Pro Academia Help

Write an essay in response to one of the issues raised in Katherine Spriggs’ essay “On Buying Local”.

andrea lunsford stanford university

michal brody sonoma state university

lisa ede oregon state university

beverly j. moss the ohio state university

carole clark papper hofstra university

keith walters portland state university


New York • London

Everyone’s an Author W I T H R E A D I N G S

 second edition



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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Lunsford, Andrea A., 1942- author. | Brody, Michal, author. | Ede, Lisa S., 1947- author. | Moss, Beverly J.,

author. | Papper, Carole Clark, author. | Walters, Keith, 1952- author.

Title: Everyone’s an author with readings / Andrea Lunsford ; Michal Brody ; Lisa Ede ; Beverly J. Moss ; Carole

Clark Papper ; Keith Walters.

Description: Second Edition. | New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2017] | Includes bibliographical

references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2015044578 | ISBN 9780393265293 (pbk.)

Subjects: LCSH: English language–Rhetoric. | Report writing. | Authorship. | College readers.

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9



For our students, authors all.






s everyone an author? In the first edition of this book, we answered that question with an emphatic “yes!” and hoped teachers and students would agree. We’re happy to say they did, embracing what is now even more obvious than it was during the years we

spent drafting that first edition: that writers today have important things to say and want—indeed demand—to be heard, and that anyone with access to a computer can publish their writing, can in fact become an author. So we are thrilled that our book has found a large and enthusiastic audience.

As we began work on the second edition, we went back to our title, which has come to have many levels of meaning for us. Two key words: “author” and “everyone.” Certainly “author” informs our book through- out, from the Introduction that shows students the many ways they are already authors to the final chapter that offers advice on ways of pub- lishing their writing. Indeed, every chapter in the book assumes that students are capable of creating and producing knowledge and of shar- ing that knowledge with others, of being authors. And we know that this focus has struck a chord with teachers and students across the country; in fact, we now meet students who talk comfortably about their role as authors, something we surely didn’t see a decade or even five years ago.

And then we thought about the other key word in our title: “every- one.” And like good rhetoricians, we thought about the primary audi- ence for this book: our students. Have we reached every one of them? When they read what we say or imply about college students, will they see themselves, their friends, their communities? Will our book inter- est them? Will the examples and readings we’ve chosen inspire them to write? Have we, in other words, written a book for everyone? We went on to ask ourselves just who this “everyone” is: as it turns out, it’s a very

[ v ]



[ vi ] P R E FAC E

expansive group, including students in community and two-year colleges, in historically black colleges and universities, in Hispanic-serving and Trib- al colleges, in dual enrollment classes, on regional campuses of large state universities, in private liberal arts schools, in research one universities. Students from many different communities, from all socioeconomic back- grounds, with a wide range of abilities and ableness. In short, anyone who has something to say—and that’s EVERYONE.

But let’s back up for a moment and ask another question: what led us to pursue this goal of inviting every student to take on the responsibility of authorship? When we began teaching (we won’t even say how many years ago that was), our students wrote traditional academic essays by hand—or sometimes typed them on typewriters. But that was then. Those were the days when writing was something students were assigned, rather than something they did every single day and night. When “text” was a noun, not a verb. When tweets were sounds birds made. When blogs didn’t even exist. The writing scene has changed radically. Now students write, text, tweet, and post to everything from Facebook to Blackboard to Instagram at home, in the library, on the bus, while walking down the street. Writing is ubiquitous—they barely even notice it.

What students are learning to write has changed as well. Instead of “es- says,” students today engage a range of genres: position papers, analyses of all kinds, reports, narratives—and more. In addition, they work across me- dia, embedding images and even audio and video in what they write. They do research, not just for assigned “research papers” but for pretty much ev- erything they write. And they write and research not just to report or ana- lyze but to join conversations. With the click of a mouse they can respond to a Washington Post blog, publishing their views alongside those of the Post writer. They can create posters for the We Are the 99% Facebook page, post a review of a novel on Amazon, contribute to a wiki, submit a poem or story to their college literary magazine, assemble a digital portfolio to use in apply- ing for jobs or internships. The work of these students speaks clearly to a sea change in literacy and to a major premise of this book: if you have access to a computer, you can publish what you write. Today, everyone can be an author.

We began to get a hint of this shift nearly a decade ago. In a 2009 ar- ticle in Seed magazine, researchers Denis Pelli and Charles Bigelow argue that while “nearly universal literacy is a defining characteristic of today’s modern civilization, nearly universal authorship will shape tomorrow’s.”1

1. Denis G. Pelli and Charles Bigelow, “A Writing Revolution,”, 20 Oct. 2009,

Web, 3 Jan. 2012.



[ vii ]

They go on to offer a graph of the history of “authorship” from 1400 pro- jected through 2013, noting that while we’ve seen steep rises in authorship before (especially around 1500 and 1800), the current rise is more precipi- tous by far.

Tracking another shift, rhetorician Deborah Brandt suggests that now that a majority of Americans make their living in the so-called informa- tion economy, where writing is part of what they do during their workday, it could be said that “writing is . . . eclipsing reading as the literate skill of consequence.”2 Pelli and Bigelow put this shift more starkly, saying, “As readers, we consume. As authors, we create.”

Today’s authors are certainly creators, in the broadest sense. Protestors are using Twitter to organize and demonstrate on behalf of pressing social and political issues around the world. Fans create websites for those who follow certain bands, TV shows, sports teams. As this book goes to press, U.S. presidential candidates are using Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their messages, raise money, and mobilize voters.

Clearly, we are experiencing a major transition in what it means to be a writer. Such a massive shift brings challenges as well as opportunities. Many worry, for example, about the dangers the internet poses to our pri- vacy. As authors, we also understand that being a productive author brings

2. Deborah Brandt, “Writing at Work,” Hunter College, New York, 12 Nov. 2011, Lecture.












1 1400 1600 1800 2000 2005 2010 2013

Authors per year (as % of world pop.)

Authors per year


Blog authors

Facebook authors

Twitter authors

Book authors

Number of authors who published in each year for various media since 1400 by century (left) and by year (right). Source: Denis G. Pelli and Charles Bigelow, “A Writing Revolution,” Seed-, 20 Oct. 2009, Web, 3 Jan. 2012.



[ viii ] P R E FAC E

certain responsibilities: working fairly and generously with others, taking seriously the challenges of writing with authority, standing behind the texts we create, being scrupulous about where we get information and how we use it, and using available technologies in wise and productive ways.

This book aims to guide student writers as they take on the responsi- bilities, challenges, and joys of authorship. As teachers who have been ac- tive participants in the literacy revolution brought on by changes in modes and technologies of communication, we’ve been learning with our students how best to engage such changes. As scholars, we have read widely in what many refer to as the “new literacies”; as researchers, we have studied the changing scene of writing with excitement. Our goal in writing this text- book has been to take some of the best ideas animating the field of rheto- ric and writing and make them accessible to and usable by students and teachers—and to invite everyone to become authors.

As Beverly Moss put it in a recent presentation, one challenge in writ- ing any composition textbook is to find a balance between meeting stu- dents where they are and where they come from—and yet at the same time challenging them to move out of their comfort zones: to embrace the unfa- miliar, to see themselves as meaning makers and see writing in whatever medium as an opportunity to create, to inform, to entertain, to move, to connect with others—including those who are not like them, who maybe do not speak the same language or hail from the same communities. With each page that we write, we try to achieve that balance. Every one of our students has important things to say, and we aim to help them do just that.


• On the genres college students need to write: arguments, analyses, nar- ratives, reports, reviews—a new chapter on proposals—and new guid- ance in visual analysis, literacy narratives, profiles, and literature reviews. Chapter 10 gives students help “Choosing Genres” when the choice is theirs.

• On the need for rhetoric. From Chapter 1 on “Thinking Rhetorically” to Chapter 5 on “Writing and Rhetoric as a Field of Study” to the many prompts throughout the book that help students think about their own rhetorical situations and choices, this book makes them aware of the importance of rhetoric.



[ ix ]Preface

• On academic writing. We’ve tried to demystify academic writing—and to show students how to enter academic conversations. Chapter 4 offers advice on “Meeting the Demands of Academic Writing,” and we’ve add- ed new guidance on writing visual analyses, literature reviews, literacy narratives, and other common college assignments.

• On argument. Chapter 11 covers “Arguing a Position,” Chapter 17 covers “Analyzing and Constructing Arguments” (with new coverage of Clas- sical, Toulmin, Rogerian, and Invitational approaches), and Chapter 18 offers “Strategies for Supporting an Argument.”

• On reading. Chapter 3 offers guidelines on “Reading Rhetorically”: to read not only with careful attention but also with careful i ntention— to listen, engage, and then respond. And it offers strategies for reading texts of all kinds—written in words or images, on-screen or off-.

• On research. The challenge today’s students face is not gathering data, but making sense of massive amounts of information and using it ef- fectively in support of their own arguments. Chapters 19–28 cover all stages of research, from finding and evaluating sources to citing and documenting them. Chapter 20, on “Finding Sources,” has been reorga- nized to combine print and online sources in a way that better aligns with how students today search for information, and new examples guide students through annotating, summarizing, and synthesizing the sources they find.

• On writing in multiple modes. Chapter 34 provides practical advice on writing illustrated essays, blogs, wikis, audio and video essays, and posters, and Chapter 35 covers oral presentations—both new to this edi- tion. The companion Tumblr site provides a regularly updated source of multimodal readings.

• On social media. We’ve tried to bridge the gap between the writing stu- dents do on social media sites and the writing they do in college. We reject the notion that Google is making us stupid; in fact, we find that student writers are adept at crafting messages that will reach their in- tended audiences because they do so every day on Facebook and other such sites. Chapter 30 shows how the rhetorical strategies they use in- stinctively in social media are used in academic writing—and also how social media is now used in academia.



[ x ] P R E FAC E

• On style. We pay attention to style, with guidelines that will help stu- dents think carefully and creatively about the stylistic choices open to them. Chapter 29 defines style as a matter of appropriateness, and Chapter 31 covers “How to Write Good Sentences.”

• On social justice. Minimum wages, affordable housing, Black Lives Mat- ter: many of the examples in this book demonstrate how people from various walks of life use writing in ways that strive to help create “a more perfect union,” a society that is more just and equitable for all its members. We don’t always agree on how to go about reaching those goals, and that’s why rhetoric and civic discourse matter.

• Many new examples about topics students will relate to. From a descrip- tion of how Steph Curry shoots a basketball and a rhetorical analysis of what makes Pharrell’s “Happy” so catchy to a blog post from a student NASCAR driver and a visual analysis of the New Yorker’s Bert and Er- nie cover, we hope that all students will find examples and images that will make them smile—and inspire them to read and write.

• An anthology of 32 readings—and more readings posted weekly on Tumblr. Marginal links refer readers from the rhetoric to examples in the readings—and vice versa. You can center your course on either the rhetoric or the readings, and the links will help you draw from the other part as need be.

• Menus, directories, documentation templates, and a glossary / index make the book easy to use—and to understand.

Everyone’s an Author is available in two versions, with and without an an- thology of readings. Readings are arranged alphabetically by author, with menus indexing the readings by genre and theme. And the book is formatted as two books in one, rhetoric in front and readings in the back. You can there- fore center your course on either the rhetoric or the readings, since links in the margins will help you draw from the other part as you wish to.

What’s Online

As an ebook. Both versions of Everyone’s an Author are available as ebooks and include all the readings and images found in the print books. At a fraction of the price of the print books, the ebooks allow students to access the entire book, search, highlight, bookmark, take and share notes with



[ xi ]Preface

ease, and click on online examples—and can be viewed and synched on all computers and mobile devices. adds essays, videos, audio clips, speeches, infographics, and more. Searchable by genres, themes, and chapters in the book, the site is updated with new readings weekly. Each item is introduced with a brief contextual note and followed by questions that prompt students to analyze, reflect on, and respond to the text. A “comments” button lets students post comments and share texts with others. The site also includes clusters of texts, conversations on topics being widely discussed. Find a chapter-by- chapter menu of the online examples in this book by clicking “Links from the Book.” See you and your students at!

Norton/write. Find a library of model student papers; more than 1,000 online exercises and quizzes; research and plagiarism tutorials; documentation guidelines for MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles; MLA citation drills, and more—all just a click away. Free and open, no password required. Access the site at

Coursepacks are available for free and in a variety of formats, including Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Canvas, and Angel. Coursepacks work within your existing learning management system, so there’s no new system to learn, and access is free and easy. The Everyone’s an Author coursepack includes the “Think Beyond Words” exercises that prompt students to analyze interesting online examples of multimodal writing; the “Reflect” exercises found throughout the book; model student papers; quizzes and exercises on grammar and research; documentation guidelines; revision worksheets, and more. Coursepacks are ready to use, right from the start—but are also easy to customize, using the system you already know and understand. Download the coursepack at

Author videos. Andrea Lunsford, Lisa Ede, Beverly Moss, Carole Clark Papper, and Keith Walters answer questions they’re often asked by other instructors: about fostering collaboration, teaching multimodal writing, taking advantage of the writing center, teaching classes that include both L1 and L2 students, and more. View the videos at

Go to to find all of the resources described here. Select “Composition,” and then choose Everyone’s an Author 2e to get started.



[ xii ] P R E FAC E

The Guide to Teaching Everyone’s an Author

Available in a tabbed three-ring binder that will also hold your own class notes, this guide offers practical advice and activities from Lisa Ede for teach- ing all the chapters and readings in the book, including a new chapter by Michal Brody on how to use the companion Tumblr site with your students. In addition, it offers detailed advice from Richard Bullock, Andrea Lunsford, Maureen Daly Goggin, and others about teaching writing more generally: how to create a syllabus, respond to student writing, help students whose primary language isn’t English, and more. Order a print copy or access the online version at


We are profoundly grateful to the many people who have helped bring Ev- eryone’s an Author into existence. Indeed, this text provides a perfect ex- ample of what an eighteenth-century German encyclopedia meant when it defined book as “the work of many hands.” Certainly this one is the work of many hands, and among those hands none have been more instrumental than those of Marilyn Moller: the breadth of her vision is matched by her meticulous attention to detail, keen sense of style and design, and ability to get more work done than anyone we have ever known. Throughout the process of composing this text, she has set the bar high for us, and we’ve tried hard to reach it. And our deep gratitude goes to Tenyia Lee, whose as- tute judgment and analytical eye have guided us through this edition. A big thank you as well to Marian Johnson for making time to read and respond to many of the chapters in the first edition—and especially for stepping in at the eleventh hour of this second edition to make it happen! Thanks also to John Elliott, whose careful and graceful line editing helped shape the first edition.

We are similarly grateful to many others who contributed their talents to this book, especially Carole Desnoes and Jane Searle, for all they did to produce this book in record time (no small undertaking). Thanks as well to Elizabeth Trammell for her work clearing the many text permissions and to Ted Szczepanski and Elyse Rieder for their work finding and clearing per- missions for the many images. Last but certainly not least, we thank Claire Wallace for undertaking countless tasks large and small with energy and unprecedented efficiency.



[ xiii ]Preface

The design of this book is something we are particularly proud of, and for that we offer very special thanks to several amazing designers. Stephen Doyle created the spectacular cover that embodies a key message of our book: that we live in a world made of words and images. Carin Berger cre- ated the illuminated alphabet, also made of text, that opens every chap- ter. JoAnne Metsch did the lovely interior design. And Debra Morton-Hoyt, Rubina Yeh, Michael Wood, and Tiani Kennedy oversaw the whole thing as well as adding their own elegant—and whimsical!—touches inside and out. Best thanks to all of them.

Everyone’s an Author is more than just a print book, and we thank Erica Wnek, Kim Yi, Mateus Teixeira, Ava Bramson, and Cooper Wilhelm for creating and producing the superb ebook and instructors’ site. And we again want to thank Cliff Landesman for his work in creating the fantastic Tumblr site.

Special thanks to the fabled Norton Travelers, who have worked so hard to introduce teachers across the country to what Everyone’s an Author can offer them. And a big thank you to Megan Zwilling, Maureen Connelly, Lib Triplett, and Doug Day for helping us keep our eye on our audience: teachers and students at colleges where rhetorics of this kind are assigned. Finally, we are grateful to Roby Harrington, Julia Reidhead, and Steve Dunn, who have given their unwavering support to this project for more than a decade now. We are fortunate indeed to have had the talent and hard work of this distinguished Norton team.

An astute and extremely helpful group of reviewers has helped us more than we can say: we have depended on their good pedagogical sense and advice in revising every chapter of this book. Special thanks to Stevens Ami- don, Indiana University-Purdue Fort Wayne; Georgana Atkins, University of Mississippi; Kristen Belcher, University of Colorado, Denver; Samantha Bell, Johnson County Community College; Dawn Bergeron, St. Johns River State College; Cassandra Bishop, Southern Illinois University; Erin Breaux, South Louisiana Community College; Ellie Bunting, Edison State College; Maggie Callahan, Louisiana State University; Laura Chartier, University of Alaska, Anchorage; Tera Joy Cole, Idaho State University; Anne-Marie Deitering, Oregon State University; Debra Dew, Valparaiso University; Robyn DeWall, Idaho State University; Patrick Dolan Jr., University of Iowa; Maryam El- Shall, Jamestown Community College; Lindsay Ferrara, Fairfield University; Maureen Fitzpatrick, Johnson County Community College; Kitty Flowers, University of Indianapolis; Robin Gallaher, Northwest Missouri State Uni- versity; Tara Hembrough, Southern Illinois University; Samuel Head, Idaho



[ xiv ] P R E FAC E

State University; Emma Howes, Coastal Carolina University; Joyce Inman, University of Southern Mississippi; Michelle S. Lee, Daytona State College; Sonja Lynch, Wartburg College; Chelsea Murdock, University of Kansas; Jessie Nixon, University of Alaska, Anchorage; Thomas Reynolds, North- western State University; Matthew Schmeer, Johnson County Community College; John Sherrill, Purdue University; Mary Lourdes Silva, Ithaca College; Marc Simoes, California State University, Long Beach; Susan Smith, Geor- gia Southern University; Tracie Smith, University of Indianapolis; Paulette Swartzfager, Rochester Institute of Technology; Jason Tham, St. Cloud State University; Tom Thompson, The Citadel; Verne Underwood, Rogue Com- munity College; Jennifer Vala, Georgia State University; Emily Ward, Idaho State University; and Lauren Woolbright, Clemson University.

We’d also like to thank those reviewers who helped us to shape the first edition: Edward Baldwin, College of Southern Nevada; Michelle Bal- lif, University of Georgia; Larry Beason, University of South Alabama, Mo- bile; Kevin Boyle, College of Southern Nevada; Elizabeth Brockman, Central Michigan University; Stephen Brown, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Vicki Byard, Northeastern Illinois University; Beth Daniell, Kennesaw State Uni- versity; Nancy DeJoy, Michigan State University; Ronda Dively, Southern Il- linois University, Carbondale; Douglas Downs, Montana State University; Suellynn Duffey, University of Missouri, St. Louis; Anne Dvorak, Longview Community College; Patricia Ericsson, Washington State University; Frank Farmer, University of Kansas; Casie Fedukovich, North Carolina State Uni- versity; Lauren Fitzgerald, Yeshiva University; Diana Grumbles, South- ern Methodist University; Ann Guess, Alvin Community College; Michael Harker, Georgia State University; Charlotte Hogg, Texas Christian Univer- sity; Melissa Ianetta, University of Delaware; Jordynn Jack, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Sara Jameson, Oregon State University; David A. Jolliffe, University of Arkansas; Ann Jurecic, Rutgers University; Connie Kendall, University of Cincinnati; William Lalicker, West Chester Univer- sity; Phillip Marzluf, Kansas State University; Richard Matzen, Woodbury University; Moriah McCracken, The University of Texas, Pan American; Mary Pat McQueeney, Johnson County Community College; Clyde Money- hun, Boise State University; Whitney Myers, Texas Wesleyan University; Carroll Ferguson Nardone, Sam Houston State University; Rolf Norgaard, University of Colorado, Boulder; Katherine Durham Oldmixon, Huston-Til- lotson University; Matthew Oliver, Old Dominion University; Gary Olson, Idaho State University; Paula Patch, Elon University; Scott Payne, University of Central Arkansas; Mary Jo Reiff, University of Kansas; Albert Rouzie, Ohio



[ xv ]Preface

University; Alison Russell, Xavier University; Kathleen J. Ryan, University of Montana; Emily Robins Sharpe, Penn State University; Eddie Singleton, The Ohio State University; Allison Smith, Middle Tennessee State Univer- sity; Deborah Coxwell Teague, Florida State University; Rex Veeder, St. Cloud State University; Matthew Wiles, University of Louisville; and Mary Wright, Christopher Newport University.

Collectively, we have taught for over 150 years: that’s a lot of classes, a lot of students—and we are grateful for every single one of them. We owe some of the best moments of our lives to them—and in our most challeng- ing moments, they have inspired us to carry on. In Everyone’s an Author, we are particularly grateful to the student writers whose work adds so much to this text: Ade Adegboyega, Rutgers University; Crystal Aymelek, Portland State University; Amanda Baker, The Ohio State University; Carrie Barker, Kirkwood Community College; Ryan Joy, Portland State University; Julia Landauer, Stanford University; Larry Lehna, University of Michigan, Dear- born; Melanie Luken, The Ohio State University; Mitchell Oliver, Georgia State University; David Pasini, The Ohio State University; Walter Przyby- lowski, Rutgers University; Melissa Rubin, Hofstra University; Anya Schulz, University of California, Berkeley; Katryn Sheppard, Portland State Univer- sity; Katherine Spriggs, Stanford University; Shuqiao Song, Stanford Uni- versity; Saurabh Vaish, Hofstra University; and Kameron Wiles, Ball State University.

Each of us also has special debts of gratitude. Andrea Lunsford thanks her students and colleagues at the Bread Loaf Graduate School of English and in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford, along with her sis- ters Ellen Ashdown and Liz Middleton, editor and friend Carolyn Lengel, friends and life supporters Shirley Brice Heath, Betty Bailey, Cheryl Glenn, and Jackie Royster; and especially—and forever—her grandnieces Audrey and Lila Ashdown, who are already budding authors.

Michal Brody would like to thank her two wonderful families in Cali- fornia and Yucatan who so graciously support (and endure) her crazy and restless transnational life. Her conversations—both the actual and the imagined—with each and all of those loved ones provide the constant im- petus to reach for both the texture and depth of experience and the clarity with which to express it. She also thanks her students in both countries, who remind her every day that we are all teachers, all learners.

Lisa Ede thanks her husband, Greg Pfarr, for his support, for his commit- ment to his own art, and for their year-round vegetable garden. Thanks as well to her siblings, who have stuck together through thick and thin: Leni



[ xvi ] P R E FAC E

Ede Smith, Andrew Ede, Sara Ede Rowkamp, Jeffrey Ede, Michele Ede Smith, Laurie Ede Drake, Robert Ede, and Julie Ede Campbell. She also thanks her colleagues in the Oregon State School of Writing, Literature, and Film for their encouragement and support. Special thanks go to the school’s director, Anita Helle, and to their amazing administrative staff: Ann Leen, Aurora Terhune, and Felicia Phillips.

Beverly Moss thanks her parents, Harry and Sarah Moss, for their love, encouragement, and confidence in her when her own wavered. In addition, she thanks her Ohio State and Bread Loaf students, who inspire her and teach her so much about teaching. She also wants to express gratitude to her colleagues in Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy at Ohio State for their incredible support. Finally, she thanks two of her own former English teach- ers, Dorothy Bratton and Jackie Royster, for the way they modeled excellence inside and outside the classroom.

Carole Clark Papper would like to thank her husband, Bob, and wonder- ful children—Dana, Matt, Zack, and Kate—without whose loving support little would happen and nothing would matter. In addition, she is grateful to the Hofstra University Writing Center faculty and tutors, whose dedica- tion and commitment to students always inspire.

Keith Walters thanks his partner of thirty years, Jonathan Tamez, for sharing a love of life, language, travel, flowers, and beauty. He is also grate- ful to his students in Tunisia, South Carolina, Texas, and Oregon, who have challenged him to find ways of talking about what good writing is and how to do it.

Finally, we thank those who have taught us—who first helped us learn to hold a pencil and print our names, who inspired a love of language and of reading and writing, who encouraged us to take chances in writing our lives as best we could, who prodded and pushed when we needed it, and who most of all set brilliant examples for us to follow. One person who taught almost all of us—about rhetoric, about writing, and about life—was Edward P. J. Corbett. We remember him with love and with gratitude

—Andrea Lunsford, Michal Brody, Lisa Ede, Beverly Moss, Carole Clark Papper, Keith Walters



[ xvii ]

c o n t e n t s

Preface v

Introduction: Is Everyone an Author? xxix

part i The Need for Rhetoric and Writing 1

1 Thinking Rhetorically  5 First, Listen 8

Hear What Others Are Saying—and Think about Why 9

What Do You Think—and Why? 10

Do Your Homework 11

Give Credit 12

Be Imaginative 13

Put In Your Oar 15

2 Rhetorical Situations  18 Genre 20

Audience 21

Purpose 22

Stance 23

Context 23

Medium and Design 24

3 Reading Rhetorically 25 To Understand and Engage 27

Across Media 33

Across Genres 38

Across Academic Disciplines 38



CO N T E N T S[ xviii ]

4 Meeting the Demands of Academic Writing 40 So Just What Is Academic Writing? 41

Joining U.S. Academic Conversations 41


Use standard edited English / Use clear patterns of organization /

Mark logical relationships between ideas / State claims explicitly

and provide appropriate support / Present your ideas as a response to others /

Express ideas clearly and directly / Be aware of how genres and conventions

vary across disciplines / Document sources using appropriate citation style

5 Writing and Rhetoric as a Field of Study 53 What Will You Learn by Studying Writing and Rhetoric? 54

What Jobs Will Studying Rhetoric Prepare You For? 56

6 Writing and Rhetoric in the Workplace 58 Consider Your Rhetorical Situation 60

Be Professional 61

Job Letters 61

Résumés 66

References 70

Writing Samples 70

Job Interviews 71

Writing on the Job 72

part ii Writing Processes 75

7 Managing the Writing Process 79


Approach Your Writing Pragmatically 88

8 The Need for Collaboration / “Here Comes Everybody!” 90 What Collaboration Means for Authors—and Audiences 92

What Collaboration Means for You as a Student 93

Collaboration at Work 94

Some Tips for Collaborating Effectively 96

9 Taking Advantage of the Writing Center 98 What Writing Centers Offer 98



Contents [ xix ]

Preparing for a Tutoring Session 100

Making the Most of a Tutoring Session 100

What If English Is Not Your Primary Language? 101

Visiting an Online Writing Center 102

What about Becoming a Writing Tutor? 103

part iii Genres of Writing 105

10 Choosing Genres 109 What You Need to Know about Genres of Writing 110

Deciding Which Genres to Use 112

11 Arguing a Position / “This Is Where I Stand” 116

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


An explicit position / A response to what others have said or done /

Appropriate background information / An indication of why the topic

matters / Good reasons and evidence / Attention to more than one point

of view / An authoritative tone / An appeal to readers’ values



russel honoré, Work Is a Blessing 136 rex huppke, In the Minimum Wage Debate, Both Sides Make Valid Points 146 katherine spriggs, On Buying Local 150

12 Writing a Narrative / “Here’s What Happened” 159

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


A clearly identified event / A clearly described setting /

Vivid, descriptive details / A consistent point of view / A clear point


A well-told story / A firsthand account /

An indication of the narrative’s significance




CO N T E N T S[ xx ]


jan brideau, Lydia’s Story 175 melanie luken, Literacy: A Lineage 180 michael lewis, Liar’s Poker 190 larry lehna, The Look 196

13 Writing Analytically / “Let’s Take a Closer Look” 201

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


A question that prompts a closer look / Some description of the subject /

Evidence drawn from close examination of the subject /

Insight gained from your analysis / Clear, precise language


A description of the visual / Some contextual information /

Attention to any words / Close analysis of the message /

Insight into what the visual “says” / Precise language



eamonn forde, Why Pharrell’s “Happy” Has Grabbed the Nation 221 somini sengupta, Why Is Everyone Focused on Zuckerberg’s Hoodie? 228 libby hill, Calvin and Hobbes: The Voice of the Lonely Child 240 melissa rubin, Advertisements R Us 246

14 Reporting Information / “Just the Facts, Ma’am” 252

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


A topic carefully focused for a specific audience / Definitions of key terms /

Trustworthy information / Appropriate organization and design /

A confident, informative tone


A firsthand account / Detailed information about the subject /

An interesting angle



wikipedia, Same-Sex Marriage 267 bill laitner, Heart and Sole: Detroiter Walks 21 Miles to Work 273



Contents [ xxi ]

barry estabrook, Selling the Farm 287 ryan joy, The Right to Preach on a College Campus 293

15 Writing a Review / “Two Thumbs Up” 297

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


Relevant information about the subject / Criteria for the evaluation /

A well-supported evaluation / Attention to the audience’s needs and

expectations / An authoritative tone / Awareness of the ethics of reviewing


A survey of relevant research on a carefully focused topic /

An objective summary of the literature / An evaluation of the literature /

An appropriate organization / Careful, accurate documentation



tim alamenciak, Monopoly: The Scandal behind the Game 314 crystal aymelek, The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Memory 319 a. o. scott, Ode to Joy (and Sadness, and Anger) 331 anya schultz, Serial: A Captivating New Podcast 336

16 Making a Proposal / “Here’s What I Recommend” 340

Across Academic Disciplines / Media / Cultures and Communities / Genres


A precise description of the problem / A clear and compelling solution /

Evidence that your solution will address the problem / Acknowledgment of

other possible solutions / A statement of what your proposal will accomplish


An indication of your topic and focus / An explanation of why

you’re interested in the topic / A plan / A schedule



ras baraka, A New Start for Newark Schools 352 david pasini, The Economic Impact of Investing in Sports Franchises 357 sheryl sandberg / adam grant, Speaking While Female 366 mitchell oliver, Let’s Start an Education Revolution 370



CO N T E N T S[ xxii ]

part iv The Centrality of Argument 373

17 Analyzing and Constructing Arguments 379 Where’s the Argument Coming From? 381

What’s the Claim? 383

What’s at Stake? 387

Means of Persuasion: Emotional, Ethical, and Logical Appeals 389

What about Other Perspectives? 402

Ways of Structuring Arguments 405

Classical / Toulmin / Rogerian / Invitational

Matters of Style 416

18 Strategies for Supporting an Argument 419 Analogy 419

Cause / Effect 421

Classification 423

Comparison / Contrast 425

Definition 428

Description 430

Examples 432

Humor 434

Narration 436

Problem / Solution 437

Reiteration 439

part v Research 443

19 Starting Your Research / Joining the Conversation 445 Find a Topic That Fascinates You 446

Consider Your Rhetorical Situation 447

Narrow Your Topic 448

Do Some Background Research 450

Articulate a Question Your Research Will Answer 450

Plot Out a Working Thesis 452

Establish a Schedule 453



Contents [ xxiii ]

20 Finding Sources / Online, at the Library, in the Field 455 Starting with Wikipedia—or Facebook 456

What Kind of Sources Do You Need? 457

Determining If a Source Is Scholarly 459

Types of Sources—And Where to Find Them 462

Research Sites: On the Internet, in the Library 465

Running Searches 472

Conducting Field Research 475

21 Keeping Track / Managing Information Overload 485 Keep Track of Your Sources 485

Take Notes 487

Maintain a Working Bibliography 488

22 Evaluating Sources 491 Is the Source Worth Your Attention? 493

Reading Sources with a Critical Eye 497

23 Annotating a Bibliography 500


Complete bibliographic information / A brief summary or description of

each work / Evaluative comments / Some indication of how each source will

inform your research / A consistent and concise presentation

saurabh vaish, Renewable and Sustainable Energy in Rural India 502

24 Synthesizing Ideas / Moving from What Your Sources Say to What You Say 505 Synthesizing the Ideas in Your Sources 506

Moving from What Your Sources Say to What You Say 508

Entering the Conversation You’ve Been Researching 510

25 Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing 512 Deciding Whether to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize 513

Quoting 514

Paraphrasing 518

Summarizing 520

Incorporating Source Material 522

Incorporating Visual and Audio Sources 524



CO N T E N T S[ xxiv ]

26 Giving Credit, Avoiding Plagiarism 527 Know What You Must Acknowledge 528

Fair Use and the Internet 529

Avoiding Plagiarism 530

Documenting Sources 534

27 MLA Style  535 A Directory to MLA Style 535

In-Text Documentation 538

Notes 544

List of Works Cited 544

Formatting a Research Essay 571

walter przybylowski, Holding Up the Hollywood Stagecoach 574

28 APA Style  591 A Directory to APA Style 591

In-Text Documentation 594

Notes 598

Reference List 599

Formatting a Research Essay 617

katryn sheppard, A Study of One Child’s Word Productions 620

part vi Style 637

29 What’s Your Style? 641 Appropriateness and Correctness 642

Level of Formality 645

Stance 646

Thinking about Your Own Style 649

30 Tweets to Reports / On Social Media and Academic Writing 652 Participating in Conversations 653

Sharing Information 656

Representing Yourself in Your Writing 657

Establishing an Appropriate Tone 659

Connecting to Audiences 660



Contents [ xxv ]

Providing Context 662

Organizing What You Write 663

Using Images 664

Citing Sources 665

31 How to Write Good Sentences 668 Four Common Sentence Patterns 669

Ways of Emphasizing the Main Idea in a Sentence 675

Opening Sentences 678

Closing Sentences 681

Varying Your Sentences 683

32 Checking for Common Mistakes 687 Articles 688

Commas 690

Comma Splices, Fused Sentences 700

Prepositions 702

Pronouns 704

Sentence Fragments 712

Shifts 716

Subject-Verb Agreement 720

Verbs 728

part vii Design and Delivery 739

33 Designing What You Write 743 Thinking Rhetorically about Design 744

Choosing Fonts 746

Adding Headings 746

Using Color 747

Using Visuals 749

Putting It All Together 757

Getting Response to Your Design 759

34 Writing in Multiple Modes 762 Defining Multimodal Writing 762

Considering Your Rhetorical Situation 764

Illustrated Essays 765



CO N T E N T S[ xxvi ]

Blogs 767

Wikis 770

Audio Essays 772

Video Essays 774

Posters 776

Managing a Multimodal Project 778

35 Making Presentations 780 halle edwards, The Rise of Female Heroes in Shoujo Manga 782


36 Assembling a Portfolio 793 What to Include in a Writing Portfolio 794

Collecting Your Work 795

Reflecting on Your Writing 796

Organizing a Portfolio 799

37 Publishing Your Writing 802 carrie barker, But Two Negatives Equal a Positive 809

Readings 815

donald l. barlett / james b. steele, Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear 817 dennis baron, Should Everybody Write? 840 lynda barry, The Sanctuary of School 856 alison bechdel, Compulsory Reading 862 mark bittman et al., How a National Food Policy Could Save Lives 868 michelle cacho-negrete, Tell Me Something 876 dana canedy, The Talk: After Ferguson . . . 884 nicholas carr, World and Screen 889 david crystal, 2b or Not 2b? 899 mark dawidziak, The Walking Dead Opens in Lively Fashion 908 junot díaz, The Money 912 barbara ehrenreich, Serving in Florida 917 david h. freedman, How Junk Food Can End Obesity 931 larry gordon, Wikipedia Pops Up in Bibliographies 952



Contents [ xxvii ]

gerald graff, Hidden Intellectualism 957 andy hinds, I’m Considering Becoming a Sports Fan— How Do I Pick a Team? 963

bell hooks, Touching the Earth 968 ryan kohls, Clean Sweep 976 tim kreider, The “Busy Trap” 982 john maeda, On Meaningful Observation 987 emily martin, The Egg and the Sperm 991 tressie mcmillan cottom, The Logic of Stupid Poor People 1011 judith newman, To Siri, with Love 1017 the onion, Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text 1025 steven pinker, Mind over Mass Media 1029 mike rose, Blue-Collar Brilliance 1033 james sanborn, Weight Loss at Any Cost 1043 eric schlosser, Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good 1051 brent staples, Why Colleges Shower Their Students with A’s 1065 neil degrasse tyson, Cosmic Perspective 1069 jose antonio vargas, My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant 1078 alice walker, Oppressed Hair Puts a Ceiling on the Brain 1088

Credits 1093

About the Authors 1102

About the Alphabet 1104

Submitting Papers 1107

Author / Title Index 1109

Glossary / Index 1119

MLA and APA Directories 1148




[ xxix ]

i n t r o d u c t i o n

Is Everyone an Author?

e’ve chosen a provocative title for this book, so it’s fair to ask if we’ve gotten it right, if everyone is an au- thor. Let’s take just a few examples that can help to make the point:

• A student creates a Facebook page, which immediately finds a large audience of other interested students.

• A visitor to the United States sends an email to a few friends and family members in Slovakia—and they begin forwarding it. The message circles the globe in a day.

• A professor assigns students in her class to work together to write a number of entries for Wikipedia, and they are surprised to find how quickly their entries are revised by others.

• An airline executive writes a letter of apology for unconscionable delays in service and publishes the letter in newspapers, where mil- lions will read it.

• A small group of high school students who are keen on cooking post their recipe for Crazy Candy Cookies on their Cook’s Corner blog and are overwhelmed with the number of responses to their invention.

• Five women nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress pre- pare acceptance speeches: one of them will deliver the speech live before an international audience.



I N T RO D U C T I O N[ xxx ]

• You get your next assignment in your college writing class and set out to do the research necessary to complete it. When you’re finished, you turn in your twelve-page argument to your instructor and classmates for their responses—and you also post it on your webpage under “What I’m Writing Now.”

All of these examples represent important messages written by people who probably do not consider themselves authors. Yet they illustrate what we mean when we say that today “everyone’s an author.” Once upon a time, the ability to compose a message that reached wide and varied audiences was restricted to a small group; now, however, this opportunity is available to anyone with access to the internet.

The word author has a long history, but it is most associated with the rise of print and the ability of a writer to claim what he or she has writ- ten as property. The first copyright act, in the early eighteenth century, ruled that authors held the primary rights to their work. And while any- one could potentially be a writer, an author was someone whose work had been published. That rough definition worked pretty well until recently, when traditional copyright laws began to show the strain of their 300-year history, most notably with the simple and easy file sharing that the inter- net makes possible.

In fact, the web has blurred the distinction between writers and au- thors, offering anyone with access to a computer the opportunity to publish what they write. Whether or not you own a computer, if you have access to one (at school, at a library), you can publish what you write and thus make what you say available to readers around the world.

Think for a minute about the impact of blogs, which first appeared in 1997. When this book was first published, there were more than 156 million public blogs, and as this new edition goes to press, there are more than 250 million blogs on Tumblr and WordPress alone. Add to blogs the rise of Face- book, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social networking sites for even more evidence to support our claim: today, everyone’s an author. Moreover, twenty-first-century authors just don’t fit the image of the Romantic writer, alone in a garret, struggling to bring forth something unique. Rather, to- day’s authors are part of a huge, often global, conversation; they build on what others have thought and written, they create mash-ups and remixes, and they practice teamwork at almost every turn. They are authoring for the digital age.



[ xxxi ]Is Everyone an Author?

Redefining Writing

If the definition of author has changed in recent years, so has our under- standing of the definition, nature, and scope of writing.

Writing, for example, now includes much more than words, as images and graphics take on an important part of the job of conveying meaning. In addition, writing can now include sound, video, and other media. Perhaps more important, writing now often contains many voices, as information from the web is incorporated into the texts we write with increasing ease. Finally, as we noted above, writing today is almost always part of a larger conversation. Rather than rising mysteriously from the depths of a writer’s original thoughts, a stereotype made popular during the Romantic period, writing almost always responds to some other written piece or to other ideas. If “no man [or woman] is an island, entire of itself,” then the same holds true for writing.

Writing now is also often highly collaborative. You work with a team to produce an illustrated report, the basis of which is used by members of the team to make a key presentation to management; you and a classmate carry out an experiment, argue over and write up the results together, and pres- ent your findings to the class; a business class project calls on you and others in your group to divide up the work along lines of expertise and then to pool your efforts in meeting the assignment. In all of these cases, writing is also performative—it performs an action or, in the words of many students we have talked with, it “makes something happen in the world.”

Perhaps most notable, this expanded sense of writing challenges us to think very carefully about what our writing is for and whom it can and might reach. Email provides a good case in point. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Tamim Ansary, a writer who was born in Afghani- stan, found himself stunned by the number of people calling for bombing Afghanistan “back to the Stone Age.” He sent an email to a few friends ex- pressing his horror at the events, his condemnation of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and his hope that those in the United States would not act on the basis of gross stereotyping. The few dozen friends to whom Ansary wrote hit their forward buttons. Within days, the letter had circled the globe more than once, and Ansary’s words were published by the Africa News Ser- vice, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Evening Standard in London, the San Francisco Chronicle and many other papers in the United States, as well as on many websites.



I N T RO D U C T I O N[ xxxii ]

Authors whose messages can be instantly transported around the world need to consider those who will receive those messages. As the exam- ple of Tamim Ansary shows, no longer can writers assume that they write only to a specified audience or that they can easily control the dissemina- tion of their messages. We now live not only in a city, a state, and a country but in a global community as well—and we write, intentionally or not, to speakers of many languages, to members of many cultures, to believers of many creeds.

Everyone’s a Researcher

Since all writing responds to the ideas and words of others, it usually draws on some kind of research. Think for a moment of how often you carry out research. We’re guessing that a little reflection will turn up lots of exam- ples: you may find yourself digging up information on the pricing of new cars, searching Craigslist or the want ads for a good job, comparing two new smartphones, looking up statistics on a favorite sports figure, or searching for a recipe for tabbouleh. All of these everyday activities involve research. In addition, many of your most important life decisions involve research— what colleges to apply to, what jobs to pursue, where to live, and more. Once you begin to think about research in this broad way—as a form of inquiry related to important decisions—you’ll probably find that research is some- thing you do almost every day. Moreover, you’ll see the ways in which the research you do adds to your credibility—giving you the authority that goes along with being an author.

But research today is very different from the research of only a few de- cades ago. Take the example of the concordance, an alphabetized listing of every instance of all topics and words in a work. Before the computer age, concordances were done by hand: the first full concordance to the works of Shakespeare took decades of eye-straining, painstaking research, counting, and sorting. Some scholars spent years, even whole careers, developing con- cordances that then served as major resources for other scholars. As soon as Shakespeare’s plays and poems were in digital form—voilà!—a concordance could be produced automatically and accessed by writers with the click of a mouse.

To take a more recent example, first-year college students just twenty years ago had no access to the internet. Just think of how easy it is now to check temperatures around the world, track a news story, or keep up to the



[ xxxiii ]Is Everyone an Author?

minute on stock prices. These are items that you can Google, but you may also have many expensive subscription databases available to you through your school’s library. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that the world is literally at your fingertips.

What has not changed is the need to carry out research with great care, to read all sources with a critical eye, and to evaluate sources before depend- ing on them for an important decision or using them in your own work. What also has not changed is the sheer thrill research can bring: while much research work can seem plodding and even repetitious, the excitement of discovering materials you didn’t know existed, of analyzing information in a new way, or of tracing a question through one particular historical period brings its own reward. Moreover, your research adds to what philosopher Kenneth Burke calls “the conversation of humankind,” as you build on what others have done and begin to make significant contributions of your own to the world’s accumulated knowledge.

Everyone’s a Student

More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman writer Quintilian set out a plan for ed- ucation, beginning with birth and ending only with old age and death. Sur- prisingly enough, Quintilian’s recommendation for a lifelong education has never been more relevant than it is in the twenty-first century, as knowledge is increasing and changing so fast that most people must continue to be ac- tive learners long after they graduate from college. This explosion of knowl- edge also puts great demands on communication. As a result, one of your big- gest challenges will be learning how to learn and how to communicate what you have learned across wider distances, to larger and increasingly diverse sets of audiences, and using an expanding range of media and genres.

When did you first decide to attend college, and what paths did you take to achieve that goal? Chances are greater today than at any time in our past that you may have taken time off to work before beginning college, or that you returned to college for new training when your job changed, or that you are attending college while working part-time or even full-time. These char- acteristics of college students are not new, but they are increasingly impor- tant, indicating that the path to college is not as straightforward as it was once thought to be. In addition, college is now clearly a part of a process of lifetime learning: you are likely to hold a number of positions—and each new position will call for new learning.



I N T RO D U C T I O N[ xxxiv ]

Citizens today need more years of education and more advanced skills than ever before: even entry-level jobs now call for a college diploma. But what you’ll need isn’t just a college education. Instead, you’ll need an educa- tion that puts you in a position to take responsibility for your own learning and to take a direct, hands-on approach to that learning. Most of us learn best by doing what we’re trying to learn rather than just being told about it. What does this change mean in practice? First, it means you will be doing much more writing, speaking, and researching than ever before. You may, for instance, conduct research on an economic trend and then use that re- search to create a theory capable of accounting for the trend; you may join a research group in an electrical engineering class that designs, tests, and implements a new system; you may be a member of a writing class that works to build a website for the local fire department, writes brochures for a nonprofit agency, or makes presentations before municipal boards. In each case, you will be doing what you are studying, whether it is economics, en- gineering, or writing.

Without a doubt, the challenges and opportunities for students today are immense. The chapters that follow try to keep these challenges and op- portunities in the foreground, offering you concrete ways to think about yourself as a writer—and yes, as an author; to think carefully about the rhetorical situations you face and about the many and varied audiences for your work; and to expand your writing repertoire to include new genres, new media, and new ways of producing and communicating knowledge.




The Need for Rhetoric

and Writing

CLOSE YOUR EYES and imagine a world without any form of language—no spoken or written words, no drawings, no mathematical formulas, no music—no way,

that is, to communicate or express yourself. It’s pretty hard

to imagine such a world, and with good reason. For better or

worse, we seem to be hardwired to communicate, to long to

express ourselves to others. That’s why philosopher Kenneth

Burke says that people are, at their essence, “symbol-

using animals” who have a basic need to communicate.

We can look across history and find early attempts to

create systems of communication. Think, for instance, of the



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 2 ]

chalk horses of England, huge figures carved into trenches that were then filled with white chalk some 3,000 years ago. What do they say? Do they act as maps or road signs? Do they celebrate, or commemorate, or tell a story? Whatever their original intent, they echo the need to communicate to us from millennia away.

Cave paintings, many of them hauntingly beautiful, have been discov- ered across Europe, some thought to be 30,000 years old. Such communi- cative art—all early forms of writing—has been discovered in many other places, from Africa to Australia to South America to Asia.

While these carvings and paintings have been interpreted in many dif- ferent ways, they all attest to the human desire to leave messages. And we don’t need to look far to find other very early attempts to communicate— from makeshift drums and whistles to early pictographic languages to the symbols associated with the earliest astronomers.

As languages and other symbolic forms of communication like our own alphabet evolved, so did a need for ways to interpret and organize these forms and to use them in effective and meaningful ways. And out of these needs grew rhetoric—the art, theory, and practice of communication. In dis- cussing rhetoric, Aristotle says we need to understand this art for two main reasons: first, in order to express our own ideas and thoughts, and second, to protect ourselves from those who would try to manipulate or harm us. Language, then, can be used for good or ill, to provide information that may help someone—or to deliberately mislead.

Horses in prehistoric art: Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire, England (approx. 3,000 years old); Chauvet Cave, near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France (approx. 30,000 years old); rock paintings, Bhimbetka, India (approx. 30,000 years old).



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 3 ]

We believe the need for understanding rhetoric may be greater today than at any time in our history. At first glance, it may look as if commu- nication has never been easier. We can send messages in a nanosecond, reaching people in all parts of the world with ease. We can broadcast our thoughts, hopes, and dreams—and invectives—in emails, blogs, status up- dates, tweets, text messages, and a plethora of other ways.

So far, perhaps, so good. But consider the story of the Tower of Babel, told in different ways in both the Qur’an and the Bible. When the people sought to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, God responded to their hubris by creating so many languages that communication became impos- sible and the tower had to be abandoned. As with the languages in Babel, the means of communication are proliferating today, bringing with them the potential for miscommunication. From the struggle to sift through the amount of information created in a day—more than was previously created in several lifetimes—to the difficulty of trying to communicate across vast differences in languages and cultures, we face challenges that our parents and grandparents never did.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Tower of Babel, 1563.



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 4 ]

In a time when new (and sometimes confusing) forms of communica- tion are available, many of us are looking for help with making our mes sages known. Google Translate and Bing Translator, for example, are attempts to offer instant translation of texts from one language to another.

Such new technologies and tools can certainly help us as we move into twenty-first-century global villages. But they are not likely to reduce the need for an art and a theory that can inform the conversations we have there—that can encourage thoughtfulness, empathy, and responsible use of such technologies. Rhetoric responds to this need. Along with writing, which we define broadly to include speaking and drawing and performing as well as the literal inscription of words, rhetoric offers you solid ground on which to build both your education and your communicative ability and style. The chapters that follow will introduce you more fully to rhetoric and writing—and engage you in acquiring and using their powers.

“The need for rhetoric” translated from English to Japanese.



[ 5 ]

o n e

Thinking Rhetorically

The only real alternative to war is rhetoric.

—wayne booth

rofessor Wayne Booth made this statement at a national conference of scholars and teachers of writ- ing held only months after 9/11, and it quickly drew a range of responses. Just what did Booth mean by this stark statement? How could rhetoric—the art and prac-

tice of persuasion—act as a counter to war? A noted critic and scholar, Booth explored these questions through-

out his long career, identifying rhetoric as an ethical art that begins with deep and intense listening and that searches for mutual understanding and common ground as an alternative to violence and war. Put another way, two of the most potent tools we have for persuasion are language— and violence: when words fail us, violence often wins the day. Booth sees the careful, persistent, and ethical use of language as our best approach to keeping violence and war at bay.

During the summer of 2014, Booth’s words echoed again, as Israel and Hamas faced off in another armed conflict that raged for months, leaving thousands dead and resolving nothing. Meanwhile, in the United States, people across the country protested the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; and other African American men, all at the hands of police officers. At marches and sit-ins, protesters held up signs saying “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” echoing Eric Garner’s last words after being wrestled to the




T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 6 ]

ground in a chokehold. Protestors took to social media as well, using these dramatic and memorable statements as rhetorical strategies that captured and held the attention of millions of Americans.

So how can you go about developing your own careful, ethical use of language? Our short answer: by learning to think and act rhe- torically, that is, by developing habits of mind that begin with lis- tening and searching for understanding before you decide what you yourself think, and by thinking hard about your own beliefs before trying to persuade others to listen to and act on what you say.

Learning to think rhetorically can serve you well as you negotiate the com- plexities of life in today’s world. In many everyday situations, you’ll need to communicate successfully with others in order to get things done, and done in a responsible and ethical way. On the job, for example, you may need to bring coworkers to consensus on how best to raise productivity when there is little, if any, money for raises. Or in your college community, you may find yourself negotiating difficult waters.

When a group of students became aware of how little the temporary workers on their campus were paid, for example, they met with the work- ers and listened to gather information about the issue. They then mounted a campaign using flyers, newsletters, speeches, and sit-ins—in other words, using the available means of persuasion—to win attention and convince

Protestors use posters, raised fists, and more to communicate their positions.

We didn’t burn down buildings. . . . You can do a lot with a pen and pad. —ice cube



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 7 ]

the administration to raise the workers’ pay. These students were think- ing and acting rhetorically, and doing so responsibly and ethically. Note that these students, like the protesters in Ferguson, worked together, both with the workers and with each other. In other words, none of us can manage such actions all by ourselves; we need to engage in conversation with others and listen hard to what they say. Perhaps that’s what philosopher Kenneth Burke had in mind when he created his famous “parlor” metaphor:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. . . . You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar.

—kenneth burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form

In this parable, each of us is the person arriving late to a room full of ani- mated conversation; we don’t understand what is going on. Yet instead of butting in or trying to take over, we listen closely until we catch on to what people are saying. Then we join in, using language and rhetorical strategies to engage with others as we add our own voices to the conversation.

Students use posters and conversation to protest the low wages paid to campus workers.



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 8 ]

This book aims to teach you to think and act rhetorically—to listen care- fully and then to “put in your oar,” join conversations about important is- sues, and develop strong critical and ethical habits of mind that will help you engage with others in responsible ways. This chapter will help you de- velop the habit of thinking rhetorically.

First, Listen

Thinking rhetorically begins with listening, with being willing to hear the words of others in an open and understanding way. It means paying attention to what others say before and even as a way of making your own contributions to a conversation. Think of the times you are grateful to others for listening closely to you: when you’re talking through a conflict with a family member, for instance, or even when you’re trying to explain to a salesperson what it is you’re looking for. On those occasions, you want the person you’re addressing to really listen to what you say.

This is a kind of listening that rhetorician Krista Ratcliffe dubs “rhetorical listening,” opening yourself to the thoughts of others and making the effort not only to hear their words but to take those words in and fully understand what people are saying. It means paying attention to what others say as a way of establishing good will and acknowledging the importance of their views. And yes, it means taking seriously and engaging with views that dif- fer, sometimes radically, from your own.

Rhetorical listening is what middle school teacher Julia Blount asked for in a Facebook post following the 2015 riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal spinal injuries while in police custody:

Every comment or post I have read today voicing some version of disdain for the people of Baltimore—“I can’t understand” or “They’re destroy- ing their own community”—tells me that many of you are not listening. I am not asking you to condone or agree with violence. I just need you to listen. . . . If you are not listening, not exposing yourself to unfamiliar perspectives . . . not engaging in conversation, then you are perpetuating white privilege. . . . It is exactly your ability to not hear, to ignore the situ- ation, that is a mark of your privilege.

—julia blount, “Dear White Facebook Friends: I Need You to Respect What Black America Is Feeling Right Now”

We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk less. —epictetus



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 9 ]

Hear What Others Are Saying—and Think about Why

When you enter any conversation, whether academic, professional, or per- sonal, take the time to understand what is being said rather than rushing to a conclusion or a judgment. Listen carefully to what others are saying and consider what motivates them: where are they coming from?

Developing such habits of mind will be useful to you almost every day, whether you are participating in a class discussion, negotiating with friends over what movie is most worth seeing, or studying a local ballot issue to decide how you’ll vote. In each case, thinking rhetorically means being flexible and fair, able to hear and consider varying—and sometimes conflicting—points of view.

In ancient Rome, Cicero argued that considering alternative points of view and counterarguments was key to making a successful argument, and it is just as important today. Even when you disagree with a point of view—perhaps especially when you disagree with it—allow yourself to see the issue from the viewpoint of its advocates before you reject their posi- tions. You may be skeptical that hydrogen fuel will be the solution to global warming—but don’t reject the idea until you have thought hard about oth- ers’ perspectives and carefully considered alternative solutions.

Thinking hard about others’ views also includes considering the larger context and how it shapes what they are saying. This aspect of rhetorical thinking goes beyond the kind of reading you probably learned to do in high school literature classes, where you looked very closely at a particu- lar text and interpreted it on its own terms, without looking at secondary sources. When you think rhetorically, you go one step further and put that close analysis into a larger context—historical, political, or cultural, for ex- ample—to recognize and consider where the analysis is “coming from.”

In analyzing the issue of gay marriage, for instance, you would not merely consider your own thinking or do a close reading of texts that ad- dress the issue. In addition, you would look at the whole debate in context by considering its historical development over time, thinking about the broader political agendas of both those who advocate for and those who oppose gay marriage, asking what economic ramifications adopting—or rejecting—gay marriage might have, examining the role of religion in the debate, and so on. In short, you would try to see the issue from as many dif- ferent perspectives and in as broad a context as possible before you formu- late your own stance. When you write, you draw on these sources—what others have said about the issue—to support your own position and to help you consider counterarguments to it.

See how care- fully Brent Staples considers the positions and reasoning that he is opposing on p. 1065.



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 10 ]

.REFLECT. Go to and read “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb” by blogger Sean Blanda, who warns that many of us gravitate on social

media to those who think like we do, which often leads to the belief that we are right

and that those with other worldviews are “dumb.” He argues that we need to “make

an honest effort to understand those who are not like us” and to remember that

“we might be wrong.” Look at some of your own recent posts. How many different

perspectives do you see represented? What might you do to listen—and think—more


What Do You Think—and Why?

Examining all points of view on any issue will engage you in some tough thinking about your own stance—literally, where you are coming from on an issue—and why you think as you do. Such self-scrutiny can eventually clarify your stance or perhaps even change your mind; in either case, you stand to gain. Just as you need to think hard about the motivations of others, it’s important to examine your own motivations in detail, asking yourself what influences in your life lead you to think as you do or to take certain positions. Then you can reconsider your positions and reflect on how they relate to those of others, including your audience—those you wish to engage in conversation or debate.

In your college assignments, you probably have multiple motivations and purposes, one of which is to convince your instructor that you are a seri- ous and hardworking student. But think about additional purposes as well: What could you learn from doing the assignment? How can doing it help you attain goals you have?

Examining your own stance and motivation is equally important outside the classroom. Suppose you are urging fellow members of a cam- pus group to lobby for a rigorous set of procedures to deal with accusations of sexual harassment. On one level, you’re alarmed by the statistics show- ing a steep increase in cases of rape on college campuses and you want to do something about it. But when you think a bit more, you might find that you have additional motivations. Perhaps you’ve long wanted to become a leader of this group and see this as an issue that can help you to do so. You may have just seen The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on U.S. college campuses, and found it deeply upsetting—and persuasive. Or maybe a close friend has been a victim of sexual harassment. These realizations shouldn’t necessarily change your mind about what action



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 11 ]

you want your group to take, but examining what you think and why will help you to challenge your own position—and to make sure that it is fair and appropriate.

Do Your Homework

Rhetorical thinking calls on you to do some homework, to find out every- thing you can about what’s been said about your topic, to analyze what you find, and then to synthesize that information to inform your own ideas. To put it another way, you want your own thinking to be aware and deeply informed, to reflect more than just your own opinion.

To take an everyday example, you should do some pretty serious think- ing when deciding on a major purchase, such as a new car. You’ll want to begin by considering the purchase in the larger context of your life. What motivates you to buy a car? Do you need one for work? Do you want it in part as a status symbol? Are you concerned about the environment and want to switch to an electric vehicle? Who besides you might be affected by this decision? A thoughtful analysis of the context and your specific motiva- tions and purposes can guide you in drawing up a preliminary list of cars to consider.

Then you’ll need to do some research, checking out product reviews and reports on safety records, efficiency, cost, and so on. Sometimes it can be hard to evaluate such sources: how much should you trust the mileage sta- tistics provided by the carmaker, for example, or one particular reviewer’s evaluation? For this reason, you should consult multiple sources and check them against one another.

You will also want to consider your findings in light of your priorities. Cost, for instance, may not be as high on your priority list as fuel efficiency. Such careful thinking will help you come to a sound decision, and then to explain it to others. If your parents, for instance, are helping you buy the car, you’ll want to consider what their responses to your decision will be, antici- pating questions they may ask and how to respond.

Doing your homework also means taking an analytic approach, focus- ing on how various rhetorical strategies work to persuade you. You may have been won over by a funny car commercial you saw on Super Bowl Sunday. So what made that advertisement so memorable? To answer that question, you’ll need to study the ad closely, determining just what qualities—a clev- er script? memorable music? celebrity actors? cute animals? a provocative



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 12 ]


TAKE A LOOK at the 2011 Super Bowl Chrysler ad at

You’ll see many scenes from Detroit, and hear a voiceover say, “What does this city

know about luxury? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the

finer things in life? I’ll tell you, more than most.” What kind of rhetorical thinking did

the ad writers do? Who was their target audience, and how did they go about appealing

to them? This was an award-winning ad—but how successful do you think it was as an

ad? In other words, do you think it sold a lot of cars? If you were looking to buy a car,

what would this ad tell you about Chryslers—and what would you have to find out

from other sources?

message?—made the ad so persuasive. Once you’ve determined that, you’ll want to consider whether the car will actually live up to the advertiser’s promises. This is the kind of analysis and research you will do when you engage in rhetorical thinking.

Give Credit

As part of engaging with what others have thought and said, you’ll want to give credit where credit is due. Acknowledging the work of others will help build your own ethos , or character, showing that you have not only done your homework but that you want to credit those who have influenced you.



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 13 ]

The great physicist Isaac Newton famously and graciously gave credit when he wrote to his rival Robert Hooke in 1676, saying:

What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much in several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoul- ders of giants. —isaac newton, letter to Robert Hooke

In this letter, Newton acknowledges the work of Descartes as well as of Hooke before saying, with a fair amount of modesty, that his own advance- ments were made possible by their work. In doing so, he is thinking—and acting— rhetorically.

You can give credit informally, as Newton did in this letter, or you can do so formally with a full citation. Which method you choose will depend on your purpose and context. Academic writing, for instance, usually calls for formal citations, but if you are writing for a personal blog, you might embed a link that connects to another’s work—or give an informal shout- out to a friend who contributed to your thinking. In each case, you’ll want to be specific about what ideas or words you’ve drawn from others, as Newton does in referring to Hooke’s consideration of the colors of thin plates. Such care in crediting your sources contributes to your credibility—and is an im- portant part of ethical, careful rhetorical thinking.

Be Imaginative

Remember that intuition and imagination can often lead to great insights. While you want to think carefully and analytically, don’t be afraid to take chances. A little imagination can lead you to new ideas about a topic you’re studying and about how to approach the topic in a way that will interest others. Such insights and intuitions can often pay off big-time. One student athlete we know was interested in how the mass media covered the Olym- pics, and he began doing research on the coverage in Sports Illustrated from different periods. So far, so good: he was gathering information and would be able to write an essay showing that the magazine had been a major pro- moter of the Olympics.

While looking through old issues of Sports Illustrated, however, he kept feeling that something he was seeing in the early issues was different from current issues of the magazine . . . something that felt important to him



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 14 ]

though he couldn’t quite articulate it. This hunch led him to make an imagi- native leap, to study that difference even though it was outside of the topic he had set out to examine. Excited that he was on to something, he returned to his chronological examination of the magazine. On closer inspection, he found that over the decades of its Olympics coverage, Sports Illustrated had slowly but surely moved from focusing on teams to depicting only individ- ual stars.

This discovery led him to make an argument he would never have made had he not followed his creative hunch—that the evolution of sports from a focus on the team to a focus on individual stars is perfectly captured in the pages of Sports Illustrated. It also helped him write a much more in- teresting—and more persuasive—essay, one that captured the attention not only of his instructor and classmates but of a local sports newsmagazine, which reprinted his essay. Like this student, you can benefit by using your imagination and listening to your intuition. You could stumble upon some- thing exciting.

Two Sports Illustrated covers depicting hockey players in the Winter Olympics. The cover on the left, from 1980, showcases the U.S. team’s “miracle on ice” victory win over the heavily favored USSR team. The one on the right, from 2010, pictures Canada’s superstar Sidney “Sid the Kid” Crosby, who scored the game-winning shot in the gold medal game against the United States.



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 15 ]

Put In Your Oar

So rhetorical thinking offers a way of entering any situation with a tool kit of strategies that will help you understand it and “put in your oar.” When you think rhetorically, you ask yourself certain questions:

• How do you want to come across to your audience? • What can you do to represent yourself as knowledgeable and credible? • What can you do to show respect both for your audience and for those

whose work and thinking you engage with?

• How can you show that you have your audience’s best interests at heart?

This kind of rhetorical thinking will help ensure that your words will be listened to and taken seriously.

We can find examples of such a rhetorical approach in all fields of study. Take, for instance, the landmark essay by James Watson and Francis Crick on the discovery of DNA, published in Nature in 1953. This essay shows Watson and Crick to be thinking rhetorically throughout, acutely aware of their au- dience (major scientists throughout the world) as well as of competitors who were simultaneously working on the same issue.

Here is Wayne Booth’s analysis of Watson and Crick’s use of rhetoric:

In [Watson and Crick’s] report, what do we find? Actually scores of rhe- torical choices that they made to strengthen the appeal of their scientific claim. (Biographies and autobiographies have by now revealed that they did a lot of conscientious revising, not of the data but of the mode of presentation; and their lives were filled, before and after the triumph, with a great deal of rhetoric-charged conflict.) We could easily compose a dozen different versions of their report, all proclaiming the same sci- entific results. But most alternatives would prove less engaging to the intended audience. They open, for example, with

“We wish to suggest a structure” that has “novel features which are of considerable biological interest.” (My italics, of course)

Why didn’t they say, instead: “We shall here demonstrate a startling, to- tally new structure that will shatter everyone’s conception of the biological world”? Well, obviously their rhetorical choice presents an ethos much



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 16 ]

more attractive to most cautious readers than does my exaggerated al- ternative. A bit later they say

“We have made the usual chemical assumptions, namely . . .”

Why didn’t they say, “As we all know”? Both expressions acknowledge re- liance on warrants, commonplaces within a given rhetorical domain. But their version sounds more thoughtful and authoritative, especially with the word “chemical.” Referring to Pauling and Corey, they say

“They kindly have made their manuscript available.”

Okay, guys, drop the rhetoric and just cut that word “kindly.” What has that got to do with your scientific case? Well, it obviously strengthens the authors’ ethos: we are nice guys dealing trustfully with other nice guys, in a rhetorical community.

And on they go, with “In our opinion” (rather than “We proclaim” or “We insist” or “We have miraculously discovered”: again ethos—we’re not dogmatic); and Fraser’s “suggested” structure is “rather ill-defined” (rather than “his structure is stupid” or “obviously faulty”—we are nice guys, right?).

And on to scores of other such choices. —wayne booth, The Rhetoric of Rhetoric

Booth shows in each instance how Watson and Crick’s exquisite under- standing of their rhetorical situation—especially of their audience and of the stakes involved in making their claim—had a great deal to do with how that claim was received. (They won the Nobel Prize!)

As the example of Watson and Crick illustrates, rhetorical thinking in- volves certain habits of mind that can and should lead to something—often to an action, to making something happen. And when it comes to taking action, those who think rhetorically are in a very strong position. They have listened attentively, engaged with the words and ideas of others, viewed their topic from many alternate perspectives, and done their homework. This kind of rhetorical thinking will set you up to contribute to conversa- tions—and will increase the likelihood that your ideas will be heard and will inspire real action.

Indeed, the ability to think rhetorically is of great importance in today’s global world, as professors Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein explain:

The ability to enter complex, many-sided conversations has taken on a special urgency in today’s diverse, post-9/11 world, where the future for

The original sketch showing the structure of DNA that appeared in Watson and Crick’s article.



1 % Thinking Rhetorically [ 17 ]

all of us may depend on our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of those who think very differently from us. Listening carefully to others, including those who disagree with us, and then engaging with them thoughtfully and respectfully . . . can help us see beyond our own pet beliefs, which may not be shared by everyone. The mere act of acknowledging that some- one might disagree with us may not seem like a way to change the world; but it does have the potential to jog us out of our comfort zones, to get us thinking critically about our own beliefs, and perhaps even to change our minds. —gerald graff and cathy birkenstein, “They Say/I Say”

In the long run, if enough of us learn to think rhetorically, we just might achieve Booth’s goal—to use words (and images) in thoughtful and con- structive ways as an alternative to violence and war.

.REFLECT. Read Margaret Mead’s words below, and then think of at least one historical example in which a “small group of thoughtful citizens” has changed the

world for the better. Then think about your own life and the ways in which you have

worked with others to bring about some kind of change. In what ways were you called

upon to think and act rhetorically in order to do so?



[ 18 ]

t w o

Rhetorical Situations

s part of a college application, a high school stu- dent writes a personal statement about what she plans to study, and why. A baseball fan posts a piece on a New York Yankees blog analyzing data to show why a beloved pitcher probably won’t be elected to the Hall

of Fame. Eighty-seven readers respond, some praising his analysis, others questioning his conclusions and offering their own analyses. The officers of a small company address the annual shareholders’ meeting to report on how the firm is doing, using PowerPoint slides to call attention to their most important points. They take questions afterward, and two people raise their hands. Our baseball fan sees on Twitter that the Yankees have signed a star pitcher he thinks they don’t really need and fires off a tweet saying so. The student in our first example takes a deep breath and logs on to the website of the college she wants to attend to see if she’s been ac- cepted. Good news: she’s in. Come September she’s at the library, working on an essay for her first-year composition course—and texting her friends as she works.

In each of these scenarios, an author is writing (or speaking) in a dif- ferent set of specific circumstances—addressing certain audiences for a particular purpose, using certain technologies, and so on. So it is when- ever we write. Whether we’re texting a friend, outlining an oral presenta- tion, or writing an essay, we do so within a specific rhetorical situation.




2 % Rhetorical Situations [ 19 ]

Three different rhetorical situations: a lone writer texting (top left); a student giving an oral presentation in class (right); and members of a community group collaborating on a project (bottom left).

We have a purpose, an audience, a stance, a genre, a medium, a design—all of which exist in some larger context. This chapter covers each of these ele- ments and provides prompts to help you think about some of the choices you have as you negotiate your own rhetorical situations.

Every rhetorical situation presents its own unique constraints and op- portunities, and as authors, we need to think strategically about our own situation. Adding to a class wiki presents a different challenge from writ- ing an in-class essay exam, putting together a résumé and cover letter for a job, or working with fellow members of a campus choir to draft a grant pro- posal to the student government requesting funding to go on tour. A group of neighbors developing a proposal to present at a community meeting will need to attend to both the written text they will submit and the oral argu- ments they will make. They may also need to create slides or other visuals to support their proposal.



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 20 ]

The workplace creates still other kinds of rhetorical situations with their own distinctive features. Reporters, for instance, must always consid- er their deadlines as well as their ethical obligations—to the public, to the persons or institutions they write about, and to the story they are report- ing. A reporter working for six months to investigate corporate wrongdoing faces different challenges from one who covers local sports day to day. The medium—print, video, radio, podcast, blog, or some combination of these or other media—also influences how reporters write their stories.

Think about Your Own Rhetorical Situation

It is important to start thinking about your rhetorical situation early in your writing process. As a student, you’ll often be given assignments with very specific guidelines—to follow the conventions of a particular genre, in a cer- tain medium, by a specific date. Nevertheless, even the most fully developed assignment cannot specify every aspect of any particular rhetorical situation.

Effective writers—whether students, teachers, journalists, or your mom—know how to analyze their rhetorical situations. They may conduct this analysis unconsciously, drawing on the rhetorical common sense they have developed as writers, readers, speakers, and listeners. Particularly when you are writing in a new genre or discipline—a situation that you’ll surely face in college—it can help to analyze your rhetorical situation more systematically.


• Have you been assigned a specific genre? If not, do any words in the as- signment imply a certain genre? Evaluate may signal a review, for ex- ample, and explain why could indicate a causal analysis.

• If you get to choose your genre, consider your purpose . If you want to convince readers to recycle their trash, you would likely write an argu- ment. If, however, you want to explain how to recycle food waste into compost, your purpose would call for a process analysis.

• Does your genre require a certain organization? A process analysis, for instance, is often organized chronologically , whereas a visual anal- ysis may be organized spatially —and an annotated bibliography is almost always organized alphabetically.

Jose Antonio Vargas risked everything by

revealing his status as an

undocumented immigrant. See

how he navigated that rhetorical

situation on p. 1078.



2 % Rhetorical Situations [ 21 ]

• How does your genre affect your tone ? A lab report, for example, gener- ally calls for a more matter-of-fact tone than a film review.

• Are certain design features expected in your genre? You would likely need to include images in a review of an art show, for instance, or be required to use a standard font for a research paper.


• Who is your intended audience? An instructor? A supervisor? Class- mates? Members of a particular organization? Visitors to a website? Who else might see or hear what you say?

• How are members of your audience like and unlike you? Consider demo- graphics such as age, gender, religion, income, education, occupation, or political attitudes.

• What’s your relationship with your audience? An instructor or supervi- sor, for example, holds considerable authority over you. Other audiences may be friends, coworkers, or even strangers. What expectations about the text might they have because of your relationship? You’d need to be careful not to sound too informal to a committee considering you for a scholarship, or too bossy to a group of friends.

• If you have a choice of medium , which one(s) would best reach your intended audience?

• What do you want your audience to think or do as a result of what you say? Take your ideas seriously? Reflect on their beliefs? Respond to you? Take some kind of action? How will you signal to them what you want?

• Can you assume your audience will be interested in what you say, or will you need to get them interested? Are they likely to resist any of your ideas?

• How much does your audience know about your topic? How much back- ground information do they need? Will they expect—or be put off by— the use of technical jargon? Will you need to define any terms?

• Will your audience expect a particular genre ? If you’re writing about Mozart for a music class, you might analyze a piece he composed; if, however, you’re commenting on a YouTube music video, you’d be more likely to write some kind of review.



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 22 ]

• What about audience members you don’t or can’t know? It goes without saying that you won’t always know who could potentially read your writing, especially if you’re writing on a site that anyone can access. The ability to reach hundreds, even thousands of readers is part of the web’s power, but you will want to take special care when your writ- ing might reach unknown audiences. Remember as well that anything posted on the internet may easily be shared and read out of context, as the above cartoon shows!


• How would you describe your own motivation for writing? To fulfill a course assignment? To meet a personal or professional commitment? To express your ideas to someone? For fun?

To quote further from People’s Exhibit A, your Twitter feed, “@holdupguy82 I’m in the getaway vehicle with the money and hostages. Where R U ?”



2 % Rhetorical Situations [ 23 ]

• What is your primary goal? To inform your audience about something? To persuade them to think a certain way? To call them to action? To en- tertain them? Something else? Do you have other goals as well?

• How do your goals influence your choice of genre, medium, and design? For example, if you want to persuade neighbors to recycle, you may choose to make colorful posters for display in public places. If you want to inform a corporation about what recycling programs accomplish, you may want to write a report using charts and data.


• What’s your attitude toward your topic? Objective? Strongly support- ive? Mildly skeptical? Amused? Angry?

• What’s your relationship with your audience ? Do they know you, and if so, how? Are you a student? a friend? a mentor? an interested commu- nity member? How do they see you, and how do you want to be seen?

• How can you best convey your stance in your writing? What tone do you want it to have?

• How will your stance and tone be received by your audience? Will they be drawn in by it?


• What else has been said about your topic, and how does that affect what you will say? What would be the most effective way for you to add your voice to the conversation?

• Do you have any constraints? When is this writing due and how much time and energy can you put into it? How many pages (or minutes) do you have to deliver your message?

• How much independence do you have as a writer in this situation? To what extent do you need to meet the expectations of others, such as an instructor or a supervisor? If this writing is an assignment, how can you approach it in a way that makes it matter to you?



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 24 ]

THINK ABOUT YOUR medium AND design

• If you get to choose your medium, which one will work best for your audience and purpose? Print? Spoken? Digital? Some combination?

• How will the medium determine what you can and cannot do? For ex- ample, if you’re submitting an essay online, you could include video, but if you were writing the same essay in print, you’d only be able to include a still shot from the video.

• Does your medium favor certain conventions? Paragraphs work well in print, but PowerPoint presentations usually rely on images or bul- leted phrases instead. If you are writing online, you can include links to sources and background information.

• What’s the most appropriate look for your rhetorical situation ? Plain and serious? Warm and inviting? Whimsical? What design ele- ments will help you project that look?

• Should you include visuals? Would any part of your text benefit from them? Will your audience expect them? What kind would be appro- priate—photographs? videos? maps? Is there any statistical data that would be easier to understand as a table, chart, or graph?

• If you’re writing a spoken or digital text, should you include sound? still images? moving images?

.REFLECT. Make a list of all the writing that you remember doing in the last week. Be sure to include everything from texts and status updates to more formal

academic or work-related writing. Choose three examples that strike you as quite

different from one another and analyze the rhetorical situation you faced for each

one, drawing upon the guidelines in this chapter.



[ 25 ]

t h r e e

Reading Rhetorically

hances are, you read more than you think you do. You read print texts, of course, but you are probably reading even more on a phone, a tablet, a computer, or other devices. Reading is now, as perhaps never be- fore, a basic necessity. In fact, if you think that read-

ing is something you learned once and for all in the first or second grade, think again.

Today, reading calls for strategic effort. As media critic Howard Rhein- gold sees it, literacy today involves at least five interlocking abilities: at- tention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption. Of these, attention is first and foremost. In short, you need to work at paying attention to what you read. In his book The Economics of Attention, rhetorician Richard Lanham explains: “We’re drowning in information. What we lack is the human attention needed to make sense of it all.”

When so many texts are vying for our attention, which ones do we choose? In order to decide what to read, what to pay attention to, we need to practice what Rheingold calls infotention, a word he came up with to describe a “mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills and computer-powered information filters.” Rheingold is talking primarily about reading online, but we think that infotention is impor- tant for reading any kind of text, because it calls for synthesizing and




T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 26 ]

thinking rhetorically about the enormous amount of information available to us in both print and digital sources. And while some of us can multitask (fighter pilots are one example Rheingold gives of those whose jobs demand it), most of us are not good at it and must learn to focus our attention when we read.

In other words, we need to learn to read rhetorically. Reading rhetori- cally means attending carefully and intentionally to a text. It means being open-minded to that text. And it means being an active participant in un- derstanding and thinking about and responding to what is in the text. As Nobel laureate Toni Morrison says, “The words on the page are only half the story. The rest is what you bring to the party.”

So how do you learn to read rhetorically and to practice infotention? Some steps seem obvious: especially for high-stakes reading, like much of what you do for school, you need to find space and time in which you can really focus—and turn off social media and put down your phone. Beyond such obvious steps, though, you can improve your reading by approach- ing texts systematically. This chapter will guide you in doing so, beginning with tips for how to understand and engage effectively with what you read.

So many texts vying for our attention!



3 % Reading Rhetorically [ 27 ]


Start by previewing the text. Efficient readers tell us that they most often begin not by plunging right into the text but by previewing it, finding out what they can about it and getting a sense of what it’s about.

• What do you know (and think) about the topic? What do you want to learn about it?

• Who are the authors or sponsors? Where do you think they’re coming from: might they have a particular agenda or purpose?

• Who published the text, and what does that tell you about its intended audience and purpose?

• Skim the text to get a sense of what it covers. Does the title give you any hint about what’s to come? If there’s a subtitle, does it indicate the author’s argument or stance? Scan any headings or menus to see what’s covered, and look at any text that’s highlighted. Does the text’s design and use of fonts tell you anything about its content or stance?

Annotate as you read. Author Anatole Broyard said that he used to be in- timidated by the texts he read, seeing them as great authorities he should absorb but not respond to. But that changed. Later, he said, he learned when he opened a text to occupy it: “I stomp around in it. I underline passages, scribble in the margins, leave my mark.” Broyard’s point echoes what ex- perts on reading today say: reading is a thoroughly social activity, bringing you into conversation with the writers, asking you to engage them and their ideas actively. And the digital texts you read today often allow for, even de- mand, your response. So as you begin to read, you should be ready to engage in that conversation, reading with pen or mouse in hand, ready to “stomp.”


• Highlight the most important points and any thesis statement. • Identify key terms (and look them up if necessary). • Underline things that are unclear or confusing, and jot down your

questions in the margins.

• Think about how the content meshes with what you already know about the subject. Is there anything surprising?



T H E N E E D FOR R H E T OR IC A N D W R I T I NG [ 28 ]


• Mark any words that indicate the author’s stance . • Note places in the text where the author has demonstrated authority.

to write on the topic.

• How would you describe the author’s style and tone ? Formal? Casu- al? Serious? Humorous? Mocking? Informative? Something else? Mark words or passages that establish that style and tone.


• Who do you think the author is addressing? Note any words in the text that make you think so. Are you included in that group?

• What do you know about that audience’s values? Highlight words that suggest what the author thinks the audience cares about.


• Make a note of your first impression of the text. • Do you agree with the author? Disagree? Agree and disagree? Why? • Note any phrases or passages or points you find surprising—and why. • After you’ve read the text thoroughly, sum up your assessment of it.

How well do you think it achieves its purpose?


• How does the design affect the way you understand the text? • Note any headings, sidebars, or other design features that label or high-

light parts of the text.

• Pay attention to the font(s). What do they indicate about the text? • If the text includes visuals, what do they contribute to the message?


• Comment on any strengths and weaknesses. • Note any points you want to remember or question. • Jot down other possible views or counterarguments .

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