Your Review #3–last one–is due tonight by 11:00 pm. See Canvas for more submission details.
Plan for the Day
- The Prose Revisions are graded, and Canvas has a review of each paragraph
- You will have sentences to revise based on the Prose Revisions on your Final Exam
- Quiz #2 should be graded soon.
- Ch. 9: Cohesion (Kolln & Gray)
Ch. 10: Sentence Rhythm (Kolln & Gray)
- ENGL 5813 Students Only: Rhetorical Analysis and Presentation (Due 12/07)
- Both will be submitted via Canvas–I’ll open those assignments up after Thanksgiving Break
- Review #3 due on Canvas by 11:00 pm tonight (11/09)
- Next Week: Timed Copyediting Assignment (eventually, this will be under Quizzes in Canvas)
Before getting into Ch. 9, I wanted to point out that I noticed something at the end of Ch. 10 on my re-reading. The “For Group Discussion” on p. 170 has a sentence that ends on “a horror.” It got me thinking…what sounds more grave?
- a horror
Here are the sentences possibilities (the first one is the original–emphasis added to both):
- Even the man-eating shark pales by comparison to such a horror.
- Even the man-eating shark pales by comparison to such horror.
Perhaps it’s a subtle distinction, but, as language experts, these distinctions are important. There’s no definite, absolute arbiter that states “a horror” sounds more grave (or is it graver…) than “horror” or vice versa. Consider such minutiae when writing and revising. We think power words carry all the emphasis, but others’ interpretations may surprise you.
Ch. 9: Cohesion
Now that we’ve (attempted) to learn all the rules, we’re going to consider when and when not to break them. As usual, this chapter isn’t about correctness–it’s about style, providing cohesive sentences to communicate more effectively. Remember, you’re not writing for yourself in professional contexts. Of course, I realize I’m your audience for these assignments, but the goal is for you to learn and practice higher-level writing strategies.
Readers expect to learn something, find useful information, or be amused with your writing. Although some technical writing is amusing, we’ll focus on readers’ expectations to learn or to find useful information. Here’s a general reminder:
Aim for Reader-Based Prose and not Writer-Based Prose. Reader-based prose keeps the reader in mind and doesn’t require them make the same leaps to conclusions that you make. Remember, the reader isn’t in your head, so you can’t expect them to just agree with your assertions. Your messages need proof for all assertions you make. What may seem obvious to you (e.g., what a flux capacitor does) isn’t universally known. You have to explain the difficult parts of your message based on your readers’ assumed knowledge.
This chapter starts out discussing the notation “awk” in papers. This is a taboo practice–writing “awk” in the margins of student papers–because there often isn’t any more advice on how to un-awk the phrase. I disagree with those who have a blanket policy of condemning this practice, but I understand why it might not be useful for students. However, I sleep at night by pointing out that it is the writer’s responsibility to aim for clear, concise prose in nearly all professional contexts. Your readers won’t write “awk” in your margins. They’ll just “walk” away…
- p. 140: “Within a paragraph, reader expectation begins with the opening sentence.”
- “The effective topic sentence nearly always suggests the direction the paragraph will take, calling up a response in the reader: “Prove it” or “Tell me more.””
Note on Topic Sentences
Most readers in our fast-paced world only scan documents, meaning they read very little of the body of a text. Instead, they focus on headings and topic sentences (and places that call out like “In conclusion…”). As a general rule, writers should stick to one idea per paragraph. Consider the following audience and purpose for a letter and come up with an appropriate topic sentence:
Audience: Parents of a local school district
Purpose: Students in the school district are not scoring well on standardized tests, and this is adversely affecting their unbridled spirit.
Remember, you don’t have to fit everything into the topic sentence. You need to quickly explain what the letter is for; the rest of the letter will supply more information and solutions.
We’ll skip over repetition (pp. 142-143) because we’ve covered that previously. However, I do want to point out that the known-new contract may require repetition–just not obvious repetition. For instance,
- The squirrel jumped the fence and landed in the cat’s territory. The invader had little chance because the trees were between it and the guardian.
That’s much better than the following:
- The squirrel jumped the fence and landed in the cat’s territory. The squirrel had little chance because the trees were between it and the cat.
Notice that the invader is the squirrel and the guardian is the cat. No one would confuse the two, and this repetition with variation adds both meaning and clarity to the sentences.
Known-New Contract Details from Kolln & Gray
- p. 143: “The first sentence in a paragraph…sets up expectations in the reader about what is coming.”
- The expected order is to have “the known information coming first, generally in the subject position, and the new information–the reason for the sentence–in the predicate.”
- Notice the way the above sentence is punctuated…why commas and dashes?
- p. 143: Paraphrase the known information for pleasing variation (“variation” means almost repetition):
“The two researchers worked on numerous projects together. Although their collaboration eventually ended, they often reviewed each other’s future work.”
- p. 145: Remember, this is the expectation, so, if you need to go against that, “you’ll have to signal that change to your reader with…[an] indication that you’re shifting gears.”
Let’s consider how the known-new contract works in the “For Group Discussion” on p. 145. Make sure to do Exercise 30 on p. 146.
The Role of Pronouns
If you’ve ever been told you have a “pronoun-antecedent disagreement,” that means your pronoun doesn’t agree–it’s the wrong choice–with the noun phrase it refers to. For instance, “Students need to bring their books to class.” Their is the proper third-person plural possessive pronoun for students. What about this…
- A student needs to bring their book to class.
Here are some of the highlights of the section we can focus on:
- Personal Pronouns: he, she, it, they, we
- Personal Possessive Pronouns: him, her, its, them, us
- Demonstrative Pronouns: this, that, these, those
- pp.147-148: “this and these indicat[e] closeness, that and those more distance.”
Do Exercise #31 on pp. 149-150, being careful not to use broad reference pronouns. Check your answers in the back of the book.
Although there are more and less logical places to put information in your sentences, we often have subjects before predicates. At this point in the semester, you have many strategies for re-ordering where information goes in your sentences. Using passive voice and placing adverbials strategically will help move readers from known to new information well.
For the most part, you’ll want to limit passive voice, but Kolln & Gray explain that it can be useful because it “allows known information to be in the subject position” (p. 150). Let clarity guide you in your decision and not a blanket rule banning passive voice. Look at the paragraphs on pages 150 and 152 (“For Group Discussion”). Notice the effective use of passive voice.
We’ve covered this previously, but a review would be good. Kolln & Gray tell us “[parallelism] can also provide cohesion, especially when the repeated elements extend through a paragraph or from one paragraph to the next” (p. 152). They go on to claim that “parallel structures are…among the strongest cohesive ties that the writer has available….parallel structures are not only connected but also significant” (p. 154).
This chapter specifically highlights antithesis, which is incorporating contrasting or dissimilar ideas. Take a look at the Stephen Jay Gould paragraph on pp. 153-154 and then the first paragraph under “For Group Discussion” on pp. 154-155.
Ch. 10: Sentence Rhythm
Speaking of rhythm…I offer this for your listening enjoyment:
Really doesn’t get much better than that for rhythm!
Our focus on style might seem to be irrelevant to professional contexts because the techniques reflect creative works. Before dismissing style as not useful, consider the benefit of having a broad understanding of language, a repertoire full of techniques for a variety of contexts. Sure, if you don’t know the choices available in language, you won’t use them. Ignorance keeps us from knowing other things.
I’ll admit that some of these techniques for emphasis and stress are subjective. However, they aren’t coming out of nowhere. Good writers absorb these techniques unconsciously and might not know how to recognize them: good writing just feels a certain way. Concentrate on End Focus and the clefts. We’ll return to Power Words in Ch. 12, and we’ve covered adverbials and emphasis quite a bit.
I want to highlight what Kolln & Gray recommend on p. 158: Read your work aloud to catch errors, awkwardness, and rhythm. You won’t catch everything, but you will catch quite a bit. Of course, don’t fall prey to the old myth that you use a comma where you want to pause. When speaking, you pause when you come across a comma, but, in writing, we have rules and conventions for commas that don’t always follow the author’s assumption to pause.
I’ve been stressing that the end of the sentence has the most emphasis. We also covered that punctuation (commas and semicolons) helps emphasis. Although the end of a sentence usually has the most emphasis, there are strategies to alter that.
Review the two sets of example sentences on p. 158. Then, consider the benefit of passive voice for the example sentences on p. 159. Rewrite the sentences from Exercise #32 on p. 160.
Again, I’ve told you to limit “it is” and “there is/are” phrases in your prose because they are easily overused. In fact, they’re called expletives, which means they’re place fillers that don’t mean anything on their own. I purposely italicized the phrases in the previous sentence…
Notice the difference in emphasis between the following sentences from p. 161:
- The butler solved the mystery.
- It was the butler who solved the mystery.
Kolln & Gray claim “butler” is emphasized in the it-cleft sentence. Be careful distinguishing writing and speech. When speaking, you might hear “it was” emphasized; in fact, the speaker might speak that louder. The way I can try to explain this is the the it-cleft is the red carpet roll out for the subject of a sentence.
Do the “For Group Discussion” sentences on p. 162.
Obviously, you don’t want to use these clefts too much, but, if you use them strategically, you can control your sentences’ meanings and rhythm better. Kolln & Gray tell us that a “what-cleft splits the original sentence into known and new information, providing two strong beats” (p. 162). Look at the examples on p. 162, and consider doing the “For Group Discussion” on pp. 162-163.
*Not to be confused with Wyclef.
Here’s another expletive to shift the focus of your sentences. In the following sentences, notice how the revision with “there is” emphasizes what follows:
- A stranger is standing on the porch
- There is a STRANGER on the porch.
Remember, “it is and there are…are not redundant, unnecessary words when they are used in the right place and for the right reason” (p. 163). Just don’t overuse them. Yes, starting multiple sentences (if not all of them) in a paragraph constitutes overuse. You will want to limit “there is” and “there are” constructions–and most ‘be’ verbs in general–but recognize how using them affects emphasis. As I’ve mentioned on your Reviews, you will want to explain why you choose to use “there is” and “there are” constructions in your revisions in your Portfolio reflection.
Do Exercise #33 on p. 164, and check your answers in the back of the book. Speaking of the Titanic hitting an iceberg in 1912…
The last section of the chapter discusses the correlative conjunction both–and & not only–but also (and others). Notice the rhetorical effect of the following change (pp. 169-170):
- Individuals and nations must learn to think about the environment.
- Both individuals and nations must learn to think about the environment.
- Not only individuals but also nations must learn to think about the environment.
- Not only individuals but nations as well must learn to think about the environment.
Based on the change of emphasis, using correlative conjunctions implies through stress (I argue) who or what is most responsible for the environment. The original sentence without any correlative conjunctions keeps the emphasis on the final word environment. If these were topic sentences, what might readers expect in the rest of the paragraph based on their different emphases? Also, we had a discussion of correlative conjunctions earlier in the semester from September 21st.
Next week, you’ll have a timed copyediting assignment that will also be under the “Quizzes” section of Canvas—this will due Wednesday, 11/16. If it’s not open by Monday (11/14), please send me an email.
Keep up with the syllabus reading. The next chapter is even more subjective than the two for today. Ch. 11 is on the writer’s voice, and it’s kind of a nebulous term, but we’ll try to make it more concrete. It’s a longer chapter than the previous several Kolln & Gray chapters, so don’t wait until the last minute to read it.