A Linguistic Approach to Reading and Writing
Traditional Study Skills ApproachesMany writing courses stress study skills. Traditional study plans such as SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review) and PQ4R (Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, Review) involve activities such as
The Traditional Genre ApproachFreshman composition texts are generally organized on the basis of prose genres: description, narration, explanation and argumentation, and the like. Readings are labeled and grouped according to these notions and students are then taught to write a narrative or a description.
While these genres
are definitely useful to describe the general nature of a text, no text is
limited to one genre.
A text may, for instance, use description within a narrative as a way of
explaining as part
of an argument.
When the going gets tough, our first recourse is to do everything we did before, but more deliberately. We reread words and read aloud to make sense of the remarks, trying to recreate the verbal pauses that might give clues to the structure of sentences. But reading better involves more than simply trying harder. and translating the written into the spoken word. Looking closer, alone, wonít do the trick. "Just do it!" won't suffice. You can stare at a car engine all day and come away with no understanding of why your car runsóor doesnít run! It doesnít help for someone to tell you to work more carefully when you are not aware of what youíre doing.
If we think about it, we have been told a lot in general about how to approach reading a text, and surprisingly little about how exactly to find meaning in a text. We are asked to summarize, question, and reread, but these are all simply study behaviors. They do not tell ushowto question,whatto look for when we read, orhowto find the meaning to summarize.
What should we look for, then, when we read? How are ideas conveyed in writing? And how do readers draw meaning from the written page?
The concepts and terminology presented in these web pages will enable you to see how the language works to communicate ideas in written form. They will show you ways in which thoughts can be linked within a discussion, both in terms of connections from sentence to sentence and in terms of relationships between ideas and sections of a discussion. They show , for instance, how language (unlike, say, numbers) enables continuous levels of qualification, and how this aspect of language enables us to focus our thoughts. We shall see how new ideas are generated from the relationships of other ideas and that we read and write ideas, rather than merely words.
For a broader view of how meaning is conveyed by text, these pages focus on an examination of the choices open to a writer in forming a text: choices of content, language and structure. Choices are examined not only within the view of writing as a sequential activity, one sentence after another, but also in a more holistic or organic way in terms of a mix of ingredients or intertwining patterns of elements throughout a text.
Choices: The Ingredients of Texts
The Spoken Word: The Base For Writing and Reading