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University of South Africa
Muckleneuk, Pretoria




Preface (v)

Lecture 1 Introduction to reading 1

Lecture 2 English Orthography 20
Lecture 3 Words and word formation 40
Lecture 4 The sentence 60
Lecture 5 Discourse 80
Lecture 6 Sources of knowledge 97
Lecture 7 Prediction 114
Lecture 8 Reading Critically 130
Lecture 9 The writing process 152
Lecture 10 Topic analysis 166
Lecture 11 Audience and Purpose 176
Lecture 12 Writing to Convince 187
Lecture 13 Gathering ideas 199
Lecture 14 Organising ideas 208
Lecture 15 Writing the introduction 221
Lecture 16 Writing the essay 229
Lecture 17 Revising the essay 238
Lecture 18 Advanced Critical Reading 246
Lecture 19 Sources and references 262

Appendix 1 Correcting common errors 272

Appendix 2 Written work: essay 286

Contents (iii) Contents

Welcome to ENN103-F: English for Academic Purposes, a module that focuses on
improving your reading and writing skills.

The purpose of English for Academic Purposes is to

. provide an understanding of the theory of reading and writing;

. develop your ability to read critically with comprehension and insight;
. improve your linguistic competence; and
. develop your ability to write logically and effectively

To benefit from this module you need to have a certain degree of linguistic
competence already. It is not a beginner's course. We assume that you can

. read fairly long texts, comprehending the main ideas and following a line of
. read a number of texts on a related topic and collate ideas; and
. write extended texts that focus on a given topic, using an introduction, body
and conclusion.

The module is intended to improve the linguistic skills of all students but is primarily
aimed at those for whom English is an additional language. This Study Guide is
written in simple, clear English. We try to give you as much background
information as possible and many practice activities to enable you to internalize the
strategies taught. Immediate feedback is given in the Study Guide so that you can
assess your performance and revise if necessary. Additional support is provided
through tutorials offered at regional centres on Saturdays. Advanced students can
proceed rapidly through the material.

One of the outcomes in studying for an undergraduate degree is that you can
demonstrate academic literacy. ENN103-F helps you to develop this valuable
competence. If you apply yourself to this module, you will develop the general
competence to

. read and write effectively;

. reflect on and explore a variety of strategies to learn more effectively;
. analyse, organise and critically evaluate information; and
. organise and manage yourself and your activities responsibly and effectively.

The lists below contain the specific outcomes for this module and the criteria by
which we assess assignments and examinations to determine if you have achieved
these outcomes.

Preface (v) Preface

Learning Outcome 1
You can read undergraduate academic texts with understanding of the texts
themselves and of the mental processes that produce this understanding.

Assessment Criteria: Learning Outcome 1

You must show that you can
. identify and deal with reading issues at the levels of orthography, word,
sentence and discourse
. identify and deal with higher order reading issues involving schema,
background information and sources of knowledge
. integrate lower and higher order reading processes by identifying main ideas,
skimming in order to make sensible predictions, making inferences and
drawing conclusions
. read against a text by identifying a writer's assumptions, point of view and

Learning outcome 2
You can write effectively for academic purposes.

Assessment Criteria: Learning Outcome 2

You must show that you can
. analyse and interpret writing tasks intelligently
. plan a response effectively by
— resourcing and generating relevant ideas
— taking audience and purpose into account, and
— organising ideas logically

. produce a first draft that

— directly addresses the topic
— makes proper use of paragraphing
— is clear, correct, concise and cohesive

. respond to tutor feedback in revising the first draft

. produce a polished final draft

Theoretical Approaches
This module is based on the following theoretical approaches:
. a top-down and bottom-up approach to reading.

Preface (vi) Preface

The terms top-down and bottom-up are metaphors (direct comparisons) used
to describe the complex mental processes involved in reading. ‘Top’ refers to
higher order mental concepts, such as the existing knowledge and the
expectations aroused in a reader when he or she is exposed to a specific
reading text. The term ‘bottom’ applies to the physical text on the page. The
interactive approach to reading includes both top-down and bottom-up
strategies. It thus implies accurate recognition of words and lexical forms but it
is more than this as reading is not limited to decoding text. It is a process
involving an interaction between the reader's background knowledge (schema)
and the text.
Reading is thus a two-way process that involves not only identifying the sounds
and letters that make up words, the words themselves and their grammatical
function, but also the way the words are linked cohesively to form a specific
discourse. To read effectively you have to identify the type, structure and
function of the discourse, active pre-existing knowledge of the topic as well as
the social factors involved in the reading text. The structure of the reading
section to this study guide reflects this theoretical view of reading.

. a process approach to writing.

Writing is a process. It involves an invention stage in which the ideas are first
put to paper, a time when the ideas are structured into coherent arguments,
written in a first draft, revised and edited, ending in a final written product.
However, this process is not easy, nor is it neat. It is not linear, beginning with
the invention and ending with the final product. It is a process that is recursive in
that at any stage the writer can go backwards to the thinking stage or forwards
to draft in final form.

This is a skills-based module. In the Study Guide we thus follow the method of
giving a short exposition of the skill or strategy to be acquired, with examples
where necessary, and then provide activities for you to practise the skill. There are
three types of activities. In the case of multiple-choice and short questions, the
answers to the activities are given immediately after the activity. In longer tasks, the
answers are given at the end of the lecture. However, certain activities are creative
and in these instances no model answers can be given.

Your lecturers wish you everything of the best for your studies and believe that the
skills you acquire in this module will assist you throughout your university studies.

Preface (vii) Preface

In this lecture, we will introduce you to the different processes you
use when reading. We will give you an overview of the essential
reading skills taught in the first eight lectures of this Study Guide.
How good are you at reading? A good reader is someone who reads fluently and
accurately, at about 200 words per minute. A good reader instantly recognises
both the appearance (spelling) and meaning of thousands of words. He or she
never plods slowly from word to word, but absorbs chunks of information at a
time, making sense of what is new by comparing and contrasting it with what is
already known. In the first eight Lectures of this Study Guide, we are going to work
on turning you into an effective reader of English texts.

Reading processes
What happens when we read? Reading is the act of *decoding printed letters on a
page. When you read, several mental processes are *activated *simultaneously.
Some of these processes are activated by your eyes looking at the text. These are
called bottom up processes, because they start on the page, with letters and
words. Other processes are activated by your mind as it brings its own store of
knowledge, ideas and opinions to bear on the text. These are called top-down
processes, because they start in your mind. Let's begin by looking at an
*impression of what all these processes entail:


Not garden Nature, but THE NATURE OF THE Looks like an academic
‘‘what something is like’’. READING PROCESS text.
Process? something done
in stages, different parts?
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
Very = right here, actual As you silently read this very Me! He's talking to me!
If ... always followed by paragraph, what are you
then or a consequence. doing? If you are a skilled
Attending = listening/ pay- reader and are attending
ing attention.
carefully to what this para- What am I doing? I'm
The following: I'm about to
graph is trying to say, you will silently reading this para-
get an explanation.
First ... followed by sec- notice the following. First, graph, man!
ond, third, etc. what are your eyes doing?
Moving together = well- Moving together in a swift and
co-ordinated well-coordinated way, your

Lecture 1 1 Introduction to reading

Moving/swift/jumps = ac- eyes are making a series of
tion fixations, jumping from place Oooh! My eyes are sud-
to place on the page of print. denly aware of what they're
The jumps are exceedingly doing!
rapid; you see little while your But if we see ‘‘little’’, how do
eyes are jumping. What is we read?
fixations/rest = stillness, important are the fixations,
focus when your eyes come to rest. Oh, yes! I've noticed this!
Most/usually/quite: not Most of these fixations are
exact measurements actually on or close to the line
Unless: always followed by of print, but unless you are
a condition reading quite slowly you can-
not easily predict or control Yes, and when I get tired,
where your eyes will fixate. the whole page swims.
The fixations are usually quite
Semi-colon: tells me two short in duration; each one
parts of the sentence will will last about one-quarter of Wow, that's fast!
be about the same thing a second on the average.

Clearly, reading is a complex process. While you read, you

. recognise the meaning of key terms (e.g. ‘‘nature’’, ‘‘process’’);
. *adjust your understanding of words to fit the context (e.g. ‘‘very’’, ‘‘attending’’,
. identify grammatical patterns (e.g. ‘‘If’’ must be followed by ‘‘then’’; ‘‘unless’’
must be followed by a condition);
. recognise *lexical patterns (e.g. ‘‘rapid’’ and ‘‘swift’’ are *synonyms);
. note *the implications of words (e.g. ‘‘most’’, ‘‘quite’’, ‘‘usually’’ suggest a lack
of absolute certainty);
. use punctuation marks to help you make sense (e.g. the semi-colons separate
a statement from its explanation);
. refer to your own experiences of the topic (e.g. how it feels to read);
. predict the topic using the heading;
. recognise the type of text you are reading (e.g. academic);
. enter into a dialogue with the text (asking and answering questions);
. get *the gist of the text (when reading, the eyes move rapidly and unpredictably
and momentarily ‘‘fix’’).

The more skilful the reader, the more quickly and efficiently these processes are
completed. A good reader would have processed the ‘‘Nature of Reading’’
paragraph in a minute or less. Our aim is to help you become just such a reader.
Let's now take a closer look at some of the individual *components of the reading
process and experience them in practice.

Word recognition
Word recognition is the single most important factor in measuring your reading
ability and, by extension, your academic potential. Word recognition refers to the
way you

Lecture 1 2 Introduction to reading

. recognise words on sight, from the way they are spelt on the page;
. distinguish between homographs (words spelt the same but with different
meaning and/or pronunciation, e.g. the present and past tense of ‘‘read’’);
. distinguish between homophones (words which sound similar, e.g. ‘‘quite’’/
. understand the meaning of thousands of words;
. work out the meaning of unfamiliar words;
. group words which have a similar meaning or relate to the same topic area.

Activity 1
Read the following text and answer the multiple-choice questions.
Let us just think about this process of instantaneous word recognition. Most
of the words you see are words you have seen many times before; even
though in actuality they may be relatively rare, they are familiar enough to
you to permit ‘‘instantaneous’’ recognition. Of course recognition is not really
instantaneous; it takes a certain amount of time. Experiments in which words
are exposed very briefly show that common words can be recognized quite
accurately in less than 1/10 of a second; even words that are quite rare can be
recognized with at least 50 percent accuracy in exposures of about 1/5 of a
second. During the average fixation lasting 1/4 of a second it is often possible
to take in several words. The point is that most words are recognized
extremely rapidly. If you are a skilled reader you do not have to stop to figure
out the pronunciation of a familiar word from its spelling; you are hardly
conscious of the spelling at all. Still less do you attend to the particular
phonetic values of the letters; in reading the word women it would scarcely
occur to you to note that the ‘‘o’’ in the first syllable stands for a sound that
rhymes with /i/ in whim. The printed word women is a gestalt-like total
stimulus that immediately calls to mind the spoken word that corresponds to
it if not the spoken word itself, some underlying response which is also made
when the word is spoken. As a skilled reader, you can consider yourself lucky
to have a large ‘‘sight’’ vocabulary.
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll, pp. 25–26)

Question 1
The word ‘‘instantaneous’’ means
1. constant
2. immediate
3. soon
4. gradual

Question 2
The following phrase from the text means the opposite of ‘‘instantaneous’’:
1. hardly conscious
2. quite accurately

Lecture 1 3 Introduction to reading

3. takes a certain amount of time
4. familiar enough

Question 3
A word in the passage with the opposite meaning of ‘‘rare’’ is
1. ‘‘underlying’’
2. ‘‘common’’
3. ‘‘skilled’’
4. ‘‘scarcely’’

Question 4
It is possible to work out from the context that the word ‘‘phonetic’’ relates
to the way words are
1. printed
2. spelt
3. pronounced
4. seen

Question 5
In this context, the verb ‘‘correspond’’ means to
1. match
2. exchange letters
3. agree
4. be similar to

Question 6
In this context, the word ‘‘exposure’’ refers to
1. a photographic process
2. a medical condition leading to death
3. bringing bad news to light
4. a brief showing or unveiling

Question 7
Pick the odd word out:
1. sight
2. recognition
3. reader
4. spelling
5. pronunciation

Question 8
Pick the odd word out:
1. pronunciation

Lecture 1 4 Introduction to reading

2. printed
3. phonetic
4. spoken
5. sound

Question 9
From the context, it is possible to work out that ‘‘stimulus’’ refers to
something, e.g. the sight of a word, that
1. provokes a response
2. excites the viewer
3. wakes the viewer up
4. has a purely physical effect

Question 10
The word ‘‘gestalt’’ is unusual because it
1. is not as commonly used as the other words in the text
2. comes from the study of psychology rather than language
3. is a foreign word
4. all of the above

The correct answers are 2 3 2 3 1 4 5 2 1 4.
In Lectures 2 and 3 we will look more closely at words and word structure. In
addition, every page of this Study Guide will contain ‘‘Vocabulary Building’’ boxes to
help you extend your lexical knowledge. The best way to improve your word
recognition is simply through reading more. John Carroll, the author of the two texts
you've read so far, says this:
correlated Because the recognizability of a word is apparently {correlated rather highly
when two or more things
are mutually related
with its frequency of use, word perception seems to be a skill that depends
upon large amounts of practice and exposure.

Apart from the words you recognised so quickly in the above text, you also
recognised individual letters, punctuation marks, numbers and changes in font
(women written in italics, for example). Each act of recognition (for example,
recognising that ‘‘o’’ printed in this way refers to a letter in the alphabet, rather than
an exclamation of surprise) produces meaning. It is not just individual words that
produce meaning, but the strings of words we call phrases and sentences.

Phrases and sentences

A word on its own can have several definitions. But once it is in a sentence or
phrase, a word acquires a specific meaning. For example:

Lecture 1 5 Introduction to reading

What is this object doing here?
I object!
The object of the exercise is to improve reading skills.

In these examples, the word ‘‘object’’ changes its meaning according to its context,
namely its relationship to the other words in the three sentences.

But the meaning you receive as a reader is not simply a matter of working out the
correct definition of a word or series of words at any given time. Grammar plays a
role. Consider the following sentences, all of which contain the word ‘‘read’’:
Last year I read this book about African folklore.
I read quite fast but my sister reads very fast.
When I've finished my other work, I'm going to read this book which I bought
I'm going to read The Sunday Independent and The Sunday Times.
Are you going to read this book? (QUESTION)
Reading builds your vocabulary. (STATEMENT)
Read pages 10–15. (COMMAND)

The structure of phrases and sentences affects meaning by

. establishing one of the three basic frameworks of statement, question and
. providing words with functions (e.g. the word changes from being a thing, a
noun, ‘‘Reading’’, to an action, a verb, ‘‘to read’’);
. establishing a time frame of present, past or future (‘‘Last year’’, ‘‘I am going
. allowing words to change or modify one another (quite fast, very fast);
. allowing words to describe or give detail about one another (book about African
. signalling that some parts of the sentence are more important than others
(‘‘which I bought today’’ is less important than ‘‘I'm going to read this book’’);
. showing that some parts of the sentence are of equal importance (‘‘The Sunday
Independent and The Sunday Times’’).

Activity 2
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions.
The essential skill in reading is getting meaning from a printed or written
message. In many ways this is similar to getting meaning from a spoken
a signal or reminder message, but there are differences, because the {cues are different. Spoken
messages contain cues that are not evident in printed messages and {conversely.
the opposite
In either case, understanding language is itself a tremendous feat, when one
thinks about it. When you get the meaning of a verbal message, you have not
only recognized the words themselves; you have interpreted the words in their
particular grammatical functions, and you have somehow apprehended the
general grammatical patterning of the sentence. You have unconsciously
recognized what words or phrases constitute the subjects and predicates of

Lecture 1 6 Introduction to reading

the sentence, what words or phrases modify those subjects or predicates, and
so on. In addition, you have given a ‘‘semantic’’ interpretation of the
sentence, assigning meanings to the key words in the sentence. For example,
in reading the sentence ‘‘He understood that he was coming tonight’’ you
would know to whom each ‘‘he’’ refers, and you would interpret the word
understood as meaning ‘‘had been caused to believe’’ rather than ‘‘compre-
hends’’. Somehow you put all these things together in order to understand
the ‘‘plain sense’’ of what the message says.
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll, p. 28)

Question 1
The following phrases all look similar but in each case a different adjective
makes an important difference to meaning. Match the phrase to its
a printed message A one that is said aloud
b written message B one that is in handwriting
c spoken message C any message that uses words rather
than pictures, etc.
d verbal message D one that is in a typeface
1. aD bC cA dB
2. aD bB cC dA
3. aD bB cA dC
4. aB bD cA dC

Question 2
The phrase ‘‘The essential skill in reading’’ contains one main word that all
the oth\er words modify or describe. What is this word?
1. The
2. essential
3. skill
4. in
5. reading

Question 3
In the second sentence, the pronoun ‘‘this’’ refers to
1. The essential skill in reading
2. getting meaning from a printed or written message.

Question 4
In the sentence ‘‘Spoken messages contain cues that are not evident in
printed messages’’, which noun does ‘‘are not evident’’ relate to?
1. messages
2. cues

Lecture 1 7 Introduction to reading

Question 5
The phrase ‘‘In either case’’ refers to
1. spoken messages on the one hand and printed messages on the
2. verbal as well as non-verbal messages.
3. any act of communication.

Question 6
The sentence ‘‘When you get the meaning of a verbal message, you have
not only recognized the words themselves; you have interpreted the
words in their particular grammatical functions, and you have somehow
apprehended the general grammatical patterning of the sentence’’ could
be represented as follows:

Question 7
Who or what is the grammatical subject of the statements in the sentence
in Question 6?
In other words, who or what performs the action of recognizing, assigning
meaning, reading, etc?
1. words
2. You
3. subjects
4. predicate

Question 8
The pronoun ‘‘you’’ as it is used in this text refers
1. exclusively to you.
2. generally, to all readers and potential readers of this text.
3. exclusively to people who are actually reading the text.

The answers are 2 3 2 2 1 3 2 2.
Well done on attempting this activity. Many people are scared of grammar. Yet it was
possible to complete this activity successfully without knowing much grammatical
terminology. You will learn about sentence structure in Lecture 4.

There is an important difference between the sentences we give you as single

Lecture 1 8 Introduction to reading

examples (‘‘I am going to read this book’’) and the sentences that make up most of
your normal, everyday reading, where one idea is linked logically to the next. None
of us would enjoy reading very much if it consisted simply of random, unconnected
statements such as ‘‘John has bought a new red car’’ or ‘‘Canaries are yellow’’. This
brings us to one of the most important (and satisfying) components of reading:
recognising patterns of *cohesion and organisation.

Cohesion and organisation

As we read, we are deeply aware of how the writer's ideas combine to form a
logical *sequence. Cohesion is achieved through connections
. within sentences;
. between sentences;
. within paragraphs;
. between paragraphs.

These connections may simply be a matter of keeping similar ideas together, so

that when we read a paragraph we get a strong impression of a single, main topic.
More usually, one or more of the following devices will contribute to our sense of
. repetition of words or their synonyms;
. pronouns and pronoun substitution (‘‘these connections’’);
. logical connectors (‘‘so’’, ‘‘the following’’);
. paragraph patterns (e.g. *chronological, comparison and contrast).

In addition to these links between sentences and paragraphs, there is also the
general organisation of an entire text (essay, novel, chapter, article, etc). When you
first learnt to read, you probably enjoyed a type of textual organisation known as
narrative sequence (‘‘Once there was a poor boy who lived with his widowed
mother. One day ... In the end ...’’). At university, you will read texts that use other
types of organisation. You will learn to recognise several patterns, including
cause *g effect
idea *
g explanation
explanation *g example
discussion *g summing up
event *
g reflection
observation of particular *
g generalisation
theory *
g evaluation
background * g current trends *
g future developments
description of problem * g suggested solutions
problem * g opinion

These patterns may combine with one another to suit the writer's intentions.
Recognising these patterns will help you to understand not only WHAT you are
reading but HOW you should be reading it.

Lecture 1 9 Introduction to reading

Activity 3
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions.
Even beyond getting the simple meaning of the material you are reading, you
are probably reacting to it in numerous ways. You may be trying to evaluate it
for its truth, validity, significance, or importance. You may be checking it
against your own experience or knowledge. You may find that it is reminding
you of previous thoughts or experiences, or you may be starting to think
about its implications for your future actions. You may be making inferences
or drawing conclusions from what you read that go far beyond what is
explicitly stated in the text. In doing any or all of these things, you are
‘‘reasoning’’ or ‘‘thinking’’. Nobody can tell you exactly what to think; much
of your thinking will be dependent upon your particular background and
experience. At the same time, some thinking is logical and justified by the
facts and ideas one reads, while other kinds of thinking are illogical and not
adequately justified by the facts and ideas one reads. One aspect of a mature
reader's skill consists in his being able to think about what he reads in a logical
and well-informed way. This aspect of reading skill sometimes takes years to
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll, pp. 28–29)

Question 1
Judging from the first sentence of this paragraph, what was the previous
paragraph about?
1. How young children learn to read
2. How we get the simple meaning of what we read
3. What makes texts difficult to read
4. Thinking while you read

Question 2
Which pronoun is used to replace ‘‘the material you are reading’’?
1. it
2. you
3. these
4. this

Question 3
The repetition of ‘‘You may’’ links the first few sentences by listing
1. allowed forms of behaviour
2. polite forms of request
3. possible mental processes
4. the rules of intelligent reading

Lecture 1 10 Introduction to reading

Question 4
The use of the connecting word ‘‘or’’ throughout the paragraph shows
that the paragraph is following a pattern based on
1. chronological order
2. comparison and contrast
3. a narrative story line
4. alternatives

Question 5
The sentence ‘‘In doing any or all of these things, you are `reasoning' or
`thinking' ’’
1. introduces a completely new topic
2. brings all the previous ideas together
3. provides an example
4. concludes the argument

Question 6
Which phrase belongs in a pair with ‘‘some thinking’’?
1. At the same time
2. logical and justified
3. facts and ideas
4. other kinds of thinking

Question 7
What does the logical connector ‘‘while’’ signal in this text?
1. a comparison
2. a contrast
3. a simultaneous action
4. a shift in time

Question 8
Which pronoun is used to replace ‘‘a mature reader’’?
1. she
2. you
3. these
4. he

Question 9
Which phrase acts as the opposite of ‘‘illogical and not adequately
justified by the facts’’?
1. logical and well-informed

Lecture 1 11 Introduction to reading

2. facts and ideas
3. this aspect of reading skill
4. background and experience

Question 10
Which of the following words is the most important in this text, in the
sense of providing the topic and the links between sentences?
1. well-informed
2. facts
3. thinking
4. experience

The answers are: 2 1 3 4 2 4 2 4 1 4.
The fact that you were able to recognise links in this paragraph shows that you
possess a key reading skill. By identifying how one idea is added to the next and
how the text is put together, you get an essential overview of your reading material
and its purpose. Establishing links is an important writing skill, too, as you will
discover in Lecture 16.

The text in the last activity discussed the final reading skill we are going to draw to
your attention in this lecture, namely, how you use your own knowledge, experience
and common sense to make sense of what you read.

Discourse refers to the type of language a text uses and its *domain, for
example religion, academe, conversation, entertainment, journalism or
advertising. Looking at the texts on this page, you immediately know HOW to
read them. Your knowledge of discourse alerts you to important differences

Lecture 1 12 Introduction to reading

between fact and opinion, serious writing and humour, advertisements and
information, fiction and reports. Your brain immediately alerts you that
‘‘STOP’’ is serious but ‘‘I wouldn't if I was you!’’ is humorous graffiti and not an
instruction. You know that the cartoon is merely a joke, whereas the
newspaper headline supplies a *verifiable statistic. The study of discourse
takes into account the different formats of texts, as well as their vocabulary,
style, grammar, attitudes and subject matter.

Recognizing the discourse features of a text will help you to

. identify its audience;
. recognize its purpose;
. select an appropriate approach;
. make predictions;
. make informed guesses;
. get the main ideas;
. understand meaning in context;
. evaluate the text;
. read it critically.

Activity 4
Answer the multiple-choice questions. They focus on what you know about
different types of texts from previous reading experience.

Question 1
Which is the LEAST reasonable *assumption we can make about the
following sentence?
‘‘Introductory works and histories of psychology customarily
proceed, in a Western cultural perspective, to relate the origin of this
subject to ideas about the relationship between body and mind as
encountered in early Greek philosophy.’’

1. It comes from the introduction to a first year Psychology textbook.

2. It may attempt to relate the origin of psychology to non-Western
cultural perspectives, for example, Chinese and African perspectives.
3. It will definitely not deal with early Greek philosophers' ideas about the
relationship between body and mind.
4. The rest of the chapter will give some background on the origin
(history and background) of the academic study of psychology.

Question 2
If you found the following text on the last page of a popular magazine,
what could you reasonably assume about it?

Lecture 1 13 Introduction to reading

I think we have made the right decision. Thank you for your love these
past five months. I want you to know that our time together will live inside
me in a special place in my heart. It is best if we do not phone or write.
Love always,

I dialled you last night because the Lucy ‘‘pie’’ episode was on and I knew
you'd want to see it. Anyway, while I was leaving a message I accidentally
punched in your message retrieval code. Sorry about that. Who's
Francisco? Just curious.
1. This is part of a personal correspondence between two real people.
2. This is an ‘‘agony aunty’’ advice page.
3. This is part of a humorous, fictional story, written in the epistolary
(letter) mode.
4. These are letters to the press.

Question 3
Which is the LEAST reasonable assumption we can make about the
following sentences?
As an American studying in Cape Town, I have often been warned about
crime here — perhaps for good reason. But few people, local and
foreign, ever take the time to comment on the extraordinary generosity
and selflessness that is displayed every day by ordinary South Africans.
1. They form part of a letter to the press.
2. The writer has formed a positive opinion of South Africans.
3. The writer will proceed to complain about the crime rate in Cape Town.
4. The writer will supply personal examples of Capetonians' generosity
and selflessness.

Question 4
Which is the MOST reasonable assumption we can make about the
following text?
World Press Freedom Day, marked this year on Thursday May 3, is
an apt occasion to celebrate the hard-won right of all South Africans
to freedom of expression. It is all too easy to forget that, a few short
years ago, one of the world's most oppressive regimes sought to
deprive this nation of this right.
1. It forms part of a typical letter to the press.
2. It is intended for an academic readership of scholars and students

Lecture 1 14 Introduction to reading

3. It is an entirely factual, impersonal newspaper report.
4. It is part of a newspaper editorial, in which the editor expresses opinions.

The correct answers are: 4 3 3 4.
This activity demonstrated that you already have quite a competent knowledge of
how discourse affects the way we read different texts. You will learn more about
discourse in Lecture 5.

Using inference and experience

You will seldom read a text which has absolutely no connection to your own life
and experience. Making these connections while you read is important to your
understanding of a text. Your own world knowledge enables you to
. form opinions;
. supply examples;
. provide supporting evidence;
. evaluate material;
. link different texts or spheres of knowledge;
. achieve insights;
. recognise practical implications;
. ask questions;
. enter discussion;
. identify important details;
. personalise what you read.

In fact, writers rely on this world knowledge or previous experience of yours.

Writers leave gaps in the information they give, trusting you, the reader, to be
able to fill those gaps. Whenever you fill in a gap like this, you have made an
*inference, that is to say, you have used the available facts to draw a
conclusion or to work something out. For example, read the following
Just five-and-a-half weeks after conception, the human face begins
to form.

Reading this sentence alone, you can infer that the process being described
takes place during pregnancy, in the womb, involving a foetus, and that it is just
one stage of several occurring within the prescribed nine-month period of
gestation {
the period the developing
young spends in the
womb; to develop a plan
or idea in the mind

Lecture 1 15 Introduction to reading

Activity 5
First answer the questions and then read the text! When you have read the text,
answer question 4.
1. Describe what you were like in your twenties (between the ages 20–29). What
was important to you then?
2. Describe the work/career experiences you had in your twenties.
3. Describe the relationships you had in your twenties.

Now read:

Following adolescence, the young adult moves into a period in which his or her
major problems stem from getting established in a career, achieving in that
career, establishing relationships with others, and starting a family. A close
relationship with another person, quite often including marriage, is an important
part of this stage. As Erikson states, the major conflict during this period is one
of intimacy versus isolation, with the desire to be really close to at least one other
person at the top of the list of motives during this period. The search for
personal identity and the ability to develop intimacy overshadow any other tasks
during the twenties.
(Robert R. Reilly and Ernest Lewis, Educational Psychology:
Applications for Classroom Learning, pp. 44–5)

Question 4
Compare your own memories with the description above. To what extent
does this text confirm your own experience of being in your twenties? To
what extent does it *diverge from your experience?

Tutor's Response
Reading a text like the one above without thinking of your own
experience is not a good reading practice. Your memories and reflections
enrich the text and certainly make it easier to recall for study purposes.
Yet reading this text and ONLY thinking about your own experiences is
not ideal either. As you read, you need to recognise where your
memories agree with the text, but you also need to accept that your life
might be different from the pattern set down by the text. For example,
simply because you did not develop or want to develop a special
relationship in your twenties does not make the text wrong. Nor should
you infer that all the close relationships formed by people in their twenties
are (a) sexual and (b) heterosexual.

Lecture 1 16 Introduction to reading

To become a better reader, you need to read more. Apart from this simple and
obvious truth, you also need to become more conscious of the processes you
use while reading. These processes involve responding to the text from the
bottom up — starting with words, phrases and sentences, but also
approaching the text from the top down, bringing your own experience and
understanding to the texts you read.

‘‘Jason is my summer reading.’’

Vocabulary Building
decoding making something intelligible or understandable
activated put into action
simultaneously at the same time
impression an imitation or sketch
adjust alter or adapt
lexical related to words
synonyms words with the same meaning
the implications of consequences or matters involved
the gist of the essence or heart of the matter
components parts of a larger whole
cohesion conditions which make something stick or keep
sequence one thing coming after the next
chronological ordered according to time, from first/earliest to
domain area of activity, interest or knowledge
verifiable able to be proved or shown to be true
statistic information based on the number of times
something happens or is present
assumption something taken to be true
inference a conclusion drawn or deduction made
diverge from differ from

Lecture 1 17 Introduction to reading

Activity 1: Answers after the exercise
Activity 2: Answers after the exercise
Activity 3: Answers after the exercise
Activity 4: Answers after the exercise
Activity 5: Creative activity — no model answer

Reading ... begins with a flutter of patterns on the retina and ends (when successful)
with a definite idea about the author's intended message.
(David E. Rumelhart, ‘‘Toward an Interactive Model of Reading’’. In Theoretical
Models and Processes of Reading. Newark: International Reading Associa-
tion, 1985, p. 722)

Photo of reader in library by Amy Northam

As you silently read this very paragraph, what are you doing? If you are a skilled
reader and are ...
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll in Theoretical
Models and Processes of Reading, Harry Singer and Robert B. Ruddell eds.
Newark: International Reading Association, 1985, p. 25)
Let us just think about this process of instantaneous word recognition. ...
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll in Theoretical
Models and Processes of Reading, Harry Singer and Robert B. Ruddell eds.
Newark: International Reading Association, 1985, p. 26)
The essential skill in reading is getting meaning from ...
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll in Theoretical
Models and Processes of Reading, Harry Singer and Robert B. Ruddell eds.
Newark: International Reading Association, 1985, p. 28)
Even beyond getting the simple meaning of the material you are reading, you are
probably reacting to it in numerous ways ... .
(‘‘The Nature of the Reading Process’’ by John B. Carroll in Theoretical
Models and Processes of Reading, Harry Singer and Robert B. Ruddell eds.
Newark: International Reading Association, 1985, p. 2, pp. 28–9)
Stop sign with graffiti — Getaway magazine May 1999, p. 17

Literacy cartoon — New Yorker magazine, June 24/July 1 1996

Literacy headline — Cape Times Career Times Jan 12 1998, p. 1

Activity 4 Question 1 — Extract from People in Context by Wilhelm Jordaan and

Jackie Jordaan, p. 3. Jhb: Heinemann

Activity 4 Question 2 — Extract from ‘‘Dear Amanda’’ by Steve Martin. New Yorker
magazine June 24/July 1 1996, p. 88

Lecture 1 18 Introduction to reading

Activity 4 Question 3 — Cape Argus May 8 2001 p. 11. Letter ‘‘How Zandisile made
my day’’ by Joel Pollak

Activity 4 Question 4 — Extract from ‘‘A hard-won right’’, Mail&Guardian May 4–10,
p. 28

Picture of Shenaaz by Amy Northam

Baby pictures — advert for Afrox Health Care in Woman's Value Top to Toe Health
Guide June 2000, p. 21

Pictures of Nicholas Dowling goofing about with his girlfriend, aged 20 in the
70s — family album

Reading cartoon — New Yorker magazine June 24/July 1 1996, p. 62

Following adolescence, the young adult moves into a period ...

(Robert R. Reilly and Ernest Lewis, Educational Psychology: Applications for
Classroom Learning, and Institutions. New York: Macmillan, 1983, pp. 44–5)

Lecture 1 19 Introduction to reading

In this lecture, you will gain an overall idea of modern writing
systems, and learn how to recognise and follow spelling
patterns and improve your own spelling.
Spelling, also known as *orthography, is a shared
set of rules or *conventions about how to represent
words *graphically. Spelling is important in our lives
because it
. is the basic bottom-up process we apply to
everything we read;
. allows us to follow one another's written mean-
ing without confusion;
. indicates almost immediately whether we have
benefited from a formal education.

We need to spell correctly, then, in order to

. identify parts of words, whole words, and where
words and sentences begin and end; Are we more sympathetic when
. communicate; the sign is badly spelt?
. create a good impression.

While the first reason is clearly the most important, we cannot *dismiss the second
as mere *prejudice. Incorrect spelling in an examination, or while taking notes in a
lecture, is natural and understandable. But incorrect spelling in formal documents
and prepared essays, where you have had the opportunity to check your writing,
creates a negative impression of you as careless, or ignorant.

Throughout your school life you will have known some students as ‘good spellers’
and others as ‘bad spellers’. In between these two groups were the majority, who
make some spelling mistakes, but not many.

Bad spellers blame English orthography. Here's an example of a list of words they
could use to show how different English spelling is from pronunciation:

through (flew, flu, shoe, moo, do, queue)

though (oh, show, go, sew)
cough (off)
bought (awe, ore, or, law)

Lecture 2 20 English orthography

tough (guff)
bough (cow)
hiccough (cup)

There are 25 ‘exceptions’ there and, as we all know, exceptions have to be learned
one at a time. Here are other troublesome examples of letters having different
sounds in different words:

thistle, this, Thomas; ate, at, father, many.

There are also many examples of the same sound being spelt in different ways, for

I, eye, aye, buy, by, die, Thai, height and guide.

And finally, here are words containing letters which are not sounded at all:

debt, bomb, arctic, Wednesday, clue, gnosis, honest, know, balm,

mnemonic, psychology, listen, and sword.

Three questions spring to mind:

. Are we very unlucky to have such a difficult writing system?
. Can anything be done to improve the English writing system?
. Can anything be done to make English spelling easier to master?

Are we unlucky that English orthography is the way it is?

Bad spellers would say that we are indeed unlucky. There are too many confusing
exceptions and people judge your intelligence by your spelling, often wrongly.

Second language learners would probably agree, especially if their first language
is spelled phonetically, as the indigenous African languages are — including
Afrikaans. Irregular spelling adds confusion to the already very difficult task of
mastering a new language.

But here are two possible consolations: English spelling brings with it 600 years of
history, and it could be worse: we could be saddled with the Chinese or the
Japanese writing systems.

The fact that English spelling has not changed much since our writing system was
standardised in the late fifteenth century has the following benefits:
. we know that words like knee, knight and light have lost some of their
consonants over the last few hundred years. This should remind us that
language change is inevitable and that it is therefore futile to be too pedantic
and prescriptive about ‘correctness’.
. it helps us to distinguish between homonyms. Knight may sound like night, but
when they are written down there is no confusion. Spelling removes much of
the potential ambiguity in speech.

Lecture 2 21 English orthography

. it helps us to relate words which have synonymous parts in common that are
pronounced differently: real-reality and serene-serenity are examples. There are
many others.

What's worse about the Chinese writing system?

For the Chinese people, nothing at all. In fact, it has such significant advantages for
them that they continue to resist all moves to replace it with a phonetic
orthography, even though they make limited use of the Roman alphabet, for
example for road signs as an aid to foreigners.

What makes Chinese writing so different from English is that it is pictographic.

Each symbol represents a word or morpheme — the same one today that it has
represented for the past 3 500 years. There are tens of thousands of different
symbols, but it is possible to read a daily newspaper if you know about 5 000.

The disadvantage of this is the amount of learning involved. Our alphabet has only
26 letters, some punctuation signs and a space. All English words can be written
by stringing together different combinations of the same few letters. Compare this
with learning 5 000 completely different symbols — and then knowing only enough
to read a newspaper.

The advantage of their writing system is that although there are several hundred
mutually unintelligible languages spoken in China, all literate Chinese can
communicate with each other through writing.

In other words, the Chinese writing system is not linked to reality via the language,
as English writing and all other alphabetic writing systems are: the Chinese writing
signs (‘characters’) are linked directly to reality. You can learn to read a Chinese
newspaper without being able to speak any Chinese at all, simply by associating
the Chinese characters with English concepts.

The Japanese writing system, on the other hand, is mainly *syllabic. This means
that it is much closer to an alphabetic system than to the Chinese word-writing
system in that
. the characters are meaningless in themselves,
. a fairly small number of characters (about 100) are rearranged into the tens of
thousands of different words in the Japanese lexicon, and
. you have to understand Japanese to be able to read it.
(* The Japanese hiragana syllabary includes Chinese characters for verb roots.)

A syllabic writing system suits the Japanese, but it wouldn't suit English or other
Indo-European languages. The reason for this is that virtually all syllables in
Japanese consist of a single consonant followed by a single vowel (CV). There are
no consonant clusters in Japanese, whereas in English you can have one, two or
three consonants before a vowel (key, ski, spree); one, two or three consonants
after a vowel (an, ant, ants), and all other possible combinations of one, two or
three consonants before a vowel AND one, two or three after it too:

Lecture 2 22 English orthography

kiss skies scrum pant pants stamp
plants striped and splints have the syllable structure
CCVCCC CCCVCC and CCCVCCC respectively.

Each of these patterns can be filled with several different combinations of the 30
English consonants; and there are 12 different English vowels to increase the
syllabic permutations even further. Be thankful for the English orthography; its
charming inconsistencies are a small price to pay for its efficiency.

In this lecture we are going to take you through some of the rules and conventions
of English spelling. Before we do this, however, we are going to ask you to

. complete a spelling test;

. commit yourself to a plan for better spelling.

A spelling test

Good spellers are people who have trained their eyes to recognise regular patterns
of letters on the page. They also know that some English words are spelt in an
*irregular way, and they have learnt to deal with this by

. paying attention;
. acknowledging their own weaknesses;
. correcting themselves;
. using a dictionary.

Activity 1
Let us see how well you spell!

The following words are all missing one or more letters. Can you spell them

acomodate disapoints exessiv inocuus

goverment sovren ocasion probly
busness miniture professr vacum
mischivus recomend gardian
unparaleld disiplin remembrd
psycology tecnicly

If you got full marks for this test: our heartiest congratulations. You are a rare and
gifted individual! The rest of us, particularly those with a score under 15, are in the
majority. There are very few people who never experience difficulties spelling.
Nevertheless, we need to make a serious effort to improve.

Lecture 2 23 English orthography

A plan to improve your spelling

In order to improve your spelling, you will need to give a tick R to each of the
. I will learn to recognise my enemy by making a list of words I know I spell
. I will study this list.
. I will keep this list stuck above or on my desk.
. I will work through the examples of regular and irregular spelling in the rest of
this Lecture.
. I will type with the spell check on when I use a word processor.
. I will read each new or difficult word aloud, sounding each syllable.
. I will look carefully at the spelling of a difficult word on the page as I say it aloud.
. I will try to develop an awareness of words that sound the same or similar yet
are spelt differently.
. I will use a dictionary when I am in doubt about a spelling.

Lecture 2 24 English orthography

Regular spelling patterns

One of the most frequent complaints

against English spelling is that it is
irregular. The irregularity of English spel-
ling has been traced back to an event
called ‘‘The Great Vowel Shift’’, when
*pronunciation changed, yet spelling did
not keep pace. These changes took
place more than five hundred years ago,
when many of the letters which are
treated as silent today, were in fact
pronounced. Try for yourself to see how
these two words might have sounded:

culprit Another {culprit has been foreign words
guilty person or thing which *retain their original spelling even
though they are pronounced differently in
English. English spelling has been mocked in numerous witty poems and jokes.

Yet, is English spelling really all that irregular? David Crystal, in The Cambridge
Encyclopedia of the English Language, reports:
It has been estimated that only about 3 per cent of everyday English words
are so irregular that they would have to be learned completely by heart, and
that over 80 per cent are spelled according to regular patterns.

A regular pattern occurs when a particular sound is regularly represented using the
same letter or combination of letters. Let us look at (and listen to) some of these regular
patterns. As you fill in your own examples in each case, make sure that both the
spelling and the sound matches the pattern. Also, as you work, note any exceptions
that come to mind. For example, the sound in the word ‘‘son’’ is not the same as the
sound in the word ‘‘cot’’, even though they are both represented by the letter ‘‘o’’.
-a- as in cat. For example: bat, drat, fat, flat.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................
-o- as in cot. For example: rotten, forgot, spot, blot.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................
-a ...e- as in late. For example: rate, Kate, spate, crate.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................
-i ...e- as in side. For example: abide, slide, chide, describe, pile.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................
-o...e- as in hope. For example: slope, omen, trope, Rome, pose, alone.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................

Lecture 2 25 English orthography

-u- as in hut. For example: mut, clutter, us, puzzle.
Fill in your examples: .............................................................
-u ... e- as in cute. For example: *repute, execute, rule, super.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-i- as in bid. For example: rib, spill, print, lint, chin, riddle.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ou- as in out. For example: aloud, *flout, cloud.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ea- as in teach. For example: cheat, speak, neat.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ai- as in sail. For example: *entail, *assail, avail, entertain.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
ken -e- as in hen. For example: then, {ken, *amend, led.
knowledge Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-y- as in happy. For example: rapidly, accurately, friendly.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ie- as in thief. For example: piece, relief
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ee- as in feet. For example: exceed, screen.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ea- as in leaf. For example: beat, retreat, knead.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-ought as in bought. For example: sought, nought.
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................

Activity 2
Children absorb these spelling
patterns quickly and apply
them as rules when they try to
spell new words. Look at the
school work done by Thabo
and Lucy. Find words they have
spelt incorrectly. Look carefully
at these words. Try to identify
the spelling pattern the learner
was (incorrectly) following. The
pattern may not be one listed
above: remember that as long
as there is a group of words
which all use the same letter
combination to represent the
same sound, we have a pattern.
Ask yourself:

Lecture 2 26 English orthography

. Is there a spelling pattern for the misspelt word? If so, identify the spelling
pattern the learner needed to follow in each case.
. Is the word irregular? If so, show why it is irregular.

For example:
looze B
Pattern attempted: ooze, snooze
Correct pattern: none. (‘‘Lose’’ is spelt like ‘‘rose’’, ‘‘nose’’ etc but the sound is
different. The word ‘‘lose’’ is thus irregular.)

Spelling rules
Apart from the regular patterns of many words, there are also spelling rules which
may assist us. Like all rules, they suffer from the problem of exceptions.
Nevertheless, studying these rules will help build your awareness of the spelling
difficulties that lie in wait for you.
-ie- and -ei- One of the oldest spelling rules goes like this: ‘‘i before e,
except after c when the sound is a long e’’. This rule is
helpful when we struggle with examples like:
perceive receive thief chief
Fill in your own examples of ‘‘ie’’and ‘‘ei’’ combinations: ........
counterfeit However, this rule does not help us with the following
fraud important examples:
codeine seize protein counterfeit caffeine
-s- plural Most words take an ‘‘s’’ plural ending:
disorders chairs labels parts powers
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
-es- plural Words ending in the sounds ‘‘s’’, ‘‘sh’’, ‘‘x’’, ‘‘z’’ or ‘‘ch’’ take
an -es plural ending:
mountain passes skin rashes *suffixes leeches
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
However, this rule does not help with rare exceptions such
as ‘‘oxen’’.
-ies- plural words ending in ‘‘y’’ change the ‘‘y’’ to ‘‘ie’’ if the ‘‘y’’ follows a
consonant but keep the ‘‘y’’ if it follows a vowel:
-y *
g -ies: city/cities baby/babies beauty/beauties
-y *
g -ys: boy/boys ray/rays ashtray/ashtrays
-ves- plural Words ending in a hard ‘‘v’’ sound take a ‘‘-ves’’ ending,
whereas words ending with a hard ‘‘f’’ sound take an ‘‘s’’
plural ending:
knife/knives calf/calves life/lives loaf/loaves
chief/chiefs huff/huffs tiff/tiffs
Fill in your own examples: .....................................................
-oes- plural Words ending ‘‘o’’ have an ‘‘oes’’ ending in the plural if the
‘‘o’’ comes after a consonant. Otherwise, the simple ‘‘s’’
ending applies:

Lecture 2 27 English orthography

potato *
g potatoes hero *g heroes
embryo *g embryos
Exceptions to the ‘‘oes’’ ending include the following:
banjos halos casinos pianos
's plural Plurals using the apostrophe ‘‘s’’ in English are very rare.
Only with single letters, numbers and abbreviations that
would otherwise be confusing, is the apostrophe ‘‘s’’ used to
form a plural:
I prefer c.o.d.'s.
She writes her i's in an odd way.
For the rest, the simple ‘‘s’’ is used:
takeaways menus Polos eyes
prefixes With *prefixes like dis- and un-, notice that a double
consonant only appears where the root word has the same
consonant as that of the prefix:
appear *g disappear satisfied * g dissatisfied
notice *
g unnoticed.
suffixes When adding suffixes to the end of a word, the spelling of
the base word does not change:
recent + ly = recently
*random + ness = randomness
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
y *
g i Exceptions to the rule about suffixes include words ending
‘‘y’’. With some of these words, the ‘‘y’’ must become an ‘‘i’’
before the suffix is added:
happy + ness = happiness
spy + ed = spied
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
drop ‘‘e’’ Some suffixes (for example, -al, -ing) begin with a vowel
sound. When they are added to words ending ‘‘e’’, this final
‘‘e’’ is dropped:
refine + ing = refining
propose + al = proposal
Fill in your own examples: ....................................................
Exceptions include words where the ‘‘e’’ is retained in order
to keep the consonant sounding soft:
courageous noticeable
drop ‘‘l’’ When the single-syllable words all, fill, full, well, will are
combined with other words and suffixes, they drop an ‘‘l’’.
This produces:
almost although welcome always welfare
fulfil wilful
double letter When you are adding a suffix to a word with only one
*syllable, you may need to double the last *consonant:
flat + er = flatter chop + er = chopper red + er = redder
You will also need to do this with longer words when the last
syllable is accented (stressed):

Lecture 2 28 English orthography

occur + ed = occurred begin + ing = beginning
Fill in your own examples, using the words ‘‘permit’’,
‘‘upset’’, ‘‘refer’’, ‘‘bar’’: ...........................................................

Activity 3
Look at the shop signs printed on this page. In each case, what would the correct
spelling be? What is the rule being deviated from? For example, Beares = Bears
(regular ‘‘s’’ plural). Finally, why do you think advertisers regularly play around with

Words without rules

Unfortunately, when it comes to spelling there are some lawless customers you will
have to learn off by heart. As you read the lists supplied below, you will recognise
some of your old friends from the test at the beginning of the Lecture. In essence,
these words are tricky because there does not appear to be a reason WHY they
have no double letters, or double letters, or even two pairs of double letters.
Underline any words you think you need to learn, and remember to transfer them to
your own individual spelling list:

No double letters

(Notice that most of these words do take a double letter when a suffix is added)
fulfil omit transmit
imitate patrol
marvel pedal

One pair of double letters

accelerate abbreviate accelerate accident caterpillar
make faster accurate allergy appropriate commit
assist beginning brilliant disappoint
collapse collect *commemorate excellent
desiccated corridor desiccated disappear hallelujah
dried dissatisfied discuss exaggerate millionaire
gorilla happen harass paraffin
illustrate immediate occur professional
necessary occasion procession succeed

Lecture 2 29 English orthography

parallel proceed sheriff tranquillity
questionnaire scissors tomorrow
sufficient terrible accomplish

Two pairs of double letters

guerilla accommodation accidentally guerilla successful
fighter in a small, irregu- committed embarrass possess
lar group
mattress woollen commission
unnecessary address happiness

Apart from double and single letters, you will also face the problem of the two very
similar word endings -ible and -able. Which one of these is the correct spelling in
any particular case? Unfortunately, the rule governing these endings requires a
knowledge of Latin, and since this can rarely be *assumed, the rule that only words
of Latin origin take the -ible ending is not much help.

What may be of assistance, however, are the following notes:

. There are only about 180 words ending -ible and no new words will be added
to the group.
. All new words formed will take -able.
. Usually a word ends -able when it can stand on its own as a complete word
without the suffix (e.g. comfort + able as opposed to poss + ible). You
might like to see if there are any exceptions as you work through the lists.

Words ending -ible

accessible *credible forcible indefensible
gullible admissible defensible gullible indelible
believing too easily; can audible destructible horrible indebible
be fooled
collapsible digestible *illegible intensible
combustible combustible divisible *implausible *intelligible
can burn *compatible edible inaccessible invincible
comprehensible *fallible *incontrovertible invisible
*contemptible flexible incredible *irresistible
irreversible possible suggestible visible
*ostensible responsible *susceptible
permissible reversible *tangible
plausible sensible terrible

Words ending -able

*abominable bearable forgivable respectable
acceptable comfortable knowledgeable suitable
accountable communicable laughable *sustainable
adaptable demonstrable likeable undurable
admirable *despicable marriageable unmentionable
admittable excitable observable unthinkable
advisable *expendable presentable washable
affordable *explicable removable
attainable fasionable

Lecture 2 30 English orthography

Activity 4
Turn the following verbs into adjectives. They all use the same suffix. Which one is
it: -ible or -able?
inflate reason repeat
compare despise (despic-)

Words sometimes confused

Many spelling errors occur because of the large number of words which sound the
same or similar, for example ‘‘affect’’ and ‘‘effect’’. These words have different
spellings and different meanings, yet they are often carelessly substituted for one

Words which are pronounced exactly the same (for example, ‘‘currant’’ and
‘‘current’’) are called homophones. Yet, as you work through the following list and
say each word aloud, you will discover that there are subtle but important
differences in pronunciation in many instances. The sentences supplied will help
you to distinguish not only the spelling but the meaning of the two words.

Activity 5
In each case, two sentences are supplied. Fill in the correct word from the pair to
complete the sentences:
accept/except I cannot ........ your excuse.
Fill in the entire form ....... for the section marked ‘‘For Office
Use Only’’.
access/excess He married her in order to gain .......... to her fortune.
My insurance company paid R250 towards my broken
window and I had to pay the .........
advice/ advise Financial experts ........... one to save 10% of one's income.
I'm glad I took your ................
affect/ effect Her tears and pleas had no ............. on him.
Does reading too much .......... your eyesight?
assent/ascent After the ............ up Everest, he felt a real sense of
If you ........ to the proposal, we can sign the contract right away.
choice/choose We have no ............. but to ................. the cheaper option.
dairy/diary He bought six Jersey cows in order to open a ..................
Make a note of the exam date in your ...................
dependent/dependant In your CV, your .................. is your child.
Your bursary is ................. on your results.
desert/dessert What would you like to eat for ....................?
Have you ever been stuck in a ............. with no water?

Lecture 2 31 English orthography

emigrate/immigrate When you enter a country intending to live there,
you ..........................
When you leave a country, you ......................
ensure/insure Please ............... that you have all your belongings with you
before you leave the plane.
I would like to ............. my vehicle against fire and theft.
extent/extend Please ........ a warm welcome to our guests for this evening.
To what ............. do you think he was responsible for the
fill/feel Always ....... your car with petrol before a long journey.
Try to imagine how your child must ...............
lightening/lightning Don't shelter under a tree when there is ...................
The authorities have withdrawn dangerous skin ..............
creams from the market.
live/leave Please don't .................. me. I can't ................. without you.
lose/loose If you ............... your way, use the ............... change in your
pocket to phone home.
passed/past That woman we have just ............... is an important person
from my ..........
peace/piece She sat in the sun eating a ......... of cake and enjoying
the ........... of the Bushveld.
precede/proceed The chancellor will ............. us as we .............. to the podium.
principle/principal My school .................. believed honesty was the most
important ...............
quite/quiet I was ............ worried that the children were so ................
stationary/stationery The train was not moving: it was ................
I need to go to the CNA to buy ..................
their/there Go ........... and see if ........... room is tidy.
threw/through She went ............. hell before she finally ................ him out.
to/too Will you come ..... the movies .......?
your/you're If .............. going to join us, please bring ............. swimming

Spelling variation
You will discover in your reading two forms of spelling *variation:
. words spelt differently in American publications as compared to British publications;
. two spellings of the same word both accepted as standard British.

amuck Cases where there are two possible spellings for a word include:
wildly, as in the phrase
‘to run amuck’, meaning {
to run out of control, amuck/amok judgment/judgement
often in the context of a aging/ageing *foetid/fetid
person going wild and
attacking others

Lecture 2 32 English orthography

This Study Guide follows British spelling conventions, which include all the
awkward examples we've studied so far. American spelling has gone a long way
towards *eliminating the confusions caused in British spelling by *surplus letters.
So, for example, we find the following:

British Spelling American Spelling

colour color
defence defense
centre center
connection connexion
realise realize
traveller traveler

You will notice that it is increasingly acceptable to use American spelling

conventions, particularly the -ize ending instead of the -ise ending. As a rule for you
to follow, the most important thing is to be consistent. If you start writing a
document with ‘‘organize’’ and ‘‘criticize’’, then keep using that spelling throughout.

Spelling reform

There has always been an enthusiastic band of spelling

reformers who would like to make English spelling
simpler and more logical and regular. The author George
Bernard Shaw even left money in his will for the
simplification of English spelling.

Let the reformers explain what they aim to do in their own

words: George Bernard Shaw,
who wanted English
Speling Reformers tipicaly wont to riet with a spelling reformed.
dicshunairy pronunsiaeshun gied rather than tra-
dishunal English speling. Thay wont the speling
sistem to be neerly 100% alfabetic insted of 40%. English speling is hard
becauz thair ar too meny orthografic opshuns. Tipicaly thair ar 14 diferent
ways to spel a particuelar sound. This meens that a simpl werd such as sizors /
sizerz/ can be speld 14x14x14x14x14x14 ways. Ellis calcuelaeted this out and
it caem to oever a haf milyon. Oenly wun of the 500,000 ways to spel /sizerz/
is lexically corect. In Spanish, or eny hiely foneemic rieting sistem, thair is
uezhualy oenly wun way to spel a pronunsiaeshun.

What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of spelling reform might be?
Do you prefer British or American spelling conventions? Why?

Lecture 2 33 English orthography

If people in America decided to go the whole way with spelling reform and
introduce a strictly phonemic orthography, what answers might there be to the
following questions?

. Whose dialect would they choose (educated/uneducated; North/South/East

Coast/West Coast)?
. What will they do when that *dialect changes over time?
. What would people in Britain say about it?
. What would English speakers in countries like Australia and South Africa say
about it?
. What would be done about the millions of books already published in
traditional orthography?

Activity 6
Finally, let's test your spelling again. Fill in the missing words:

At the b.............g of last year, in January or F.................y, I went away on

b................s. My meetings with clients were highly s....................l, and I
returned to work that W...............y with a sense of my own comp.............e.
I In my ab.............e I found that the salaries department had
ac.....................y. deleted me from the company payroll. I was extremely
a..............yed by this, not to mention financially em...............d. The clerks
claimed they had no record of my ex....................e, neither my name nor
my a.............s appeared in th............ files. I marched into the
p..................l officer's office and demanded to know how such an error
had o.................d. This woman, whom I have never found very l..............
ble, rec........................d that I see the manager. She was no.................bly
amused and giggled to herself. I said that, for my part, I did not find the
incident very h.................s. Her adv......e proved useless. What she had
o..................d to tell me was that the manager himself had d................d,
and no one knew where he was. By now, I was qu.... worried about my
finances. In fact, I was d...........e. I was evicted from my flat and had to
seek other ac........................n. My anxiety had caused me to d..............p
a rash all over my upper body and face: I was certainly no longer an object
of b..............y. I've always been a very in.......................t person, and I
exp..............d a sense of h...............n when I had to ask my parents for a
loan. I think many people f.....l this way. Eventually, I re...................d the
money owing to me. It was a happy oc.................n. The salaries
department apologised for any un.....................y suffering on my part.
Ap...................y, it was a computer e......r. Privately, I thought that what
had happened was ind..............ble. They handed me the cheque and I
studied it with r..........f. That was when I noticed that my name had been

Lecture 2 34 English orthography

The English spelling system is not as irregular as it seems. There are regular
patterns which you can learn to recognise as you read. You can improve your
spelling by keeping a personal spelling list containing words you know you
misspell. You can learn to use your knowledge of spelling as an analytical tool
for working out the meaning of unfamiliar words.

*Vocabulary Building
orthography correct or conventional spelling
conventions generally accepted practices
graphically clearly, in words
dismiss refuse to consider seriously
prejudice unfair negative opinion
irregular not following the usual rules
discipline (in an academic context) study of a particular body
of knowledge, such as Linguistics or Psychology
innocuous not likely to be harmful, tame
pronunciation the way words sound when spoken
retain keep
repute reputation
flout show disrespect for a law
entail involve
assail attack
amend fix
misspelt wrongly spelled
suffixes word element added at the end, e.g. -ment
prefixes word element added at the beginning, e.g. pre-
random unplanned
syllable a single pronounced sound
consonant a speech sound in which the breath is ob-
structed by teeth, lips, etc (e.g. ‘‘k’’)
commemorate celebrate the memory
approximate near, not exact
assumed supposed or accepted
compatible well-suited or matched
contemptible deserving scorn
credible can be believed
defensible can be supported or justified by reasons and
fallible likely to make a mistake
illegible cannot be read

Lecture 2 35 English orthography

implausible cannot be believed
incontrovertible cannot be denied
intelligible can be understood
irresistible cannot be resisted
defensible can be defended in an argument
ostensible apparent
susceptible likely to be affected, can be tempted/persuaded
tangible can be touched
despicable deserving criticism
expendable unimportant or not worth keeping
explicable can be explained
sustainable can be maintained
variation change, alteration
foetid stinking
eliminating removing
surplus extra
dialect a form of a language spoken in a particular
geographical area or by members of a particular
social class or occupational group

Activity 1
accommodate disappoints excessive *innocuous
government sovereign occasion probably
business miniature professor vacuum
mischievous recommend guardian
unparallel *discipline remembered
psychology technically

Activity 2
Pattern attempted: tether, together, whether
Correct pattern: leather, weather
Pattern attempted: none. Perhaps correct pattern has been misheard.
Correct pattern: insect, reject, inject, detect
Pattern attempted: lane, wane, cane, mane, bane
Correct pattern: rain, stain, pain, drain, Spain, main

Lecture 2 36 English orthography

Pattern attempted: no obvious pattern, but perhaps: daze, raze, maze
Correct pattern: always, ways, rays, stays
Pattern attempted: no obvious pattern, but perhaps the ‘‘oo’’ sound in rule, dispute
Correct pattern: waterproof, roof, proof
Pattern attempted: No obvious pattern, but perhaps: jelly, sell, hell
Correct pattern: jealous, zealous, poisonous, mountainous
Pattern attempted: the ‘‘j’’ sound in jolly, jinx, joke etc
Correct pattern: ginger, germ, gimcrackery, gym, ginseng

Activity 3
Shoprite = Shop Right (-ight for the ‘‘ite’’ sound, found in ‘‘night’’, ‘‘tight’’ etc).
Kwikspar = Quick Spar (qu- for the ‘‘kw’’ sound, found in ‘‘quiet’’, ‘‘queen’’ etc).
Truworths = True Worth (-ue for the ‘‘u’’ sound, found in ‘‘blue’’, ‘‘sue’’ etc).

Advertisers play with spelling because it is so eye-catching. It is also useful when

creating unique (and memorable) brand names. You could attempt to invent your
own brand names by playing with the spelling of words.

Activity 4
inflatable despicable
comparable repeatable

Activity 5
accept/except I cannot accept your excuse.
Fill in the entire form except for the section marked ‘‘For
Office Use Only’’.
access/excess He married her in order to gain access to her fortune.
My insurance company paid R250 towards my broken
window and I had to pay the excess.
advice/ advise Financial experts advise one to save 10% of one's income.
I'm glad I took your advice.
affect/ effect Her tears and pleas had no effect on him.
Does reading too much affect your eyesight?
assent/ascent After the ascent up Everest, he felt a real sense of
If you assent to the proposal, we can sign the contract right

Lecture 2 37 English orthography

choice/choose We have no choice but to choose the cheaper option.
dairy/diary He bought six Jersey cows in order to open a dairy.
Make a note of the exam date in your diary.
dependent/dependant In your CV, your dependant is your child.
Your bursary is dependent on your results.
desert/dessert What would you like to eat for desert?
Have you ever been stuck in a dessert with no water?
emigrate/immigrate When you enter a country intending to live there, you
When you leave a country, you emigrate.
ensure/insure Please ensure that you have all your belongings with you
before you leave the plane.
I would like to insure my vehicle against fire and theft.
extent/extend Please extend a warm welcome to our guests for this
To what extent do you think he was responsible for the
fill/feel Always fill your car with petrol before a long journey.
Try to imagine how your child must feel.
lightening/lightning Don't shelter under a tree when there is lightning.
The authorities have withdrawn dangerous skin lightening.
creams from the market.
live/leave Please don't leave me. I can't live without you.
lose/loose If you lose your way, use the loose change in your pocket to
phone home.
passed/past That woman we have just passed is an important person
from my past.
peace/piece She sat in the sun eating a piece of cake and enjoying the
peace of the Bushveld.
precede/proceed The chancellor will precede us as we proceed to the
principle/principal My school principal believed honesty was the most
important principle.
quite/quiet I was quite worried that the children were so quiet.
stationary/stationery The train was not moving: it was stationary.
I need to go to the CNA to buy stationery.
their/there Go there and see if their room is tidy.
threw/through She went through hell before she finally threw him out.
to/too Will you come to the movies too?
your/you're If you're going to join us, please bring your swimming

Lecture 2 38 English orthography

Activity 6
beginning address disappeared received
February their quite occasion
business personnel desperate unneccessary
successful occurred accommodation apparently
Wednesday likeable develop error
competence recommended beauty indefensible
absence noticeably independent relief
accidentally humorous experienced misspelt/misspelled
annoyed advice humiliation
embarrassed omitted feel

Robert Lopshire, Put Me in the Zoo, p. 11. 1960: William Collins & Son (Random

David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, p. 272.

1995: CUP

Thabo & Lucy's work: ReadRight Supplement to Sunday Times May 27 2001, p. 4

Photographs of shop signs by Amy Northam

Picture of George Bernard Shaw: Irish Writers Calendar 1997. Real Ireland Design
Limited (27 Beechwood Close, Boghall Rd, Bray Co. Wicklow Ireland (Fax: 01
2829962.) Shaw picture ‘‘courtesy of Camera Press’’

Lecture 2 39 English orthography

In this lecture, you will learn how words are formed. You will
practise different methods of increasing your vocabulary.
Reading is often discouraged or slowed down because of difficult words. In order
to increase your vocabulary, it is important to recognise how words are structured.
The study of word structure is called morphology.

A knowledge of morphology is one level higher than a knowledge of orthography

as a bottom-up process all readers use to make sense of what they read. You are
likely to come across many strange long words in academic texts. The better you
are at breaking words down to their component parts, the more likely you are to
make sense of difficult texts.

The base word

A word such as ‘‘disrespectful’’ is built up out of a number of elements:
We call the part of the word to which
other elements are added the base word.
You will also find it called the ‘‘stem’’,
because so many different words can
grow out of it. The example on the right
illustrates this.

Dictionary entries begin with the base word and

then show all the other words that can be
*derived from that single base:
expansive adj. 1 able or tending to expand.
2 extensive, wide-ranging. 3 (of a person,
feelings, or speech) effusive, open.
** expansively adv. expansiveness n.

There are two reasons why we add to the base word:

. to create new words;
. to show how the word is being used grammatic-
ally (for example, to show plural, tense or

Lecture 3 40 Words and word formation

To illustrate these two reasons, let us look at examples drawn from the base word
What some people call playfulness, others call bad behaviour.
I liked the song, so I pressed the replay button.
As children, we played together.
Did you find a reliable playgroup for your child?

In these examples, we see how new words are formed through

. suffixes (‘‘playfulness’’);
. prefixes (‘‘replay’’);
. compound words (‘‘playgroup’’).

We will look at these word-building strategies later in the lesson.

In the case of ‘‘played’’, the base word ‘‘play’’ has simply had the past tense -ed added
to it. Word endings that have a grammatical function only are called inflections.
Because they are added to the end of words, they are also called inflectional suffixes.

Activity 1
Fill in words that can be derived from the base
word ‘‘appear’’. Include words formed with
inflections, prefixes, suffixes and compounds.

Appears, appearing, appeared, appearance, appearances, appar-
ent, apparently, apparition, disappear, disappears, disappearing,
disappeared, reappear, reappears, reappeared.

There are 10 types of inflectional suffix. Work through the table and fill in your own
example in each case:

Lecture 3 41 Words and word formation


noun plural Usually -s, but includes the irre- clouds,

gular plurals mentioned in Lec-
ture 2 ...........................................
possessive case Usually an apostrophe-'s to show the Lord's Prayer,
possession. The exception is ‘‘its’’
and the apostrophe without an -s ...........................................
where a plural noun ends in s. For
example: ‘‘All the doors’ locks were ...........................................
3rd person singular Nouns that can be replaced with The judge takes hot milk
the pronouns ‘‘he’’, ‘‘she’’ or ‘‘it’’ in his coffee.
take a verb with an ‘‘s’’ ending.
past tense Usually -ed, but includes irregular The millionaire chartered a
past tense inflections such as plane to see the match.
rise — rose
contracted negative The -n't ending added to verbs. We didn't win.
The apostrophe indicates that the
letter ‘‘o’’ in ‘‘not’’ has been ...........................................
objective pronoun The pronouns I, she, he, they are He told me.
changed so that they can take on
He told ............. (she)
the role of the object in the
sentence. For example, ‘‘I’’ be- He told .............. (him)
comes ‘‘me’’. He told .............. (they)
-ing form Added to verbs in order to indicate She is studying at Unisa.
the continuous tense, or to make a
verb act like a noun, e.g. ‘‘Running ...........................................
is addictive’’.
-ed form Added to the verb to make it an The raised ceilings make
adjective the room seem bigger.
-er comparison Usually added only to short adjec- After our children left, we
tives to show a degree of compar- bought a smaller home.
ison. Longer adjectives, for She was more dutiful
example ‘‘beautiful’’ are usually than any daughter you
compared using a phrase, e.g.: could imagine.
‘‘more beautiful’’
-est comparison Usually added only to short adjec- I looked down and saw the
tives to show the highest degree of longest snake in the world
comparison. Longer adjectives, for coiled on the path.
example ‘‘beautiful’’ are usually She bought the most ex-
compared using a phrase, e.g.: pensive pair of shoes in
‘‘most beautiful’’. the shop

Lecture 3 42 Words and word formation

Activity 2
Answer the multiple-choice questions below.

Question 1
What is the base word of ‘‘immeasurable’’?
1 im-
2 -able
3 measurable
4 measure

Question 2
What is the correct contracted form of ‘‘will not’’?
1 wouldn’t
2 wo’nt
3 wont
4 won’t

Question 3
Identify the error in the following sentence:
My brother's wife likes the house but she says she will probably rip up all
it's carpets if they buy it.
1 ‘‘likes’’ and ‘‘says’’ should be ‘‘like’’ and ‘‘say’’.
2 ‘‘it's’’ should be ‘‘its’’.
3 ‘‘buy’’ should be ‘‘buys.
4 ‘‘they’’ should be ‘‘her’’.

Question 4
In which of the following sentences is ‘‘charmed’’ being used as an
1 He charmed the snake.
2 The beauty contestant charmed the judges.
3 You lead a charmed life.
4 They say she charmed the pants off him.

Question 5
In which of the following sentences is ‘‘writing’’ being used as a noun?
1 Your writing is excellent.
2 Joanne is writing a novel.
3 The children are practising their writing.
4 1 and 3 above.

Lecture 3 43 Words and word formation

Question 6
Which word or phrase belongs in the gap?
I found Pofadder a quiet town, but Hermon was the ................... place I
have ever lived.
1 quieter
2 quietest
3 most quietest
4 more quieter

Question 7
If the word ‘‘person’’ is turned into a plural, how should the following
sentence read?
A person feels inadequate when his or her work is rejected and returned
to him or her for correction.
1 Persons feel inadequate when his or her work is rejected and returned
to him or her for correction.
2 People feels inadequate when their work are rejected and returned to
them for correction.
3 People feel inadequate when their work is rejected and returned to
them for correction.
4 People feel inadequate when his or her work is rejected and returned
to him or her for correction.

Question 8
Which word fits into the gap?
This year we had ................. requests for extensions.
1 less
2 fewer
3 least
4 little

The correct answers are: 4 4 2 3 4 2 3 2.
Note that in the case of few/less, few is used where the items referred to are
countable, for example:
fewer loaves of bread
fewer biscuits

‘‘Less’’ is used when the thing referred to cannot be counted:

less bread
less money
less happiness

Lecture 3 44 Words and word formation

As the examples involving bread show, we can add a word (e.g. ‘‘loaves’’) that
makes an uncountable item countable:
fewer chances of happiness
fewer deposits of money

Change word class

Sometimes the word does not change its appearance, but simply changes its
grammatical function. A word that belongs to one word class (for example, a noun)
is *converted to another word class (for example, a verb). There is no suffix
involved in cases like:
They agreed to release (VERB) him. After his release (NOUN) he addressed a large
The vineyard produces 6 000 bottles (NOUN) of wine per season. It bottles
(VERB) the wine on the farm.
The house was always dirty (ADJECTIVE). The children would dirty (VERB)
the floor with their muddy feet.

Activity 3
Read the cartoon. The little girl is puzzled by a word conversion. Which word has been
converted? Which word class has it changed to? Which word class do you think the
little girl would normally expect that word to belong to? (Her last remark may help you

Lecture 3 45 Words and word formation


A prefix is a word part (for example, anti-) placed at the beginning of a word in order
to alter its meaning. By adding different prefixes to a base word, several new words
can be constructed.

Prefixes have their own dictionary entries explaining their meaning. A prefix can
have more than one meaning:

ex- prefix (also e- before some consonants, ef- before f) 1 forming verbs
meaning a out, forth (exclude; exit). b upward (extol). c thoroughly
(excruciate). d bring into a state (exasperate). e remove or free from
(expatriate; exonerate). 2 forming nouns from titles of office, status, etc.,
meaning ‘formerly’ (ex-convict; ex-president; ex-wife).

There are about 50 commonly used prefixes in English. If you know their meaning,
your vocabulary will be greatly increased. Study the tables and add your own
examples in each case, using a dictionary if necessary:

Prefixes showing negation (‘‘not’’)

Prefixes showing negation (‘‘not’’)

a- amoral, asymmetrical, ..........................................................
dis- disloyal, dislike, disfavour, ...................................................
in- insane, inelegant, .................................................................
non- non-smoker, non-aligned, ....................................................
un- uncharitable, unworthy, unhelpful, .......................................

Prefixes showing reversal (an action is undone or reversed)

de- deforestation, demote, decommission, declutch, ...............
dis- disconnect, discourage, discredit, .......................................
un- untie, undress, ......................................................................

Disparaging Prefixes (showing disapproval)

mis- (‘wrongly’) misjudge, mismanage, .........................................................
mal- (‘badly’) {
malodorous malodorous, malfunction, ...................................................
bad smelling
pseudo- (‘false’) pseudo-intellectual, ..............................................................

Lecture 3 46 Words and word formation

Prefixes showing size of degree
arch- (‘highest’) archduke, arch-enemy, ................................................
hyper- (‘extremely’) hyperactive, hypercritical, ...........................................
mega- (‘great’) megalith, megawatt, ....................................................
mini- (‘little’) miniseries, minibus, .....................................................
out- (‘faster/better’) outclass, outnumber, ...................................................
over- (‘too much’) overvalue, overeat, ......................................................
sub- (‘lower/less than’) substandard, subordinate, ..........................................
super- (‘above/better’) supermarket, supernatural, .........................................
sur- (‘over/above’) surname, surreal, .........................................................
ultra- (‘beyond’) ultraviolet, .....................................................................
under- (‘too little’) underpay, undernourished, .........................................
vice- (‘deputy’) vice-headmaster, ..........................................................

Prefixes showing attitude and orientation

anti-/contra- (‘against’) antisocial, anticlockwise, .............................................
contraception, contraindications, ................................
counter- (‘opposed to’) counteract, counter-revolution, ...................................
co- (‘with’) cofounder, co-ordinator, ..............................................
pro- (‘on the side of’) pro-government, procreate, ........................................
auto- (‘self’) autocrat, auto-immune, ...............................................

Prefixes showing location and distance

extra- (‘beyond’) extramural, ...................................................................
fore- (‘before’) foreshore, forecourt, ....................................................
inter- (‘between’) interview, interaction, ...................................................
intra- (‘within’) intramural, intra-cranial, ...............................................
pan- (‘all’) pan-African, ..................................................................
super- (‘over’) superstratum, superscript, ..........................................
tele- (‘at a distance’) telepathic, telephoto, ...................................................
trans- (‘across’) transaction, transport, .................................................

Lecture 3 47 Words and word formation

Prefixes showing time and order
ex- (‘former’) ex-president, ex-beauty queen, ...................................
fore- (‘before’) foreword, forewarn, .....................................................
neo- (‘new’) neo-Gothic, ..................................................................
paleo- (‘ancient’) paleobotany, ................................................................
postpartum after birth post- (‘after’) postpartum, post-war, ................................................
pre- (‘before’) premarital, premenstrual, ............................................
proto- (‘original/first’) proto-Germanic, ...........................................................
re- (‘again’) rebuild, re-evaluate, .....................................................

Prefixes showing number

bi-/di- (‘two’) bilateral, .......................................................................
dichotomy, ...................................................................
demi-/semi- (‘half’) demigod, ......................................................................
semicircle, ....................................................................
mono-/uni- (‘one’) monotheism, ................................................................
unilateral, .....................................................................
multi-/poly-(‘many’) multi-purpose, multiparous, ........................................
polysyllabic, .................................................................
tri- (‘three’) tripartite, .......................................................................

Prefixes uses for grammatical conversion

a- (‘turns a verb into an adjective’) astride, afloat, .............................................
be- (‘turns a noun into a verb’) befriend, bewitch, .......................................
en- (‘turns a noun into a verb’) enslave, endanger, .....................................

Activity 4
Using your knowledge of prefixes, work out what the writer of the following text
means. Then fill in the gaps to complete a summary of the text:
The multiethnic and multicultural nature of our world should not be
regarded as an unavoidable or burdensome accident of human history, nor
taken for granted. It must be placed within its historical perspective as a phase
in human history. We can then see, think, and act in transcontinental,
interracial, cross-cultural, multilingual, and nontribal terms. Education can
and ought to play a vital part in breaking down barriers and building
bridges — which is easier said than done.
(‘‘Exploring the Foundations and Implications of Education for a
Multiethnic and Multicultural World Community’’ by Jacob J.M. Ndlovu, p. 37)

Lecture 3 48 Words and word formation

Ndlovu believes that we should accept that the world contains (1)... races and
many (2)... . This is not something we can (3)..., and we should not see it as a
(4)... . He believes that there will come a time when humans will be able to relate to
one another across the (5)..., between (6)..., from one (7)... to another, using (8)...
languages and (9)... prejudice.


Suffixes are short elements such as -ness added to the end of words. The
inflectional suffixes you studied earlier in this lesson had a grammatical function,
such as forming a plural or showing possession. Other suffixes help to form new
words, usually by changing the part of speech involved. For example, we might
use the suffix -ment to create a noun out of a verb:
amaze + -ment = amazement

The verb ‘‘africanise’’ is a more recent example of adding a suffix to make a new
word: African + ise.

Work through the table of noun suffixes and add your own examples:

Noun suffixes
Occupation, origin, or type of youngster, auctioneer, writer, Israelite, Chi-
person or thing: -ster, -eer, -er, ite, nese, employee, Indian, .............................
-ese, -ee, -(i)an, -ant
Diminutive or feminine: -let, -ette, piglet, usherette, heiress, daddy, auntie,
-ess, -y, -ie ......................................................................
Status or domain: -hood, -ship, sisterhood, friendship, kingdom, democ-
-dom, -ocracy, -(e)ry racy, refinery, ..............................................
State, quality or institution: -ness, happiness, sanity, organisation, govern-
-ity, -ation, -ment ment, ...........................................................
Action or activity: -al, -age, -action referral, drainage, examination, .................

Lecture 3 49 Words and word formation

Verb suffixes
A noun or adjective is turned into a simplify, analyse, redden, ......................
verb which causes the noun or
adjective: -ify, -ize, -en ..................................................................

Adjective suffixes
-able/-ible readable, .....................................................
(‘able’/‘worthy to be’) legible, ........................................................
ish foolish, .........................................................
(‘like’/‘belonging to’/‘somewhat’) Irish, ............................................................
youngish, ....................................................
-al/-ic/-ive/-ous criminal, heroic, attractive, vivacious,
(‘having the properties of’) ......................................................................
-ian (‘in the tradition of’) Darwinian, ...................................................

Adverb suffixes
-ly (‘in the manner of’) happily, disturbingly, ...................................
-ward(s) (‘in the direction of’) eastward, ....................................................
-wise (‘as far as x is concerned’) money-wise, ................................................

Activity 5
Read the following text and then fill in the gaps to complete the summary:
We are all survivors. At some time in our lives we have all experienced
loss. Reflect for a moment on something – material or nonmaterial –
that you have recently lost. You may recall the loss of a job, a friend's
moving away, misplacing an important letter, having to replace a
favourite piece of clothing, the death of a pet, any number of things.
... As you recall some of the ‘‘little deaths’’ in your own life, you can
begin to notice the ways in which you have responded to loss. Shock,
disbelief, resentment, sadness, and relief are natural reactions.
(The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying
by Lynne Ann Despelder, p. 191)

Despelder argues that we are all survivors of the ‘‘little deaths’’ caused by loss,
bereav (1)..., remov. (2)..., retrench. (3)... . She says that our resp (4)... to these
losses takes different forms, all of them natural. We may be (5)..., (6)..., (7)..., (8)...
or (9)... .

Lecture 3 50 Words and word formation

*Compound words
Many words in fact consist of two words joined together, with or without a hyphen:

These are known as compound words. Unlike

most new words formed with prefixes and suffixes,
each element that makes up a compound word can
stand on its own:

wheel + chair = wheelchair

post + card = postcard.

Compounding words is an important source of

new words, especially as advances in technology
and science give us new ideas and things to talk about:

Compound words are loved equally by poets and advertisers because of their creative
possibilities. The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example, made up compounds like
‘‘dapple-dawn-drawn’’, ‘‘fathers-forth’’, ‘‘yestertempest’’ and ‘‘manmarks’’.

Activity 6
Study the product labels and, in each case, explain the use of compounds. To do
this you will need to identify:
. which two words have been compounded;
. what spelling alterations
(deviations) have been made.

Lecture 3 51 Words and word formation

Word origins
The study of where words come from is called etymology. Most dictionaries will tell
you where words come from originally. Often the origin (or root) is Greek or Latin.
For example:
dermatitis n. inflammation of the skin. [Gk derma -atos skin + -ITIS]

As you read more and increase your vocabulary, try to work out and remember the
most common of these ancient word roots. They have their own separate
dictionary entries, even though they do not stand on their own as individual words.

Elements like xeno- (‘‘foreign’’) are also called ‘‘combination forms’’ because they
combine with other forms to make new words (‘‘xenophobia’’ = fear of foreigners).
Once you know that -derma means ‘‘skin’’, -ologist refers to one who studies, and
epi- means ‘‘above’’, you can work out the meaning of words like

Some of these ancient word roots are listed below. As you work through the tables,
try to add your own examples.

Roots usually found in the prefix position

(environment) ecology, eco-tourism, ...........................................................
(mind/soul) psychology, psychoanalysis, ...............................................
(art, science, craft) technology, technobabble, ...................................................
(earth) geology, geomagnetism, geochemistry, .............................
(life) biology, biosphere, bioscience, ...........................................
(books) bibliophile, ............................................................................
(hundredth) centennial, ............................................................................
(mother) matronly, ...............................................................................
(father) paternal, ................................................................................
(god) theocracy, .............................................................................
(people) demographics, ......................................................................

Lecture 3 52 Words and word formation

(heat) thermometer, .........................................................................
(the same) homogenous, ........................................................................
(comrade) society, sociopath, ................................................................
(loving) philology, ...............................................................................
(water) hydrologist, ...........................................................................
(tongue/language) linguist, ...................................................... (also: bilingual)
(Europe/EU) Eurodollar, .............................................................................

Roots often found in the suffix position

(wisdom) theosophy, ..........................................................
-logy, -logical, -logist
(area of study or discourse) ecology, ..............................................................
(fear of) claustrophobia, ...................................................
(circle, globe) biosphere, ...........................................................
(area looked at or covered) periscope, ...........................................................
(measure) psychometric, .....................................................
(suffering) psychopath, ........................................................
(writing) telegraph, ............................................................
(name/word) antonym, .............................................................
(world) microcosm, .........................................................
(sound) homophone, .......................................................
(fondness) bibliophile, ..........................................................

Lecture 3 53 Words and word formation

Activity 7
Use a dictionary to find out what the following Greek or Latin word elements mean.
Then list as many words as you can using the element:

Word families
As a result of all these different ways of
extending a base word to create new, related
words, we have word families. A word family
shows how many different words are derived
from a single ‘‘parent’’ base word:

Activity 8
Create word families around the following words:

Acronyms and abbreviations

A large number of words (some 400 000!) have entered the *lexicon because they
are abbreviations or acronyms. An acronym is a word formed out of the initial
letters or abbreviation of other words. For example:
RAM (Random-Access Memory)
CAT (Computerized Axial Topography) scan
UNISA (University of South Africa)
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Abbreviations made out of initial letters that do not form a word-like sound are
pronounced as a sequence of letters, for example:

Widely used abbreviations and acronyms are treated like words in dictionaries,
with entries detailing what they stand for and mean. They appear in the usual
alphabetical order, so that ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and asap (as
soon as possible) fall between the entries for ‘‘as’’ and ‘‘asbestos’’.

Lecture 3 54 Words and word formation

Activity 9
What do the following abbreviations and acronyms stand for? Use a dictionary if

An important way of expanding your vocabulary is by looking for synonyms. A
synonym is a word with a similar or identical meaning to another word. Whereas a
dictionary gives definitions, the place to look for synonyms is a thesaurus. For
example, a thesaurus gives the following synonyms for the word ‘‘banal’’:
. trite, hackneyed, stereotyped, clichéd, stereotypical, commonplace, stock,
common, everyday, ordinary, pedestrian, humdrum, tired, well-worn, feeble,
threadbare, unoriginal, unimaginative, uninspired, bourgeois, platitudinous,
petty, jejune, trivial, colloq. corny, old hat.

As you can see from reading through this list, a thesaurus helps you to:
. define the original word;
. find synonyms for the word;
. learn new, related words and phrases

A thesaurus can also help you to become a better, more accurate writer. For example,
you may use the word ‘‘do’’ as an all-purpose verb because your vocabulary is too
poor to provide a more exact term. If you look up the verb ‘‘do’’ in a thesaurus, it will
direct you to 9 other entries. Under the entry for each of these 9 verbs, you will find
further synonyms, leading you to a total of about 100 words to choose from:
do v see EFFECT, see MAKE, see PROVIDE, see ACT, see STUDY, see

Synonyms are not only useful when we are striving to be accurate and *articulate.
They also help when we are trying to explain something, and looking for a word or
phrase that will help our audience to get our meaning. The following famous
humorous example comes from a TV sketch in which
a customer tries to convince the owner of a pet shop
that the parrot he bought earlier is dead:
It's not pining, it's passed on! This parrot is no
more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to
meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It's a stiff!
Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed
him to the perch he would be pushing up the
daisies! Its metabolic processes are of interest only to
historians! It's hopped the twig! It's kicked the
bucket! It's shuffled off this mortal coil! It's run
down the curtain and joined the choir invisible!
This.... is an EX-PARROT!

Lecture 3 55 Words and word formation

Activity 10
Replace the word ‘‘do’’ in each of the following sentences with a more accurate
1 I have done the assignment.
2 I want to do Public Relations at college.
3 I still have to do the flowers.
4 He's done a statue of Nkosi Johnson.
5 When I've done this chapter, I'll join you.
6 Last year we did a jazz evening to raise funds.
7 We did the Otter Trail with our hiking club.
8 I'll do some sandwiches.
9 The children are going to do a nativity play.
10 He wants to do the Comrades marathon next year.

Your knowledge of word formation will improve both your reading speed and
comprehension. A basic understanding of morphology helps you to recognize
the meaning of words more quickly and efficiently.

*Vocabulary Building
derived from obtained or descended from
converted changed in form or function
compound a word made of two or more existing words
lexicon vocabulary/the dictionary (from lexis, Greek for
articulate able to speak or write fluently and well

Activity 1
Answers after exercise

Activity 2
Answers after exercise

Activity 3
The little girl is puzzled by the uses of ‘‘upset’’ as a noun: ‘‘an upset’’. As the last
frame of the cartoon suggests, she is more accustomed to hearing ‘‘upset’’ used as
an adjective (‘‘get upset’’) or verb.

Lecture 3 56 Words and word formation

Activity 4
1 many
2 cultures
3 avoid
4 burden
5 continents
6 races
7 culture
8 many
9 without

Activity 5
1 bereavement
2 removal
3 retrenchment
4 response
5 shocked
6 disbelieving
7 resentful
8 sad
9 relieved

Activity 6
SLUGGEM = +slug + them
(Note that slug refers to the pest you want to get rid of and to ‘hit’. We
call this play on words ‘punning’.
STOPAYNE = stop + pain
SALTICRAX = salty + crackers
WEET-BIX = wheat + biscuits
FRESHPAK = fresh + pack.
Did you notice that ‘‘rooibos’’ is also a compound? (Afrikaans: rooi [red] + bos

Activity 7
iso- means ‘‘equal’’.
isosceles, isotope, isobar, isometric, isomorphic, isotherm, isomer. (Note: the word
‘‘isolate’’ has a different origin, not related to the meaning ‘‘equal’’.)
meta- has two meanings. (a) ‘‘higher, beyond’’. (b) ‘‘of change, transfer’’.
metamorphosis, metaphysics, metastasis, metaphor.
omni- means ‘‘all, everywhere’’.
omnipotent, omnipresent, omnivorous, omnivore, omnibus, omnidirectional,
-cide means ‘‘an act of killing’’.
infanticide, matricide, patricide, fratricide, suicide, homicide, regicide.

Lecture 3 57 Words and word formation

-cracy means ‘‘government or rule of’’.
democracy, theocracy, autocracy, meritocracy.

Activity 8
LINE: lines, lined, lining, lineage, linear, linearity, linearly, lineal, lineally,
lineation, linesman, align, realign, realignment, alignment, non-aligned,
unlined, online, outline, byline.
CLEAN: cleans, cleaned, cleaning, cleaner, cleanness, unclean, uncleanness,
self-cleaning, cleanly, cleanliness, uncleanly, uncleanliness, cleanable,
cleanse, cleansing, cleanser, clean-cut, clean-shaven, clean-living.
GRACE: graces, graced, gracing, disgrace, disgraces, disgracing, graceful,
disgraceful, gracefully, disgracefully, gracefulness, ungracefulness,
disgracefulness, gracious, ungracious, graciousness, ungraciousness,
graciously, ungraciously.

Activity 9
Great Britain United States
European Union manuscript
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Compact Disk Frequently Asked Questions
Before Christ Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord)
South African Broadcasting electronic mail

Activity 10
1 finished/completed/submitted/written/sent off
2 study/enrol for
3 arrange/buy/pick/plant/paint/draw
4 made/cast/sculpted/completed/created
5 completed/finished
6 organized/arranged/co-ordinated/planned
7 hiked/enjoyed/completed/walked
8 make/prepare
9 perform/devise/present/put on/act/arrange/mount
10 run/attempt/try

Extract from ‘‘Exploring the Foundations and Implications of Education for a
Multiethnic and Multicultural World Community’’ by Jacob J.M. Ndlovu, In M.
Cross, Z. Mkwanazi-Twala and G. Klein eds, Dealing with Diversity in South
African Education, p. 37) Cape Town: Juta (1998)

Lecture 3 58 Words and word formation

Extract (& cover) from Lynne Ann Despelder, The Last Dance: Encountering Death
and Dying, p. 191. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Company (1983). 285
Hamilton Ave Palo Alto, California 94301

Madam&Eve ‘‘upset’’ cartoon: Mail&Guardian April 26–May 3 2001, p. 33

Madam&Eve ‘‘africanise’’ cartoon: All Aboard for the Gravy Train (1995)

Jack Nicholson pictures: Empire

Lecture 3 59 Words and word formation

Lecture 4
In this lecture you will study the ways in which understanding
sentence structure contributes to reading comprehension.

Types of sentence
How would you define a sentence? The old rules are still useful:
A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.
A sentence expresses a complete thought.
A sentence must contain a subject (someone or something that performs
the action) and a verb (an action).

However, these rules are often broken,

as the examples here show.

It is therefore useful to think about

different types of sentence:

statements fragments
questions headings
directives greetings
exclamations abbreviated forms
single word exclamations

Irregular sentences, which are more common in speech, creative writing and
informal contexts, may lack a verb and/or a subject.

Let's briefly define the four types of regular sentence:

A statement is a sentence that gives information or makes a declaration:
I'm getting divorced.

Lecture 4 60 The sentence

A question seeks information. Some are ‘‘yes/no’’ questions, e.g. ‘‘Do you eat
meat?’’. Some may be answered in a word or phrase, e.g. ‘‘What’s the test on?’’.
Others require lengthy answers. Questions are an important technique for getting
your reader or listener to focus on a particular issue for discussion, e.g. the Time
magazine covers pictured below. In speeches and arguments, questions that are
asked for effect are called rhetorical questions (‘‘Do you think I'm crazy?’’).
Questions are formed using either an auxiliary verb (‘‘Did ...?’’, ‘‘Is ...?’’, ‘‘Can ...?’’)
or a question word (‘‘Who ...?’’, ‘‘What ...?’’, ‘‘Where ...?’’).

A directive is a command or instruction. Most directives have

no stated subject, but their implied subject is ‘‘you’’:
Have a drink.
Drive safely.
Take the day off.

However, it is possible to have a directive with a subject,

e.g. ‘‘Nobody move!’’

An exclamation is an expression of surprise, delight, disgust or some other strong

emotion. They begin ‘‘How’’ or ‘‘What’’:
What a wonderful car you have!
How cute they are!
How kind of you to come!

Exclamations are often shortened so that the verb and subject are left out:
How wonderful!

Activity 1
Study the texts and answer the multiple-choice questions.

Lecture 4 61 The sentence

Question 1
Which of the following is NOT a directive?
1. Call 0860 121 151 or visit your nearest
Standard Bank for more details.
2. Here's Johnny!
3. Leave us some of your life savings so that
we can carry on saving lives.
4. Vote and be involved.

Question 2
Which of the following is NOT a statement?
penalties 1. You must pay right away to avoid severe
punishments, fines, loss {
2. Smaller families have bigger plans for the
3. Leave us some of your life savings so that
we can carry on saving lives.
4. You deserve to look your best.

Question 3
The advert for Standard Bank Funeral plan
1. questions and a directive.
2. statements and directives.
3. questions and a statement.
4. questions and an exclamation.

Lecture 4 62 The sentence

Question 4
Which of the following is an IRREGULAR sentence?
1. Here's Johnny!
2. Glamour!
3. Call 0860 121 151 or visit your nearest Standard Bank for more details.
4. What do I owe my family?

The correct answers are: 2 3 1 2.
As you saw from this exercise, the different sentence types may all be used to get a
response out of us as readers by challenging, inviting, instructing, exciting or
confronting us.

Sentence structure

The study of sentence structure is called syntax. Modern descriptions of the

sentences of a language consist of two sets of rules: phrase structure rules and
transformational rules. Phrase structures are the skeletal patterns of different
sentences skeletal in that no lexical choices (actual words) are included in the
description. An introductory study of the basic phrase structure rules for English
would fill a module all on its own, but here, for interest's sake, are the first four such
rules for English sentences, with explanations in square brackets:
S *
g NP VP [S = Sentence, * g = ‘‘is rewritten as’’; NP = Noun
Phrase; VP = Verb Phrase]
NP *
g Art (Adj) N (PP) [Art = Article; (Adj) = adjective (optional); N = Noun;
(PP) = Preposition Phrase (optional)]
VP *
g V (NP) (PP) [V = Verb]
PP *
g NP [P = Preposition]

Transformational rules alter phrase structures in various ways, fill in particular

words and relate the sentence to the discourse surrounding it. They explain why we
know, intuitively, what the original simple sentences are that lie below the surface of
complex sentences we read or write.

We draw on this ‘‘bottom-up’’ knowledge when we try to make sense of academic

texts, where complexity of thought is often reflected in complexity of syntax. In this
module we look more closely at the syntax of sentences, using the traditional
grammatical description you are likely to have come across already. Our purpose
is to strengthen your ability to break down complicated sentences into their
component sentences in order to understand them properly.

Simple sentences
A sentence consists of at least one clause. A clause contains a subject and a verb.

Lecture 4 63 The sentence

The placard in the picture alongside consists only of a subject (‘‘Patriots’’) and verb
(‘‘get jailed’’) and therefore it has only one independent clause. This is called a
simple sentence, because it has only one clause.

Compound sentences
A sentence may also consist of two clauses joined
together with a linking word such as and, or, but, then,
nor, yet. Each of the clauses could stand on its own as
a sentence:
This theory must focus on the material to be
learned. + This theory must focus on the learner.
This theory must focus not only on the material to be learned, but also on the

This is called a compound sentence. Both parts of a compound sentence are of

equal importance, and they are neatly balanced in the sentence. In the second part
of the sentence, both the subject (‘‘this theory’’) and the verb (‘‘must focus’’) are
understood; the writer does not need to repeat them, but only adds the new
information (‘‘also on the learner’’). Using compound sentences shows that you
can recognise the links between ideas and use syntax to underline those links.

Complex sentences
A sentence may consist of several clauses joined
together in complex relationships with one another. In a
complex sentence, there is a MAIN clause joined to
SUBORDINATE and/or RELATIVE clauses and/or CO-
ORDINATED clauses. Subordinate clauses are joined
with conjunctions like because, since, that, although,
while, etc. Co-ordinated clauses are joined as for
compound sentences. Relative clauses are joined with
relative pronouns, e.g. who, where, which, when.
Relative clauses and subordinate clauses cannot stand
on their own as independent sentences.

Let's see how a complex sentence is put together:

Although the lack of an adequate definition generates considerable
(Subordinate clause introduced with ‘‘although’’)
and results in tremendous service variability,
(Co-ordinated clause introduced with ‘‘and’’)
the definition of the National Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children
has provided a framework
(Main clause)
from which many professionals have worked.
(Relative clause introduced with ‘‘which’’; ‘‘from’’ moved from sentence end
to avoid ending on a preposition)

Lecture 4 64 The sentence

We are not giving you this information so that you can enter into a deep study of
grammar, but rather so that you will be able to make sense of long, difficult
sentences when you read. By identifying clauses you are *isolating and identifying
the IDEAS in the sentence.

Activity 2
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions:
nurture John Locke was one of the most famous *proponents of the {nurture view,
the process of bringing who claimed that an infant was born a tabula rasa (blank slate) upon which
up and caring for chil-
dren the environment would have its effects and determine the *traits and
characteristics of that individual. Jean Jacques Rousseau, who {championed
promoted, upheld; often
used in phrases such as the idea of *innate goodness, carried his argument to the level of politics and
‘‘championed an idea’’ or government, pleading that the criminal or *deviate was a result of the society
‘‘championed a cause’’.
spawned that {spawned him and that only by having a good society could we hope to
produced, generated, have good individuals. His famous Émile (1762) is an account of how he
gave birth to
taught an orphaned child, given up by society as hopelessly primitive and
stupid, and changed him into a civilized human being.
(Educational Psychology by Robert R. Reilly, 1983, p. 22)

Question 1
The main clause of the first sentence tells how
1. John Locke was a well-known supporter of the view that nurture is
more important than nature.
2. John Locke claimed that a baby is like a blank slate.
3. The environment
‘writes’’ on the ‘‘blank slate’’ of the baby.
4. The environment determines what an individual is like.

Question 2
In addition to the main clause, the first sentence contains
1. a relative clause introduced by ‘‘who’’.
2. a relative clause introduced by ‘‘which’’.
3. a co-ordinated clause introduced by ‘‘and’’.
4. all of the above.

Question 3
Which of the following is NOT an action performed by Jean Jacques
Rousseau? He
1. championed the idea of innate goodness.
2. carried his argument to the level of politics and government.
3. pleaded that a criminal was the product of the society which gave birth
to him/her.
4. spawned the criminal.

Lecture 4 65 The sentence

5. pleaded that only by having a good society could we hope to have
good individuals.

Question 4
Which of the following does NOT describe what Rousseau's book is
about? In Émile, Rousseau
1. gives a famous account.
2. describes how he taught an orphaned child.
3. tells how the child was dismissed by society as hopelessly primitive
and stupid.
4. asserts that he changed the child into a civilized human being.

The correct answers are: 1 4 4 1.
The important rule when reading long sentences is not to give up, but to concentrate
on separating the ideas contained in separate clauses. If necessary, you can break
these ideas into a numbered or bulleted list for study purposes.

The Verb
The two elements of SUBJECT and VERB are found in every complete sentence. A
complete sentence must have a finite verb, that is, a verb that reflects tense (when
the event happened) and number (singular or plural).

Verbs start off in the infinitive:

to run

Looking at the infinitive verb, we do not know the answers to the questions: ‘‘Who
ran?’’ ‘‘When did the action of running take place?’’. In order to make the verb finite,
we have to add tense and number:
He runs. (singular, present)
We run. (plural, present)
We were running. (plural, past)
He will run. (singular, future)

Because the verb in a sentence often consists of several words, we refer to the
verb phrase.
. The verb phrase may consist of one full or finite verb, which may be either an
action or a linking verb, e.g.:
The relation of attentional deficit disorder (ADD) to learning disabilities is
vague. (FINITE LINKING VERB = ‘‘is’’)
Table 1–10 contains the diagnostic criteria for ADD. (FINITE ACTION VERB
= ‘‘contains’’)

Lecture 4 66 The sentence

. It may consist of several verbs working together to produce a complete verb,
Learning disabled subjects were less able to focus.

phrasal verb . It may include a {phrasal verb, e.g.:
an idiomatic expression
consisting of a verb that Traditionally, these tasks have been referred to as distal, proximal, and
must be accompanied by embedded distractors. (COMPLETE VERB = ‘‘have been referred to’’.
a particular adverb and/
or preposition. e.g. ‘‘look PHRASAL VERB = ‘‘referred to’’)
down on’’
. It may consist of an auxiliary plus another verb, e.g.:
In recent years, the Hagen task has come under criticism. (AUXILIARY =

. It may include a verb in its infinitive form, e.g.:

At best, the task is now thought to provide minimal understanding of
selective attention. (VERB IN INFINITIVE = ‘‘to provide’’)

. It may directly or indirectly affect someone or something, called a direct or

indirect *object, e.g.:
Beginning in the early 1800s, several physicians began investigating the
phenomenon of aphasia. (OBJECT DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY VERB = ‘‘the
phenomenon of aphasia’’.

Activity 3
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions.
To err is human, to forgive ... trendy.
Until recently, psychologists regarded forgiveness as the business of clergy
and theologians. But now mental health experts are subjecting forgiveness to
the microscope of scientific *scrutiny — with no apologies.
. Last fall saw the founding of the International Forgiveness Institute,
headed by the University of Wisconsin's Robert Enright, Ph.D.
. In April, Maryland psychologist Frederick DiBlasio, Ph.D., hosted a two-
day conference to teach therapists how to *foster forgiving.
. Mack Harnden, Ph.D., is already busy arranging ‘‘Jerusalem 2000,’’ an
international forgiveness congress scheduled to take place you-know-

Recent research makes clear the value of forgiveness. In one study, when
Enright and Suzanne Freedman, Ph.D., interviewed a group of incest
survivors, none expressed any desire to forgive their *perpetrators. The duo
assigned half of the women to forgiveness workshops anyway and not only
did all eventually forgive, but a year later they reported far less anxiety and
depression than a nonforgiving *control group.
Forgiving, however, does not mean letting the guilty party off the hook. ‘‘It's

Lecture 4 67 The sentence

not excusing or forgetting it's giving up resentment that you're entitled to,’’
explains Enright. The *paradox, he says, is that ‘‘by giving this gift to the
other, it is the gift-giver who becomes psychologically healed’’.
(Psychology Today, July/August 1996, p. 12)

Question 1
Identify the infinitive verb(s) in the first sentence:
1. is
2. to err
3. to forgive
4. (2) and (3) above

Question 2
Identify the complete (finite) verb(s) in the first sentence:
1. is
2. to err
3. to forgive
4. (2) and (3) above

Question 3
‘‘Err’’ is a verb meaning
1. ‘‘make mistakes’’
2. ‘‘commit incest’’
3. ‘‘forgive’’
4. ‘‘be kind’’

Question 4
The verb in the sentence: ‘‘Until recently, psychologists regarded
forgiveness as the business of clergy and theologians’’ is
1. ‘‘recently’’
2. ‘‘psychologists’’
3. ‘‘regarded’’
4. ‘‘forgiveness’’

Question 5
The complete verb in the sentence: ‘‘But now mental health experts are
subjecting forgiveness to the microscope of scientific scrutiny — with no
apologies’’ is
1. ‘‘experts’’
2. ‘‘are’’
3. ‘‘subjecting’’
4. ‘‘are subjecting’’

Lecture 4 68 The sentence

Question 6
In this context, ‘‘fall’’ is
1. a verb in the present tense
2. a verb in the past tense
3. a noun meaning ‘‘autumn’’
4. a noun meaning ‘‘collapse’’

Question 7
The purpose of the Maryland conference is expressed in
1. the finite verb ‘‘hosted’’
2. the adjectival phrase ‘‘two-day’’
3. the infinitive verbs ‘‘to teach’’ and ‘‘to foster’’
4. the noun ‘‘therapists’’

Question 8
Identify the finite verb:
1. is arranging
2. arranging
3. busy arranging
4. to take place

Question 9
Identify the two finite verbs in the sentence ‘‘In one study, when Enright
and Suzanne Freedman, Ph.D., interviewed a group of incest survivors,
none expressed any desire to forgive their perpetrators.’’
1. ‘‘study’’ and ‘‘interviewed’’
2. ‘‘interviewed’’ and ‘‘expressed’’
3. ‘‘desire’’ and ‘‘to forgive’’
4. ‘‘expressed’’ and ‘‘perpetrators’’

Question 10
The verb ‘‘did forgive’’ consists of
1. an auxiliary verb
2. an auxiliary verb (‘‘did’’) plus a verb in the infinitive (‘‘forgive’’)
3. an infinitive verb
4. a phrasal verb

Question 11
The verbs in the last paragraph are all
1. in the present tense
2. in the past tense
3. in the future tense

Lecture 4 69 The sentence

Question 12
‘‘Forgiving’’ requires
1. a singular verb, e.g. ‘‘does’’
2. a plural verb, e.g. ‘‘do’’
3. a singular verb, e.g. ‘‘do’’
4. a plural verb, e.g. ‘‘does’’

The correct answers are 4 1 1 3 4 3 3 12 2 1 1.
The verb is the most indispensable element of a clause or sentence. It carries a great
deal of meaning: look for it first in any sentence that is difficult to understand.

Adverbials are words, phrases and clauses that give us information about the verb
of a sentence. Adverbials can be found by asking the questions ‘‘Why?’’, ‘‘Where?’’,
‘‘When?’’, ‘‘How?’’, ‘‘What if?’’ and ‘‘With what result?’’ about the verb. Some
adverbials simply express an opinion or comment (‘‘sadly’’, ‘‘unfortunately’’), or
make a *concession (‘‘although ...’’). Look at the adverbials underlined in the
following sentences:
In our attitudes toward relationships, says C. Raymond Knee, Ph.D., a
psychologist at the University of Houston, we fall into two general camps:
fate, the predetermined
believers in {destiny and worshippers of growth. When destiny theorists are
course of events not satisfied, their relationships end abruptly. Growth theorists expect
closeness and compatibility to develop as they get to know a partner. These
people have fewer one-night stands and are more likely to date one person for
a long time. Though marriage manuals and couples therapists favour the
growth model, believers in fate aren't necessarily destined for poor
(Psychology Today, July/August 1998, p. 16)

Activity 4
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions.
After asking one group of college kids to write detailed essays about a
personal trauma — ranging from abuse to rape — Melanie Greenberg, Ph.
D., has concluded that putting pen to paper about your trying times is good
for your health. In the following month, the students who had composed
afflictions, troubles
accounts of their personal {tribulations made two-thirds fewer trips to the
doctor than did a third group that had written *impersonal factual essays. But
surprisingly, those who authored stories about a fictional misfortune
experienced similar health benefits.
(Adapted from Psychology Today, July/August 1998, p. 20)

Lecture 4 70 The sentence

Question 1
When did Greenberg conclude that writing about trauma has therapeutic
1. in the following month
2. after asking one group of college kids to write detailed essays about a
personal trauma
3. during their trips to the doctor
4. before she started the study

Question 2
When did the students make fewer trips to the doctor?
1. in the following month
2. after asking one group of college kids to write detailed essays about a
personal trauma
3. during their trips to the doctor
4. before she started the study

Question 3
Which word in the third sentence expresses a comment on or attitude
towards the information contained in that sentence?
1. but
2. surprisingly
3. fictional
4. similar

The correct answers are: 2 1 2.
Because adverbial information answers so many questions about opinions and
about the time, place, manner and intensity of actions, it is important to be aware of
it in our reading.

The Subject

The subject of a sentence(s) can be found by first identifying the finite verb and
then asking WHO or WHAT performed this action:

In the 1970s, a task designed by Hagen was frequently used to *ascertain

abilities in central versus *incidental learning.

FIND: Complete verb — was frequently used to ascertain

ASK: Who or what was frequently used to ascertain ...?
ANSWER: Subject — a task designed by Hagen

Lecture 4 71 The sentence

. The subject of a sentence(s) frequently tells you what the sentence will be
The behavioral approach (S) focuses on the way information is presented
to the learner.

. The subject of a sentence is often (but not always) placed first in the sentence:
Several lines of investigation were opened. (SUBJECT comes first.)
As a result of this medical orientation, several lines of investigation were
opened. (ADVERBIAL information comes first.)

. The subject of a sentence may be a common noun, proper noun, or pronoun:

Physicians (S = common noun) began investigating the phenomenon of
aphasia. Duyere (S = Proper noun) attempted to establish a link between
overt behaviour and brain lesions. He (S = pronoun) reasoned that if a
particular brain lesion could be associated with an overt behaviour, then the
reverse diagnosis could be made.

. The subject of a sentence may consist of a noun phrase (a group of words

centred around a noun):
Current investigations into the medical basis for learning differences (S) are
significantly different from those of the 1960s and 1970s.
The possible contributions and the inherent difficulties of each (S) were

. The subject of a sentence may consist of a clause:

Fewer than 1 of 10 individuals referred for neurological evaluations (S) are
actually diagnosed as having organic brain damage.

. The subject of a sentence may be preceded in the sentence by other words

and phrases, especially adverbials:
Since the original edition of this text, a new disability emphasis (S) has
Unfortunately, measures of attention (S) (whether those of arousal,
sustained attention or selective attention) are known to be inversely but
highly correlated with IQ, with attentional problems increasing as IQ

By spotting the grammatical subject of a sentence, you can often find its topic. You
also know who/what is performing the verb action. This will help you to keep track
of what you are reading.

Activity 5
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions:
Speech becomes more complex by the age of three years, and most children
have added adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, and additional adjectives. They

Lecture 4 72 The sentence

also enjoy playing with the sounds of
language in this stage of development.
By the age of four, they produce
grammatically correct sentences; this
stage is a questioning one during which
language is used to ask ‘‘why’’ and ‘‘how’’.
Literature and literature-related
experiences can encourage language
development in these pre-school children.
Book experiences in the home, library,
and/or nursery school can help them use
language to discover their world, to identify and name actions and objects, to
gain more complex speech, and to enjoy the wonder of language. Children's
first book experiences are frequently with large picture books and Mother
Goose rhymes, and as these books are read to children or the pictures are
discussed, they add new words to their vocabularies. The picture books help
them give meaning to their expanding vocabularies. For example, children
who are just learning to identify their hands and other parts of their bodies
may find these parts in large drawings of children such as those found in
Satomi lchikawa's Let's Play. Parents of very young children may share Helen
Oxenbury's excellent ‘‘Baby Board Books’’. Dressing, for example, includes a
picture of baby's clothing followed by a picture of the child dressed in that
item. The illustrations are sequentially developed; they can encourage talking
about the steps in dressing. Other books in this series include Friends,
Playing, Working, and Family.
(Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to
Children's Literature by Donna E. Norton)

Question 1
Who or what becomes more complex by the age of three years?
1. speech
2. adverbs, pronouns, prepositions and additional adjectives
3. children
4. reading

Question 2
What is the subject of the second sentence?
1. They
2. enjoy
3. playing with the sounds of language
4. in this stage of development

Question 3
The subject of sentence 3 is ‘‘they’’. This pronoun refers to
1. all children.
2. babies.

Lecture 4 73 The sentence

3. children aged 3.
4. speech.

Question 4
Identify the subject of the first sentence of the second paragraph.
1. Literature
2. language development
3. preschool children
4. Literature and literature-related experiences

Question 5
Who or what helps children to use language and discover the world?
1. Book experiences in the home
2. library
3. nursery school
4. Book experiences in the home, library, and/or nursery school

Question 6
Identify the subject in the sentence: ‘‘Children's first book experiences are
frequently with large picture books and Mother Goose rhymes.’’
1. Children's
2. first book
3. book experiences
4. Children's first book experiences

Question 7
Who or what helps children give meaning to their expanding vocabul-
1. The picture books
2. Mother Goose Rhymes
3. Parents
4. Teachers

Question 8
Underline the relative clause that gives more information about the
subject ‘‘children’’:
1. For example, children
2. who are just learning to identify their hands and other parts of their
3. may find
4. such as those found in Satomi lchikawa's Let's Play

Question 9
Who or what is the subject of the sentence: ‘‘Parents of very young
children may share Helen Oxenbury's excellent ‘‘Baby Board Books’’?

Lecture 4 74 The sentence

1. Parents of very young children
2. Helen Oxenbury's excellent ‘‘Baby Board Books’’
3. ‘‘Baby Board Books’’
4. Helen Oxenbury

Question 10
The subject of the sentence: ‘‘Dressing, for example, includes a picture of
baby's clothing followed by a picture of the child dressed in that item’’ is a
1. common noun, because ‘‘dressing’’ is just an ordinary word.
2. verb, because ‘‘to dress’’ is an action.
3. proper noun, because ‘‘dressing’’ is the title or name of a book.
4. pronoun.

The correct answers are: 1 1 3 4 4 4 1 2 1 3.
The subject of the sentence, as you have seen, is often a noun to which other words
have been added in order to make the noun more descriptive and/or specific, e.g.
not simply ‘‘parents’’, but ‘‘Parents of young children’’. An accurate reader notices
these details.


The word ‘‘complement’’ means ‘‘something that completes’’ and that's exactly
what the part of a sentence called the complement does. A complement is needed
to complete the following verbs:

to be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.)

to seem
to appear
to become

You'll know which part of the sentence is the complement, because without it the
sentence sounds incomplete:

Picture books containing large, colourful pictures are excellent for developing
observational skills (C).

It's easy at first glance to confuse the complement with an object, since a missing
object can also make a sentence sound incomplete. Remember that:
. A complement refers to the same thing as the subject, whereas the object is
something different from the subject, e.g.:

Wordless picture books (S) are (V) excellent stimulators (C).

Chapter five (S) presents (V) wordless picture books (O).

Lecture 4 75 The sentence

. A complement is often an adjective or adjectival phrase, whereas an object is a
noun, e.g.:

All of these processes (S) are (V) essential for success (C).

Complements form an important part of your academic reading, where so many

sentences contain the verb ‘‘to be’’. In fact, in sentences such as the following,
typical in textbooks, the complement is more important than the subject:

What is important (S) is (V) the way the individual constructs a knowledge
base (C).
What is needed (S) is (V) a unified theory (C).
This (S) is (V) often a period of separation, divorce and discontentment (C).

Also, in academic reading, the complement often defines the subject:

Humans (S) are (V) social beings (C).

Activity 6
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions:
Professor Frank Minkoff was a seventy-year-old Russian immigrant. He was
still teaching mathematics at an evening school. He was unmarried, the only
member of his family in the United States, and lived in an apartment
crammed with books. Suddenly he became confused and *disoriented. He
was frightened and refused to leave his room. Concerned neighbours quickly
called a doctor, who expressed his unwillingness to make a home visit, saying,
‘‘There is nothing I can do. He needs to be in a nursing home or a mental
institution.’’ The neighbours were unconvinced, remembering Mr M's earlier
good functioning. They pleaded with the doctor and, under pressure, he
angrily *complied and visited the home. While there he again repeated his
conviction that Mr. M. needed ‘‘custodial’’ care. Mr. M. was coherent enough
to refuse, saying he would never voluntarily go to a nursing home or mental
hospital. He did agree to be admitted to a medical hospital. Admission took
place and studies resulted in the diagnosis ‘‘reversible brain syndrome due to
acute viral infection’’. Mr. M. was successfully treated and released to his
home in good condition in less than a week.
(Social Problems by Ronald W. Maris, 1988, p. 117)

Question 1
Which of the underlined segments is NOT a complement?
1. Professor Frank Minkoff was a seventy-year-old Russian immigrant.
2. He was still teaching mathematics at an evening school.
3. He was unmarried.
4. Suddenly he became confused and disoriented.

Lecture 4 76 The sentence

Question 2
Which of the underlined segments is NOT an object (affected by the verb
of the sentence) but a complement?
1. Concerned neighbours quickly called a doctor.
2. The neighbours were unconvinced.
3. While there he again repeated his conviction.
4. He did agree to be admitted to a medical hospital.

Question 3
As the passage is mostly about Mr Minkoff, it is natural that he is the
subject of many of the sentences. Apart from Minkoff, however, which of
the following feature as grammatical subjects in the text?
1. The neighbours (they)
2. The doctor (he)
3. Admission
4. All of the above.

Question 4
Which of the following is NOT an adverbial?
1. quickly
2. angrily
3. voluntarily
4. medical

The correct answers are: 2 2 4 4.
Congratulations: you have now worked through the four basic sentence elements of
subject (S), verb (V), adverbial (A) and object (O).

Understanding the syntax of sentences is important for your reading because it
helps you to identify the type of sentence and its purpose, and to isolate the
important information carried in the subject, object, verb, adverbial and object.

*Vocabulary Building
isolating identifying and separating for attention
proponents of people who advocate, support or uphold a
theory, proposal, etc
traits characteristics, features, qualities
innate natural, inborn

Lecture 4 77 The sentence

deviate to differ
object grammatically speaking, the thing directly af-
fected by the verb
scrutiny close examination
foster look after, nurture
perpetrators those who have committed a crime or blunder
control group a group that do not receive any of the input
(drugs, etc) of an experiment, but provide a
standard of comparison for checking the results
paradox a statement that seems contradictory, even
though it may not be
concession admission or acknowledgement that the op-
posing side has a point
impersonal neutral, not personal
ascertain find out if something is a definite fact
incidental happening by chance
disoriented confused as to where you are
complied consented

Activity 1 Answers after the exercise
Activity 2 Answers after the exercise
Activity 3 Answers after the exercise
Activity 4 Answers after the exercise
Activity 5 Answers after the exercise

Cover of Writer's Digest Magazine, No 2, February 2001. F&W Publications 1507
Dana Ave. Cincinnati OH 45207/Box 2123 Harlan, IA 51593

Beware of Dog sign from Noseweek Dec 99/Jan 2000 Issue 28, p. 13. Martin Welz
P O Box 44538 Claremont 7735

Hani protest pic: by Leon Muller, in The Argus, Tues 8 May 2001, p. 5

Undergraduate admissions pic by Nadine Hutton. Mail&Guardian Beyond Matric

Supplement May 18–24 2001, p. 1

Worker's Day Protest against capitalism pictures (Work ... Consume ... Be Silent)
Mail&Guardian May 4–10 2001, p. 19

Snoopy cartoon Sunday Times Magazine May 6 2001 p. 39

Lecture 4 78 The sentence

‘‘You must pay’’ Reader's Digest notice printed in Cape Times Thurs May 3 2001
p. 1

Children's Literature text: Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children's

Literature by Donna E. Norton, Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merril Publishing
Co (1983)

‘‘Vote & Be Involved’’ Educational Support Services Trust 2000 (2nd Floor,
Harrington House 37 Barrack St Cape Town 8001)

Forgiveness text: Anon, (Psychology Today, July/August 1996, p. 12)

Gertrude Stein poem: New Yorker magazine June/July 1996, p. 44

Time magazine covers: Time 70 years in review 1923–1993 Collector's Edition

Nurture text: Robert R. Reilly and Ernest L. Lewis, Educational Psychology:

Applications for Classroom Learning and Institutions, 1983. New York:
Macmillan, p. 22

Age case study: (Ronald W. Maris, Social Problems, Belmont: Wadsworth 1988,
p. 117)

Cover of Empire magazine August 2000 (Endeavour House, 189 Shaftesbury Ave,
London WC2H8JG)

‘‘Leave us some of your life savings’’ Pamphlet of the Cape of Good Hope Bequest
Society (Cape of Good Hope SPCA Public Relations Department P O Box 3
Plumstead 7800)

‘‘Smaller families have bigger plans’’ Pamphlet of the Association for Voluntary
Sterilization of SA (AVSSA) P O Box 868 Howard Place 7450

Standard Bank Funeral plan advert

Page from children's picture book, The Baby's Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg.
Puffin Books (Penguin, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ)

Lecture 4 79 The sentence

In this lecture, you will learn about discourse (texts that are
longer than one sentence). You will improve your reading skills
by *stimulating your awareness of the text type and its special

Why is discourse important?

Years ago, when Orson Welles' radio play ‘‘The War of the Worlds’’ was
broadcast, some listeners who tuned in late panicked, thinking they were
hearing the actual end of the world. They mistook the text for news instead of
drama. This is a rather extreme example of the *misreading that can occur if
you miss or ignore the type of discourse you have before you.

Discourse refers to the type of text you are reading as well as the ‘‘frame’’
provided by all the different, connected elements in it such as typography,
layout, diction, grammar, tone. That is why the word ‘‘discourse’’ is usually
*preceded by an explanatory adjective, for example ‘‘academic discourse’’ or
‘‘scientific discourse’’.

As a reader, your brain recognises the connections within a text that make it a
particular type of discourse. A certain type of sentence structure, combined
with other features such as vocabulary, page layout and headings, will signal to
you that you are reading a textbook, a woman's magazine, a manufacturer's
handbook or a riddle. The faster this signal gets through, the faster and more
efficiently you will read.

It is essential to become conscious of your knowledge of discourse so that you

can draw on it deliberately as your fourth — and highest — kind of bottom-up
processing of difficult texts.

Activity 1
Let's see how fast your brain processes discourse. Below you will find 10 texts,
each a different type of discourse. Identify each text according to its discourse,
using the jumbled list of discourse types provided.

Lecture 5 80 Discourse
Discourse types
Renaissance A Renaissance poem B Advert for Spirits C Cartoon
revival of art and litera- D American song E Newspaper report F Moral sermon
ture under the influence
of classical models in the G Autobiography H Legal Statute I Fiction
period 14th to 16th cen- J Psychology text book

‘‘... the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the
importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and
all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby

Discourse type: ............................................................................................. .

The prettiest girl that I ever saw
was sucking cider through a straw.
I told that gal I didn't see how
she sucked the cider through a straw
And cheek by cheek and jaw by jaw,
we sucked that cider through a straw
And all at once that straw did slip;
I sucked some cider from her lip
And now I've got me a mother-in-law
from sucking cider through a straw.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................


Pleasantly scented, very agreeable

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................

Lecture 5 81 Discourse
Drunkenness is not only a great vice in itself, but, from its very nature, directly
or indirectly, it leads to almost every other ... . It wastes the body, perverts the
mind, and necessarily leads to misery and death. In fact, intemperance, like a
destroying pestilence, is sapping the very foundation of society, and
producing ... throughout the land disease, poverty and crime.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................

Excessive drinking of alcohol provides the best known example of the type of
behaviour which constitutes the theme of this book namely apparent loss of
control over a form of activity which, for most people, serves as a pleasurable
and moderate indulgence. It forces upon our attention the major psychological
issues with which this book attempts to deal, and at the same time illustrates
how the same phenomenon can be viewed from totally different perspectives
depending upon the fashion of thought at the time and the orientation of the
observer. Such an excessive appetite may be viewed as non-problematic over-
indulgence, as sinful behaviour, as crime, as disease, as maladaptive
behaviour, or as deviance: there is no better illustration of this diversity of view
than the recent history of thought concerning excessive drinking.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine:
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................


MORE than 50% of SA deaths linked

to alcohol abuse
What do drownings, suicides, linked to alcohol intoxication, alcohol limit of 0.05g/100 ml
murders and motor vehicle a report released by the of blood at the time of their
accidents have in common? Medical Research Council death.

The answer, if you live in has revealed. Statistics were taken from
South Africa, is alcohol. mortuaries in five provinces
What's more, an astounding
and covered just over a
More than half of the coun- fifth of people killed on South quarter of the estimated
try's murders and transport- Africa's roads and railways 65 000 to 80 000 violent
related deaths last year were were five times over the legal deaths a year.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................

Lecture 5 82 Discourse

Discourse type: ..............................................................................................


I realised that I could never go out of the house again without liquor. Orange
juice and bourbon in the morning was not enough. The physical demand was
growing. I would need liquor more often, not because I wanted it, but
because my nerves required it.

Soon I was slipping down doorways, vanishing into ladies' rooms, anywhere I

Lecture 5 83 Discourse
could gain privacy, to take a swift drink ... . The two ounce bottles graduated
to six-ounce, and then to a pint, and in the last years of my marriage ...
wherever I went, I carried a fifth of liquor in my bag.

Discourse type: ...........................................................................................

‘I can smell the drink,’ she said. ‘That’ll be the end of the family in this country,
men going out to drink on a Christmas Day. This town’ll be ruined by drink.’

‘I hope you haven’t been touching it while we were out,’ his grandfather said.

‘I poured it down the sink, every bottle of it, while you were out, didn’t I,

‘Ah, you didn’t,’ his grandfather said.

‘I did so. You needn’t go down. You won’t find anything except empty bottles.
You’ve had enough drink, all of you, to do you for the whole New Year.’

‘We’ll have a cup of tea then,’ his grandfather said, ‘while we decide what to

His grandmother went down to the kitchen and came back a few minutes
later carrying a tray with a bottle of sherry, bottles of ale and stout and some

Discourse type: ..............................................................................................

1H 2D 3C 4F 5J 6A 7E 8B 9G 10I

Layout and reading speed

One of the first things that strikes you about any text is the way it looks on the page.
It was probably easy for you to identify the cartoon, the advert, the poem and the
song simply by the way they appeared. Text 7 in Activity 1 struck you immediately
as a newspaper report because of its narrow column printing.
Layout features include
headings or titles
size of a page (A4, for example)
paragraph breaks
the amount of white space on a page
numbering, bullets or alphabetical lists
pictures, diagrams, maps.

How does knowing about layout help you to read? Actually, it's the key to efficient reading!

Lecture 5 84 Discourse
Step One: From the moment your eye moves along the bookshelf to find the
volume you want, you are *adjusting your reading speed and method
to suit your purpose. You know the title and author of the book you are
looking for. This type of reading, where you zone in on a word or
phrase and ignore everything else, is called scanning. Other
occasions when you scan include looking up a name in a directory, or
looking for a single word or name on a page.

Step Two: Now you open to the con-

tents page where you get an
*overview of the book. You
read very quickly. This type of
reading, where you skip oc-
casionally and don't read in
depth, is called skimming.
Other occasions when you
would skim include choosing
a book in a library or store,
revising work, *previewing a
book or chapter.

Step Three: You arrive at a chapter. Your

eye uses the heading
(printed here in a large, bold,
italic font) to prepare you for
what is to come. The head-
ing ‘‘Introduction’’ warns you
that key terms and concepts
will be introduced. You no-
tice that some text is *in-
dented. Your brain tells you
that this means the author is
quoting at length. When an
indented quote occurs at the
beginning of a chapter, it is
called an epigraph. You start
to read slowly, thinking
about the meaning of words
and sentences, looking back

Lecture 5 85 Discourse
over paragraphs. You may underline or make notes as you go along.
This type of slow, concentrated reading is called study reading.
Even though you are reading slowly, your ability to skim and scan
{ have not gone to sleep (or we hope not!). At the same time as you are
of the style and appear- study reading, you should be aware of what the layout and
ance of printed matter typographical features signal:
paragraph breaks: the beginning of a new idea
subheadings: a main idea or keyword
illustrations: a visual depiction or example
bold: a keyword
italics: a keyword or a title
numbering and bullets:
a list of points for easy
shaded box: a *case
study or example to
make the information
come to life

Step Four: From time to time, you may

need to use the index to
look up a particular topic.
Again, you scan the alpha-
betical list to find the sub-
ject you need to
research or find.

Step Five: At the end of an aca-

demic book, you'll find
the bibliography, some-
times called Refer-
ences. You can either
scan this list to find the
*publishing details of a
particular book, or
*skim the list to see if
there are titles that in-
terest you or could be of
use to you.

Lecture 5 86 Discourse
Layout and grammar change according to the discourse type. For example, here is
the newspaper headline you looked at in Activity 1:

MORE than 50% of SA deaths linked to alcohol abuse

Think how this heading would change if the writer were *engaged in academic
discourse and specifically, an academic text book. Perhaps it would read like this:

Alcoholism and Mortality

Notice that the more complex word ‘‘mortality’’ replaces the simpler ‘‘deaths’’, and
that the heading consists of two abstract nouns rather than a sentence-like structure.

Typographical features
Typography is also used differently in different discourses. Typographical features
include the use of special or fancy *fonts
italics, bold or capitals single or double quotation marks
*ellipses dashes, colons and semi-colons
square or round brackets indenting.

The typography and punctuation of academic texts is fairly complex. This is

because of the system of referencing and *cross-referencing. The author of a text
book wants to acknowledge all his/her sources. Let's look at some examples:

Lecture 5 87 Discourse
Activity 2
Study the advert printed here and comment briefly on its typographical features.

Language features

Which features of the language did you use in order to identify the different types of
discourse in Activity 1? For example, you may have taken into account:
. *diction
. sentence length

Lecture 5 88 Discourse
. sentence structure
. sentence complexity

Diction is certainly one of the first and most obvious markers of discourse. The
writer's choice of words may be
. highly *technical or *accessible to all
. old-fashioned or *contemporary
. approving, disapproving or neutral
. formal, informal or * colloquial

Referring to alcohol in 3 different discourses

Fiction, poetry, songs, Newspaper report Text book
. drink . alcohol intoxication . excessive drinking of al-
. a bottle of sherry, bottles . alcohol abuse cohol
of ale and stout . apparent loss of control
. cider over a form of activity
. wine which, for most people,
. bourbon serves as a pleasure and
moderate indulgence

What makes academic discourse difficult to follow is not just the fact that more
complex words are used, but that these words are *clustered together. Both the
newspaper report and the textbook use complex, abstract words. But the former is
much easier to understand because it does not attempt a lengthy definition.
Easiest to understand are the texts that use concrete words (‘‘wine’’) that refer to
things we can see or touch. As a reader, you should try to link abstract terms to
concrete examples in your mind.

The sentences in which these words occur may be

. fragments
. simple sentences
. compound sentences
. complex sentences

Sentence types in different discourses

Simple sentence Compound sentence Complex sentence
I carried a bottle of liquor in Statistics were taken from It forces upon our attention
my bag mortuaries in five provinces the major psychological is-
and covered just over a quar- sues with which this book
ter of the estimated 65 000 to attempts to deal, and at the
80 000 annual violent deaths. same time illustrates how
the same {phenomenon
happening, even, occur-
rence can be viewed from totally
different perspectives de-
pending upon the fashion of
thought at the time and the
orientation of the observer.

Lecture 5 89 Discourse
In addition, the sentences may be
. statements
. directives
. questions
. exclamations.

Statement Directive Question Exclamation

I realised that I Be original, be What do drowning, Children stay free!
could never go yourself. suicides, murders
out of the house and motor vehicle
again without li- accidents have in
quor. common?

You don't need to know a lot about grammar. What is important is that your brain
associates particular types of *diction, sentence structure and sentence types with
a particular discourse. This will make you a good general reader. Furthermore, you
need to train your brain to recognize and interpret the discourse of your chosen
field of study, for example legal discourse or psychological discourse or economic
discourse. This will help to make you a successful scholar. You are aiming at a state
where your brain will naturally process the text on the left so that it stays in your
memory as the text on the right:

‘‘Translating’’ academic discourse

Excessive drinking of alcohol provides
the best known example of the type of
behaviour which constitutes the theme This book is about activities (like
of this book — namely apparent loss of drinking) which many people enjoy
control over a form of activity which, for but which some people do to
most people, serves as a pleasurable excess.
and moderate indulgence. It forces
upon our attention the major psycholo- Drinking is a good example be-
gical issues with which this book cause it highlights the psychological
attempts to deal, and at the same time reasons for addiction.
illustrates how the same phenomenon
can be viewed from totally different
perspectives depending upon the fash- Also, different people have different
ion of thought at the time and the opinions on the topic (depending
orientation of the observer. Such an on where they're coming from), and
excessive appetite may be viewed as this is true of other addictions.
non-problematic overindulgence, as
sinful behaviour, or as deviance; there is These opinions range from ‘‘it's not
no better illustration of this diversity of a problem’’ to the idea that it's ‘‘a
view than the recent history of thought sin’’, ‘‘a disease’’, ‘‘a behaviour
concerning excessive drinking. problem’’ or ‘‘a crime’’.

Lecture 5 90 Discourse
Activity 3
1 How did the diction of Text 1 in Activity 1 of this lecture help you to identify it as
an example of legal discourse? Give at least 3 examples, and suggest how
these words or phrases would be ‘‘translated’’ into ordinary English.
2 How does the diction of Text 2 and Text 9 enable you to identify these texts as
American? Give at least 2 examples of words or phrases.
3 The phrases ‘‘Pleasantly scented’’ and ‘‘Very agreeable’’ are used as the
caption for a cartoon in Text 3. Can you identify the discourse that these
phrases are borrowed from?
4 Text 4 and 5 both deal with alcoholism as a problem in society, but they are
clearly different types of discourse. What word does Text 4 use in referring to
5 Text 5 is aware of all the different terms used to designate the problem of
drinking. Find the sentence where text 5 lists these terms.
6 How do you know that Text 6 was not written in modern times?
7 Looking at the advertisements reproduced in this lecture, comment on the
sentence type favoured by advertisers.
8 In academic essays, a paragraph consists of a minimum of two sentences. Is
this true of news reporting? (See Text 7.)

Audience, Purpose and Register

In Activity 1 you read 10 texts, all concerned with the same topic — alcohol — yet
all from different discursive fields. So far you've concentrated on looking at HOW
they differ (through different uses of layout, grammar and diction). That was the
hard part. Much simpler is to look at WHY the texts differ. And the answer to this lies
. audience (Who is this text intended for?)
. purpose (What does the writer want to achieve?)

A writer's choice of content, diction and grammar will depend on whether the
audience is
. a lover
. a friend
. a child
. university students
. fellow scholars
. potential customers
. congregants or parishioner
. .................................................. (fill in at least one example of your own).

Similarly, layout, diction, grammar and content will change according to whether
the writer wishes to
. inform
. persuade

Lecture 5 91 Discourse
. complain
. encourage
. discourage
. explain
. argue
. *avert a crisis
. stir up feelings
. ................................................. (fill in at least one example of your own).

Audience and purpose determine the register of the text. Register refers to the
overall tone or effect achieved by all the features (diction, grammar, etc) we've
discussed so far. The process is thus:


. to ask bank manager . business letter/fax . formal
for a loan
. to seduce a woman . romantic letter/ . formal/literary
. to amuse an audience . humorous story/ . informal

In fact, intemperance, like destroying ‘I can smell the drink,’ she said.
pestilence, is sapping the very founda- ‘That’ll be the end of the family in
tion of society, and producing ... this country, men going out to drink
throughout the land disease, poverty on Christmas Day. This town'll be
and crime. ruined by drink.'

Formal register is often marked by longer sentences and words. Informal register is
marked by abbreviations and contractions (‘‘that’ll’’), colloquial language and even
slang. Sentences may be shorter, simpler, or even fragmentary.

Informal register is often found in personal circumstances where the parties are
known to one another. But it is also used in adverts (to create a false sense of
intimacy), motivational speeches, humorous writing, written dialogues and some
types of business document (the e-mail and certain memos). All our ordinary, daily
conversations are informal.

Activity 4
Briefly return to the texts in Activity 1 of this lecture and complete the following table
by identifying their audience, purpose and register.

Lecture 5 92 Discourse
Text Audience Purpose Register
1. USA Constitu- population of USA ................................ ...........................
tional Amendment
2. Song popular audience at ................................ ...........................
nightclub, show.
3. Cartoon adults ................................ ...........................
4. Sermon ................................. ................................ ...........................
5. Textbook ................................. ................................ ...........................
6. Poem the beloved ................................ ...........................
7. Newspaper report ................................. ................................ ...........................
8. Advert ................................. ................................ ...........................
9. Autobiography adults ................................ ...........................
10. Novel ................................. ................................ ...........................

*Vocabulary development
stimulating awakening
misreading getting the wrong meaning from a text
preceded introduced
adjusting altering so as to become suited to a thing
overview general survey
previewing looking over a text first
indented set in from the margin
case study the use of a particular example to illustrate a
general principle
publishing details the date, place and name of the publisher,
necessary when including a book in a biblio-
graphy, or ordering a book
engaged in involved in; busy with
fonts styles of lettering
ellipses three dots (...) used to indicate missing words
cross-referencing a reference from one part of a book to another
(e.g. to a footnote, endnote or bibliography)
implies suggests
diction choice of vocabulary
technical requiring knowledge of a special language in
order to be understood
accessible understandable
contemporary modern, relating to today's norms
colloquial familiar or ordinary speech, as used in informal

Lecture 5 93 Discourse
clustered grouped closely together
avert a crisis avoid or prevent possible danger/trouble

Activity 1
Answer after the exercise

Activity 2
Large fonts and italics draw attention to the text. The advert uses the apostrophe
(stylin' ... twistin') in order to create a casual mood and to suggest an American
style of speaking. Like many adverts, this one makes sure it ends with an
exclamation mark that *implies excitement and enthusiasm. Finally, the apparent
spelling error (‘‘dredz’’ instead of ‘‘dreads’’ or ‘‘dreadlocks’’) is intentional and adds
to the friendly, casual mood.

Activity 3
1 In Text 1, the words ‘‘thereof’’ and ‘‘hereby’’ are the most obvious indicators that
this is a legal text. In addition, the word ‘‘manufacture’’ rather than ‘‘making’’ and
‘‘transportation’’ rather than ‘‘transporting’’ point to the official, legal nature of
the text.
2 The word ‘‘gal’’ is American slang for ‘‘girl’’. ‘‘I've got me’’ is also an American
usage for ‘‘I have’’ or ‘‘I got’’. ‘‘Bourbon’’ is the American form of whisky.
America still uses the ounce measurement.
3 These phrases are borrowed from the discourse of wine writing or wine
4 It uses the word ‘‘drunkenness’’.
5 ‘‘Such an excessive appetite may be viewed as non-problematic overindulgence,
as sinful behaviour, as crime, as disease, as maladaptive behaviour, or as
deviance ...’’
6 It uses the word ‘‘thine’’. The word ‘‘but’’ is used to mean ‘‘only’’: this is also an
archaic use. Similarly, we would say ‘‘I won't’’ rather than ‘‘I'll not’’. You could
also argue that modern poetry is less formal.
7 Adverts favour directives or commands (‘‘Be yourself’’; ‘‘Get Twistin’’) probably
because they want to make you, the consumer, go out and DO something
(namely, buy their product). Adverts also feature numerous exclamations, in
order to generate excitement around their product, and to catch your eye.
8 No: newspaper columns often look like they are broken into standard
paragraphs, but on closer observation we notice that one paragraph equals one
sentence. This may be related to the reader's attention span.

Lecture 5 94 Discourse
Activity 4

Text Audience Purpose Register

1. USA Constitu- population of USA to legislate against/ formal
tional Amendment prohibit liquor

2. Song popular audience at to entertain informal

nightclub, show

3. Cartoon adults to entertain informal

4. Sermon congregation to warn/chastise formal
5. Textbook psychology stu- to explain theories formal
dents of alcohol addiction

6. Poem the speaker's lover/ to express love formal/literary

readers of poetry

7. Newspaper report general SA public to report on statis- formal

8. Advert youthful spirit drin- to attract consu- informal
kers/potential custo- mers

9. Autobiography adults to recount the true informal/neutral

story of her alco-
10. Novel adult readers of fic- to entertain by de- informal
tion picting a scene of
Irish life

(From the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, quoted in The
Compleat Imbiber)

(From an 19th century minstrel song, quoted in The Compleat Imbiber, p. 240.
London: Fisher Knight & Co. 1956)

Postcard, ‘‘Pleasantly Scented, Very Agreeable’’ by Ronald Searle from
Winespeak # Ronald Searle 1983

(The Reverend David Ruall, giving evidence to the 1834 Select Committee
Inquiry Into Drunkenness. Quoted in Excessive Appetites: A Psychological
View of Addiction by Jim Orford. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons 1985, p. 1)

Lecture 5 95 Discourse
(From Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of Addiction by Jim Orford.
Chichester: John Wiley & Sons 1985, p. 1)

(From Ben Jonson, The Forest (1616), ix ‘‘To Celia’’.)

MORE than 50% of SA deaths linked to alcohol abuse. (From Cape Times
Friday October 5 2001, p. 5)

Cinzano Advert 5217/SACL.B City Life magazine October 2001. Fax (021) 426

(From I'll Cry Tomorrow pp. 113–4 by Lilian Roth, quoted in Excessive
Appetites: A Psychological View of Addiction by Jim Orford. Chichester: John
Wiley & Sons 1985, p. 2)

From The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín, pp. 70–71. London: Picador, 1992)

Lecture 5 96 Discourse
In this lecture, you will learn how to use reference books in order
to make sense of what you read.
‘‘Knowledge itself is power,’’ said Francis Bacon. Reading will empower you by
increasing your knowledge base if you get into the habit of looking up
. unfamiliar words and phrases;
. quotations and sayings;
. references to *legends and legendary figures;
. unfamiliar names and places.

By doing so you will improve your top-down reading processes, where the
knowledge and information you bring to the text helps you to understand it.

Looking up words
Time *constraints mean that you can't reach for the dictionary every time you come
across a new word. On the other hand, *consistently ignoring new, difficult
vocabulary will ultimately slow you down by limiting your reading comprehension.

Try to be organised in your approach to looking up words. For example

. watch out for new words that *recur several times in the same text;
. underline or write out these new words;
. consult your dictionary only after you have read the entire sentence or
. look up several words at a time so that you stop less often;
. after looking them up, briefly review the sentences containing your new words;
. pencil meanings in the margins of your Study Guides
. try to use new words as soon afterwards as possible.

Writing in definitions while you read

large wild cat The jaguar made an early exit from the
United States, hunted so aggressively
that most people don't know it ever
existed north of Mexico. The gray wolf
has come perilously close to disap- very risky/dangerous
pearing in the contiguous states. The touching/near
reptile (crocodile) alligator neared extinction before death of species
animals that kill to management brought it back. Of North
eat America's large predators, only the

Lecture 6 97 Sources of knowledge

Writing in definitions while you read
coyote has prospered since the small wolf
arrival of Europeans, expanding its making bigger
range and its population. Its success
destruction/loss in stems partly from the decimation of
great numbers the wolf, its slightly less adaptable

Dictionary Tips
headwords . Dictionaries list {headwords and {derivatives, so you need to look for
key word at the begin- ‘‘desecration’’ under ‘‘*desecrate’’.
ning of a dictionary entry
derivatives . The derivative is often defined in terms of the headword, so you'll need to
word derived from/com- work backwards from
ing from another
*dermatologist n an expert in dermatology

dermatology n the medical study of the skin and its diseases.

. Compound words have a separate entry if they are joined, e.g. ‘‘green-
. Compound words appear under the head word if they are hyphenated or
separate, e.g. ‘‘green pepper’’ appears under ‘‘green’’.
. Dictionaries show whether a word is spelt with a capital letter, e.g.
. A word may have several meanings, which are numbered, e.g.:
green n 1 a green colour. 2 green clothes. 3 an area of public land. 4.
an area with grass cut short surrounding a hole on a golf-course.

. Word meanings change according to context, so ‘‘ruin’’ as a noun means

something different from ‘‘ruin’’ as a verb.
acronyms . Abbreviations and {acronyms are treated as words, so ‘‘SAS’’ for ‘‘Special
a pronounceable name Air Service’’ is placed between ‘‘sartorial’’ and ‘‘sash’’.
made up from a series of
initial letters or parts of a . Many dictionaries give useful examples of how words are used in phrases
group of words, e.g. and sentences, e.g.:
Unisa for University of
South Africa
sartorial adj of clothes or a person's style of dress; sartorial elegance.

Apart from English dictionaries, there are also specialist subject dictionaries that
help you with legal, medical or technical terms, for example.

Activity 1
Use your dictionary to answer these questions:
1 Under which headword will you find the word ‘‘stereotypical’’?
2 How many derivatives and compounds are listed under the headword ‘‘travel’’
in your dictionary?

Lecture 6 98 Sources of knowledge

3 How many compound words (separated or spelt as one word) can you find
beginning with ‘‘ice’’?
4 How many meanings do you think are listed in the dictionary for the noun
‘‘screen’’? Check the dictionary to see if you are on track.
5 Write sentences using the word ‘‘resolve’’ as both a verb and a noun.
6 What do the following abbreviations mean?
CFC cf Flt Lt VAT EU

Activity 2
Read the following text and look up the underlined words if necessary.
Why are yawns contagious?
by Robert R. Provine
Virtually any stimulus associated with yawns — including viewing, reading
about, and even thinking about, yawning — evokes yawns. (Are you
yawning yet?) Yawning spreads in a chain reaction through a group, a
compelling example of human herd behaviour and a reminder that we are not
always in conscious control of our actions. The urge to replicate an observed
yawn is clearly an automatic response triggered by our brains.
Studies partially explain the reason for yawning. Although we yawn more
when sleepy or bored, it is unclear whether yawning increases alertness. And
scientific evidence refutes one of the most popular myths of yawning — that
it happens in response to low oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels in the
blood or brain. Test subjects do not yawn less when breathing pure oxygen.
One fact explains a lot of apparently inconsistent data. People yawn most
during behavioural transitions, such as just after waking and shortly before
bedtime. Yawning may help facilitate those changes. Contagious yawning
may synchronize a group's behaviour so that, for instance, a whole family
goes to sleep together.

Now test your understanding of the words you've looked up by using them
appropriately in these sentences. As a clue, we have given you the first letter of
each missing word.
1. On a long drive, I'm aware of the importance of a........................ I don't like to
drive on a ................. pilot. I think you need to be c.................. at all times of
the traffic and road conditions.
2. Let's s....................... our watches so that we all start at the same time. This will
f........................... the experiment. We're hoping to r........................ the results
we achieved last week so that we can check our d.............
3. It was a c...................... book. No one r....................... that. It e..................
different responses in different people. The author talks about political
t.................., for example from dictatorships to democracy. He also explodes
some of the m............ around democracy itself, for example the idea that
democracy is always the best and fairest way to divide power.

Lecture 6 99 Sources of knowledge

Activity 3
Here is a list of specialist subject dictionaries. Tick the ones that are relevant to your
field of study or which you would like to own for your personal use. Then assign
each of the terms listed below to the dictionary most likely to offer an explanation or
definition of the term:
staff stay of execution IT Apocalypse Internet
melanoma tranche phylum gravity
t Routledge Dictionary of Physics ..............................
t Routledge Dictionary of Biology ..............................
t Tyndale Bible Dictionary ..............................
t The New Harvard Dictionary of Music ..............................
t Abbreviations Dictionary ..............................
t Newton's Telecom Dictionary ..............................
t Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms ..............................
t Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary ..............................
t Dictionary of Legal Terms: A Simplified Guide to the Language of
Law ........................

Looking up phrases
You will also find that you need to look up phrases and idioms. For example, you
may know what the words ‘‘golden’’ and ‘‘handshake’’ mean separately, but you
may not know that the phrase ‘‘golden handshake’’ means ‘‘a large sum of money
given to a senior member of company when he/she leaves’’. Other examples are
a busman's holiday a holiday spent doing the same thing one does
at work
honour among thieves criminals respect their own standards of beha-
rearguard action a struggle continued even when it is unlikely to

Some phrases may consist of words you have never heard of before, of Latin or
foreign origins:
esprit de corps loyalty and other feelings uniting the group
status quo the situation as it is now
quid pro quo a thing given in return for something else

Dictionaries are just as good for phrases and *idioms as they are for individual
words. All you need to do is to look up the main word of the phrase (for example
‘‘busman’’) and you will find an explanation of the phrase, idiom or saying. This will
either be listed under the initial headword, for example ‘‘heavy going’’ is found
under ‘‘heavy’’, or the phrase will have a separate entry altogether, for example
‘‘*pro rata’’ or ‘‘*ad hoc’’. In some cases you will be redirected to another word in
the phrase, for example, if you look under ‘‘give’’, you will find
give rise to sth *

Lecture 6 100 Sources of knowledge

This means that you must look for the phrase under the first entry for the word

Activity 4
Read the sentences and look up the underlined phrases in your dictionary:
1 In a new book, After the Internet: Alien Intelligence, James Martin insists that
we are on the *cusp of a *discontinuous leap in what computers can do and
that the changes coming, properly guided, will lead us all to a land of milk and
2 Without technology, we could not feed the 6 billion we are feeding now, much
less the 9 billion who will be living on this planet by 2050. We are forced to
play God, and we are forced to be good at it. If we fail, the results will be
catastrophic. But if we succeed, per capita income and individual net worth
will soar around the globe.

Activity 5
Use your dictionary to help you complete the phrases:
1. You promised her, so now you are honour ............. to take her.
2. I'm confused about this problem and wondered if you could cast
some ............... on it.
3. We reported my mother missing to the police, but they had seen no one
answering to that ......................
4. The ship had to take evasive ............... in order to avoid a collision.
5. After the illness, he was a shadow of his ..................... self.
6. The driver brought the train to a grinding ...............
7. You need to check up on your health at .................... intervals.
8. Death is the ............. leveller.
9. I'll add that up in my head: just wait while I do my mental ...................
10. Over and .............. your salary, there will be a bonus for good work.

Activity 6
Match the sentences to the corresponding idiom. All the phrases/idioms contain
the word ‘‘hand’’ but you may have to look some of them up under different words.
The dictionary will guide you when this is the case. Use your Oxford Advanced
Learners' Dictionary or another good dictionary to help you.

1. I'll take this job you've offered me rather than A. bite the hand that
wait to see what else comes along. feeds one
2. I thought he had a real cheek to steal a B. a bird in the hand is
computer from her after she'd been so sup- worth two in the bush
3. He was the one who gave the soldiers their C. hands full
orders to shoot.
4. You'd better approach him very humbly. D. blood on one's hands

Lecture 6 101 Sources of knowledge

5. They're working really closely with one another. E. hands tied
6. I don't think there's anything he can do about it. F. hand in glove
7. You won't be able to take on any more work G. cap in hand
once the baby's born.

1B 2A 3D 4G 5F 6E 7C

Looking up quotations

Most of what we say or write is forgotten. But occasionally, someone — a writer, a

politician, an actor — says something that is remembered and quoted over and
over again. These quotations enter the common body of wisdom and we are
expected to know who said them or what the original context was. Also, in our
writing, we may need to refer to these *pithily expressed words. This is where a
dictionary of quotations becomes an *indispensable aid.

To look up a quotation, you need to know either

. the source (usually a person, but including the Bible)
. one or two keywords from the quote.

Dictionaries of Quotation are organised alphabetically according to source. But

they also have an alphabetical index at the back where you can look up the
keyword (e.g. ‘‘dream’’, ‘‘sun’’ or ‘‘love’’) which will lead you to the quotation
through a page reference and entry number. So

wept: Babylon we sat down and w. PRAY 191:1

leads us to page 191, entry 1, from the Prayer Book:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept: when we remembered thee,
O Sion.

Beneath this quotation you will find its exact chapter, verse, page, act or scene.

Activity 7
Scan the entry for work and underline the references that will lead you to the source
of these 3 quotations:

Lecture 6 102 Sources of knowledge

1. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
2. Which of us ... is to do the hard and dirty work for the rest — and for
what pay?
3. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

work: be as tedious as to w. SHAK 212:5

do the hard and dirty w. RUSK 198:9
Do the w. that's nearest KING 142:10
honest man's the noblest w. POPE 185:18
If any would not w. BIBLE 39:25
I like work JER 130:18
I'll w. on a new and original GILB 107:15
I've got my w. cut out SQUI 245:7
Man goeth forth to his w. PRAY 190:5
men must w. KING 142:14
noblest w. of man BUTL 56:16
pleasant and clean w. RUSK 198:9
That do no w. today SHAK 214:2
This is too warm w. NELS 175:7
What a piece of w. is man SHAK 208:14
when no man can w. BIBLE 36:30
W. expands so as to fill PARK 180:13
W. is the curse WILDE 272:4

Activity 8
Use a book of quotations or an encyclopaedia (AND your general knowledge) to
match the quotation to its origin:

1. ‘‘I will build a car for the great multitude ... so A. Winston Churchill
low in price that no man will be unable to own
2. ‘‘The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.’’ B. Pliny, the Elder
3. ‘‘Genius is one per cent inspiration and C. Henry Ford
ninety-nine per cent perspiration.’’
4. ‘‘God does not play dice.’’ D. Thomas Edison
5. ‘‘Let the dead bury the dead.’’ E. Albert Einstein
6. ‘‘When sorrows come, they come not single F. Martin Luther King
spies,/But in battalions.’’
7. ‘‘Never in the field of human conflict was so G. Shakespeare, Hamlet
much owed by so many to so few.’’
8. ‘‘Man was born free, and everywhere he is in H. Oscar Wilde
9. ‘‘Ex Africa semper aliquid novi — There is I. Jean-Jacques Rous-
always something new out of Africa.’’ seau
10. ‘‘I have a dream. I have a dream that my four J. Bible
little children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the colour of their
skin but by the content of their character.’’

Lecture 6 103 Sources of knowledge

1C 2H 3D 4E 5J 6G 7A 8I 9B 10F

Looking up sayings and legends

Some words and phrases do not have a definition but a story attached to them.
Writers often assume that you know the story and therefore understand the
*allusion. When you don't understand the allusion, you need to consult a reference
work such as
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Larousse Encyclopaedia of Myths
A Treasury of African Folklore

Some good dictionaries will also help you with famous legends.

Let's look at a tricky example where the writer has alluded to several legends in the
same sentence:
Man's capacity for evil is never far from our minds, and it is easy to think that
evil just comes along with intelligence as part of its very essence. It is a
recurring theme in our cultural tradition: Adam and Eve eating the fruit of
the tree of knowledge, Promethean fire and Pandora's box, Faust's bargain,
the Sorcerer's apprentice, the adventures of Pinocchio, Frankenstein's
monster ...
(How the mind Works by Stephen Pinker, p. 16. London: Penguin, 1998).

You might know about the tree of knowledge, but would you be able to supply the
other legends? In a dictionary of myths and fables, you would be able to access
them alphabetically:
Faust's bargain. Faust was a real man (an astrologer and magician) whom
the writer Goethe developed into a fictional character. Goethe's Faust sells
his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 extra years of life during which all
knowledge and pleasures are at his command.
Frankenstein's monster. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote a book about a
student who makes a monster called Frankenstein out of dissected
corpses. The monster craves sympathy, but he is shunned, ultimately
attacking his maker.
Pandora's Box. In Greek legend, Zeus ordered the god of fire to make a
beautiful woman, Pandora (‘‘all-gifted’’) who received from all the gods the
power to bring about the ruin of man. She married Prometheus's brother,
bringing with her a large jar (Pandora's box) which she opened, letting all
the evils fly out. Only Hope remained in the box.
Pinocchio. The story (Italian in origin) of a mischievous boy carved out of
wood, who only learns goodness after many harms befall him.

Lecture 6 104 Sources of knowledge

Promethean fire. In Greek legend, the chief god Zeus would not let
humans have fire. Prometheus stole fire to save the human race. Zeus
punished Prometheus by chaining him to a mountain where eagles fed on
his liver all day, a never-ending torment since his liver was renewed at night.
Sorcerer's apprentice. A poem by Goethe in which a boy who works for a
magician (sorcerer) lazily tries to get out of his work using magic, but
everything goes wrong as a result.

Having looked up these references, you need to go back to the text and check
the writer's meaning. Why has he lumped all these legends together? Yes,
because they all attempt to explain how evil gets into the world, often disguised
as a gift.

Activity 9
Look up the underlined allusions and decide why the writer has used them.
1. It's like a child's story of Aladdin's lamp. We are the first generation that can
work miracles. We've got the technology to make whatever we wish for.
Aladdin's lamp tells the story of .......................................................................
myriad 2. Revamping the planet's {myriad hellholes into Elysian Fields may seem
indefinitely great number improbable, but Martin points out that technology has already achieved some
extraordinary transformations.
The Elysian fields were ....................................................................................
3. Fleming saw that bacteria covered the entire plate except for the area
surrounding the mouldy contaminant. Seeing that halo was Fleming's
‘‘Eureka’’ moment, the moment he correctly deduced that the mould must
have released a substance that inhibited the growth of the bacteria.
The Eureka moment refers to ..........................................................................
4. The Seven Wonders of the New Millennium are, for the most part, likely to be
those places that take a little effort to get to, places out of reach of the average
The Seven Wonders is a reference to .............................................................

Looking up people and places

Apart from difficult words and phrases, quotations and legends, your reading may
also be slowed down by references to people or places with which you are not
familiar. A set of encyclopaedias or even a single volume book of knowledge will
help you find out who these people and places are.

Lecture 6 105 Sources of knowledge

You might be particularly confused when people's surnames are turned into adjectives:
Shakespeare — Shakespearean
Einstein — Einsteinian

The implication here is that you should instantly recognise the body of knowledge
associated with that person. For example:
In 1995, the Chicago police department, using software called BrainMaker, tried
to predict which officers were potential candidates for misbehaviour. Of 12,500
officers evaluated by the system, 91 were *dubbed at risk. Nearly a quarter of
those, it turned out, were already facing allegations of misconduct and half had
been flagged for behaviour problems. ‘‘This sounds Orwellian,’’ says Martin,
‘‘but the department pointed out that the software is unbiased, whereas the old
system, being human-based, could not avoid some level of bias’’.

In this case, you need to know that ‘‘Orwellian’’ is an adjective derived from the
name ‘‘Orwell’’ . Then you can consult your reference work and discover that
George Orwell was an author, most famously of two novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four
and Animal Farm. By speed reading (encyclopaedia entries can be very long!), you
will come across the information that
... Nineteen Eighty-Four is ‘‘a nightmare story ... of the future ... in a social
system where there is no privacy ... arrest by the Thought Police ... a warning
of the possibilities of the police state brought to perfection, where power is
the only thing that counts ... novel had ... extraordinary impact ... many of its
phrases ... passed into the common language ...’’
(The Oxford Companion to English Literature
edited by Margaret Drabble, p. 701. OUP: 1985)

Armed with this information, you can go back to the text you were reading and
recognize that the word ‘‘Orwellian’’ refers to a fear of a police state where all
thoughts are monitored.

Gradually, as you become accustomed to looking up these references, you will fill
in the gaps in your knowledge. Better still, you'll be able to recognize these names
next time around.

Activity 10
Use an encyclopaedia or other general reference work (and your general
knowledge) in order to help you match the people to their area of fame:

1 Masters and Johnson A anthropology

2 Neil Armstrong B linguistics
3 The Rosenbergs C peace and non-violence
4 Mahatma Gandhi D first walk on the moon
5 Jacques Cousteau E electrocuted for spying in the US
6 Louis Leakey F sex therapy
7 Noam Chomsky G oceanography

Lecture 6 106 Sources of knowledge

1F 2D 3E 4C 5G 6A 7B

Activity 11
Read the text and then use a reference work (and your general knowledge) to
match the people to their area of fame:

Strategically located on the trade routes from Turkey and Syria to Egypt,
Ashkelon witnessed the rise and fall of numerous cultures. The biblical
Goliath probably walked its streets, as did Richard the Lion-Hearted,
Alexander the Great, Herod, and Samson before he met Delilah.

..................... was a wicked king in Israel who had all baby boys killed in an
attempt to ensure that Jesus did not grow up and become a king.
..................... was a woman in the Bible who persuaded Samson to tell her his
secret, that his hair was the secret of his strength.
....................... was a King of England who fought in the Crusades but was
known for his gentlemanly behaviour.
....................... was a very strong man who lost his strength when his hair was
....................... was the King of Macedonia who conquered most of the world
known to antiquity.
....................... was a giant slain by the youth David in the Bible.

Researching on the Internet

Every research tool we've mentioned so far (dictionaries, encyclopaedias and

reference works) is available on the Internet. If you have access to the Internet, you
can simply type in your search query in the search window provided by your
service provider or your search engine of choice:


Because the Internet is such a vast database, it's important to select the correct
keywords so that you don't get thousands of irrelevant search results. One way of
*refining your search is to use Boolean logic. Boolean logic simply refers to the use
of the operators AND, OR, and NOT in your search request. The broadest search
option involves using the operator ‘‘OR’’, for example:

waste or garbage Search

Here you are telling the search engine that you're not fussy: you'll take pages with
EITHER ‘‘garbage’’ OR ‘‘waste’’. This type of search is most useful when your
search term has a frequently used synonym.

Lecture 6 107 Sources of knowledge

More often, we want to narrow our search. In this case, the operator AND helps to
produce relevant search results. For example:

waste and recycle and South Africa Search

This search will retrieve all records in which ‘‘waste’’ and ‘‘recycle’’ and ‘‘South
Africa’’ occur. You will not retrieve records that only feature ‘‘waste’’ but not
‘‘recycle’’ or ‘‘South Africa’’, etc. The more terms you combine with AND, the fewer
records you will retrieve.

Another way of excluding certain records from your search results is to use the
operator NOT:

ovens not microwave Search

By skimming your results you should be able to tell whether it is worth clicking on
the listed web page for more information:
1 Yale Working Papers on Solid Waste Policy
By strategically commissioning papers from experts on topics that have been
neglected in the discussion about solid waste policy, the Program on Solid
Waste Policy seeks to stimulate and disseminate scholarly research useful for
a deeper understanding of... http://www.yale.edu/pswp/
2 Environment News Service: South Africa Tells Nuke Ships to Stay Away
3 Recycle-Tec Waste Recycling
On site crushing and screening of solid waste including rubble, concrete,
4 Waste Trade SA in africa.recycle.net
The Internet's African Recycling Marketplace
5 Sustainable Communities and Industrial Ecology
Patterns of urban development are a particular focus of concern in the search
for a path to a sustainable world. The majority of world cities are vortices of
unsustainability, concentrating environmental threats and social and eco-
nomic distress
6 Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources
Alternative Farming Systems The word ‘‘permaculture’’ was coined in 1978 by
Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David
Holmgren. It is a contraction of ‘‘permanent agriculture’’ or ‘‘permanent

Activity 12
Fill in the search queries:

Lecture 6 108 Sources of knowledge

1. I want to know about epilepsy in children.


2. I'm interested in the play Dr Faustus by Marlowe, but not the version by


3. I want to learn about African wisdom, which is often found in proverbs.


*Vocabulary Building
legends old stories of great events, which may not be
constraints restrictions that limit one's freedom of action
consistently continually keeping on in the same way
recur to come up again or repeat
desecrate to destroy or damage a holy thing
idioms a group of words which, together, forms a new
separate meaning
pro rata calculated according to a fair share
ad hoc arranged for a particular purpose, often un-
cusp the edge; the meeting point of two curves
discontinuous not continuous, producing a gap
pithily expressed stated cleverly, without wasting words
indispensable something you cannot do without
allusion a reference in speech or writing to another thing
dubbed named; described as
refining sharpening and making clearer

Activity 1
1. stereotype
2. at least 7 in the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary, including ‘‘traveller’’,
‘‘travelogue’’ and ‘‘travel agent’’.
3. At least 19 in the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary, including ‘‘iceberg’’ and
4. At least 6 in the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary, including a room divider,
tv screen and portable projector screen.

Lecture 6 109 Sources of knowledge

5. VERB: At the meeting, it was resolved to apply for government funding.
NOUN: Nothing would weaken her resolve.
6. CFC — chloro-fluorocarbon cf — compare Flt Lt — Flight Lieutenant
VAT — Value Added Tax EU — European Union

Activity 2
1. On a long drive, I'm aware of the importance of alertness I don't like to drive on
automatic pilot. I think you need to be conscious at all times of the traffic, road
conditions, etc.
2. Let's synchronise our watches so that we all start at the same time. This will
facilitate the experiment. We're hoping to replicate the results we achieved last
week so that we can check our data.
3. It was a compelling book. No one refutes that. It evokes different responses in
different people. The author talks about political transitions, for example from
dictatorships to democracy. He also explodes some of the myths around
democracy itself, for example the idea that democracy is always the best and
fairest way to divide power.

Activity 3
Routledge Dictionary of Physics gravity
Routledge Dictionary of Biology phylum
Tyndale Bible Dictionary Apocalypse
The New Harvard Dictionary of Music staff
Abbreviations Dictionary IT
tranche Newton's Telecom Dictionary Internet
portion or instalment of a {
large sum of money
Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms tranche
melanoma Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary melanoma
a coloured growth on the
skin, which can be Dictionary of Legal Terms: A Simplified
harmfuyl if it increases in Guide to the Language of Law stay of execution

Activity 4
a land of milk and honey — ‘‘plenty of food and good things that make life easy and
to play God — to behave as if one were God, for example by deciding whether or
not a particular type of person may be born.
per capita — according to a head count/for each person
net worth — effective value, after expenses/bills have been paid

Activity 5
1. You promised her, so now you are honour bound to take her.
2. I'm confused about this problem and wondered if you could cast some light on
3. We reported my mother missing to the police, but they had seen no one
answering to that description.

Lecture 6 110 Sources of knowledge

4. The ship had to take evasive action in order to avoid a collision.
5. After the illness, he was a shadow of his former self.
6. The driver brought the train to a grinding halt.
7. You need to check up on your health at regular intervals.
8. Death is the great leveller.
9. I'll add that up in my head: just wait while I do my mental arithmetic.
10. Over and above your salary, there will be a bonus for good work.

Activity 6
Answers after the Activity

Activity 7
1 PARK 180:13
2 RUSK 198:9
3 WILDE 272:4

Activity 8
Answers after the Activity

Activity 9
1. Aladdin's lamp tells the story of a man who obtains a magic lamp which
contains a genie (spirit) who grants him wishes. The writer implies that, like
Aladdin, we possess something (technology) that will grant us our wishes.
2. The Elysian fields were the ‘‘abode of the blessed’’ in Greek mythology. It refers
to paradise or a happy place.
3. The Eureka moment refers to an exclamation of delight made by the philosopher
Archimedes when he discovered the scientific law of displacement as he got
into his bath. The word means ‘‘I have found it!’’ and is used now to refer to any
mental breakthrough.
4. The Seven Wonders is a reference to the seven wonders of the ancient world,
which were all marvels of human construction: (1) the pyramids of Egypt
(2) the hanging gardens of Babylon (3) the tomb of Mausolus (4) the temple
of Diana (5) the Colossus of Rhodes (6) the statue of Jupiter by Phidias
(7) the Pharos of Alexandria. There is also a later list, including (1) the
Coliseum of Rome (2) the catacombs of Alexandria (3) the Great Wall of China
(4) Stonehenge (5) the leaning tower of Pisa (6) the porcelain tower of
Nanking (7) the mosque of San Sophia.

Activity 10
Answers after the activity

Activity 11
Goliath was a giant slain by the youth David in the Bible.
Richard the Lion-Hearted was a King of England who fought in the Crusades but
was known for his gentlemanly behaviour.

Lecture 6 111 Sources of knowledge

Alexander the Great was the King of Macedonia who conquered most of the world
known to antiquity.
Herod was a wicked king in Israel who had all baby boys killed in an attempt to
ensure that Jesus did not grow up and become a king.
Samson was a very strong man who lost his strength when his hair was cut.
Delilah was a woman in the Bible who persuaded Samson to tell her his secret, that
his hair was the secret of his strength.

Activity 12
epilepsy and children Search

2. I'm interested in the play Dr Faustus by Marlowe, but not the version by

Dr Faustus and Marlowe not Goethe Search

3. I want to learn about African wisdom, which is often found in proverbs.

African wisdom or African proverbs Search


Short quote (4 sentences) from ‘‘Is that a mountain lion in your backyard?’’ by
Gordon Grice. In Discover magazine June 2001, p. 59. (PO Box 37283 boone
IA 50037-0283 USA) (‘‘The jaguar made an early exit from the United States,
hunted so aggressively ...’’)

Why are yawns contagious? by Robert R. Provine in Discover magazine June

2001, p. 14. (PO Box 37283 boone IA 50037-0283 USA)

Short quote (2 sentences) from How the mind Works by Stephen Pinker, p. 16.
London: Penguin, 1998) (‘‘Man's capacity for evil is never far from our minds,
and it is easy to think that evil just comes along with intelligence as part of its
very essence. It is a recurring theme in our cultural tradition: Adam and Eve
eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Promethean fire and Pandora's box,
Faust's bargain, the Sorcerer's apprentice, the adventures of Pinocchio,
Frankenstein's monster ...’’)

2 Short quotes (1 paragraph + 1 sentence) from ‘‘Computers will save us: The
Future According to James Martin’’ by Brad Lemley in Discover magazine
June 2001, p. 53 & p. 55. (PO Box 37283 boone IA 50037-0283 USA) (‘‘In
1995, the Chicago police department, using software called BrainMaker ...’’
and ‘‘In a new book, After the Internet: Alien Intelligence, James Martin ...’’)

Lecture 6 112 Sources of knowledge

Short quote (4 sentences) from the entry on Nineteen Eighty-Four in The Oxford
Companion to English Literature edited by Margaret Drabble. OUP: 1985,
p. 701.

Short quote (2 sentences) from ‘‘Ancient Ashkelon’’ by Rick Gore. In National

Geographic Jan 2001, p. 71 ‘‘Strategically located on the trade routes from
Turkey and Syria to Egypt, Ashkelon ...’’. (fax 202 828 5460)

Lecture 6 113 Sources of knowledge

In this lecture you will learn to use both your own knowledge and
the clues within a text to predict content and meaning and,
consequently, to read more actively, more efficiently and with far
greater understanding.

Do you ever feel lost in a text, as if you don't know what is going on?
It's possible to avoid this confused feeling by taking charge of the text
and preparing your brain for what is coming next.

To stay one step ahead of the text you need to:

. identify the discourse type and your expectations of that discourse;

. use the title, headings, and *blurb to establish the main idea;
. look up important terms if necessary;
. activate your own knowledge *schema for that main idea;
. use paragraph divisions, topic sentences and *transitional expressions to
follow the direction of the argument or discussion;
. guess the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues.

This kind of reading is described as interactive. The interaction is between important

textual clues which you identify through bottom-up processing on the one hand, and
the thinking you do by actively guessing their significance on the other.

It is far easier to read passively, and most of us do so most of the time. An analogy of
a televised boxing match might help you to see the extraordinary difference between
passive reading and interactive reading. Passive reading is like sitting in comfort in
front of the TV, watching the two boxers. Interactive reading is being one of them. You
don't know from second to second what your opponent (the text) is going to throw at
you, but you try to anticipate his every move and you try to outpoint him by
countering with all your skill and aggression. It is very tiring, but if you do it well there
are great rewards: ask any Lennox Lewis of the academic world.

You have already practised some prediction skills, such as identifying discourse
types and looking up important words. Let's look at more methods of prediction.

Activating your knowledge schema

Your schema is the background provided by your own general knowledge and

Lecture 7 114 Prediction

experience. If you have no background knowledge on a topic, you cannot
understand a text on that topic without great difficulty. For example, how would
your understanding of the following text alter if the underlined words were not

My first dream involved a fishing scene: I was sometimes on a boat and

sometimes on shore. The man I was with caught two large flounder and a
woman insisted that I put them on top of a boat and gut them. I attempted to
cut the fish open with a razor blade. Some blood came out; the fish's face
turned into a man's face and he was bleeding. I told him to rinse his face with
water and said I would need his advice as to how to cut around his ears and

In the case of this text, your understanding of the scene is dependent upon your
schema for dreams. You know that in dreams weird things take place; you know
that in dreams apparently illogical sequences and sudden *transformations are

Let's take another example:

The gun fired and they

pushed and slid over the start
line. From then on it was a
matter of hauling, scooting
and rowing the canoe across
the ice to reach the main
stream, then repeating the
process on the ice at the far Ice canoeing – an exercise in pain and frustration
shore. Often it was neither ice
or water but a cold, drenching slush they were on or in.

Amazingly, everyone made it safely over and clambered onto their bikes to
tackle the aptly named Misery Hill ...

As you read the words, ‘‘the gun fired’’ your brain offered you a wide range of
possible schemata (violence, war, shooting practice), but almost instantly the
phrase ‘‘start line’’ sent a signal to your brain that this is the start of a race. You
assume it's a canoe race until you get to the part about the bikes. Immediately, your
brain starts to offer other appropriate types of race (triathlon? adventure race?). You
don't think ‘‘They are getting onto their bikes in order to go home.’’

To activate your knowledge schema:

. spend a few moments thinking, ‘‘What do I know about this topic?’’;
. remain alert during the reading process;
. process all the clues the text gives you;
. adapt your schema where necessary (as you did when switching from ‘‘canoe
race’’ to ‘‘adventure race’’).

Lecture 7 115 Prediction

Activity 1
Read the text and answer the questions:
‘‘They're made out of meat.’’
‘‘Meat?’’ ... ‘‘There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts
of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way
through. They're completely meat.’’
‘‘That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?’’
‘‘They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The
signals come from machines.’’
‘‘So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact.’’
‘‘They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the
sentient ‘‘That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to
conscious, having the
believe in {sentient meat.’’
power of sense percep-
tion or sensation
‘‘I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race
in the sector and they're made out of meat.’’
Maybe they're like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that
goes through a meat stage.’’
‘‘Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of
their life spans, which didn't take too long. Do you have any idea of the life
span of meat?’’
‘‘Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei.
A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.’’
‘‘Nope, we thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei.
But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through.’’
‘‘No brain?’’
‘‘Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat!’’
‘‘So ... what does the thinking?’’
‘‘You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.’’

‘‘Thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is
the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?’’
(Terry Bisson, from ‘‘Alien/Nation’’)

Question 1
In order to understand this passage, the reader needs to recognise that
the discourse type is
1 non-fiction.

Lecture 7 116 Prediction

2 newspaper reporting.
3 science fiction.
4 romance fiction.

Question 2
The ‘‘meat’’ referred to is
1 food derived from animal carcasses.
2 the flesh, skin, muscle, bone of dead human beings.
3 the flesh, skin, muscle, bone of living human beings.
4 the flesh, skin, muscle, bone of alien, brainless beings.

Question 3
In the schema of the two people speaking
1 flesh is completely unknown.
2 flesh is not associated with brain function.
3 flesh is associated with intelligent life on earth.
4 flesh is a food for consumption.

Question 4
Using our own schema, it is possible to determine that the ‘‘recon
vessels’’ are some type of
1 space ship.
2 container.
3 sea-going ship.
4 alien beings.

3 3 2 1

Predicting from headings and blurbs

The key words that activate your schemata are likely to be found in the title of the
book, article or chapter you are reading. From the moment you set eyes on the
heading, subheadings and illustrations, let your own experience *inform the text
you are reading, making it come alive.

For example, in the following book, you should recognise from the cover that the
book is about film. Your brain may even help you by identifying the double
meaning of ‘‘sense’’ (a faculty of perception, like smell, sight, for example, as well
as ‘‘sense’’ referring to meaning and understanding). The specific chapter heading,
SETTING, alerts you to the aspect of film under discussion. You can use the
subheadings (SETTING AS A REFLECTION OF CHARACTER etc) to predict that
this chapter will focus on the functions of setting in films.

Lecture 7 117 Prediction

Lecture 7 118 Prediction
In addition to the headings, blurbs are a useful guide in outlining what is to come.
Most books have a blurb printed on the back cover. Scholarly articles often have a
three or four line summary under the title. In magazines, the Contents page often
supplies a blurb for each article:

26 Gay No More?
A breakaway group of Christian and secular therapists claims to be able to
convert homosexuals into heterosexuals — if they'll just get with the
program. So what exactly is the program? And does it work?

30 Beyond Serotonin
Surprising new findings are challenging the assumption that the world's most
common mental ailment is just a chemical imbalance in the brain. The latest
research shows that actual neural circuitry is impaired, even destroyed. What's
more, the disorder now appears to afflict the whole body as much as the brain.

You should actively use the blurbs to

. decide whether you want to read something or not;
. identify relevant texts for your research;
. prepare your brain for the information that is coming.

Activity 2
Match the headings on the left to the blurb on the right:

1. BAGDAD'S GOLDEN A. MEI TROW scents a conspiracy surrounding

AGE the death of Christopher Marlowe.
2. WHITE GOLD RUSH IN B. Medieval Islam embraced other cultures and
AFRICA took science and learning to new heights.
3. BOUGHT OUT OF BON- C. E. JANE DICKSON reports on historical
DAGE novels and talks to authors.
4. TUDOR CONTRACT D. Roger Casement's rescue of two abused
KILLING slave boys.
5. FACTS NOT FICTION E. Statistics show that the slaughter of ele-
phants for ivory reached its peak in the 19th
not the late 20th century.

1B 2E 3D 4A 5C

Lecture 7 119 Prediction

Topic sentences
Within the text itself there are clues as to where the writer is going and how you
should follow him/her. Certain words or sentences should stand out for you as you
read, like road signs. These are:
. topic sentences, which clearly state the focus and main idea of the paragraph;
. signpost words, which indicate changes or developments in the writer's
thought processes.

Recognising topic sentences is your first step in becoming a *proficient speed

reader. Once you know what a paragraph is about, you can feel more confident
about predicting what will come next, even skipping words and sentences in order
to get the *gist quickly.

Let's look at an example. The topic sentence is underlined. Words and phrases that
an experienced reader would simply skim over or even skip are in plain type. Key
words and phrases are in bold:
Depression is not just a disorder from the neck up but a disorder involving
many body systems. It both leads to heart disease in otherwise healthy
adults and magnifies the deadliness of existing cardiac problems. What's
more, it accelerates changes in bone mass that lead to osteoporosis. ‘‘The
lifetime risk of fracture related to depression is substantial,’’ researchers
have declared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Train yourself to pick out the topic sentence so that you can stay on top of what you
are reading and control the way you yourself are processing and storing the
information. Keeping the topic sentence in mind, you should proceed to read the
remainder of the paragraph looking for:
. explanations of the main idea;
. reasons for the main view or argument expressed;
. examples or illustrations that help you visualise the main idea;
. contrasting or opposing ideas.

Read the following paragraphs to see how this works in practice:

1. Topic sentence + reasons
All humans need to consume vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, on a
regular basis to survive. (TOPIC SENTENCE) The vitamin isn't produced in the
body and is rapidly excreted. (REASONS 1 AND 2 FOR CONSUMING
VITAMIN C) But more than that, it helps our bodies to resist infection and build
healthy bones, teeth and gums. (REASONS 3 AND 4) A proven antioxidant, C
may also aid in fighting ailments such as cancer and heart disease.
(REASONS 5 and 6)

You could recall a paragraph like this with the following memory prompt:
Consuming Vitamin C is important because
(1) ................... (2) .................... (3) .................... (4) .......................

Lecture 7 120 Prediction

(5) ......................(6) ...........................
2. Topic sentence + illustrations
The marital intervention seminar lasts just 16 hours and is designed to improve
couples' communication skills. (TOPIC SENTENCE) Spouses practise
expressing their feelings, coping with negative emotions, problem-solving,
setting realistic expectations for their relationship and being open about their

You could recall a paragraph like this with the following memory prompt:
The seminar helped improve couples' communications skills, for example
(1) ................... (2) ......................... (3) ........................ (4) ....................
(5) ....................

Different ways of constructing a paragraph are often referred to as paragraph

patterns. They are useful for readers because they help you to identify the writer's
purpose and the organising principle of his/her ideas:
. chronological order
. argument or statement of opinion with reasons
. generalisation with particular examples
. statement plus examples
. examples that lead to a generalisation
. comparison and/or contrast.

When you know WHY ideas are collected together, you can read faster and more

Activity 3
Question 1
Read the following paragraph and then complete the memory
‘‘What the heck is a `zine' anyway?’’ you may be asking. Well, in its
simplest terms, a zine is a self-published magazine. But ask anyone
who has any experience in zines what they're all about and the word
‘‘passion’’ is likely to come up: ‘‘A zine is a publication done for
passion rather than profit,’’ says Chip Rowe, Zine advisory board
member and overseer of Zinebook.com; ‘‘Today's zines are an
extension of the passions of their creators,’’ says the editor of The
Amateur Poetry Journal, Judy Gripton, also a zine board member.
These definitions incorporate the central element that distinguishes
the zine as a publishing medium.

Memory prompt: A ‘zine’ is (1) .......................... (2) ...........................

Lecture 7 121 Prediction

Question 2
Read the paragraphs and identify them as either
topic sentence + explanation
topic sentence + reasons
topic sentence + examples

Paragraph 1
Instructional designers do something called ‘‘task analysis’’. For
example, you want to turn Uncle Marvin, who has no previous
restaurant experience, into a good waiter. You analyse the job and you
decide that what Uncle Marvin needs to learn is customer service
skills, grace under pressure, manual dexterity and — most impor-
tantly — the ability to keep track of many details at once.

Paragraph 2
What is an instructional designer? These are the folks who create the
training materials and methods needed to educate an audience about
a particular skill or know-how. Often, the ability to communicate clearly
via the written word is part of the process.

Paragraph 3
In this example, one thing it will be necessary for Marvin to know is the
menu. Why? Well, he'll need to remember the daily specials, how to fill
the beverage orders and how to put the orders on his order pad.

Question 3
Now go back to the paragraph you read in Question 1 and underline only
the words that were necessary to complete the memory prompt. Re-read
the paragraph, skipping so that you only really read the words you've
underlined. Congratulations! You've started to speed read!

Signpost words

How often have you wanted to stop a writer and say, ‘‘I'm sorry, but I don't follow
you’’? Following a writer's meaning is made difficult when he/she uses unfamiliar
vocabulary. As we've seen, you can solve that problem to some extent by using a

But what about the argument itself? Sometimes you get lost in a text because you
can't follow the writer's logic, how he/she gets from point A to point B and so on.
This is where being aware of signpost words can help you.

These signpost words, often called conjunctions, show the links between ideas.

Lecture 7 122 Prediction

They may link different ideas within one sentence, or they may link the sentences
themselves. If you miss a signpost word, you may become confused or
misunderstand the text. So, stay alert.

Signpost words can be divided into different categories of meaning, depending on

the type of logical link they make:


repeats or emphasises indeed, in fact, surely, above all, especially,
adds, expands or joins equal also, and, then, as well, besides, beyond that,
elements secondly, thirdly, furthermore, in addition, more-
over, next
compares also, as well, both, likewise, similarly
contrasts or disagrees although, be that as it may, however, in contrast,
nevertheless, on the other hand, yet, whereas
shows result or logical con- and so, because of this, consequently, as a
sequence result, hence, so, therefore, thus, for this reason,
gives reasons because, since, for, as
orientates in time after, before, now, then, at present, subse-
quently, afterwards, later, during, finally, gradu-
ally, immediately, meanwhile, recently, soon,
orientates in space above, beside, below, beyond, farther, here,
inside, nearby, next to, opposite, outside, north,
south, etc
shows dependency if w, then y
qualifies perhaps, maybe, possibly
summarises all in all, in brief, in essence, in other words, to
sum up
illustrates for example, for instance, in particular, such as
concedes certainly, granted, of course, no doubt

Clearly, each one of these words requires a particular mental response from you,
the reader. For example, the word ‘‘because’’ should instantly signify to you to
expect a reason. The word ‘‘if’’ must be followed by a logical possibility,
consequence or result.

Signpost words help you to speed read because they help you predict what is
coming next. In the following example, you can skim over an entire paragraph in
order to get to the other side of the contrast:
So it is with creativity. For many years psychologists tended to treat this

Lecture 7 123 Prediction

particular area of human behaviour as terra incognita — unknown territory —
that had never been and probably could never be charted ................. [SKIM
However, there have been some outstandingly revealing attempts to pin
down the ‘‘mystery’’ of creativity, and these form the core of this book.

You are able to do this because your mind processes the phrase ‘‘For many
years ...’’ as introducing background information which is interesting but not
crucial. Your eye then scans the text for the point when the writer will stop dealing
with past practices and focus on the here and now. This point is reached with
‘‘However ...’’.

Activity 4
Underline the signpost word(s) in each example and then fill in the brief summary.
1. To understand depression we have to confront the mind/body dilemma head
on. Although we often arbitrarily divide the mind from the brain and regard
‘‘mental illness’’ as strictly mental, mood disorders are not disembodied
ailments. If depression proves anything, then it is that the mind and the brain
are one. There are nerve circuits in the brain that colour psychological events
positively or negatively, that lead us to see rewards and pleasures or merely
emptiness and hopelessness, and then to negotiate the world by engaging
with it or withdrawing from it.
Summary: This writer does not regard ....................................... Whether we
see an event as ............... or ....................... depends on ....................................
in the physical brain.
2. Davis died on 28 September 1991, and suddenly his post-comeback album
seemed far better than the critics had given them credit for. In particular Star
People (1983), You're Under Arrest (1985) won over a whole new generation of
Summary: Immediately after Davis's death, his music .........................
Two .................. are his Star People and You're Under Arrest albums.
3. For nine years Lee worked for British Steel as a data clerk. Then, despite
working for a profitable part of the company, he was made redundant. A
disaster? No way José. A tidy redundancy package financed some rest time
and a new car. When he eventually did need to sort out some cash he got a job
at Renault, an excellent result for a Clio owner looking for body kit for his car. As
if this wasn't enough, in May Lee heard there was a job doing some admin and
sales at Source in Sheffield. He took his opportunity and having been a
customer for 3 years he became an employee. And just think, if British Steel
hadn't kicked him out, he wouldn't have a new car or be indulging in his hobby
full time and getting paid for it.
Summary: A .............. Lee was retrenched with a package from British Steel,

Lecture 7 124 Prediction

he was off work u ................. he got a job at Renault. S ......................, he
worked for Source. So it was only b ............... he lost his job t ......... he ended
up with a job he really loved.

Finding meaning in context

In the previous lecture, we discussed how to look up words and phrases in the
dictionary. Now let's look at a shortcut used by experienced readers. Basically, it
involves guessing what an unfamiliar word means based on the context provided
by surrounding words.

Sometimes, the surrounding words actually provide the meaning, as we saw in:

For many years psychologists tended to treat this particular area of human
behaviour as terra incognita — unknown territory — that had never been and
probably could never be charted ...

But more often, you simply have to consider what the likely meaning is given the
context. So:

About 15 years ago the debate was at its height: one camp maintained that
traditional Rheingauers had always been bone dry, others clung to the view
that they had been fruity, by which they meant half-dry, half-sweet or
downright sugary.

Excepted from the argument, of course, were the ‘‘nobly rotten’’ wines made
from grapes smitten with botrytis cinerea ...

At what point did you realise that ‘‘Rheingauers’’ refers to a type of wine? Instantly?
After the word ‘‘dry’’? After ‘‘fruity’’? Or only at the beginning of the next paragraph,
where the word ‘‘wines’’ is actually mentioned?

The truth is that all of these words should have provided important context clues.
‘‘Dry’’, after all, could refer to a type of beer. But ‘‘dry’’, when it occurs so close to
‘‘fruity’’ and ‘‘sweet’’ provides the context for ‘‘wine’’, which is then confirmed in the
next paragraph.

This process of gradually narrowing down the range of possible meanings (‘‘beer
or wine?’’) and then confirming the most accurate one (‘‘yes, wine C’’), is a highly
important reading technique. As with all the techniques you have learnt in this
chapter, getting the meaning of a word from its context requires:
. identifying the schema;
. recognising keywords in a text;
. adjusting your reading speed to the task in hand;
. making informed guesses;
. predicting as accurately as the available information allows.

Lecture 7 125 Prediction

Activity 5
Question 1
Which word or phrase from the text provides an explanation of the word
Most cultures have their own story of the Creation. Usually an all-
powerful supernatural being is described as making the world from
the void, fashioning physical reality from what had been until then
eternal nothingness or, at best, chaos.

Question 2
What is botrytis cinerea most likely to be a type of?
Excepted from the argument, of course, were the ‘‘nobly rotten’’
wines made from grapes smitten with botrytis cinerea ...

Question 3
Is ‘‘incubation’’ the same or different from ‘‘protracted conscious effort’’?
It has been suggested that one of the characteristics of the creative
process is a period of incubation. Here, the idea, wherever it might
come from, is subjected to unconscious evaluation against the goals
of the creative person. When, for instance, protracted conscious
effort to solve a problem has been unsuccessful, then putting the
problem out of your mind for a while can somehow bring out a

Question 4
Use context clues to work out the meaning of ‘‘inventory’’ and ‘‘ubiquity’’
and to define ‘‘metaphor’’.
... there is a vast inventory of everyday metaphors that express the
bulk of our experience. George Lakoff and the linguist Mark Johnson
have assembled a list of ‘‘the metaphors we live by’’:
ARGUMENT IS WAR (Your claim is indefensible; He attacked
every weak point in my argument; Her criticisms were right on
VIRTUE IS UP (He is a high-minded person; She is an
upstanding citizen; That was a low trick)
LOVE IS A PATIENT (This is a sick relationship; They have a
healthy marriage)
IDEAS ARE FOOD (What he said left a bad taste in my mouth; I
can't swallow that)

Once you begin to notice this pedestrian poetry, you find it everywhere.

Lecture 7 126 Prediction

The ubiquity of metaphor brings us closer to solving Wallace’s paradox,
namely that human intelligence is not explained by evolution, since human
brain capacity far exceeds the amount required for survival. In fact, metaphors
show that the human mind is not adapted to think about abstractions.

*Vocabulary Building
schema an understanding or sense of how a particular
word or thing fits into a bigger class or scheme
of things. The plural is ‘‘schemata’’.
transitional indicating a change from one thing (or idea) to
transformations dramatic changes
blurbs descriptions of books or articles.
proficient expert
gist the essence or main idea
prompt something which helps you to supply a forgotten
word or sentence.
inform to tell

Activity 1
Answers after the exercise

Activity 2
Answers after the exercise

Activity 3
Question 1
A ‘zine’ is (1) a self-published magazine (2) done for passion rather than profit.

Question 2
Paragraph 1 = topic sentence + examples
Paragraph 2 = topic sentence + explanation
Paragraph 3 = topic sentence + reasons

Question 3
... a zine is a self-published magazine ... a publication done for passion rather than

Activity 4
(Don't worry if your summaries are worded slightly differently. Look for the

Lecture 7 127 Prediction

1 The signpost words are: ‘‘although’’; ‘‘If ... then’’; ‘‘or’’; ‘‘then’’.
Summary: This writer does not regard ‘‘mental illness’’ as strictly mental.
Whether we see an event as positive or negative depends on nerve circuits in
the physical brain.
2 The signpost words are: ‘‘and’’; ‘‘In particular’’.
Summary: Immediately after Davis's death, his music gained popularity. Two
examples are his Star People and You're Under Arrest albums.
3 The signpost words are: ‘‘For x years ...’’; ‘‘then’’; ‘‘when’’; ‘‘eventually’’; ‘‘if’’.
Summary: After Lee was retrenched with a package from British Steel, he was
off work until he got a job at Renault. Subsequently, he worked for Source. So it
was only because he lost his job that he ended up with a job he really loved.

Activity 5
Question 1
Void relates directly to the phrase ‘‘eternal nothingness’’.

Question 2
Botrytis cinerea must be a type of disease or rot that affects vines.

Question 3
‘‘Incubation’’ is different from ‘‘protracted conscious effort’’ and suggests a natural
phase of simply allowing things to develop in their own way without interference.

Question 4
Context clues show that ‘‘inventory’’ means ‘‘list’’; ‘‘ubiquity’’ means ‘‘everywhere’’
and that ‘‘metaphor’’ is a comparison between two things, without using ‘‘like’’ or

Dream paragraph (‘‘My first dream involved a fishing scene: ... to how to cut
around his ears and nose’’) Our Dreaming Mind by Robert L. van der Castle.
New York: Ballantine, 1994, p. 435

Adventure race scenario (‘‘The gun fired ... clambered onto their bikes to tackle the
aptly named Misery Hill) On the Hill magazines Vol. 1, issue 11 2001 p. 45

Science Fiction (‘‘Meat’’) extract. By Terry Bisson, from ‘‘Alien/Nation’’ in Omni, April
1991. Quoted in How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker, p. 96

Psychology Magazine blurbs. Psychology Today March/April 1999, Vol. 32, No. 2,
p. 1

History magazine blurbs. BBC History magazine. August 2001, p. 4

Lecture 7 128 Prediction

Depression paragraphs. From ‘‘Beyond Serotinin’’ by Hara Estroff Marano. In
Psychology Today March/April 1999, Vol. 32, No. 2, p. 32). Also Vitamin C

Marital Intervention paragraph. Adapted from report in Psychology Today March/

April 1999, Vol. 32, No. 2, p. 12

‘‘Zine’’ paragraph and ‘‘Instructional design’’ paragraphs from Writer's Digest No. 1,
January 2001, p. 50, p. 39

Creativity paragraphs from The Keys to Creativity by Peter Evans and Geoff
Deehan, pp. 13–4. London: Grafton, 1990

Davis paragraph from BBC Music magazine July 2001, p. 56

Lee paragraph. From ‘‘Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining’’. IN CARS magazine,
August 2001, p. 32

Rheingauers paragraph. From ‘‘So how sweet is hock?’’ by Giles MacDonogh. In

Financial Times Weekend Supplement, October 13–14 2001, p. xiv

Metaphors paragraph. From How the Mind Works by Stephen Pinker. London,
Penguin, 1997, p. 358

Lecture 7 129 Prediction

In this lecture, you will learn how to read against a text, picking
out bias and flaws in the argument.
Reading well is not simply a matter of getting the meaning of individual words and
phrases or managing to summarise a text. You need to get behind the text and
. the writer's purpose;
. the writer's point of view or belief;
. hidden meanings;
. bias;
. emotive or persuasive language;
. logical links;
. proof of argument.

Once you have learnt to identify these things within a text, you will have become a
fine critical reader, someone who does not accept the text at face value.

Critical reading is a top-down skill because it depends on the higher-order thinking

skills that you bring to the text once your bottom-up decoding is in place. It also
brings into play your relevant
. existing knowledge
. life experience
. attitudes
. values
. judgement.

Because each reader's interpretation draws so heavily on what he or she brings to

the text, it is said that every text has as many meanings as it has readers. Not all of
these interpretations are equally good. It should be your lifelong goal as a reader to
‘‘read against the text’’ as intelligently as possible.

Activity 1
Let's see how good
you are already. Here
are 3 classified advertise-
ments. Read them and
answer the TRUE or
FALSE questions by
marking the boxes
‘‘T’’ or ‘‘F’’:

Lecture 8 130 Reading critically

& The names of the ‘‘world famous celebrities’’ who use Psychic Loveline are
& Women who phone in will definitely hear the truth about their husbands and
& Callers will certainly find the experience ‘‘life
& Ava, Chloe and Louella are undoubtedly the real
names of the people who will answer the phone.
& Ava, Chloe and Louella undoubtedly have the
power to see the future.
& Callers will pay for the call.

& Minerva Press will pay the costs of publishing your work.
& There is a difference between ‘‘Publish your work’’ and ‘‘Let us publish your
& It is likely that internationally respected
publishers would need to advertise for authors.

& The advert for weight loss provides a physical

address for you to visit.
& People who go on a diet always lose weight.
& Losing weight is easy.
& Overweight people often wish that losing weight
were easy.
& It is likely that on a calorie-restricted diet one would ‘‘feel full’’.
& If you respond to this advert you will be given a monthly salary and permanent
& People who respond to this advert will definitely ‘‘make a fortune’’.
& People who are looking for work usually need money.
& This ‘‘job’’ probably involves selling.
& This ‘‘job’’ probably involves an initial outlay of money.

As a critical reader, you should have answered:

Critical reading questions

A good critical reader asks questions. In the previous activity, you had to ask
questions in order to decide whether the statements were true or false. Many of us
feel quite comfortable about questioning adverts. After all, many of us have been
influenced by an advert to buy a ‘‘miracle’’ or ‘‘wonder’’ product that did not turn out
to be either wonderful or miraculous. But how do you feel about questioning:
. your textbooks and study material?

Lecture 8 131 Reading critically

. political speeches or government publications?
. religious pronouncements?
. newspaper articles and editorials?
. information found on the Internet?

scrutiny Every text, no matter how authoritative its source, must stand up to legitimate
close or minute exami- {
scrutiny. Examples of the questions you may ask of ANY text include:
. Who is writing this?
. For whom is this intended?
. Why was this written?
. When was this written?
. Where was this written?
. Does the writer expect the reader to agree with his/her personal beliefs in the
field of politics, morality, religion, artistic value, etc?
. What are the writer's main beliefs?
. Do I agree with the writer?
. What would an opponent of this writer argue?
. What evidence, factual or otherwise, is supplied?
. What process of reasoning does the writer follow?

Let's look at some real life examples where authoritative texts were questioned. The first
involves a Unisa Study Guide. This is what the newspaper The Mail&Guardian reported:

Gay people aren't normal, says textbook June 15, 2001

Wilhelm Disbergen
In the current curriculum for social work at Unisa, homosexuality is defined as
In Unisa's textbook homosexuality falls within a category entitled ‘‘Sexual Deviancy’’.
The description of homosexuality reads: ‘‘Most homosexual males pass for normal
in society and only a small percentage are explicitly effeminate. Effeminate males
feel a strong need to reject their masculinity and desire, consciously or
unconsciously, to identify with women.
‘‘Psychological studies indicate the absence of a parent, over-attachment to a
parent, conscious identification with a parent and conscious or unconscious
seduction by a parent as possible causes.
‘‘In recent years there has also been considerable medical research to determine
whether homosexuality may not perhaps be hereditary. So far the results have not
been conclusive.
‘‘Although this is not always the case, it would seem that paedophiles were exposed
to childhood sexual trauma.’’ The next subheading in the chapter on sexual
dysfunction is ‘‘Incest’’.
Asked why these beliefs were still contained in Unisa's textbooks years after such
opinions have been discredited, Professor Frederik Snyders, acting deputy dean of
social sciences, said World War II was also still being taught at Unisa.
Professor Willem van Delft, head of the department of social sciences, said the
department is not homophobic and that an amended study guide will hopefully be
available next year.

Lecture 8 132 Reading critically

Ian Orbeton of Unisa's Sexual Orientation Forum said a gender specialist offered
to revise the study guide and tutorial letters, but the help was declined.
Carrie Shelver, director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said it is
unacceptable for institutions to continue to propagate ‘‘outdated’’ information on
lesbian and gay people.
‘‘In 1975 the International Lesbian and Gay Association lobbied to have
homosexuality declassified as a dysfunction in various psychology textbooks and
here we find in South Africa that some social workers are still being taught that gay
people are abnormal, deviant and dysfunctional,’’ Shelver said.
‘‘To reinforce societal prejudices in health care professionals is unacceptable and

In this example, you saw how critical readers asked these questions:
. Why is homosexuality classified under ‘‘Deviancy’’ in a Study Guide?
. Is this an appropriate lesson to teach social workers?
. Why is the study material out of line with international trends?
. Does the Department stand by what it has written in its study material?

Our second case concerns the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, according to which the
language we use determines how we experience the world and how we express
that experience. Later scholars, in particular Steven Pinker, have taken Sapir and
Whorf to task for academic inaccuracy. Compare Whorf's statements (left) with
Pinker's critical reading (right):

The Hopi language contains no What, then, are we to make of the

words, grammatical forms, con- following sentence translated from Hopi?
structions or expressions that refer Then indeed, the following day, quite
directly to what we call ‘‘time’’, or to early in the morning at the hour when
past, or future, or to enduring or people pray to the sun, around that time
lasting. The Hopi have no general then he woke up the girl again.
notion or intuition of TIME as a
smooth flowing continuum in which Perhaps the Hopi are not as oblivious to
everything in the universe proceeds time as Whorf made them out to be. In his
at an equal rate, out of a future, extensive study of the Hopi, the anthro-
through a present, into a past. They pologist Ekkehart Malotki, who reported
do not conceptualise events as this sentence, also showed that Hopi
being like points, or lengths of time speech contains tense, metaphors for
like days as countable things. They time, units of time (including days, num-
have little interest in exact se- bers of days, parts of the days, yesterday
quences, dating, calendars, chron- and tomorrow, days of the week, weeks,
ology. months, lunar phases, seasons, and the
year), ways to quantify units of time, and
words like ‘‘ancient’’, ‘‘quick’’, ‘‘long time’’,
and ‘‘finished’’. Their culture keeps re-
cords with sophisticated methods of dat-
ing. ... No one is really sure how Whorf
came up with his outlandish claims, but
his limited, badly analysed sample of Hopi
speech and his long-time leanings toward
mysticism must have contributed.

Lecture 8 133 Reading critically

Activity 2
Now let's see if you can ask critical reading questions yourself. On the left you will
read a condensed version of comments made by a committee of teachers who
were set the task of evaluating the suitability of current matric setworks. As you
read, fill in your critical reader's response on the right. This may take the form of a
series of questions:

Learners are left with a negative after-taste when they read a text in which all
problems are not solved. Several Shakespeare texts are not suitable as setworks.
Macbeth is not particularly relevant to our youth, as it deals with aspects of history
that are hard to deduce. On the other hand, democratic values are promoted in
King Lear. Julius Caesar is sexist (it elevates men), and is not in favour of multi-
culturalism. Different religious and cultural beliefs are not tolerated. Romans see
themselves as above the level of normal people. Cultural diversity is completely
absent from the play.

Here are some questions posed by one critical reader:
. Can't these teachers differentiate between the presentation and exploration of
an idea (such as racism) and the promotion of it?
. How were these teachers selected?
criteria . What qualifications and expertise did they bring to the task?
(singular form criterion)
standard by which
. What training did they receive in the evaluation of literary texts?
something can be judged . What {criteria were used for the task?
or decided
. Who devised these criteria?
moderation . What processes of {moderation were put in place to ensure that each work was
establishing consistency
evaluated fairly? Was provision made for a proper process of appeal?
of standards

Please read ‘Making the Angels Weep’ by Barry Ronge. It gives another critical
reading of the ‘teaching Shakespeare in schools’ issue.

As long as you were able to ask questions, you're on the right track. Note how the
critical reader quoted above demands to know the criteria used for selecting,

Lecture 8 134 Reading critically

judging and evaluating. This is an important demand, and one you should make
too. Like a child, you need to be insistent in your ‘‘Why?’’ questions, especially
when reading evaluative or judgmental texts or texts which make strong claims.

Lecture 8 135 Reading critically

Critical reading toolkit
Before you begin to read critically, you need to make sure that you are familiar with
your conceptual toolkit.

A Glossary of Critical Reading Terms

ambiguity a double meaning caused deliberately or because of

inexact expression
assumption acceptance of something without proof, an unquestioned
bias prejudice, a preference for something or someone which
clouds the judgement
connotation the implied meaning of a word, its associations
denotation the meaning of a word (as given in the dictionary)
editorial an article written by the editor of a newspaper or magazine,
giving his/her opinion
emotive arousing feelings, often through repetition, long sentences
and loaded language or words with powerful connotations.
evidence the facts which support a belief or statement
exaggeration a word or phrase that makes a thing seem bigger, worse or
better than it is
fact a thing that is known to exist or
be true
generalisation a principle or theory with gen-
eral application
hype extensive publicity or promotion
hypocrisy pretending to be morally correct
when in fact you are not
justification a demonstration of the rightness
and correctness of a statement
libel a false and defamatory statement about a person
loaded language language that is weighted or biased for or against
manipulative language used to exploit the reader's feelings or opinions
misleading information that tricks you, often by seeming to be factual
information or true
neutrality not taking sides
non sequitur a conclusion that does not follow logically from the premises

Lecture 8 136 Reading critically

A Glossary of Critical Reading Terms

objective writing that shows facts uncoloured by feelings or opinions,

or which presents an informed opinion in a fair and
unbiased way
opinion a belief or opinion based on grounds that may lack proof
perception how something is seen or understood by a particular mind
persuasive language that causes the reader to believe or do some-
language thing, to be convinced of something
point of view the writer's position
premise a statement which is presumed to be true and which is then
used as the basis for an argument or logical conclusion
proof facts and evidence which establish a fact as correct
propaganda the planned use of words and images, often by govern-
ments, to persuade or even brainwash people
sarcasm a scornful remark, often mean-
ing the opposite of what is said
slander false, malicious statements
about another person
slogan a short, catchy phrase used in
advertising or politics
stereotype an unfair generalisation; a person or thing that conforms to
an unjustifiably fixed standard

subjective coming from a personal view and therefore reflecting a

personal bias
tone an attitude or feeling expressed through a writer's choice of

Lecture 8 137 Reading critically

Activity 3
Read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions:
Go on advertisers, surprise us
Dad comes home tired. He types tend to feed on stereo- ance provisions are so gener-
saunters into the kitchen where types, creating a vicious circle ous that you can even insure
Mum has been cooking a of impoverished thinking. your wife against driving your
sumptuous dinner. The family Close your eyes and think of car — never mind the fact that
tucks into a wholesome meal. some of the recent adverts far more men than women are
We are all convinced that it you've seen or heard. There's involved in car accidents.
must be that brand of cooking the stock Stork margarine ad
oil that is key to domestic bliss. of Mum cooking for the whole To quote a recent preliminary
The perfect family. The perfect neighbourhood and loving survey on gender and adver-
myth? herself for doing so. We are tising by Chloe Hardy and
now all familiar with the Voda- Zohra Khan of the Commission
What if Mum and Dad came
com ad of the man who has on Gender Equality (CGE):
home from work together?
left his nagging wife and is
They both roll up their sleeves . Fewer men than women are
basking in the company of a
and cook dinner. Dad washes portrayed in adverts;
young, bikini-clad woman as
the dishes and Mum helps the . Women are portrayed as
he listens to the monotonous
kids with their homework. They mothers, home-makers and
voice-mail message from his
both beam with satisfaction. sex objects;
wife: ‘‘Pack your bags and
Would we be shocked? Would . Elderly women never appear
go.’’ Not to forget underwear
we be any less convinced and disabled women are
‘‘he'll beg me to take if off’’ and
about that brand of cooking nonexistent; and
Telkom's call-more time ad in
oil? Has the advertising indus-
which little girls learn the craft . Men and women are por-
try ever asked these questions?
of chatting on the phone. And trayed as being at war with
One suspects not. Stereo- there's Santam, whose insur- each other.

Question 1
Which of the following scenes, described in the article, is NOT an example
of the stereotyping of women and girls?
1 The happy family tucks into a meal lovingly prepared by Mom.
2 Mom and Dad share the cooking.
3 Mom cooks for the whole neighbourhood.
4 A nagging wife sends ugly messages to her husband's voice mail.
5 A woman buys underwear thinking of the sexual effect it will have on
her man.

Question 2
Which of the following is NOT one of several common generalisations
about women referred to in this article?
1 Women are primarily homemakers (cooking and caring for the family).
2 Wives nag their husbands.
3 Women are sex objects.
4 Women are bad drivers.
5 Women are silent and thoughtful.

Lecture 8 138 Reading critically

Question 3

Match the statement to the critical reading term

a Make your man a Floro man. A Fact
b Go on advertisers, surprise us. B non sequitur
c Cooking with this brand of oil will C objective statement
lead to domestic bliss.
d Colleen Morna writes about the D slogan
use of stereotypes in adverts.
e Colleen Morna is obviously a hairy- E Sarcasm
legged feminist.
f Colleen Morna seems to support a F Slander
feminist interpretation of adverts.

1 aC bD cA dF eB fE
2 aB bC CD dA eE fF
3 aD bE cB dA eF fC
4 aC bF cE dD eA fB

Question 4
Which of the following is a FACT?
1 Men and women are at war with each other.
2 Women talk more than men.
3 CGE research showed that adverts do not portray elderly or disabled
4 Women are poor drivers.

2 5 3 3

The power of language to persuade

Writers make choices all the time between one word and another. These choices
are based, in the first instance, on the denotation or meaning the writer requires.
But beyond this, the writer chooses words according to his/her purpose.

Your role as a critical reader becomes important when that purpose is to persuade
you to
. find a person or idea *repugnant or laughable;
. find a person or idea convincing or desirable.

Lecture 8 139 Reading critically

As you read a persuasive text, you will notice how
. a *promotional text, e.g. an advert, will use words with the most positive
. a *disparaging text, e.g. an angry letter to the newspaper, will use words with
the most negative connotations.

When the writer builds up an entire text from this type of loaded language, we say
that the text is *emotive. Common types of emotive texts include:
. editorials;
. adverts;
. poems;
. letters to the press;
. political speeches.

When reading an emotive text, try to work out whether the emotions governing the
text are positive or negative:


Positive Emotions Negative Emotions
Love Hate/Dislike
Humour/Fun Disgust/Dismay
Excitement/Anticipation Fear
Happiness/Joy Sadness/Misery
Contentment/Peace Anger/Range
Confidence/Security Insecurity/*Paranoia
Carefreeness Rigidity/Restrictedness
Delight/Generosity Bitterness/Resentment
Approval Disapproval
Vitality/Interest *Lethargy/Boredom
Innocence/Enthusiasm *Cynicism/*Scepticism
Acceptance/Easygoingness Irritation

All of these emotions and moods may be expressed by language, and specifically,
through the writer's choice of words. A writer may include the occasional emotive
word or phrase, or she/he may accumulate emotive words so that the entire text is
emotive. The choice of words, coupled with the emotion behind that choice, will
affect the *tone of the text.

Read the following text and try to identify

. the emotion and/or tone;
. how the writer achieves his/her effects.

Lecture 8 140 Reading critically

Clear up this mess
As unedifying spectacles go, the new controversy over Cape Town's well-
intended, but ill-conceived plan to change central city street names to
honour Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk takes some beating.
The fumbling, premature and ill-planned initiative to change the names in
the first place was embarrassing enough.
Now its stated goal of testing public sentiment has been thoroughly
It embroils the office of the mayor in controversy, makes the city
administration seem either petty and petulant, or just plain inefficient, and it
embarrasses the two former presidents, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.

What you should have noticed is that

. the text is highly critical, disgusted, disparaging in tone;
. the underlined words all have negative connotations;
. the great number of words with negative connotations has a build-up effect;
. key words, such as ‘‘controversy’’ and ‘‘embarrass’’, are repeated;
. key ideas are repeated, though in different terms, e.g. ‘‘ill-conceived’’ = ‘‘ill-
. most of the emotion is conveyed through adjectives;
. some adjectives are reinforced through adverbs, e.g. ‘‘thoroughly discredited’’.

The writer has a strong point of view, and wishes to persuade us of this point of
view. Not all texts that express a point of view are persuasive, nor are they all
emotive. It's important to note the subtle differences between a highly emotive text,
an opinion text supported by reasons, and a factual text. For example, compare
these two texts with the previous one:

Statement of opinion Statement of fact

I don't think the renaming of Adderley In the first half of 2001, the Mayor of
and Wale Streets was handled very well. Cape Town launched a plan to
I found it embarrassing that the Mayor rename the city's two most famous
rigged the vote which brought the streets after former presidents Nelson
whole idea into disrepute. The mayor Mandela and FW de Klerk. The
meant well, but the whole thing un- initiative came to nothing after a
fortunately turned into a controversy. Commission of Inquiry found that
there had been irregularities in the
voting process.

Note that
. a fact is something which can be proved with reference to calendar dates,
documented names and places, scientific results, verified statistics, recorded
events, signed records, *empirical reality;
. an opinion will often be prefaced with the words ‘‘I think’’ or ‘‘I believe’’;
. it is possible to deliver non-factual information in an objective manner.

A text may fall somewhere along the following *continuum:

Lecture 8 141 Reading critically

pure emotion emotional ap- personal personal objectively pure fact
g peal + facts *
g opinion *
g opinion + stated opinion
facts *
g *
You lily-livered, How could you I prefer the Fi- I prefer the Fi- The Financial The Finan-
spineless, bald, do this? How nancial Times. nancial Times Times, with its cial Times
hateful toad! could you forget because of its Weekend sup- has a
Get out! that today is our Weekend plement, is a Weekend
anniversary! supplement. good choice. supple-

Activity 4
Study the advert and answer the multiple-choice questions.

Lecture 8 142 Reading critically

Question 1
Which of the following groups of words is NOT loaded with positive
1 natural, beauty, awaken
2 skin, body, ingredients
3 real, highest, quality,
4 favourite, top, refreshed,
5 relaxed, healthy, proven

Question 2
Which of the following is a FACT?
1 You will become a natural beauty if you use Freeman's natural body
care range.
2 You will find yourself feeling refreshed, but also relaxed and healthy.
3 Freeman's products are designed to be used on your skin, hair and
4 All the best beauty salons use Freeman's natural body care range.

Question 3
Judging from the entire text (picture as well as words) this advert is
appealing to the desire to be
1 sexy, alluring, sensual.
2 natural, healthy, peaceful, young.
3 thin, toned, athletic, fit.
4 maternal, nurturing, responsible.

Question 4
Which of the following emotions or moods does the writer NOT wish to
1 approval
2 enthusiasm
3 lethargy
4 vitality

2 3 2 3

The clash of opinions

As a critical reader, you need to keep a cool head while all around you others are
losing theirs. There will always be differences of opinion, and these differences are
most likely to be expressed in
. film, book and music reviews;

Lecture 8 143 Reading critically

. letter pages in the press;
. editorials;
. private arguments;
. public debates;
. meetings (and minutes);
. courts of law.

Train yourself to read each opinion with as open a mind as possible, looking for
. the main *tenet(s) of the argument;
. the reasons given in support;
. the writer's bias;
. the extent to which the argument is merely emotive;
. justification for the emotions expressed.

Activity 5
Read the opinions on a biography by J.D.F. Jones entitled Storyteller: The Many
Lives of Laurens van der Post and answer the questions.
Opinion 1 Opinion 2
‘‘I thought he wanted to write a There has rarely been an apter book-title
generous biography, but now I feel than the one chosen by J.D.F. Jones for
he knew he could dig up something, this spellbinding account of a famous
and that's why he did it. Everybody man he reveals as enchanting, ambig-
he interviewed would ring me and uous, inspiring, complex, misleading,
say I had to prepare myself for a sometimes admirable, sometimes risi-
disagreeable biography. But I was ble — and sometimes as a shockingly
amazed when I read it. He had culpable fabulist and liar: for the writer,
demeaned everything. My father mystic and royal guru Laurens van der
loved more women than most. We Post was indeed a storyteller, who not
all do things we later regret and only wove remarkable tales out of the
none of us is as noble as we might materials provided by his South African
like. But none of the poignancy of origins, but who wove and rewove an
this was brought out. Jones was so increasing elaboration of falsehoods and
excited by what he uncovered that distortions about his own life. This could
prurient he pointed a {prurient finger not have been an easy book to write.
unusually, excessively throughout. He was far too busy ... Jones has succeeded brilliantly, and
interested in sexual
thoughts or practices judging and accusing. There was no the result — not least because he has
empathy and no trying to under- organised this mass of material so well,
stand.’’ and written his account so beautifully —
reads like a thriller and a Gothic romance
in one. As Jones shows, Post always
trailed a faint aroma of bovine fertiliser ...

Question 1
Opinion 1 is
1 biased in favour of Sir Laurens van der Post because the writer is his

Lecture 8 144 Reading critically

2 biased against Sir Laurens van der Post because the writer is a
woman and Van der Post was unfaithful to women.
3 neutral.

Question 2
Which of the following is NOT one of the reasons cited by the writer of
Opinion 1 for her dislike of the book?
1 My father loved more women than most.
2 Jones was so excited by what he uncovered that he pointed a prurient
finger throughout.
3 He was far too busy judging and accusing.
4 There was no empathy and no trying to understand.

Question 3
Which of the following words used in Opinion 1 has the LEAST NEGATIVE
1 disagreeable
2 demeaned
3 poignancy
4 prurience

Question 4
Which of the following best describes the tone of Opinion 1?
1 angry and resentful
2 disappointed and hurt
3 irritated and cynical
4 approving and enthusiastic

Question 5
Opinion 2 lists a number of adjectives and nouns to describe Laurens van
der Post. Which of the following has the most NEGATIVE connotations?
1 enchanting
2 ambiguous
3 complex
4 risible

Question 6
Which of the following words from Opinion 2 does NOT have
connotations which associate Van der Post with fiction and untruth?
1 fabulist
2 storyteller
3 tales
4 royal
5 romance

Lecture 8 145 Reading critically

Question 7
Which one of the following is NOT one of the connotations of the words
‘‘mystic’’ and ‘‘guru’’?
1 spiritual
2 secret knowledge
3 advanced soul
4 organised religion
5 supernatural

Question 8
Match the word or phrase to its meaning in plain English
a culpable A bullshit
b risible B guilty
c bovine fertiliser C lies
d falsehoods D laughable
1 aA bB cC dD
2 aE bB cC dA
3 aB bE cA dC
4 aC bA cD dB

Question 9
Which sentence in Opinion 2 suggests that the writer's pre-existing view of
Sir Laurens van der Post has been confirmed by this book?
1 There has rarely been an apter book-title ...
2 This could not have been an easy book to write ...
3 Jones has succeeded brilliantly ...
4 As Jones shows, Post always trailed ...

Question 10
Oscar Wilde wrote that ‘‘Every great man nowadays has his disciples.
And it is always Judas who writes the biography’’. What is the relevance of
this quotation to the opinions you have read?

1 1 3 2 4 4 4 3 4
The Oscar Wilde quotation is relevant in the sense that Sir Laurens van der Post had
many followers, but the person who wrote his biography did not glorify him. Rather,
some would argue that (like {Judas) the biographer betrayed the great man.

Lecture 8 146 Reading critically

Activity 6
Find a written opinion (a movie, book, film review or a letter to the press) with which
you disagree. Write a counter opinion in which you state your own view. Use
emotive language if you wish.

Hypocrisy and double standards

You will frequently read complaints about people or organisations who are
‘‘hypocritical’’ or ‘‘guilty of double standards’’. These two terms are used
interchangeably, though strictly speaking ‘‘hypocrisy’’ should refer to someone
who holds forth in public on moral issues but who lacks morality in private. Double
standards refers to an instance where a rule is unfairly applied, in particular, where
a rule is applied more strictly to one person or group than another.

Hypocrisy Double Standard

A well-known Bible-puncher, who Members of Parliament trying to balance
warns people of hellfire and dam- the national budget, vote that teachers
nation that will befall them if they do and nurses get a wage increase less than
not repent of their wicked, licentious the rate of inflation. However, they vote
ways, is reported to have a large themselves a double-hike in salary.
collection of pornography and a
habit of visiting prostitutes.

As a critical reader, you need to watch out for hypocrisy and double standards.
Simply because people say they are good or doing the right thing does not
necessarily mean that they are, in truth, *beyond reproach.

Activity 7
In this cartoon, is the teacher guilty of hypocrisy or double standards? (*Big
Brother is a reality TV programme in which viewers watch a household conduct
their lives, including showering and intimate situations.)

As we saw in the case of stereotypes, humans have a tendency to collect a set of
beliefs which we consider to be true and beyond question.

Lecture 8 147 Reading critically

ASSUMPTION: ‘‘To be a feminist, you must be a woman.’’
DEFINITION: ‘‘A feminist is someone who advocates equal rights for men
and women.’’

Writers may base an entire argument on such an assumption. The argument may
sound good, but the assumption is unfounded or needs to be interrogated.

Our assumptions may be based on prejudice, as in the previous example, or they

may be the result of lazy research, lack of proof or a simple mistake. Let's look at a
letter to the newspaper complaining about a factual error:
COMPLAINT: ‘‘Bonny Schoonakker’s obituary for Guy Butler made moving
reading but, when I got to the bit about his missing finger, I
was disappointed. ... it was an electric saw during the 1970s
which did the damage to his right hand, not World War II.’’
REPLY: ‘‘I am grateful to Roy Sargeant for correcting the widely
circulated rumour about Professor Butler’s missing digit. I
faxed a draft of the obituary to his family on the Saturday
morning before publication. Clearly, they were attending to
more pressing matters.’’

Assumptions slow our brains down because they limit our ability to understand and
interpret. Let's take the example of these typical ‘‘brain teasers’’:

Five men were travelling along a Why are 1984 bottles of whisky more
lane. It began to rain. Four of the valuable than 1977 bottles of whisky?
men quickened their step and got
wet. The fifth man did not quicken
his step but remained dry. He did
not have an umbrella or hat. How
could this be?

Our thinking goes wrong when we assume that all the men are a) walking and b)
alive when in fact the ‘‘fifth man’’ is a corpse in his coffin. We may assume that the
numbers in the second teaser are dates, when in fact they refer to numbers of

Essentially, any belief for which you do not have proof or evidence, is an
assumption. As a critical reader, you need to identify any assumptions (stated or
implied) in the texts you read and comment on how these assumptions affect the
quality of the argument.

Lecture 8 148 Reading critically

Activity 8
Write a sentence replying to each of the following assumptions. Use your own
experience as a point of reference:
. To earn money you need to work for a big company.
. Punishment produces better children and citizens.
. Depressed people could help themselves.
. A family consists of a mother, a father and their children.

Activity 9
In less than a page, describe an incident (humorous or serious) from your own life
in which a false assumption was made.

*Vocabulary Building
repugnant disgusting
promotional aimed at publicising or putting forward
disparaging saying something critical or denigrating
paranoia groundless fear
lethargy lack of energy or vitality
cynicism lack of belief in human goodness
scepticism doubt
tone a feeling or attitude evident in the way writers
express themselves
empirical based on observation of sense-data, not theory
continuum a long series of things in a particular order. Each
one differs very slightly from the ones on either
side of it, but the things at the beginning and end
are very different from each other
tenet a principle of belief
beyond reproach above blame or disapproval

Activity 1: Answers after the exercise
Activity 2: Answers after the exercise

Lecture 8 149 Reading critically

Activity 3: Answers after the exercise
Activity 4: Answers after the exercise
Activity 5: Answers after the exercise
Activity 6: Creative activity – no model answer
Activity 7: This is a tricky case, and as an examiner I'd accept both answers.
There is evidence of hypocrisy, in that the teacher is asserting a moral
position against the programme which she herself watches. There is
evidence of a double standard in that she seems to be implying a rule
(namely: Don't watch this programme) which she herself breaks.
Activity 8: Creative activity — no model answer
Activity 9: Creative activity — no model answer


Classified Ads
Psychic Loveline
From British Good Housekeeping Jan 2001, p. 185 (National Magazine
House), 72 Broadwick St, London W1V 2BP

New Authors
Business Week May 11 1998 (Marketplace/Classified page)

Lose Weight
Business Week May 11 1998

Article: ‘‘Go on advertisers, surprise us’’ by Colleen Lowe Morna. In Mail&Guardian

‘‘Reconstruct’’ supplement, Feb 28 1999, p. 6

Editorial: ‘‘Clear up this mess.’’ Saturday Argus June 9/10 2001, p. 20

Advert: ‘‘Become a Natural Beauty Again’’ — Freeman Body Care Range. In

Longevity magazine, April 1997, p. 2. (Fax 011 280 5464)

Opinion 1: Extract of Lucia van der Post's words in ‘‘Lies, Damned Lies and
Biography’’ by Katy Guest in Sunday Independent (Sunday Dispatches) Nov 4
2001, p. 13

Opinion 2: Extract from ‘‘An Incredible Journey’’ by A.C. Grayling in Financial Times
(London) Weekend Supplement, September 22/23 2001, p. V

Brain teasers from Mind-Bending Lateral Thinking Puzzles compiled by Jenny

Lynch. Lagoon Books (P O Box 311 KT2 5QW, UK), p. 34 & p. 50

‘‘Lucky’’ cartoon by Angus Cameron. Cape Times Fri Oct 5 2001, p. 8

Lecture 8 150 Reading critically

‘‘Six Chix’’: Adam & Eve cartoon by Margaret Shulock in Cape Times Thursday
August 2 2001, p. 14

Picture of ANC slogan by Raymond Preston. Sunday Times June 11 2000 p. 17

Remax ad The Big Issue Sept 2001 p. 3 (Fax 021 461 6662)

Extract (Whorf's assertions regarding the Hopi) from The Language Instinct by
Steven Pinker, p. 63. London: Penguin (1995)

Madam & Eve, Cape Times, May 3 2001 p. 10. Copyright waived for educational

Madam & Eve: Another Difference Emerges. Copyright waived for educational

Mark Wiggett ‘‘Alas poor Shakespeare ...’’ in Sunday Times Magazine, May 6 2001
p. 6

Spit & Polish: ‘Making the Angels Weep’ by Barry Ronge, Sunday Times Magazine,
May 6 2001

Lecture 8 151 Reading critically



In this lecture, you will get an overview of the writing process,
from beating writer's block to putting together the finished
product. Each step will be discussed in more detail in
subsequent lectures.
As a writer, your biggest enemy may be yourself. How can you overcome
negative thoughts that slow down or prevent successful writing? When you
have a writing task to complete — an essay, a report, a review or even a
paragraph — you need to be disciplined and positive in your outlook. Don't
fool yourself that writing is for geniuses only. Just put on your takkies and
follow the simple step-by-step procedure outlined below:
1. Beat writer's block (get down and do it).
2. Analyse the topic and determine what information is required from you.
3. Get hold of the information required.
4. Apply your own knowledge and ideas to the topic.
5. Combine and organise your ideas and your information.
6. Let your audience and purpose determine your style and content.
7. Write your introduction so that you give yourself a clear sense of where you
are going.
8. Use a system of logical paragraphs to develop and complete your task.
9. Read it through and make corrections; including a critical reading if you can.
10. Write out your clean, neat, final draft.

Beating Writer's Block

Let's start by examining the thoughts

that stop you from writing. You've got an
essay topic. You've got a deadline. You
have a pad of paper. You have a pen.
But you're not writing. Why?

Your ‘‘block’’ may fit into one of the

following categories. Tick the statement
(s) that apply to you and read the
suggested solutions.

Lecture 9 152 The writing process

Category 1: Misconceptions about time
. ‘‘I don't have the time.’’
. ‘‘I'll do it later.’’
. ‘‘I can do it the night before.’’
. ‘‘I might feel more intelligent next week.’’

Solutions: Firstly, time, like money, needs to be budgeted. Just as cents add up to
rands in the end, so minutes eventually build up to hours. What this
means is that even if you only have 15 minutes to spare today, you can
do something, even if it's only a sentence, towards completing your
writing task. It's much easier to carry on writing something you started
yesterday than to start something that's due in tomorrow. Follow the D.
I.N. principle: DO IT NOW. Secondly, no miracle is going to take place
in your life in the weeks before your deadline. You aren't suddenly going
to find loads of free time or discover that you've suddenly turned into an
experienced writer. So, don't fool yourself. This is W.A.R.: Work with
the Available Resources.

Category 2: Confusion
. ‘‘I don’t know what they want from me.’’
. ‘‘I don't know what the question means.’’

Solutions: When you receive your Tutorial Letter 101 which contains your
assignment questions, skim through them to check what is required of
you throughout the semester. Look up difficult words in the dictionary.
Read the question several times. Refer back to your study material to
make sure you understand what is being asked. If you come across a
question or topic you really do not understand, don't delay. Write a
letter or e-mail, or pick up the phone as soon as possible in order to
seek clarity. Don't leave it until the last minute. The person you need
to get hold of may not be available immediately.

Category 3: Self-doubt
. ‘‘I can’t do it.’’
. ‘‘I’m no good at writing.’’

Solutions: Stop denigrating yourself. Say: ‘‘I can do it’’ and ‘‘I will succeed’’.
Remember that even the greatest writers in the world sometimes
despair. Remember that almost everyone sitting down to write feels
some doubt or hesitation. You are not alone. Your fears are the same
fears of all students. How do you know you can't do it if you haven't
tried? Should you really give up before you've given yourself a chance?

Category 4: Words escape me

. ‘‘I know what I must say but I don’t know how to put it into words.’’
. ‘‘I’ve collected all this information but I don't know where to start.’’

Lecture 9 153 The writing process

Solutions: Don't write: draw. Get out your coloured pens and draw
diagrams, plans, outlines, tables, mind maps. Your problem
is organisation; you need to see where you're going to slot all
your information in. When you've categorised or sorted all
your ideas, draw up a paragraph plan. Decide which piece of
information will go into which paragraph. Devise links
between your ideas. *Devise topic sentences that tell the
reader what you're talking about and why. Suddenly you'll
discover that you have indeed started to put your ideas into

Activity 1
Write a paragraph describing a writing task you had to complete at any stage of
your life. Describe how you felt about the task, how long it took you, how you went
about it and what the end result was.

Topic Analysis
It's this easy to pass: simply make sure you understand your topic and then
accurately supply the information requested in the correct format. If it's that simple,
why don't more students get excellent results?

Put yourself in your marker's shoes. How would you feel if the essay or writing task
you requested
. ignores the question altogether;
. supplies a mass of information, only some of which is related to the topic;
. answers only one half of the question;
. misunderstands key terms or task words in the question;
. consists of five pages when you asked for three;
. takes the form of a list when you asked for a *continuous discussion;
. ignores the text, graph or *stimulus material supplied?

Unfortunately, these are common complaints. To avoid these *pitfalls, take the
topic or question seriously. This is the *drill:

1. Skim the entire question from beginning to end.

2. Read it slowly a second time.
3. Look up unfamiliar terms in a dictionary or refer back to your study material.
4. Contact the academic department concerned if necessary. (Obviously this is
not possible under exam conditions.)
5. Read the question again.
6. Identify which part of the question gives information and which part asks for
7. Familiarise yourself with the given information (a graph, quotation, an
*assertion, a definition, etc).

Lecture 9 154 The writing process

8. Circle or underline the task words (‘‘Explain ...’’; ‘‘Discuss ...’’; ‘‘Give ...’’).
9. Circle or underline key content words in the question (‘‘abnormal psychol-
ogy’’; ‘‘socialism’’; ‘‘punishment’’).
10. Make a checklist or mind map of what the question requires.

Activity 2
Read the following question and mark it up (by circling or underlining words,
writing in the meanings of words, mapping what is required) as if you were
preparing to write on the topic.
Evolution refers to the selection of ‘‘designs’’ that confer a reproductive
advantage; better designs survive and become more prevalent. Good
physical examples in humans are bipedalism and an opposable thumb. But
what about
‘psychological designs’’ such as personality and emotion? Can evolution
account for such human psychological characteristics as love, hope, and
optimism? Take a clear position on this issue and explain your reasoning

(Your answer should take the form of a 3–5 page essay)

Gathering information
Once the question or topic is clear to you, it's time to set about collecting
information. To do this, you need to consult a variety of sources, including:
. your original study material (Study Guides, Tutorial letters and prescribed
. reference works such as encyclopaedias;
. recommended reading (for example, books listed in your tutorial letters and
available in the Study Collection);
. further reading (for example, books and articles you may discover by doing a
subject or key word search on the library's computer catalogue);
. Internet search results;
. the media (newspapers, magazines and television);
. experts in the field.

When consulting your sources, your aim is to find information that will help you
respond to a topic or answer a question. For this reason, you must be *selective in
your research and not become *intimidated by the amount of information available.
Follow these tips:
. use the Contents and Index pages to help you go straight to the relevant
Boolean logic . remember to use {Boolean logic to narrow your Internet searches;
refers to the use of the . skim, scan and speed read where possible;
operators AND, OR, and
NOT in your search re- . keep a note of publishing details for your bibliography;
quest. See Lecture 6 . make notes while you read;
. keep a record of page references, especially where you would like to quote a

Lecture 9 155 The writing process

. think while you're reading;
. make connections between your sources (eg these 2 sources agree or
disagree on a point);
. constantly relate what you are reading to your writing task (by asking yourself,
‘‘How does this help answer my question?’’).

Activity 3
Read the following text and underline the sections that are relevant to the question
given in Activity 1. Underline the publishing information that you will need to
include in your bibliography.

On the Origins of Niceness

By Matt Ridley
As a species, the human race has given itself a bad press. We have called
ourselves killer apes, with natures forged in the searing heat of a violent
Pleistocene past, and depicted ourselves as moral and ecological terrorists
loosed upon a kinder, gentler natural world. Anything nice about us we are
wont to dismiss as a recent invention called civilization. Anything nasty we
attribute to evolved ‘‘human nature’’. Yet modern biology no longer supports
this jaundiced view. It is tentatively concluding that human beings have
instincts — yes, instincts — to be kind.
The secret of this good side to human nature is that, compared with other
animals, we are uniquely ill-equipped for self-sufficiency. Like ants and bees,
we cannot live outside of a communal society. We have become so dependent
on divisions of labour that nobody could conceivably feed, clothe and shelter
himself entirely by his own efforts. Many people regret this and yearn to
rediscover the virtues of a simpler age of self-sufficiency. But there never was
such an age for our species. Anthropologists are gradually discovering that
trade, which is an expression of divisions of labour, started in the Paleolithic
age, before the Neanderthals were extinct in Europe. Far from regretting the
division of labour, we should celebrate it as the cause of cooperation in
society, indeed the source of our native niceness.
If society is to consist of specialists, dividing labour between them, then a
mechanism for exchanging products is needed. We are, in fact, obsessed with
exchange, deals, contracts, bargains, fairness and reciprocity — concepts
virtually unknown to other species — because it is through exchange between
specialists that we make society more than the sum of its parts. But fair trade
requires a judicious mixture of trust and suspicion. It is no accident that the
other animals capable of rare instances of elementary reciprocity are the ones
that live in stable communities and have relatively big brains: chimpanzees,
bottle-nosed dolphins and vampire bats. To behave reciprocally (‘‘You scratch
my back, I'll scratch yours’’) requires each individual to be able to recognize
and remember others in order to keep a tally of favours owed and grudges
Reciprocity, though, is only part of the story. To behave reciprocally means to
swap the same favour at different times. Most of human exchange consists

Lecture 9 156 The writing process

instead of swapping different things at the same time. We are fairly sure that
human beings have been exchanging food between the sexes (meat for plants)
artifacts for millions of years. We suspect they have been exchanging {artifacts for
product of human art almost as long. Now, with globalization, we see such exchanges taking place
and workmanship
on a worldwide scale. But probably the most ancient form of exchange is also
the latest to go global: the exchange of information. Information is easy to
trade, because, unlike goods, you can give it away without losing it. Yet the
rules of trade are observed even in the exchange of social information, or
gossip: one good morsel deserves another.

This new ‘‘niceness’’ theory does not contradict the reigning paradigm in
both economics and biology: that people are basically self-interested. In a
species addicted to exchange, being nice to other people does not need to
have a charitable intent. It can be motivated by enlightened self-interest. If
frequent exchange of goods and information between individuals is of mutual
benefit, then it pays to find trading partners. So it is no longer surprising that
we smile at strangers, or offer hospitality, assistance or information to people
we hardly know, because we live in a world of fair exchange. The only way to
get things out of other people is by offering them something first. But if
human nature is so much more benevolent than we generally assume, why do
we need rules, regulations and laws at all? Human beings are opportunists,
and they will subject any opportunity to the test of enlightened self-interest.
The larger, more mobile and more anonymous we allow our societies to
become, the more we need to be fenced in by rules. But we tend to assume
that rules should be sticks rather than carrots. As we frame the laws of society
to suppress the beast within us, let's not forget to encourage the angel as well.
(Time, Summer 1997–8, pp. 88–9)

Apply own knowledge

If your written answer consists *exclusively of information collected from your

sources, without any of your own ideas, analysis or input, you will not do well. You
need to combine the resources you've gathered in such a way as to produce an
original piece of writing or research. To do this, you can take the information you've
collected and
. classify it (e.g. according to date, place, size, etc);
. analyse it;
. look for underlying trends (e.g. there is a trend towards smaller families):
. look for connections (e.g. this happens in Africa AND in India);
. consider *implications (e.g. where this will lead in the future);
. be alert to contrasts or differences in opinion;
. decide whether your own experience confirms or contradicts it;
. decide which of the texts you've read is most convincing and why.

Lecture 9 157 The writing process

Activity 4
In your own experience, do ‘‘such human psychological characteristics as love,
hope, and optimism’’ help people to survive and flourish? Write two paragraphs
describing your observations and personal beliefs on this topic.

Organise ideas

So far, you've been working very closely with the question and your sources. Now
is the time to take a step back and decide how all the information fits together in a
way that answers the demands of the *rubric. To do this:
. draw up a mind map or diagram showing the *conceptual framework of your
. draw up an outline of your essay with marked off sections for each paragraph;
. decide on a *thesis statement that sums up your position;
. weed out ideas and information that don't answer the question;
. fill in gaps in information (e.g. by returning to the library or your sources);
. use coloured pens to mark your notes or photocopies so that you know where
each idea fits.

Activity 5
Decide on a conceptual framework for the essay question in Activity 2. (The
simplest way to do this is to choose one of those listed in the answers to Activity 4.)
Then draw up a basic paragraph plan for the essay, indicating which idea will fit in
which paragraph.

Audience and purpose

You are ready to start writing. First, go over once more the requirements of the
assignment to make sure you focus your writing efforts on what's expected by your
examiner. Prepare yourself mentally by considering the purpose of the writing task.
This purpose may be stated
. in the assignment itself (in the words ‘‘explain’’, ‘‘discuss’’, ‘‘analyse’’); or
. in your thesis statement (when you have been asked to adopt a position or
define your own topic).

Now decide who your audience is and how this will affect your answer. Ask
. What *prior knowledge can I assume the audience has on the topic?
. What style and tone of writing are required by the audience and the assignment
(informal, scholarly, first-person reporting)?

Lecture 9 158 The writing process

Activity 6
Re-write the following paragraph so that you eliminate unnecessary information
(information already known to the examiner and not needed here) and alter the
style and tone so that it is appropriate to a scholarly essay. The paragraph forms an
introduction to the essay question in Activity 2.

The theory of evolution as we know it was put forward by Charles Darwin in

1858. Evolution is a gradual process by which organisms inherit traits best
suited for survival, for example, in the case of us humans, we've inherited an
opposable thumb which helps us do a whole lot of stuff like getting busy with
tools and writing and whatever. But what else did we get from granny and
grandpa? This essay explores the possibility that there may be spiritual or
emotional traits like love, hope, and optimism, which are inheritable in the
same way as bipedalism or dexterity.

Write the introduction

Any writer — or reader — will tell you of the importance of an introduction. It is here
that you will:
. respond directly to the question, using terms from the rubric itself;
. state your opinion or point of view if this has been requested;
. briefly indicate the content you will be covering;
. outline the method you will be adopting.

Introductions play a big part in determining your marker's attitude towards and
assessment of you and your assignment.

Activity 7
Write an introduction for the essay topic set in Activity 2.

Write the body in ordered paragraphs

Your marker loves to open an assignment and see neatly laid out paragraphs.
Paragraphs are an indication of how organised and logical your thought processes
are. In writing the body of your essay, therefore, you should take care to
. avoid solid pages of writing without breaks;
. start a new paragraph with each new idea;
. make sure that your paragraph consists of a minimum of two sentences;
. show the links within your paragraph by using signpost words;
. show the links between paragraphs;
. format and reference your quotations correctly;
. conclude with a paragraph that sums up, refers back or draws ideas together.

Lecture 9 159 The writing process

Activity 8
Starting with sentence (9) and ending with sentence (6), sort the following jumbled
sentences into two linked paragraphs in which ideas are logically joined.

1. For the system of exchange to work well, we need to develop relation-

ships. 2. We need others, and this need is driven by our tendency to
specialise. 3. One person knows how to build, another how to make clothes.
4. Because relationships are so important, we have developed the
psychological and emotional apparatus that allows us to form bonds. 5. One
group hunts and another group collects plants and vegetables. 6. Looked at
this way, human traits such as a sense of humour, extroversion, as well as
feelings of love and commitment, may be considered ‘‘designs’’ that aid our
survival by allowing us to form the sort of bonds that ultimately serve our self-
interest. 7. To survive, we need access not only to the fruits of our own labour,
but also to those of others. 8. A system of exchange or barter is required to
facilitate this access. 9. Humans are not solitary creatures.


No, it's not ready for submission yet! You now need to revise. At this stage, you

. read your essay through from beginning to end (aloud if possible);

. mark the corrections you wish to make on the page of your draft;
. check your spelling;
. aim for clarity of expression;
. substitute more appropriate or exact terms where necessary;
. check your punctuation;
. watch out for the grammar mistakes you know you tend to make;
. make sure each sentence has a complete verb and a subject;
. decide whether your paragraph breaks are logical or if more are required;
. double-check that you have answered the question.

Activity 9
Correct the following paragraph. Keep the basic ideas but rephrase it to the best of
your abilities:

Lets take the example of romantic love. Although many people think its the
high form of human relationship but actually its not becuase wooing someone
for marridge and babies can be selfish. Human survival through propagation.
A mate increase our chance of pass on our genes.

Lecture 9 160 The writing process

The final draft

Now comes your moment of pride and a sense of achievement. Writing (or
printing) on one side of clean paper, you carefully produce your final draft. The final
draft should be presented complete with
. title (rewrite the question or supply a heading);
. your name and student number, as well as the assignment number;
. references (all quotations acknowledged);
. bibliography.

Remember to *proofread your final draft before submission.

Activity 10
Correct the six minor typographical errors in the following paragraph:
Evolution is a gradual proces by which organisms inherit traits best suited for
survival, for example, the oposable thumb which has aided homo sapiens by
facilitating tool use. But what other, non-physical traits might we have
inherited. This essay explores the possibility that there may be spiritual or
emotional traits like love hope, and optimism, which are inheritable in the
same way as bipedalism or dexterity.

*Vocabulary Building
devise make up, work out, create
continuous an unbroken examination of a topic using the
discussion format of an argument
stimulus a thing (e.g. a text) that evokes a response
pitfalls unexpected dangers or traps
drill routine procedure to be followed
assertion a clear statement of belief, a claim
selective discerning, choosy, picking only a few
intimidated frightened, overawed
exclusively only, excluding others
implications consequences
rubric explanatory words forming a question in an
examination paper
conceptual basic ideas that support your beliefs or argu-
framework ment
thesis statement a clear statement of an idea, belief or hypothesis
to be proved
prior pre-existing, earlier knowledge

Lecture 9 161 The writing process

Activity 1
Creative activity — no model answer

Activity 2

Assertion (given information). Aim is to Evolution refers to the selection of

build my essay around this statement, ‘‘designs’’ that confer a reproductive
using it as a starting point. advantage; better designs survive
‘‘confer’’ = give, grant and become more prevalent. Good
‘‘prevalent’’ = widespread, common physical examples in humans are
‘‘bipedalism’’ = walking upright bipedalism and an opposable thumb.
‘‘opposable’’ = capable of facing & But what about ‘‘psychological de-
touching the fingers of the same hand signs’’ such as personality and
Question to be answered ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no’’. emotion? Can evolution account for
2 task words such human psychological charac-
(1) State my position teristics as love, hope, and opti-
(2) Give reasons for my opinion mism? Take a clear position on this
issue and explain your reasoning

Activity 3
You should have collected notes with the following information from the text
. Modern biology ... is tentatively concluding that human beings have instincts ...
to be kind.
. We are uniquely ill-equipped for self-sufficiency
. We cannot live outside of a communal society
. Nobody could ... feed, clothe and shelter himself entirely by his own efforts.
. Far from regretting the division of labour, we should celebrate it as the cause of
cooperation in society, indeed the source of our native niceness.
. To behave reciprocally (‘‘You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours’’) requires each
individual to be able to recognize and remember others in order to keep a tally of
favours owed and grudges held ... .
. This new ‘‘niceness’’ theory does not contradict the ... paradigm in both
economics and biology: that people are basically self-interested.
. Being nice to other people does not need to have a charitable intent.
. The only way to get things out of other people is by offering them something

Activity 4
Your paragraphs should have led you to a conclusion. This conclusion might be one
of the following:

Lecture 9 162 The writing process

(1) Yes, ‘‘such human psychological characteristics as love, hope, and optimism’’
do aid personal survival because positive people tend to attract positive events
and responses, overcome negative or hostile events and maintain high
standards of physical and mental health. These characteristics are also
important for attracting sexual partners, and it is through sex that humans are
able to promote their genetic survival.
altruistic (2) No, ‘‘such human psychological characteristics as love, hope, and optimism’’
showing unselfish con-
cern for the welfare of
do not aid survival because they get in the way of aggressive self-interest,
others ambition and enrichment. Loving, {altruistic people tend to give away the things
they need for survival.
(3) Yes, ‘‘such human psychological characteristics as love, hope, and optimism’’
do aid personal survival, but one needs to be a bit more cynical about WHY
people are nice. They may be behaving kindly because they want to manipulate
others or win them over.

Activity 5
Your paragraph plan is simply a sketch of how your argument will be laid out:

Introduction: Yes, ‘‘such human psychological characteristics as love,

State my position hope, and optimism’’ do aid personal survival, but one
needs to be a bit more cynical about WHY people are
nice ...
Paragraph 1: Humans not self-sufficient ... need to live communally ...
Main reason in hence love & kindness etc
Paragraph 2: Argue against idea that being nice=altruism. In fact, being
Counter-argument nice may = self-interest
Paragraph 3: Relationships are NB because we need to keep track of
Reason #2 favours received & owed
Paragraph 4: Relationships are NB for propagation purposes
Reason # 3
Paragraph 5: NB of positive psychology in preventing suicidal impulses
Reason # 4
Paragraph 6: NB of love & relationships in promoting physical health &
Reason # 5 longevity
Conclusion Love etc. may indeed be evolutionary designs. Perhaps,
ironically, they are even ‘‘selfish genes’’?

Activity 6
Your answer may not look exactly like this, but you should have taken care to
remove the first sentence and revise the register and style:

Lecture 9 163 The writing process

Evolution is a gradual process by which organisms inherit traits best suited for
survival, for example, the opposable thumb which has aided Homo sapiens by
facilitating tool use. But what other, non-physical traits might we have
inherited? This essay explores the possibility that there may be spiritual or
emotional traits like love, hope, and optimism, which are inheritable in the
same way as bipedalism or dexterity.

Activity 7
Remember that your introduction should be relevant to the topic. In this case, it
should state your opinion:
Can psychological and emotional traits such as love and optimism be
considered to be ‘‘designs for survival’’ in the same way as bipedalism and an
opposable thumb? I firmly believe it to be the case that certain emotional and
relationship-forming tendencies in Homo sapiens are directly connected to our
drive for survival. My essay will explore the hidden self-interest that lies behind
human social and romantic bonds and link these bonds to one central truth:
namely the fact that man/woman is not a solitary creature and needs to co-
operate in order to survive.

Activity 8
There were two key ideas that you needed to separate: the idea of Homo sapiens as
a communal creature who needs others and the idea that psychological traits have
developed in order to satisfy this need. Thus the following sequence would be
Para 1: 9, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8.
Para 2: 1, 4, 6.

Activity 9
Your answer will look different, because there are many ways of expressing these
ideas. However, it's important to note that the same basic ideas can be expressed
badly (leading to failure) or well (leading to success):
Let's take the example of romantic love. Although many people idealise
romantic love and consider it to be the apex of human spiritual achievement,
the truth is that a mate increases our chance of passing on our genes. Human
survival takes place through propagation. Thus wooing someone with the
intention of procreating with them may in fact be viewed as a selfish or self-
interested activity.

Activity 10
Compare your answer with the correct version in the answer to Activity 6.

Proofreading is a mark of professionalism. It shows your marker or examiner that

you take pride in your work.

Lecture 9 164 The writing process

‘‘On the Origins of Niceness’’ By Matt Ridley (Time, Summer 1997–8, pp. 88–9)

(011) 652 1811 fax: (011) 652 1882

Ottho Heldinringstraat 5, 1066 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Lecture 9 165 The writing process

In this lecture, you will learn how to break down questions or
topics into their different components so that you can produce
clear, relevant and focused answers.
Examiners and markers are disappointed and frustrated by assignments and
essays that do not seem to answer the question they have asked nor, indeed, any
question in particular except perhaps: ‘‘Write as much as you like about anything
you can remember’’. Instead of being the cause of this disappointment and
frustration, why not impress your examiner by producing a relevant and accurate
answer that fulfils all the requirements of the question?

To do this, you need to:

. break the question into different parts;
. let the task word(s) determine your method;
. develop your ideas around the key content words;
. conform to the limits or formal requirements of the question;
. produce work that matches time and mark allocations.

Break down the question

Most questions which ask for an essay-length answer will consist of more than one
part and more than one instruction or statement. You need to identify the following
different components when they occur:
. choices (e.g. ‘‘write either x or y’’);
. content or information key words (e.g. ‘‘water’’; ‘‘cities’’; ‘‘health’’; ‘‘censor-
. task words (e.g. ‘‘explain’’; ‘‘analyse’’; ‘‘list’’);
. instructions regarding format and length (e.g. a paragraph, a page, an essay);
. any special requirements, limits or injunctions (e.g. ‘‘DO NOT ...’’);
. information regarding mark allocations and/or submission dates.

Activity 1
Read the following question and identify
1 the choices
2 the content key words of each choice
3 the task word(s) of each choice
4 instructions regarding format and length

Lecture 10 166 Topic analysis

5 any special requirements, limits or injunctions
6 information regarding mark allocations and/or submission dates

Legal/Ethical Paper: 1 6 3 000 word essay (40% of total mark)

This assessment will be in the form of an academic essay. An academic
essay is your opportunity to explore the *journal literature and critically
analyse an area of interest. This essay is expected to be an in-depth
consideration of the topic which will reach beyond the do's and don'ts of
particular practices. You should consider the ramifications for South African
nurses and include legal parameters and associated ethical issues. Your
answer must relate to the acute care setting.

Select one of the following assignment choices:

Identify and discuss major issues associated with the safe and appropriate
administration of medication by nurses.
hand-over Discuss ways in which {hand-over is currently conducted and how it
in this sense, the transfer
of a patient from the care
influences care outcomes. Identify appropriate strategies that you should use
of one nurse to another to maintain the client's dignity during hand-over.
at shift changes
Discuss the ways in which the maintenance of an appropriate knowledge
base for practice fulfils your duty of care to patients.
holistic Discuss how the nurse's awareness, understanding and valuing of different
the consideration of the
complete person in the
cultures would facilitate his/her ability to provide {holistic nursing care.
treatment of disease
Discuss how appropriate hand-washing and infection control strategies
enable the nurse to fulfil her/his duty of care to the patient.
DUE DATE: WEEK 11 in your Nursing Practice Tutorial

Clarify task words

You will encounter a variety of task words in your academic career. The task words are
not all synonymous: different verbs require different responses from you. Task words
demand a range of thinking skills, from the ability to state facts to the ability to analyse
complex relationships between things. It's important that you respond appropriately to
the task word, both in your thoughts and in the language you choose.

Task words and your response

Example Your response Writing tips
Define ... Try to clarify the term Use the simple present and the verb ‘‘to be’’,
Explain the or concept given. Give e.g. ‘‘Evaporation is ...’’. Find simpler syno-
meaning of as precise and accu- nyms, e.g. ‘‘Melamine is a plastic’’.
x. rate a description as Useful phrases:
What is you can. Give exam- In the first place, we need to define the
meant by ples to illustrate. Make concept of x ...
x? a concept clear. Different definitions of x have been put forward,
but in this essay I will take x to mean ...

Lecture 10 167 Topic analysis

Task words and your response
Example Your response Writing tips
Describe State facts in such a When describing an event or process, re-
Illustrate way that a complete member to sequence your information with
Give a de- picture is given. words like ‘‘first’’, ‘‘second’’, ‘‘later’’, ‘‘then’’.
tailed ac- Give all the features or When describing things, use the simple
count characteristics of a present and the verb ‘‘to have’’, e.g. ‘‘the
thing. Provide infor- leopard has spots’’. Find appropriate adjec-
mation. tives.
Useful phrases:
The main characteristics/features of x are ...
X looks like/appears/seems/ ...
Summarise Give the main points Avoid repetition. Keep your sentences short.
Write brief only. Try to locate the Useful phrases:
notes essence of the con- In brief/In essence ...
Briefly ex- cept, text, etc. Try to Briefly/Essentially ...
plain paraphrase the origi- x is concerned with ...
Outline nal text. x is about ...
List Name a set of things, A list is usually introduced with a colon and
Name numbering them if re- individual items are separated by a semi-colon.
Enumerate quired. Check whether Useful phrases:
Identify the point form or full sen- The following ...
main ... tences are wanted. These are ...
The main features of x are: ...
Analyse Separate or divide the Move from the general to the specific.
Examine concept/thing into its Observe first and then draw conclusions.
parts. Say how the Useful phrases:
elements fit together. An analysis of x reveals that ...
Look in detail at each x suggests/implies/that ...
part. Look beyond the It is important to distinguish between ...
mere surface. A close examination of x reveals that/in-
volves ...
Classify Arrange information in Use commas, semi-colons and paragraph
categorise logical groups. breaks to help you separate items.
Useful phrases:
x may be classified as ...
x belongs in the category of ...
There x categories of ...
Compare Show similarities and/ First describe or define the two items sepa-
Contrast or differences. rately. Then point out in what ways they are
Distinguish like or unlike.
between Useful phrases:
Differenti- Both x and y ...
ate be- Unlike x, y is ...
tween In comparing x with y, we discover that ...
On the one hand ... on the other hand ...
Whereas ...
Similarly/Likewise/Just as ...

Lecture 10 168 Topic analysis

Task words and your response
Example Your response Writing tips
How does x Show the relevance of State the law, theory or rule first. Then turn to
apply to y? one thing to another. the specific, practical instance of this theory.
Relate x to Identify the basis for Useful phrases:
y the relationship. Given x ...
Since x ...
If x, then y ...
In practice/practical terms this means ...
The implication of x is ...
Discuss Weigh up the pros and Useful phrases:
Debate cons. Look at an issue On the one hand ... on the other hand ...
Explore from more than one Although/Nevertheless/However/Despite/
point of view. Whereas ...
Similarly/Likewise/Just as ...
Argue Make a general state- Provide a context for the discussion. Make a
Give rea- ment of belief and give thesis statement. Use paragraphing to sepa-
sons reasons why you be- rate your reasons. Provide illustrations and
What is lieve it to be true. examples.
your opi- Useful phrases:
nion? In this essay I will argue that ...
Justify For example ...
your point Moreover ...
of view Indeed ...
Precisely ...
Deduce Take a general state- Take care to show logical links. Proceed one
What can ment of fact and work step at a time, showing every step in your
you con- out as many specific thought process.
clude from or particular truths Useful phrases:
x? from it as possible. If x, then y ...
It is an accepted truth that ...
It has been proven that ...
Therefore ...
Thus ...
So ...

Focus on topic key words

Apart from the task words, which tell you what your method and approach should
be, each question also contains key words relating to the topic, information or
content required. These key words may be
. abstract ideas (e.g. ‘‘censorship’’; ‘‘happiness’’);
. concrete things (e.g. ‘‘motor vehicles’’; ‘‘medical equipment’’);
. processes (e.g. ‘‘the water cycle’’).

The key words will usually relate directly to a specific aspect of the syllabus you are
covering. Once you've spotted the key words and circled them, you may need to
. revise relevant chapters;

Lecture 10 169 Topic analysis

. do a subject search in the library;
. use the index pages of books;
. refer to a dictionary or reference work;
. consider the meaning of words in context.

Let's look at an example:

An understanding of the past is necessary for solving the problems of
the present
Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific
situation in which solving a current problem may not require an under-
standing of the past. Discuss what you think determines whether or not the
past should be considered in solving the problems of the present.

The task words have been underlined. The content key words are contained in the
sentence printed in bold. Analysing this sentence, you should select the words
PAST and PRESENT as the two most important content key words. Then notice the
hampered two verbs ‘‘understanding’’ and ‘‘solving’’. These verbs clarify the way we should
preventing the progress
of free movement, as in
understand the terms ‘‘past’’ and ‘‘present’’ in terms of the essay topic. The past is
‘‘She was hampered by being seen as something educational, a lesson that leads to understanding. The
her long skirt when she
present is seen as something {hampered by problems that need solving.
tried to flee her attacker.’’

Activity 2
clarity Once you have {clarity, the next step is to explore all the implications of the key
clearness of expression word(s). Draw up a mind map, list or diagram of the implications of the key words
in the space below:

Lecture 10 170 Topic analysis

With a mind map like this, you are well-prepared to start your first draft.

Activity 3
Identify the content key words in the following question. Use these words to draw
up a mind map.
Cities are energy hogs. Show how the quality of urban life could be improved
by specific energy conserving policies and techniques. Be careful, specific
and give evidence wherever possible.

Conform to requirements and limits

Do not jeopardise your chances of success by ignoring instructions. These may
take the form of
. length limits (so many pages or words);
. format requirements (a paragraph, an essay, a table, etc);
. requests for a bibliography or attachments;
. requests that you include your rough notes;
. an injunction NOT to do something (e.g. ‘‘Do NOT simply copy from the text
. other warnings or reminders.

Activity 4
Read the following set of instructions and determine:
1. the topic (in general terms);
2. the length of the essay;
3. the due date;
4. how the essay must be presented;
5. things you MUST do when you write your essay;
6. things you must NOT do when writing your essay.


GGR 241
Fall, 1999
Professor Tom Paradis
Perspectives on the Developing World
During the final half of this semester, you will write a 5–7 page essay that
examines your own perceptions of the Third World. Your primary goal is to
compare your own perceptions previous to taking this course with your
perceptions of the Third World at this point in the semester. Thus, the purpose
of this exercise is for you to analyze what you have learned as a result of
taking World Geography I. This essay is not only intended to serve as

Lecture 10 171 Topic analysis

evidence that you have indeed learned something this semester. Perhaps
more importantly, writing this essay should make you more aware of how
your attitudes and perceptions about people and places can (and should)
change — or at least be better informed — as you gain more knowledge and
information about them. Also, if you are enrolled in the ‘‘new’’ liberal studies
program that began this year, you can use this essay for your learning

(1) Your essay must include some sort of introduction and conclusion. In
both, you must clearly state your basic theme (or thesis statement),
around which your paper will focus. NOTE: Introductions and conclusions
are often the most challenging parts of a paper. A conclusion should NOT
merely repeat what you said in the text or what you stated in the
introduction. Instead, the conclusion should be more reflective and
thoughtful regarding the issues that you have covered, allowing you to
sum up your thoughts along with the main theme or purpose of your
(2) Your paper should be between five and seven pages in length, not
including references or other materials. Any essay that exceeds or falls
short of this requirement will have points deducted.
(3) Your paper must be typed, double-spaced, with 10 or 12-point font size.
Margins should be no greater than 3 cm on sides, top, and bottom.
(4) Use plenty of examples to illustrate your statements and opinions. These
examples should come from two primary sources: (a) in-class lectures
and discussions, and (b) your text book and reader.
(5) Use information from at least two of your reading assignments. Be sure to
cite any information that comes from your books. In the text of your paper,
simply write: (Salter and Hobbs, p. 66). NOTE: Lecture materials must be
used, but you do not have to cite them.
(6) DO NOT merely copy paragraphs from the text. The bulk of the paper
should be written in your own words, with occasional, well-placed quotes
to exemplify what you are saying. Also, DO NOT begin or end a
paragraph with a quote.
(7) Somehow, be sure to compare your current opinions and sentiments with
those prior to taking this course.
(8) Your writing must be polished! That means complete sentences,
organized thoughts, decent paragraphing, minimal typos and spelling
errors, and decent grammar. THE DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY AND
deducted for poor, careless, sloppy writing. I suggest that you proofread,
and have someone else read your paper to be sure that it makes sense
and is well organized and written.
DUE DATE: Thursday, Dec. 2. (20% of mark will be reduced for each day

Lecture 10 172 Topic analysis

Time and mark allocations

For almost any student, time and mark allocations are of paramount importance.
Typically, the student doesn't have enough of the former and is principally
concerned with the latter. But the two go hand in hand. The more time you devote
to a project or essay, the more marks you are likely to score.

Marks may be allocated in a number of ways:

. an essay may be awarded a percentage, in which case it is ‘‘marked out of’’
. an essay may ‘‘count towards’’ a final result, in which case it may be added to a
test result;
. an essay may be graded according to a system which allocates marks to
content and expression;
. shorter essays, paragraphs, sentence length responses or one word answers
will be marked out of a stated total, e.g. (10).

It's important that:

. your effort matches the marks at stake;
. you don't lose marks unnecessarily;
. you ‘‘earn’’ your marks by fulfilling the demands of the question.

Time needs to be budgeted. In the case of an essay or assignment for submission,

you need to take into account time needed for:
. research and preparation;
. the writing itself;
. checking and revising;
. completing the bibliography;
. making a neat or fair copy;
. proofreading;
. posting.

In the case of an exam, it's important that you take into account
. the total time allowed;
. the number of questions or sections to be completed;
. reading time;
. checking time.

Activity 5
Read the instructions and decide how much time you would spend on each
Time: 3 hours Marks: 100
This examination consists of TWO sections. Each section counts 50 marks.

Lecture 10 173 Topic analysis

Section 1 consists of 25 multiple-choice questions based on the compre-
hension passage supplied. Section 2 consists of a choice of 2 essays. The
essay will be marked out of 50.

*Vocabulary Building
journal a serious magazine or newspaper which is
published regularly, usually about a specialist

Activity 1:
There are 5 choices. The table shows the content key words and task words for
each choice.

Option Task words Key content words

1 Identify and discuss safe and appropriate administration of medication by
2 Discuss Identify hand-over ... care outcomes ... client's dignity
3 Discuss maintenance of an appropriate knowledge base for
practice fulfils your duty of care
4 Discuss nurse's awareness, understanding and valuing ... differ-
ent cultures ... holistic nursing care.
5 Discuss hand-washing and infection control strategies ... duty of

C The answer must take the form of a 3 000 word essay. If you have a word
processor, you can do an exact count. Otherwise, one normally works on an
average of 250 words per page.
parameters C Special requirements include the fact that the essay should constitute an ‘‘in-
any constant or limiting
depth consideration’’, that it should ‘‘reach beyond the do’s and don’ts of
particular practices’’, ‘‘consider the ramifications for South African nurses’’ and
‘‘include legal {parameters and associated ethical issues’’. Moreover, your
answer ‘‘must relate to the acute care setting’’.
C The essay will count towards 40% of your total mark. The due date is given as
WEEK 11 in your Nursing Practice Tutorial.

Activity 2
Creative activity — not model answer

Activity 3
Your mind maps will contain different ideas. However, it's important that you
identified the key words ‘‘cities’’ and ‘‘energy’’.

Lecture 10 174 Topic analysis

Activity 4
1 The topic concerns perceptions of the Third World; in particular, the changes
that have taken place in the student's perceptions subsequent to taking this
2 The length is expected to be between five and seven pages, not including
references or other materials.
3 The due date is Thursday 2 December.
4 The paper must be typed, double-spaced, with 10 or 12-point font size. Margins
should be no greater than 3 cm on sides, top, and bottom.
5 The student MUST:
C include an introduction and conclusion in which a thesis statement is put
C use plenty of examples, which should come from lectures, the text book
and the reader.
C use information from at least two reading assignments, and this information
must be cited. Compare current opinions and sentiments with those prior to
taking this course.
C polish and proofread the essay.

6 The student must NOT

B write a conclusion that merely repeats the introduction.
B merely copy paragraphs from the text.
B begin or end a paragraph with a quote.

Activity 5
In an exam where the marks are equally divided over two sections, it's important to
stop working on Section 1 at half time. If you have time left over at the end, you can
go back to the first section.

Legal/ethical assignment question adapted from University of South Australia RNP
3 found at

Geography reflective writing paper: adapted from:


Lecture 10 175 Topic analysis

In this lecture, you'll learn how to match your writing to your
audience and purpose.
Before you decide WHAT to write, you need to think about
. who you are writing for;
. why you are writing.

Focus on your audience's needs

Whatever you write, you have an audience in mind. Someone is going to read your
essay, letter, report or poem. You are writing FOR someone.

To write effectively, you need to reflect first on your readers and ask:

What do they need from my text?

How can I structure my text so that they get what they need?

Fulfilling the needs of your readers will set you on the path to success.

Let's start with your most important audience at the moment, your university
lecturers and examiners. What are their needs? As you saw in the previous lesson,
they need writing that answers the set question and meets all its requirements and
conditions, thus enabling them to award a fair and accurate mark. In addition, your
markers need writing that demonstrates your ability to
. access information;
. recall and report information;
. set information out logically;
. provide references for your information;
. introduce the main ideas around your topic;
. convey your ideas clearly;
. develop your ideas in reasoned paragraphs;
. express in words your reasoning;
. support your opinions with reasons;
. analyse, persuade, explain or discuss as the occasion demands;
. draw conclusions.

In the lectures that are to follow, we will take you in more depth through these

Lecture 11 176 Audience and purpose

expectations on the part of your reader, and help you to meet them. By taking these
lectures seriously, you will be able to make your marker's task of assessing you an
easy and pleasurable experience.

Apart from your markers at university, there are a variety of ‘‘real life’’ audiences you
will *encounter in your writing career. For example, you might have occasion to
write for:
. children or people encountering a topic for the first time;
. adults encountering a topic in their second or third language;
. experts in a field;
. colleagues or clients;
. the editor of a newspaper;
. people in authority;
. members of a club or group.

In each case, stop and think about your reader first and your relationship with that
reader. Writing is not about showing off or putting yourself forward. Your writing
should be appropriate in content and style to your audience. Ideally, it should serve
your audience, meeting the needs you have identified.

Let's look at some practical examples. In each case, the topic is the same but the
audience is different:

Audience: Young girls who eat too much fast food may be laying the
General public foundations for breast cancer, a researcher said this week.
(adult newspaper Professor Paul Kleihues, director of the International
readers) Agency for Research on Cancer, urged parents to keep
Needs: their daughters off high-fat, low-fibre diets containing too
News, interest, much processed food, meat and too many dairy products.
sensation. ‘‘There is increasing evidence linking breast cancer to
dietary habits in the first ten years,’’ Kleihues said.
Audience: Dear darling Gracie
a very young girl Hope you're having a lovely time with Granny and Grandpa.
Needs: Daddy and I are fine but we are missing you. Thank you for
affection, gui- the pictures – they are beautiful and Daddy says he's sure
dance, protection, you'll be a great artist one day. Remember to tell Granny
reassurance. you don't need hotdogs and chocolate milkshakes EVERY
day. Tell her about our famous fruit salad we used to make.
Much love, Mom & Dad.
Audience: The advantages of a low-fat, high-fibre diet go beyond
University lecturers mere issues of weight control. Different studies have shown
Needs: that avoiding fats and processed foods provides protection
Evidence of re- against heart disease (Holden, 2000), hypertension (Ri-
search, objectivity, chards, 2001), colon cancer (Green, 1989) and more
neutrality. recently, breast cancer (Kleihues, 2002). Kleihues in fact
argues that the effects of a high-fat, low-fibre diet in
childhood may include a chain reaction where fat stores
oestrogen which (in excess) triggers many types of breast

Lecture 11 177 Audience and purpose

Here we see that information is tailored for a particular audience and its needs. The
same idea (little girls should avoid high-fat, low-fibre diets as these may be linked
to breast cancer) is presented in three completely different contexts, with vastly
different implications for the writer. Amongst these implications is your choice of
tone and register (you learnt about them in Lecture 5: remember?). The newspaper
article is semi-formal, whereas the letter is informal and the academic text is formal.

Activity 1
Question 1
You will often be called on to give information about yourself. Will you be
able to supply the information that suits your audience? Match the needs
on the right to the audience on the left:

Audience Needs
a close relatives and friends A personal details and news of events
that impact on your performance;
work-related concerns or anxieties;
thoughts or ideas related to work
strategy; actions taken in the line of
duty, updates on projects.
b prospective employer B personal insights into your
thoughts, feelings and emotions;
news about your achievements and
plans; work and leisure anecdotes.
c current employer C personal details, future plans, cur-
rent financial status, insight into
your general personality type.
d investment advisor D all your personal details, including
education, work history and qualifi-
cations, insight into your general
personality type, hobbies, interests,
likes and dislikes.

Question 2
Think of a South African place, beauty spot, scenic route or national
heritage site you have visited. Now describe your visit in two different
(a) for a friend.
(b) for tourists who have never visited South Africa before.

Try to write 4–5 sentences for each audience.

Tone and register differ according to the effect the writer wishes to
achieve. This brings us to your next consideration as a writer, namely your
purpose in writing.

Lecture 11 178 Audience and purpose

At the same time as you are deciding on an approach to suit your audience, you
should be considering how your purpose in writing will affect your content and
style. Purpose refers to
. the effect you want your writing to have on your audience;
. the response (mental or physical) you want to get out of your audience;
. the goal or result you are aiming for.

Thinking about ‘‘audience’’ means thinking about the needs of your readers.
Thinking about ‘‘purpose’’ means thinking about your own needs and goals.

The purpose of writing is very closely linked to the concept of task words which you
studied in the previous lecture. You have thus already considered the implications
of purpose for your academic writing. Study the table below for an idea of how
writing purpose affects a variety of other discourse types:

Purpose Types of Text Features of these texts

to report newspaper report; po- Facts are laid out in a highly structured way
lice report; investiga- (often following a set form). Opinions are kept
brevity tive report; conference separate from facts (often set inside quotation
conciseness of expres- report-back marks). {Brevity is important, so the text may
sion, lack of verbosity take the form of a summary.
to explain textbook; essay; the- Complex processes, concepts, events or ideas
sis; user manual; are clarified by moving from the known to the
‘‘How to ...’’ book; re- unknown. Often, they are broken up into step-
ference works by-step ‘‘bytes’’ of information. Examples and
illustrations are given as necessary.
to entertain plays, novels, poems, The reader's imagination and/or sense of
jokes, TV series, humour is appealed to in a variety of different
friendly letters, leisure formats. Topics often relate to shared human
articles; popular ma- experiences. Writing rules are broken, and/or
gazines; songs there is a tendency to play with language.
to persuade adverts; political Opinions and emotions are often disguised as
speeches; motiva- presentations of fact. The opposing point of
tions, promotional view is skilfully dealt with or ignored. The
texts; propaganda; re- writer uses logical connectors (‘‘therefore ...
commendations; pro- thus’’) even though the reasoning is not
posals; applications always sound. The writer appeals to the
for funding; argumen- reader’s interests and emotions.
tative (opinion) essays
to criticize editorials; letters of Strong statements of opinion, supported with
complaint; letters to detailed reasons. Often uses the pronoun ‘‘I’’.
the press; political There is an appeal to the reader’s sense of
speeches outrage, disgust or indignation, often through
emotive language.
(fill in one
example of
your own)

Lecture 11 179 Audience and purpose

There are, of course, many other purposes you may have in writing. Moreover, you
may have more than one purpose in any one writing task. You might want to
describe AND persuade; define AND explain; narrate AND entertain.

If you have analysed your purpose to start off with, you need never be struck in the
middle of your writing by that confused feeling of ‘‘I don’t know what I’m doing in
this essay’’ or ‘‘I don’t know what they want from me’’.

Activity 2
Study the photograph. Begin by stating
what you see. Then compare and contrast
the scene you see depicted there with
your own childhood experiences at home.
Answer in three paragraphs.

Before you start writing, identify:

. your main purpose in writing;
. any additional purposes you may have. By permission of Rowena Hay

How audience and purpose affect your style

Once your audience and purpose are firmly established in your mind, this should
lead naturally to your choice of appropriate
. diction;
. sentence length;
. sentence type;
. paragraph type;
. paragraph length.

Let's go back for a moment to the texts about the link between breast cancer and a
high fat diet in childhood. We can see that the newspaper report occupies a level of
diction between the simplicity of the letter to a child and the complexity of a
scholarly paper:

Audience: Audience: Audience:

child non-specialist adults specialist, academic
Purpose: Purpose: Purpose:
to guide in to report news in a sen- to present findings of research
food choice sational way
hotdogs and fast food high-fat, low-fibre low-fat, high-fibre diet
chocolate diets containing too much
milkshakes .... processed food, meat and
fruit salad too many dairy products
you don't laying the foundations for a chain reaction where fat stores
need breast cancer oestrogen which (in excess) trig-
gers many types of breast cancer.

Lecture 11 180 Audience and purpose

The diction in the simplest text is restricted to actual examples of foodstuffs (‘‘hot
dogs’’). In the non-specialist text, the writer bridges the gap by including both the
lay term for an unhealthy diet (‘‘fast food’’) and the technical term (‘‘high-fat, low-
fibre’’). In the most complex text, the writer uses only the technical term. Thus
knowing who your audience is helps you choose appropriate terminology. When
you write, ask yourself:
Do I need to keep this simple, even colloquial?
If I use a complex term, should I also supply an easier *synonym?
Should I avoid simple, colloquial terms and look for the scientifically correct

But how do your mental perceptions about what you have to write, for whom and
why turn into real life sentences? Let's look at some practical examples. Say your
purpose is to explain the grammatical concept of ‘‘plural’’ to young children. Given
the nature of your audience, you might not use the word ‘‘plural’’ at all, or you might
delay using it:
What's this? It's a wug!
Look: now there are two of them.
One wug, two .................? That's right, ‘‘wugs’’. How did you know that? Have
you met wugs before? No, of course not. You know that the answer must be
‘‘wugs’’ because it follows the same rules as
one dog two dogs
one cat two cats

That rule is called the plural. To show more

than one, we add ‘‘s’’.

Notice how the concept ‘‘plural’’ is only introduced after the examples (wugs, dogs,
cats) and after the much simpler concepts of ‘‘two’’ and ‘‘more than one’’. However,
if we are explaining the plural to adults, we don't have half as much fun. Our
explanation is likely to sound as follows:
The English number system *comprises singular, which denotes ‘‘one’’, and
plural, which *denotes ‘‘more than one’’. The singular category includes
common non-countable nouns (‘‘news’’, ‘‘measles’’) and proper nouns
(‘‘Johannesburg’’, ‘‘Unisa’’). Countable nouns are variable, occurring with
either singular or plural number (‘‘dog — dogs’’). Countable nouns may have
a regular or irregular plural. ‘‘Cats’’ is a regular plural, but the plural of ‘‘radius’’
(‘‘radii’’) is irregular.

Bring back the wugs, do I hear you say?

While you may find it relatively easy to adapt your diction and content to your
audience and purpose, the actual presentation of that content in grammatical
sentences and paragraphs may still unnerve you. This goes back to your old
enemy: writer's block (see Lecture 9).

The trick is to stop trying to think in full sentences. Before you get to the stage of

Lecture 11 181 Audience and purpose

writing a full sentence, you need to establish the main idea in your mind. At this
stage, think of your ideas (the words/concepts and the mental links you have made
between them) as a mental sum, formula or logical tree. Going back to our
example of the plural, we might start with a mental image like this:
Number system
singular = 1 plural = +1
; ;
non-count/count count
regular irregular
‘‘s’’ suffix

This mental picture is actually like a map, showing you how to arrive at your
purpose. With this map in place, you can start to structure your sentences. First,
you need a sentence introducing the big category (‘‘number system’’), and
distinguishing singular from plural. Then you need to distinguish between
countable and non-countable nouns. And so on, until you reach the end of your
explanation. In each case, the type of sentence you choose depends upon the
information you need to convey. Move from your purpose (in this case ‘‘explain,
differentiate and classify’’) to your choice of sentence type and structure
(compound sentences joined with ‘‘and’’ or ‘‘but’’ work well to show categories and
sub-categories). Let purpose drive.

Let's try to work on another example. This time we'll work from the ideas to the
sentences that express them. Here your purpose is to weigh up the pros and cons
of two different arguments. The one argument says that language is ‘‘innate’’ (like
an instinct you are born with) and the other argument says that language is entirely
‘‘taught’’, just as one is taught how to tie one's shoe laces or drive a car. We'll use a
*telegraphic system rather than a mental sum. (NB: the actual system you use
doesn't matter as long as you follow the process):


innate? taught?
E.G. E.G.
foreign children in new land baby talk
rate of learning mimic moms
difficulty of grammar

Once you've laid out your thoughts mentally in this way, you can decide which type
of sentence structure suits your purpose. For example:

Lecture 11 182 Audience and purpose

Matching thoughts to real sentences
Thoughts Sentence examples
1. First, you want to introduce the big Children's acquisition of language
category or heading in your mind has been the subject of disagree-
(‘‘children's *acquisition of lan- ment.
guage’’). Try to start with a noun
phrase that expresses the main
2. Then you want to establish the basic The basic division is between the
differences between the two ap- school which argues that language
proaches (the one which says lan- is ‘‘innate’’ (instinctive, an inborn
guage is innate, the other which says skill) and the school which argues
it is taught). that language is taught (for exam-
ple, by mother-to-baby chat).
3. Because your purpose is to ‘‘weigh On the one hand, scholars from the
up’’, you're going to need sentence innate school argue that children are
structures like ‘‘on the one hand ... able to use complex grammatical
on the other hand’’. forms quite easily and naturally. On
the other hand, the opposing school
argues that children learn through
baby talk and mimicry.
4. You need to indicate what the results On balance, the innate school has
of your comparison were. presented more substantial evi-
dence, especially where they show
how children's rate of learning sug-
gests a mental machinery that copes
with vastly more complex language
data than mere baby talk.

Tracing the journey from brain to page, three things are evident. Audience and
purpose determine:
. the diction you choose;
. the level of grammatical complexity;
. the type of sentence, paragraph or text.

So, as you start to write academic essays, remember that writing starts upstairs. In
your mind, you work through an abstract process that may look like a sum, a
telegram, or a list. The sentences themselves flow logically and naturally from this
process. This is another way of saying: ‘‘If your thoughts are hazy or messy, your
writing will be too.’’

Activity 3
Convert the following telegraphic messages into full sentences:
1. Car broken. Phone AA. Tow garage. Hire car.
2. Robert gone. Heart broken. Returning Sat. SAA 31. Please fetch.

Lecture 11 183 Audience and purpose

3. Supper: potatoes (bake) chops (fry) beans (steam).
4. In emergency: main doors lock. Use fire exits. Roll call in central quad.
5. Water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation.

Activity 4
In three paragraphs, narrate the three most important events that have taken place
in your life.
. First work out your ideas mentally.
chronology . As part of your mental work, consider what criteria you are using.
the arrangement of . Use whatever logic seems appropriate ({chronology, working backwards in
dates, events etc. in the
order of occurrence time, ordering events in terms of importance or impact).
. When your ideas are clear, find sentences that match them.
. In writing your sentences, think about the meaning of the task word ‘‘narrate’’.
. Try to remain conscious of your own thought processes.

*Vocabulary building
encounter come across, meet
synonym a word with the same meaning
comprises consists of
denotes means, refers to
telegraphic like a telegram, using very few words
acquisition the act of obtaining

Activity 1:
Question 1

Question 2
Your answer should reflect the needs of your different audiences. You should bear in
mind that a friend shares a knowledge base with you, and so needs fewer clues
about the identity of people or places. A foreign visitor needs more context.
(a) I don't think I told you about the experience I had with my mother in the
KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields last winter. We were staying at one of those
Drakensberg family hotels. My mother had always been interested in the
Battle of Spioenkop, so one morning we went to visit the battle site. (Needless
to say, Guy was still asleep in bed!) It was a cold, overcast day and the battle
field was completely deserted. My mother was particularly struck by one
memorial stone that commemorated the death of a 16 year-old bugler. As we

Lecture 11 184 Audience and purpose

read the plaque, my mother swears she could hear the high piping sound of a
bugle. I said, ‘‘Come on Ma, it's just the wind,’’ but still I was glad to get out of
(b) A site many English visitors may find interesting and worthwhile visiting is the
Spioenkop battle site. This is situated in the rolling green hills of the spectacular
Drakensberg range. The site is maintained by the War Graves Commission and
forms part of a general tour of Anglo-Boer War battle fields in the area. There is
excellent accommodation nearby in a variety of 3–5 star hotels.

Activity 2
Your main purpose was to compare and contrast a scene of a rural Eastern Cape
upbringing with the overall impression you have of your own. In addition, you
needed to:
. describe the scene in the photograph;
. make inferences from the photograph;
. describe your own childhood;
. report facts about your childhood.

Activity 3
Any logical combination of the ideas into full sentences is acceptable:
1. My car has broken down on the freeway. I'm going to phone the AA and get
them to tow it to a garage. I'll have to hire a car.
2. Robert has gone and my heart is broken. I will be returning on Saturday on SAA
Flight 31. Please fetch me from the airport.
3. Supper will consist of baked potatoes, fried chops and steamed beans.
4. In an emergency, the main doors will lock automatically. All occupants of the
building should use the fire exits and proceed to the central quad for a roll call.
5. In the water cycle, evaporation leads to condensation which in turn leads to

Activity 4
The task word ‘‘narrate’’ means ‘‘to tell a story’’ or ‘‘give a sequence of events’’.
Considering this task word, you needed to select events that presented themselves
to you as a story or part of a story. Your criteria for selection might also have
included ‘‘events that changed me’’; ‘‘tragic events’’; ‘‘events that changed the
course of my life’’.

common denominator The format of three paragraphs gave you the opportunity to keep the three events
a characteristic or atti-
separate. However, you could also have shown links between the paragraphs by
tude shared by all mem-
bers of a group pointing out the {common denominator or shifts in time (‘‘Three years after
this ...’’).

Lecture 11 185 Audience and purpose

A reader should be able to feel, from your paragraphs, that you have mentally
processed the information and not simply written without thinking. There should be
evidence of reflection on the past or even insight into it. As with all writing tasks, it
should be clear to your reader that you have written with audience and purpose in

Lecture 11 186 Audience and purpose

In this lecture, you'll learn how to write a persuasive argument.
In the previous lecture, you started to form ideas in your head, letting them take
shape before putting pen to paper. In this lecture, we'll cover a type of writing that
stems naturally from your mental processes, namely the opinion essay and the
reasoned argument. In these essays, your purpose is to persuade.

Task words to look out for

It's important to recognise exactly when you are being called on to write
persuasively. The task words your lecturer will use to *extract an argument out of
you may vary, and may not in fact include the words ‘‘argument’’ or ‘‘persuade’’ at
all. Look out for *variations on the following:
[Statement] Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer.
Should x ...............? Justify your answer.
Is x ..................? Support your answer with reasons.
What do you think of x? Give evidence to support your point of view.
Argue for or against x.

Looking at these task words and question outlines, you should notice immediately
that the most important *aspect of persuasive writing is the justification, support or
evidence you are able to supply. In other words, when it comes to an opinion
essay, there is no ‘‘right’’ or ‘‘wrong’’ answer. Instead, you will be assessed
according to the reasoning process you present.

Activity 1
Tick the questions which require an argument from you.
terminally ill a Terminally ill patients should be allowed to decide whether they want to be
illness will end in death, placed on life support machinery. Do you agree or disagree with this
no chance of a cure
statement? Give reasons to support your answer.
b When were slaves freed in South Africa and what were the circumstances
surrounding the abolition of slavery in this country?
c What is your opinion of the death penalty? Write a well reasoned essay in which
you argue either for or against capital punishment.
d Define ‘‘sustainable development’’ and explain how a policy of sustainable
development could benefit the country.
e Should private gun ownership be banned? Give reasons for your opinion.

Lecture 12 187 Writing to convince

Preparatory work

Once you've identified that the task word requires an argumentative or persuasive
essay, spend some time considering:
. the *assertion put forward for your agreement or disagreement (e.g. ‘‘private
gun ownership should be banned’’);
. your own experience with regard to the assertion (e.g. you might know of
people who need to own a gun, or you may have been attacked by someone
with a stolen firearm);
. reasons that might be given in support of the assertion;
. reasons that might be given to counter the assertion;
. the logic of any statement or *premise put forward as part of that assertion (e.g.
‘‘All firearm owners are irresponsible’’ or ‘‘Many crimes are committed with
stolen firearms’’);
. where your argument will take you (what type of conclusion you will arrive at).

Activity 2
Imagine that the following question has been put to you:
Should private gun ownership be banned? Give reasons for your opinion.

Now write rough notes (you can use point form or columns of ‘‘FOR’’ and
‘‘AGAINST’’) in preparation for your argument. Use the preparation plan outlined
above to help you generate thoughts and ideas.

Start with a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a statement of belief or an assertion which forms the basis of

an argument. You will set out to provide convincing evidence in support of your
thesis statement. Some questions supply you with a ready-made thesis statement
to argue for or against, e.g:
A person's HIV status should not be kept confidential. Do you agree or

Other questions invite you to form your own thesis statement, e.g.:
Should marijuana (dagga) be legalised? Give reasons to support your

In this case, a ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no’’ answer is not good enough. Nor is one answer
‘‘correct’’ and the other ‘‘incorrect’’. What matters here is that you develop a thesis
statement which can stand up to *rigorous testing. For example:
The therapeutic benefits of marijuana outweigh the negative side-effects of its

Lecture 12 188 Writing to convince

Marijuana is often the first step on the slippery road to drug addiction.

Spend time working on your thesis statement, making sure it is a clear, broad
expression of a strongly-felt belief.

Activity 3
Write a thesis statement that clearly expresses your point of view on the topic of
private gun ownership.

Define terms
When you are arguing a topic, it's important to define key terms. For example, the
underlined terms in the following topics should be clarified before you proceed:
Euthanasia is a justified response to terminal illness where pain or incapacity
has destroyed all quality of life.
Religious instruction should form an integral part of every child's education.
The twentieth century will be remembered as an age of freedom and rights.

In defining terms, you may *have recourse to a dictionary. Alternately, you may
specify the particular meaning a term will have in your essay. For example:
For the purposes of this argument, a ‘‘child’’ will be considered a minor under
the age of 16.

I would define ‘‘quality of life’’ as the ability to operate independently and to
enjoy a range of physical, social and mental pleasures.

Defining your terms will give your argument cogency and logic.

Activity 4
Write sentences defining the underlined terms:
1. Industry has been affected by affirmative action policies.
2. There are many advantages to a welfare state.
3. The crime rate is directly related to the values prevalent in a society.
4. Marriage leads to a loss of personal autonomy.

Establish the context

In your introduction or near the beginning of your argument, it's important to set
your topic in its context. Context includes information about:
. recent discussions in public forums (e.g. newspapers);

Lecture 12 189 Writing to convince

. historical facts;
. relevant case histories or instances;
. the progress of a debate;
. the sequence of events leading up to the current state of affairs.

For example, an argument in favour of the re-introduction of the death penalty in

South Africa would have to refer to the situation prior to 1995, when the death
penalty was often invoked for political offences by so-called ‘‘enemies of the state’’.
Further context could be provided by referring to the upsurge in violent crimes
which has lead to widespread calls for capital punishment to be replaced on the
statute books.

Activity 5
Choose one of the following topics and write one or two sentences in which you
give the context.
1. Parents should be allowed to enrol a child in Grade 1 at the age of 5 if they feel
that their child can cope.
2. Where children or babies are raped, the crime should carry the heaviest
possible sentence.
3. Initiation rites, whether traditional rites of manhood or initiation at university, are
dangerous and potentially lethal.

Support your argument

An argument is a structure that is built up: it is only as solid as its foundations or
support. This support will come in the form of
. basic premises;
. additional reasons;
. factual evidence;
. historical evidence;
. examples and illustrations.

Your basic premises provide the fundamental

reasons for your argument. For example:

Private firearm ownership should not be banned.

Every citizen has a right to self-defence. The current state of lawlessness
means that citizens cannot trust the
police to provide protection from
violent crime.
Section 12 (1) c of the Bill of Rights Crime statistics

Lecture 12 190 Writing to convince

You can keep building up your argument by adding to the logical tree of evidence.

Activity 6
Provide basic premises plus additional
reasons for one of the following
(1) Natural health remedies are better than
conventional medicine.
(2) Schools do not nurture real talent or
(3) Power goes hand in hand with
(4) Life begins at 40.

`You and I are going to fall out if you keep

on agreeing with everything I say.'
Provide a counter-argument
A strong argument always takes into account the opposing point of view and
provides a counter-argument. For example:
Although many conventional doctors *scoff at natural remedies, the fact is
that research laboratories are increasingly attempting to *harness and exploit
the power of natural herbs, roots and flowers.

In order to provide a counter-argument, you need to place yourself momentarily in

your opponent's shoes. Ask yourself what objections your opponent might raise
against your point of view. Then think of a direct response to those objections:

They say You say

Crimes like rape and murder should The death sentence does not act as
carry the death sentence as a warning. a deterrent.
When you are over 40, health problems The self-knowledge that comes with
start. age more than compensates for any
loss of physical condition.

Activity 7
Provide a counter-argument for each of the following:

Argument Counter-argument
Marijuana (Dagga) should be legalised
because it promotes a gentle, passive
state of mind.
AIDS should be a notifiable disease. A
person's HIV status should not be kept
secret in the interests of preventing the
spread of infection.

Lecture 12 191 Writing to convince

Avoid common pitfalls

At each stage of your writing process, steer clear of

. obvious bias or prejudice, e.g. ‘‘Women are the weaker sex’’ or ‘‘English is the
best language in the world’’;
. assumptions, e.g. ‘‘Street children don't want the discipline of school and
. over-generalisations, e.g. ‘‘All immigrants are criminals’’;
. illogical links, e.g. ‘‘Crime is the result of apartheid’’.

Clearly, when you write an argument you hold a strong opinion. Be careful,
however, that your opinion does not cloud your reasoning. For example, if you are
arguing that women should be the primary care-givers of children, or that women
should not play a *combative role in the armed forces, you need to argue in such a
way that you avoid personal bias, stereotyping or prejudice. How is this possible?
Study the table below:

Pitfall Example Possible correction

BBIAS B‘‘English is the best C‘‘English is an internationally
language in the world’’ recognised language with a huge
resource of literature.’’
BASSUMPTION B‘‘Street children don't C‘‘Street children are often refu-
want the discipline of gees from poor, abusive or even
school and family’’ destructive family backgrounds
and as such they may resist
attempts to re-integrate them in
BOVER- B‘‘All immigrants are C‘‘Because many immigrants are
GENERALISATION criminals’’ illegal and their circumstances are
desperate, a significant number of
them engage in criminal activ-
BILLOGICAL LINK B‘‘Crime is the result of C‘‘Apartheid disrupted society by
apartheid’’ breaking up families and distort-
ing the economy. Under these
conditions, crime flourished.’’

In each case, faulty reasoning has been corrected using one of the following tips:
. Hide bias by foregrounding factual reasons/justification for your opinion.
. Re-visit your assumptions, tracing the logical pattern of cause and effect that
has led to your belief (and, if necessary, alter or modify that belief).
. Soften your generalisations by including words like ‘‘may’’, ‘‘might’’, ‘‘could’’,
‘‘some’’ and ‘‘many’’.
. Show all the steps in your reasoning so that sudden leaps or illogical links are

Lecture 12 192 Writing to convince

Activity 8
Correct the faulty reasoning of the following statements. Re-write them so that they
appear reasonable, but do not alter the basic point of view:
1. ‘‘Women are too weak to play a combative role in the armed forces.’’
2. ‘‘Only evil people would consider abortion an option.’’
3. ‘‘In the marital relationship, it is always the husband who strays into infidelity.’’
4. ‘‘Disease is the direct result of poverty.’’

Sound convincing
Finally, the key to writing in a convincing way often lies in those little adverbs that
tell your reader how to think about the topic:
Certainly ...
Of course ...
Naturally ...
In fact ...
Indeed ...
Consequently ...
... because ...

You studied these ‘‘signpost’’ words in Lecture 7, Section 4. Refer back now if you
have forgotten. Through practice and extra reading, you will learn how to use these
words appropriately and convincingly.

Activity 9

This activity is based on an extract from ‘‘What is a Taser’’ by Nick Parker in the
‘‘Modern Life’’ Column of Oldie magazine, October 2001 pp. 22–23. Fax 020 7436
8804 email: publisher@theoldie.co.uk
The New Boathouse, 136–142 Bramley Road London W10 6SR

Complete the paragraph using the signpost words supplied:

instantly finally impressive immediately especially
vast once later effective too

The TASER (standing for Thomas A Swift's Electric Rifle) fires two metal darts up to
30 feet. ... (1) ... they make contact with the target's skin, a charge of 50 000 volts
is sent down the wires, overpowering the target's nervous system and
*incapacitating him ... (2) ... , dropping him to the floor in the *foetal position. The
charge is ... (3) ... overwhelming to *register as pain: the ... (4) ... majority of
people who have been ‘‘tasered’’ said they remembered nothing of the incident
when they ... (5) ... came round, 15 minutes ... (6) ... .

The TASER's ability to incapacitate ... (7) ... without *lethal force has made it a

Lecture 12 193 Writing to convince

popular non-lethal weapon with the American police force and even the UK
Metropolitan Police. Its track record is certainly ... (8) ... . In tests it is ... (9) ... 93%
of the time. It has been ... (10) ... praised for its ability to stop attackers high on
drink and drugs.

Practise your argumentative skills by drafting a full length opinion essay on any one
of the following topics:
Should marijuana (dagga) be legalised?
Government schools choke individuality and personal growth.
Education is wasted on teenagers.
Child-care is a role to which women are better suited than men.
Women should not play a combative role in the armed forces.
Private gun ownership should be banned.

*Vocabulary Building
extract get out of
variations slightly changed versions
aspect part or element
assertion a strong statement
premise the basic, underlying principle of an argument,
from which other points flow.
rigorous strict and accurate
trend tendency or direction
indication sign or suggestion
have recourse to to turn to something for help
incensed angered
renewed started again, fresh
meted out handed out
sentiment feeling or opinion
swayed moved or leaned
pranks practical jokes
dire seriously bad
steeped in soaked in or filled with
scoff mock or speak scornfully of
harness make use of [natural resources]
impair damage or weaken
diminished lessened
ostracised excluded or banished
combative fighting
adheres sticks to or believes in
creed system of belief

Lecture 12 194 Writing to convince

incapacitating leading to a state where action is not possible
foetal position curled up in the position of an unborn child
register take notice of, realise
lethal deadly

Activity 1
Only questions a, c and e require an argument from you.

Activity 2
Your notes should have helped you clarify your position so that you know on which
side of the argument you stand. For example:
For Against
weapons get stolen freedom/right to own a gun
crime rate need for protection
murder rate licensing rules already strict
creates a culture of guns too many weapons in circulation
accidental deaths

Once you've prepared a list like this, you are ready to decide how you wish to argue.
You can also see quite clearly what your opponents would argue.

Activity 3
Your thesis statement should be strong and to-the-point. For example:
To deny a person's right to own a gun is the same as denying them their right
to self-protection.

Only by banning or severely restricting private gun ownership can we get to
grips with the crime wave sweeping the country.

Your reader should instantly be able to see the main *trend of your argument. To
begin with a statement like: ‘‘South Africa is a dangerous country with a high rate of
crime’’ is not helpful in a case like this because it does not give an *indication of
where you stand on the topic.

Activity 4
Your sentences will, of course, be different, but your definitions should offer a clear
explanation of each concept. For example:

Lecture 12 195 Writing to convince

1. Affirmative action refers to the policy of ensuring equity in the workplace by
actively recruiting people previously disadvantaged on the grounds of race,
colour, gender or health.
2. A welfare state is one which provides social help to needy citizens, for example
through unemployment benefits, subsidised housing for the poor and a national
health service.
3. I would define ‘‘values’’ as those standards or principles which lead to peaceful
co-operation among people, for example honesty, compassion, forgiveness,
charity, respect, loyalty and hard work.
4. By ‘‘autonomy’’ I mean the right to make one's own decisions, for example
regarding choice of friends and lifestyle.

Activity 5
Compare the type of context you have provided with the examples below:
1. In an effort to provide equal educational opportunities to all, the Minister of
Education instituted a law making basic education free and compulsory for all
children. In 1998, he further set it down that pupils should enter Grade 1 in the
year in which they turn 7, whether this was at a private or a state school. Many
parents who felt their children were school ready before this age were *incensed
by the ruling. In 2001, the Minister of Education was taken to court, and his
ruling was overturned on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
2. A shocking incident involving the rape of a 6 month-old baby, has led to
*renewed calls for severe punishment to be *meted out to the offenders. As
increasing reports of brutal rapes against babies and girls are brought to light,
so public *sentiment has *swayed towards the reintroduction of the death
penalty for certain crimes.
3. Two very different types of initiation rites have been spotlighted by the media in
South Africa. On the one hand, traditional circumcision performed in the bush to
mark the passage to manhood has led in some cases to infection, amputation or
even death. On the other, *pranks performed at some universities (notably
Stellenbosch) have had *dire consequences. Both have caused a public outcry.
However, neither practice is likely to disappear entirely, as both are *steeped in
tradition and group identity.

Activity 6
Your premises must provide very strong reasons for the argument you have chosen.
Each premise should ideally be supported by a further reason. For example:
1. Conventional medicine often has severe side-effects. These side-effects must in
turn be treated with further medicine. Natural remedies are administered in tiny
doses. These doses can be maintained over a long period without side-effects.
2. Schools often emphasise good behaviour and conformism over self-expression.
Talented, creative people are often denied self-expression at school. Schools

Lecture 12 196 Writing to convince

measure success in terms of exam results. Many talented people failed at
school either because the exam focus was too narrow or because they were
unnerved by the pressure of sitting exams.
invincibility 3. Power brings with it a feeling of {invincibility. The person who acquires power
incapable of being de-
often starts to feel above the law. People who seek power are often by nature
greedy. There are numerous cases of leaders attempting to acquire more and
more wealth and influence.
4. The early years of one's life are spent finding oneself. Only after this personal
struggle has been resolved (often at 40) does one start to enjoy oneself. Until
the age of 40, the quest for career and family dominate. Thereafter one can
focus on less tangible needs and rewards.

Activity 7
Make sure that your counter-argument is not simply a contradiction of the original
argument. For example, ‘‘Dagga does not promote a gentle, passive state of mind’’ is
NOT a counter-argument but a contradiction. A counter-argument needs to take into
account the validity of the original assertion, but show how this validity can be
called into question. A counter-argument may show how an apparent advantage is in
fact a disadvantage. For example:
The feelings of gentleness and passivity engendered by dagga may *impair
concentration and lead to errors of judgement or even acts of *diminished

Alternately, you may show the negative consequences of the original assertion:
Evidence suggests that once a person's HIV status is known, the person is
*ostracised or maltreated by ignorant members of the public.

Activity 8
Your answers may well look different from those that follow. What is important is
that you correct the faulty reasoning:
1. Because women are usually smaller in build, have a greater fat-to-muscle ratio
and are prone to osteoporosis, they are not ideally suited to play a combative
role in the armed forces.
2. Because abortion ends a life that could be saved, it may well be seen as wrong
in a society that *adheres to the *creed of ‘‘Thou shalt not kill’’.
3. Divorce records (and simple human observation) show that marriages often
break down because the man struggles with monogamy and commitment
whereas, as the saying goes, ‘‘For woman it is her whole existence’’.
4. Poverty leads to poor, cramped, unhygienic living conditions, malnutrition and a
lack of education, factors which are directly related to the spread of disease.

Activity 9
1 once

Lecture 12 197 Writing to convince

2 immediately
3 too
4 vast
5 finally
6 later
7 instantly
8 impressive
9 effective
10 especially

Activity 10
Creative activity — no model answers

Extract from ‘‘What is a Taser’’ by Nick Parker in the ‘‘Modern Life’’ Column of Oldie
magazine, October 2001 pp. 22–23. Fax 020 7436 8804, e-mail:

The New Boathouse, 136–142 Bramley Road London W10 6SR

Cartoon (‘‘You and I are going to fall out ...’’) in Oldie magazine, October 2001
p. 33. Fax 020 7436 8804, e-mail: editorial@theoldie.co.uk

The New Boathouse, 136–142 Bramley Road London W10 6SR

Lecture 12 198 Writing to convince

In this lecture, you will learn how to collect ideas in preparation
for writing an essay.
A common misconception about writing an essay is that it involves sitting down
at a desk with a blank sheet of paper in front of you. In fact, when you sit down,
you should be surrounded by pieces of paper, already covered with your
writing. These pages should consist of at least some of the following:
. your own ideas, in the form of lists or mind maps;
. notes taken from reference works, Study Guides or books;
. photocopies of relevant pages from your reference sources, ideally marked up
with a highlighter pen;
. newspaper and magazine clippings;
. notes or printed pages *generated by your Internet searches;
. your own comments and reflections (*marginalia) on the notes you've

Own ideas
Your own experience, opinions and observations are relevant. However, they are
not necessarily correct or factual. Therefore, you need to accept that the
*brainstorming phase does not in itself generate sufficient accurate data for your
essay. In fact, you will need to test these ideas of yours against the more
*authoritative evidence you collect in your research.

As long as you understand this principle, you should freely use the techniques
known as brainstorming. To brainstorm, you:
. write down all the ideas that come into your mind when you think of the set
. record these in the form of a list or a mind map.

For example, let's take the topic:

South Africa's crime rate will not be reduced until the number of guns in
circulation is reduced. Discuss.

Here you might produce a list that looks like this:

. high rate of crimes involving guns
heists . hijackings, armed robberies, drive-by shootings, gang warfare, domestic
armed robbery violence, cash-in-transit {heists

Lecture 13 199 Gathering ideas

. high murder rate
. stolen firearms
. need for gun owners to be responsible
. licences and legislation
. too many unlicensed, untrained owners
. policemen in SA all armed — compare U.K.
. caches of arms left over from liberation struggle?
. crime also has other causes: poverty, unemployment, *disaffected youth,
broken communities.
. need better & more policing.
. need to get rid of culture of violence first.

Or, you might produce a mind map that looks like this:

Activity 1
Draw up a list or mind map of ideas in response to the following essay topic:
Matric results are not the best way of measuring a student's potential. Write an
essay in which you agree or disagree with this statement.

Available study material

The first step in your research is to *familiarise yourself with the available study
material. This means reading through and making notes from your Study Guides,
Tutorial Letters and additional material you have available. Because this material
belongs to you, you can mark it up with a highlighter pen or pencil. This is where
your reading skills come into play, because you will be picking out:

Lecture 13 200 Gathering ideas

. relevant information;
. keywords;
. main ideas.

Activity 2
Read the following extract from the Study Guide Information Science: Information
Literacy and underline words or phrases that might help you to answer the
Why is the concept of culture important to an understanding of information

In addition, make your own comments or notes relating this extract to the essay


Culture is a difficult and complex concept and there are numerous definitions of this
concept. We define culture in this study guide as the complex whole acquired by a
human being as a member of society. It is not inborn but it is gained through normal
social interaction, the education process, books and mass media. It includes
knowledge, values, beliefs, attitudes, religion, concepts of self and the universe, and
language. It evolves in order to provide and transmit the knowledge, tools, habits and
beliefs that permit people to adapt to changing environments. Culture is not static,
but it constantly changes and develops. Virtually all aspects of life are influenced by
culture. We take our culture so much for granted that it is often difficult to understand
why others from another culture do things differently, for example the custom of

Information searches
Your Study Guides can only provide a limited amount of information. As you
progress in your studies, it will become increasingly important for you to consult
secondary sources. Where will you find these? Try:
. following up on the recommended reading list;
. consulting general reference works such as
dictionaries and encyclopaedias;
. browsing the relevant shelves in the library;
. doing an Internet search;
. searching the library catalogue;
. building up a bank of newspaper clippings.

Apart from books, your lecturers will also expect you to consult scholarly articles.
These are found in periodicals or journals. Some departments will provide you with
photocopies of relevant articles. Journals are usually only available at university

Lecture 13 201 Gathering ideas

libraries. If you know the title of the article, its volume, issue and page numbers,
you can proceed directly to the periodical section. If not, you will have to consult a
periodical index.

Note the difference between the bibliographic entry for a book and for a periodical
article. The book reference ends with publisher and place of publication. The
periodical reference ends with volume, issue and page numbers:
BOOK: Christie, P. The right to learn: the struggle for education in
South Africa. Johannesburg: Sached Trust/Ravan
PERIODICAL: Taylor, RS. 1968. Question-negotiation and information
seeking in libraries. College and research li-
braries, 29(5):178–194.

Try to be methodical or you will waste valuable time making unnecessary trips to
the library. Here is a suggested plan of action:
1. Compile a list of sources (from your reading lists, or from the Internet) that you
want to find.
2. Use the library catalogue to find classification numbers and shelving details. If
necessary, order books that are out on loan.
3. Once at the shelf, double-check that the book is indeed relevant to your topic.
Do this by scanning the Contents and Index pages and by skimming chapters.
4. While at the shelf, browse to see if there are other books that might be relevant.
5. If you have the details of journal articles you need, visit the periodicals section
and make arrangements to photocopy articles.
6. Don't leave the library until you have also consulted the reference section.

At this stage of your research, the trick is to narrow your focus and to use your
skimming and scanning skills to pick out relevant titles while ignoring the massive
distraction provided by all the other information available in a library.

Activity 3
Imagine you have been given the following topic:
Write an essay explaining why information literacy is important in tertiary

Now quickly skim the following list of sources and

. tick those that look relevant;
. mark them as periodicals (P) or books (B);
. note which ones have been published most recently and therefore contain the
latest thinking on the topic.
Behrens, SJ. 1994. A conceptual analysis and historical overview of information
literacy. College and research libraries, 55(4):309–322.
Bell, D. 1974. The coming of post-industrial society: a venture in forecasting.
London: Heinemann.

Lecture 13 202 Gathering ideas

Bruce, SC. 1995. Information literacy: a framework for higher education. Australian
library journal, 44(3):158–170.
Dordick, HS & Wang, G. 1993. The information society: a retrospective view.
London: Sage.
Machlup, F. 1962. The production and distribution of knowledge in the United
States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sayed, Y & De Jager, K. 1997. Towards an investigation of information literacy in
South African students. South African journal of library and information
science, 65(1):5–12.
Toffler, A. 1980. The third wave. London: Collins.

Retrieving information
Now you have the books and photocopied articles or printed Internet sources in
front of you, what next? Certainly, it is unlikely that you would have the time to read
them from cover to cover. At this stage you need to:
. keep the topic or question firmly in your head;
. note relevant page numbers;
. extract relevant information only;
. take notes, always clearly identifying the source and page number;
. as far as possible, try to ‘‘translate’’ difficult academic writing into your own words;
. think while you read;
. record your own thoughts or comments as they occur to you.

Activity 4
The following extract is relevant to the essay topic
Write an essay explaining why information literacy is important in tertiary

However, the language is very dense and academic. If you copy directly, you will
be accused of *plagiarism. On the other hand, you can't produce an essay by
simply stringing quotes together. Read the extract and summarise the underlined
sentences in simpler language and your own words. Then, using what you have
read, try to formulate a completely new sentence on the topic:

Relationship between information literacy and knowledge production

One group spent some time exploring the relationship between information literacy
and knowledge production. It was suggested that information literacy was the
ultimate aim of all tertiary education: to produce people immersed in the conceptual
framework, the terminology, philosophy and methodology of a subject and who were
equipped with the tools allowing them to maintain currency and to continue
educating themselves in that field after leaving the educational institution. The group
therefore spent some time discussing the use of the word ‘literacy’ and whether the
discussion was suggesting that the concept ‘information literacy’ was so broad and
all-inclusive as to be of little value in definition.

Lecture 13 203 Gathering ideas

In defending the use of the term in this context, it was argued that traditional literacy
did not simply concern the ability to read and write, but was crucially associated with
the social practices surrounding language. Information literacy therefore included
knowing how knowledge was organized and how to reproduce or generate new
knowledge. Information literate people are able to write or to share: to produce new
knowledge and to communicate to others the products of their active learning.

Sayed, Y & De Jager, K. 1997. Towards an investigation of information literacy in

South African students. South African journal of library and information science, 65

Keeping records

The most important part of your information search is to keep records so that your
bibliography and footnotes will contain accurate references. An accurate reference
contains the author's name, full title, date, publisher and place of publication. You
can keep records by using one of the following methods:
. a computer file;
. index cards or sheets of paper with handwritten details.

Your aim is to produce bibliographical entries that look like the examples below:



BOOK Toffler, A. 1980. The third wave. London: Collins.

ARTICLE Bruce, SC. 1995. Information literacy: a framework for
higher education. Australian library journal,
INTERNET Mochal, Lindsay. ‘‘The Clash of Writing Styles in Maxine
Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior.’’
English 1060:Paper One Topics. http://
mochal.html (19 March 2001).

Page numbers are important. As you take notes, record the page on which you
found a particular idea or quotation. If you are using A4 lined paper, use the margin
to note the page number as you write. There is nothing more frustrating than
having to go back and look up a page reference afterwards.

Activity 5
Find a book on your shelf and try to draw up a bibliographical entry for it, using the
example above as a guide.

Lecture 13 204 Gathering ideas

*Vocabulary Building
generated by produced by, created by
marginalia notes in the margin of a book, article
brainstorming intensive discussion to solve problems or gen-
erate ideas
authoritative recognised or accepted as being time or reliable
disaffected alienated
familiarise to get to know a subject, to become familiar with
plagiarise to take ideas from another writer and to pass
them off as one's own

Activity 1
Your responses might include some of the ideas depicted below:

Lecture 13 205 Gathering ideas

Activity 2
The most directly relevant phrases are as follows:
... culture [is] acquired ... not inborn ... gained through ... the education
process, books and mass media. ... evolves in order to provide and transmit the
knowledge ... and beliefs that permit people to adapt to changing environments.

From these notes, it would be possible for you to comment, in your own words,
Information is the foundation of culture: the ideas that constitute a person's
cultural beliefs are transmitted through sources of information (e.g. newspapers
and TV). Information passed on from one generation to another (e.g. regarding
customs) ensures the survival of that culture.

Activity 3
The most relevant texts (in the sense of containing in their titles the key phrase
‘‘information literacy’’) are those by Behrens, Bruce and Sayed. They are all
periodical articles. Sayed’s article (1997) is the most recent of the three.

Activity 4
To use your own words to paraphrase someone else's meaning is to make a
conscious effort to understand them. Your wording will be different, but you should
have tried to capture the gist of the author's meaning:
1. It could be said that Universities aim to produce people who know every aspect
of their subjects and who have the tools necessary for keeping themselves up to
date in the field after graduation.
2. An information literate person knows how knowledge is organised. He or she
also knows how to create new knowledge.
3. From what Sayed and De Jager say, it is clear that information literacy is
important in tertiary education because it is only through knowing how to
access information (in books and periodicals or in electronic format) that we
acquire and sustain mastery of our subjects.

Activity 5
Check the order of your citation. It should read:

In future, when making notes towards an essay, write these details at the top of your
notepad. Then use the margins or a system of brackets to record actual page

Lecture 13 206 Gathering ideas

. extract on ‘‘Culture’’ from Unisa Study Guide Information Science: Information
Literacy p. 15
. extract from Sayed, Y & De Jager, K. 1997. Towards an investigation of
information literacy in South African students. South African journal of library
and information science, 65(1):10

Lecture 13 207 Gathering ideas

In this lecture, you will learn how to organise your ideas and
prepare a paragraph plan in preparation for writing an essay.
Before settling down to write, you need to have an overview of what your essay will
look like. This will ideally take the form of a paragraph plan or at least a breakdown
of the main groups into which your ideas fall. In organising your ideas you should
proceed through the following steps:
. Read through all your material, checking it for relevance.
. On your second reading, use coloured pens, numbers or letters to *classify
ideas (e.g. ‘‘This idea belongs with group A, this belongs with group D, etc).
. While marking the text, highlight ‘‘quotable quotes’’, i.e. *memorable or
*succinctly-expressed ideas which you can quote directly in your essay.
. Decide on a logical order for these groups of ideas.
. Draw up a paragraph plan, with topic sentences or main ideas.
. Establish links between paragraphs so that your ideas flow naturally into one
. Decide (in general terms) what you will say in your introduction and conclusion.

Check for relevance

Spend time reviewing all of the material you have collected. Read it through
critically in order to determine:
. which ideas are directly related to your essay topic and which are not;
. the value or worth of the ideas and information you have collected;
. any gaps or missing information which you still need to collect.

Activity 1
Read the following rough notes collected on the topic:
Few people living today can live without being affected in some way by
terrorism. Write an essay in which you explore the way people respond to
terrorist attacks.

Double tick the sections, paragraphs or sentences that are highly relevant to the
topic. Single-tick the sections that have some relevance. Draw a line through
irrelevant information. Where possible, make your own notes in the margins to
indicate HOW the selected text will be relevant to your topic.

Lecture 14 208 Organising ideas

The general principles which have the best track record in
reducing terrorism are as follows:
. no surrender to the terrorists, and an absolute determination to
defeat terrorism within the framework of the rule of law and
the democratic process;
. no deals and no concessions, even in the face of the most severe
intimidation and blackmail;
. an intensified effort to bring terrorists to justice by
prosecution and conviction before courts of law;
. tough measures to penalise the state sponsors who give
terrorist movements {safe haven, explosives, cash and moral
safe haven
place of safety
and diplomatic support;
. a determination never to allow terrorist intimidation to block or
derail international diplomatic efforts to resolve major political
conflicts in strife-torn regions, such as the Middle East. In many
such areas terrorism has become a major threat to peace and
stability, and its suppression therefore is in the common
interests of international society.
(From ‘‘Terrorism: Motivation and Causes’’ by Paul Wilkinson.
In Commentary No. 53, January 1995)

In the interests of democracy and justice, it is essential that all
concerned South Africans speak out forcefully against the Anti-
Terrorism Bill, which contains a number of other disturbing
provisions in addition to the proposed detention without trial.
For example, in terms of Clause 16, a judge may issue a warrant for
detention if a Director of Public Prosecutions submits information
that there is ‘‘reason to believe’’ a person possesses/withholds
information from police officers/immigration/customs officials.
From my own experience of dealing with the police on matters
relating to criminal violence of different kinds, I have no doubt that
the police already have more than enough powers to deal with
violence, including terrorism (and random attacks on innocent
women and children in Kwa-Zulu Natal constitute terrorism in my
(Letter from Mary de Haas, University of Natal, Durban.
In Sunday Times, December 17 2000, p. 15)

Lecture 14 209 Organising ideas

On Sunday, November 28, 1999, at just after 4pm on a glorious
summer afternoon, a bomb detonated in a pizza restaurant on the
heavily populated Camps Bay beachfront, its only purpose being
maim to kill and {maim whoever had the misfortune to be in its deadly
to mutilate or cripple path.
My daughter, Olivia, then just 16 years old, was one of 47 people to
be injured in this dastardly, senseless act. It was her first proper
shift on a job she had acquired for the school holidays. Mercifully
she remembers nothing of the horror of the blast that blew off her
right leg and inflicted burns and other injuries that almost killed
For a long time, for most of this year, the perpetrators of this
cowardly act have been faceless and nameless. While rumours
abounded, nothing could be proved. Now, however, there is an
affidavit which describes awaiting trial prisoners at Pollsmoor
Prison jubilant when they were called on a cellphone with the news
that a bombing had taken place in Camps Bay. The affidavit says
that there was an ‘‘immediate outcry and something akin to a
celebration in the prison cells’’.
If this is so, why? What were they celebrating? Their bravery? The
number of innocent people, including children, who had been hurt?
How successfully the huge nails, placed inside the pipe bomb, had
penetrated the flesh of the young girl who bore the brunt of the
blast? Do they not even have the courage to state their cause?
I write this because Olivia and I feel that it is important to
commemorate this anniversary, November 28. It should not go
unnoticed — we still need to ask ourselves if we are safe from
terrorism, if we still need to exercise caution.
As merry holiday-makers sip drinks at the very spot where, a year
ago, similar groups sat numb with shock among the debris caused by
the blast, we want to mark the day in the fervent hope that it will
not happen again.
(Elana Newman, ‘‘A Year After St Elmo's’’ in Cape Times
Tuesday November 28, 2000, p. 12)

Lecture 14 210 Organising ideas

The images of the Twin Towers in New York collapsing in flames
after being struck by two hijacked planes, are images that we will
never forget. The loss of life is immense, and on a scale hard to
comprehend. It was, it hardly needs to be said, far beyond even our
worst fears. The sympathy of the world is with America. The
people who organised and executed these outrages were utterly
indifferent to the sanctity of human life.
President Bush struck the wrong note when he said that the
nation he leads would ‘‘hunt down’’ those responsible for these
atrocities. He sounded more measured when he pledged that
terrorism against the United States will not stand. It should not,
and it is up to all the democracies in the world to ensure that it
does not, however long that may take and however much that may
But as we have seen so many times in the past, the terrorists can
only be said to have won if civilised nations abandon civilised values
and themselves use indiscriminate violence against the innocent.
Restraint, even in the face of such grievous provocation, has to be
the watchword.
It was terrorism on its most murderous scale — calculated, evil
and without mercy. In the days and weeks to come, as we begin to
fully comprehend the enormity of this evil, it will become clear that
life in America, even in the world, will never be the same again. Mr
Bush will have to rally America's spirit, as well as her resources, in
order to endure this immense strain.
Such issues are, however, for
the future. For the moment, we
should confine ourselves to ex-
pressing our sympathy to the
people of America and in parti-
cular to those who have been
injured and bereaved as a result
of these disasters.
(‘‘Our Worst Fears’’ from
The Independent in London.
Reprinted in Cape Times,
12 September 2001, p. 12)

Lecture 14 211 Organising ideas

Although trauma affects people differently, such events can
create strong emotional and physical reactions. While reactions
could appear almost immediately, they tend to occur hours, a few
days, and sometimes even weeks later. It is common, in fact quite
normal, for people to experience such reactions if they have
experienced or witnessed a horrible event. The information below
can be helpful — to know what kinds of reactions may occur, and
how to help yourself and your children cope now.
Emotional Reactions:
. Shock, numbness, feeling ‘‘lost in a fog’’
. Re-playing the images in your mind
. Anxiety, fear, or feeling helpless
. Irritability, Anger
. Extreme sadness
. Diminished concentration, lapses in memory
. Wanting to withdraw from others
Physical Reactions:
. Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
. Fatigue
. Hyper-arousal, ‘‘nervous energy’’, or easily startled
. Appetite changes
. Headaches
. Tightness in chest, difficulty breathing
Remember that these are normal reactions to traumatic events.
Usually such reactions to traumatic events will lessen with time.
However, if you are experiencing reactions that are intense and
that persist, or interfere with your ability to carry on with your
life in your usual manner, you may wish to seek help.

Lecture 14 212 Organising ideas

Terrorists look for visible targets where they can avoid detection
before or after an attack such as international airports, large cities,
major international events, resorts, and high-profile landmarks.
Prepare to deal with a terrorist incident by adapting many of the
same techniques used to prepare for other crises.
. Be alert and aware of the surrounding area. The very nature of
terrorism suggests that there may be little or no warning.
. Take precautions when travelling. Be aware of conspicuous or
unusual behaviour. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do
not leave luggage unattended.
. Learn where emergency exits are located. Think ahead about
how to evacuate a building, subway or congested public area in a
hurry. Learn where staircases are located.
. Notice your immediate surroundings. Be aware of heavy or
breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.

Classify and order ideas

This should be the most satisfying moment in your essay preparation. At this point
you've done all the hard work of research. Your research has helped you understand
the topic and most likely, it has helped you form an opinion on the topic too. In front of
you, you have a file or notebook with pages of relevant information. Sorting, or
classifying information into different categories or groups is a rewarding activity.

Use whichever method you prefer (coloured pens, numbers, letters, symbols) to:
. match your ideas or notes to the different aspects of the essay question;
. draw similar or related ideas together;
. identify an emerging pattern or trend within your ideas (e.g. ideas in group A
lead one logically to ideas in group B).

Activity 2
Re-read the notes supplied in Activity 1 and use the symbol key provided to
categorise the ideas.

Prevention of terrorism ##
Government responses **
Emotional effects *
Physical effects ~
Preparedness @

Lecture 14 213 Organising ideas

Draw up a paragraph plan
Your notes are starting to look quite messy, what with lines drawn through some of
them and markings in the margin. So get out a clean piece of paper, write the topic
at the top and divide the page roughly into the number of paragraphs you'll need.

In order to work out how many paragraphs you'll need, go back and count up how
many different groups of ideas you have. If some of the groups look bulky, think of a
way of dividing them (e.g. could you break a block of information up into different
aspects?). Let us say you have 4 groups of ideas. Add to that your introduction and
your conclusion, and you will need 6 divisions on your page. Then use your system of
symbols, numbers or letters to assign groups of ideas to particular paragraphs.
Remember that the order in which the ideas come is not random. You must make sure
that your paragraphs follow a logical sequence (e.g. it is more logical to discuss causes
first and then effects). Eventually, you will end up with a page that looks like this:

Discuss responses to terrorism

Paragraph 1 ##
Paragraph 2 **
Paragraph 3 *
Paragraph 4 ~

With this plan in front of you, you will find it easy to cross-refer between your notes
and your draft essay. Make your writing task even easier by drafting a topic
sentence for each paragraph. This will involve:
. locating the core idea that runs through an individual group of related ideas;
. expressing it in a sentence that is strong and explanatory.

For example, you want to bring together the following ideas in one paragraph:
Terrorists look for visible targets where they can avoid *detection before or
after an attack +
Months and even years can pass before the *culprits responsible for terrorist
attacks are brought to book+
Witnesses who give information to the police about suspected terrorists are
often intimidated or even killed+
In SA and other democracies, there is resistance to the idea of anti-terrorism
legislation because the wide powers it grants to the police contradict the spirit
of the Constitution, especially its human rights causes.

Your topic sentence might then read as follows:

There are several reasons why terrorism is hard to combat.

Lecture 14 214 Organising ideas

With this sentence in place, it is a simply matter of proceeding with ‘‘Firstly ...’’ or ‘‘In
the first place ...’’.

Activity 3
Write a topic sentence which expresses the core idea linking all the following ideas:
My daughter lives every day with the consequences of the attack, not just her
physical injuries (she lost her leg), but severe trauma+
Emotional effects include feelings of anger, irritation and sadness +
Physical effects include headaches, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

Establish links
Paragraphs are not isolated *entities. Each paragraph must lead logically on to the
next. The relationships between paragraphs will vary, but here are some typical
connections between paragraphs in a sequence:
. general introduction to an idea (theory) followed by examples (practice);
. strong assertion of opinion followed by substantiation or proof;
. description of an event followed by its sequel or *aftermath;
. idea followed by a contrasting idea;
. idea followed by a comparable idea;
. cause followed by effect;
. item in order followed by next item in order.

Remember that while the logic of your paragraph plan may be clear to you, you still need
to make it clear to your reader. The opening sentence of each new paragraph should
contain some reference to its relationship with the preceding paragraph. (Alternatively, the
last sentence of your paragraph can prepare the reader for the next one).

Relationship Examples of how to signal the relationship

Very close aspects Use pronoun reference, e.g. ‘‘This’’/‘‘These’’ or
General to specific ‘‘In practical terms ...’’, ‘‘In practice ...’’, ‘‘To
illustrate ...’’, ‘‘An example of this ...’’.
Opinion and proof ‘‘A demonstration of this ...’’; ‘‘This can be seen
when ...’’
Cause and effect ‘‘The results of this are evident in ...’’, ‘‘As a
consequence ...’’, ‘‘Thus ...’’
Addition ‘‘Another’’, ‘‘More’’, ‘‘further’’
Comparison or contrast ‘‘However’’, ‘‘Despite this’’, ‘‘Similarly’’, ‘‘In a
related study ...’’.
Change in focus ‘‘Other’’, ‘‘Elsewhere’’
Items in order ‘‘Next’’, ‘‘Then’’, ‘‘Thereafter’’, ‘‘Afterwards’’,
‘‘Secondly’’, ‘‘Finally’’.

Lecture 14 215 Organising ideas

You can also link your paragraphs in less explicit ways, by picking up on one
aspect of a topic you have introduced, or by implying a contrast. For example, in
the following text, paragraphs 1 and 2 contain an implied contrast between the
USA and the UK. By paragraph 3, the contrast is explicit. Paragraph 1 ends with the
idea of Americans resisting any legislation against guns. Paragraph 2 continues
with the idea of legislation by looking at gun laws in the UK. Concentrate on the
links indicated in bold type:

In the US an individual's right to own weapons continues to cause disagreement.

When this right was included in the Second Amendment, America had just finished
fighting for independence and did not want to keep a permanent army. Many people
believe that since the US now has a professional army, individuals do not need guns,
and that the interpretation of the amendment should take account of the modern
situation. But others want to keep the right to have weapons and resist any changes
to the law.

In the UK, handguns of .22 calibre and above are banned. Gun owners must
possess a Firearms Certificate; they must keep records of how and when the gun is
used and the gun must be securely stored in a safe. The stated police position is ‘‘to
reduce to an absolute minimum the number of firearms, including shotguns, in the
hands of members of the public.’’ Legal British gun owners now constitute only four
percent of total households.

By contrast, approximately half of American homes contain a gun, and a quarter

contain a hand gun. In fact, the second amendment of the constitution of the United
States means that every citizen has the right to own and carry a gun if they wish to.

Such differences in the interpretation of freedom and rights are typical of modern
society. While some countries rely entirely on a professional army — the USA, Britain
and France, for example — in most countries in the world, military services is still
compulsory for young men, unless there is some medical reason why they cannot do
it. In the Netherlands, the law allows doctors to help terminally ill patients to die if the
patients state repeatedly that this is their wish. Moreover, its citizens are allowed to
carry small amounts of ‘‘soft’’ drugs such as cannabis for their own personal use.

Examples such as these highlight the tension that exists within any democracy,
namely that the rights of the individual are carefully balanced against the rights of the
state. This tension was humorously expressed by Frederick II the Great when he
quipped: ‘‘My people and I have come to an agreement which satisfies us both. They
are to say what they please, and I am to do what I please’’.

Activity 4
Fill in the missing links (A–H in the passage) using the phrases listed below:
Not only
Other factors also contribute to
In the end,

Lecture 14 216 Organising ideas

Another reason for
One of the results of

Today we inhabit a world that seems less overwhelmingly vast than that of our
ancestors. We share technology and there is, as a result, more contact between
countries, to the extent that some people claim we live in a ‘‘global village’’ without
barriers between different cultures.

... A ... geographical distance no longer presents the same barrier as it used to. Imagine
how big the world must have seemed before the age of aviation. When white explorers
and settlers came to South Africa centuries ago, the potentially fatal journey across the
Atlantic and the trek through the interior could take months by sailing-ship and ox-
wagon. Today, air traffic makes it possible to travel the same distance in less than a day.

... B ... do we possess the means to travel and travel fast, but increasing wealth has
also made travelling affordable to ordinary people. Tourism is in fact one of the
fastest-growing industries in the world.

... C ... travelling is not the only way to increase intercultural contact. New
communication systems also facilitate interaction across distances. People on
different sides of the globe are able to watch or listen to the same radio and TV
programmes at the same time. Telephone, fax systems and the Internet allow people
throughout the world to share information and ideas simultaneously. Electronic media
are fast changing our lives in a number of ways.

... D ... greater mobility and improved access to electronic communication is that
people are more frequently exposed to different cultures with different practices and
ways of seeing the world. Thus, with increasing contact, new generations will know
more about, and may also observe for themselves, the lives and societies of people in
countries far away from their own.

... E ... the trend often referred to as globalisation. While it used to be possible for
companies to sell goods solely in their own country, today it is difficult to operate
without international contacts. The number of multinational corporations is increas-
ing, and each country's economy is now tied to the economic fortune of others. No
country can pretend to be untouched by what is going on outside its borders.

... F ... increasing international contact is the realisation that a number of concerns are
shared by all peoples on this planet. There are environmental, medical and ethical issues
which affect all cultures. No country can turn its back and say, ‘‘That's not my problem.’’

... G ... it is difficult for any country to remain detached and isolated from tensions
and conflicts in other parts of the world. A well-known principle says that ‘‘hostility
anywhere has the potential to become hostility everywhere’’.

... H ... the question is whether the image of a ‘‘global village’’ is perhaps too
optimistic. The phrase was coined in the 1960s, and referred to a future world without
cultural barriers, where people would be living much like ‘‘one big happy family’’. It is
certainly true that as a result of globalisation, similar items of clothing, food, music
etc. are available all over the world, but so far the emergence of a ‘‘world culture’’ only
applies to the surface level: what you can see and touch.

Lecture 14 217 Organising ideas

Plan your beginnings and endings

With your labelled notes and your paragraph plan in order, you are nearly ready to
begin writing. But first spare a little more thought to the overall design of your
essay. Ask yourself:
Where do I need to begin? What is my starting point or basic premise?
Where is my essay heading? What type of conclusion will I arrive at?

Sketch in at least some idea of what you want to say in your introduction and
conclusion. For example,
INTRODUCTION: Define terrorism. Statistics about how widespread.
Everyone affected. Effects range from physical in-
juries/death to lifelong psychological problems.
CONCLUSION: Make point about whether terrorists achieve their aim.
Ask question: is any cause worth this suffering? What
about common humanity, ordinary people?

In the next lecture, you'll learn more about planning and writing your introduction.

*Vocabulary Building
classify arrange in categories or classes
memorable worth remembering
succinctly briefly expressed
detection notice; discovery of a crime
culprits guilty or responsible persons
entities separate units, things, beings or objects
aftermath consequences

Activity 1
Text E is the most relevant. It is written in a cool, objective style that will help you
set the right tone for your essay. Texts C and D provide good examples of the
emotional responses to terrorism, and you could certainly select some good
quotes from these two texts to illustrate the anger and sadness caused by terrorist
attacks. Text A is not relevant to the topic because it refers to official, government
responses rather than individual responses. Similarly Text B focusses on the legal
issues associated with anti-terrorism efforts and is also not concerned with
personal, emotional responses. Text F offers advice for living with the reality of
terrorist attacks.

Lecture 14 218 Organising ideas

Activity 2


Activity 3
Your topic sentence should combine the idea of physical effects with the idea of
emotional effects. For example:
The aftereffects of a terrorist attack on survivors are both physical and

Activity 4
A First
B Not only
C But
D One of the results of
E Other factors also contribute to
F Another reason for
G Similarly
H In the end

From ‘‘Terrorism: Motivation and Causes’’ by Paul Wilkinson. In Commentary
No. 53, January 1995. At http://www.st-and.ac.uk/academic/intrel/research/

From Letter from Mary de Haas, University of Natal, Durban. In Sunday Times,
December 17 2000, p. 15

Guest column by Elana Newman, ‘‘A Year After St Elmo's’’ in Cape Times
Tuesday November 28, 2000, p. 12

From ‘‘Our Worst Fears’’ from The Independent in London. Reprinted in Cape
Times, 12 September 2001, p. 12

Lecture 14 219 Organising ideas

coping with trauma, from

being ready for terrorists, from (http://www.fema.gov/library/terrorf.htm

(Last 2 texts written by author)

Photographs ‘‘Run for your life’’ and ‘‘The day from hell’’. In Saturday Argus,
September 15 2001, pp. 6 and 8

Lecture 14 220 Organising ideas

In this lecture, you will learn how to plan and write an
introduction to your essay.
Writing the introduction to your essay is similar to meeting an important person for
the first time. It is here that you will make your first impression and receive your first
response. No wonder, then, that writers feel such nerves when approaching the
task! Yet it need not be a stressful experience. There is a recipe for writing a good
. Try to express the main topic of your entire essay right at the beginning.
. Refer directly to the terms of the *rubric.
. Write confidently and knowledgeably.
. Attract your reader's interest.
. Give the necessary background information or definitions.
. Avoid examples and detail.
. Be as specific and definite as possible (avoid vague references to ‘‘it’’ and ‘‘that
thing’’): specify exactly what you are talking about, repeating the terms of the
essay question if necessary.
. Give information that summarises the body of your essay and gives the reader
a way to predict the structure of the essay as a whole.
. Revise your introduction once you have written your entire essay.

Develop a thesis statement

Where the essay topic asks for your opinion or requires you to argue something,
you will need to begin with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a very clear
*assertion of an idea which
. you believe is true;
. you are about to prove, argue or demonstrate.

Thus there is a difference between an ordinary sentence,e.g.:

This essay will discuss the fruit bat.
Firearms are a big problem.

and a thesis statement:

Fruit bats are a misunderstood species which plays an essential ecological
Unlicensed firearms are the single greatest contributing factor to crime in
South Africa.

Lecture 15 221 Writing the introduction

Your thesis statement should also respond directly to the terms of the rubric. For
RUBRIC: Are a student's matric results a reliable indicator of
future success?
THESIS STATEMENT: Matric results are not a reliable indicator of future
success because the factors which contribute to
success (personality, drive, opportunity and goals)
may only emerge in the long term.

Activity 1
Write thesis statements in response to the following rubrics:
1. Should pregnant HIV-positive women be given the drug Nevirapine free of
charge in order to prevent the transmission of HIV to newborn babies?
2. Is corporal punishment ever an acceptable response to misbehaviour in school
3. Mature adults are better learners than teenagers. Discuss.

Express the general idea

If you are not writing an argument or an opinion essay, you nevertheless still need
to express your main idea in your introduction. You need to write a sentence which
introduces, in broad terms, the theme of your essay. The best way to do this is to
look for a solid noun or noun phrase that *encapsulates the topic in your mind, and
then construct a sentence around that noun phrase.

The topic, as it stands in your mind, may be rough and *fragmentary. The trick is to
round the fragment out into a well-expressed statement. For example:

TOPIC: Older people who go back to University to study —

what happens to them — helps us understand things
about education.
NOUN PHRASE: The experiences of mature students
SENTENCE: The experiences of mature students provide interest-
ing insights into how and why people learn.

Activity 2
Convert the following fragment into a solid introductory sentence:

Robbers, hijackers etc — too many escapes from jail, courts etc — need to
improve this situation — lots of suggestions in this regard.

Lecture 15 222 Writing the introduction

Attract interest

If you have engaged properly with your research results or material, you will almost
certainly have uncovered something interesting (surprising, unusual, striking or
even funny) about your topic. Where appropriate, include this focus of interest in
your introduction. It may take the form of:

. a brief quotation;
. an aside (something mentioned in brackets or between *em dashes);
. a brief *anecdote;
. a question or questions;
. a startling opening sentence.

You can combine two or more of these techniques. For example:

‘‘Whiny, arrogant, rude, violent’’: these

are the adjectives child psychologist
Jacob Azerrad uses to describe the
children he sees in his practice. All
over America, psychologists report that
the nation's children are out of control.
A number of explanations have been
proposed: high sugar diets, pollutants,
allergies, television, even psychiatric
disorders. But to explain adequately
why American children are behaving
badly while their French counterparts
are models of decorum, we need to
look into recent research comparing
child-care practices in the two coun-

Activity 3
Read the following information and imagine you are using it as the basis for an
essay. Then construct an introduction which attracts your reader's attention.
Remember to use your own words.

Steven Thomsen, an associate communications professor at Brigham Young

University, recently completed a study examining the frequency with which
eating disordered high school students read health and fitness magazines — a
form of media that should promote healthy lifestyles.
Among the nearly 500 students he surveyed, Thomsen found abundant
evidence of unhealthy weight control practices in the previous year. Eleven

Lecture 15 223 Writing the introduction

percent of the participants reported that
they had used laxatives, 15 per cent had
taken diet pills, 9 per cent induced
vomiting and 52 per cent said they had
restricted their caloric intake to under
1,200 calories per day.
Thomsen then asked the participants
how often they read health and fitness,
beauty and fashion magazines. He
discovered that women who read health
and fitness magazines frequently were
also significantly more likely to have
practised unhealthy weight control
(From ‘‘Finding Fault’’ by Carin Gorrell.
In Psychology Today September/
October 2001, p. 24)

Give necessary background

information and definitions
An important point to bear in mind when
writing your introduction is that your reader
may need or appreciate:
. background information (context and
. explanations of key terms;
. definitions *germane to your topic.

genetic engineering For example if you are writing an essay on
the deliberate changing genetic engineering, or {masochism or
of inherited features by {
altering the structure or
euthanasia, it would be a good idea to
position of a gene define these terms. You need not do this in a
masochism *laboured way, beginning ‘‘The dictionary
the enjoyment of pain
euthanasia defines X as ...’’. Rather, try to incorporate
the practice of painlessly the definition into a sentence:
killing a person who
wishes to die because of
age or illness
Insomnia — or chronic sleepless-
ness — affects at least a third of the
population and costs the country mil-
lions of rands in lost productivity. In the
past, insomnia was treated with sleep-
ing pills. But new studies suggest that
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
may work in over 50% of insomniacs.

Lecture 15 224 Writing the introduction

In that example, two definitions or explanations were slipped in, using brackets and
em dashes. The function of this type of introductory paragraph is to bring your
reader quickly into the picture by supplying information that might be missing,
vague or forgotten.

Similarly, your reader might need a little background history to understand the
significance of a topic in the presence. For example:
Modern spas derive their name from the initials S-P-A, an abbreviation for
‘‘solus por aqua’’ (‘‘health through water’’) which frequently appeared on the
walls of ancient Roman bath houses. The practice of hydrotherapy originated
with the Greeks more than 2,500 years ago and has been used in India,
Turkey, Sweden and Native America for centuries. Today, spas are
recommended for stress reduction and pain relief.

Activity 4
Write a paragraph introducing yourself. Give the background information we need
to know who you are, and explain the meaning of your name or surname.

What to avoid
A common fault with introductions is that they seem to start in the middle of
nowhere, or they are too vague and imprecise. It's particularly important to
remember that you should not use a pronoun until you have used its referent. What
does that mean? Look:
VAGUE PRONOUN: It is not the woman's fault.
CORRECTION: Rape is not the woman's fault.
VAGUE PRONOUN: That is the problem facing townships today.
CORRECTION: Overcrowding is the problem facing townships today.

Another common fault is the tendency to offer examples and illustrations in the
introduction. Leave these for subsequent paragraphs. For example, the underlined
sections need to be removed from the introduction:
Overcrowding is the main problem facing informal settlements today, placing
pressure on the available facilities, for example toilets and taps. In Joe Slovo
camp, up to 20 people share one shack. Given these cramped and crowded
conditions, it is not surprising that land invasions have become a political

Activity 5
Revise the following introduction so that it is precise and free of examples and
vague pronoun references:

Lecture 15 225 Writing the introduction

The Placebo effect
It is the tendency of patients to benefit from *ostensibly ineffective treatments.
For example, you are given a white pill which you believe will cure your
headaches and it does, except of course that the pill contained only sugar. Yet
this apparently useless psychological response should not be mocked. By
generating this response, they show that the brain is capable of treating the
body through its own inner ‘‘pharmacy’’.

Revise your introduction

Always revise your introduction. Why? Well, for one thing, your ideas might have
shifted slightly since you started writing the essay. When you have completed the
entire draft, go back and check that your introduction:

. is relevant;
. prepares your reader for your main theme or argument;
. gives the necessary background information;
. attracts the reader's interest;
. gives an idea of the information to be given in the essay as a whole
. is *cogently expressed.

*Vocabulary Building
rubric title, heading or instruction
assertion strong statement of a truth or belief
encapsulates expresses the essential facts in a few words
fragmentary made up of small parts which are not con-
em dashes long dashes (longer than a hyphen) used in
anecdote a short, amusing or interesting story
qualify to make the meaning of a previous statement
less strong
germane relevant, connected to the topic
genetic the deliberate changing of inherited features by
engineering altering the structure or position of a gene
masochism the enjoyment of pain
euthanasia the act of killing someone painlessly, especially
to relieve suffering from an incurable illness
laboured showing signs of too much effort
ostensibly apparently true
cogently convincingly

Lecture 15 226 Writing the introduction

Activity 1
stance Your thesis statements should adopt a {stance on the topic and clearly suggest the
emotional or intellectual
direction of your argument. For example:
attitude or standpoint

1. If pregnant women who are HIV-positive are not given Nevirapine, then the state
is failing in its stated commitment to free mother and child care.
Administering Nevirapine free of charge to all pregnant women who need the
drug is neither financially feasible nor medically justified.
2. There is always a more suitable and reasonable response to misbehaviour than
vindictive corporal punishment, which is often brutal, unjustified, inappropriate and
spiteful, wanting to hurt {
When administered in a controlled environment, following set guidelines and
procedures, corporal punishment is an appropriate response to certain types of
3. Mature adults, with their settled lifestyles, wide experience and commitment to
hard work, are far better learners than flighty, inexperienced teenagers.
Teenagers are young, eager to learn and have few commitments: therefore they
are better learners than adults, who are tired out by their jobs, responsibilities
and commitments.

Activity 2
Try to *condense long phrases into shorter, more tightly expressed phrases. So:
The number of criminals who escape from custody is unacceptably high and a
number of preventative measures might be proposed.

Activity 3
You score no points if you simply copied sentences word for word! An introduction
which asks a question seems appropriate here. For example:
Do magazine editors encourage eating disorders among young women?

You could also make a startling assertion, which you then go on to *qualify:
Is reading bad for your health? This may be the case if you're a teenager and
your reading material portrays the ‘‘perfect’’ body type as thin and angular.

Activity 4
Writing that paragraph should have helped you focus on ways of condensing or
concentrating background information into a few sharp sentences. (You score no

Lecture 15 227 Writing the introduction

points if you wrote more than one paragraph!) By defining your name you might
have realised that definitions are naturally interesting in themselves, and provide
much food for thought.

Activity 5
The Placebo effect
The Placebo effect is the tendency of patients to benefit from ostensibly
ineffective treatments. Yet this apparently useless psychological response
should not be mocked. By generating a response, placebos show that the brain
is capable of treating the body through its own inner ‘‘pharmacy’’.

Extract on the relationship between media & eating disorders: (From ‘‘Finding
Fault’’ by Carin Gorrell. In Psychology Today September/October 2001, p. 24)

Other texts by author

Lecture 15 228 Writing the introduction

In this lecture, you will learn how to complete the essay writing
So far you have a set of *annotated notes, a paragraph plan and an introduction.
Writing the remainder of your essay entails sticking to that plan and building your
argument or discussion up through paragraphs which are both *coherent within
themselves and linked to one another.

Paragraphs are thus the key to successful essay writing. Many of the following
rules and pointers about paragraphs we have covered already:
. A paragraph is a group of sentences which belong together by virtue of their
connection to a single main idea.
. Never leave one sentence standing on its own like an orphan.
. If you start a new idea or thought, start a new paragraph.
. This main idea should be expressed in a topic sentence.
. A paragraph break is indicated by leaving one completely blank line in your
. The topic sentence may be placed first in the paragraph.
. All the sentences in the paragraph are linked to the topic sentence.
. Use the paragraph to develop an idea through examples or discussion.
. Link the sentences within a paragraph through pronoun reference, signpost
words, repetition of key terms or their synonyms.
. Choose a paragraph type that suits your content.

Paragraph breaks
An essay that uses logical paragraph breaks is a delight to read. Unfortunately,
paragraph breaks do not always occur to us naturally while writing. You will almost
certainly only be able to decide on appropriate paragraph breaks in your second or
third draft. This may be because you have not structured your writing around clear
topic sentences which
. announce or sum up the main idea of the paragraph;
. provide a *focal point for the paragraph;
. link naturally and logically to the other sentences in the paragraph.

Activity 1
Read the following first draft. It has no paragraph breaks. Where should the student
place the breaks? If necessary, insert topic sentences to add coherence.

Lecture 16 229 Writing the essay

On the 27th March 1996 at 19h15, one of the nurses on duty with me called
me to the telephone. It was my neighbour, Mrs Ramses. She told me I would
need to be strong as there had been an accident involving my son. After the
call I went to Mrs Sello, my supervisor, who sent me home. My brother drove
me to Rhodes Memorial where we met up with the Mountain Rescue Team. I
spoke to the doctor who was part of this rescue team. Apparently, my son,
Raymond, had been with a party of climbers who had lost their way on Table
Mountain. A rocky ledge had given way and four of them had fallen. Three
had been found alive. But Raymond died in the fall. I thought: ‘‘This is just a
dream. It's not happening to me.’’ My husband, equally shocked, just stared
at me. How do I feel now? Well, I will always be grateful to the Mountain
Rescue Team who risk their lives to save others. I would like to write a book to
share my experience with other bereaved parents. And I will always
remember my son Raymond. He died doing what he loved.

Topic Sentences

We have already established that paragraphs are topic-driven. ‘‘Well,’’ you may
say, ‘‘my essay is all on one topic, therefore I can put what I like in each of the
paragraphs’’. Not so. Your essay as a whole covers a general topic. Your individual
paragraphs each deal with a specific and limited aspect of that topic. For example:

My House
1. What it looks like from the outside, where it is, how it came to be mine or how I
came to live there.
2. Inside the rooms.
3. People who live in the house and what they do
4. My feelings and emotions about my house.
5. Future plans regarding my house.

The topic under discussion in any particular paragraph is often announced in a

topic sentence which is a complete sentence, not a fragment. A complete sentence
has a subject and a verb:
FRAGMENT: Future plans regarding my house.B
COMPLETE SENTENCE: I have two main plans for my house in the future.C

A good topic sentence sets the limits for that paragraph. For example, the
sentence, ‘‘I have two main plans for my house in the future’’ will be followed by two
further sentences in which the plans are detailed. Once you’ve finished discussing
your future plans for *renovations, repairs or *extensions, then your paragraph is

There may be occasions when the topic sentence is less obvious or not present.

Lecture 16 230 Writing the essay

For example, in your introduction, you will simply introduce your house. That is why
it is especially important to be specific in your opening sentence. Don't use a vague
pronoun to begin. For example:
My House
It is in Atlantis. B
My House
My house is in the township of Atlantis, outside Cape Town on the West
Coast. C

Activity 2
Write the essay outlined above (on the topic ‘‘My House’’), using the suggested
paragraph plan. Make sure you introduce your general topic clearly in paragraph 1
(your introduction). Try to write topic sentences which are grammatically complete
and limited in their focus.

Paragraph Types

Not all paragraphs are the same. There are different types. Study the table below
and think about the way each paragraph might continue after the given topic

Function of paragraph Example of topic sentence

1. To give illustrations or examples. Unfortunately, many sportsmen and
athletes do not set a good example
to the youth.
2. To narrate or tell a story. The following story from my child-
hood tells you a lot about the adult I
was to become.
3. To describe a person, scene or Let me tell you about the first time I
object. fell in love.
4. To describe a process. Registration was a very compli-
cated/easy process this semester.
5. To define. A good parent does not just feed
and clothe a child.
6. To compare and contrast. In my life, I've experienced both very
good and very bad teaching prac-
7. To classify information. There are three distinct types of
driver on the road.
8. To persuade. Money is the key to happiness.

Lecture 16 231 Writing the essay

Activity 3
Write THREE of the paragraph types listed above. You may use the topic sentence
supplied and simply complete the paragraph, or you may devise your own topic

Cohesion within paragraphs

By now you should be convinced of the importance of limiting each paragraph to
one topic and one function. A good writer will achieve an even tighter effect by
making sure that each sentence within a paragraph flows naturally into the next.
This is achieved through:
. repetition of important or key words;
. pronoun reference;
. synonyms substituted for key words;
. signpost words.

Let's see how each of these techniques works in practice:

1. Repetition of key terms:
The pear is a delicate, aristocratic, temperate-zone fruit that exists in
thousands of varieties. Few fruits vary so greatly in colour, texture, flavour,
size and shape. Pears are an exception to the rule that tree-ripened fruits
are best. They can be picked when fully grown but still green, and attain
their finest texture and flavour off the tree.
(‘‘Pears’’ in Eat Better, Live Better, p. 90. Cape Town: Reader’s Digest, 1985)
2. Pronoun reference:
My natural, infant squint didn't right itself; at the age of three, I was made to
wear glasses. I hated them, and with dog-like determination buried them again
and again in the rose bed, the sandpit, the compost heap. There were many
more final and destructive things I could have done with them — dropped
them in the water butt, burned them on the bonfire, trampled them to death —
but for some reason I preferred burial, as less final and more ceremonious. I
was always asked (kindly, I think) where I had buried them, and they were
usually unearthed, though often they were bent or cracked beyond repair.
(About Time by Penelope Mortimer, p. 51. London: Allen Lane, 1979)
3. Substitution of synonyms
Let me begin with a story about a beating. Rather, I would like to open with
a series of stories that the perpetrator, the victim, and a witness told about a
furious whipping that a master gave a slave. It is not the assault itself that
captures my attention; it was, at once, awful and ordinary. My concern is
with what the beating meant to those involved. The tales told by the master,
the slave and the witness reveal much about the ways in which they
understood their lives and made sense of the world around them.
(Breaking the Chains edited by Nigel Worden and
Clifton Crais, p. 45. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 1994)

Lecture 16 232 Writing the essay

4. Signpost words
Some occupations remained entirely monopolised by Dutch inhabitants in
1820, such as the market gardeners and agriculturalists who retained
control of the remaining farms in Table Valley. Since Roman-Dutch law
continued to be used and Dutch was still the main language of the courts
until the late 1820s, all the advocates and procurators of the town in 1820
were Dutch-speaking. In the medical field, however, the new administration
attempted to restrict the practice of medicine to those with professional
training. As a result many who had practised medicine under the VOC
without formal qualifications now worked as apothecaries. After 1815 the
medical profession at the Cape was boosted by the arrival of British
doctors, although there was also a small elite of Dutch and German
Capetonians who had been professionally trained.
(Cape Town: The Making of a City by Nigel Worden et al,
p. 90. Cape Town: David Philip, 1998)

Remember that any one paragraph may use a combination of techniques to

achieve *cohesion.

Activity 4
Fill in the gaps with appropriate pronouns, synonyms, repetition or signpost words
to make the paragraph below read smoothly. Choose from the list supplied:
these whereas daytime however nocturnal they
The world could be divided into night people and daytime people. ... (1) ...
night people struggle to get up early in the morning, ... (2) ... people leap up
before sunrise. ... (3) ... by 9 or 10 o'clock at night, ... (4) ... early risers are
exhausted and ready for bed. ... (5) ... may find it difficult to understand
their ... (6) ... friends, who thrive on burning the midnight oil.

Cohesion between paragraphs

Cohesion between paragraphs is achieved in a very similar manner to cohesion

within paragraphs. That is to say, you will use signpost words, pronoun
referents, repetition and synonyms to establish the links from one paragraph to
the next.

However, because a new paragraph *entails introducing a new aspect of your

general topic, you may need to be more *explicit about the *transition you're
making. If this is the case, you may need to write a sentence or part of a sentence
. briefly sums up what you said in the previous paragraph;
. comments on or qualifies what was said in the previous paragraph;
. indicates a bigger shift in focus, for example a return to a much earlier point.

Lecture 16 233 Writing the essay

For example:
At school, I was regularly beaten for arriving late (even though I had to walk 7
kilometres to get there) or not having the correct uniform (even though my
parents could not afford one). I was in a class of 60 kids and we were tired,
hungry, cold and sore most of the time.
This period of intense poverty was succeeded by a happier period when I left
school ...

Activity 5
Write paragraphs that follow on from the three paragraphs you wrote in Activity 3.
Make sure that there is a smooth transition from one paragraph to the next.


The last paragraph of your essay is your conclusion. It may do any of the following:

. signal the end of your essay;

. leave the reader with a final thought;
. show how all your points fit together;
. re-state, in stronger terms, your main point or argument;
. look to the future;
. call for a change in attitude or *policy;
. make one final statement that brings all your points together;
. ask an interesting question;
. sum up in new words what you have been saying.

You will only be able to write a successful conclusion if you understand exactly
what you yourself have been trying to say. That's why it's important to read over
your entire essay quite critically before rounding it off with a conclusion. If you have
planned your essay well, and followed all the steps in the writing process, a
conclusion should come quite naturally. If possible, try to use some or all of the
words in your essay title. For example, this is the way Nelson Mandela ended his
autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made
missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a
great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a
moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to
look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only a moment, for with
freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet

(Randburg: Macdonal Purnell, 1994, p. 617)

Lecture 16 234 Writing the essay

Activity 6
In Lecture 15, Activity 4, you wrote an introduction to yourself. Complete this essay
now (write at least 3 further paragraphs), making sure that your conclusion brings a
sense of closure. Give your essay a heading or title that expresses something
about the way you see your life.

*Vocabulary Building
annotated with explanatory notes added
coherent logical, consistent and easily followed
focal point bringing attention or focus
renovations fixing a building so that it looks new again
extensions building additions
cohesion unity
entails involves, requires
explicit clearly and expressly stated
transition changing or passing to a new state or condition
policy principles or actions adopted by a party,
government, organisation, etc
closure procedure for ending something

Activity 1
Because of the intense emotion experienced by the student as she wrote this piece,
the story unfolds in one uninterrupted flow. Yet reading it over from a calmer
perspective, we can see logical places for paragraph breaks. Your suggestions may
be different, but a rough guide would make these divisions:
PARA 1: What happened at the hospital. Perhaps this needs a stronger
introductory sentence which will link the whole piece. For example: ‘‘A
day I will never forget and which has changed me completely was ...’’.
PARA 2: The encounter with the Rescue Team.
PARA 3: The event itself, starting with ‘‘Apparently’’ and ending with Raymond’s
PARA 4: The writer's thoughts at the time.
PARA 5: The writer's thoughts today.

Activity 2
Check your answer by making sure:
. You have five paragraphs in total, plus a heading.
. Each paragraph limits itself to the topic outlined in the paragraph plane.

Lecture 16 235 Writing the essay

. Paragraphs 2-5 have a clear topic sentence.
. The topic sentence has a subject and a verb.

Activity 3
Use the numbered list below to check your paragraph against its function. Your
paragraph should contain:
1. examples which support and illustrate your topic sentence.
2. details of an important event in chronological order.
3. details that bring a picture to mind.
4. the steps leading up to a goal or end result.
5. an explanation that helps us to understand the person or thing you are defining.
6. a clear indication of what is similar and/or different about the two people or
things you have chosen.
7. a list of categories into which all the items in a group may be classified.
8. clear and convincing reasons for your opinion.

Activity 4
1. Whereas
2. daytime
3. However
4. these
5. They
6. nocturnal

Activity 5
Your follow-on paragraphs should begin with a signpost word, pronoun reference,
repetition, synonym or summing up that make the connection between the two
paragraphs clear.

Activity 6
Make sure that you have not introduced a completely new topic in your conclusion.
Read your conclusion aloud. Does it
. sound conclusive?
. link the different parts of your discussion together?
. help us to understand what we have been reading about you?
. leave us with something to think about?

Extract from ‘‘Pears’’ in Eat Better, Live Better, p. 90. Cape Town: Reader’s Digest,

Extract from About Time by Penelope Mortimer, p. 51. London: Allen Lane, 1979

Lecture 16 236 Writing the essay

Extract from Breaking the Chains edited by Nigel Worden and Clifton Crais, p. 45.
Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 1994

Extract from Cape Town: The Making of a City by Nigel Worden et al, p. 90. Cape
Town: David Philip, 1998

Extract from Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom Randburg:

Macdonal Purnell, 1994, p. 617

Other texts by author

Lecture 16 237 Writing the essay

In this lecture, you will learn how to revise your essay once it
has been marked and returned to you.
For many Unisa students, the *culmination of the writing process occurs when their
essays arrive back home in the post: stamped and marked. The tutor's assessment
is evident on the comments page and in the margins. Yet the process should not
really end here with you simply looking at your mark and feeling either relieved or
disappointed. After all, when you are out there one day in the real world, you'll have
to correct that faulty letter or rewrite that *inarticulate report. Start practising now by
reading through your marked essay with an eye to:
. incorporating suggested changes;
. providing better support for your arguments;
. correcting errors and rephrasing poorly worded sentences;
. improving links between ideas and paragraphs;
. aiming for excellence.

The role of the critical reader

After *ascertaining your mark, your next step will most probably be to read your
marker's comments. Remember that your marker is a critical reader. (You learnt
how to read critically yourself in lecture 8.) This means that your marker has looked
for signs that you have
. correctly identified your audience and purpose;
. adopted an appropriately neutral, academic point of view;
. made logical links between your points;
. offered sufficient proof.

Your response to your critical reader's comments is crucial. If you take the
comments negatively or see them as purely destructive, you will never be able to
improve. Remember that your marker has tried to engage with your ideas and
wants you to do well (or better) in future. With this in mind you should make sure
that you:
. try to understand what the marker means;
. identify your weak points;
. identify your strong points;
. try to implement some of the critical reader's suggestions.

Lecture 17 238 Revising the essay

Activity 1
Read the following comment on a student essay. Does the marker only point out
negative features of the essay? Is it clear why the essay failed? Does the marker
make *constructive suggestions as to how a passing grade could be achieved?

Tutor's Comments:
Dear Mr Hoosen
Thank you for your essay. You have noted several valid points in the
debate, for example, the gender issue, the question of constitutionality,
the contradictions inherent in the fact of a father being legally obliged to
provide support but not legally protected as far as access is concerned. I
liked the way you considered the opposing point of view and asserted
that fathers do have the capacity to nurture. Why, then, have you failed
this essay, with a mark of only 40%?
In the first place, many of the ‘‘facts’’ you mention are no longer current.
You have simply not checked up on the relevant Bills and Acts. As a law
student, we expect you to research your essay, not simply just give your
opinion. In this connection, your essay lacks examples, references,
footnotes and bibliography. First establish the CORRECT legal
principle. THEN state whether or not you agree with it and why.
Secondly, your essay strikes me as having been written in a hurry. It is
very poorly expressed and hardly one sentence is free of grammatical
errors. In addition, your ‘‘paragraphs’’ consist mainly of single
sentences. This shows that you have not developed your ideas into a
strong argument. There are no links between your paragraphs and I do
not feel that you have provided an adequate conclusion.
To pass, you need to read up on the topic first, using the library or the
Internet. Your essay needs to show evidence of drafting and revising. It
must be as clearly expressed as possible. You must include a
With best wishes for your next attempt
Dr E L Loseby

Revising content

Content is very important, especially in subjects like Law, Criminology, Sociology

and Psychology. You must demonstrate a sound knowledge of your subject. If your
content is criticised, you need to:
. revise the Tutorial Letter to see where you went wrong;
. revise the relevant sections of the Study Guide;
. check your facts in a reference source;
. review the available *literature.

Lecture 17 239 Revising the essay

Activity 2
Reread the comments on the essay (provided in Activity 1) and then read the essay
itself (printed below) in the light of the following information:
wedlock Prior to 1996, fathers of children born out of {wedlock (natural fathers) had
no automatic right of access or custody by virtue of their *paternity. These
rights were only enjoyed by mothers, save in exceptional cases where the
Court ruled it to be in the interests of the child. Natural fathers who seeking
custody had to go the expense of a Supreme Court application. However,
the Bill on the Powers of Natural Fathers of Illegitimate Children (1996)
proposed improved access, custody and guardianship for unmarried
fathers. In terms of the Bill, which passed into law as the Natural Fathers of
Children Born out of Wedlock Act, 1997, unmarried fathers may apply to
on a par with
a state of equality with
family courts ({on a par with magistrate's courts). This court may grant
something or someone natural fathers access to their illegitimate children if it is satisfied this is in the
best interests of the child. The court could set conditions for such access.
Furthermore, if a child is put up for adoption, the natural father will, as far as
possible, be informed of any such proceedings and be given the
opportunity to apply to adopt the child himself.

What changes, if any, does the essay writer need to implement as far as the
CONTENT of his essay is concerned?

Should the fathers of illegitimate children have any legal rights regarding
these children?

The legal principle says that, the father of an illegitimate child has no rights to
his child is unconstitutional as it is unfairly discriminate fathers on the bases of
gender. Fathers refusal access to their childs must be review.

Fathers of illegitimate children (children born out of wedlock) are not

allowed or do not have rights of access to their children but how can the law
denied rights of access and impose the duties to them (for example duty to

It has been stated that the parents of child (natural parent) must support their
child, whether legitimate or illegitimate on the bases of equality, but the
custody of the child often favours mothers.

The *proponents of this principle are on the opinion that fathers of illegitimate
children must not be allowed access because they usually make violence
with the mother when they come to see the children.

It is in the best interests of every child to know and see his/her father in his/her
childhood. Father can also be as good as mothers in mothering the child.
This principle is also not right as children like to talk about the fathers when
they play. So if illegitimate children does not even know their father it affects
the child's develop.

Lecture 17 240 Revising the essay

Supporting your main ideas

A common fault in undergraduate essays is that writers outline their main ideas but
do not develop or support them. In the case of the particular essay we are looking
at in this lecture, the student has provided only the bare framework of ideas. These
ideas are not supported. You can see this immediately from the fact that many of
the paragraphs consist only of one sentence.

Ideas can be supported with reference to

. background information;
. examples;
. explanations;
. comparisons and contrasts.

Activity 3
Reread the essay, paying attention to the idea(s) in each paragraph. In each case,
think about ways in which the paragraph could be developed. Then complete the
following tasks:
(1) Rewrite the first paragraph using the background information supplied in
Activity 2.
(2) Rewrite the second and third paragraphs using some of the information
supplied below to support and flesh out the argument:
John Williams (25), a printer from Mitchell's Plain, is forced to sneak
visits with his six-year-old daughter at her Sunday school class. The
child's mother cut off Williams' access to the child six months ago when
he refused to grant permission for her new husband to adopt the child.
As an unmarried father, he has no automatic right of access to his
daughter. Williams comes from a loving home and still lives with his
parents. For him, children must have two parents ‘‘for a solid foundation
in life’’. He adds, ‘‘I'm not saying her mother is incompetent, but we
were both 19 years old when she fell pregnant and she didn't want
motherhood to affect her social life. Since my daughter was a few
months old, I've been collecting her from her mother most weekends
and keeping her with me. Now there's a new man on the scene and he's
told my child's mother the only way he'll accept my daughter is if she has
his name.’’ Williams has provided child support weekly since the child
was born.
(From ‘‘Relief on the way for unmarried dads’’
in The Weekly Mail&Guardian March 8 1996)

(3) Add at least one further sentence to the fourth paragraph. To do this, you will
need to supply a counter-argument.

Lecture 17 241 Revising the essay

Correcting your sentences
Going back to what you learnt in Lectures 2, 3 and 4, you must ensure that you
. spell words correctly;
. use the correct form of the word (e.g. noun or verb);
. use words appropriately (e.g. don't write ‘‘alternately’’ when you mean
. include a finite verb in your sentence;
. check subject-verb agreement;
. check your punctuation (e.g. making sure that a question ends in a question
. form compound and complex sentences with care;
. review the overall clarity of your sentence.

Activity 4
Reread the original essay supplied in Activity 2 and identify the grammatical
problems and shortcomings referred to by the marker. Underline sentences, words
or phrases that need to be corrected. Now rewrite the following INCORRECT
sentences so that their meaning is clear and they are free from errors:
(1) Father can also be as good as mothers in mothering the child.
(2) So if illegitimate children does not even know their father it affects the child's
(3) The proponents of this principle are on the opinion that fathers of illegitimate
children must not be allowed access because they usually make violence with
the mother when they come to see the children.

Clarifying your links

In your written answers for all your subjects, particularly a subject like Law, you
must make your links clear. You cannot afford to slip up on logical connections.
In Lectures 1, 7, 14 and 16, you were introduced to the importance of using
signpost words or logical connectors to show the links between your ideas. You
learnt that these links should be evident both within paragraphs and between

For example, the rewritten first paragraph contains three internal links (underlined):
The legal principle that the father of an illegitimate child must apply to a family
court in order to have rights to his child is unconstitutional as it unfairly
discriminates against fathers. Although the Natural Fathers of Children Born
out of Wedlock Act, 1997 brought many improvements, the question of
access to children by natural fathers must be reviewed.

These links are:

. the logical connector ‘‘as’’ (like ‘‘because’’ it introduces a reason);

Lecture 17 242 Revising the essay

. the pronoun ‘‘it’’ (which refers back to ‘‘the legal principle’’);
. the logical connector ‘‘although’’ (which introduces contrasting information).

In addition, the revised paragraph uses synonyms or synonymous phrases to

create coherence. For example, ‘‘the father of an illegitimate child’’ is equivalent to
‘‘Natural Fathers of Children Born out of Wedlock’’ and the shorter phrase ‘‘natural

Activity 5
Look at our revised paragraphs three and four. Is there a way we could improve the
links between these two paragraphs? As they stand, the paragraph seems to jump
from the case of John Williams (a good father) to the idea of bad, abusive fathers.

Paragraph 3
It has been stated that the father of a child (its natural parent) must support
the child, but when it comes to custody of the child, the law favours mothers.
This double standard is evident in the example given of John Williams. He
must provide or he will be punished. However, the child's mother may decide,
on a whim, to prevent his access to their daughter.

Paragraph 4
The proponents of this principle that fathers should not have automatic
access, are of the opinion that fathers of illegitimate children are prone to treat
the mother violently when they come to see the children. It must be said in the
defence of fathers that such acts of violence are the exception and not the
rule. Moreover, violent persons are unlikely to be deterred by legislation
barring access. The law needs to protect those law-abiding fathers who wish
to visit their children peacefully.

Self-assessment essay writing assignment

Now that you have learned to revise your essay, we would like you to read
Appendix 2. There you will find an essay writing assignment. We have also given
you self-assessment and revision notes so that you can revise and evaluate your
own writing.

*Vocabulary Building
culmination final or highest point
inarticulate not well expressed
ascertaining finding out for certain
constructive helpful, positive
literature the available material on a particular topic
paternity fatherhood

Lecture 17 243 Revising the essay

proponents those people in favour of or advocating an idea
or action
deterred put off or discouraged

Activity 1
The tutor praises the student for raising valid issues. However, she then points out
two main reasons why the essay failed. It does not contain up-to-date information
and facts and it is poorly written. The tutor stresses the importance of research,
drafting, revision and referencing.

Activity 2
The essay writer needs to change his opening assertion that natural fathers have
‘‘no rights’’. The writer needs to modify similar statements in his second paragraph,
perhaps by providing the background to the legislation. The student should explain
how the law favours mothers (i.e. they do not need to apply to any court). In the
light of the given information, the student might like to argue that even though the
law has been changed to allow fathers easier access to custody, it still needs to be
taken a step further.

Activity 3
(1) The first paragraph could be re-written as follows:
The legal principle that the father of an illegitimate child must apply to a
family court in order to have rights to his child is unconstitutional as it
unfairly discriminates against fathers. Although the Natural Fathers of
Children Born out of Wedlock Act, 1997 brought many improvements, the
question of access to children by natural fathers must be reviewed.
(2) The second and third paragraphs could benefit from the example supplied as
Fathers of illegitimate children (children born out of wedlock) are not
allowed or do not have rights of access to their children unless the court
so decides. But how can the law deny rights of access and yet still
impose duties upon them (for example the duty to support)? Let us take
the case of John Williams. He has provided weekly child support for his
daughter since the little girl was born. Despite this the child's mother has
arbitrarily decided that he may no longer see their daughter. (From
‘‘Relief on the Way for unmarried dads’’ in The Weekly Mail&Guar-
dian March 08 1996).
It has been stated that the father of a child (its natural parent) must support
the child, but when it comes to custody of the child, the law favours

Lecture 17 244 Revising the essay

mothers. This double standard is evident in the example given of John
on a whim
Williams. He must provide or he will be punished. But the child's mother
impulsively or irrationally may decide, {on a whim, to prevent his access to their daughter.
(3) The fourth paragraph could be expanded by adding the following counter-
The *proponents of this principle that fathers should not have automatic
access, are of the opinion that fathers of illegitimate children are prone to
treat the mother violently when they come to see the children. It must be
said in the defence of fathers that such acts of violence are the exception
and not the rule. Moreover, violent persons are unlikely to be *deterred by
legislation barring access. The law needs to protect those law-abiding
fathers who wish to visit their children peacefully.

Activity 4
(1) Fathers can be as good as mothers when it comes to nurturing the child.
(2) Thus if illegitimate children do not even know their fathers, their development
will be affected.
(3) The proponents of this principle are of the opinion that fathers of illegitimate
children should not be allowed access because they have a tendency to assault
the mother when they come to see the children.

Activity 5
We need to change the pronoun ‘‘this’’ at the beginning of paragraph 4 because
paragraph 3 has moved away from the principle to a specific example of how the
principle is applied. We could use John Williams as the link, for example:
Proponents of the principle that fathers should not have automatic access, are
of the opinion that fathers of illegitimate children are prone to treat the mother
violently when they come to see the children. The example of John Williams
(discussed above) suggests that such acts of violence are not the rule.

Alternatively, we could use the word ‘‘access’’ as our link. It occurs at the end of
paragraph 3 and could then be picked up again at the beginning of paragraph 4:

Natural fathers may also find that access to their children is denied because of the
belief they are prone to treat the mother violently during these visits.

Activity 6
Creative activity — no model answer

Article from ‘‘Relief on the way for unmarried dads’’ in The Weekly Mail&Guardian,
March 8, 1996

Lecture 17 245 Revising the essay

In this lecture, you will learn how to read a long text critically
and attentively.
Now that you have been through the writing process from start to finish yourself,
you are ready to assess a text produced by a professional writer. You have learnt
how a piece of writing is constructed, using the building blocks of ideas, cemented
by links and all put in place according to a design or *blueprint. Your awareness of
this building process enables you not only to write better texts yourself but also to
appreciate the way other writers put their texts together.

This lecture will take you step-by-step through the process of reading a long
argument with a view to detecting the *strategies the writer uses to introduce,
develop, support, defend and conclude an argument. You should not be *in awe of
professional texts. Don't feel that you are not qualified to comment on them or that
you must simply accept them unquestioningly. Rather, you should feel confident
about commenting on HOW a writer achieves his or her aims.

The following activities are based on the text ‘‘What research tells us about African
runners: Are they really genetically more gifted?’’ by Owen Anderson, printed in full
at the end of this lecture. Skim the text before you begin.

The title and opening

A writer's choice of title may
. enable the reader to predict content;
. attract the reader's attention;
. indicate the writer's point of view.

Similarly, the opening sentences of any text are crucial. The human attention span
is limited, and these sentences must establish the topic and engage the reader.
*Devices include
. making strong, bold assertions or shocking statements;
. using a short, *succinct sentence followed by longer, more explanatory ones;
. beginning with an example, illustration or *anecdote;
. posing a question and answering it;
. quoting an expert or a well-expressed thought.

In making these choices, the writer's intention is to persuade us to read on and to

trust his or her judgment.

Lecture 18 246 Advanced critical reading

Activity 1
Read the article entitled ‘‘What research tells us about African runners: Are they
really genetically more gifted?’’(printed at the end of the lecture) and then answer
the multiple-choice questions:

Question 1
From the phrasing of the title, we may expect the article by Owen
Anderson to present
1 research results.
2 both sides of the argument.
3 an answer to the question posed.
4 all of the above.

Question 2
The first paragraph of the text is related to the title in that it gives
1 the ‘‘pro-genetics’’ side of the debate.
2 both the ‘‘pro’’ and the ‘‘anti’’ sides of the debate.
3 the background information to the debate.
4 facts relevant to the debate.

Question 3
The first sentence of the article is, grammatically speaking, a
1 simple sentence.
2 compound sentence.
3 complex sentence.
4 fragmentary sentence.

Question 4
The first sentence of the article sounds like
1 an anecdote.
2 a quotation from another source.
3 a thesis statement.
4 an example.

Question 5
The first paragraph begins with a topic sentence. Sentences 2 and 3
consist of
1 information that contrasts or conflicts with the topic sentence.
2 specific examples of African runners who win.
3 additions to the main idea presented in the topic sentence.
4 definitions of key terms.

Lecture 18 247 Advanced critical reading

The correct answers are 4 1 1 3 3

Argument and counter-argument

A good argumentative text not only presents strong reasons FOR a belief. It also
argues convincingly AGAINST the opposing view. The argument is often presented
in the thesis statement. The opponent's view is met with a counter-argument. In the
previous lecture, you saw how a law student first presented his thesis (Natural
fathers should be allowed access to their children) before looking at the opposing

But an experienced writer may not follow this pattern. In the article ‘‘What research
tells us about African runners: Are they really genetically more gifted?’’ for example,
the writer delays his thesis statement, preferring to present his opponent's view
first, then his counter-argument, and only then his own view.

Activity 2
Skim the first 7 paragraphs of the article ‘‘What research tells us about African
runners: Are they really genetically more gifted?’’, focussing on the underlined
sentences to help you read more quickly. Then answer the multiple-choice

Question 1
The writer's thesis is that ‘‘African runners are genetically superior to white
1 TRUE. The writer supports this statement by pointing out that they are
good sprinters and endurance types.
2 TRUE. The writer supports this statement by drawing attention to the
fact that African runners win medals through ‘‘untiring work and
relentless determination’’.
3 FALSE. The writer argues that there is no genetic evidence to support
this opinion.
4 FALSE. The writer suggests that other groups, e.g. Finns or Chinese,
may have the genetic advantage.

Question 2
The statement that ‘‘African runners are genetically superior to white
runners’’ represents
1 the writer’s argument.
2 the opponent's argument.
3 the writer's counter-argument.

Lecture 18 248 Advanced critical reading

Question 3
The statement ‘‘There's simply no scientific evidence to support the idea
that African runners are genetically superior’’ is
1 the writer's argument.
2 the opponent's argument.
3 the writer's counter-argument.

Question 4
The statement that ‘‘summoning the hocus-pocus of genetic differences
makes the running community less eager to actually learn something
useful from the top African runners’’ is
1 the writer's argument.
2 the opponent's argument.
3 the writer's counter-argument.

Question 5
Which of the following is NOT one of the ‘‘negative consequences’’ of
relying on the notion of superior African genes?
1 Africans win the vast majority of distance medals.
2 The notion is an insult to the African runners' hard work and
3 The running community sees no reason to learn from the techniques
of top African runners.
4 The running community will continue to follow the advice of the same
old coaches.

The correct answers are 3 2 3 1 1.
This activity shows the advantage of dealing with your opponent's argument first.
The writer sets up the opponent's view and then *demolishes it quite dramatically. In
the second and third paragraphs, for example, the writer takes his opponent's
argument apart and finds that it is illogical and *counter-productive. He suspects
that his opponents, by adopting the genetic view, are implying that white runners
need not bother to train hard because they are disadvantaged from the outset.

In this exercise, you also saw the importance of getting an overall picture of a text,
using your prediction skills to anticipate where the writer is leading us. For example,
the first two sentences of the second paragraph give us a clue that the writer does
NOT hold the view expressed in the first paragraph.

Lecture 18 249 Advanced critical reading

You've seen how important it is to organise your own essays and to identify the
organising principles in the texts you read. Organisation does not simply make
your writing clearer and easier to read. The way the material has been organised
can persuade or influence a reader to accept the writer's point of view.

When reading, try to detect the writer's overall plan or design. To do this, make
notes or comments in the margin of a text as you read. These notes may take the
form of brief labels identifying content, or simply keywords extracted from the text.

Activity 3
Read the article ‘‘What research tells us about African runners: Are they really
genetically more gifted?’’ from the paragraph heading ‘‘What the research actually
says’’ to the end. Then fill in the table below (summarising the different sections of
the text) by answering the multiple-choice questions.


Paragraph 9: (1)
Paragraphs 10–14: (2)
Paragraphs 15–16: (3)
Paragraphs 17–20: (4)
Paragraphs 21–22: (5)
Paragraphs 23–25: (6)
Paragraph 26: (7)

Question 1
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (1) is
1 scientific literature
2 Africans and non-Africans
3 three relevant studies
4 superior genetic material

Question 2
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (2) is
1 Laval study
2 Caucasians
3 genetic differences
4 higher frequency

Question 3
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (3) is

Lecture 18 250 Advanced critical reading

1 Diet
2 Noakes study
3 training philosophy
4 intensity

Question 4
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (4) is
1 *sedentary
2 Saltin study
3 Kenyans
4 Scandinavian

Question 5
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (5) is
1 Kalenjin tribe
2 Kenya
3 interbreeding
4 genetic factors

Question 6
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (6) is
1 real reason
2 differences between African and non-African approaches
3 training
4 diet

Question 7
The most appropriate label for the space in the table marked (7) is
1 Learn from the Africans
2 Africans are genetically superior
3 Tergat and Tulu are world champions
4 Training and lifestyle are not relevant.

The correct answers are: 3 1 2 2 1 2 1.
The labels should give an overall indication of the content of the paragraph or
paragraphs. If you went back to the text later, simply reading your labels should give
your memory a prompt as to what that section was about.

Having looked at the organisation of the text, think a little more deeply about the
writer's method. Why does he foreground the very argument which he opposes?
Why does he cite the research in such detail?

Lecture 18 251 Advanced critical reading

The writer's organisational method helps to convince us. As he states himself,
‘‘most people believe [the genetic theory]’’. Therefore he assumes we need to be
‘‘won over’’. As we start reading, we immediately see our own views reflected on the
page. The writer then systematically sets out to break down our beliefs. He sets up
each research study and then shows how it was not actually based on genetics. He
does not say, however, that these research results are useless. Rather, he uses the
findings to further his own argument, namely that lifestyle, training, diet and
environmental factors play a more important part than genetics in determining

Style and diction

Most important in an argument is the writer's choice of words. As you know, a writer
can convince you by using (among other strategies):
. a confident tone (e.g. using words like ‘‘of course’’; ‘‘obviously’’);
. words with negative connotations to describe the opposition;
. words with a positive connotation to describe his/her thesis;
. strong verbs;
. repetition and emphasis.

Activity 4
Answer the multiple-choice questions.

Question 1
The writer uses the pronouns ‘‘you’’ and ‘‘we’’. He also uses exclamations
and contracted forms like ‘‘don’t’’. He also uses colloquial expressions
like ‘‘reality check’’. The effect of this is to produce
1 a formal, academic discourse.
2 an informal, friendly and even confiding discourse.
3 an educational discourse.
4 a witty and entertaining discourse.

Question 2
The remark about Providence at the end of paragraph 3 and about ‘‘vast
talent’’ at the end of paragraph 6 are both examples of
1 factual statements.
2 ironic or sarcastic remarks, in which the writer says the opposite of
what he means.
3 metaphorical or figurative language which brings an image to mind.
4 rhetorical questions (questions asked for effect).

Question 3
In paragraph 4, the words ‘‘nothing more’’ and ‘‘simply no’’ serve to

Lecture 18 252 Advanced critical reading

1 dismiss the opposing view.
2 show the emptiness of his opponent's argument.
3 deny the validity of the opposing view.
4 all of the above.

Question 4
The connotations of the word ‘‘refrain’’ in paragraph 6 are
1 chorus, repeated words.
2 unthinking response, words spoken by many people.
3 stop, hold back from.
4 all of the above.

Question 5
The connotations of ‘‘hocus-pocus’’ in paragraph 7 are
1 trickery, nonsense, words that sound impressive but mean nothing.
2 evil, witchcraft.
3 magic tricks.
4 unreal, rubbish.

Question 6
In paragraph 7, the writer emphasises the strength of his own position
through the adjectives
1 huge, untiring, relentless.
2 superiority, majority, motivation.
3 inevitably, actually, exactly.
4 useful, old, slower.

Question 7
Wherever the writer uses single quotation marks it is to show that
1 he is quoting from another source.
2 someone is speaking.
3 the point is important.
4 he is distancing himself from the words or concept.

Question 8
In paragraph 8, the writer's strategy is to
1 draw parallels between running and other spheres of activity.
2 ask rhetorical questions.
3 summarise research findings.
4 (1) and (2) above.

Lecture 18 253 Advanced critical reading

Question 9
The effect of the phrases ‘‘it’s impossible to say’’, ‘‘there’s no reason to
conclude’’ and ‘‘that's a somewhat shaky conclusion’’ is to
1 express doubt and uncertainty.
2 express ignorance.
3 dismiss the conclusions and opinions of the genetic view.
4 insult the proponents of the genetic view.

The correct answers are 2 2 4 2 1 1 4 4 3.
In this activity you realised that the writer was not simply putting ideas in front of you.
He was using language to draw you in and convince you of his point of view. The
almost chatty style has the effect of bringing the reader closer to the writer. By using
sarcasm, he mocks or *denigrates the opposing view. He persistently draws attention
to the lack of genetic evidence by using negatives (‘‘no’’, ‘‘not’’, ‘‘impossible’’).

Have the last word

advocates When you've read a text (like this one) that {advocates a strong point of view,
to support or recom- remember to spend a few moments afterwards reflecting and asking questions. For
mend publicly
. Has the writer thoroughly and beyond doubt proved a point?
. If you still have doubts, what are they?
. Could other research produce different findings?

Activity 5
Write a personal response to the article ‘‘What research tells us about African
runners: Are they really genetically more gifted?’’. Your response may do any or all
of the following:
. sum up, in your own words, the main thrust of Anderson's argument;
. indicate where you agree and/or disagree with him;
. reflect on what future research might show;
. comment on your own observations of runners and your own opinions on what
makes a good runner.
. comment on whether your own reading supports or contradicts Anderson's

*Vocabulary Building
blueprint a detailed plan
strategies tactics, plans of action where a specific purpose,
result or effect is desired

Lecture 18 254 Advanced critical reading

in awe seeing something with reverence or extreme
devices methods
succinct briefly expressed
anecdote a short, interesting story
demolishes destroys, knocks down
counter-productive not productive, having the opposite of the
desired effect
sedentary characterised by little physical exercise, just
denigrate belittle, say negative things about

Activity 1: Answers after the exercise
Activity 2: Answers after the exercise
Activity 3: Answers after the exercise
Activity 4: Answers after the exercise
Activity 5: Creative activity — no model answer

Lecture 18 255 Advanced critical reading

Reading passage for Lecture 18

What research tells us about African runners: are they really genetically
more gifted?
by Owen Anderson
1. African runners are genetically superior to white runners. Compared to whites,
blacks are better suited for sports which involve short, explosive bursts of
energy. Individuals from West Africa ‘make’ good sprinters, while people from
East Africa are endurance types.
2. Those are strong statements. Many people believe them. And implicit in the
statements are two inferences that usually remain unstated: (1) If blacks are
physically exceptional, then they don't have to go through the mental turmoil
of constructing a rigorous training programme; they can just let their bodies
work their magic. (2) Whites are at a disadvantage. Since they're handicapped
by bad genes, and therefore by their anatomy and physiology, they will never be
able to compete equally with Africans.
3. Of course, believers in black ‘super-genes’ haven’t been able to explain exactly
courage in the face of how Africans have managed to corner the market on superior genetic material.
difficulties or hardship When the Finns dominated the running world in the 1920s and again in the
1970s, no loud voices proclaimed that Finnish runners were genetically
superior. Instead we pondered the merits of reindeer milk and called Lasse
Viren a potential blood doper. When the Brits dominated middle-distance
running in the 1950s and 1980s, there was no talk about brilliant British
genetic material. Rather, we heard about British {pluck and hard work. But
now that Africans are running wild, the genetics lessons begin. Somehow,
Providence has chosen to bless only African runners with top-quality DNA.

Opinions, not facts

4. It's time for a reality check. Although beliefs about genetic differences between
African and non-African runners are widely held, it's important to remember
that these beliefs are opinions — and nothing more. There's simply no scientific
evidence to support the idea that African runners are genetically superior to
European, North American, Asian, or South American athletes.
5. Why isn't there any evidence? At present, we don't even know WHICH genes
are necessary for topflight performances! Since we don't know which genes are
important, it's impossible to measure the relative frequencies of performance-
enhancing genes in different groups of athletes. In addition, the available
scientific research suggests that genetic factors are less important than non-
genetic factors (including training and lifestyle) in determining performances.
6. Still, when Mr Gebrselassie of Ethiopia rips through the 5K in a world-record
12:44 or Mr Kiptanui from Kenya slashes the 3 000-metre steeplechase mark,
the familiar refrain begins again: Africans have the most slender upper bodies,
the thinnest bones, the most rail-thin calves, the most tent-like lungs and the
most reservoir-like, elephantine hearts — all because they have the optimal
genetic make-ups. As a result, we don't need to concern ourselves too much
with how the Africans train, or how they think about running, or what

Lecture 18 256 Advanced critical reading

motivates them to run far ahead of everyone else. It's enough to believe that
they were born with a vast talent which places them head and shoulders above
the pack.

Why? Now ask them how?

7. Continuing to rely on the ‘genetic explanation’ for African superiority has
negative consequences. After Africans win the vast majority of distance medals
at the Atlanta Olympics — as they inevitably will — and then return to their
continent, anyone saying that they won their hardware because of their genes is
giving a huge insult to their untiring work and relentless motivation. And
summoning up the hocus-pocus of genetic differences makes the running
community less eager to actually learn something useful from the top African
runners. You've probably noticed that people aren't exactly beating down the
Africans' doors in order to understand how to train, even though the Africans
have blown the socks off runners from the rest of the world. Instead, we
continue to ‘learn’ from the same old coaches and gurus who have worked with
and trained runners considerably slower than the current crop of Africans.
8. That's a bit strange. In the business world, we ask the top executives how
they've managed to make their companies so successful. In the medical field, we
ask the very best surgeons specific questions about their surgical techniques.
But do we ask the Africans for training information? Why is it so much more
convenient to believe that Africans have risen to the top because of inborn

What the research actually says

9. There are just three relevant studies in the scientific literature that have
examined physiological differences between Africans and non-Africans, and
none of the three actually looked specifically at gene quality. That's no surprise;
since, as mentioned, scientists don't actually know which genes code for
endurance performance, they can’t possibly determine whether Africans have a
lockhold on superior genetic material. We don't know what ‘superior genetic
material’ actually is.
10. So, instead of looking at actual genetic differences, scientists have made
inferences about genes based on the physiological differences which they detect
between blacks and whites. In a study carried out by Claude Bouchard and his
group at Laval University in Quebec, 23 black male students and 23 Caucasian
male students were compared. The black students hailed from Cameroon,
Senegal, Zaire, the Ivory Coast and Burundi (mainly, that is, from the western
and central parts of Africa), while the Caucasians were born in Canada and
were of French descent. Both the Africans and Caucasians had an average age of
25, weighed about 154 pounds and were about 5’9’’ tall. All the students were
sedentary at the time of the study.
11. No gene frequencies were measured, but Bouchard found that both groups had
the same percentage (about 18 percent) of type IIb muscle fibres — the cells
which are critically important for sprinting (so much for the idea that western
Africans have muscles uniquely suited for high-speed running!). There were
two key differences in muscle composition between whites and blacks:
Caucasians had a higher percentage of type I cells (41 vs. 33 percent), while

Lecture 18 257 Advanced critical reading

Africans checked in with more type IIa muscles (49 vs. 42 percent). As you
know, type I fibres are great for prolonged, moderate-speed endurance
performance, as in an event like the marathon, while IIa cells promote faster
running times in shorter events like the 5K.
12. Although Africans had more IIa cells and fewer type I cells, we can't say that
these differences are genetically based. For one thing, studies show that muscle
fibre type is not tightly regulated by genes. Also, an individual's muscle-fibre
composition can change over time. IIb fibres can probably become IIa cells,
and IIa cells may be able to become type I fibres. Thus, it's impossible to say
that the blacks' higher frequency of IIa fibres was a genetic thing.
13. The only other key difference between the Africans and Canadians was that
blacks had higher concentrations of ‘anaerobic’ muscle enzymes, which are
chemicals that spur the production of energy during short, intense running,
whereas whites showed up with greater levels of ‘aerobic’ enzymes needed for
continuous, endurance exercise. Again, there's no reason to conclude that these
physiological differences are caused by genetic differences. The increased
anaerobic-enzyme density in blacks might have simply been the result of their
higher frequency of IIa cells.
14. The Laval scientists concluded that ‘black individuals are, in terms of skeletal
muscle characteristics, well endowed for sport events of short duration’. That’s
a somewhat shaky conclusion, since blacks and whites had exactly the same
concentrations of IIb cells, the ones which are critical for sprinting, although it
was true that blacks had higher amounts of anaerobic enzymes. As mentioned,
it was impossible to say why the blacks' muscles were more tilted toward IIa
fibres and away from type I cells. It might have been genetics, but it might have
been the result of lifestyle, too.

What Tim Noakes found ...

15. In a separate study carried out several years ago, Tim Noakes and his colleagues
at the University of Cape Town compared elite black vs. elite white South-
African runners. Although both groups had similar 5-K times (about 13:45),
the blacks were considerably faster in 10-K and half-marathon races. VO2max,
running economy, maximal running velocity, training mileage and the
percentage of type I muscle cells were exactly the same in the two groups, but
there were some differences: (1) blacks ate more calories and carbohydrate per
pound of body weight, compared to whites, (2) blacks trained considerably
faster than whites, (3) blacks produced less lactate while running at race speeds,
and (4) blacks were quite a bit shorter than whites (5’6@ vs. 5’11’’) and weighed
less (123 vs. 154 pounds).
16. Note that only point four can be firmly pinned to genetics. Body height —
although influenced by the environment — is fairly strongly determined by
genes, and body weight tends to follow from height. Eating more calories and
carbohydrate (point 1) is a lifestyle factor. Running at higher training speeds
(point 2) often is part of an overall training philosophy that emphasises
intensity rather than volume and is not necessarily coupled with a particular
{ genetic constitution. Producing less lactate while running at high {velocities
speeds (point 3) might simply be a long-term result of the more intense training
carried out by blacks. Overall, Noakes' work provided no solid evidence that
blacks were genetically different from whites.

Lecture 18 258 Advanced critical reading

... and Bengt Saltin
17. The most revealing study on this topic was carried out by the renowned
Swedish exercise physiologist, Bengt Saltin, who compared sedentary
adolescent Kenyans, Kenyan high school runners and elite Kenyan runners with
top-level Scandinavian runners. Saltin unearthed a number of important facts.
First, relatively sedentary adolescent Kenyans had exactly the same aerobic
capacities as sedentary Danish teenagers. If the Kenyans were really genetically
superior, you would expect them to have higher VO2maxs than their
Scandinavian counterparts (unless their ‘superhuman’ genes only revealed
themselves in response to training).
18. Second, young Kenyan runners trained with astonishing intensity: about 50 to
60 percent of their total mileage was done at heart rates of 90 percent of
maximum or higher! This was significantly higher than the Scandinavians' total
and is much higher than anything European and American runners do
19. Third, and following directly from point two, Kenyan runners — including the
high schoolers — were more economical than the elite Scandinavians and also
produced less lactate during high-speed running. This makes sense: one of the
best ways to boost economy is to train fast, and the Kenyans have the corner on
intense training. Also, fast training boosts the aerobic qualities of fast-twitch,
type IIa muscle cells and lowers their lactate output, which probably explains
why the Kenyans have lower lactate levels during strenuous running. Since high
lactates are associated with fatigue, that's a very good thing!
20. The fourth finding — a critical one for our discussion of whether the Kenyans
have a genetic edge — was that sedentary adolescent Kenyans had VO2max
readings of 47 (the same as Scandinavians), very active (but non-training)
Kenyan teenagers had VO2maxs of about 62, and seriously training high
school Kenyan runners checked in with average VO2maxs of 65 to 68. Senior
elite Kenyan runners have had their VO2max levels measured at 75 to 85. This
progression in aerobic capacities from the mid-40s to high-70s and low-80s is
exactly the same as the one observed in Americans (sedentary American youth
have VO2max values in the 40s, while topflight runners like Salazar, Ryun, and
Prefontaine were in the high 70s and low- to mid-80s). The progression in
VO2max values is the same in Kenyans as it is in Americans! In addition, as
high school Kenyans become elite senior runners, they increase their number of
blood vessels per muscle cell and also enhance the concentrations of energy-
producing aerobic enzymes inside their muscle cells. Those are natural
responses to hard training and aren't necessarily caused by superior genes.

Calling all Kalenjins

21. Proponents of the genetic theory often point out that of the more than 35 tribal
groups in Kenya, a single tribe — the Kalenjins — has produced most of the
pastoral great runners (Lelei, Loroupe, Kiptanui, Keino, Kiprotich, Cheromei, Sang,
in this case, relating to Rono, etc.). The Kalenjins were traditionally a {pastoral people who roamed
farming with livestock
the beautiful Rift Valley of Kenya with their cattle, so one might argue that
genes which enhanced the ability to move long distances were ‘selected’ over
evolutionary time. In contrast, members of another large Kenyan tribe, the
Luo, have traditionally fished for a living and have produced few top runners.
22. However, political and social forces inside the country tend to favour the

Lecture 18 259 Advanced critical reading

development of Kalenjins at the expense of other tribes. In spite of this, the
recent trend in Kenyan running has been for non-Kalenjins (Ndeti, Kamau,
Kinuthia, Masya, Osano, Asiago, Osoro, Karori, etc.) to become more
prominent as time goes by, rather than for Kalenjins to increase their
dominance. Most notably, the Kikuyu tribe, always a fine source of running
talent (five-time world champion John Ngugi is Kikuyu), is beginning to
produce more and more excellent runners, even though the Kikuyus have not
interbred with Kalenjins and historically were not a {nomadic people. In fact,
moving from place to
place to find pasture and running talent may be fairly equally distributed among Kenya's tribes. In other
food words, the Kalenjin-genetic hypothesis weakens once you take a closer look at
what's really going on. How could so many different groups of non-
interbreeding people produce top runners, if genetic factors were really the
paramount factor?

So what's the real reason?

23. If genes aren't responsible, what accounts for the difference between African
and non-African running? The African approach to training differs from the
American-European method in a number of ways, including intensity (Africans
usually train more intensely but with less mileage), the amount of hill training
(there's no comparison here; the Africans are almost always working on hills),
periodisation (Africans vary their training more — favouring big upswings and
then gentle troughs; in fact, many Africans take a month or two away from
running while their American and European peers continue to plug away
without a break), and diet (Africans eat more carbohydrate, less protein, and
less fat). Africans also benefit from a decade-long ‘base’ period — just running
back and forth to junior school at moderate speeds — before they take up
serious running, while Americans and Europeans tend to simply plunge into
competition in senior school without a prolonged, strength-boosting build-up.
24. Many of these factors have already been studied in scientific settings. We know
that intensity is the most potent producer of fitness, yet American and
European runners still preach the merits of high mileage. We know that hill
training is better than flat-ground running, yet American and European
runners often limit hill work to once a week. We know that the African diet is
more conducive to elite performances, yet American and European runners
continue to edge toward more protein and fat.
25. In addition, our book on periodisation — how to structure training over rather
prolonged periods of time in order to produce the best-possible perfor-
mances — is still empty, or — rather — it's filled with lots of theory and little
hard data, so it's perhaps in this area that the Africans can be our pragmatic
teachers. It's clear that the African pattern of very hard work followed by very
thorough rest fits better with human physiology than the American and
European scheme of hard work — and then more hard work. The human body
always reaches optimal functioning more readily when stress is combined with
recovery, rather than when stress is continuously kept at a taxing level.

The bottom line?

26. Rather than speculating about superior genes, let's ask world champions like
Mr Tergat and Ms Tulu what they are doing in January, March, July and

Lecture 18 260 Advanced critical reading

September, and throughout the whole year. Chances are good that we'll pick up
some useful information from them. Let's face it, there's no evidence that
Africans have a lock on the genes needed for world-record running
performances. After all, we don't even know what those genes are, and most
research has suggested that training and lifestyle — not genetic factors —
account for more of the variation in athletic performances. So let's give the
Africans credit for earning their world-beating performances. And let's learn
from them about how to perform at the best-possible level.


Article from ‘‘Peak Performance Online’’: What research tells us about African
runners: are they really genetically more gifted? by Owen Anderson

Photograph: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Mail&Guirdian, April 26 – May 2 2002, p. 52

Lecture 18 261 Advanced critical reading

In this lecture, you will learn how to quote correctly and compile
a bibliography.
Academic excellence depends largely on the quality of your research and the
accuracy of your references. The sooner you get into the habit of working with
sources and references, the easier the task will become. Leaving out a
bibliography at the end of your essay is like giving marks away.

Every essay or research paper you write needs:

. evidence of research and reading;
. correctly punctuated and referenced quotations;
. a bibliography listing all the works you have consulted.

Plagiarism vs ‘‘your own words’’

Plagiarism is a serious offence, not only in academe but in every sphere of life. To
plagiarise is to try to pass off someone else's words or thoughts as your own. If you
wish to use the words of another writer or researcher, you must indicate
. exactly which words are being quoted (through quotation marks or appropriate
. the name of the author;
. the page reference;
. the title and publishing details.

Let's take an example. You have been asked to write the following essay:
Children are abused and neglected every day in society. What are the long-
term consequences of abuse and neglect?

In your study guide for GED101-T (Human Development and Education), you find a
page like this:


WHO IS ABUSED? . Sexually abused girls are more in-
Almost any child can become a target of child clined to become preoccupied with
abuse or child neglect although some children sex and to develop behavioural and
are more vulnerable/susceptible to abuse. scolastic problems than girls who
Abused children generally have the following were not abused in childhood.
characteristics: . Teenagers who were molested in

Lecture 19 262 Sources and references

they are very active, ignore their minders, early childhood tend to display var-
resist discipline, do not respond emotionally, ious physical, intellectual and emo-
are hperactive, irritable and weepy, are sickly, tional problems.
were often born prematurely. . Adults who were abused in childhood
Generally boys are abused more than girls are often anxious, frightened, depres-
and young children usually suffer more sive, aggressive, hostile or ill-tempered.
serious injuries than older ones. About half of . Abused and neglected children
all severely abused children are below the age usually have a poor, negative self-
of three. concept, mistrust people and feel
With regard to sexual abuse, girls are abused isolated and stigmatised.
more than boys and the abused children are . These children are usually sexually
usually slightly older. Quiet, healthy and maladjusted.
cooperative children are abused less than . Abused and neglected children often
display antisocial behaviour like al-
those with the characteristics given above.
cohol and drug abuse, sexual delin-
quency and crime.
Who abuses children?
. Child abuse does not necessarily
. More than half of abused children are cause severe problems in later life:
abused by their own parents. many of these children are remark-
. Although mothers spend more time with ably well adjusted in adulthood.
children, fathers and mothers are equally
responsible for abuse In what circumstances does abuse
. When children are not abused by their commonly occur?
parents, at least 80 percent of all instances Child abuse occurs at all socio-eco-
are abused by males, usually a stepfather nomic levels, among all races and in all
or the mother's boyfriend/lover cultures, but certain circumstances
. In cases of sexual abuse, most children are heighten the incidence of abuse:
abused by males but usually not by their
. Abuse usually occurs in homes which
are under stress, as when one or both
. Stepfathers are responsible for sexual
parents are alcoholics, or in large
abuse of girls five times more than biologi- families where the child-minders are
cal fathers. overburdened with responsibility.
. Very few child molesters are mentally . If the mother is very young, weak or
retarded or mentally ill. uneducated and receives little sup-
. Adults who were abused in childhood may port from relatives, the chances of
be more inclined to abuse their own child abuse are greater.
children, perhaps because they have been . Major changes in everyday life, like
abused themselves or because they have the death of a relative, loss of income
never learnt to receive or give love. and moving to a new home, town or
city, can cause social and emotional
Long-term consequences of abuse and stress that may lead to child abuse.
neglect . Unhappy marriages often give rise to
Several studies have shown that abuse and child molestation and/or abuse.
neglect seriously affect development. Some of . Although child abuse occurs in all
the more common consequences are the socio-economic groups, it is much
more common among impoverished
families and in homes that battle to
. Retarded learning of speech. survive financially.
. Abused children are usually more aggres- . Child abuse is more common in
sive themselves, more inclined to juvenile socially isolated families that cannot
delinquency and more prone to crime in rely on help from social support
adulthood than children who were not networks like friends and relatives.
Sources: Compiled from Harris, JD & Liebert, RM. 1991:36–37;
Papalia, DE & Olds, SW. 1993:284–286; Shaffer, DR. 1989:588–591.

Lecture 19 263 Sources and references

If you simply copy out the section headed ‘‘Long-term consequences of abuse and
neglect’’, then you are plagiarising from your study guide. Does this mean you can't
use your study guide? Of course you can and should use this material. However,
it's important to rephrase it in your own words. This will show your lecturer that you
. thought about and understood the guide;
. processed the ideas and made them your own;
. spent time and effort on your assignment.

Use your ability to summarise and find synonyms to paraphrase your guide. Study
the table below to see how this is done:

Guide says You say

Several studies have shown that ... Research indicates that ...
... abuse and neglect seriously affect ... abuse and neglect have a detri-
development. mental effect on development.

If you struggle to do this:

. use a dictionary or thesaurus to help you;
. close your guide and try to remember the content;
. imagine explaining the information to someone else.

Activity 1
Rephrase the remainder of ‘‘Long-term consequences of abuse and neglect’’ in
your own words, AVOIDING the use of bullets. This is a technique used by your
lecturer to make your learning easier. You may find that your paraphrase is slightly
longer than the original.

Citing ideas
Some ideas are part of the *public domain of knowledge. Other ideas, particularly
theories or concepts based on research must be seen as belonging to the original
researchers. If you use these ideas, you must acknowledge them. That is why you
will find references such as the following in your study guides:
Another common health hazard among adolescents is nutritional *imbalance.
The most common imbalances are the lack of calcium, iron, protein and
vitamins (Rice 1992).

From the reference *in parentheses, we know that the idea that adolescents suffer
from a lack of vitamins is documented in a book by Rice published in 1992. If you
want to check the reference or read the original research, you simply turn to the
bibliography at the back of the guide where you find two entries for Rice:
Rice, FP. 1986. Adult development and aging. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Lecture 19 264 Sources and references

Rice, FP. 1992. The adolescent: development, relationships and culture. Boston:
Allyn and Bacon.

Thanks to the dates provided, you know which book is being referred to.

How does this affect your writing? In Lesson 13 you learnt the basics of how to
collect material in preparation for writing an essay. You learnt how to consult
different sources and keep records. Later, when you sit down to write your essay,
you may wish to repeat some of the facts or ideas you found. When it is clear that
you could not have known this fact, you MUST *CITE the source you consulted.
For example:
Children learn words at a very rapid rate. It has been estimated that a six-year-
old has a vocabulary of about 13,000 words (Pinker 1994).

The first sentence does not need a reference. It is part of our common knowledge
or a fact that can be observed by anyone. However, the second sentence contains
an estimate. Someone worked that estimate out scientifically. This person must be

Activity 2
Imagine you have collected the following information in your *preliminary research.
It has been estimated that one girl in 10 and one boy in 15, under the age of
16, are sexually abused, usually by a father, stepfather or other resident of the
(The Royal Society of Medicine Encyclopedia of Child Health
by Dr Robert Youngson. London: Bloomsbury, 1996)

Paraphrase the information in your own words and cite the source.

So far we have dealt with information which you have paraphrased. What about
quoting directly? There are two ways of quoting:
. *Incorporated quotes, where you have selected a few words or a single
sentence which you include within your own sentence by means of quotation
. *Indented quotes, where you have selected a longer section of a text which you
distinguish from your own words by means of indenting.

Let's study some examples.

Examples of incorporated quotes

(1) In the novel, Marlow begins to lose touch with concrete reality and as he
‘deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness’’ (51).

Lecture 19 265 Sources and references

(2) In an article entitled ‘‘Child Molester’’, a convicted child abuser told reporter
Richard van Rensburg how he would ‘‘always ensure the child understood [he]
expected something in return for the gifts’’ (2002:15).
(3) Van Rensburg quotes psychologist Sarel Steyn: ‘‘Paedophiles are often
emotionally and sexually immature and social failures’’ (2002:24).
(4) Youngson notes that ‘‘sexual abuse is often followed by ... difficulties in
establishing proper sexual relationships’’ (1996:195)

In these examples, you should notice that

. the grammar of the sentence runs smoothly and uninterruptedly;

. where the author of the book is evident from the preceding discussion, only a
page reference is needed;
. square brackets are used when a word has been changed to ensure this
smoothness (e.g. ‘‘I’’ changed to ‘‘he’’);
. colons are used to introduce quotations that stand on their own as full
. ellipses (...) are used to indicate that some words in the original text have been

Longer quotations are set apart by being indented.

Example of an indented quote

There are many examples of paedophiles presenting their crime as caring or
loving behaviour towards children. For example, Frank presented himself as
someone who took special care of the children of single parents, and who was
genuinely fond of them. But he also admits playing one child off against another
or buying their trust with gifts. Van Rensburg quotes psychologist Sarel Steyn on
this aspect:

Frank's manipulation is a well-known technique of buying off, soothing or

making someone already under pressure feel good. It isn't difficult to take
advantage of children desperately in search of an identity, acceptance and love.
The process whereby the victim is gradually sucked into the web of the
molester is characteristic of the paedophile's technique.

In this example, you should notice that

flush against . the quotation is set in from the margin and no quotation marks are used;
direct adjacent to, right . after the quotation, a reference is supplied on a new line, {flush against the right
next to
. the quotation forms part of a general discussion and is not simply ‘‘pasted’’ into
the essay;
. the quotation is introduced in such a way that we know WHY it has been

Lecture 19 266 Sources and references

Activity 3
Write a sentence that incorporates the underlined section of the following quote.
Give the reference:

In an economy unlikely to grow more than 3% in 2001, up to 40% of South

African deaths are Aids-related, says Nedcor economist Dennis Dykes. He
says the figure could rise to 70% by the decade's end and cut economic
growth by 1,5 percentage points a year.
(Peter Dickson, ‘‘Aids figures’’, in The Big Issue July 2001, p. 6)

Your bibliography is an alphabetical list of all the books, periodicals, newspapers
etc. that you have consulted and/or quoted. At an advanced level, bibliographies
may be divided into subcategories, for example ‘‘Books’’ would be a separate
heading from ‘‘Periodicals’’. At an undergraduate level, it is sufficient simply to list
all your sources together. A bibliographic entry consists of the following

. author's surname,
. author's initial(s);
. date of publication;
. title of text;
. publisher;
. place of publication.

Thus a simple entry for a book looks like this:

Turkle, S. 1996. Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Note that the full title (the title ‘‘Life on the screen’’) as well as its subtitle (‘‘Identity in
the age of the Internet’’) is given.

Publishing details are available on the title and imprint pages of every book:

Lecture 19 267 Sources and references

Articles that you find in periodicals are entered as follows:

Lecture 19 268 Sources and references

For example:
Cronin, B. 1995. Social development and the role of information. The new review of
information and library research, 1:23–37.

If more than one book or article by the same author is cited, these are then entered
in order according to date. The author's name need only appear once:
Clarke, M.A. 1979. Reading in Spanish and English: evidence from adult ESL
students. Language Learning, 29:121–150.

Clarke, M.A. 1980. The short circuit hypothesis of ESL reading. Modern Language
Journal, 64:203–209.

Where a book or article has more than one author, enter the book under the name
of the first author mentioned but include the name of the second author:
Salomon, J.J. & Lebeau, A. 1993. Mirages of development: science and
development in the third worlds. Boulder: Lynne Riener.

Texts found on the Internet are entered as follows:


For example:
Sofield, Heather. Postcolonial Identity in Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions.
http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg//landow/post/zimbabwe/sofield/3.html (10
March 2002).

Activity 4
Form a bibliography out of the following jumbled references:
Woolf Virginia. A Room of One's Own. Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1992.
Olga Kenyon, Women Writers Talk Oxford: Lennard, 1989
On Gender and Writing, by Michelene Wandor (London: Pandora, 1983)
Esther Harding, Women's Mysteries (London: Rider & Company, 1955)
Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (London: Virago, 1991)
Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and The Minotaur (New York: HarperCollins,
Susan Friedman, ‘‘Creativity and the Childbirth Metaphor: Gender Difference in
Literary Discourse,’’ Feminist Studies 13, (1987), 58–69

Activity 5
Write an entry for the book Mastering Information Skills. The book's details appear
on the pictured pages.

Lecture 19 269 Sources and references

*Vocabulary Building
delinquency wickedness, criminal behaviour
prognosis forecast, prediction of outcomes
public domain belonging to everyone
imbalance lack of balance
preliminary initial, preparatory
incorporated included in
indented set in from the margin
in parentheses sentence within another sentence, marked off by
commas, dashes or brackets
cite give or mention

Activity 1
Your paraphrase may read as follows:
The most frequently recorded long-term consequences of child abuse include
slower acquisition of language, increased aggression and a greater tendency
to juvenile *delinquency and to criminal behaviour in adulthood. Other types of
antisocial behaviour typical of abused and neglected children are sexual
maladjustment or delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse. However, it must be
said that many of them emerge as well-adjusted adults and thus the long-term
*prognosis is not entirely negative.

Activity 2
Your wording may differ but your reference should be as shown:
Among children under the age of 16, one out of 10 girls and one out of 15
boys have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a father, stepfather or lodger
(Youngson 1996).

Activity 3
Make sure your sentence reads smoothly and grammatically:
Dickson quotes Nedcor economist Dennis Dykes as saying that Aids-related
deaths ‘‘could rise to 70% by the decade's end’’ (2001:6).

Note that by including the author ‘‘Dickson’’ as part of your sentence, your reference
need only have the date and page reference. This information is then linked to your
bibliography where, under the entry for ‘‘Dickson’’, a full citation is given.

Activity 4
Dinnerstein, D. 1991. The Mermaid and The Minotaur. New York: HarperCollins.

Lecture 19 270 Sources and references

Friedman, S. 1987. Creativity and the Childbirth Metaphor: Gender Difference in
Literary Discourse. Feminist Studies, 13:58–69.
Harding, E. 1955. Women's Mysteries. London: Rider & Company.
Kenyon, O. 1989. Women Writers Talk. Oxford: Lennard.
Millett, K. 1991. Sexual Politics. London: Virago.
Wandor, M. 1983. On Gender and Writing. London: Pandora.
Woolf, V. 1992. A Room of One's Own. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Activity 5
The book Mastering Information Skills should be entered as follows:
Behrens, S.J., Olën, S.I.I. & Machet, M.P. 1999. Mastering Information Skills.
Pretoria: Unisa Press.

Lecture 19 271 Sources and references

In this appendix, you will learn how to improve your writing by correcting common errors.

You have learnt how to write a well-organised, researched and referenced essay. But your
level of *fluency will make a lasting impression on your marker too. Therefore it is important
to identify the errors you personally make so that you can make a special effort to correct or
*eliminate these.

By completing the activities in this appendix, you should get a good idea of where your
usage problems are.

Spelling errors will be marked on your script with the letters sp. If you find your assignments
are returned to you with several spelling errors marked, you will need to:
. revise Lecture 2;
. make a list of words you commonly misspell.

Spelling errors commonly occur when you

. confuse consonants, e.g. you write ‘‘extend’’ when you mean ‘‘extent’’;
. confuse vowels, e.g. you write ‘‘live’’ when you mean ‘‘leave’’;
. use long words with irregular spelling, e.g. ‘‘accommodation’’;
. need to decide whether a consonant should be doubled, e.g. ‘‘thinnest’’ BUT ‘‘dining’’;
. forget the ‘‘i before e’’ rule and its exception (i before e except after c), e.g. ‘‘believe’’
BUT ‘‘receive’’;
. omit silent letters, e.g. the ‘‘n’’ in ‘‘environment’’.

Activity 1
Choose the correct spelling in each case:
1. Can you (proof/prove) that you were (bitten/beaten) with a bat?
2. Did the children (live/leave) in Durban before they were (brought/broad) to Cape
3. Was (the/there) any indication that he was (quoting/coding) or was it just (plagiarism/
4. Please (seize/cease) (writing/writting) now.
5. Are you (embarrassed/embarassed) that he (refered/referred) to you as naive?
6. The incident (occured/occurred) while we were looking for (accomodation/
7. Her husband was very (suportive/supportive) of her (carreer/career).
8. Is (committment/ comitment/commitment) really (necessary/neccesary?)
9. (Tomorow/Tomorrow) I have an (appointment/apointment) with my (proffesor/
10. The (thief/theif) was the same (hieght/height) as the (preist/priest).

Appendix 1 272 Correcting common errors

11. If you're not watching your (weight/wieght), have a (peace/piece/peice) of cake.
12. He has a post in the (goverment/government) and you can hear him speak in

Students frequently choose words which are incorrect in the context. Sometimes this is
because they are over-ambitious and want to impress their marker by using long, difficult
words. For example:
When we see schoolchildren crowded together in a hall for their lessons, this interprets
to us that the school lacks funds.

Try to
. use a dictionary to ensure that you are using the correct word for the context;
. read more in order to increase your vocabulary and your *idiomatic use of language;
. study the most commonly *misused words.

Activity 2
Choose the correct word in the context:
1. The lecturer (learnt/taught) them how to (access/excess) the Internet.
2. We need to (make/do) research into the long-term (effects/affects) of a low-fat diet.
3. If there are (fewer/less) students this year, perhaps it is because there is (fewer/less)
motivation to study.
4. He was (too/very) tired to notice that he was (too/very) close to the car in front and
that the road was (too/very) wet.

Tense and verbs

Tense becomes a problem when you
. use the present progressive when you should use the simple present, e.g. you write
‘‘Students are having a problem with tenses’’ (B) instead of ‘‘Students have a problem
with tenses’’(C);
. use the present perfect when you should use the simple past, e.g. you write ‘‘I have
attended school in the Eastern Cape’’ (B) instead of ‘‘I attended school in the Eastern
. forget that the modal auxiliary (‘‘can’’, ‘‘will’’, ‘‘may’’) does the work, leaving the main
verb without *inflections, e.g. you write ‘‘This will results ...’’(B) instead of ‘‘This will
result ...’’ (C).

In addition, students get confused between three types of *conditionals:

1. A real possibility exists.
Where a real possibility of an action or eventuality or end result exists, the present
tense is used to contrast with the possible future outcome:
If you rush your work, you will make mistakes.

2. The situation is *hypothetical.

Where you are imagining a possibility that does not at present exist, use the simple
If you were king, you could do as you liked.

Appendix 1 273 Correcting common errors

3. Re-imagining the past.
Where you are looking back on the past or on history and reflecting on how things
might have been different, use the past perfect tense to contrast with the present
If you had worked harder, you would not have failed.

Finally, many verb errors occur in relation to verbs which are followed by other verbs.
Watch out for three different types of verb:
1. Verbs which may be followed by the to-infinitive.
He wanted to study engineering.
They allowed him to enrol for a B.Sc.
2. Verbs (‘‘make’’ and ‘‘let’’) which are followed by an infinitive from which the ‘‘to’’ has
been omitted.
They made him regret his decision.
He let the woman go.
3. Verbs which are followed by ‘‘ing’’ forms.
He liked controlling people.
The children liked playing rounders.
The travel agent suggested flying to Zurich first.

Activity 3
Correct the verbs:
1. I am having a driver's license.
2. I have passed my learner's in 1985.
3. Medication can causes side effects.
4. Home owners can be able to borrow money against their homes.
5. Soothsayers have the ability to can predict the future.
6. If Germany won the war, Europe was a very different place today.
7. If you followed this diet, you lost weight.
8. Drought made the crops to die.
9. How does one make children to do their homework?
10. He suggested to sell the house.

Adverbs relating to time create great confusion. Watch out for three categories of
1. Adverbs that are only used with the simple past.
It happened yesterday/last night/a week ago/the other day.
2. Adverbs that are used only with the present perfect.
I have not seen you since last Tuesday/lately.
The train hasn't been on time up to now/so far/lately/since last Tuesday.
3. Adverbs that may be used with both the simple past and present perfect.
It happened today/last week/last month/last year/recently.
It hasn't happened today/last week/last month/last year/recently.

Another adverb problem occurs when you use the comparative and the superlative. The
comparative compares two people or things:
Mahlangu runs faster than Hani.

Appendix 1 274 Correcting common errors

The superlative compares three or more people or things:
Mahlangu is the fastest runner in the team.

Adverbs of one *syllable usually form the comparative by adding -er and the superlative by
adding -est:
He hit the ball harder than his opponent.
He hit the ball hardest.

Adverbs of more than one syllable usually form the comparative with more and the
superlative with most:
He spoke English more fluently than his sister.
Of all the students, Vuyo spoke English most fluently.

Finally, students sometimes make the mistake of supplying the adjective ‘‘good’’ when the
adverb ‘‘well’’ is required:
He spoke English well.C
He was a good student.C
She played well.C
She played good.B

Activity 4
Correct the sentences:
1. The accident has happened yesterday.
2. I am registered at Unisa since 2000.
3. The train was not on time lately.
4. You sing good.
5. Please speak more loud.

Concord errors occur when two parts of your sentence do not agree. There are different
types of agreement:
1. Subject and verb
This disease (S) usually affects (V) the kidneys.
2. Pronoun and referent
Strict fathers often alienate their children.
Ms Mahlangu has achieved a distinction in her exam.
3. *Demonstrative and noun
All these questions are relevant to today's discussion.
4. Number
There are two references missing in your bibliography.
He's going to spend three days in Malawi.

Activity 5
Correct the sentences:
unruly 1. The {unruly behaviour of the three students were criticised.
disobedient or badly dis- 2. This goods have been illegally imported and has been impounded by customs.
3. These type of student are not welcome.

Appendix 1 275 Correcting common errors

4. One of the accused are a fifteen-year-old boy.
5. Various factor are responsible for the price increase.
6. A son likes to live close to her mother.

Countable and non-countable nouns

Some nouns come in units that can be counted. Nouns like ‘‘boy’’, ‘‘bottle’’, ‘‘cat’’, ‘‘meal’’
are countable. They take an ‘‘s’’ plural:
Three families arrived and ordered meals.

Other nouns cannot be counted. We cannot simply add the ‘‘s’’ plural to them. We cannot
put ‘‘a’’ or ‘‘an’’ in front of words like ‘‘permission’’, ‘‘petrol’’, ‘‘work’’, ‘‘paper’’, ‘‘tobacco’’.
Instead, we need a special phrase when we want to refer to individual units of these nouns:
He went to fetch (some logs of) wood.
She tried to get (a piece of) information out of him.
She would not listen to any (words of) advice.
Have you heard the news?

Activity 6
Correct the sentences:
1. We need to invent a machinery that will do this job.
2. I have enrolled at university in order to get a knowledge.
3. I need some papers to write on.
4. I don't like these weight-loss advertisings.
5. When you get married you need new furnitures and kitchen equipments.
6. I'm waiting to get a news about a scholarship.
7. As a librarian, he dealt with lots of informations.
8. Please don't give us too many homeworks.
9. I want to do a research into the effect of the radios and televisions on teenagers.
10. Punctuations help get your meaning across.

Definite and indefinite articles

In addition to the rule listed above which says that you may not use the indefinite article
with non-countable nouns, there are other problems related to the use of articles.
1. When a noun or noun phrase is used in a general sense, no article is required:
Psychological experiments reveal that compassion is not a basic human trait.
Computers are an invaluable aid.
Music helps people relax.

2. When the noun is qualified in such a way as to make it specific, the definite article
(‘‘the’’) must be used:
The music of Mozart is well-known for helping people concentrate.
The computers in the laboratory are going to be replaced.
The psychological experiments in Nazi Germany were inhumane.

3. When a noun is being referred to for the first time, it is preceded by the indefinite
article (‘‘a’’):
John approached the house and looked up. There was a window open on the
second floor.

Appendix 1 276 Correcting common errors

4. Once a noun has been referred to, it may take the definite article ‘‘the’’:
John entered through the window.
5. Where no specific thing is being referred to, the indefinite article is used:
May I borrow a book from your library?
6. Where it is clear which specific thing is being referred to, the definite article is used:
Did you bring the book?

Activity 7
Correct the sentences:
1. I've brought a book I promised you.
2. The financial problems often ruin happy relationships.
3. Emotional life of animals has not been thoroughly researched.
4. Do you have the pencil I could borrow?
5. Children need the love and the care.

Using an incorrect preposition is a frequent error. There are fixed expressions which require
a particular preposition. For example:
The destruction of the Twin Towers was a traumatic event for Americans.
Poor levels of education result in high levels of unemployment.

Try to
. use a dictionary to check which preposition belongs with the verb or noun you are
. link the preposition to the verb in your mind.

In addition, there are phrasal verbs formed with a verb and a preposition. In these cases,
the combination of verb and preposition creates a new meaning. For example, contrast the
usual meaning of ‘‘put’’ with its meaning in a phrasal verb:
You can put the groceries in the kitchen. (VERB ‘‘PUT’’ MEANING ‘‘PLACE’’)
How do you put up with him? (PHRASAL VERB ‘‘PUT UP WITH’’ MEANING ‘‘BEAR/

You will find help with phrasal verbs in the Study Pages of your Oxford Advanced Learner's

Activity 8
Fill in the prepositions:
1. According ... our records, you live in Nelspruit.
2. Are you acquainted ... this material?
3. He is addicted ... heroin.
4. As there were only three points we could agree ..., the meeting grew quite heated.
5. Did you agree ... her request for a raise?
6. Bear ... me for a moment while I explain.
7. Do you believe ... ghosts?
8. We have booked ... at the hotel.
9. Some of the original committee members broke ... and formed their own groups.

Appendix 1 277 Correcting common errors

10. She broke ... and wept.
11. Someone tried to break ... the house.
12. His disregard for danger brought ... his death.
13. Their new business is bringing ... thousands of rands.
14. I've built my hopes ... passing this course.
15. The flames have burnt ... now and the firemen have left.
16. Let's call ... the party if you don't feel well.
17. The chairman called ... the members to settle their dispute.
18. He is staying home to catch ... on his work.
19. The boss decided to check ... ... staff who said they were sick.
20. When the rand depreciated, her business had to close ...
21. What are the causes ... depression?
22. We have vocational guidance counsellors who can advise you ... career choices.
23. ... university, you need to become an independent thinker.
24. Selfish people only think ... themselves.
25. It is difficult to cope ... the stresses of motherhood.

Students sometimes supply a noun or verb when an adjective is required. For example:
The rhino is an endanger animal.B
The rhino is an endangered animal.C
The project is still at a concept stage.B
The project is still at a conceptual stage.C

The comparative ‘‘more’’ is sometimes mistakenly used when there is no comparison. In

these cases, an adjective is required:
Learning to write an essay is of more importance at university. B
Learning to write an essay is of great importance at university.C

Where you are indeed making a comparison, watch out that you don't use both ‘‘more’’ and
The new law relating to natural father's rights is more better than the old situation.B
The new law relating to father's rights is better than the old situation.C
The new law relating to natural father's rights is more humane than the old situation. C

Activity 9
Correct the sentences:
1. Do you know how danger smoking is for your health?
2. We need a health system which is efficiency, accountability and accessibility.
3. Reading is vitally importance at university.
4. Generally, your argument is logic.
5. Studying English might lead to a loss of one's origin identity and culture.

The most common punctuation errors relate to the apostrophe and the comma. The
apostrophe is used in three ways:
1. Apostrophe to show contraction
The apostrophe shows that letters have been left out:

Appendix 1 278 Correcting common errors

I'll see you later.
Didn't he come?
They're not here yet.
It's amazing how quickly children learn to speak.

2. Apostrophe to show ownership

If a word does not already end in ‘‘s’’, use an apostrophe ’s to show ownership:
My sister’s flight comes in at 9 a.m.
Everyone's right to privacy should be respected.

If the word already ends in s, add only the apostrophe:

My parents' deaths affected me badly.
Teachers' salaries should be increased.

Did you give the fish its food?
3. Special uses of the apostrophe
The apostrophe is used to pluralise letters, numbers and words that do not normally
have a plural:
Cross your t's and dot your i's.
You've got a funny way of writing 9's.
No more if's and but's.

The comma separates co-ordinated clauses. In these cases, the comma precedes
the linking or joining word:
He loved reading, yet he found his friend's book boring.
He must have got in through the bedroom window, or perhaps he had a skeleton
We said goodbye at the airport, and that was the last I saw of him.

The comma separates a subordinate clause from a main clause only if the
subordinate clause comes first in the sentence:
Because he would not confess, he was tortured.
He was tortured because he would not confess.

The comma also separates

. non-essential relative clauses, e.g. ‘‘The spaghetti Alfredo, which he later took off
the menu, was her favourite’’;
. certain opening words or phrases, e.g. ‘‘Firstly, fill the test tube with the acid’’;
. words or phrases *in apposition, e.g. ‘‘Mandela, the first democratically elected
president, is South Africa's most famous leader’’;
. descriptive phrases, e.g. ‘‘Amanda, tall and attractive, had every hope of getting
the part’’;
. items in a list, e.g. ‘‘A typical B.A. consists of modules in English, Communica-
tions, Psychology, Sociology and Criminology’’.

Activity 10
Fill in the apostrophes:
1. We went to get takeaways from Jimmys café.

Appendix 1 279 Correcting common errors

2. I got two As in Matric.
3. These are hers and those are Richards.
4. The poems imagery is all related to ships and sailing.
5. The cat wont eat its food.
6. I dont go out when its raining.
7. Keats poem has been studied to death.
8. Jenny has filled in 300 students marks.
9. Drop this off at the Morrisons house.
10. You couldve died.

Activity 11
Fill in the commas:
1. Because we had not seen her for ten years my aunt's visit was greatly anticipated.
2. Sarah a gifted ballet teacher liked entering her young students in Eisteddfods.
3. As we came to the top of the hill huffing and puffing with exhaustion we saw the
beautiful Atlantic ocean below us.
4. In fact democracy is a very ancient system of government.
5. They did not drive expensive cars nor were they particularly well-dressed.

Marking Code
Now that you have seen what the most common errors are, it is time to introduce you to the
marking code that is used when your assignments are marked.

In this department, we believe that it is lots of writing, not lots of marking, that improves
your English. Consequently, we mark only limited sections of your written assignment. Your
tutors used the marking code given in this appendix when they mark your assignment.
Please study it very carefully so that you understand what the symbols mean.

Symbol Error Explanation

abb Abbreviation Do not use abbreviations, or contractions (such as ‘can’t’,

‘don’t’, ‘etc’.) in formal writing (eg a written assignment).

agr (s/v) Agreement error Your verb does not agree with your subject in number.
Check whether your subject is singular or plural.
A plural subject takes a plural verb: The students
read the book.
A singular subject takes a singular verb: The
student reads the book.

amb Ambiguity Your statement could have two meanings. Rephrase.

ap Apostrophe error An apostrophe is a comma that hangs above the line.

The boy's hands are dirty.
An apostrophe is used to indicate possession.
Mandela's leadership (the leadership of Mandela).
The boys' privileges (the privileges of the boys).
An apostrophe is used to indicate when letters are left out.
We'll (we will)

Appendix 1 280 Correcting common errors

Can't (can not)
I've (I have)
It's (it is)
Contractions such as these are unacceptable in formal
NB: ‘its’ (without an apostrophe) is the possessive form.
The dog chewed its bone

arg Argument Your argument/explanation is not methodical/coherent/

relevant. A clear and logical line of thought needs to

art Article error You have used ‘a’ instead of ‘the’, or ‘the’ instead of ‘a’, or
you have omitted to use ‘a’ or ‘the’ where you should
have. Alternatively, you have used ‘a’ or ‘the’ with a word
that should not have an article.

awk Awkward phrasing Your sentence sounds awkward and clumsy. You need
to revise word choice and word order.

cap Capital letter The word should begin with a capital letter, either
because it starts off a sentence, or because it is a
proper noun.

c/s Comma splice You have joined two ideas (ie two separate sentences)
without using a connecting word, or proper punctuation.
Either add a connecting word, or change the comma to
a semi-colon, or break the comma-spliced sentence into
two separate sentences.

exp Expression faulty Your sentence is difficult to understand because of errors

too numerous to list.

frag Fragmentary sentence Your sentence does not have a verb, and therefore is only a
fragment of a sentence.
inc Incomplete sentence You have left out part of the sentence.

irr Irrelevant What you have said has nothing to do with the topic.

L?/ill Logic faulty/illogical Illogical, or your writing does not make sense here.

N.P. New Paragraph You have started discussing a new idea. You need a new

para Paragraph structure A paragraph consists of a main idea (usually expressed

in a topic sentence) and several supporting sentences
which explain the main idea, or give examples and/or
details concerning the main idea.
Single-sentence paragraphs are not acceptable be-
cause a single sentence cannot develop or expand the
main idea.

Appendix 1 281 Correcting common errors

Your paragraph is too long and needs to be divided
where appropriate.

p Punctuation You have misused a punctuation mark, or omitted one

where it was necessary.

sp Spelling You have misspelt a word. Try to get into the habit of
using a dictionary consistently.

T Tense error Your verb is in the wrong tense.

Note: Use the present and related tenses when dis-
cussing a literary work — e.g. ‘‘Bosman’s humour
has a strong South African flavour.’’
‘‘In her short stories Nadine Gordimer touches on
issues ...’’.

voc/WW Vocabulary error/ You have used the wrong word or you could have used a
Wrong word better one. (Look up the word you have used in the
dictionary. You will find that its meaning is either not
correct or not appropriate in your sentence.)

wdy Wordiness You have used too many words to say something which
could be said far more simply and concisely.

WO Word Order incorrect The words in your sentence are in the wrong place. Your
marker will have used arrows to indicate where the word
(s) should go.

*Vocabulary Building
fluency command of a language and smoothness in speaking it
eliminate get rid of, destroy
idiomatic using expressions that are natural to a mother-tongue speaker
misused used incorrectly
inflections changes added to the ending of a word to show a grammatical
function, e.g. the -ed of the past tense
conditionals sentences beginning with ‘‘if’’ or ‘‘unless’’
hypothetical not real, based on an idea
syllable a single unit of sound within a word
demonstrative a part of speech, e.g. ‘‘this’’ or ‘‘those’’ which indicates the thing
or person referred to
in apposition immediately after a word or phrase, the use of other words to
refer to the same thing, e.g. ‘‘London, the capital of England’’

Answers to activities

Activity 1
1. prove, beaten

Appendix 1 282 Correcting common errors

2. live, brought
3. there, quoting, plagiarism
4. cease, writing
5. embarrassed, referred
6. occurred, accommodation
7. supportive, career
8. commitment, necessary
9. Tomorrow, appointment, professor
10. thief , height, priest
11. weight, piece
12. government, parliament

Activity 2
1. taught, access
2. do, effects
3. fewer, less (N.B. Use ‘‘fewer’’ with countable nouns and ‘‘less’’ with non-countable nouns)
4. too, too, very

Activity 3
1. I have a driver's license.
2. I passed my learner's in 1985.
3. Medication can cause side effects.
4. Home owners can borrow money against their homes.
5. Soothsayers have the ability to predict the future. OR
Soothsayers can predict the future.
6. If Germany had won the war, Europe would be a very different place today.
7. If you follow this diet, you will lose weight.
8. Drought made the crops die.
9. How does one make children do their homework?
10. He suggested selling the house.

Activity 4
1. The accident happened yesterday.
2. I have been registered at Unisa since 2000.
3. The train has not been on time lately.
4. You sing well.
5. Please speak louder.

Activity 5
1. The unruly behaviour of the three students was criticised.
2. These goods have been illegally imported and have been impounded by customs.
3. This type of student is not welcome.
4. One of the accused is a fifteen-year-old boy.
5. Various factors are responsible for the price increase.
6. A son likes to live close to his mother.

Activity 6
1. We need to invent a machine that will do this job. OR
We need to invent machinery that will do this job.
2. I have enrolled at university in order to get knowledge.
3. I need some pieces of papers to write on. OR

Appendix 1 283 Correcting common errors

I need some paper to write on.
4. I don't like these weight-loss advertisements. OR
I don't like weight-loss advertising.
5. When you get married, you need new furniture and kitchen equipment.
6. I'm waiting to get news about a scholarship.
7. As a librarian, he dealt with lots of information.
8. Please don't give us too much homework.
9. I want to do research into the effect of radio and television on teenagers.
10. Punctuation helps get your meaning across.

Activity 7
1. I've brought the book I promised you.
2. Financial problems often ruin happy relationships.
3. The emotional life of animals has not been thoroughly researched.
4. Do you have a pencil I could borrow?
5. Children need love and care.

Activity 8
1. According to our records, you live in Nelspruit.
2. Are you acquainted with this material?
3. He is addicted to heroin.
4. As there were only three points we could agree on, the meeting grew quite heated.
5. Did you agree to her request for a raise?
6. Bear with me for a moment while I explain.
7. Do you believe in ghosts?
8. We have booked in at the hotel.
9. Some of the original committee members broke away and formed their own groups.
10. She broke down and wept.
11. Someone tried to break into the house.
12. His disregard for danger brought about his death.
13. Their new business is bringing in thousands of rands.
14. I've built my hopes on passing this course.
15. The flames have burnt out now and the firemen have left.
16. Let's call off the party if you don't feel well.
17. The chairman called on the members to settle their dispute.
18. He is staying home to catch up on his work.
19. The boss decided to check up on staff who said they were sick.
20. When the rand depreciated, her business had to close down.
21. What are the causes of depression?
22. We have vocational guidance counsellors who can advise you on career choices.
23. At university, you need to become an independent thinker.
24. Selfish people only think about themselves.
25. It is difficult to cope with the stresses of motherhood.

Activity 9
1. Do you know how dangerous smoking is for your health?
2. We need a health system which is efficient, accountable and accessible.
3. Reading is vitally important at university.
4. Generally, your argument is logical.
5. Studying English might lead to a loss of one's original identity and culture.

Appendix 1 284 Correcting common errors

Activity 10
1. We went to get takeaways from Jimmy's café.
2. I got two A's in Matric.
3. These are hers and those are Richard's.
4. The poem's imagery is all related to ships and sailing.
5. The cat won't eat its food.
6. I don't go out when it's raining.
7. Keats' poem has been studied to death.
8. Jenny has filled in 300 students' marks.
9. Drop this off at the Morrisons' house.
10. You could've died.

Activity 11
1. Because we had not seen her for ten years, my aunt's visit was greatly anticipated.
2. Sarah, a gifted ballet teacher, liked entering her young students in Eisteddfods.
3. As we came to the top of the hill, huffing and puffing with exhaustion, we saw the beautiful
Atlantic ocean below us.
4. In fact, democracy is a very ancient system of government.
5. They did not drive expensive cars, nor were they particularly well-dressed.

Appendix 1 285 Correcting common errors

This is a writing exercise and it forms part of the work you need to do for this course.
The assignment numer and submission date for this writing exercise are in Tutorial
Letter 101.

Essay Topic:

You will find a list of essay topics for this assignment in Tutorial Letter 101. Choose
ONE of the topics for your essay.

Academic writing often requires you to a take a point of view and to defend it by
constructing an argument to support it. In order to make a convincing and persuasive
argument, you should always keep in mind that there are counter-arguments to your point
of view.

To make the best possible argument you need to consider points for and against the issue
you have decided to discuss. This will help you discover the weak points in your argument.
You might even find that you cannot make a convincing argument for your point of view.
Arguing with yourself about a subject is an excellent way of ensuring that you have a sound
grasp of the issues, and that you will not be making sweeping generalizations or vague

Please revise the following lectures: 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

Write out the following table and fill in the details. This table MUST be included in your

Write down the topic that you chose from the list in Tutorial Letter 101.

Topic: ......................................................................................................................................


Topic sentence: .................................. Topic sentence: ..............................
Supporting ideas: Supporting ideas
1 .................................................................... 1 ............................................................
2 .................................................................... 2 ............................................................
3 .................................................................... 3 ............................................................

Appendix 2 286 Written work: Essay

2.1 Having considered the points for and against the topic you wish to discuss, you are
now ready to write a rough draft.
Write a 3 paragraph essay arguing in favour of OR against the topic of your choice.
Your essay should NOT be more than ONE page in length.
Do not change the title. Your introductory paragraph should reflect your point of view.
All arguments should be developed in the second paragraph. Your concluding
paragraph should tie up all parts of your argument.
2.2 In an experiment conducted with our English for Specific Purposes students, we
found that students who made use of a self-assessment sheet were able to improve
their work as much as those whose work was marked by their tutors. This is proof of
the value of revising your work carefully and of the benefit of using a self-assessment
Read the self assessment and revision instructions that follow the instructions for
Task 5 in this Appendix. Now revise your rough draft and make the changes that you
feel are necessary. These changes should be made in pencil on your rough draft. You
should not only edit your language, but should also consider how you can improve
the content and organisation of your essay.
The rough draft with its corrections made in pencil, MUST be included in your

Write your revised 3 paragraph essay. Remember to include the title of your essay.

It is important for students to evaluate their own work and to identify for themselves what
their strong points are. When you have written your revised essay, you must evaluate your
own work, using the marking grid that appears after the self assessment and revision
instructions. This is the marking grid your tutors will use when they mark your work.

Fill in the table below by identifying the level (1, 2, 3 or 4) you feel you deserve for content,
organisation, vocabulary, language and mechanics. These levels are explained in the
marking grid in this Appendix. Then copy the completed table onto your assignment
answer sheet.

content level .....

organisation level .....
vocabulary level .....
language level .....
mechanics level .....

Did you find this writing exercise helpful? Write ONE of the following sentences at the end
of your assignment:
I found this writing exercise helpful because

Appendix 2 287 Written work: Essay

I did not find this writing exercise helpful because


Self assessment and revision

To help you to evaluate your own work we have included a list of the factors which your
markers use to identify effective writing. There are 3 steps to follow:
Step 1: Understanding the Way Your Lecturers Will Mark Your Work
Step 2: Revising the Content of Your Essay
Step 3: Revising Your Vocabulary and Language

By following these steps, which we have explained more fully below, you will be able to
revise your essay on your own.

Step 1: Understanding the Way Your Lecturers Will Mark Your Work
Your first mark represents your lecturer's rating of the content and organisation of your

CONTENT: Ideas, information or message

You have stated your point of view; all arguments are clear and fully developed;
all ideas are related to each other and to the argument; your point of view is
substantiated; the reader is left with a feeling of being convinced about your
ORGANISATION: The arrangement of ideas in order
The introductory paragraph is interesting; it states your posision; the concluding
paragraph makes the reader understand the writer's point of view and/or
feelings; the main idea ties all part of the argument in an obvious logical order;
your essay has only one main idea or purpose and all details support that idea.

Your second mark represents your lecturer's rating of your vocabulary, language usage
and mechanics.

VOCABULARY: The words you use

Words are used effectively, there is a range of vocabulary and the register (level
of formality) is appropriate.
LANGUAGE USAGE: Grammatical control

Appendix 2 288 Written work: Essay

Clauses are joined effectively by means of connectors (if, although, because etc.); each
sentence is complete; there are few errors of agreement, tense, articles, word order, word
form, prepositions.
MECHANICS: Presentation — the way the writing looks

Step 2: Revising the Content of Your Essay

Effective revision is more than simply playing with surface grammatical structure. You need
to examine your content (what you say) carefully first.


You will be able to examine the content of your writing by answering the following
. writing a three paragraph essay of not more than one page?
. arguing in favour of or against the topic of your choice?


. Read Lecture 17 (Revising the essay)
. Does your opening paragraph state your point of view? Revise Lecture 15.
. Do your ideas follow a logical order?
. Does your final paragraph conclude or sum up your point of view?
. Do your paragraphs have a topic sentence and do all your other sentences support it?
If you are unsure what the term ‘topic sentence’ means please revise Lectures 7, 14
and 16.
. Does each main idea have at least one supporting idea?
. Have you signposted your writing? Revise Lecture 7.
. Would the inclusion of any logical connectives help to make your paragraph more clear
for your reader?

These questions and checklists should have helped you to identify weaknesses in your
original essay. When you are happy with the content of your essay, you can begin to
examine your language and vocabulary.

Step 3: Revising Your Vocabulary and Language

. First look at your vocabulary very carefully. Have you used the most effective words
you know? Can you use words that express your ideas better?
. Re-read the essay your have written.
. Check your punctuation. Read Appendix 1 again.
. Is your spelling correct? Revise Lecture 2 and Appendix 1.
. Check your verbs and tenses. Read Lecture 4 and Appendix 1 again.
. Have you used the appropriate register? Revise point no. 5 (Audience, Purpose and
Register) in Lecture 5.
. Make any language corrections that you feel are necessary.

Once you are satisfied that this is the very best you can do in terms of what you say and
how you say it, then you are ready to write your revised essay.

Appendix 2 289 Written work: Essay

Marking grid
Please use the following criteria as a guideline to assist you in the allocation of marks. It has
ESL been adapted from Jacobson et al.’s ‘{ESL Composition Profile’, which was described by
English Second Lan-
guage Liz Hamp-Lyons (a leading figure in the field of ESL Testing) as the best known scoring
procedure for ESL writing at the present time.



25–20 (100%–80%) LEVEL 1 C Content: knowledgeable, thorough de-
velopment, relevant to assigned topic
EXCELLENT TO C Organisation: ideas clearly stated, suc-
VERY GOOD cinct, well-organised, logically se-
quenced, cohesive, well supported
19–14 (72%–56%) LEVEL 2 C Content: fairly knowledgeable, mostly
relevant to topic, lacks detail
GOOD TO C Organisation: somewhat choppy, loosely
AVERAGE organised, logical but incomplete se-
quencing and signposting
13–8 (48%–32%) LEVEL 3 C Content: little substance, inadequate sup-
FAIR TO POOR C Organisation: ideas confused or dis-
connected, lacks logical sequencing or
development, little signposting
7–0 (24%–0%) LEVEL 4 C Content: not pertinent or not enough to
VERY POOR C Organisation: does not communicate,
no organisation or not enough to evaluate



25–20 (100%–80%) LEVEL 1 C Vocabulary: sophisticated range, effec-
tive word/idiom choice, word form mas-
EXCELLENT TO tery, appropriate register
VERY GOOD C Language usage: effective complex
constructions, few language errors
(agreement, tense, number, word order,
articles, pronouns, prepositions)
C Mechanics: Mechanics (spelling, punc-
tuation, capitalisation), demonstrates
mastery of conventions
19–14 (72%–56%) LEVEL 2 C Vocabulary: adequate range, occasional
errors of word, idiom, form, choice, usage
GOOD TO but meaning not obscured
AVERAGE C Language usage: effective but simple
constructions, minor problems in complex
constructions, several language errors but
meaning seldom obscured
C Mechanics: occasional errors in me-
chanics but meaning seldom obscured

Appendix 2 290 Written work: Essay

13–8 (48%–32%) LEVEL 3 C Vocabulary: limited range, frequent er-
rors of word/idiom, form, choice, usage,
FAIR TO POOR meaning confused or obscured
C Language usage: major problems in
simple/complex constructions, frequent
language errors including sentence con-
struction problems, meaning confused
or obscured
C Mechanics: Frequent errors in me-
chanics, poor handwriting, meaning
confused or obscured
7–0 (24%–0%) LEVEL 4 C Vocabulary: essentially translation, little
knowledge of English vocabulary, idioms,
VERY POOR word forms, or not enough to evaluate
C Language usage: virtually no mastery of
sentence construction, dominated by er-
rors, does not communicate, not enough
to evaluate
C Mechanics: no mastery of conventions,
dominated by errors in mechanics, hand-
writing illegible, or not enough to evaluate


Here is an example of a writing exercise that was done by a student. The student
had to write and revise a paragraph using the same self assessment and revision
instructions that we have given you. The only difference was that this student
was instructed to write a paragraph while you had to write a three-paragraph

Appendix 2 291 Written work: Essay

Appendix 2 292 Written work: Essay
Appendix 2 293 Written work: Essay
Appendix 2 294 Written work: Essay