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Of questions and answers: Editor's Notes #243
September 15, 2017
Hello,

The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question.
—Bruce Mau


In this issue:

1. Of questions and answers
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. Results of the last writing prompt

1. Of questions and answers
Questions and answers, as noted by Bruce Mau in the quote above, can come in any order. We usually think the question comes first, followed by an answer. But in the game show Jeopardy, as often in life, answers come first, and the contestant has to find the correct question.

This truth needs frequent recall to my mind, and perhaps more to my heart. I don’t like the feeling that something is wrong with my thinking or writing. When I’m stuck, it is often because I’ve put a good answer next to a question that needs a different answer. Sometimes, I need to hunt down the better answer. More difficult, and often much more rewarding, is the hunt for the correct question.

Researchers know this. I was reminded of if recently while helping a former classmate sort her way through her doctorate. She had a question. She created a survey to answer the question. But the survey results did not exactly answer the question she had asked. It wasn’t that the results contradicted her expectation; they provided the answers to questions she had not asked. Finding the deeper questions and then investigating the relationships between what she asked at first, what the respondents said, and what her newer questions were created an excellent paper.

I have had pieces of my writing discarded by an editor when I was sure they were gems. Wisely, I did not throw my gems away. Later, I have found their prefect settings.

If something is not working in your writing, ask yourself if you have posed the right question or set something in the wrong place. Perhaps you can create a file for these misplaced pieces. Revisiting them from time to time can lead to unexpected and fabulous ideas.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.

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3. Interesting Web site
Sometimes when feeling low, reading experiences of others with low points lifts one up. Read these quotes from actual rejection letters to writers you probably know well.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10877825/The-rejection-letters-how-publishers-snubbed-11-great-authors.html

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4. Writing prompt
September 15 is Make a Hat Day in the US. Instead of making a physical hat, write a description of a hat for one of your characters or someone you know or imagine.

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5. Results of the last writing prompt
In the last issue, the writing prompt was to turn a piece of US government writing about plain language into plain language.

The original: The writing of documents in the standard vernacular English language will bolster and increase the accountability of government within America and will continue to more effectively save time and money in this country.

Result #1 by Shirley McMillan: Write in plain, everyday English. State your point clearly, using active voice, short words and brief sentences. This will help the reader understand what you write, and will save both time and money. 

Result #2 by Audrey Owen: Using plain language will make the American government more accountable and will save government time and money.

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