Graff+They+Say+I+Say+Intro-Ch1

Graff+They+Say+I+Say+Intro-Ch1 - “TH EY SAgx‘fl SAY”...

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Unformatted text preview: “TH EY SAgx‘fl SAY” The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing _§'_ GERALD GRAFF CATHY BIRKENSTEIN bath of the University of Illinois at Chicago E \X/ ' W ’ NORTON & COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON ‘13? 32 m Am a» {x {gs of what it feels like to enter a public conversation in a way that studying abstract warrants and logical fallacies does not. We also do not cover the various modes of writing like descrip tion, definition, narrative, and comparison/contrast. Nor do we cover the different conventions of writing in the disciplines. It is our belief, that the “they say/ I say” pattern cuts across different disciplines and genres of writing, including creative writing. Although students must eventually master the specific writing conventions of their majors, we believe that there is no major or discipline that does not require writers to frame their own claims as a response to what others before them have said. Indeed, stu— dents who master the elemental moves prompted by the tem' plates in this book should actually become better able to appreciate the differences between disciplines and genres. ‘ ,: ENGAGING THE VOICE OF THE OTHER A major virtue of the “they say / I say’” model is that it returns writing to its social, conversational base. Although writing does require some degree of solitude, the “they say / I say” model shows students that they can best develop their arguments not just by looking inward, but also by looking outward, listening carefully to other views, and engaging the voice of the other. As a result, this approach to writing has an. ethical dimension: it asks students not simply to keep proving and reasserting what they already believe, but to stretch what they believe by putting it up against the beliefs of our increasingly diverse, global society, to engage in the reciprocal exchange that characterizes true democracy. Gerald Graff Cathy Birkenstein INTRODUCTION Entering the Conversation DEL— T H I N K AB 0 u T A N activity that you do particularly well: cook— ing, playing the piano, shooting a basketball, even something as basic as driving a car. If you reflect on this activity, you’ll real~ ize that once you mastered it you no longer had to give much conscious thought to the various moves that go into doing it. Performing this activity, in other words, depends on your have ing learned a series of complicated moves—moves that may seem mysterious or difficult to those who haven’t yet learned them. The same applies to writing. Often without consciously real; izing it, accomplished writers routinely rely on a stock of estab lished moves that are crucial for communicating sophisticated ideas. What makes writers masters of their trade is not only their ability to express interesting thoughts, but their mastery of an inventory of basic moves that they probably picked up by reading a wide range of other accomplished writers. Less expe— rienced writers, by contrast, are often unfamiliar with these basic moves, and unsure how to make them in their own writ ing. This book is intended as a short, userefriendly guide to the basic moves of academic writing. One of our key premises is that these basic moves are so common that they can be represented in templates that you can use right away to structure and even generate your own write lNTRODUCTlON ing. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this book is its pres— entation of many such templates, designed to help you suc' cessfully enter not only the world of academic thinking and writing, but also the wider worlds of civic discourse and work. Rather than focus solely on abstract principles of writing, then, this book offers model templates that help you to put those principles directly into practice. Working with these tem— plates can give you an immediate sense of how to engage in the kinds of critical thinking you are required to do at the cola lege level and in the vocational and public spheres beyond. Some of these templates represent {simple but crucial moves like those used to summarize some widely held belief. i > Many Americans assume that Others are more complicated. > On the one hand, .. . ,. ., On the other hand, > Author X contradicts herself. At the same time that she argues . , she also implies > l agree that > This is not to say that It is true, of course, that critical thinking and writing go deeper than any set of linguistic formulas, requiring that you question assumptions, develop strong claims, offer supporting reasons and evidence, consider opposing arguments, and so on. But these deeper habits of thought cannot be put into practice unless you have a language for expressing them in clear, organ; ized ways. Entering the Conversation STATE YOUR OWN IDEAS AS A RESPONSE TO OTHERS The single most important template that we focus on in this book is the “they say ” formula that gives our book its title. If there is any one point that we hope you will take away from this book, it is the importance not only of expressing your ideas (“I say”), but of presenting those ideas as a response to some other person or group (“they say”). For us, the underlying structure of effective academic writing—and of ,_., I say ‘ responsible public discourse—resides not just in stating our own ideas, but in listening closely to others around us, summarizing their views in a way that they will recognize, and responding with our own ideas in kind. Broadly speaking, academic write ing is argumentative writing, and we believe that to argue well you need to do more than assert your own ideas. You need to enter a conversation, using what others say (or might say) as a launching pad or sounding board for your own ideas. For this reason, one of the main pieces of advice in this book is to write the voices of others into your text. In our View, then, the best academic writing has one under— lying feature: it is deeply engaged in some way with other peov ple’s Views. Too often, however, academic writing is taught as a process of saying “true” or “smart” things in a vacuum, as if it were possible to argue effectively without being in conversation with someone else. If you have been taught to write a traditional five— paragraph essay, for example, you have learned how to develop a thesis and support it with evidence. This is good advice as far as it goes, but it leaves out the important fact that in the real world we don’t make arguments without being provoked. We make arguments because someone has said or done something (or per— haps not said or done something) and we need to respond: “I can’t INTRODUCTION see why you like the Lakers so much”; “I agree: it was a great film”; “That argument is contradictory.” If it weren’t for other people and our need to challenge, agree with, or otherwise respond to them, there would be no reason to argue at all. To make an impact as a writer, you need to do more than make statements that are logical, well supported, and consistent. You must also find a way of entering a conversation with others’ views— with something “they say.” In fact, if your own argument doesn’t identify the “they say” that you’re responding to, then it probably won’t make sense. As Figure 1 suggests, what you are saying may be clear to your audience, but why you are saying it won’t be. For it is what others are saying and thinking that motivates our writ ing and gives it a reason for being. It follows, then, as Figure 2 sug gests, that your own argument—the “I say” moment of your textflshould always be a response to the arguments of others. Many writers make explicit “they say/l say” moves in their writing. One famous example is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Leta THE CHARACTERS IN flffWkA/Vof ARE VERY COMPLEX! " (W A; 66 FIGURE 1 Entering the Conversation SOME SAY THAT f/fffl/Wfl)’ PRESENTS CARICATURES 0F ITALIAN AMERICANS. IN FACT, HOWEVER. THE CHARACTERS IN THE SERIES ARE VERY GEE. NEVER THOUGHT A THAT! FIGURE 2 ter from Birmingham Jail,” which consists almost entirely of King’s eloquent responses to a public statement by eight clergy— men deploring the civil rights protests he was leading. The letter—which was written in 1963, while King was in prison for leading a demonstration in Birmingham—is structured almost entirely around a framework of summary and response, in which King summarizes and then answers their criticisms. In one typical passage, King writes as follows. \ You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” King goes on to agree with his critics that “It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham,” yet he INTRODUCTION hastens to add that “it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alter; native.” King’s letter is so thoroughly conversational, in fact, that it could be rewritten in the form of a dialogue or play. King’s critics: King's response: Critics: Response: Clearly, King would not have written his famous letter were it not for his critics, whose Views he treats not as objections to his already’formed arguments, but as the motivating source of those arguments, their central reason for being. He quotes not only what his critics have said (“Some have asked: ‘Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?’ ”), but also things they might have said (“One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ ”)—all to set the stage for what he himself wants to say. A similar “they say/I say” exchange opens an essay about American patriotism by the social critic Katha Pollitt, who uses her own daughter’s comment to represent the national fervor of post—9/ 11 patriotism that Pollitt goes on to oppose. My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the former World Trade Center, thinks we should fly the American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war. KATHA POLLITT, “Put Out No Flags” As Pollitt’s example shows, the “they” you respond to in craft, ing an argument need not be a famous author, or even some Entering the Conversation one known to your audience. It can be a family member like Pollitt’s daughter, or a friend or classmate who has made a provocative claim. It can even be something an individual or a group might say—or a side of yourself, something you once believed but no longer do, or something you partly believe but also doubt. The important thing is that the “they” (or “you” or “she”) represent some wider group-in Pollitt’s case, those who patriotically believe in flying the flag. While King and Pollitt both identify the views they are responding to, in some cases those views, rather than being explicitly named, are left to the reader to infer. ’See, for instance, if you can identify the implied or unnamed “they say” that the following claim is responding to. I like to think I have a certain advantage as a teacher of literature beCause when I was growing up I disliked and feared books. GERALD GRAFF, “Disliking Books at an Early Age” In case you haven’t figured it out already, the phantom “they say” here is anyone who thinks that in order to be a good teacher of literature, one must have grown up liking and enjoying books. As you can see from these examples, many writers use the “they say/I say” format to disagree with others, to challenge standard ways of thinking, and thus to stir up controversy. This point may come as a shock to you if you have always had the impression that in order to succeed academically you need to play it safe and avoid controversy in your writing, making state' ments that nobody can possibly disagree with. Though this view of writing may appear logical, it is actually a recipe for flat, life; less writing, and for writing that fails to answer what we call the “so what?” and “who cares?” questions. “William Shake— speare wrote many famous plays and sonnets” may be a per— INTRODUCTION fectly true statement, but precisely because nobody is likely to disagree with it, it goes without saying and thus Would seem pointless if said. WAYS or: RESPONDING Just because much argumentative writing is driven by dis; agreement, it does not follow that agreement is ruled out. Although argumentation is often associated with conflict and opposition, the type of conversational “they say/I say” argument that we focus on in this book can be just as useful when you agree as when you disagree. > She argues ,. and I agree because l > Her argument that .. .. . ... _ _ __ ,. is supported by new research 5 h owi n g th at t . Nor do you always have to choose between either simply agree, ing or disagreeing, since the “they say/I say” format also works to both agree and disagree at the same time. > He claims that and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I agree that .. On the other hand, I still insist that This last option—agreeing and disagreeing simultaneously—is one we especially recommend, since it allows you to avoid a simple yes or no response and present a more complicated argument, while containing that complication within a clear “on the one hand/on the other hand” framework. Entering the Conversation While the templates we offer in this book can be used to structure your writing at the sentence level, they can also be expanded as needed to almost any length, as the following elab— orated “they say/I say” template demonstrates. > In recent discussions of . .. . ,. ., ,, a controversial issue has been whether .............................................................. On the one hand, some argue that . From this perspective, ,. _ , .On the other hand, however, others argue that .. ._ In the words ofone ofthis view's main proponents, ............................... According to this view, . in sum, then, the issue is whether or > My own view is that Though I concede that ............................... ,., l still maintain that For example, . Although some might object that , I reply that . . . The issue is important because If you go back over this template, you will see that it helps you make a host of challenging moves (each of which is taken up in forthcoming chapters in this book). First, the template helps you open your text by identifying an issue in some ongoing con; versation or debate (“In recent discussions of ., , a con, troversial issue has been”), then to map some of the voices in this controversy (by using the “on the one hand/on the other hand” structure). The template also helps you to introduce a quotation (“In the words of ”), to explain thehquotation in your own words (“According to this View”), and—in a new paragraph—to state your own argument (“My own View is that”), to qualify your argument (“Though I concede that”), and then to support your argument with evidence (“For exam, ple”). In addition, the template helps you make one of the most INTRODUCTION crucial moves in argumentative writing, what we call “plant; ing a naysayer in your text,” in which you summarize and then answer a likely objection to your own central claim (“Although it might be objected that I reply Finally, this template helps you shift between general, over, arching claims (“In sum, then”) and smallerascale, supporting claims (“For example”). Again, none of us is born knowing these moves, especially when it comes to academic writing. Hence the need for this book. Do TEMPLATES STIFLE CREATIVITY? If you are like some of our students, your initial response to templates may be skepticism. At first, many of our students complain that using templates will take away their originality and creativity and make them all sound the same. “They’ll turn us into writing robots,” one of our students insisted. Another agreed, adding, “Hey, I’m a jazz musician. And we don’t play by set forms. We create our own.” “I’m in college now,” another student asserted; “this is thirdrgrade level stuf .” In our view, however, the templates in this book, far from being “third’grade level stuff,” represent the stock in trade of sophisticated thinking and writing, and they often require a great deal of practice and instruction to use successfully. As for the belief that pre/established forms undermine creativity, we think it rests on a very limited vision of what creativity is all about. In our View, the above template and the others in this book will actually help your writing become more original and creative, not less. After all, even the most creative forms of expression depend on established patterns and structures. Most songwriters, for instance, rely on a time’honored verse/ 1 O Entering the Conversation chorusaverse pattern, and few people would call Shakespeare uncreative because he didn’t invent the sonnet or dramatic forms that he used to such dazzling effect. Even the most avant~ garde, cuttingaedge artists (like improvisational jazz musicians) need to master the basic forms that their work improvises on, departs from, and goes beyond, or else their work will come across as uneducated child’s play. Ultimately, then, creativity and originality lie not in the avoidance of established forms, but in the imaginative use of them. Furthermore, these templates do not dictate the content of what you say, which can be as original as you can make it, but only suggest a way of formatting how you say it. In addition, I once you begin to feel comfortable with the templates in this book, you will be able to improvise creatively on them and invent new ones to fit new situations and purposes. In other words, the templates offered here are learning tools to get you started, not structures set in stone. Once you get used to using them, you can even dispense with them altogether, for the rhetorical moves they model will be at your fingertips in an unconscious, instinctive way. But if you still need proof that writing templates do not sti’ fle creativity, consider the following opening to an essay on the fast’food industry that we’ve included at the back of this book. If ever there were a newspaper headline custom—made for Jay Leno’s monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald’s this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn’t that like middle»aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets? Whatever hap pened to personal responsibility? I tend to sympathize with these portly fast»food patrons, though. Maybe that’s because I used to be one of them. DAVID ZINCZENKO, “Don’t Blame the Eater” INTRODUCTION Although Zinczenko relies on a version of the “they say/I say” formula, his writing is anything but dry, robotic, or uncreative. While Zinczenko does not explicitly use the words “they say” and “I say,” the template still gives the passage its underlying structure: “They say that kids suing fastafood companies for mak ing them fat is a joke; but I say such lawsuits are justified.” PUTTING IN YOUR CAR Though the immediate goal of this book is to help you become a better writer, at a deeper level it invites you to become a cer’ tain type of person: a critical, intellectual thinker who, instead of sitting passively on the sidelines, can participate in the debates and conversations of your world in an active and empowered way. Ultimately, this book invites you to become a critical thinker who can enter the types of conversations described eloe quently by the philosopher Kenneth Burke in the following widely cited passage. Likening the world of intellectual exchange to a nevereending conversation at a party, Burke writes: You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. . . . You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himr self against you. . . . The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. KENNETH BURKE, The Philosophy of Literary Form What we like about this passage is its suggestion that stating an argument and “putting in your oar” can only be done in Entering the Conversation conversation with others; that we all enter the dynamic world of ideas not as isolated individuals, but as social beings deeply connected to others who have a stake in what we say. This ability to enter complex, many—sided conversations has taken on a special urgency in today’s diverse, postv9/11 world, where the future for all of us may depend on our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of those who think very differently from us. The central piece of advice in this book———that we listen carefully to others, including those who disagree with us, and then engage with them thoughtfully and respectfullywcan help us see beyond our own pet beliefs, which may not be shared by everyone. The mere act of crafting a sentence that begins “Of course, someone might object that ” may not seem like a way to change the world; but it does have the potential to jog us out of our comfort zones, to get us thinking critically about our own beliefs, and perhaps even to change our minds. Exercises 1. Read the following paragraph from an essay by Emily Poe, a student at Furman University. Disregarding for the moment what Poe says, focus your attention on the phrases Poe uses to structure what she says (italicized here). Find a paragraph or two in some other text that makes similar moves, and underline the words the writer uses to structure what he or she says. Essays, newspaper editorials, and text— books might be good places to look. m The term “vegetarian” tends to be synonymous with “tree—hugger” in many people’s minds. They see vegetarianism as a cult that brain— washes its followers into eliminating an essential part of their daily diets for an abstract goal of “animal welfare.” However, few vege’ 1 3 INTRODUCTION tarians choose their lifestyle just to follow the crowd. On the can; nary, many of these supposedly brainwashed people are actually independent thinkers, concerned citizens, and compassionate human beings. For the truth is that there are many Very good rea’ sons for giving up meat. Perhaps the best reasons are to improve the environment, to encourage humane treatment of livestock, or to enhance one’s own health. In this essay, then, closely examining a vegetarian diet as compared to a meat—eater’s diet will show that vegetarianism is clearly the better option for sustaining the Earth and all its inhabitants. . Write a short essay in which you first summarize our ration, ale for the templates in this book and then articulate your own position in response. If you want, you can use the tem’ plate below to organize your paragraphs, expanding and modifying it as necessary to fit what you want to say. If you choose not to use the template, explain why you believe your own writing method is preferable. > In the introduction to “They Say// Say”: The Moves That Mat- ter in Academic Writing, Gerald Craffand Cathy Birkenstein pro- vide templates designed to . , . Specifically, Craft and Birkenstein argue that the types of writing templates they offer As the authors themselves put it, “ Although some people believe , , _. ,Craffand Birkenstein insist that . In sum, then, their view is that ., | agree/disagree/have mixed feelings. In. my view, the types of templates that the authors recommend . _ . , . For instance, In addition, . Some might object, of course, on the grounds that ,, W. Yet I would argue that . ,. ., Overall, then, I believe —an important point to make given . . 'l s» “THEY SAY” Starting with What Others Are Saying _§'_.. N OT LONG AGO we attended a talk at an academic confer— ence where the speaker’s central claim seemed to be that a cerv tain sociologist—call him Dr. X—had done very good work in a number of areas of the discipline. The speaker proceeded to illustrate his thesis by referring extensively and in great detail to various books and articles by Dr. X and by quoting long pas— sages from them. The speaker was obviously both learned and impassioned, but as we listened to his talk we found ourselves somewhat puzzled: the argument—that Dr. X’s work was very important—was clear enough, but why did the speaker need to make it in the first place? Did anyone dispute it? Were there commentators in the field who had argued against X’s work or challenged its value? Was the speaker’s interpretation of what X had done somehow novel or revolutionary? Since he gave no hint of an answer to any of these questions, we could only won, der why he was going on and on about X. It was only after the speaker finished and took questions from the audience that we got a clue: in response to one questioner, he referred to several critics who had vigorously questioned Dr. X’s ideas and con; Vinced many sociologists that Dr. X’s work was unsound. ow “THEY SAY” This little story illustrates an important lesson: that to give writing the most important thing of all—namely, a point—a writer needs to indicate clearly not only his or her thesis, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to. Because our speaker failed to mention what others had said about Dr. X’s work, he left his audience unsure about why he felt the need to say what he was saying. Perhaps the point was clear to other sociologists in the audience who were more familiar with the debates over Dr. X’s work than we were. But even they, we bet, would have understood the speaker’s point better if he’d sketched in some of the larger conversation his own claims were a part of and reminded the audience about what “they say.” This story also illustrates an important lesson about the order in which things are said: to keep an audience engaged, a writer needs to explain what he or she is responding to—either before offering that response or, at least, very early in the discussion. Delaying this explanation for more than one or two paragraphs in a very short essay, three or four pages in a longer one, or more than ten or so pages in a book’length text reverses the natural order in which readers process material—and in which writers think and develop ideas. After all, it seems very unlikely that our conference speaker first developed his defense of Dr. X and only later came across Dr. X’s critics. As someone knowlv edgeable in his field, the speaker surely encountered the criti~ cisms first and only then was compelled to respond and, as he saw it, set the record straight. Therefore, when it comes to constructing an argument (whether orally or in writing), we offer you the following advice: remember that you are entering a conversation and therefore need to start with “what others are saying,” as the title of this chapter recommends, and then introduce your own i 8 Starting with What Others Are Saying ideas as a response. Specifically, we suggest that you summarize what “they say” as soon as you can in your text, and remind readers of it at strategic points as your text unfolds. Though it’s true that not all texts follow this practice, we think it’s impor’ tant for all writers to master it before they depart from it. This is not to say that you must start with a detailed list of everyone who has written on your subject before you offer your own ideas. Had our conference speaker gone to the opposite extreme and spent most of his talk summarizing Dr. X’s critics with no hint of what he himself had to say, the audience prob, ably would have had the same frustrated “why’is’he/going'on— like this?” reaction. What we suggest, then, is that as soon as possible you state your own position and the one it’s respond, ing to together, and that you think of the two as a unit. It is generally best to summarize the ideas you’re responding to briefly, at the start of your text, and to delay detailed elabora’ tion until later. The point is to give your readers a quick prev view of what is motivating your argument, not to drown them in details this early. Starting with a summary of others’ views may seem to con; tradict the common advice (which you may have heard from many instructors) that writers lead with their own thesis or claim. Although we agree that you shouldn’t keep readers in suspense too long about yOur central argument, we also believe that you need to present that claim as part of some larger conversation—and that it’s important to indicate something about the arguments of others that you are supporting, opposv ing, amending, complicating, or qualifying. One added benefit of summarizing others’ Views as soon as you can: those others do some of the work of framing and clarifying the issue you’re writing about. i 9 or“: “THEY SAY" Consider, for example, how George Orwell starts his famous essay “Politics and the English Language” with what others are saying. Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civ— ilization is decadent and our language—so the argument runs—— must inevitably share in the general collapse. , . . [But] the process is reversible. Modern English . . . is full of bad habits . . . which can be avoided if one is willing to take the nec~ essary trouble. GEORGE ORWELL, “Politics and the English Language” Orwell is basically saying, “Most people assume that we can— not do anything about the bad state of the English language. But I say we can.” Of course, there are many other powerful ways to begin. Instead of opening with someone else’s Views, you could start with an illustrative quotation, a revealing fact or statistic, or— as we do in this chapter—a relevant anecdote. If you choose one of these formats, however, be sure that it in some way illus trates the view you’re addressing or leads you to that view directly, with a minimum of steps. In opening this chapter, for example, we devote the first paragraph to an anecdote about the conference speaker and then move quickly at the start of the second paragraph to the anecdote’s “important lesson” regarding what speakers should and shouldn’t do. In the following opening, from a 2004 opin/ ion piece in the New York Times Book Review, Christina Nehring also moves quickly from an anecdote illustrating something she 20 ‘ Starting with What Others Are Saying dislikes to her own claim—that book lovers think too highly of themselves. “I’m a reader!” announced the yellow button. “How about you?” I looked at its bearer, a strapping young guy stalking my town’s Festi— val of Books. “I’ll bet you’re a reader,” he volunteered, as though we were two geniuses well met. “No,” I replied. “Absolutely not,” I wanted to yell, and fling my Barnes & Noble bag at his feet. Instead, I mumbled something apologetic and melted into the crowd. There’s a new piety in the air: the self congratulation of book lovers. ‘ CHRISTINA NEHRING, “Books Make You a Boring Person” Nehring’s anecdote is really a kind of “they say”: book lovers keep telling themselves how great they are. TEMPLATES FOR INTRODUCING WHAT “THEY SAY" There are lots of conventional moves for introducing what oth ers are saying. Here are some standard templates that we would have recommended to our conference speaker. > A number ofsociologists have recently suggested that X's work has several fundamental problems. > it has become common today to dismiss X’s contribution to the field of sociology. > In their recent work, Y and Z have offered harsh critiques of Dr. X for N ................ . om: “THEY SAY" TEMPLATES FOR INTRODUCING STANDARD VIEWS” The following templates can help you make what we call the “standard View” move, in which you introduce a View that has become so widely accepted that by now it is essentially the con, ventional way of thinking about a topic. > Americans today tend to believe that > Conventional wisdom has it that . .. . > Common sense seems to dictate that . .. . > The standard way ofthinking about topic X has it that i. .. P It is often said that .. > My whole life I have heard it said that > You would think that > Many people assume that These templates are popular because they provide a quick and effi' cient way to perform one of the most common moves that writ— ers make: challenging Widely accepted beliefs, placing them on the examining table and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. TEMPLATES FOR MAKING WHAT “THEY SAY” SOMETHING You SAY Another way to introduce the views you’re responding to is to present them as your own. Starting with What Others Are Saying > I’ve always believed that .. > When I was a child, I used to think that > Although I should know better by now, I cannot help thinking that > At the same time that I believe I also believe TEMPLATES FOR INTRODUCING SOMETHING IMPLIED OR ASSUMED Another sophisticated move a writer can make is to summarize a point that is not directly stated in what “they say” but is implied or assumed. > Although none ofthem have ever said so directly, my teachers have often given me the impression that . > One implication of X’s treatment of ..... .. . . is that > Although X does not say so directly, she apparently assumes that > While they rarely admit as much, ..,, often take for granted that These are templates that can really help you to think critically—to look beyond what others say explicitly and to consider their unstated assumptions, as well as the implications of what they say or assume. “THEY SAY" TEMPLATES FOR INTRODUCING AN ONGOING DEBATE Sometimes you’ll want to open by summarizing a debate that presents two or more views. This kind of opening demon— strates your awareness that there are many ways to look at your subject, the clear mark of someone who knows the sub— ject and therefore is likely to be a reliable, trustworthy guide. Furthermore, opening with a summary of a debate can help you to frame and explore the issue you are writing about before declaring your own view. In this way, you can use the writing process itself to help you discover where you stand instead of having to take a position before you are ready to do so. Here is a basic template for opening with a debate. > in discussions ofX, one controversial issue has been . . .. . On the one hand, , . argues On the other hand, contends .. , . .. Others even maintain ._ My own view is The cognitive scientist Mark Aronoff uses this kind of tem— plate in an essay on the workings of the human brain. Theories of how the mind/brain works have been dominated for centuries by two opposing views One, rationalism, sees the human mind as coming into this world more or less fully formed—— preprogrammed, in modern terms. The other, empiricism, sees the mind of the newborn as largely unstructured, a blank slate. MARK ARONOFF, “Washington Sleeped Here” Starting with What Others Are Saying Another way to open with a debate involves starting with a proposition many people agree with in order to highlight the point(s) on which they ultimately disagree. > When it comes to the topic of . . . most of us will readily agree that _. . __ . . Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of \X/hereas some are convinced that _ ,others maintain that The political writer Thomas; Frank uses a variation on this sophisticated move. That we are a nation divided is an almost universal lament of this bitter election year. However, the exact property that divides us— elemental though it is said to be—remains a matter of some controversy. THOMAS FRANK, “American Psyche" While templates like these help you introduce what others are saying at the start of your text, Chapters 2 and 3 explore the arts of summarizing and quoting in more detail. KEEP WHAT “THEY SAY” IN VIEW We can’t urge you too strongly to keep in mind what “they say" as you move through the rest of your text. After summarizing the ideas you are responding to at the outset, it’s very impora tant to continue to keep those ideas in View. Readers won’t be able to follow your unfolding response, much less any complia ONE “THEY SAY" cations you may offer, unless you keep reminding them what claims you are responding to. In other words, even when presenting your own claims, you should keep returning to the motivating “they say.” The longer and more complicated your text, the greater the chance that readers will forget what ideas originally motivated it—no mat; ter how clearly you lay them out at the outset. At strategic moments throughout your text, we recommend that you include what we call “return sentences.” Here is an example. > in conclusion, then, as I suggested earlier, defenders of ,_ can’t have it both ways. Their assertion that .. H is contradicted by their claim that .,,_,__..._.________.__r_. , We ourselves use such return sentences at every opportunity in this book to remind you of the View of writing that our book challenges—that good writing means making true or smart or logical statements about a given subject with little or no refer’ ence to what others say about it. By reminding readers of the ideas you’re responding to, return sentences ensure that your text maintains a sense of mis’ sion and urgency from start to finish. In short, they help ensure that your argument is a genuine response to others’ views rather than just a set of observations about a given subject. The dif— ference is huge. To be responsive to others and the conversaa tion you’re entering, you need not only to start with what others are saying, but also to continue keeping it in the reader’s View. Exercises 1. The following claims all provide an “I say.” See if you can supply a plausible “they say” for each one. It may help to Starting with What Others Are Saying use one of the Templates for Introducing What “They Say” (p. 21). a. Our experiments suggest that there are dangerous levels of Chemical X in the Ohio groundwater. My own View is that this novel has certain flaws. Football is so boring. Male students often dominate class discussions. EDP-‘09” In my view the film is really about the problems of roman— tic relationships. , I’m afraid that templates like the ones in this book will stifle my creativity. 1"“; . Below is a template that we derived from the opening of David Zinczenko’s “Don’t Blame the Eater” (p. 139). Use the template to structure a passage on a topic of your own choosing. Your first step here should be to find an idea that you support that others not only disagree with, but also actually find laughable (or, as Zinzcenko puts it, wore thy of a Jay Leno monologue). You might write about one of the topics listed in the previous exercise (the environ; ment, sports, gender relations, the meaning of a book or movie) or any other topic that interests you. > if ever there was an idea customvmade for a Jay Leno mono~ .isn’t that like . V 9 Whatever happened to rrrrrr WWW“. ..... w? logue, this was it: i happen to sympathize with . ,. , though, perhaps because . V. ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/29/2010 for the course ENGL C1001 taught by Professor Biers during the Fall '10 term at Columbia.

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Graff+They+Say+I+Say+Intro-Ch1 - “TH EY SAgx‘fl SAY”...

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