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Saturday, June 23, 2012


I chose a passage near the bottom of page 347. FYI, I'm nowhere close to halfway done, and I'm also not reading the book in order.

Elbow is talking about features of speech that are creeping into language, and he's focused now on second person. In speech, we always have an audience, so using "you" is acceptable. But many English/composition teachers shun the use of "you" in academic writing. 

"Students are in a bind: they must learn the tricky and unnatural skill of writing to an audience while not syntactically addressing anyone at all...Yet much school writing goes only to the teacher - whose only job is to judge - so this seldom feels to students like communicating with an actual human...students tend to write as though to no audience." (emphasis is original to the text)

I picked this section because I've been talking with my colleagues a lot about tone and audience in student writing. In fact, we've planned an interdisciplinary "Tone Day" for November 5th (just before the election). We've planned to work on identifying an audience, connecting with the audience through common ground, and making particular word choices to achieve a desired tone. But Elbow reminds me here that working on tone and talking about audience may not be enough.

What if, in the end, I'm still the only person who reads the students' writing? The audience is still inauthentic. 

So I'm wondering how I can realistically create an audience of readers for my students in the fall. 


  1. This has been on my mind a lot too, Katie, as I look to start thinking about my fall syllabus and whatnot. I've heard of some really creative ideas from other teachers about how to provide a type of audience to student...one of my colleagues, for instance, connects her college students to be pen pals with elementary school students, and also has them write a letter to a specific person in government or a person in a field where they want to work... having students keep a blog is another way you can create an audience (since blogs are public)...but at least with first year composition at the college level, it also seems like part of our work is to prepare students to write for an audience of professors who are grading them for the rest of their college career, right? So maybe they need some of that, too? ...It's definitely tricky stuff!

  2. Katie,
    My third project for my English 120 students is titled "Who Is Your Audience." This is for first-year writing but I think it could be modified for any age. I have them first write a letter to someone they would like to emulate or a historical or famous person in the profession/career they are pursuing at EMU. This is a letter of inquiry where they have to ask their chosen person questions such as: why they picked a certain career, where they went to school, what courses they took, etc? We discuss letter conventions. The second letter, is a response letter, they have to write as if they are that person. It is a creative venture, but I have gotten some fun reads. The students have to do research. The third part of the project has them writing a Profile Article on their person/career.
    If your interested I can email you the assignment sheet.


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