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  • Print publication year: 2006
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22 - Professional Writing Expertise



Keywords: planning, translating, reviewing, deliberate practice, ten-year rule, flow states, working memory, long-term working memory, domain-specific knowledge, verbal ability, concrete language, strategies, rituals, work environment, work schedule.


Writing extended texts for publication is a major cognitive challenge, even for professionals who compose for a living. Serious writing is at once a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task. A professional writer can hold multiple representations in mind while adeptly juggling the basic processes of planning ideas, generating sentences, and reviewing how well the process is going. This chapter will open with the question of how to define the concept of professional writing and an explanation of the demands that writing processes make on cognitive resources. The characteristics of professional-level writers and writing expertise are then enumerated and explored. In the final section, the acquisition of writing skill will be discussed, with comparisons and contrasts to other kinds of expertise highlighted. Much remains to be learned, but the lessons from the state-of-the-art research literature can be helpful to aspiring professional writers.

Defining Professional Writing

Defining expertise in writing is difficult because the task is ill structured (Simon, 1973) and because the types of texts generated by professionals are so varied. An expert in chess successfully checkmates the opponent, and the allowable moves in the game are defined clearly.

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