How Reading Teaches Writing
DOI link for How Reading Teaches Writing
How Reading Teaches Writing book
We read with varying degrees of attentiveness: sometimes with a rapid scanning that seeks to do no more than pick out salient pieces of information; sometimes more carefully, to retrieve meanings and deeper meanings; sometimes most exactingly, to capture the relationship between the semantics and the aesthetic values - in general, the content and the form - of the text. In each of these instances, the reading is for the benefit of reading itself, to enhance the skill of the reader, to raise the power of understanding. But reading can also work for the benefit of the reader as potential writer. Not consciously, as a rule, but somewhere along the peripheries of attention, we take note of how things are written. Compositional devices become apparent - the structure of a paragraph, the connecting of sentence to sentence, the management of transitions, the variations of sentence-length and sentencetype, the emergence of patterns of vocabulary, the configurations of metaphor. It is not strictly necessary to read 'great literature' or 'the best writers' to become versed in these matters. Functional prose (the 'clockwise' kind) often has much to teach, because compositional devices are brought more or less emphatically to the reader's attention, whereas the lessons are not so easily learned from imaginative (,counter-clockwise') composition, in which writers are often at pains to camouflage or 'recess' their methods of shaping a text. But almost any text will serve for instruction, provided that it is sensible and coherent and not predominantly technical or specialist. (This should eliminate legal documents, hire purchase agreements, insurance policies, car maintenance manuals and computer user guides, all of which serve purposes of definition
Begin with one of the commonest of compositional scenarios - the investigator addressing himself methodically to the business of expounding his subject:
There are experimental ways of investigating stereotypes. One of the most obvious is to ask a group of people what traits characterise the Germans, the Italians, the Americans and so forth. Results of such studies on the whole agree fairly well with what might have been expected; there is considerable agreement between different people in anyone nation regarding the most characteristic traits of other nations. There is even agreement between different nations; for instance, the Americans and the English agree with respect o other groups, and even, though less markedly, themselves.