Learning Module 3 Recap and Next Time

Today, we went over four key topics:

Rhetorical Analysis: rhetoric as a way of thinking, more formally analyzing, distinguishing between summary and analysis, and thinking toward the sort of topic you might want to write about for your Rhetorical Analysis assignment

Genre: We got some practice considering different kinds of genre conventions for the memoir essay, thinking toward what audiences expect and what they might not expect.

Style in Sentence Choices: We thought about varying sentences in terms of their length and type for both engagement and emphasis.

Checking in on Revision: We had a brief check-in to see how the revision is going.


Next Time

-The Rhetorical Analysis Proposal Process Document is due by 3pm on Thursday, 9/24

-The Writing Session Plan Process Document is due by 3pm on Thursday, 9/24

-Read the Tristen Chau essay and complete a Reading Annotation on it by 3pm on Thursday, 9/24

-Not due on Thursday, but: please work with your Writing Groups on when you are going to share an in-progress version of your Literacy Narrative Revision with your group members and deadlines for getting feedback to each other. Activity Accountant: make sure everyone is set on this. Group Historian: let me know by October 1 how this went.


Remember: More information on assignments due are ALWAYS on the Course Schedule.




Literacy Narrative Revision Check-in

How’s it going?

I’m going to ask you to do 2 things in this space:

  1. Comment in our Slack channel #writing-practice-and-process on how your Writing Schedule and Writing Sessions have been going since we talked about those two things last week (remember: the Writing Session Plan Process Document is due on 9/24 by 3pm). Has the schedule for writing worked out much for this class or other for writing for other classes? Have you done a Writing Session yet? How did that go? Just get some thoughts out in general on how your writing has been going. And, try to prioritize responding to others! Read what others who came before you have said.
  2. Direct message me in Slack to tell me how your Revision Plan is going (see our lesson plan from 9/17 on the Revision Plan; it is also available on Blackboard in Course Documents). At the least, let me know about the genre you chose for your literacy narrative revision and ask me any questions you have about choices you are making in your literacy narrative revision (e.g., incorporating Liao’s criteria, a different direction you are taking it in, stylistic adjustments, who your audience would be for your revision, something you are confused about in the assignment).

After completing these tasks, comment below “I have posted to Slack.”

Once you posted to Slack and commented below, click the button below to continue.

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Style: Sentence Type

For some writing, sentence variety will not matter as much. In short emails, in short memos, in some policy writing or some technical documents (especially instructions). However, writing that is longer and writing that you might worry people will stop paying attention to? Sentence variety is one trick you have as a writer to keep readers engaged.

On the last page, you got to take a brief look at some of your writing. To keep your reader engaged, varying your sentence lengths can wake them up a bit. If every sentence is about the same length, your writing could read like a song that always has the same exact beat…and that can be kind of boring, you know?

Varying sentence length at a key moment can emphasize something, too, that you want to be emphasized. For instance, perhaps you have several long sentences, and then all of a sudden have a sentence of three words. That violation of a pattern can emphasize whatever you put in that three word sentence.

Varying Sentences: Length and Using Phrases and Clauses

One way to vary sentences is to make them different lengths. You can do this by cutting or adding to them. You may intuitively have a sense to do this. Whether you do or do not, though, knowing the units of words is one way to help: adding/removing phrases, expanding a dependent clause into an independent clause as a new sentence, combining sentences into one sentence with multiple independent clauses, etc.

The Phrase: Missing a subject or a verb, but as a collection of words, has meaning potential.

Examples: The dog with the ball. From there, they went to the park.

The Clause: a subject and a verb (often also includes phrases and words that modify the subject and verb).

Examples: He [subj] ran [verb]. She [subj] jumped [verb] up and down [adverbial phrase]. They [subj] jumped [verb] high [adverb] before stopping for a break [prepositional phrase].

The Independent Clause: It forms a complete sentence and thought, but can have other words, phrases, or clauses that modify it.

Examples: He ran. They jumped high before stopping for a break.

The Dependent Clause: It has a subject and a verb, but it needs an independent clause to complete the thought.

Example: While they were tired, they were able to muster enough energy to complete the task.

Sentences: An independent clause or a combination of independent and dependent clauses.

Examples: [any of the examples for independent clause or the full sentence for dependent clause example]

Using phrases and clauses to change up your sentences gets us in the realm of sentence types.


Sentence Types

The four types of sentences, based on structure, are (more at Purdue OWL with examples):

  • Simple
  • Compound
  • Complex
  • Compound-Complex
  • [Also, the fragment–which is completely legitimate to use, especially to emphasize something since readers often don’t expect fragments]

Read through the Purdue OWL explanation of sentence types to learn the differences between them.

Varying your sentence types can create a different rhythm. Dependent clauses or phrases, for instance, can interrupt a sentence in ways that a simple sentence only made up of an independent clause cannot.


-He went to school.

-He went, after he dropped off library books at the library, to school.


Sentence Types and Proximity

Varying sentence types can draw ideas both closer together and further apart, which can have rhetorical effects:

Very Far: It was a rough day for Melissa. She had to cover a second shift for her friend at work. And now she was stranded. Because her car broke down. Great.

Far: It was a rough day for Melissa. She had to cover a second shift for her friend at work. Plus, now she was stranded at work because her car broke down.

Close: It was a rough day for Melissa, especially since she had to cover a second shift for her friend at work. Plus, now she was stranded at work because her car broke down.

Very Close: It was a rough day for Melissa, especially since she had to cover a second shift for her friend at work; now she was stranded in her broken down car.

Using em-dashes, along with semicolons and colons, can utilize proximity for purposes of emphasis.

Very close with greater pause for dependent clause: It was a rough day for Melissa–especially since she had to cover a second shift for her friend at work; now she was stranded in her broken down car.

Very close with longer pause for rhetorical triplet: It was a rough day for Melissa: she had to cover a second shift for her friend, her car broke down, and now she is stranded.

This punctuation guide website is a wonderful resource.

Much of this, too, depends on position in the sentence. Generally, the ranking of position of emphasis in English is:

  1. End of Sentence
  2. Beginning of Sentence
  3. Middle of Sentence

Generally speaking, whatever you want to emphasize should come at the end of the sentence. If you want to de-emphasize something, bury it in the middle in a dependent clause or some other way.

Keeping an idea by itself is more likely to be emphasized, especially if you are engaging in a good variety of sentences (otherwise, if just a bunch of simple sentences, the monotone rhythm will lose the emphasis).


Choose 2 paragraphs from your literacy narrative draft (you can choose the same 2 paragraphs from the activity on the last page if you want) and mark each sentence as a sentence type. You can use the comment function in Word or Adobe Reader. You could also use a separate piece of paper and use this template: Sentence 1 = [insert sentence type]. Count sentence types for each of 4 sentence types in those 2 paragraphs.

Think about the following:

  1. Do you notice any patterns? Do you tend to use a certain combination of types or is there a repetitive pattern that tends to happen (e.g., you often follow a complex or complex-compound sentence with 1-2 simple sentences)? If so, why do you think you do that? What does that do rhetorically? How does that pattern influence your reader?
  2. Do you notice any violations of patterns? (e.g., do you all of a sudden have a string of 6 simple sentences or two consecutive compound sentences somewhere but do there nowhere else?) Does that violation of a pattern do something rhetorically? How? Why?

Comment below with the following information:

  1. The number of sentence types for each sentence in those 2 paragraphs you selected.
  2. Note anything that stood out to you in terms of both the amount of each sentence type and the ordering of those sentence types (e.g., was there interesting placement of different sentence types next to each other?)

After commenting below, click on the “Click here to continue” button below.

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Style: Sentence Length

Back to Style this week!

We are going to spend a little time going over sentences this week, and the way I like to start with this is to just focus on how long and short your sentences tend to be.

First, Open up your Literacy Narrative first draft (or, if you want, your revision in-progress).


Second, let’s see your sentence length average and variance.

You can use Microsoft Word to do this.

a. Go to File>Options (make sure you use scroll bar all the way to right to scroll to bottom)>Proofing.

b. Under “When correcting spelling…”, check the box labeled “Show readability statistics.”

c. After that, go to “Review” on top menu bar and click “Spelling & Grammar” on far right.

d. Some box (or a few) might come up about conciseness or something else, click “Ignore once.” Then another box will appear called “Readability Statistics.” Look at “Averages” and you will find your sentence average, as well as average sentence per paragraph and average character length for words.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word you can use analyzemywriting.com and paste your writing there and click “Analyze Text!”. Toward bottom, the last chart “Sentence Length” gives you the mean and median for your sentences (as well as a distribution of all of your sentence according to number of words).


Third, choose two different paragraphs and note the length of each sentence (in Word, use cursor to highlight sentence and in bottom left corner it tells you how long sentence is; in Google Docs, highlight sentence and then click Tools>Word Count). Write down each length somewhere so you don’t forget (e.g., use comment function). Think about these questions:

  1. Do you note any patterns in length? (e.g., do you tend, in both paragraphs, to start with really long sentences followed by a short sentence? Or do you tend to have really short sentences of about equal length throughout?) Is there a rhetorical effect here? What? How does it make that effect?
  2. Is there a time where these patterns are violated? Is there a rhetorical effect there? What?
  3. To see the distribution of sentence lengths, you can use analyzemywriting.com (follow instructions from previous page). This can help you see bigger picture of whether you tend to always have roughly the same length of sentence or not.

In a comment below, name one thing that stood out to you about your writing based on this analysis.

After you comment below, click the button below to continue.

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Genre: Expectations and Violations

Last class, on September 17, we went over the nature of genre in different communicative and artistic texts.

On this page, we are going to explore one of the two options for genre that you have for your Literacy Narrative Revision in a bit more depth: the memoir-style essay.

See last class for more information on the personal letter. That option is a bit more straightforward.

The memoir essay is a little more in depth. Memoirs, especially in essay format, tend to try to do these three things:

  1. Entertain
  2. Get audience to think differently about something
  3. Relate and build solidarity with others about a topic

Click on the below and choose memoir essays to skim through. See what they have in common.

Name 2-3 genre expectations that you notice in a comment below (e.g., how it starts, how it is formatted, paragraphing, kinds of words used, its organization, what happens toward the end). That is, what do the 3 memoirs sort of have in common in the words, sentences, organization, design, etc. that make up each essay? Be specific.

15 Essay-Length Short Memoirs to Read Online on Your Lunch Break


After commenting below, click the button below to continue.

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Rhetorical Analysis: Proposal

Okay, okay. Don’t stress out! You have your Literacy Narrative Revision due October 1. That is where the majority of your energy should be.

However, I am a big believer in thinking EARLY about things. Your first draft of your Rhetorical Analysis is due October 13. That’s a while from now, but I would still like you to start thinking about it now.

Right now, take a moment to read through the prompt for your Rhetorical Analysis assignment (see Blackboard>Assignment Prompts>Major Writing Projects>Rhetorical Analysis). Let me know if you have any questions.

Comment below with any questions you have for the prompt. If you do not have any questions, write “I don’t have a question” so I can give you credit for the task on this page.

This Thursday, September 24, one of the things you will submit is your proposal for your Rhetorical Analysis (see Blackboard>Assignment Prompts>Process Documents>Rhetorical Analysis Proposal). This is very informal, I just want you to tell me any initial ideas you have for this assignment in terms of the text that you want to analyze.

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Rhetorical Analysis: Summary vs. Analysis

One of the big adjustments for doing a rhetorical analysis is learning the distinction between summary and analysis.

Many of us wrote book reports in school. If you did, you would mostly be doing summary. Summary takes the most important parts that you think an audience would want to know, and assemble them in a “big picture” way to give your audience a sense of the meaningful parts of a given object. If it is a book report, that means the highlights and general trajectory of the plot. If it is an “executive summary” for, say, an annual report for a given business or non-profit, that means including the main takeaways in terms of yearly earnings, future directions, etc.

Summary is useful in a rhetorical analysis! Especially when you are analyzing an object that your audience is unfamiliar with–say a brief summary in the beginning (like no more than a paragraph). But, the bulk of what you are doing in a rhetorical analysis is not summary, but (surprise!) analysis.

In the “Tools for Analyzing Texts” chapter, these are the sorts of things you are trying to figure out when analyzing a text:

  • the central meanings of the text
  • how meanings are expressed in the text
  • why the text is important
  • why the text is unusual, unique, or odd
  • why it is influential or what influences it
  • how it describes social, cultural, or historical ideas
  • how it conceals, exposes, reinforces, or challenges hidden violence or prejudiced attitudes
  • what philosophical, psychological, or affective concepts it channels
  • or where it stands (or should stand) in relation to other texts

On pages 109-110, there is a great example of summarizing, summarizing + analyzing, and analyzing only.

To get some practice with this distinction, and to get you in that revision headspace you all should be in now anyway (!), do the following in the comments below:

  1. Write a brief summary of your first draft of your literacy narrative
  2. Write a brief analysis, using a lens from “Tools for Analyzing Texts,” of your first draft of your literacy narrative.

You can do a hybrid summary and analysis or do a separate summary and analysis in the same comment below. Make sure you have something substantive: about 150-300 words.

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Rhetorical Analysis: Lenses and Ways of Reading

Doing a rhetorical analysis means saying something about a bunch of parts of something in order to make an interpretation about the whole. The act of analysis is to pay attention to details and think critically about how they add up.

But how might you analyze any given thing? It does not just happen from what feminist theorist Donna Haraway calls “the view from nowhere.” We all view something from somewhere. We all have our theories about how things work, and because knowledge can only ever be partial, we use theories to fill in gaps where we feel it is reasonable to do that.

In rhetorical analysis, these theories, or lenses, can help us think about texts in different ways. They help us think about a text from one perspective in a way another perspective would not let us see.

In the chapter “Tools for Analyzing Texts,” you were introduced to a number of different lenses you could use to help analyze a given text. On pages 102-105 a number of lenses are described and on pages 105-108 there is a sample rhetorical analysis of a photograph using many of these lenses.

Revisit those pages (don’t forget to look over your annotations–if you did not do these yet, I would recommend completing the readings for this week first along with annotations for them) and choose one of the questions asked about the photograph on pages 105-108 and use one of the lenses on pages 105-108 to answer that question.

When commenting below:

  1. Put the number of the question from pages 105-108 in your comment (e.g., #3)
  2. Tell us the lens your are using.
  3. Provide your response in about 50-100 words.
  4. Also: there are 10 questions and 14 of you, so there will be repeats. BUT: try not to all do the same one so that we have some diversity in responses! (though, even doing the same one could produce different responses, of course)

After commenting below, click on the button below to continue.

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Rhetoric, Rhetorical Thinking, Rhetorical Analysis

We have already talked about rhetorical situations from Learning Module 1, so we are going to back up a bit and talk about rhetoric more broadly.

There are many MANY definitions of rhetoric. In our textbook, Graves, Corcoran, and Blankenship define it broadly as “the kinds of choices people make both to interpret and create forms of communication” (95).

Rhetoric, then, might be best thought of in the context of our class as a way of thinking. That is, a way of considering “why do this and not that? What effect would there be if I did this instead? Why did the writer do that? I wonder what purpose that served their argument or narrative by doing that?” and so on. We can call this rhetorical thinking.

As a way of thinking, to formalize it a bit more, we might use rhetorical analysis to take the time to work out our thinking in our writing as a way to understand any object that is written, designed, composed, created, etc. How that object has a purpose of some kind, an audience it hopes to reach, different constraints that the creator was under, unstated ideologies it serves, and ways we can make meaning with that object.

An Example of Rhetorical Thinking and Analysis

One of my earliest memories of being really purposeful in rhetorical thinking was when I was in high school. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) functioned much like texting and some forms of social media function today. It was how we communicated with our friends, whereas people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s may have used a landline telephone. One day, a friend of mine showed me a (printed out!) transcript of an AIM conversation between him and his then-girlfriend. He wanted to show me because they were talking about their relationship and though she confirmed that she wanted to stay together, he got a vibe that something was off.

I read it over and because I knew my friend wanted another perspective on it, I paid really close attention to her specific word choice. I remember lots of hedging (or, qualifying what she was saying in ways that left open the possibility that she was not as committed as she claimed) and an indirect writing style that never quite assertively said that she wanted to stay in the relationship. My interpretation was that she wasn’t feeling him any more. It wasn’t quite working out.

Well, later on, it turned out that my rhetorical analysis I did after reading the transcript and talking with my friend was pretty accurate! They broke up a few weeks later. It wasn’t working. And though she wasn’t ready to tell him that, a close rhetorical analysis gave me and my friend a more evidence-based perspective on how the relationship was going. When they broke up, I think he was less surprised.

Examples from Your Life

As I said earlier on this semester, you all are experts in language and rhetoric and writing already. You’ve done it all of your life. In our class, we are practicing being more aware of our abilities as readers, writers, and communicators so as to keep improving our developing expertise.

Before moving on, share in the comments below an example where you used some rhetorical thinking or a more formal rhetorical analysis in a way that helped you or someone else the way I helped my friend in my example above. Give me details about what the object you were analyzing was, what you thought about it, and why you thought about it that way. Be specific! To be substantive, make it about 50-100 words.


Once you commented below, click the button below to move on.

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Recap for Learning Module 2

Today, we talked about:

  1. The nature of style and its relationship to audience and the writer, and how it is a matter of matching (and disrupting) expectations and values.
  2. What voice is in writing and how it relates to your own personal (but also shifting) style(s).
  3. The relationship between style and translingualism based on our full storehouse of languages that we can fully draw from.
  4. How style can be associated with the kinds of words we use to create a tone and how the famous formal/informal distinction is a little problematic.
  5. Word origins and register can help us think through the kinds of styles we want to build for ourselves in our writing.
  6. We checked in with how our writing practice and/or process is going.
  7. We went over the the Writing Schedule Activity due for 9/17
  8. We went over the Literacy Narrative Revision prompt

The last thing we will do is this: Take a breath and post to Slack!

Please post anything to Slack something to take our minds off of school and really everything. We all need that sometimes. Tell us something that is bringing you joy right now in the appropriate channel (if you can’t find one that makes sense, can just do general or random):

  1. music
  2. TV/movies
  3. something good happening to you right now
  4. A fun activity you have been doing to help destress
  5. A funny meme, video, etc. (as long as it doesn’t punch down in possibly offensive ways)
  6. Or, like, anything else! Idk, just whatever that brings you joy

I hope you are staying well and look forward to reading your writing (and seeing/hearing you on 9/17…or sooner if we talk before that in Writing Groups or whatever).

Next Time

-Read Liao and complete Reading Annotation by 3pm on Thursday, 9/17

-Read Thompson and complete Reading Annotation by 3pm on Thursday, 9/17

-Complete Writing Schedule Activity by 3pm on Thursday, 9/17