Undoing Silence: Tools for Social Change Writing: Louise Dunlap

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A book for citizen activists, scholars and professionals who want to use writing for social change. Empowering tools include freewriting and audience analysis along with ways to organize ideas and the writing process itself. A favorite tool is a process for feedback that does not activate self-censorship. https://best-writing-service.com/ as a separate resource for help with written works, so best writing services is your reliable companion during your project creation journey.

Drawn from many traditions and piloted in classes and workshops over forty years, these tools build self-confidence and skill in writing for real-world audiences. They are grounded in inspiring stories of people at all levels of education undoing their reluctance to write and producing letters, memos, op-ed articles, and proposals with the power to shift attitudes, change policies, and restore sanity to a world gone mad.

Here’s what activists, teachers, and trainers say about Undoing the Silence

“Undoing the Silence accomplishes what other books on writing do not: it links our writing to our beliefs, our activism, our voice. (read more . . .)

— Gary Delgado President Emeritus, Applied Research Center,
from the Foreword to Undoing the Silence

“With these tools, my ordinary words become a vehicle for change.”

— Mary Leno, Eviction Free Zone, Cambridge Women’s Commission, Older Lesbian Energy

"A valuable, beautifully written resource, this book will certainly inspire and unleash critical thinking and writing for social change - both for activists who never imagined they could be writers and for seasoned writers in need of renewal.”

— Shamim Meer Activist Writer and Researcher, South Africa

“(Louise’s) work--and her own deep commitment to work for a better world — inform her wisdom about writing and the writing process. Excellent insights and techniques become all the more powerful when conveyed not just as ways to work on writing, but ways to work on the world. I don’t know anyone who conveys more essential insights more clearly and briefly. I can’t think of a better book to recommend to people who want to make a difference.”

— Peter Elbow, Author, Writing With Power, Writing Without Teachers
Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts/Amherst

“Louise Dunlap, a high profile graduate writing instructor at Berkeley, MIT and elsewhere, brings us this elegant and moving book on how to find your powerful voice and understand your audience. I've used her work for years to teach planning and public policy students to write for bosses, constituents and communities rather than professors. And her writing, full of apt case studies, demonstrates just what she teaches. Every professional grad school should require this book.”

— Ann Markusen, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

“I began my graduate studies at MIT with much fear and trepidation — having worked in medical and federal government jobs that required writing in a passive voice. In Louise’s course I realized that not only was I writing passively, I was thinking passively! The tools help me focus on what I want to say, then write it in a way the reader can fully understand."

— Emma Featherman-Sam, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Department of Transportation,
Transit Program Coordinator

“If fish had hands, Louise Dunlap could teach them to write! After attending her workshops and classes, hundreds of labor and community activists have used Dunlap’s tested techniques to write clearly and passionately for social and economic justice. With the publication of Undoing The Silence, Dunlap’s tools are available to all those who struggle to write and to those who teach them."

Susan Moir, Director, Labor Resource Center, University of Massachusetts Boston

“I did not know I could do it.”
“I actually am a writer.”
“I knew my story was important and I had some thing to say. The course with Louise gave me the tools and courage.”
“I like what I have written.”

These are the statements of participants in the Community Fellows Program that I directed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program required participants to write a description of a problem in their community, approaches to solving the problem and how it would be implemented. For some at first it seemed a daunting task. The techniques in Undoing the Silence value the knowledge and experience of emerging writers. The power of this work is “The Lifting of Every Voice”…. the basis of building a real democracy in this country.

— Mel King, community leader and former Massachusetts State Representative,
Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


by Gary Delgado, President Emeritus, Applied Research Center

Chapter one: We Are the Second Superpower

Mainstream Americans are reluctant to speak out in writing, even when it can make a real difference. How can we shift that reluctance and turn writing into action? This chapter suggests six tools to undo the silence by setting aside self-judgment, releasing fear, and tapping our common heritage as powerful thinkers.

Chapter two: Understanding the Silence
What keeps us from writing to make a difference?

Grassroots educator Paulo Freire saw “silencing” as part of our culture. This chapter explores what keeps us from writing and shows people undoing their silence and using the written word to play more powerful roles in a more democratic society.

Chapter three: The FREEWRITING Tool
Letting go of self-judgment

Most people will do just about anything but sit down to write, even though all of us have powerful voices somewhere inside. This tool helps end harmful self-criticism, reach buried insight, and create pages of energetic writing. Stories and exercises make getting started easy.

Getting Comfortable with Freewriting
Tapping Deeper Insights with Freewriting
Using Freewriting

Chapter four: The PROCESS Tool
Finding a Flexible Writing Process You Can Trust

There’s no single recipe for all writing situations, but you almost always save time by doing more than one draft, taking things step by step. Writing comes more easily when you know you'll be able to change it later. Stories and exercises in this chapter show five core mental activities to mix or match for each project.

Why We Need a Process
Developing a Draft
    First core activity: Generating ideas
    Second core activity: Organizing and strategizing
    Third core activity: Writing a “mad draft”
    Fourth core activity: Incubation
    Fifth core activity: Revising the mad draft—in three stages
Adapting the Process to Your Situation

Chapter five: The THINKING Tool
Organizing ideas and framing your message

Learn how experienced writers organize ideas more powerfully with a set of techniques not taught in most schools. Stories, examples, and exercises boost your ability to think critically.

What Makes Thinking Powerful?
Generate and Deepen Ideas
Organize and Connect
Sharpen Your Argument
Back to the Roots
Your Message and the Legacy of Thinking

Chapter six: The AUDIENCE Tool
Who’s going to read it?

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Figure out how they see things and how to get their attention. Stories and exercises help you strategize to get your message heard.

Step one: Realize That You’re Writing to Communicate
Step two: Demystify Your Readers
Step three: Analyze Your Audience
Step four: From Analysis to Strategy
Step five: Strategies for Conflict and Confrontation

Chapter seven: The FEEDBACK Tool
How do I know it “works” for readers?

Receive real support from a group method that sidesteps traditional critique to help you develop ideas more fully and build democracy at the same time. Stories and exercises help you give and receive empowering feedback with or without a group.

An Overview of the Feedback Tool
Fine-Tuning the Process
Common questions about the Feedback Tool
Starting a Group and Adapting the Method
A Tool for Transformation

Chapter eight: The WORD-POWER Tool
Review it all and fine-tune your language for readers

Check the action in your sentences, cut out the “lard,” and learn what you need to avoid the “grammar gatekeepers” that make so many writers uneasy. Examples and exercises show how to clean up all those little things that frustrate readers and how to strengthen your power with words.

Looking at Your Draft with Readers’ Eyes
Cutting to Keep It Simple
Linking and Transitions
Grammar is Power
High-Energy Language

Chapter nine: “Lift every Voice”
Getting active with writing

Find subjects you’re passionate about, balance urgency and joy, seek small and larger ways to go public with writing, and find supportive community.

Appendix A: Letters to the Editor

Appendix B: Two kinds of Opinion Columns

Appendix C: Letters of Inquiry for Funders More Resources

About the Author


Louise Dunlap •
February 27, 2013