Structure Is Important — Having Something To Say, Even More So

Do we know how to structure our ideas? And if we do, do we actually have ideas to structure?

Marti Purull

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Photo by Rikki Chan

The form is important but it can never replace the content. Many learn this the hard way, but they are still better off than those who don’t learn it at all.

Bad Thinking

I remember correcting a particularly poor essay when I was a teacher for an English as a second language course. My first reaction was that the student was at a level that was too high for them, that their foundation wasn’t solid enough; in short, they didn’t know enough English to be writing the type of essay that was expected.

However, something was off. Usually, when you read someone’s writing in a second or third language, you can spot foreign grammatical constructions forcibly translated into the language they are trying to learn. Indeed, even when we know we are doing it, it is hard not to do: after all, it is the way our brain structures thought, the way it formulates ideas. Here, though, there was something else. The essay as a whole wasn’t a collection of foreign structures, but a lump of unformulated arguments. I tried to translate it back to the student’s native language and it still made no sense.

Thought Structuring Is Hard

Years later, having worked with people in different languages, I was made aware that this issue is a lot more common than I may have thought. Professional inboxes are chock-full of emails with poorly constructed sentences and highly unintelligible paragraphs written by native speakers of the language used. It isn’t a language issue. It is a thought structure issue.

Thought structuring isn’t an easy task. Since our brains work much faster than our tongues do, we will often find ourselves unable to properly formulate a rush of ideas. This can happen at meetings, presentations but also when relaxing with friends over a drink. It is normal. Similarly, our subconscious is even faster than our brains, so there are plenty of ideas that don’t even make it to our awareness. But I digress.

(Was I trying to be extremely clever with my digression there, using it to make my…

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Marti Purull

I’m a musician, but I think every day. So I write every day. Thoughts. Reflections. Life.