The following two extracts are from John Hare’s “The Communicative Train: Conveyance and Delivery of Meaning in Writing”:






Writing cannot be approached as if it were just the written form of speech. Speech is understood holistically, as complete packets of meaning, but writing must be undertaken, because it is has to be read, linearly, in word-to-word sequences. Treating the process of written communication in this way reveals the redundancies, ambiguities and other logic problems that otherwise, so often, are overlooked. In the awareness of the essential linearity of writing, and in the discipline required to maintain the integrity of that linearity, writing and editing merge.


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Writing and editing merge in the achievement of a “communicative train” that transfers meaning from the writer’s train of thought into the reader’s train of comprehension. This concept reflects the key characteristic distinguishing written communication from other forms of idea-exchange: linearity.  Perfectly formed ideas float, abstractly, in the language of the mind; with difficulty they are “translated” or “shaped” into concrete words sequentially aligned left-to-right on a piece of paper (or computer screen). In this sense, “writing” is not really writing but rather, writing-editing. The writing component, to return to the railway metaphor, is the initial, haphazard forming up of component “cars” (words) into “trains” (sentences). The editing component — the dominant one — is the painstakingly articulating of the track, which is accomplished through “track alignment” (word choice, word order) and “switch” (punctuation, transition) placement.