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Reading and Writing Ideas As Well As Words

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How the Language Really Works:
The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing
Reading / Writing
Critical Reading
Ways to Read

Writing- with Links to Discussion of Reading

Why Do We Write?

Whatever we write, whenever we write, we write to convey ideas to others. And we do not write to just with anyone. We write we address a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Our purpose and audience are generally defined by the situation. We may write to our teacher to satisfy an assignment. We may write a letter to a friend to ask a favor or share our thoughts. We may write to a business person to request a service.

Other times, our purpose and audience are defined in terms of the topic and the nature of the text to be produced. We may narrate a story, describe a process, explain a theory -- all to specific readers or the public in general.

The Spoken Word: The Base for Writing and Reading

How Do We Write?

No matter what we are writing, we have to decide what to say. We must choose words and shape phrases and construct sentences. Not any words and phrases and sentences will do; our words and phrases and sentences must serve our purpose. And to do that, we must make choices. What kind of choices? Choices of content, language, and structure.

Choices: The Ingredients of Texts

Choices in Writing


Our content must fit our purpose. To narrate, we must relate events. To describe a process, we must indicate steps in that process. To argue, we must provide reasons and draw conclusions. We must, in other words, do certain things. But doing the right things is not that simple.

To assure that our reader will grasp the meaning we wish to convey, our examples must be examples of the concepts we hope to convey. We must provide the building blocks of broad concepts, the ingredients of ideas, as it were. To convey an act of compassion, we must provide examples of selflessness. To show success, we must document achievement against odds.

Choices: The Choice of Content
Recognizing What Examples Are Examples Of


Our language must fit our purpose and audience. We may use slang with friends, and formal terminology in an academic environment. We may refer to the ”television” when writing a business letter, to the “boob tube” when writing a friend. We must select words whose connotations fit our meaning, words that imply the desired feelings and judgments. We must distinguish carefully between being angry, infuriated, mad, irate, incensed, furious and mad. We will inevitable slant our language to signal our biases. We may talk about “conclusions” when presenting our side of an argument, “hypothesis” or “guesses” when presenting another. Finally, our references must be clear; our images accessible. Much of reading involves inference, and we must do all that we can to assure that our reader draws the desired inference.

Choices: The Choice of Language


Finally, we must present a coherent train of thought. For our text to be effective, we must offer a map of where we are going with the discussion, and we must offer clear signposts along the way announcing to the reader where he or she is within the discussion at any given time. We must signal the shifts in the discussion, and we must indicate the relationships between individual remarks and between larger portions of the text.

Choices: The Choice of Structure

Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are complementary processes. Once we see how we, as readers, find meaning on the page -- what we look for and how we think about what we find -- we can employ that knowledge to our advantage in our writing. We can edit our writing to assure patterns of content and language that will lead our reader to the desired inferences.

And we should write with care. Our sentences should be grammatically correct, our ideas well developed, and our language carefully chosen to convey the desired meaning. We may not intend to show our work to someone else, but someone else should be able to understand what we have written were we to show it to them. Writing is, ultimately, a social act, an act of communication with another or others. Even when we write simply to vent our feelings, record our thoughts, or practice our craft, precision of thought requires precise use of the language.

Learning to Read and Write

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Dan Kurland's    www.criticalreading.com
Dan Kurland's    www.criticalreading.com