Posts Tagged ‘style’

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Multimodal Mondays: Lifehacking—Trying on New Rhetorical Strategies in Student Blogs

posted: 10.27.14 by Andrea Lunsford

I have my students use blogs to shape their digital identities and provide a space for them to share their work and ideas with others. I encourage them to go out into the world and critically examine their place within it through weekly exploratory blog posts. Many of these assignments are open ended and based on their observations and perceptions. However, I like to switch it up every once in a while and ask them to use a particular style or format as a rhetorical device to shape and deliver their ideas. [read more]

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Categories: Guest Bloggers
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Correctness and Style

posted: 11.20.13 by Steve Bernhardt

We are moving Writer’s Help to a new and vastly improved software platform, one that provides greater flexibility for adding and arranging content. That means I get to think about reorganizing some categories in the table of contents. That wasn’t possible under the old platform. One distinction I am focused on is that between correctness and style.

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Categories: Steve Bernhardt
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Warning: No Yelling in the Food Court

posted: 12.8.09 by Traci Gardner

I found an idea in the Problogger post Why Nobody Cares About Your Blog by guest blogger David Risley that you have to try in the classroom. Risley shares this scenario to ask bloggers to think about how they interact with their readers: “If I walked into a crowded mall, went into the food court, stood there in the middle of it and just started talking, what do you think would happen?”

It’s an incredibly simple but quite useful question to ask students struggling with issues of audience and style. Students are likely to understand the original analogy, but you can customize the Food Court Analogy to a Dining Hall Analogy to make it a little closer to campus life if you like.

You can read this passage from the Colorado State University Writing Guide Introduction: Audience to students to focus on the underlying rhetorical principles at play in Risley’s food court analogy:

When we talk to someone face-to-face, we know just who we are talking to. We automatically adjust our speech to be sure we are communicating our message. Many writers don’t make those same adjustments when they write to different audiences, usually because they don’t take the time to think about who will be reading what they write. To be sure that we communicate clearly in writing, we need to adjust our message—how we say to and what information we include—by recognizing that different readers can best understand different messages.

To return to the analogy, someone yelling in the food court is not paying attention to whom he is talking. He’s just yelling at the crowd. There’s no sense of specific listeners (or by extension, readers).

After discussing the food court analogy, ask students to search their writing for indications that they are speaking to, and not at, their audience. Have them imagine they return to the food court, but this time, instead of standing in the middle and yelling at no one in particular, have them focus on their audience by suggesting this scenario:

You’re at the food court, and you sit down at a table with three or four people who are interested in your topic. First, decide who these people are. Jot down a few characteristics about them so that you have your audience firmly in mind before you move on.

Next, think about how you would share the information from your writing with the people at this table. What would they want to hear? What information would they find interesting or convincing? What questions would they ask? What would you need to say to see them nod in agreement with you?

Once students think through the scenario where they are talking to a specific group of people, they are ready to return to their writing. Ask them to consider questions like these:

  • How do your words and sentences engage readers?
  • How can the ideas be personalized for specific readers?
  • Are all the terms clear to readers? Does anything need explained or defined?
  • Are there questions you haven’t answered? What are they?
  • Are you reaching a specific group of readers (and not simply yelling at the crowd)?

If students need an example of how speaking to a specific group of readers can make a difference, look back at my 4.5 Minute Lesson on Audience, Purpose, and Voice. Ask them how the eBay ad included in the video does a good job of talking to the people at a specific table in the food court, and not just yelling at the crowd. Soon they’ll be speaking to, and not at, their audience.

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Categories: Rhetorical Situation, Writing Process
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The Good, The Bad, and Paula Abdul

posted: 11.12.09 by archived

Many of us assign “evaluation” essays in our writing classes.  These can be smaller assignments in which students are asked to evaluate a text or event, or they could be longer more sustained evaluations; we might assign movie reviews, or collaborative policy evaluations.  But even if we don’t assign “evaluations” explicitly, the skills of summarizing, assessing, and critiquing are important for all writers, and so there is usually some form of evaluative writing in any composition class if we look hard enough.  For this post, I want to suggest a research strategy, a teaching tip, and an in-class activity that I have used in the past to introduce and practice evaluation.

Research Strategy: Find The Worst Evaluation

Obviously, students have access to hundreds of evaluations online, just as they have access to hundreds of texts for evaluation.  These resources can be beneficially used in the writing classroom, so long as students don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of opinion that can be found online.  One activity that can reinforce students’ authority to speak, and can help them understand what a good evaluation is, is to ask students to find the worst evaluations that they can online (hint: YouTube video reviews are great place to start).  It is shocking how many online evaluations—found on blogs, but even on reputable sites devoted to reviewing cultural texts—offer very little practical information to the reader.  A great in-class discussion can revolve around enumerating the ways an evaluation can be “bad”—lack of specificity, readily-apparent personal bias, and so on.  These “bad” evaluative qualities can then be contrasted with a list of goals for writing good evaluations.

Teaching Tip: Video Evaluations

As mentioned above, for every YouTube video online, there are several (to several hundred) video responses.  Generally, these aren’t good examples of reasoned, intelligent criticism. But these responses exist because it is increasingly easy to create them.  Any computer with a camera prepares the user to create a quick response and post it.  If you have the technology, you can do so in your classes.  This could be a pre-writing activity, to record a student’s initial, off-the-cuff ideas about a product or text, as YouTube users do (though hopefully with a bit more thought).  Or, the final product of this assignment could be a carefully organized, composed, revised, and polished video evaluation.  This could even be posted to YouTube.

Activity: American Idol Evaluations

One of the reasons that the television show American Idol is so popular (and also, perhaps, one of the reasons it is also disliked) is that the judges on the show fall into predictable roles.  One judge is mean and terse, one judge is generous and emotional, and one judge offers real, constructive, musical feedback.  (Of course, I am referring here to the pre-Kara DioGaurdi Idol judges; it has yet to be seen how the new roles will shake out now that Paula is leaving and Ellen is joining.  You can rest assured that your students will have their own theories about the new roles, and this is good—they can help with this activity, then.)  The three (or four) roles work well together, because they seem to balance one another out.  When pre-writing for an evaluation, students might be asked to write, or deliver an evaluation orally, from each of these three perspectives.  This activity allows students to recognize a range of possible views and values.  It also can help students begin to write when they feel they haven’t yet found an evaluative voice.

Also, consider that of the original three American Idol judges, one speaks with a British accent and a snotty, elevated tone, one speaks in clichés, and one speaks in slang. These could be seen as exaggerated “high,” “middle,” and “low” styles.  Students could experiment with writing reviews in these three different styles as well, before they finally decide on which is best for them, based on their focus and the audience they want to reach.

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Categories: How to Write Anything, Jay Dolmage
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Wikipedia Manual of Style Check

posted: 3.4.08 by Barclay Barrios

Have your class review Wikipedia’s style manual. Ask them to look for areas that seem to depart from general grammatical usage or areas that seem particularly important. Have them compare these areas to the handbook and then use this to start a discussion about the socially constructed nature of grammatical rules in general and the reasons why a project like Wikipedia would be invested in a particularly uniform style.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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Rhetorical Geometries

posted: 10.15.07 by Barclay Barrios

Introduce your students to the classic rhetorical triangle of receiver, sender, and message, using any material in the handbook on rhetorical situations or stance. Then ask students to make new shapes to explain rhetorical situations: what other elements should be considered? Would the inclusion of style make a rhetorical square? What elements would be in a rhetorical hexagon?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Rhetorical Situation
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