Observation to an Asian on Western writing styles: "less art more haste"


Observation to an Asian on Western writing styles: "less art more haste"

The following is an excerpt of feedback given to a Chinese student after reading their Advanced Accounting Theory report:

Observation on writing styles: 

There are several things that I find frustrating when reading your work. You over rely on quotations.  You do not say the most important thing first, instead you wait until the very end of your argument before getting to the point. Under Western writing styles, you need to assume that your readers are lazy and disinterested. In order to hook their attention, you must state your argument first, and subsequently go on to prove your argument.  You need to demonstrate that this is your own writing, and that you personally have a solid grasp of the concepts. Any evidence you cite is merely supporting what you are saying.  But at all times, this writing is your voice, except when you use direct quotations. Direct quotes shows that this is somebody else's voice speaking.

This is very different to writing styles under Confucius heritage cultures (ie, writing in Asia). Quotations are far more acceptable in Asia, as it is understood that students do not have their own voice, and are able to gain perfection by using the voice and tools of the masters. Therefore many Asian students use large numbers of quotations to show they can speak with the voice of a master. Unfortunately  this  is not appropriate to do so in the West.

Writing in Asia also tends to be far more circular. If you were to write your main argument in the first sentence in a Chinese language essay, this would be considered rude, and very direct. In the West, we believe that this makes for "honest" dealings. The Western reader understands who you are and what you are saying straight away. Confucius heritage cultures might consider this to be "blunt", or lacking any "art".

This system of writing is not something based in schools alone; your business audiences will demand this structure even stronger than I will. Irrespective of if you become an accountant in Australia, or you return to Asia, when you write in English you need to follow this style.

As a business teacher in a Western education system, I am trying to train you to write as a Western business person. This is not to say that your Asian way of writing is wrong – it is not wrong, it is just different. However when you write in English, you must write as your English speaking audience would expect.  Therefore you must translate both the concepts and styles, as well as the words. This is an extremely difficult thing to do.

So I am quite understanding. But at the same time I need to award marks based on a Western style of writing and education. I want you to speak with a Western strength in English, and with the beauty and wisdom of Confucius in Chinese. At all times, I want your writing to be respected.  

I wish you all the best for your exam.

-Tetracarbon out