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The theory and lessons of stop discourse

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1 Author(s)
James R. Tracey ; Head of the Writing Services Section, Information Media Department, Hughes Aircraft Company, P. O. Box 3310, Fullerton, CA 92634

The technical report and proposal are strategic documents that must cogently define, rationalize, and sell their high-technology products in the world of competitive procurement. Because these documents are created by group authorship, there is a need to coordinate the multiple engineer-authors, provide them with strategy information, and help them develop arguments that justify their design approaches. Conventional methods of subject outlining, trial-and-error writing, and post-manuscript reviewing do not cope with these needs. The Stop (Sequential Thematic Organization of Proposals) technique applies five principles to solve this problem: It (1) recognizes the passage unit of discourse to gain expository-descriptive coherence; (2) uses the essay (with thesis sentence) to enhance strategic discussion; (3) restricts outlining to establishing topical architecture and introduces prewriting (via storyboards) to discover and exercise argument, explanation, and visualization; (4) uses pre-reviewing (via real-time, walk-through group dynamics) to permit team/corporate review of the story plan prior to manuscript drafting; and (5) stresses group writing to infuse both the marketing and the technical strategy and design approach into the document. Twenty years of applying STOP has shown it to be a thoroughly practical system, even though intellectually demanding and unforgiving of lazy writing. This paper reviews the principles, practices (including misconceptions), and lessons of STOP as developed, refined, and learned during those years.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication  (Volume:PC-26 ,  Issue: 2 )