Literary Genres, Elements, 1 and Techniques

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3 Then, on your own paper, write your paragraph. Use the sentence that you wrote in step 2, above, as the first sentence and topic sentence of your paragraph. In the body sentences, present the details from the list you made in step 1. You can present details by quoting or by paraphrasing (putting them in your own words). Make sure to use quotation marks around any direct quotations. As you write, use transitions at the beginnings of sentences to connect your ideas. Transitions that you might use include in addition, furthermore, another example, yet another example, first, then, next, finally, in short, or in summary.
B Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is usually thought of as a spooky story for children. Imagine that you are an editor at a publishing house that is preparing an anthology of stories for children aged seven to ten. Based on the passage that you have just read from Irving’s story, write a paragraph evaluating the suitability of the story for the anthology. State your judgment about whether the story is suitable for seven-to­ten-year-olds in your topic sentence. Then support your opinion with evidence.






Lesson 4.4—Two Types of Criticism: Analysis and Evaluation 119


any of the passages that you will encounter on reading tests will be

nonfiction selections. Newspaper

articles, essays, speeches, textbooks, and travel guides are just some examples of the many different genres, or forms, of non­fiction writing (see the list on page 124). In this lesson you will learn about some of the important features of nonfiction, including the subject, thesis, mode, purpose, and method of organization.

Subject and Thesis

The subject of a piece of writing is what the selection as a whole is about. The thesis is its main idea. When reading a nonfiction selection, make sure that you ask yourself, “What is the subject?” or “What is this piece about?” and “What is the author’s main idea, or thesis?”

The thesis is often expressed in a thesis statement, a single sentence, or sometimes two or three sentences, stating the main idea of the essay or composition. In rare cases the main idea might be implied rather than directly stated. The thesis statement usually appears in the introduction. It might be restated in different words in the conclusion. An author might, for example, take the end of slavery in the United States as a subject for an informative essay. The thesis advanced in the essay might be that slavery was not ended by one person or group in one fell swoop but was ended gradually, in stages, over time. The thesis statement in the introductory paragraph of such an essay might read like this:

Slavery in the United States did not die suddenly but gradually, over a period of years, beginning with measures to limit the spread of slavery before the war, followed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the war, and ending with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Mode, Purpose, and Aim

Traditionally, textbook authors have classified nonfiction writing based upon its mode. A mode is simply a kind of writing done for a particular purpose. The purpose is what the writer wishes to accomplish. The modes of writing traditionally discussed in writing texts are narration, description, persuasion, and exposition.







i~J Aspects of Nonfiction

5.1 Selections

The Traditional Modes

s~ Narrative writing has as its main purpose relating events. Biographies, autobiographies, histories, and news reports all employ narration. Sometimes narration makes use of dialogue, or speech.

~ Descriptive writing has as its main purpose presenting a portrayal of a subject in words. Rarely is a piece of writing purely descriptive.

120 AIM Higher! English Skills for Assessment

The Traditional Modes

~ Persuasive writing has as its primary purpose convincing the reader to adopt some point of view or to take some action. Campaign speeches and editorials are examples of persuasive writing.
~ Expository writing has as its major purpose presenting

information. Sometimes this mode is referred to as

informative writing. Textbooks, technical manuals, directions, recipe books, and encyclopedia articles are all examples of exposition.

In an influential work called A Theory of Discourse, James Kinneavy offered an alternative to this traditional way of classifying writing. According to Kinneavy, writing can be classified based on the standard communication model, which views every act of communication as involving a sender who encodes a message about a subject into a set of symbols and then transmits that message to a recipient.


(Subject Matter)




The communications triangle

Based on the communications triangle, Kinneavy classifies writing into four types, each with a different aim, or emphasis.

Kinneavy’s Modes, or Aims

Expressive writing has as its major purpose expressing the writer’s state of mind, personal feelings, attitudes, ideas, values, or beliefs. The emphasis in this kind of writing is on the sender of the message.
~ Expository writing has as its major purpose presenting information. The emphasis in this kind of writing is on the subject.
~ Persuasive writing has as its major purpose changing the reader’s mind or moving the reader to action. The emphasis in this kind of writing is on the receiver of the message.
Literary writing has as its major purpose to create an imaginary world to entertain or instruct. The emphasis in this kind of writing is on the symbols—on the words themselves and the forms that they take.

Neither way of classifying writing is completely satisfactory because, in the real world, the modes and aims overlap. Narrative writing usually contains elements









Lesson 5.1—Aspects of Nonfiction Selections 121

of description. Literary writing is often

narrative and descriptive and is frequently expressive in Kinneavy’s sense. None­theless, in many pieces of writing, one of these modes or aims predominates, so it is useful to refer to pieces of writing using these terms. You may have occasion to do so when you prepare written responses for standardized tests.

A writer doesn’t simply put his or her ideas down in any order, because a willy­nilly presentation of ideas would be extremely confusing to a reader. Often, writers of nonfiction make use of overall organizational plans, arranging their ideas for presentation in a logical sequence. The following chart describes some common methods of organization used in nonfiction.

Methods of Organization

~ Chronological Order. Events are

presented in time order, or in order of occurrence.

~ Spatial Order. Details are

presented in order of appearance, for example, from top to bottom, from left to right, or from near to

~ Degree Order. Details or ideas

are presented according to the degree to which they embody some quality, such as value, familiarity, or importance. For example, ideas might be presented, in order, from most important to least important.

Methods of Organization (cont.)
~ Comparison/Contrast Order. In

comparison/contrast writing, an author discusses the similarities and/or differences among two or more subjects. If the writing is in subject order, the author discusses one subject and its characteristics and then the next subject and its characteristics. If the writing is in characteristics order, the author first compares or contrasts both subjects with regard to one characteristic (such as quality), then moves on to the next characteristic (such as price), and so on, through the piece.

~ Cause-and-Effect Order. The writer presents one or more causes followed by their effects or one or more effects followed by their causes.
~ Classification Order. The writer breaks his or her subject into smaller subjects, groups them, and then discusses each in turn.
s~c~ Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis Order. The writer presents an idea (the thesis), presents an opposing idea (the antithesis), and then presents a compromise or a new idea that combines the two (the synthesis).






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This chart of types of organization is far from complete, because writers are extremely inventive about coming up with logical ways to organize their work. Often, writers use a combination of these methods of organization. Sometimes, they use a part-by-part organization in which each idea is connected logically to the one that precedes it and the one that follows it, but the whole piece of writing follows no overall organizational pattern.

Whatever method of organization the writer uses, his or her piece will generally contain three parts: an introduction that presents the main idea or thesis, a body that elaborates on the main idea, and a conclusion that sums up the piece.


Reading a Nonfiction Selection

As you read, ask yourself the following questions:
~ What is the title? Who is the author?

~ What is the subject of the selection?

s~ What is the author’s thesis, or main idea?

~ What is the primary purpose of the piece of writing? to entertain? to inform? to persuade? to describe?

~ What is the primary mode of the piece of writing? Is it narrative, descriptive, persuasive, or expository?
In addition, pay attention to any of the following that you encounter:
—Names of people and places

—Significant facts and figures

—Significant events and their order of occurrence, including dates

—Conflicts, issues, and arguments pro and con

—Similarities and differences

—Causes and effects

—Questions posed by the author and the answers given

—Steps in processes

—Opinions and the facts presented to back them up





Lesson 5.1—Aspects of Nonfiction Selections 123

(~ enres, or Forms,

~.J of Non fiction Writing
The following is a partial list of the genres of nonfiction writing. Notice the great variety of forms of nonfiction. Notice also that many of the types of nonfiction, such as briefs (law) and human interest stories (journalism), are related to particular professions.

Abstract Consumer Report Invitation Proposal

Acceptance Speech Contract Itinerary Protocol

Advertising Copy Cookbook journal Public Service

Advice Column Course Description Keynote Address Announcement

Afterword Court Decision Lab Report Radio Spot

Agenda Credo Law (Statute) Rebuttal Speech,

Almanac Critical Analysis Learning Log Debate

Analysis Essay Curriculum Lesson Recipe

Annals Demonstration Letter of Complaint Recommendation

Annotations Deposition Letter of Intent Referendum Question

Annual Report Diary Letter to the Editor Report

Appeal Diatribe Magazine Article Research Report

Application Essay Dictionary Entry Manifesto Resignation

Atlas Directions Manual Restaurant Review

Autobiography Docudrama Marketing Plan Résumé

Bibliography Dream Analysis Memoir Roast

Billboard Dream Diary Memorandum Sales Letter

Biography Dunning Letter Memorial Plaque Self-Help Book/Column

Birth Announcement Editorial Menu Schedule

Book Review E-mail Minutes Science journalism

Brief Employment Review Monument Inscription Scientific Paper

Brochure Encyclopedia Article Movie Review Sermon

Business Card Epitaph Music/Concert Review Sign

Business Letter Essay Nature Guide Slide Show

Business Proposal Eulogy News Story Slogan

Bylaws Explication Nomination Speech Specifications

Campaign Speech Exposé Obituary Sports Story

Caption Family History Oral History Storyboard

Catalogue Copy Five-Paragraph Theme Oral Report Summary

Cause-and-Effect Essay Field Guide Packaging Copy Summation

Character Sketch Filmstrip Paraphrase Syllabus

Charter Flyer Party Platform Technical Writing

Cheer Foreword Pep Talk Test

Classification Fund-Raising Personal Essay Textbook

Classified Ad Letter/Solicitation Persuasive Essay Thank-You Note

College Entrance Essay Graduation Speech Petition Theater Review

Column, Newspaper Grant Application Police/Accident Report Toast

Comeback Speech Guidebook Political Advertisement To Do List

Comedic Monologue Headline Political Cartoon Training Manual, Video,

Commentary History Prediction Tape, or Slide Show

Commercial Homily Preface Travel Guide

Community Calendar How-to Essay or Book Presentation Travelogue

Comparison-and- (Guide) Press Release Treaty a

Contrast Essay Human Interest Story Process Essay Vows

Concordance Informative Essay Proclamation Want Ad

Constitution Instructions Profile Wedding a-

Constructive Speech, Interview Questions Program Notes Announcement

Debate Introduction Prologue Wish List

124 AIM Higher! English Skills for Assessment

~L~D~f Thrn

A Review the selections by Annie Dillard on pages 2 and 3 and by Sandrine Cantare on pages 18—20. Answer any of the following questions that apply to either selection.
1 What is the title? What is the subject? Is the subject suggested by the title?
2 What is the thesis, or main idea, of the selection?
3 What is the primary purpose of the selection?
4 What modes of writing are used in the selection?
5 What is the genre of each selection?
6 What part of each selection is the introduction? What part is the conclusion?
7 Which parts of each selection have a chronological organization?
B Find, in a newspaper or magazine, one example of each of the following. Identify, on a piece of paper, the title, genre, subject, thesis, and primary mode, purpose, and method of organization of each piece.
1 An editorial
2 A work dealing with a topic in popular science, medicine, or health
3 A “How-to” article

C The best way for you to prepare for reading the nonfiction selections on standardized tests is to develop the habit of reading nonfiction works regularly. Begin now by reading at least four magazine or newspaper articles every week. In a notebook, keep a learning log about your reading. In your log, record the following information:

1 The title and author of each piece

2 The subject and purpose of each

3 Your reactions to or commentary on each piece. Possibilities include notes on what the piece taught you or, if the piece is persuasive, the reasons why you agree or disagree with the author.
4 A list of two or three words from each piece that you did not know before reading the piece or that you do not regularly use in your own speech and writing, along with the definitions of those words






Lesson 5.1—Aspects of Nonfiction Selections 125

L~SON Understanding Persuasive

5.2 Texts


s you saw in Lesson 5.1, some pieces of nonfiction writing are written to persuade. A letter to the editor of a newspaper urging eligible voters to get out and vote is an example of persuasive writing. So is the answer to a test question that asks the student to tell which novel has better stood the test of time, A Tale of Two Cities or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The first attempts to persuade the reader to do something; the second attempts to persuade the reader to adopt a particular point of view. When reading a piece of persuasive writing, a reader should evaluate the thesis, or main point, and the supporting arguments being advanced by the writer. To do so, the reader must be able to

• distinguish between facts and opinions
• recognize logical fallacies
• recognize rhetorical devices
In today’s world, in which examples of commercial and political persuasion abound—from television advertisements to sound bites from candidates on the evening news—knowing how to evaluate persuasive materials can be an extremely valuable skill. Mastering the elements of persuasion can also help you, throughout your life, to persuade others, such as college admissions people and potential employers.
Distinguishing Facts and Opinions

If you look at a newspaper, you will find that it contains many different kinds of story. News stories present facts—statements that

are true by definition or that can be proved by observation. Editorials, in contrast, present opinions—predictions or state­ments of value, belief, policy, or obligation that can be supported by facts but not proved. Consider these examples:
FACT: The president’s official residence is the White House.

FACT: The White House is located on

Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington,

D.C., across the street from Lafayette


OPINION: The Congress and the

president should do something to house the homeless people sleeping in the park across from the White House.
The first statement is true by definition. The expressions “the president’s official residence” and “the White House” mean the same thing, and so the sentence has to be true. The second statement can easily be proved by observation. A person can go to Washington, D.C., take a taxi to the White House, and see if it is indeed located on Pennsylvania Avenue, across the street from Lafayette Park. An easier way to check that this is a fact, of course, would be to look up the White House on a map of Washington, D.C. The third statement does not express a fact. Instead, it expresses someone’s opinion about what should be done. Try this exercise: Look through your textbooks, which are primarily books that present facts. How many statements of opinion can you find in them?





126 AIM Higher! English Skills for Assessment

Proving Facts


As you just learned, a fact is a statement that is true by definition or that can be proved by observation. Sometimes, you can prove a statement of fact by making an observation yourself. Suppose, for example, that the label on a box of cereal says that the box contains 11 ounces of cereal. You could prove the statement

This box contains 11 ounces of cereal

by getting a large bowl, measuring its weight on a scale, pouring all of the cereal into the bowl, measuring the bowl full of cereal, and then subtracting the weight of the bowl from the weight of the bowl plus the cereal. In most cases, however, people do not prove the truth or falsehood of facts by making observations themselves. Instead, they depend on reference works or recognized experts to confirm or deny the facts. For example, the following is a statement of fact:

Light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second.

You probably do not have the equipment to measure the speed of light yourself, but you can look up the speed in a reference work, such as a science book, that contains a record of an observation made by scientists. So, two ways of checking facts are to

• make observations on your own

• consult a reference work or a knowledgeable expert

Types of Opinion z



There are many types of opinion. The types that you will encounter most frequently are as follows:

Brussels sprouts taste horrible! Jewel is a great singer. Testing cosmetic products on animals is wrong.

STATEMENTS OF BELIEF: There is prob­ably life on other planets. Eighteen-year­olds are mature enough to vote.

STATEMENTS OF POLICY: We should hold a canned food drive to raise money for

the field trip. Hector should be elected student council president.

STATEMENTS OF OBLIGATION: You ought to send your grandmother a thank-you

card. Ada should clean up her room

once in a while.

PREDICTIONS: There will d’oubtless be a colony on Mars by the year 2050.

A judgment, or statement of value, tells how someone feels about something. A statement of belief tells something that a person thinks is true but that the person cannot absolutely prove to be true. A statement of policy tells what action someone thinks people should or should not take, A statement of obligation, which is really just another kind of statement of policy, tells what someone thinks people ought to think or do. A prediction tells what the writer thinks will happen in the future. All such statements are types of opinions.
Supporting Opinions
By definition, an opinion is a statement that cannot be proved with absolute certainty. Opinions differ from person to person, and there is even a proverb that says, “Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.” However, all opinions are not

Lesson 5.2—Understanding Persuasive Texts 127

created equal. Suppose, for example, that a person holds the opinion that

Studying for tests is a waste of time.

It is not difficult to demonstrate that this is an unwise opinion. All one has to do is to perform an experiment. Try studying hard for one test and see what happens. Then try not studying for another test and see what happens. Obviously, the facts simply don’t support this opinion. A reasonable opinion is one that is supported by the facts. Consider this example:

OPINION: Chandra’s older brother is studying to become a pharmacy

technician, and I think that’s a really wise choice.

This opinion can be supported by facts such as these:

FACT: The American Association of Pharmacy Technicians estimates that the number of jobs for pharmacy

technicians will grow from 81,000 in 1998 to 109,000 by the year 2004.

FACT: Many drugstore chains and many

states are now requiring pharmacy techni­cians to have associate degrees and to be certified, but only 20,000 of the 81,000 pharmacy technicians now working have associate degrees and are certified.

Whenever you encounter a statement of opinion, you should ask yourself, “Is this opinion supported by the facts?” If it is supported by the facts, then it is a reasonable opinion, one worthy of being adopted by you. If it is not supported by the facts, then it is an unreasonable opinion and should not be adopted.

Often, when people have different opinions, they resort to arguing or shouting or other unproductive ways of dealing with

their differences. It makes more sense, however, to look at the relevant facts to see which opinion is better supported. Consider, for example, how courts of law work. The defense attorneys may be of the opinion that their client is innocent and should be freed. The prosecuting attorneys may be of the opinion that the defendant is guilty and should go to jail. Instead of simply shouting opinions at one another, the attorneys go into court and present evidence—facts—to support the defen­dant’s innocence or guilt. The jury and the judge weigh the evidence to see which opinion is better supported.

The following chart summarizes what you have learned about facts and opinions in this lesson.

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