Archive | March, 2012

Writing styles

29 Mar

Different characteristics of a writing style are used to guide the minds of the readers to come to certain understandings and conclusions. Charles Bazerman’s essay, “Codifying the Social Scientific Style,” from The Rhetoric of Human Sciences explains, as an example, the development of the APA style through time and how authors have used it to influence readers’ perceptions.

Since people are constantly changing in ways of thinking and believing, writing styles constantly change to keep up with people’s trends. Bazerman discusses this at the beginning of his essay when he defines writing style as “a human accomplishment,” which “must be constantly reevaluated and remade as the human world changes” (125). Shaping information in this way, attempting to be clear enough for the reader by relating to them in some way, creates a layer of pathos, which is needed from the very beginning to the end of any work that is intended to be taken seriously.

Other aspects of writing can be incorporated into writing styles to work on readers simply through good pathos. Even an author’s word choices and phrasing can create a flow of thought for the audience that appeals to the mind and makes the information in general easier to follow. An author’s effort to make their writing easier for readers to understand or be interested in can make all the difference. Whether readers are consciously aware of it or not, if the author doesn’t respect the reader, then the reader will not respect the author.

The structure involved in writing styles can provide a sense of respect for the readers just because good organization creates a clean, intelligent appearance. For example, as we discovered in class one day, it’s easy to glance at a scientific report without actually reading it and assume it’s a reliable source because it’s so well-formatted. However, the author’s flow of thought in the writing is also highly important in establishing pathos.

Bazerman points out that readers are usually interested in a subject before reading about it, so authors tend to present the information from a general perspective first and then relate it to the specifics (132). Writing that assumes the readers are interested makes it more likely that they will actually be interested and fall into the author’s guidance. Writing styles work in this way to at least hook the reader from the beginning and keep them interested.

Second thoughts

20 Mar

For an assignment in a Topics of Medicine in Literature class, I was asked to choose from a selection of articles and write an essay based on its relation to the things studied and discussed throughout the semester. I chose the introduction to Elaine Scarry’s “The Body in Pain,” a much more challenging read than I had anticipated. After reading Donald E. Carlston’s essay, “Turning Psychology on Itself,” from The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, I considered how Scarry went about making an argument to determine exactly how her writing influenced mine.

Carlston’s essay suggests that there are three levels of interaction between rhetoric and social psychology: The words that are chosen impact people’s thinking; Theorizing is done through metaphorical story-telling; And “…facts rarely speak for themselves, so scientists are required to speak for them” (146).

This interaction was easily seen in Scarry’s writing and even reflected in my response to it. The role of rhetoric in Scarry’s writing was to persuade someone to understand the subject of pain in certain ways. She used examples—or as Carlston would call it, “metaphorical-story-telling”—and particular terms to create meaning.

The end of Carlston’s essay focuses particularly on how argument works. The structure of the argument and the audience’s level of personal involvement contribute to the persuasiveness of the argument. In my response to Scarry’s writing, I noticed that I had a tendency to agree with what I was writing about. This could mean that I had been affected by a number of things discussed in Carlston’s essay. I was “ignorant” of the argument Scarry made, as I had never heard it before. And, of course, any time I read/hear anything about people in pain, war, torture, etc., I feel “sympathetic”—a state that Carlston claims makes a person more involved with and accepting of or vulnerable to a message (155).

Basically, various characteristics of Scarry’s argument led me to have a particular understanding that was in harmony with her argument. Considering that I could have been misguided to a particular understanding, it could be useful for me to look into sources that offer other perspectives on the concept of pain, torture, and war to gain another understanding so that I can judge whether my paper is one-sided and how I can revise it.