the solution for the problem should be, and why this solution is better than its alternatives.

By analyzing a political theory paper I wrote last term about how marginalized groups in the 1960’s could achieve political prominence, I was able to see that my “go-to” sentence contains subordination. One example: “A person gains freedom through sacrificing some of his or her power and including other groups that want similar changes so that everyone is better off.” The main clause, that a person gains freedom, can only be accomplished if┬áhe or she makes compromises and works with others.

I don’t stick to the “main clause then subordinate clause” pattern, as later on in the paper I write, “If the lesbian-feminists had utilized this principle, their attempt to change society’s attitudes towards women would have been more effective.” In this case, the main clause about whether or not the self-declared lesbian-feminists of the 1960’s were successful in their goals was dependent upon their implementation of the principle contained in the first part of the sentence.

My writing is usually geared toward a specific audience that is familiar with the jargon contained in the paper. Memos and political theory papers require that the writer convey information and recommendations in a relatively small amount of words. My paper shows that I do just that, including terms such as “black colony,” “Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” “Stonewall Rebellion,” “third world gay men,” “CORE,” and others that were taken directly from class readings that might have a context outside of our political discussions that doesn’t directly correlate with what we were discussing.

Overall, I’d like to begin to incorporate different sentence structures into my papers. I don’t want to offend the audience by being too authoritative, so I will work on that balance between passive and assertive writing. I will also work towards eliminating superfluous “to be” words from my writing. I think this will make my work more professional as well as more pleasurable to read.

Katie Koziara

During the school year, I can usually be found doing a few things: studying domestic health policy, working as a student coordinator for the Public Service Intern Program, exploring different restaurants around Ann Arbor, running my regular loop around the Big House, or catching up on one of my many, many favorite television shows.

Leave a Reply