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17 Response to Reading example: Respose to Marvin Swift’s “Clear Writing Means Clear Thinking Means . . . ,” B. Stihl Marvin Swift’s article proves the power of example. You can talk all day about how important writing is, and how writing IS thinking, but until you actually see someone revise their thinking as they revise their writing, you won’t really be convinced. That’s what’s magical about the article—Swift transports us inside the writing/thinking head. Swift takes as example a minor issue—use of the copy machine—and shows how the issue could turn into either a big problem for the company or a chance for management to bond with employees, depending on how the boss writes a quick memo. Seeing how something so small could have such large consequences encourages readers of Swift’s article to take care with all their word choices. Questions about the example: 1. A response to a reading can go on for volumes—think about the books that respond to the Bible—or be just a few incisive words, like the response to Response to Reading     119 the prose of Henry James: He chewed more than he bit off. What would be the value of a response this long? 2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this response? What question(s) does it seem to be answering? 3. Have you ever been asked to write a reading response like this? What function did it serve? 4. At what point does this response go beyond simple summary? 5. What questions does this response leave you asking? Other examples: Other responses to readings include the annotated bibliography in chapter 2, the literary analyses in chapter 9, the literature review in chapter 10, and the rhetorical analyses in chapter 20. Questions about the Response to Reading 1. What are its purposes? In school, a response to the reading assignment is likely to have many purposes: checking to see if students have done the reading, preparing them for a class discussion, helping them think more deeply about something they’re likely to have skimmed over. The mini-response above was to a five-minute prompt “Write about one thing that interested you in one of the readings for today.” Onthejob,youmightbeaskedtorespondtoareadingforaspecificreason—to see if the boss should read it, to help build a strategy against it, to prepare for the changes it foresees. 2. Who are its audiences? You might turn your reading response into a full-blown paper, but initially most responses are directed toward the professor who assigned them. You should find out whether you’re supposed to write for readers who have read the text under discussion or for people trying to decide whether to read it. 3. What’s the typical content? All reading responses are based on the text, but the audience may want anything from a just-the-facts summary of the main points to a personal narrative for which the reading is a springboard. 4. How long is it? Response articles can be substantial in scope, length, and depth, but most reading responses in school are short, a page or two. 5. How is it arranged on the page? No special requirements except that you need the name and information of the text you’re responding to somewhere prominent. 120    Genres 6. What pronouns are used? In all informal and most formal situations, “I” would be appropriate and natural , since you’re writing about your own responses and opinions. Find out how your response will be used. 7. What’s the tone? Even some high-brow reviews in elite journals can be playful, humorous, satiric, even mocking at times. For student writers, an open and honest stance toward the subject is probably best. Attempts at tones like sarcasm often go awry. 8. How does it vary? If you’re not given any directions on how to respond, you’ve got a tough job to do, because your response could be analytical (you take one part and assert its relation to the whole), evaluative (you assess and judge something), descriptive (you describe something in the reading), personal (you connect a personal experience or opinion to the reading), or creative (you write something inspired by or in the same form as the reading). Suggested Moves for Response to Reading 1. Discover. Your teacher or boss may have told you what important things to look for in your reading—“find all the allusions to other works” or “note all the...


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