Charles Bazerman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. ? He wrote a textbook,?The Informed Writer. ?
This discussion thread draws from chapter 1 of the book. Please click?here?to access chapter 1.
On page 3, Bazerman mentions the relationships between writing and speaking and between writing and reading.? "Reading and writing go hand in hand," he notes. ?
On page 4, Bazerman discusses the distinctions between writing and speaking.? He also describes how tone and audience are influenced differently in both writing and speaking.
On page 5, he mentions the art of "listening," both for a speaker and for a writer.
On page 5, he describes a bicycle accident.? If you have a bicycle accident as he describes on this page, you may later write three email messages?one to your mother, one to your friend, and one to the insurance company. He describes these three audiences and how the letters to each will be different because the audiences are distinct and, therefore, the purposes are different.
Consider any piece of writing you have completed in the past six months?for school, for work, for a situation in your community, or some other context.? Who was the audience, and how did the audience affect how you approached this piece of writing?
Please write one paragraph of 5-6 sentences or so in your response.? Please draw upon analysis from chapter 1 from Bazerman. You may also draw upon?chapter 6?of?Writing for Success.? Refer specifically to the advice in one or both of these sources as you construct your paragraph.
WRITING W riting involves other people. You respond to and build on other people?s statements;
you then write for other people to read. As a reader and a writer, you converse with
others over the written page. To converse effectively you need to know what is on the
other people?s minds, how you want to affect other people, and how you plan to achieve that
effect. Thus writing well requires that you understand the writing situation, grasp the particular
writing problem, and carefully plan your writing strategy. 1 2 Part 1 Writing About Reading The Writing Situation
A Writer Is Never Alone
Although a writer may work in private, a writer is never alone. To write is to communicate
with other people: we write letters to share our lives with friends. We write business reports to
influence managers' decisions. We write essays to convert readers to our vision of the truth.
Without other people, we would have little reason to write.
Just as we wish to touch people through our writing, we have been influenced by the writing
of others. Will Rogers's famous quip, ?All I know is just what I read in the papers,? has truth. We
learn many things indirectly through the written word, from current and historical events to the
collisions of subatomic particles and of multinational corporations. Even when we learn from
direct experience, our perceptions and interpretations are influenced by the words of others. And
though we may write private notes and diary entries to ourselves to sort out plans, thoughts, or
feelings, we are nevertheless reacting to experiences and concepts and situations that come from
our relationships with others. Through language we participate in an exchange of ideas and
information that draws people's minds together. The Written Conversation
Your economics professor assigns a five-page paper requiring you to comment on the
problems created by the federal deficit. If you know the facts and have a strong opinion, you are
able to go to your computer and pound out the assignment. This work represents your opinions,
but is it solely a product of your own mind?
To form opinions, you had to gather information on the deficit-probably from newspapers,
magazines, and television. Editorials and articles in political magazines may have influenced
your current view of the subject. Ideas you heard or read over the years about economics, taxes,
and government spending have shaped your economic attitudes. Even your understanding of
how the federal government works, how it is financed, and the nature of its role in the economy is
based on what you learned from teachers and textbooks in history, government, and economics
As you wrote, you kept in mind the economics professor's lectures and assigned readings on
economic concepts and theory. They helped you become more informed and thoughtful, enabling
you to present a mature, informed opinion. All semester the professor has been expressing
opinions; now it is your turn. The assignment demands that you apply what you have learned to
the problem of the federal deficit. You yourself may have specific economic issues to discuss in
the paper to get the professor's reaction. At the very least you want your paper to earn the
professor's approval for how competently you handle the course material. Above all, as you write
you need to keep the professor's academic standards in mind in order to meet them.
When you write, your statements are your own. You choose the words and organize the
thoughts to fulfill your own motives and to realize your own intentions. But you choose words
that you share with your readers, and you refer to concepts and objects that those readers are
likely to recognize. Through being aware of what your readers already know, you can share your
original ideas with them more easily. Moreover, you have developed your thoughts, motives, and
intentions in response to what you have read and heard and experienced. Your language and
conclusions and intentions, even as they are your own, arise out of the many voices around you
and then become part of that rich multiplicity of voices. Chapter 1 Writing Others' voices form the social context for your statements, and your statements in turn
contribute to the context for someone else's. We know that our words have been heard when
other speakers have our words in mind as they reply. Whether people agree with us or disagree,
approve or disapprove of what we say, cooperate with our requests or rebel against them, they are
responding to what we say. We have made our presence known to them and have influenced
The social context of voices that surround us frames each particular writing situation. You sit
down to write at one moment in time for particular purposes, which are usually related to the
people around you. Your teacher assigns you an essay. A company advertises a job you want. An
unusual experience, an encouraging teacher, or a moving poem inspires you to write your own
Think of a conversation. In a spoken conversation it is essential to pay attention to what has
just been said and to the person you are addressing. Even when arguing for your original ideas,
you are attempting to convince people directly in front of you. To make other people feel you are
talking with them and not at them, you must listen to the facts, ideas, and emotions that they
express in order to know what kinds of answers they will understand and accept.
As you react to others in spoken conversation, so you do in written conversation. The more
you understand and assimilate what others have said before, the more you understand the
context of the ?conversation? in which you are participating. If you have a sense of the people to
whom you are writing, you can then decide how you wish to affect them and what you should
Reading and writing go hand in hand. The better you read, the better you write. In order to
develop your own thoughts, you need to be able to gather information from reading; even more,
you need to understand the ideas and implications of your reading so that you can respond. You
have to read well enough to see what people are really discussing, what the real issues are. You
need to understand what has already been written to decide intelligently what you can
contribute. Otherwise, you may simply wind up only repeating what others have already written.
This book explains the skills of digging more deeply into your reading and then using that
reading to develop your own original statements. The assignments in this book give you practice
in gaining control over the knowledge you are acquiring in all your courses and reading; that
knowledge can then help you formulate and express your own thoughts. Writing assignments will
help you read more deeply and precisely, respond to and think about what you read, and analyze
and evaluate it. They will help you develop your own conclusions and ideas based on research. At
the end of this course, you should be better able to take part in all the written ?conversations?
that will come your way in school, in your career, and in other aspects of your life. Written Versus Spoken Conversation
When you speak, you usually know whom you are talking to. You can see your conversational
partners in front of you. Gathered around you are the people who have made previous comments
and the people who will hear what you say. Listeners may add some further comments of their
own. People may come and go from your conversational group, but these changes are easy to see.
On the other hand, it takes imagination to envision all the people involved in a written
conversation. Relevant prior comments may come from any of the authors you may have read on
a subject; anyone who picks up pages you have written may receive your message; and relevant
later comments may come from totally unexpected sources. The comings and goings of readers
and writers in written conversations are not limited to the physical presence of people gathered in
one place at the same time. Paper travels through time and space. 3 4 Part 1 Writing About Reading You can exert some control over whom you draw into your written conversation. You can
choose among texts you have read to define relevant prior comments, quoting one author and
ignoring another. Similarly, you can help shape your audience by sending your writing to a
particular person or persons or to a publication chosen for its readership. In businesses and
organizations the people you choose to receive copies of your correspondence may be as
important as what you choose to say in your writing. Leaking a government document to the
press can change the entire dynamics of a policy conversation. In spoken conversation you have
limited control over whom you will talk with. In written conversation you have many more options
and wider-ranging possibilities in determining the conversation's participants.
Despite these opportunities to arrange and rearrange the participants and dynamics of a
written conversation, most writing situations suggest a few obvious participants. A written
conversation is often small, and its participants are usually easy to identify. A student writing an
assigned paper in a philosophy course may be responding to only a few authors she has read as
part of the course and to the lectures of the professor; her readers will be that same professor and
perhaps a classmate or roommate. A biochemist, although ultimately relying on all those
teachers and writers of scientific works who contributed to her training, may base her immediate
work on the findings of only a few colleagues, and she may address her highly technical
conclusions to only a few specialists. The biochemist may feel the need to address a wider
audience only if she discovers something that has broad social implications, like an insight into
the growth of cancer cells. And she will need to reevaluate the basic literature of biochemistry
only if her findings call into question fundamental principles she has learned earlier.
Consider again that philosophy student, whose case is typical of most students in most
disciplines: the range of sources she will have to ponder for much of her education will be limited
to the books assigned or recommended by her teachers. A research paper or personal curiosity
may lead her to look at other sources, but only near the end of her academic training will she
regularly work with less generally familiar material. And only at that late point will the audience
for her work move beyond the classroom. Thus the academic context?in which most readers of
this book find themselves?readily defines the participants of most written conversations. The
writers to whom we are responding are those who contributed the recognized major works of any
discipline, and our readers are those who regularly help evaluate student papers?the professor,
graduate assistants, and class members.
In addition to the difference in participants, there are further differences between written and
spoken conversation. In writing, the words alone must carry the entire message; when you write,
you cannot rely on tone of voice, pitch, pauses, facial expressions, or gestures to pick up where
words leave off. Nor can you keep an eye on your audience to see if a baffled face, wandering
attention, or an angry look suggests you change what you are saying. The reader cannot stop
you, ask you questions, raise objections, or demand clarification. Writing must stand intelligible,
complete, and convincing in itself. Because your audience is not there to interrupt you as you
write, you can think through your ideas fully, and you can find the best way to state them. When
speaking, you must reply on the spot with whatever thoughts come immediately to mind. In
speaking, in fact, you may be. more concerned with keeping a conversation going in a pleasant
way than with logic, consistency, or truth; one topic leads to another with only the loosest
connection, and a topic rarely remains stable for long.
Because speech goes by so fast, you may get away with many careless, unconsidered, and
even irrelevant comments. You may not always speak to the point-nor do you always care
whether you are making a substantive point. In the process of writing, however, you have time to
consider, develop, and sharpen every statement. When you get stuck, you can take a long pause,
go out for coffee, and then pick up where you left off. If words wander, you can later edit out the Chapter 1 Writing digression. When revising, you can satisfy yourself that the argument is coherent and fully
developed, and you can polish the words before any reader sees them. Similarly, when the reader
finally does get your writing, that reader can go through it slowly, evaluating everything that is
there?or is not there. The conversation committed to paper slows down, grows thoughtful, and
becomes more careful. Getting a Feel for the Conversation
The best way to get a feel for any conversation?oral or written?is to listen in for a while
before you make your own comments. In that way you come to know the participants, the issues,
the level of the conversation, the typical ways of speaking, and the rules of proof and evidence
being used. The more you listen, the more likely you are to have ideas you want to contribute,
and the more likely you are to phrase the ideas in ways that will fit the conversation.
Written conversations, like oral conversations, are complex. Your relationships with your
readers vary, depending on who those readers are and why you are communicating with them.
From previous experience, we frequently have learned something about the people we write to
and the best way to write to them; we also often have a fairly clear idea of what we would like
readers to think and how we would like them to respond to our writing.
For example, imagine that when riding your bike, you have been involved in a minor accident.
A car failed to stop at an intersection; you saw the car and swerved; then the driver started to
brake. Nonetheless, after a glancing collision at slow speed, you take a nasty fall to the asphalt.
Your injuries are minor?a skinned knee and a twisted ankle?but your bicycle is wrecked. After
the accident, you write three letters: one to your mother, one to your best friend back home, and
one to the insurance company of the driver who hit you.
Because you have different long-standing relationships with your mother and your friend and
because you have some idea of how insurance companies work, you write three rather different
letters. In the first letter, you downplay the accident itself (you mention that you fell but not that
the car actually hit your bicycle), and you keep the tone light because you don't want to worry
your mother unnecessarily. In the second letter, you give your friend all the gory details and
perhaps even exaggerate them a bit (the bloody knee, the twisted metal, the sounds of bike and
body hitting the ground). The tone of this letter may be humorous or serious, depending on
whether your purpose is to tell a funny story or to express how frightening the accident was to
you. In the letter to the insurance company, you stress the circumstances of the accident (such
as that the driver failed to obey the stop sign and that you have the names and phone numbers of
witnesses at the scene). You describe the injuries you sustained and the damage to your bicycle,
using objective, perhaps even monetary, terms; the tone is businesslike and matter-of-fact.
Although you may know a certain amount about people you're writing to, every interaction
with them teaches you more. The written conversation evolves, especially if you pay close
attention to their responses. Does your mother immediately give you a worried call, does she
write you a detailed letter about how to deal with insurance companies, or does she tend to avoid
the subject? Is your friend sympathetic or teasing in the letter she or he writes back? Does the
insurance company indicate a desire to settle quickly, or does it signal that there will be a lot of
procedures and paperwork before you can be paid?
Professional writers also pay close attention to their evolving relationships with their readers.
In the course of her long and varied life, the anthropologist Margaret Mead communicated with
many different groups, from Samoan tribespeople to international political leaders. She advanced
knowledge among the specialists of her field, and she shared that knowledge with the general
public. Despite her reputation as a major authority, she always considered her writing a process 5 6 Part 1 Writing About Reading of interaction that improved the conversation with her readers. Only by remaining in touch with
their ideas and needs could she know how best to keep up her end of the conversation. Here she
tells how the interchange between herself and the readers of her magazine column motivated her
to continue the discussion. Contact with the lives and concerns of real people gave life to
Margaret Mead?s own writing. The following comments appeared in the preface to a collection of
columns she originally wrote for Redbook, a popular magazine:
[COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED]
Margaret Mead, as she described here, wrote to help individual people. To do that she had to
interact closely with them to understand their problems and to improve her relationship with
them. Just as people must work at personal relationships to make them successful, writers must
work at the relationships they establish with their readers. Informed Writing in School
The writing relationship you probably know best is the one between you and your teachers.
The teacher selects material to discuss with you, gives you books to read, and assigns writing for
you to do. You in turn write papers for the teacher to read; the teacher returns those papers with
corrections, comments, and grades. The comments may then lead you to write differently in the
As you learned more and advanced to higher grades, you were able to write more developed
papers on more complex subjects. At the same time the attitudes and expectations of the
teachers became more demanding. Remember those first times you had to write by yourself in
school, perhaps in second grade about a class trip to the zoo or your pet turtle. The teacher
probably discussed the topic with you beforehand and then read and praised that youthful
literary effort. A sympathetic teacher was encouraging you to express yourself, and proud
parents were looking for early signs of ability. Almost any faltering attempt would satisfy that
group of readers and lead you into the next stage of the written conversation?more complicated
Now consider the last essay you wrote for one of your college teachers. How much guidance
and encouragement were you given beforehand? What level of knowledge and skills was
necessary to prepare the assignment? How many books, textbooks, and articles did you have to
read, think about, and refer to in order to develop and substantiate your ideas? And with what
attitude do you think the teacher read the essay-with willingness to accept any attempt or with a
demand for wide knowledge, thoughtfulness, and originality? Although both the second-grade
story and the college essay are in the context of the teacher-student relationship, a whole
education has occurred between the two.
As your education and interests become more specialized, your writing will increasingly
depend on your being informed by the knowledge of your specialized field. Your teachers and
fellow students will come to expect that you are basing your statements and judgments on your
ever-increasing body of knowledge, on material you have read, learned, evaluated, and built
upon. Informed Writing on the Job
If your career takes you into nonacademic professions and business, your decisions will still
depend on wide, informed, reasoned knowledge. You will still have to argue, support, and report Chapter 1 Writing in writing. To be persuasive and command respect, your writing must exhibit quality of thought
and effective use of the appropriate knowledge. In order to write memos, letters, and reports,
business executives need to know the facts of the situation as well as economic, administrative,
and technical background information. In writing legal briefs, lawyers must discuss laws and
their interpretation, judicial decisions, administrative rulings, contracts, documents entered into
evidence, and the arguments of the opposition. Engineers must prepare reports relying on their
technical knowledge and their knowledge of similar designs to present, argue for, and report on
the progress of their plans; and they must take into account the voluminous information about
each project presented in the reports of other engineers.
Even responsible involvement in community affairs requires that you first become informed.
To fight the building of a shopping center behind your house, you may need to read (in addition to
the local newspapers) the rulings and reports of the community planning board, the proposal of
the developers, the local zoning laws, and reports of construction and environmental engineers.
Only then will you be able to write effective petitions letters, pamphlets, and speeches that might
have some effect on the issue.
Throughout your life, you will be participating in increasingly informed conversations, .and
you will be called upon in many ways to express your informed opinion. As the old adage says,
knowledge may be power-but the power will be useful only if you can harness it to serve your own
purposes. This book is about learning to control that power. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
1. Write two short letters (one hundred to one hundred fifty words each) describing your
activities last weekend or your academic performance in one of your courses this term.
Address one letter to a close friend in your hometown and the other to a parent. After you
have drafted both letters, write a brief paragraph discussing how your relationship with your
reader influences each letter?s content, tone, and purpose. 2. Write a short essay (two hundred to two hundred fifty words) comparing your relationship
with your readers in two specific pieces of writing that you have done in an academic setting:
for example, a description of your family that you wrote in third grade and a research paper
on the causes of World War II that you wrote for an eleventh-grade history class. Consider
who the readers were, what you knew about them, how you had acquired that information,
and what you tried to do in your writing as a result. In other words, how did your relationship
with your readers help you decide what information to include and what tone to adopt? 3. Write a brief letter to the registrar of your college requesting that a copy of your official
transcripts be sent to a prospective employer, or to the financial aid office with a request for
information about grants and loans you may be eligible for. Consider who your reader is, as
well as what information and tone are needed, in order to make sure that your request will be
acted upon. 7 8 Part 1 Writing About Reading The Writing Problem
The Real Problem
Many think that filling the blank page is the main problem of writing. If you think that, you
start to solve the problem by looking for a good opening sentence. Perhaps other page fillers will
continue flowing. There is a small truth to this, but only a very small truth. Such thinking misses
the real problem, which is knowing why you are writing?that is, knowing what you wish to
accomplish with your readers in each particular writing situation. Once you know the why, the
how and the what will follow.
Let us step back for a minute to think about the idea of a problem. On the one hand, a
problem can be something gone wrong, as in ?There is a problem with my car. It won't run.? Many
people think of writing in just that way. ?My life will be miserable until I get this paper written,
but I don't know what to write. That's my problem.? When you think of a problem as an obstacle
or unpleasant condition, all you want to do is get rid of it quickly so life can get back to normal.
On the other hand, a problem can be seen not as something wrong, but as something to
accomplish. An engineering problem is not something wrong; it is only something to think about
and solve. ?The problem was to design a car combining low gas consumption and low pollution
with adequate power and enough luxury to keep the consumers happy.? Nothing is wrong; life
would go on without such a car, but solving the problem would provide us with something good
that we would not otherwise have. That is really what writing is all about: making words do
something for us that we would like done.
The first type of problem points to a breakdown in the current situation which needs to be
repaired, whereas the second is creative, bringing something new into the world. In thinking of
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