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Grices Maxims Writing Assessment

Conversational and written language differ in important ways. We can see how speech is often
spontaneous, informal, and oftentimes grammatically incomplete, while writing is generally
planned, formal, and is almost entirely composed of grammatically complete sentences.

But can the norms of speech help us understand academic writing?

In 1975, linguist Paul Grice offered four maxims (rules) that any participant in a conversation
expects to be upheld (Grice).

1. Maxim of Quantity, which states that a participant should:


a. Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as necessary.
b. Do not make your contribution to the conversation more informative than
necessary.
2. Maxim of Quality:
a. Do not say statements that are false.
b. Do not say statements that lack adequate evidence.
3. Maxim of Relation:
a. Be relevant.
4. Maxim of Manner:
a. Avoid obscurity of language.
b. Avoid ambiguity.
c. Be brief.
d. Be orderly.

Can these help us understand the responsibilities and cultural norms surrounding academic
prose? Consider how each of Grices maxims can apply to academic writing. Then, in a new
section, consider yourself as a writer. Are there some maxims that you adhere to more
effectively than others? If you do identify any weak areas, what could you do during the course
of a semester to address them?

This brief analysis and reflection should require 2 pages. This assignment practices writing
from a systematic lens, analytical thinking and writing, and self-monitoring/reflection.

Very soon after writing this, the students will take this piece to the Writing Center to create an
introduction that follows the CADS (Creating a Discussion Space) model. Notes on the back
of this sheet.

Notes to WC tutors:
The goal of this activity is for students to create an introduction for their piece that follows the
CADS model. This model is designed to be a reliable way for writers to craft introductions that
are worth the space they take upits not designed to be artistic or flashy. Thus, do not worry
if the introduction sounds bland. Just please make sure that the final product fits our model
because it will be required by some professors in their future papers.

All intros need not be identical, just structurally similar. Ive included an outline of a simple
model, just in case you are having trouble directing the session. Note that step 3 (Voices) is
optional.

Please:

- Offer honest feedback if a students introduction differs from the model.


- A version that does not include the Voices step is easier and probably a good place to
start.
- Its not uncommon to see the context and problem in the same sentence, as in the
example at the bottom of the page.
- Look out for a confusion of the Voices and Problem stepsremember that the thesis
should respond to the problem. Sometimes, this confusion is not very troublesome.
But share with the tutee how this can create a different sort of paperone that
responds more directly to an argument between writers, rather than responding to a
broader problem or question.
o Context: Academic writing is a fairly unique practice thats different from
conversation.
o Problem: Its hard to define, but a couple have tried.
o Voice 1: Person X said that rules A, B and C govern academic writing.
o Voice 2: Grice said that his 4 maxims govern academic writing.
o Solution: I think that Grice is right because of reasons P, Q, and Z.
- Feel free to craft multiple versions, perhaps using just one or two sentences for each
step.
- Optionally, you can discuss your own strategies or thoughts on writing introductions.
Do you think that the CADS introduction can be used for every essay assignment?
Share some of your experience as a Skidmore-specific writer.

This model is very basic and its certainly possible to follow the CADS structure
without

Context: Academic writing/communication

Problem: how its hard to define, understand, or learn to do well.

Voice(s) (optional): 1) (optional) Students may include any other voice that offers maxims
on academic writing as a contrast to Grice, or simply offer 2) Grices maxims
Solution: Grices Maxims can help us understand academic writing (and some students may
say the Maxims are also incomplete, problematic, etc., which is perfectly fine)