Text Production, Ch Five Part 2



    2.1 GRAMMAR designates a vast, elaborated corpus of conventions about language forms and formats.1 [The derivation of the word from Greek ‘grammatikos’, meaning ‘of letters’, suggests how strongly the notion was originally allied with writing rather than with speech (cf. V.3.1; Robinson, 1976: 174f).] Together with punctuation and spelling, grammar has been a traditionally focal concern of writing programs. Proficiency in these three areas is the conventional (though misguided) basis for judgements of literacy (I.2.8). Yet despite this obvious social relevance, the fundamental operation of these three sub-systems of language has widely remained obscure. They have been generally acquired more via force of example (dinned in) than via explicit, workable principles. Surveys indicate that traditional grammar instruction does not seem effective for today’s students (cf. Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, & Schoer, 1963; Postman & Weingartner, 1966; Memering, 1978; Mellon, 1981). But a less traditional approach might have a more significant effect on writing skills (cf. Kolin, 1981).

   2.2 Whereas spelling attracted little research until recently, and punctuation even less, grammar was the dominant concern of American ‘linguistics’ for decades (cf. II.1; II.3). However, the main priority of this research was not to improve literacy education. School grammar was decried by linguists (e.g. Roberts, 1958) as inaccurate, biased, and subjective. The surveys of usage that linguists undertook (e.g. Leonard [Ed.], 1932; Kurath, 1949) dispelled some myths about the language Americans really used, which was not always appreciated by officialdom. Meanwhile, the ‘linguistic’ grammars pursued an entirely different intention from school grammar. The descriptive, formalized approach gave little heed to the decision-making involved in the active use of grammar within communication. By discounting evaluation, linguistics largely lost sight of communicative motives for selecting grammatical options.

   2.3 Composition teachers were caught in yet another dilemma. They could either retain school grammar despite documented ineffectiveness and linguists’ censure; or, they could go in search of a new grammar not found either in tradition or in linguistic research. [RECENT NOTE 2004. I am finally undertaking the second of these in book form. Stay tuned.] Neither recourse was attractive, and forced compromises usually ensued. Some schools phased out grammar instruction; others tried teaching linguistics itself instead; and still others {233} adopted textbooks with an ornamental sprinkling of fashionable linguistic terminology (“kernels,” “right-blanching/left-branching sentences”,, etc.) for an otherwise traditional framework. Predictably, these tactics did little to improve the active use of grammar.

   2.4 The ideal qualities of a learners’ grammar are not hard to specify. First, it should be accurate, should reflect the organization of good prose by skilled writers. Second, it should be workable, i.e., should be stated and learned in such a way that the average student, regardless of background, can acquire and use it. Though hardly abstruse, these two standards are frequently not met by instructional materials that embark on a jumbled to define grammatical categories partly in terms of content, and partly in terms of structure. Picture a naive, unskilled write, trying to find out what “subjects” and “predicates” are. Here’s some obtuse advice from widely-used textbooks:


The subject tells who or what the sentence is about, and the predicate tells something about the subject. (Mills, 1979: 2)


A subject group ordinarily names persons, things, or ideas that perform the action or exist in the state described by the predicate. (1982: 117)


A subject is a noun or noun equivalent that performs an action or is in a particular state of being; it usually appears before the verb and determines the number (singular or plural) of the Verb. The verb signifies the action or state of being of the subject. The predicate is the verb and all the words related to it. (Corder, 1979: 463)


We are aware of the Noun-like quality of the subjects and the Verb-like quality of the predicate, whether or not we can explain them . If you are asked to divide a sentence into two parts, you will invariably divide it between “subject” and “predicate” (Moody, 1981: 310)


 The subject is ] whatever verb agrees with in person and number. [The] predicate [is] whatever follows the subject. (Williams, 1981b: 213ff)


 For all their diversity, these definitions have one thing in common: they hardly help a naive student locate the “subject” and “predicate” in a sentence. The content-based approach (e.g. Mills, Broderick) is too vague. “What the sentence is about” could be any of its content. not just what’s expressed in the “subject”; nor is “the predicate” the only thing that can “tell something about the subject”— whatever participial modifiers or relative clauses can too. The structure-based approach (Corder, Moody, Williams) is less vague, but only for people who already command a secure knowledge of grammatical terms, e.g., who can pick out “whatever the verb agrees with in person and number.” Besides, a “noun” doesn’t “perform an action,” but only {234} identifies the agent referred to by the noun. The implication that subject and predicate form two neat blocks in a row, as Moody and Williams appear to suggest, is not even true of common, simple sentences (cf. V.2.21). The “we”-people who “are aware of the noun-like quality of the subject and the verb-like quality of the predicate”, and the “you”-people who “invariably divide” a sentence “between subject and predicate,” are far more likely composition teachers than students (cf. V.2.6).

   2.5 The naive student who needs to identify a sentence is no better served. Again, there is a forced choice between the forbiddingly technical and the unworkably vague:  

Defined by form or pattern, a sentence is a basic unit of language, a communication in words, having as its core at least one independent finite verb with its subject. In addition to being a basic unit, the sentence is a natural one. It nearly always contains two pieces of information the listener is conditioned to expect from it: who or what is involved, and what does he, she, or it do or feel. [...] We speak of sentences in general as complete units, capable of standing alone without the support of supplementary comment. (Willson, 1980: 29)  

Either the students must know how to identify the “independent finite verb with its subject.” Or, they can puzzle over poorly definable notions like “a communication in words,” “a natural unit” (the really natural unit is the “stretch of text,” III.2.28), “pieces of information,” and “supplementary comment”—all of which can apply to utterances not formatted as sentences, e.g. fragments (V.2.32-37). Such definitions take the “sentence” as a given, rather than as one among several possible language formats that needs to be constructed and recognized. Therefore, students get no clear tactics to distinguish between a sentence and a non-sentence punctuated as one.

    2.6 The merits of individual textbooks are not the issue here. The point is that they all rely on terms quite natural to English teachers, but not at all transparent to the unskilled writers we are supposed to be helping. These books are addressed not to their real users, but to the people who decide what textbooks to buy (VI.3.26)—teachers who share the same ways of thinking as the textbook authors. Quite conceivably, many students can’t handle grammar precisely because textbooks expound its basic notions in terms students can’t understand or apply, like a ladder you can’t climb because the lower rungs are missing. Many writing handbooks don’t even attempt to define “subject,” “predicate,” or “sentence,” as if everybody must already have mastered these subtle notions—which is at present not even true for middle-class white students, much less for minorities. Or, textbook authors feel that such matters should be explained with condescension (cf. criticism in Lanham, 1974). In this light, traditional grammar instruction has to be ineffectual (V.2. 1).

     2.7 An accurate and workable grammar for the average learner needs a {235} different design. Grammatical categories must be made transparent enough that contemporary students can handle them without the formal and metaphysical expertise presupposed by most textbooks and reference works. If, as mentalist linguistics claims, speakers of English have acquired and “internalized” a grammar, grammatical categories can be expounded and understood in terms of what someone does with the language. Student speech manifests a considerable store of linguistic knowledge. The question is how to tap that knowledge and consciously apply it to the tasks of writing.

     2.8 These premises stipulate the design of a grammar not provided either by linguistics or by traditional schooling. The grammar has a stated purpose: supporting the goals of literacy education. Hence, the grammar must be tailored to the user. The naive student experienced in casual talk, but not in writing. Plainly, such a grammar could not be designed from some abstract “theory of competence” intended as a vehicle for “pure research.” Indeed, such theories fail exactly because they lack any recourse to application, and hence have no way to define their own object of inquiry. Nor could such a grammar be a vehicle for English teachers to converse with their colleagues via obscure, or condescending edification of the naive students that inhabit average classrooms. This approach defines its application, but not adequately enough to be a useful instructional tool.

    2.9 The first step is to explore how much grammatical knowledge is enacted by average speakers of English. A major problem posed by the English language is the fuzziness of word classes. A word like ‘last’, for example, can belong to any of the four classes of content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) without changing its form. Whereas many languages reshape a word to fit each class, English has dropped off most inflections and now shows many grammatical distinctions by patterns of phrase linearization. Thus, the technique is not to classify the words themselves, but the positions they occupy in utterances. Many linguists have remarked on the ease with which even young children form grammatical utterance patterns long before  they have any contact with school grammar.

   2.10 I shall describe one probe that illustrates these issues. A test was administered to about 150 school children from Gainesville, ranging in age from 8 to 17 years; later, a replication was done among rural school children in Maclenny, Florida, a tiny town near Jacksonville.” The following grid was presented:  

(302) The _____, _____, _____, _____, _____ man

 The _____, _____, _____, _____, _____ lady

 The _____, _____, _____, _____, _____ airplane

 The _____, _____, _____, _____, _____ word

 The _____, _____, _____, _____, _____ city  

{236} The children simply were told to “fill the blanks with adjectives that sound good.” I assumed that most of the children would be grammatically naive and have no explicit definition for the notion of “adjective.” Their teachers confirmed that grammar instruction had been uncommon, or at least not emphasized. However, the position between article and noun would, I reasoned, naturally be filled by most English speakers with words that are, ipso facto, adjectives.

   2.11 The task actually implies two other tasks we didn’t announce. The announced task was the easiest: to make sure that every blank contains an adjective. Here, most of the children were quite successful. Their spelling, which I had found on other tests to be, erm, uncertain (VI.40), occasionally obscured the data, e.g., whether ‘the experience man’ is a solecism in spelling or in grammar. Significantly, even made-up words were formed to look like adjectives, usually via their endings: ‘the bobochous lady’, ‘the mustacheous man’, and the ‘businesy’, ‘unordinating’, ‘love-obtained’, and ‘inexistencing’ ‘city’. The evidence was overwhelming that fourth-graders with known literacy problems nonetheless demonstrated an operational understanding of the grammatical category “adjective.” Less than 1 % of the data contradicted this finding, for example:  

(303) The big black ugly dub with ploted air city

(304) The big wite loud zoomed with anger airplane  

In fact, the author of (304) went back and inserted ‘plane’ in the proper slot after ‘loud’.

 2.12 A harder task was to make the adjectives plus their noun form a coherent configuration. The vast majority of the data also met this criterion. Unexpectedly (for me anyway), the children typically displayed negative attitudes about men, words, and cities, vs. positive ones about ladies and airplanes, e.g.:  

(305) The bow-legged, emptyheaded, knock-kneed, stupnosed, extremely grotesque man

The slim, willowy, graceful, courteous, attractive lady

The gigantic, metallic, bird-like, shining, silver airplane

The obscene, dirty, bad-mouth, fowl, 4-letter word

The bustling, overcrowded, grimy, crime-filled, smelly city  

Especially the ‘word’ was a target of aggression, perhaps because of teachers’ adverse comments on the utterances and papers of children. In acrimonious disregard for its holy origin proclaimed in the New Testament (John I: 1), the ‘word’ appeared as ‘misspelled’, ‘illegible’, ‘illiterate’, uncalled-for’, ‘silly’, ‘boring’, ‘trite’, ‘overused’, ‘tedious’, ‘exasperating’, ‘rambling’, ‘confusing’, ‘incomprehensible’, ‘outlandish’, and ‘meaningless’. Small wonder if children learn little from language instruction that so berates them. {237}

   2.13 The age of the children affected their tolerance for doubtful coherence. The youngest children ably created configurations that would do credit to a surrealist:  

(306) The big medal fat mean bad airplane

(307) The fat ghosty scarry long squared city

(308) The long hard to say blue fat little word

(309) The strong, surprising, shaking, long, scarey word

(310) The great pulsating, secreteing throbbing pink word  

Contradictory configurations were also found, though more rarely:  

(311) The handsome monstrous intelligent colossal stupid man

(312) The very little kind of big word

(313) The German mispelled mispronounced scientific French word  

The fact that the children had a firmer grip on the grammatical category “adjective” than on the demands for coherence seems important. It suggests that the tradition of defining grammatical notions in terms of content (V.2.4) may be both unnecessary and confusing. Children are more likely to learn what an “adjective” is from their language experience than from definitions like: “in general, adjectives modify, or in some way change the meaning of, nouns and pronouns,” 1 [Pronouns? show me! – Maybe you mean ‘the living I’ or ‘the new you’?, which no student writer would ever write!], where “nouns” (you guessed it) “name persons, places, things, or ideas” (Moody, 1981: 346, 31 1).

   2.14 The hardest task was of course to get the five adjectives into an acceptable order— an issue still far from explained in theory (cf. IV.2.74). Adjective sequences, like most recursions in language, are normally no longer than three (IV.2.13, 70). As expected, the children were often uncertain about the best order. Sometimes they would draw arrows on the paper to rearrange their sequences. One child improved (314) by making it into (314a):  

(314) The blue and white American fast huge airplane

(314a) The huge fast blue and white American airplane  

Not all such changes brought a clear improvement, however:  

(315) The shiny metalic wonderous large flying airplane

(315a) The shiny wondrous large metalic machine airplane  

Even my research group and I had a hard time figuring out the best order for some sequences. It was much easier to rearrange (316) than (317):  

(316) The cargo, war, green, powerful, long airplane

(316a) The long, powerful, green war cargo airplane

(317) The large, noisy, crowded, fast white airplane

(317a) The large, fast, white, noisy, crowded airplane  

We had to break cases like (317) down into shorter versions we could agree

{238} about: ‘the large white airplane’, ‘the large, fast, white airplane’, and finally, ‘the large, fast, white, noisy, crowded airplane’ (where ‘noisy’ and ‘crowded’ could be interchanged).

 2.15 Later, we did a comparison study with whole sentences containing only three blanks for adjectives in each of two positions, e.g.:  

(318) The man used _____, _____ _____words

(319) The lady lives in the _____, _____ _____ city.  

The instructions were the same as before (V.2.10); yet this condition improved both the coherence and the order of the results. The children produced very few incoherent statements, and almost no disordered sequences. Greater coherence was encouraged by using the format of normal complete statements. Greater order came from limiting recursion to the customary threes (cf. IV.2.13, 70; IV3.37). These two factors elicited language knowledge that the less natural format of the earlier tests had failed to tap. Grammatical knowledge as such is generally fuzzy, but comes into sharp perspective when applied to a specific task such as formatting an everyday statement (cf. I.4.6).

    2.16 This straightforward demonstration may have useful implications. The further grammar is removed from natural communication, the more likely ordinary people are to lose control of it. Instruction that drills students on grammar alone is therefore unnecessarily arduous, and its transfer over to spontaneous writing is doubtful. The specialized drill-setting apparently interferes with the grammatical system in discourse processing, because the loss of context makes the grammar much less well-defined. Hence, learners need to reorganize their system of grammatical routines at the expense of those already devised and practiced in everyday communication. This reorganizing in turn draws a heavy load, so that performance is further degraded below one’s actual knowledge of the language (cf. I.2.8.2; I.3.3, 25). It is unrealistic to hope the effects of such drills will carry over when processing reverts to normal. More likely, the whole stressful reorganization of the system will be set aside as soon as the drill is over, especially by non-traditional learners (I.2.23.10). In contrast, familiar, natural uses help people make the best of their grammatical knowledge.

    2.17 Further research of this kind may refute a commonplace assumption of conventional linguistics since Saussure: that the “grammar of a language” is, or can be treated as, an idealized, uniform abstraction with clear borders. The postulate that language can be separated from language use (II.1.2; II.3.7) may prove to be so fundamentally misconceived that a large part of linguistic research cannot support the theoretical claims based on it. Grammar appears to be a body of fuzzy knowledge that assumes clear forms when put to everyday uses, but tapers off when applied to less familiar and controllable patterns (e.g., five modifiers in a row). If so, grammar doesn’t exist, except as a derived construct of grammarians, until it is used {239} in some language event (I.4.6, 10, 14; IV.1.1). As speakers of English, students have a kind of grammatical knowledge that is more secure, but less explicit, than the decontextualized grammar of textbooks or teachers. The former kind of knowledge is the only realistic basis for attaining the latter. Writing instruction need not (and cannot) teach English grammar from scratch; but it can and should identify from student papers those categories which everyday language experience has not clarified sufficiently for the demands of writing. Then, we can seek to harness that same experience such that these categories are manifested in simple actions the students already know how to perform. Of course, these actions, when done as exercises, depart from their natural spontaneous context of communication; but at least, they are closely derivable from such contexts and sufficiently habituated via daily experience that they should not encumber or distort processing as much as old-style grammar drills.

     2.18 The sentence is one hell of a problematic category. Many statements of everyday speech are not expressly formatted as a sentence: either something is missing, or their boundaries are fuzzy (cf. III.2.28, 30; IV3.45; V3.2, 8). [The determination of linguistics to make the sentence the obvious structural framework upon which all formal definitions depended has its counterpart in pedagogy, e.g. in a textbook nonsensicially opening with: “you speak in sentences” (Mills, 1979: 1}.1 [See now my paper “Sentence first, verdict afterwards: On the long career of the sentence”, WORD 50, 1999, 1-31] .Here is a portion of a transcribed passage spoken by a freshman student. As usual, a short pause is indicated with “/,” and a long one with (IV.2.25); a hyphen marks where a word was broken off.  

(320) first I rented a steam cleaner // and um / I steam clean-ned / steam cleaned the roof by attaching a hose / and plugging the machine in the wall / didn’t take much and // um I can / you can th- the machine’s light enough that you can put it up on the roof // and uh // you walk around with the spray handle to the pressure cleaner or a steam cleaner whatever // and um / walk slowly back and forth on the on the roof / um / applying the pressure / you know to the tile on the roof to get off the loose dirt and paint  

The entire passage could be structurally analyzed as one long sentence linked with ‘and’ and ‘that’, and broken more by pauses and shifts than by distinct clausal boundaries. The content and intonation of the recording, however, suggest a division into several statements: renting; cleaning with the rented equipment; getting to the roof; moving around; taking off impurities. The phrase ‘didn’t take much’ reads like the predicate whose subject is ‘plugging the machine in the wall’; on tape, it comes across as a general comment on making the machines work. Thus, the phrasing hovers in a grammatical limbo, but is conceptually and pragmatically well-defined.

    2.19 Unlike speech, writing normally conforms to “the conventional expectation that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, “ as Corder (1979: 203) prosaically observes; but he circumspectly goes on: {240}  

Fortunately, no one has successfully dictated what shall go in between. To be sure, most English sentences do contain a subject and a verb, and most make some kind of statement that can be read and understood by itself. But [ ...] both the content of your sentences and the form of your sentences are yours to determine.  

Most textbooks are less enlightened than Corder’s on this point—so much so that a paradox has arisen. Skilled writers have far more freedom from worrying about grammatically proper sentences than do unskilled writers, who could profit more if they worried less. Sentence errors are a frequent occasion for excessively punitive grading practices (cf. Harris, 1981). The sharp reactions toward “sentence errors” (fragments in particular) reported in Hairston’s (1981: 797) survey of professional people in 63 occupations are probably an after-effect of composition classes. In real life, such “errors” are most apt to become acute when needed as leverage in social or institutional conflicts (cf. I.2.1 1; V.2.3 1; VI.1. 3).

    2.20 Social factors make it all the more urgent to experiment with easy methods for tapping everyday language experience to define the sentence. One way to tell what something is, the mentalists had argued, was to “transform” it. Though such operations need not constitute normal text production, they could be selectively performed on already produced samples for strategic purposes (cf. II.3.15ff—the basic idea behind “sentence-combining” (II.3.17-47). The operations can be straightforwardly classed as addition, deletion, and conversion (cf. van Dijk, 1972, 1977). In a procedural methodology for grammar, learners could carry out one or more such operations and contrast the results with the original sample. The contrast should make the desired grammatical category transparent as a language event. Though the setting differs from everyday communication, the operations should be ones people commonly perform during the latter (V2.17).

   2.21 Imagine now some naive students learning to recognize some stretch of text as a sentence (cf. Beaugrande, 1982a). First, they are given two interlocking definitions: (1) “every sentence must have at least one independent clause”; and (2) “every clause must have at least one subject and predicate.” But instead of explaining these notions in terms of formal structures or vague content (V2.4f), I ask the students to do something they already know how to. They see simple examples such as:  

(321) Her father owns the market.

(322) Sometimes one of the dogs runs away.  

and convert them according to this strategy: {241}  

Make up a ‘who/what question about the statement made in the sentence. The PREDICATE of that sentence is all the words you used again in the ‘who/what’ question; the SUBJECT is the rest.  

The strategy is immediately and easily applied to simple examples. Students devising a ‘who’/’what’ question about the main statement conveyed by the sentence should most naturally replace the subject of the sentence (or of its main clause) with the ‘who’ or ‘what’. The question is then placed alongside the original sentence and the words that got used again are counted up. The others are reckoned as the subject.1 [Sentence-modifiers that qualify the whole utterance act are not strictly attached to either subject nor predicate, e.g. ‘in my opinion’, ‘frankly’, etc. This nebulous status is shown by the ability of these modifiers to be either used or emitted in the ‘who/what’ question. Note also that the tendency to replace the subject with the ‘who’ or ‘what’ is only a preference easily modified in a context of expectations about what is interesting or important (cf. R. Posner, 1980).] For the two examples, the students obtain:  

(321) Her father owns the market.

(321a) Who owns the market?

(321b) predicate = owns the market subject = her father

(322) Sometimes one of the dogs runs away.

(322a) What sometimes runs away?

(322b) predicate = sometimes runs away subject = one of the dogs  

As we see from (322), having a part of the predicate before the subject is no obstacle: the question conversion moves such a part out of first position. Methods where sentences are sliced like salami, as in immediate constituent analysis (cf. II.1.13), or where subject and predicate are defined by position (cf. V.2.4), render these formats unnecessarily hard.

    2.22 This operation is rehearsed by the class, and possible mix-ups are clarified. The question must ask ‘who’ or ‘what’ do/does/did something, not ‘who’ or ‘what’ something is/was done to. The question words can be only ‘who’ or ‘what’, not ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘which’, etc. And, if there is a choice, the shortest question should be used, e.g. (323a), not (323b):  

(323) My friend at the college gave out the figures.

(323a) Who gave out the figures?

(323b) Who at the college gave out the figures?  

 Pre-tests and post-tests were conducted to measure the usefulness of this technique. On each test, the students had ten sentences in which they were to underline all parts of the subject once, and all parts of the predicate twice. On some test runs, I started by asking the students to indicate whether or not they “felt confident about grammar and sentences.” Many{242} answers did not agree with the evidence of the pre-tests. Some students expressed low confidence, but performed quite well; some thought themselves better prepared than the results suggested. Apparently, estimates of one’s own grammatical expertise reflect attitudes formed during positive or negative experiences in prior English classes—and are thus not very reliable predictors.

    2.23 I ran each session within a single 50-minute class period. Ten minutes went to each test, so that 30 remained for the entire presentation and the exercises based on a worksheet of samples. The pre-test was given before any grammatical explanations. Each sentence was scored as either right or wrong (since the definitions of “subject” and “predicate” depended on each other), so that the paper would score between 0 and 10 errors. In my first trials, the post-test showed improvements over 500%. To see if these results could be obtained by the average teacher, a group of teaching assistants at the University of Florida replicated the method with a larger sample. Four assistants gave the tests to a total of 96 students, mostly freshmen, again within a single class period. The total errors came to 602 on the pre-test and 121 on the post-test: an improvement of 495%, almost five times better. If we set aside the “special services” section for students with known literacy problems, the improvement was 898%. 73 students improved, 13 stayed the same, and 2 got worse. The statistical significance of our results is too obvious to need calculating.

    2.24 An equally simple teaching module is used to define the clause. To see whether a clause is independent, and hence a useable core for a sentence (V.2.21), a similar conversion operation is carried out. This time, the strategy is: Make up a ‘yes/no’ question about the statement made in the clause. If the question works, the clause is INDEPENDENT As it happens, only an independent clause makes a question that can sensibly be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For instance, speakers of English would make (324) into (324a), but hardly  (325) into (325a):  

(324) He works too hard.

(324a) Does he work too hard?

(325) Because he works too hard.

(325a) Because does he work too hard?  

 This technique catches the dependent clause punctuated as a sentence, e.g. (325)—a widespread type of fragment (V.2.36). Comma splices, on the other hand, make two yes/no questions (V.2.42).

    2.25 These techniques specify the minimum requirements for a clause or sentence, but do not yet describe the more elaborate formats of “compound” and “complex” sentences. Those require an understanding of how junctives (or “linking words,” as I say in class to sound less technical) 1 [Traditionally, all junctives are imprecisely called “conjunctions,” despite the inclusion of disjunction and opposition. In IV.2.52, I offered a more exact terminology.] {243} “link up clauses-another formidable issue for naive writers. The most compact approach I found is to start with the definition:  

 A clause not preceded by any linking word is independent.  

Samples at this stage include simple sentences like (326), and complex sentences like (327) with the independent clause after the dependent one. Clauses are separated by commas to make the clause boundary obvious (a later punctuation module along the lines presented in IV.3 takes care of comma placement).  

 (326) The lady over there is taking her time

 (327) Whenever he works so hard, he looks exhausted.  

In an early pilot, I included a module specifically devoted to telling apart “simple,” “compound,” “complex,” or “compound-complex” sentences. Students disliked this terminology, and had trouble using it. They said it sounded confusing and technical, especially “complex,” which reminded some of “complicated” and others of a neurosis, and “compound-complex,” which seems to short-circuit opposite notions (or to compound the neurosis). I soon found that the terms could be discarded by working entirely with “independent vs. dependent clauses”—the constituents which make up these sentence types. The approach became more compact and, at the same time, dropped some undesirable terms from the traditional repertory (cf. V.2.28f).

    2.26 Next, the students memorize only the list of common linking words that do not create dependencies, rather than the much longer list of those that do. In current usage, the list contains four principal items, ‘and’, or’, ‘but’, and ‘so’; ‘for’ is fading away, and ‘either’, ‘neither’, and ‘nor’ go along with ‘or’, but have some peculiar effects. I therefore concentrate on the main list of four. The next definition is: Any linking word on the list of four makes the clause after it equal to the clause before it. If the clause to be classified is at the start of the sentence, the definition can’t be applied. If there is an independent clause before, as in (328), or a dependent clause before, as in (329) — the “yes/no” question helping to identify which is the case—the linking word makes the next clause into another of the same. This approach blocks the misconception that any clause introduced by ‘and’, ‘or’, or ‘but’ is necessarily independent.  

(328) The moon rises among the stars, and the town sinks into silence. [independent]

(329) When the moon rises, and the stars come out, the town sinks into silence. [dependent]  

The students examine a series of samples, circling independent clauses and underlining dependent ones. Common sentence patterns up to three clauses are practised. {244}

    2.27 These brief modules should at least suffice suggest to principles of the method (cf. Beaugrande, 1982a). First, the students learn to work with intricate grammatical categories by doing simple, familiar actions on language samples. Expertise in traditional grammar is not required. Second, attention centers on the categories most essential in going from speech to writing. Third, these operations are meticulously streamlined by the instructor before reaching the student. The trade-off at stake here—if the student’s task is to be easy, the instructor must work all the harder, and vice versa (VI.3.5)—must not be resolved at the student’s expense. Since the average teacher is already overloaded, textbooks and computer adjuncts must be developed that reflect this streamlining; and hide-bound publishers must be persuaded to distribute them (cf. VI.3.26). For all three reasons, simplicity, compactness, and brevity become top standards for designing instructional materials and methods. Increasing numbers of students need to get a grasp on grammar. But those with the greatest needs are the least likely to profit from drills in diagramming sentences and “naming parts of speech.” As we saw from the findings on adjectives (V.2.10-16), most word classes are anchored in everyday language experience. We can tap that experience just enough to clarify the issues that trouble untrained writers.

    2.28 Admittedly, instructional design from this standpoint is arduous. There is no principled way to know if the current version is the most compact one. Later, it may emerge that the work of two operations can be done with just one. For example, I devised the following means for finding the agreeing verb of the predicate, since agreement is a difficult issue for naive writers with certain dialects. Two steps, sometimes three, will do the job. First, insert a so-called denial word into the statement, namely, ‘doesn’t/don’t’, ‘didn’t’, or ‘won’t’. Second, the “agreeing verb” of the original statement is the one now located after the denial word.1 [ Black English has some inverted forms where the denial word comes at the start of the utterance, but usually, I believe (and I’m just judging from my African American fiends), only if the subject is ‘nobody’, ‘no one’, or the like.] One example was:  

(330) Our boss wants to call a meeting.

(330a) Our boss doesn’t want to call a meeting.  

If you can’t insert a “denial word,” a third step is done. Insert ‘not’ or ‘-nt’, and the agreeing verb is the one before this insertion; or, if the statement already has a ‘not’ or ‘-n’t’, the verb is the one before that, and no insertion is necessary. This technique exploits the peculiar English constraint of attaching negation in declarative sentences to the finite verb via an auxiliary that is either already present or else added for the purpose. By using contractions as denial words, I preclude confusion with any other positions that ‘not’ by itself can occupy in a sentence.

    2.29 In another module, I was struggling with tense1 [Greenbaum and Taylor’s (1981: 173) “paper- correcting” research found that 5 of the 27 English teachers they surveyed changed ‘was’ to ‘is’ in ‘I told them my daughter was now a doctor’, under the gormless impression that ‘now’ required the present tense.]. I tested insertions of time expressions like ‘right now’, ‘next year’, etc. This classic textbook {245} problem comes from the asymmetry between tense and time, so that both content and structure can be confusing or conflicting (cf. V.2.4f). [On the confusion between thoughts and sentences, cf. I.2.16.7; II.3.42; IV.2.18, 32f.] You explain past, present, and future tense in terms of when something happens, and then face about and admit that the present tense can be for both past or future time (Quirk et al., 1972: 86). Or, you stress changes in verb forms, and get stuck on verbs like ‘set’, ‘put’, ‘fit’, and so on, which don’t alter their forms for tense. I finally realized that the whole dilemma could be less effortfully resolved with the denial-word insertion I had previously devised for working on verb agreement. The “past” is the tense that takes ‘didn’t’; the present takes ‘doesn’t/don’t’, and the future takes ‘won’t’. These words are either already present or can be mentally inserted to decide the tense of any finite verb in a sentence. Sample sentences become manageable as soon as the student supplies any context. Some samples were:  

(331) Our kids set the table

(331a) Our kids don’t set the table. [present]

(332) Our team just set a new record.

(332a) Our team didn’t just set a new record. past]

(333) The sun will set before 7:00.

(333a) The sun won’t set before 7:00. [ future]  

No lectures on the nature of time and perspective are needed; nor is an unchanging verb form an embarrassing exception. A speaker of English naturally gets the desired results, simply because language experience guides the action that in turn defines the category (V.2.16f). In tests run by Barbara Stephenson and Michael McCoy, 45 college students made less than half as many errors on recognizing agreeing verbs and tenses after learning this technique than they had made before. 35 students improved, 5 stayed the same, and 5 got worse.

      2.30 Easy operations for identifying sentences and clauses are a good basis for clarifying and resolving common sentence problems, such as fragments, splices, and run-ons. These formats are popularly called “sentence errors,” though this classification has seldom been convincingly defended. The fragment is to be eschewed because it “doesn’t really say anything” and “leaves the reader wanting something more” (Glazier, 1981: 67, 44); and because it “does not communicate a grammatically complete thought” (Moody, 1981: 363). The comma splice is condemned on the grounds that “it makes two complete statements that should not be run together in one sentence” (Glazier, 1981: 44). These claims overlook the sensible communicative motives that lead to fragments and splices. The patterns are straightforward by-products of the asymmetry between statements and sentences {246} (V.2.18, 37). For the writer, the fragment does convey a “complete thought” of some kind (V.2.32ff); and the comma splice invariably joins components the writer feels belong together in one statement (V2.39ff). Besides, these patterns may be repaired with mechanical changes (e.g., replacing a comma with a semicolon) that have no effect on “thoughts.” Recently, textbooks have attained enough tolerance to discuss cases where fragments are motivated (Corder, 1979: 23Off; D’Angelo, 1979a: 573ff; Tibbetts & Tibbetts, 1979: 366; Willson, 1980: 201f; Mills, 1981: 241).

     2.31 Again, the composition teacher is caught in a dilemma between coercive rules and free expression, between language attitudes and language realities (cf. I.3.13). Severe persecution of fragments and splices intimidates students about producing any sentences; or alienates them when they find such formats in competent professional writing and conclude that the teacher is unreasonable or uninformed. In turn, anxieties and loss of motivation degrade writing performance (cf. I.2.10; III.2.12). On the other hand, some readers may be excessively intransigent toward “sentence errors” in important situations, above all when the writer is at a social disadvantage (cf. V.2.19). My own solution to the dilemma is a delicately balanced compromise. I explain to the students that certain “errors” can be used against them in a school or career setting; but my role is to diagnose and assist, not to evaluate and punish. I try to be a chronicler of public attitudes rather than their enforcer (cf. I.2.19; V.3.26). Accordingly, I have been probing the motives, causes, and effects of the troublesome sentence patterns. The sentence is a unit whose demarcation leads processing to predict certain components in standard formats (III.2.28). A “sentence error” is registered if a pattern either lacks some components (fragment), or has a poorly integrated surplus (splices and run-ons). Whether these deviations are disturbing depends on situation, text type, and reader focus. Like most conventions, sentence patterns can be creatively violated, provided the result leads to a convincing, insightful new order (cf. I.3.7, 10).

     2.32 The SENTENCE FRAGMENT can illustrate the approach advocated here (cf. Kline & Memering, 1977; Harris, 1981). Its creative use is common in good writing. A critic who disdained T.S. Eliot’s ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’ because it opens (334) and closes (335) with sentence fragments  

(334) Twelve o’clock.

(335) The last twist of the knife.  

would only be ridiculed. The context of the poem, and of many like it, calls for the juxtaposition of brief, fragmentary statements among which ‘all clear relations’ are ‘dissolved’ in ‘a crowd of twisted things’. These motives justify overriding the core-and-adjunct priciple in favor of listing. Prose can also deploy fragments to good effect, such as listing brief impressions or thoughts (Corder, 1979: 231; Willson, 1980: 202): {247}  

(336) There are other things that affect me the same way. Blue-and white striped sheets. Vermouth cassis. Some faded nightgowns which were new in 1959 or 1960. (Joan Didion, “Farewell to the Enchanted City”)

(337) Sam Clark’s Hardware Store. An air of frankly metallic enterprise. Guns and churns and barrels of nails and beautiful shiny butcher knives. (Sinclair Lewis, Main Street)  

Also, fragments can assign heaviness to word groups by making them autonomous stretches, rather than adjuncts of something else. All the resources that normally get distributed over a whole sentence are focused on just a few words. The heavy fragment can be a direct recurrence (IV.2.37) of an element from a preceding sentence (Corder, 1979: 23 1) (or less often, an anticipation, cf. IV2.58):  

(338) Many have never been taught the pleasure and pride in setting standards and then living up to them. Standards! (John Gardner, Excellence)  

Heavy fragments can suggest the importance and style of a telegram, as in the NCTE “tel-a-message”:  

(339) Contacted you last month about membership in National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). But must reach out to you again. Response to current membership drive tremendous; English/language arts educators joining NCTE in record numbers. Association membership growing. [etc.]  

This quasi-telegram (sent letter rate) signed by the NCTE executive director contains 32 stretches punctuated as sentences: 20 fragments, 10 imperatives whose lack of a subject aligns them with fragments), and 2 complete sentences. The short statements and paragraphs draw attention (cf. IV.2.69; IV3.17) and evoke the hurry-up urgency of telegram situations (e.g., sudden requests for money). The NCTE leadership knows better than most textbook authors how fragments can very well convey “complete statements” or “thoughts” and “really say something” (cf. V.2.5, 30) — and get action.

    2.33 Purposeful sentence fragments usually correspond to perfectly good conceptual chunks (“thought units”) (cf. IV.2.18, 32f; V.2.30; V.3.8). This correspondence also contributes to fragments that report or imitate speech rhythms, since many non-sentence phrasings are uttered as separate units, with a pause before and after (cf. I.4.II.2; III.2.28; IV.2.17; V.2.18; V.3.7). Spontaneous answers to questions are often fragments (cf. Kline & Memering, 1977; D’Angelo, 1979a):  

(340) GRACIE: My poor brother Willie, he was held up last night.

GEORGE: Your brother was held up?

GRACIE: Yeah, by two men.

GEORGE: Where?

GRACIE. All the way home. (Burns, 1980: 70)  

{248} To make every answer a complete sentence (e.g., ‘My poor brother Willie was held up last night all the way home’) would destroy the effectiveness. For similar motives, writers use fragments in a conversational prose style, as in (341) and (342). Only one word in (342) is an actual quote of speech; the rest suggests internal speech (“Erlebte Rede”) of someone on a bad LSD trip trying to figure out what’s going on.  

 (341) I notice Harding is collapsed beside McMurphy and is laughing too. And Scanion from the bottom of the boat. At their own selves as well as at the rest of us. (Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

(342) Jane in front of his face, a foot away, then way back over there on the sofa, then zooming up again, all of it rocketing back and forth in the hulking heat.”Sandy!”—somebody is in the house looking for him, Hagen? who is it?—seems Babbs wants him in the movie. (Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test)

Advertizements are fragmented for both reading ease and focused attention (cf. V2.32). Contrast (343) with (343a), or (344) with (344a) (after D’Angelo, 1979a: 571f):  

(343) Each is a masterpiece. Realistic, yet delicate.

(343a) Each is a realistic, yet delicate masterpiece.

(344) I guess that’s what makes a classic a classic. The ability to look completely different depending on how it’s used.

(344a) I guess the ability to look completely different depending on how it’s used is what makes a classic a classic.  

The reader is more likely to focus on the individual pieces of the message, especially if processing is casual (e.g., skimming a newspaper or a magazine). (344) elicits brief suspense with a dummy place-holder (‘that’) to make readers curious (cf. IV.2.63).

    2.34 Speech rhythms and conceptual chunking are typical causes for fragments in student writing. The issue is whether the fragments are motivated, like those in V2.32-33, or accidental and disruptive. We can explain to students why a fragment might be written and leave them to decide by themselves what dangers or benefits are involved in a given case. A naive student naturally marks off as a sentence what would constitute a separate stretch of speech, as in:  

(345) We wandered off looking for something to steal. Little kids’ toys in particular.  

Structurally, the most common fragment is forrnatted as an adjunct whose core is in an adjacent sentence, generally the preceding one (346-348) (Harris, 1981: 177), but sometimes the following one (349) {249}  

(346) You see I’m trying to avoid another scrambled egg breakfast. Basically because I hate them.

(347) Coming off the bench, Junior Mickey Masties performed superbly for the gators. Averaging in the double figures with consistent outside shooting.

(348) I like to wear a pants outfit. Maybe a pair of pleated slacks, a silk shirt, and a jacket to match.

(349) Once an emergency has been established. The trip down to Aigle is quite cheap.  

The fragmentation might result from time lags as conceptual or phrasal chunks are returned by memory search. In post-activation, the chunk comes too late and is expressed after the slot it would normally occupy (III.3.32; IV2.11; V 3.30f). Closely-knit phrasal chunks, such as a dependent clause (346), a long modifier (347), or an appositive list (348), might be processed with just enough delay that their relation to the foregoing structure is blurred and the latter is closed off as a sentence. Another explanation could be in terms of reactivation. The text producer can intentionally restart a suspended statement (cf. IV.2.50, 67; V.3.20f, 30). A fragment that repeats the last word of the sentence before it resembles a reactivation, e.g.:  

(350) We are waiting. Waiting for someone else to solve our energy problems. (D’Angelo, 1979a: 571)  

From the readers’ standpoint, fragments due to reactivation and post-activation would be easy to process via look-back.

    2.35 Some accidental fragments in student writing occur because their format roughly resembles a sentence. A non-agreeing verb form, e.g. a participle, may get confused with a main verb:  

 (351) These objects being the mountains.  

Long or complex adjuncts are easy to mistake for complete sentences:  

(352) Not even an extremely educated man will react positively to a wordy, tiresome opening statement. Because, as a whole, people do not feel ads are that important and will not take the time to read on if their interest is not caught right away.  

The student who wrote (352) was created a fragment with three subject-predicate cores in complicated subordinations. Complex modifiers pose a similar danger:  

(353) Captured in her spell-binding look and knowing every second he stood there risked her seeing him.  

The writer of (353) demonstrated considerable fluency and vocabulary, and made few mechanical errors. But his striving for syntactic variety and complexity led to fragments he wouldn’t have written if he’d been content with a simpler style (cf. II.3.46; V2.41).

    2.36 In V.2.24, I outlined a technique for recognizing independent {250} clauses by converting them into “yes/no” questions. A sentence fragment fails this test, either because it lacks the needed subject or verb, or because it hinges on a dependent linking word. For long modifiers with no verbal participle, both subject and verb would have to be supplied to make a question:  

(345a) Little kids’ toys in particular.

(345b) Did they look for little kids’ toys in particular?  

Modifiers with past participles need a subject and finite verb:  

 (353a) Captured in her spell-binding look.

 (353b) Was he captured in her spell-binding look?  

A modifier whose present participle was misjudged as a finite verb forces us to warn against dropping off the ‘-ing’ for the question:  

(351) These objects being the mountains.

(351a) Are these objects the mountains?  

Dependent clauses have both subject and verb, but don’t make sensible questions (V.2.24), e.g.: 

(352a) Because people do not feel ads are that important

(352b) Because don’t people feel ads are that important?

.Naturally, these conversions become harder when the fragments are quite complex, as in (352) and (353). Students whose desire for complexity engenders numerous fragments should simplify their style. Or, they can practice doing sentence-combining on the patterns of sentence + fragment, or fragment + sentence, until complexity becomes more tractable (cf. II.3.47) Realistic samples can readily be gathered from student papers.

     2.37 Sentence fragments are a less serious problem if student writers understand causes, motives, checking procedures, and remedies. Fragments naturally arise from asymmetry between statements and sentences (V2.30). Conceptual and pragmatic chunks need not emerge as complete syntactic chunks (V.2.18, 33). Thus, nothing is accomplished by telling students that fragments are devoid of meaning and purpose (V.2.30). Instead, the students should appreciate what tendencies lead to fragments, and what conditions justify or discourage their use in good writing. Then, workable techniques for finding and fixing fragments would be more efficient and reliable. Anxiety and inhibition are lower because the errors aren’t denounced or penalized, rather than explained (V.2.31). This approach can work, and has worked in several pilots I designed. Like any “error,” fragments are easiest to control if treated as natural events that can be detected and repaired whenever they might put the writer at a disadvantage. 2.38 Another by-product of chunking can be called the SPLICE: the joining of two independent clauses without a junctive or {251} appropriate punctuation in between. I coined this non-traditional term to subsume both simple juxtaposition (sometimes called a “run-on”) and the well-known “comma splice.” Just as a fragment occurs when a conceptual chunk does not map onto at least one independent clause, a splice occurs when such a chunk maps onto two independent clauses without proper means to combine them inside a sentence. The outcome reflects the fuzzy borders of spoken statements. Shaughnessy (1977: 18) suspects “a psychological resistance to the period-perhaps because it imposes an end on a unit the writer usually had difficulty beginning.” Such anxiety would drain away attention from sentence boundaries that don’t match statement boundaries. The plain splice has nothing at all between the clauses, e.g., after ‘starts’ in:  

(354) All basketballs game are started with a jump ball unless a technical foul is called before it starts then the team that shots the technical takes the ball out at the beginning of the game.  

Leaving a major pause boundary unmarked is fairly conspicuous and can create an unmanageably large chunk (cf. V.2.44). My samples suggest that plain splices are more common when a writer is young or inexperienced, or is trying to build a confusingly complex sentence like (354). Otherwise, fragments or comma splices, which at least mark pauses and boundaries, appear in greater proportions in both professional and student writing. Nor can I find any textbook willing to tolerate plain splices.

   2.39 COMMA SPLICES, where a comma alone joins independent clauses, are much more frequent because they are less noticeable and disruptive. The comma indicates a pause and identifies the boundary between two main cores (cf. IV.3.6). Moreover, a comma between clauses is standard if one of them is dependent. Naive writers uncertain about clause types would thus be very prone to making comma splices out of closely related statements, e.g.:  

(355) Melyin couldn’t get in, he didn’t look old enough.  

Readers also seem less disturbed. In Hairston’s (1981: 797) survey, comma splices were not judged as serious a failing as fragments (cf. V2.19). Professional writers working for a conversational style produce comma splices writers working for a conversational style produce comma splices freely, e.g.:  

(356) Today marriage is old-fashioned, it’s like getting your spats cleaned. (Burns, 1980: 5)  

Willson’s textbook (1980: 209f) describes comma splices in an “antithesis,” and in a pattern of ‘it isn’t this, it’s that’ as “legitimate”:  

(357) It was more than an annoyance, it was a pang. (Winston Churchill)

(358) To allow the Madhi to enter Khartoum would not merely mean the return of the whole Sudan to barbarism, it would be a menace to the safety of Egypt itself. (Lytton Strachey)  

Though noted writers like Churchill and Strachey presumably command the sentence, most textbooks, even those willing to admit justified fragments (V.2.30), either don’t mention these splices or else condemn them. D’Angelo (1979a: 567) calls the ‘it isn’t this, it’s that’ pattern “unacceptable” (as does Moody, 1981: 372):  

(359) The process isn’t really hard, it just takes patience.  

Whereas Willson (1980: 209) allows lists of three independent clauses—in which listing should apply more than core-and-adjunct — such as: 

(360) The shrubs were leafy, the walks had been carefully raked, and the fountain shone in the sunlight. 

Moody (1981: 372) rejects the same construction and wants a period in the place of the first comma. My colleagues in the English department disagreed whether a pattern with ‘so/such’ in one clause counts as a comma splice, e.g.:  

   (361) I was so mad, I just left.  

The point of contention is whether a ‘that’ must be inserted, or whether it is optional, as it is at the start of an indirect statement (362), and of a relative clause depending on a noun acting as the object of a verb or preposition in that clause (363) (Quirk et al., 1972: 788, 215):  

(362) He said (that) they might be wrong.

(363) This is a man (that) you should know  

There is no obvious reason to insist on the ‘that’ in formats like (361) only, unless we’re nervous about comma splices.

     2.40 As I argued for fragments, comma splices should be remedied in view of their causes and motives. One cause already noted is the relatedness of the two statements. The second statement usually gives support or elaboration to the first, as in these student passages:  

(364) The journalism class was a very good one, we all worked together and got along with the advisor.

(365) The school didn’t financially support the paper, all costs were raised by the journalism class. 

My tapes of students reading their papers aloud showed a shorter pause at the comma than at the period in such cases. Another cause is the confusion between clause-linking junctives vs. adverbials which, though conceptually and pragmatically similar, do not have the same syntactic function. ‘And’ is confused with ‘also’, ‘moreover’, ‘too’, ‘besides’, or ‘in addition’; ‘but’ with ‘however’, ‘only’, ‘still’, ‘nevertheless’, or ‘all the same’; ‘or’ with ‘otherwise’; and ‘so’ with ‘therefore’, ‘thus’, ‘hence’, or ‘consequently’. The result is technically a splice, e.g.: {253}  

(366) Becoming an attorney is often difficult, however, it is a very rewarding occupation.

(367) The letter had to arrive the next day, otherwise it would be too late.

(368) A stage can swallow up one person, therefore, the actor’s objective should be to fill up the entire stage.  

To the grammatically naive student, such a pattern seems unobjectionable. The privileged status of junctives over transition words of comparable meaning is a subtle distinction easy to miss.

    2.41 Like fragments, splices are harder to detect if the student works for complex phrasing (V.2.35). For example, a dependent clause may be put between two independent ones, so that either one of its boundaries or the other is technically a splice:  

(369) They talked for a while on their pasts, even though they had geographic differences they shared many common interests.  

This sentence came from the same student whose elaborate phrasing entrained him in sentence fragments like (353) in V.2.35. Reported speech can also obscure sentence formats. A declarative quotation is usually set off from the main verb by a comma. But usage is unclear about having two such boundaries in one sentence; we find that format in the writings of Lewis Carroll (1960: 100), who was fastidious about punctuation,1 [He even wrote ‘sha’n’t’, ‘wo’n’t’, etc., with an apostrophe for each position where letters were omitted.] e.g. the Dormouse’s reply:  

(370) “I wasn’t asleep,” it said in a hoarse, feeble voice, “I heard every word you fellows were saying.”  

Yet some textbooks (such as Willson, 1980: 210) class that usage too under comma splices. This diagnosis is less contestable if the writer shifts from direct to indirect quotation. (371) might be more objectionable than (371a):  

(371) “A casual escape,” Keith said, he didn’t see any reason to breed rumors.

(371a) “A casual escape,” Keith said, “I don’t see any reason to breed rumors.”  

   2.42 Ordinary comma splices are easy to detect because, being two independent clauses, they yield two ‘yes/no’ questions (V.2.24). (365) gives us (365a) rather than (365b):  

(365) The school didn’t financially support the paper, all costs were raised by the journalism class.

(365a) Didn’t the school financially support the paper? Were all costs raised by the journalism class?

(365b) Didn’t the school financially support the paper, all costs were raised by the journalism class?  

{254} Or, the components of the comma splice can be recognized as independent clauses because they are not introduced by a linking word (cf. V.2.25).

    2.43 The conceptual and pragmatic relatedness of the two spliced parts counsels against the old schoolroom remedy of replacing the comma with a period. The writer intended the parts to go together in one statement (V.2.30, 38). One student explained, “I felt it wasn’t clear yet, so I added something.” A semicolon would keep the statement unified, but might be noticeably overused by unskilled writers, thanks to its the dual function for pausing and look-ahead (half a comma, half a colon, IV.3.26) (cf. Shaughnessy, 1977: 33f). The most satisfying solution is a junctive that makes explicit the conceptual relationship the writer intended, e.g.:  

(364a) The journalism class was very good, because we all worked together and got along with the advisor.

(365c) The school didn’t financially support the paper, since all costs were raised by the journalism class. 

A pause at the boundary, if needed, can be indicated with the comma. An adverbial mistaken for a junctive can be replaced with the latter: 

(366a) Becoming an attorney is often difficult, but it is a very rewarding occupation. 

Practice with sentence-combining could be designed to help students recognize the difference between splicing clauses vs. linking them with junctives (cf. II.3.47).

      2.44 Though occasionally used for the splice, the term RUN-ON might be an easy designation for an awkwardly long series of independent clauses that “run on and on,” such as: 

(372) I’m on the university swim team and I can swim well, but I’m not the one to get involved, so I hope I don’t have an emergency situation, or I won’t know what to do. 

It mimics the tendency of spontaneous speech to bridge over boundaries with junctives (cf. V. 2.18; V. 3.13), partly to keep from losing one’s speaking turn. Especially if the writer steers away from punctuation, the run-on may be employed to fit the whole message together, as in Shaughnessy’s (1977: 31) sample:

(373) The paragraph says that children like to see other birds sing and they want to know the names of different kinds of birds and then they don’t hear or see the birds and the father comes to the son and says that one of the birds is a sparrow and the other one is a jay 

Splices and run-ons are possibly symptoms of the same hesitation to break up a conceptual chunk, since they appear in the same papers. This student treated the whole reported conversation as a chunk without marking off either sentences or speakers’ utterances: {255} 

(374) Lennie has killed a girl up at the ranch in Weeds thats why they came to the barley ranch. [ ... I I got four dollars to pay for my half of the farm and George says all we need is mine and Lennic month pay and I can write the lady and maybe we can get the farm for four hundred dollars. 

Normally, objections to the run-on are not supported by grammar, since junction by itself is a legitimate clause-linking device. The problem is rather one of overloading processing by an excessive accumulation of junction, such that pauses are not provided to consolidate the components of the message (cf. IV.3.12). A writer should not place this strain on a reader except for special effect, such as evoking a rush of almost simultaneous images (375) or a rambling association of thoughts (376). Note that the splices in the Joyce passage make it less readable than the Wolfe passage with junctives at all clause boundaries (cf. V.2.38): 

(375) He came back to the house at dark, into the yard, and there were a million stars in the sky, like tiny neon bulbs, and the bus, it broke up into a sculpture of neon bulbs, millions of them massed together to make a bus, like a whole nighttime of neon dust, with every particle a neon bulb, and they all vibrated like a huge friendly cicada universe. (Wolfe, 1969a: 87)

(376) Mulveys was the first when I was in bed that morning and Mrs Rubio brought it in with the coffee she stood there standing when I asked her to hand me and I pointing at them I couldn’t think of the word a hairpin to open it with [etc.] (Joyce, 1934: 743). 

Without such motives, the writer should be considerate and break the sentence apart with periods or at least semicolons.

      2.45 Incomplete, confused, or oversized sentence formats, I have tried to show, appear naturally in writing. The sentence itself is a subtle, somewhat artificial notion compared to the free flow of statements in spontaneous speech. However, readers who expect sentences and use them as a guide for efficient processing deserve consideration. Exceptional formats should be reserved for when they serve an express purpose (V.2.32f, 39, 44). Students should be aware of these formats enough to recognize and amend them, preferably via simple procedures, such as ‘yes/no’ questions (V2.24, 36, 42), that make speech habits work in favor of sentence control rather than against it. Like any potential writing troubles, sentence problems should be seen in their communicative contexts which clarify the motives the writer should respect in the solution.  


   3.1 Ferdinand de Saussure (1916: 45) averred that “the only reason for the existence” of writing is to “represent” speech. Bloomfield (1933: 21) insisted that “writing is not language, but merely a way of {265} recording language by visible marks.” These authoritative pronouncements, which in effect reduce all of writing to spelling alone (cf. VI. 1), had the effect that “many linguists consider all forms of writing outside the domain of linguistics” (Gleason, 1955: 408). Probably, this bias was reinforced by the impressive success of phonology in classifying speech sounds (II.1.6). 1 [As I have remarked, the word “grammar” is derived from the Greek word for “letters.” The recent suggestion that the “phoneme” is defined so easily because of our habits in recognizing the corresponding letters (V.1.31) would not be accepted in mainstream linguistics.] Although syntactic approaches such as immediate constituent analysis and transformational grammar worked on written sentences (II.1.13; II.3.14), the primacy of speech was not questioned until recently (e.g. by Householder, 1971; Vachek, 1973).2 [Olson (1977a, 1977b) obtusely undertook to salvage logic-based sentence linguistics and psycholinguistics by arguing that they really apply not to speech, but to writing of a certain kind. This striking maneuver may be a novelty in the history of science: claiming that a theory or approach is adequate, but that its originators somehow applied it to the wrong object domain all along. Olson’s “text” (actually, a series of sentences) is “best represented by formal, written, expository prose statements,” for which, he avers, “the meaning is in the text” (1977a: 262). This “text” is to be interpreted in terms of a logical “truth” based only on “the correspondence between statements and observations” and with no “ties to wisdom and to values” (1977a: 277). Olson claims that “written texts” allow people “to entertain sentence meaning per se, rather than merely using the sentence as a cue to the meaning entertained by the speaker” (ibid.). This hypothesis is not even true for Olson’s own paper. My reading of it is guided not by what is made explicit, but by my supposition that its author wants to justify research that discounts communicative contexts, attitudes, beliefs, world-knowledge, and all the other complex frameworks that guide discourse processing, both spoken and written (cf. I.4.II.2, 4; I.4.6; III.2.33, III.3.14ff; III.3.24). For example, the active enrichment of meaning with mental imagery and cultural assumptions for the Pike story (III.3.25ff) was found to be exactly the same, whether the students heard or read the text. Evidence of this kind is legion, whereas there is no shred of evidence for Olson’s disembodied “sentence meaning per se.”]

   3.2. Once quite rare, collections of both theoretical and empirical research on writing are now appearing frequently, e.g., those edited by Gregg and Steinberg (1980), Frith (1980), Hairston and Selfe (1981), Frederiksen, Whiteman, and Dominic (1982), Martlew (1982), Mosenthal, Tamor, and Walmsley (1982), Nystrand (1982), Tannen (1982, 1984), Matsuhashi (1984), and Pellegrini and Yawkey (1984). It is now recognized that writing and speech are distinct systems: the norms and functions of each system fit a given situation better than those of the other (Vachek, 1973: 16). The two modalities differ along many important dimensions, such as: motor control of actions (van Bergeijk & David, 1959; Smith McCrary, & Smith, 1960; MacNeilage, 1964; Rumelhart & Norman, 1981; Nystrand, 1982b); rate of production (Blass & Siegman, 1975; Gould, 1979; Chafe, 1982; Scardamalia, Bereiter, & Goelman, 1982); pauses and hesitations (Matsuhashi, 1979, 1981, 1982; Flower & Hayes, 1981; Spittle & Matsuhashi, 1981); length of texts (Horowitz & Newman, 1964; Blass & Siegman, 1975; Hidi & Hildyard, 1980; Tannen, 1982); proportions of linguistic and grammatical options (Green, 1958; Fraisse & Breyton, 1959; DeVito, 1966; Gibson, Gruner, Kibler, & Kelley, 1966; {257} Moscovici, 1967; O’Donnell, Griffin, & Norris, 1967; O’Donnell, 1974; Danks, 1977; Harris, 1977; Einhorn, 1978; Daniciewiez & Chafe, 1981; Chafe, 1982; Beaman, 1983; cf. VI.1.10); organization and integration of ideas (Horowitz & Newman, 1964; Horowitz & Berkowitz, 1967; Olson, 1977a; Caccamise, 1981; Collins & Williamson, 1981; Chafe, 1982; Glatt, 1982; Scardamalia, Bereiter, & Goelman, 1982); degree of redundancy (Horowitz & Newman, 1964; Horowitz & Berkowitz, 1967; Sunshine & Horowitz, 1968); ease of comprehension (DeVito, 1965; Durrell, 1969; Oakan, Wiener, & Cromer, 1971; but cf. Sticht, 1972), spatial and temporal situationality (Goodman & Goodman, 1979; A. Rubin, 1980); degree of involvement (Chafe, 1982; Tannen, 1982); social diversity (Hartwell, 1980; Stubbs, 1982); social interaction in discourse (Britton et al., 1975; Tierney & LaZansky, 1980; Kantor & Rubin, 1981; M. Cooper, 1982; Nystrand, 1982a; Shanklin, 1982; Steinmann, 1982; Tannen [Ed.], 1982, 1983); and so forth. There is hardly a dimension of textuality or text processing that does not reflect some significant differences between the spoken and the written modalities.

    3.3 Children normally acquire speaking skills before writing skills (cf. J. Taylor, 1973; Britton et al., 1975; Lundsteen, 1976; Smith, Goodman, & Meredith, 1976; Olson, 1977b; Kroll, 1981; Pellegrini & Yawkey [Eds.], 1983). The vital question is therefore how much the former skills support vs. impede the latter. Whatever linguistic features are characteristic of the two modalities must be related to the convergences or divergences in their respective processing. At least some specific writing problems are influenced by speech habits: speech pauses confusing punctuation (IV.3.4, 16); word sounds interfering with spelling (VI.42); fuzzy boundaries of speech statements encouraging sentence “errors” (V.2.30-44); and so on. These traditional stumbling blocks in the classroom can be better overcome if we understand the complex organization of discourse processing enough to get at the essential causes of malfunctions and errors.

  3.4 An analogy between learning to write and acquiring a second language has been suggested (R. Allen, 1966; Reed, 1973). This approach has the advantage of not stigmatizing or intervening in the learners’ spoken dialect—all too common practices in older approaches (cf. Marckwardt, 1966; D. Baron, 1975; I.2.23.4; VI.1.12). But there are disadvantages to consider as well. On the practical side, second-language instruction is in no better a state than composition instruction (cf. Beaugrande, 1982g). On the theoretical side, Hartwell (1980: 105) objects that people who regularly use two dialects equally well are rarer than those who speak two languages with the same fluency; moreover, the written modality is neutral regarding such dialect features as intonation and articulation.

  3.5 Nonetheless, children apparently undergo an early stage during which their writing resembles their speaking more than is the case for adults (cf. C. Rosen & H. Rosen, 1973; Britton et al., 1975; Wilkinson & Hanna, 1980; Hidi & Klaiman, 1981; Kroll, 1981). My own data suggest a related {258} tendency among unskilled college-age writers. I have been recording students speaking on the same topic they had written on or were about to write on. I varied the conditions: which activity came first, how much time elapsed in between, and the estimated difficulty of the topic; yet in all cases, no written text came out as a facsimile of the spoken. Indeed, even writers who habitually vocalize (talk out the text as they write) often put down on paper something quite different from what they said just seconds before (III.2.27). There was an overlap in the selection of words and phrases, but no perfect match. Another consistent finding has been that one’s writing skills need not be reflected in speaking. Speech transcripts of English professors bore many traits also common in those of unskilled freshman writers. This finding indicates that trying to improve literacy by tampering with people’s speech is not only tedious and intrusive, but irrelevant.

  3.6 A demonstration of speech vs. writing can be taken from one of my diagnostics that gauge students’ writing skills by creating contexts where content is made easy, namely, retelling the story of a silent film just viewed (cf. III. I.2.5; III.3.24; Irmscher, 1979a: 83ff). When the phases of ideation and conceptual development are supported and guided, the phases of expression and linearization should be more open to examination (cf. VI.3.8). Caught in a Cabaret (1914, 14 minutes) is an early Chaplin silent that foreshadows running themes of his later work: the downtrodden, moneyless man who is yet ineffably graceful, talented, noble-hearted, and valiant against overwhelming odds. He portrays a lowly cabaret waiter struggling against a host of irascible people and inanimate objects. On a walk, he rescues a beauteous society lady (Mabel Normand) from a mugger who had frightened away her escort. On beholding her elegant villa, Charlie passes himself off with a fake calling card as ‘Baron Doobugle, Prime Minister of Greenland’, despite his shabby exterior. Mabel invites him to her afternoon party, which (after a brief interlude serving at the cabaret) he attends in a borrowed, ill-fitting top hat and frock coat. Profuse liquor renders him flirtatious, jovial, musical, and, finally, incoherent. Any future bliss is shattered later when the lady’s friends, urged on by her jealous escort, come to Charlie’s cabaret and discover his true social status. The traditional mass mayham erupts, and, at the end, Charlie’s attempt to reconcile Mabel is requited with a slap in the face.

   3.7 Here is the spoken version of this story from a proficient freshman writer, recorded ten days after the writing task:1 [This transcription has the usual “/” for a short pause, and for a long one. The numbering is strictly for reference.]  

(377.1) Okay it starts with / Charlie Chaplin working in // a cabaret / and / he’s just a common waiter / who’s always getting pushed around and harassed by the owners and everyone else who works there and the customers / (377.2) and then one day I um accidentally he bump he / has the opportunity to save a damsel distress whose lover / doesn’t / whose lover can’t help her when she’s being robbed / a rich darnsel in distress / (377.3) and um // so Charlie Chaplin saves her and she discards her previous lover and goes off with Charlie Chaplin who tells her who / gives her his card and says that he’s the Baron of Greenland [undertone..] something like that // (377.4) [normal voice] nd she’s very impressed by this and she introduces him to her parents (377.5) and then / a this time he’s just on a in a an hour’s break say from his job and he comes back late and he gets harassed more and beaten more and kicked all over the place like he always does when he comes back / (377.6) and she had invited him to her party so he goes to the party in his // oversized / topcoat or whatever it is that they wear tuxedo coat with the cuffs that are always falling down (377.7) and / he is introduced to everyone at the party and they all greet him with enthusiasm because they think he’s the Baron of Greenland / and which shows they don’t have too much intelligence either /,(377.8) and uh // he gets intoxicated at the party // (377.9) and her previous lover is on the side the whole time trying to reveal his true identity because he was he’s been spying on him / and he knows that he really works in the bar (377. 10) so Charlie Chaplin again was just on a break and he goes back to the bar / and to work and he gets harassed and kicked around some more // (3 77. I 1) and / meanwhile uptown all the people at her party decide to go slumming and they coincidentally come to // to the cabaret where he works (377.12) and he covers it up by says that he’s slumming too that’s why he’s there // (377.13) but then his boss reveals his identity to all the people (377.14) and / they everyone starts fighting and he ends up winning the fight but losing the woman

      3.8 Again, we can see the fuzzy phrasing of spoken utterances (cf. III.2.30; IV3.45; V.2.18, 38; V3.2). Boundaries are conceptually and pragmatically determined, reflecting the topical chunks and pausings arising from ongoing processes. Readers are, I have found, amused by transcribed speech. Put in writing, such samples appear to readers to be fraught with disorder and error. Evidently, people judge writing by standards of organization everyday speech wouldn’t meet. Perhaps minor disturbances go unnoticed in speech—listening having much the same limitation as speaking—and suddenly surprise or embarrass the speaker when documented in a transcript. Or, they are noticed but ascribed to a personal lack of skill; language insecurities are thus aggravated (cf. I.2.10f), such as a student of mine revealed by asking me, before starting his protocol: “Is this supposed to be grammatical?”

      3.9 Now compare the spoken version (377) with the written version from the same student. As usual, crossed-out materials are shown in pointed brackets, and later insertions in curly brackets.  

(378. 1) Charlie Chaplin, who is an ordinary waiter at a local dive, gets a taste of the good life.

(378.2) Although he seems to do everything wrong, one day he gets lucky.

(378.3) He has the opportunity to save a wealthy woman from being robbed, a task that her lover cannot accomplish.

(378.4) Chaplin saves the woman from the thief and is rewarded with her affection.

(378.5) Her affection is immensely enlarged when he shows her his card, {260} which falsely identifies him as the Baron of Greenland.

(378.6) She introduces him to her parents and invites him to a party at her home.

(378.7) Meanwhile, Chaplin’s boss at the bar is impatiently (to say the least) waiting for his return.

(378.8) Charlie Chaplin departs from his newly found love and returns to work, where he is beaten and harassed.

(378.9) On his next break, he goes to the party.

(378.10) He arrives at the party in <an ove> his regular clothes (including his falling cuffs) but now they are mainly concealed by an over-sized < over > < dinner> {tuxedo} jacket.

(378.11) <The guests greet him enthusiastically. He is introduced as the Baron of Greenland. >

(378.12) He is introduced as the Baron of Greenland.

(378.13) The guests greet him enthusiastically.

(378.14) He wanders off with his new love. (378.15) He then proceeds to become intoxicated.

(378.16) While this is all taking place, her ex-lover is <in> on the side lines trying to reveal Chaplin’s true identity (which he has discovered through spying).

(378.17) His attempts are feeble.

(378.18) Chaplin departs. (378.19) He stumbles back to work, late again.

(378.20) <The same> He enters to encounter more harassment and beatings.

(378.21) On the other side of town his girlfriend and her jet-set friends decide to go slumming.

(378.22) Coincidentally, they come to <Chaplin’s> the <bar> cabaret where Chaplin is employed.

(378.23) He tries to cover up by saying he is slumming also.

(378.24) This approach works until his boss reveals his true colors.

(378.25) A fight breaks out.

(378.26) Chaplin <losses> loses his love and chance to be a part of the upper crust but he wins the fight.  

3.10 Several speech factors may account for the impression that (377) seems inferior to (378) as a sample of writing: (a) bridging over moments where the flow of new materials is retarded; (b) fuzzy units due to asymmetry between statements and sentences, i.e., between syntactic units and conceptual/pragmatic ones (V.2.30, 38); (c) provisional decisions inconsistent with contingencies elsewhere in the discourse; (d) redundancies that help the speaker and hearer keep track of cohesion and coherence when the surface text is not preserved; (e) comments and asides on the discourse itself, e.g., ‘something like that’ (377.3)—what Schiffrin (1980) has described as “meta-talk”; and (f) the additive, more than hierarchical, organization favored by spontaneous, continuous production with little revision (cf. V.3.13). Spoken discourse accepts these factors as normal consequences of the situation. The speaker has to keep going somehow; during a long silence, the mental representation of the text could decay from short-term memory; or the speaking turn could be lost to somebody else. Inconsistencies or redundancies are tolerated because the hearer’s processes are subject to the same factors (V.3.8). Although no time limits were imposed, the student used 370 words for the spoken version (377) (excluding non-established words), and 308 for the written version; yet she gave more detail, not less, in the latter (cf. Collins & Williamson, 1981). Writing encouraged her to take stock of her knowledge in order to organize and integrate it (cf. I.2.23.5).

  3.11 Samples (377) and (378) can help to categorize some speech tendencies that influence writing. Some of these categories were classified for {261} different reasons in typologies of speech disruptions (e.g. in Mahl, 1956; Maclay & Osgood, 1959: 26ff; Blankenship & Kay, 1964: 360ff; H. Levin, Silverman & Ford, 1967: 561). FILLERS are elements whose dominant, though not necessarily exclusive, function is to bridge over or reduce pauses or silences between stretches of discourse. Fillers support a steady flow of articulation and attention, and alert the audience that more is coming.1 [Compare the “utterance incompletors” in the work of Harvey Sacks (cited in Coulthard, 1977: 57).]  Brief delays due to difficult memory searches or output actions (cf. III.3.32; IV.2.27; V.3.30) can be covered with materials that require no effort or attention to execute. The more frequently a filler appears in one text, the easier it is to produce and disregard; whatever content it might convey becomes steadily less relevant (cf. V.3.13f). The frequency itself may be meaningful though, as an indication of anxiety, deceitfulness, doubt, and so on (cf. IV2.19). 3.12 Some fillers are NON-ESTABLISHED WORDS: sounds like ‘um’ in (377.2, 3) or ‘uh’ in (377.8) that aren’t counted as expressions of content. The quality of the sound should make it easy to articulate and to prolong for gaps of various durations, e.g., the vowel /ə/ or the resonant /m/. These fillers proliferate under the influence of anxiety (Feldstein, Brenner, & Jaffee, 1963); or task difficulty (Lay & Paivio, 1969). They happen more in dialogues, where the danger of losing your speaking turn is acute, than in monologues (cf. Rochester, 1973); if the audience is passive, silences may be preferred (H. Levin & Silverman, 1965). Maclay and Osgood’s (1959: 41) data on respective positions of silences vs. non-word fillers led them to speculate that a speaker “receives a cue of his own silence” and fills it with a signal that “says in effect, ‘I’m still in control-don’t interrupt me’. “This account also fit the findings of O’Connell, Kowal, and Hörmann (1969: 64), but not those of Boomer (1965: 154f).

 3.13 Besides non-words, the most common type of filler is the junctive: usually ‘and’, and less often ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘so’, ‘which’, ‘because/cause’, and so on. Junctives plainly signal that the utterance is not completed, though the speaker may not have decided what to say next. ‘And’ is the most frequent filler-junctive, being the default-an additive signal with the vaguest indication of how the next stretch will relate to the one before it (IV2.52).2  [One speaker in my files habitually places ‘but’ (with vowel prolongation) at the end of nearly each speaking turn, as if to say: ‘somehow it’ll all work out anyway’ (cf. VI.2.5).] Also, a vowel and resonant ion ‘and’ are easy to prolong. In (377), ‘and’ occurs 32 times, 19 of them to introduce an independent clause; in (378), not one of the 7 ‘and’s has this function. Sometimes, an ‘and’ in (377) is paired with another junctive, as if the speaker felt a need to narrow down relations to more than simple addition: ‘and so’ (377.3), ‘and which’ (377.7), or ‘and meanwhile’ (377.1 1). {262] The high frequency of ‘and’s, plus these pairings, indicate that the function as filler dominates that as junctive. Transition words that look ahead in time, e.g. ‘then’ (377.2, 4), or causality, e.g. ‘so’ (377.3, 10) and ‘because’ (377.7, 9), are less obviously fillers; but, since a narrative is normally linked in time and causality (III.1.29; IV.2.8), they could be omitted, e.g. in (377.2, 3, 10, 13). Clauses can also be tacked on with relative junctives like ‘who’ (377.1, 3), ‘whose’ (377.2), ‘that’ (377.6), ‘which’ (377.7), and ‘where’ (377.1 1), yielding stretches that would seem rather long as written sentences, e.g. (377.1, 3, 7). These relatives typically appear in the written version in fairly short sentences (378.1, 5, 8, 22). The fact that a written version has no clause-linking ‘and’s but numerous relatives accords with the hierarchical more than additive character of writing (cf. V.3.10; Chafe, 1982). Sentence-initial ‘and’s are proscribed by some composition teachers (I.2.14; VI.1.12), perhaps to squelch a conversational habit. Relative junctives, though less often prohibited, may also entrain unskilled writers in long, awkward sentences (379) or in unrecognized fragments (380):  

(379) The movie deals with a man who in societal class-wise, is considered middie-lower class who attempts to portray 2 different types of people.

(380) Medical technology, which through new drugs and other techniques, has provided a powerful impulse to the increased population.  

3.14 FEEDBACK SIGNALS serve partly to fill gaps and partly to reassure communicative participants of continued attention and understanding. In conversation, a speaker may signal agreement or attunement by saying ‘well’, ‘yes’, ‘yeah’, ‘sure’, ‘anyway’, ‘okay’, and so on. My test persons typically started off a recording with the same ‘okay’ we see in (377.1)—a kind of spoken paragraph marker (cf. III.2.28; VI.2.12). Feedback signalling can also request a reaction from the audience: ‘you know’, ‘you see’, ‘if you know what I mean’, ‘if you see what I’m saying’, and so on. I try to react non-verbally (nods, gestures) during recording sessions, so as not to interrupt or intervene. Some speakers insert this signaling so frequently that they couldn’t really expect a reaction unless the material is really doubtful: again, the filler function is dominant (cf. V 3.11). The written version (378) has no feedback signals, but on the same assignment, other students wrote:  

(381) Well, his boss didn’t appreciate that. Well, all the people attending the party decided to go slumming.

(382) Anyway, the woman invited Charlie to a party later that day.  

These all occur at the start of a paragraph, as if they too correspond to spoken paragraph markers (cf. Beaugrande, 1983a).

    3.15 HEDGES signal approximation: that the speaker is not fully responsible for the content, accuracy, or force of a statement. Hedges are tolerated in speaking partly because there is not usually the opportunity to go cheek out facts, and partly because details or clarification can be{263}  immediately requested if need arises. These conditions don’t apply to writing; unskilled writers hedge because they are anxious or fear challenge (cf. Shaughnessy, 1977: 72). They insert ‘about’, ‘approximately’, ‘more or less’, ‘sort of’, ‘kind of’, ‘basically’, ‘something like’, and so on. In (377), the speaker hedged with ‘on an hour’s break say’ (377.5), though the time specification was correct and readily inferrable anyway. Other hedges included: ‘the Baron of Greenland something like that’ (3 77.3); and ‘whatever it is they wear’ (377.6). Her written version has: ‘the Baron of Greenland’ (378.5); and ‘an over-sized <over> <dinner> tuxedo jacket’ (378.10). Where she hedged in the spoken version, she felt impelled to clarify the concept in the written one, whence the crosscuts among conflicting expressions for Charlie’s odd 1914 dress coat (‘overcoat’, ‘dinner jacket’, and ‘tuxedo jacket’). Conscientious writers try to finalize their knowledge (V.3.10). The only item in the written version (378) that might be a hedge is ‘to say the least’ (378.7) (a mild depiction of the kicks and blows the boss has ready for Charlie). Less skilled writers hedged unnecessarily, e.g. the understatement:  

(383) The movie was basically centered around comedy.  

Students may hedge even when the exact specifications have been checked:  

(384) There are approximately 58,262 jobs in the federal government defined within the legal and group series.  

Evidently, too much stress on “correct facts” (I.3.18) can make students apprehensive about asserting anything specific.

    3.16 HEDGING VERBS are common in developmental writing. Verbs which normally indicate that an event or action is begun but not finished (‘start’, ‘begin’, ‘attempt’, ‘try’), or that an event or action is difficult, doubtful, unwise, or involved (‘proceed’, ‘decide’, ‘tend’, ‘end up’, ‘wind up’, ‘turn out’) become habitual fillers for any event or action. In speech, this usage is common, but not troublesome, e.g. (377.14) rather than (377.14a): (377.14) and everyone starts fighting and he ends up winning the fight (377.14a) and everyone fights and he wins the fight Note that the written version has no such hedges:  

(378.26) A fight breaks out [ .... I he wins the fight.

Again, less skilled writers hedged disturbingly on the same assignment: 

(385) he proceeds to try to impress the ladies [ .... I he proceeds to try to get the beautiful girl’s valuables [... ] he proceeds to get drunk

(386) he attempts to dress formal and tries to impress the lady he attempts to act as though he too is slumming and tries to act as though he works there.

These verbs aren’t needed unless the action or event was really interrupted (387), or resulted from a long, involved process (388), and so on: {264}

(387) I finally got a Bass Lake-Washington connection and began outlining what was about to happen [ ... ] while I was talking, Don Mohr pulled up [ ... ‘ I could see that he needed the phone, so I agreed with my man in Washington that first things would always come first, and hung up. (Thompson, 1971: 173f)

(388) When everybody started wearing the Afros, it was hard on a lot of older men who were losing their hair. They would grow it on the sides anyway and they would end up looking like that super-Tom on the Uncle Ben Rice box, or Bozo the Clown. (Wolfe, 1970: 121) 

More elaborate phrases like ‘it seems that’, ‘it just so happened that’, ‘it turned out that’ are also more appropriate to fill out speech than writing. One student wrote: 

(389) It just so happened that the bar they chose was the same one where the poor man worked.  

where a simple statement of the event would have sufficed.

   3.17 OPINION HEDGES include ‘in my opinion’, ‘I think’, ‘as far as I’m concerned’, ‘if you ask me’, ‘I’d say’, and ‘for all I know’. Students wouldn’t use them in a story, but they do in essays: 

(390) It’s my personal belief they lost my application. 

If you write something, it’s normally assumed you believe it. Opinion hedges are motivated only if the statement is truly controversial, e.g.: 

(391) As far as I’m concerned, life is a waste of time. 

A similar quandary is posed by ‘needless to say’, ‘it goes without saying’, and the like. If you say it in writing, there must be some need, or you’re wasting time. (392) thus seems less sensible than (392a): 

(392) Needless to say, Charlie’s conduct offended the guests.

(392a) Naturally, Charlie’s conduct offended the guests. 

In general, hedges are symptoms that the writer has been vague, evasive, or unclear. Revising the passage and checking the facts is more strategic than just cutting out the hedges.

   3.18 MODALITY-SPECIFIC EXPRESSIONS are language variants recognizably more appropriate for speech than for writing, or ‘ vice-versa. Non-word fillers like ‘um’ and special variants like ‘a whole nother matter’ (a tmesis caused by a conflict of two sound environments for the article ‘a/ an’) are spoken, but not written unless for reporting or imitating speech. Beyond such cases, the demarcation between spoken and written variants reflects a range of disputable attitudes about dialect, social status, formality, and so on. College writers often place suspected speech variants in quotation marks, as if to excuse the inappropriate usage (cf. IV.3.29), e.g.: 

(393) A “stud” [big, strong man] comes in and bosses everybody around. 

Our spoken sample has ‘pushed around’, ‘kicked all over the place’, and ‘kicked around’ (377.1, 5, 10); the written sample has ‘beaten and harassed’ (378.8, 20) instead. {265} Also, the student tended to nominalize events in writing where she used verbs in speaking—a common distinction between the two modalities (Danielewiez & Chafe, 1981; Freeman, 1981; Chafe, 1982; cf. II.3.26, 33; VI.I.28). Contrast ‘he’s been spying on him’ (377.9) vs. ‘through spying’ (378.16); ‘he gets harassed’ (377.10) vs. ‘harassment’ (378.20); and ‘starts fighting’ (377.14) vs. ‘a fight’ (378.25). In the spoken version, adverbials are less often at the beginning of an utterance, e.g. ‘coincidentally’ in (377.11) vs. (378.22); or ‘the whole time’ (377.9) vs. ‘while all this is going on’ (378.16). Speech may be inclined to put the subject in the opening slot to establish a point of orientation before giving detailed circumstances (cf. IV.2.63f). Finally, the written version prefers more specific, differentiated expressions. Contrast ‘goes back’ (377.10) and ‘people’ (377.11) against ‘stumbles back’ (378.19) and ‘jet-set friends’ (378.20). Writing can pack in more detail, even in fewer words (V.3.10), because memory search has the time to find less commonplace items (cf. III.3.2, 17). The spoken cliche ‘damsel in distress’ (377.2) corresponds to the neutral ‘wealthy woman’ (378.3). Other students in the class used the cliche (many times in quotes to excuse it), and were generally less careful about vocabulary, e.g.: 

(394) Charlie Chaplin is known as a great pickpocketer

(395) his boss gives him hell

  3.19 Frequently, however, the wordings in (377) and (378) are much the same, e.g., ‘he has the opportunity to save’ (377.1, 378.3); ‘she introduced him to her parents’ (377.4, 378.6); ‘intoxicated’ (377.8, 378.14); ‘trying to reveal his true identity’ (377.9, 378.16); ‘decide to go slumming’ (377.11, 378.21); etc. Or, they are stylistically equivalent (cf. VI.I.3), e.g., ‘he gives her his card’ (377.3) vs. ‘he shows her his card’ (378.5); ‘they all greet him with enthusiasm’ (377.7) vs. ‘the guests greet him enthusiastically’ (378.13); ‘they coincidentally come to the cabaret where he works’ (377.1 1) vs. ‘coincidentally, they come to the cabaret where Chaplin is employed’ (378.22); etc. These similarities come partly from the inclination of literate students to align their speech with their writing (e.g., to say ‘intoxicated’, where most of my students said ‘drunk’); and partly from the stylistic neutrality of many expressions in regard to the speech/writing distinction (cf. I. 2.8.5; V 3.27).

     3.20 In RESTARTS (sometimes called “false starts”), the speaker backs up and re-executes a stretch of text (cf. Maclay & Osgood, 1959; Lay & Paivio, 1969; III.3.33; IV.2.36). The reactivation in producing the restart may be balanced against a pre-activation that originally brought some item out too soon; or, conversely, against a post-activation that brought other items out too late (cf. III.2.30; IV.2.11, 45, 47,50; VI.17, 39, 44; V.3.21, 30f). In SIMPLE RESTARTS, the stretch is repeated without alteration, {266} as in: 

(396) we had to take off to to to take out the engine

(397) all of them / all of us you know his his parents / and / George and me 

In REVISED RESTARTS, the repeated stretch is altered, as in ‘all of them’ vs. ‘all of us’ in (397). In the Chaplin retelling, our speaker said: 

(377.2) he bump- he / has the opportunity to save a damsel whose lover I doesn’t / whose lover can’t help

(377.3) who tells her who gives her his card

(377.9) he was he’s been spying 

In revised restarts, the text producer has evidently reconsidered and decided in favor of a different option in phrasing (‘he was he’s been spying’), or in conceptual content (‘he bumphe / has the opportunity to save’; ‘who tells her who gives her his card’).1 [In a silent movie, the card naturally served to make this announcement.] Simple restarts, in contrast, seem more aligned with speech rhythms (though a decision might be reconsidered and then accepted again after all). A planned phrase tends to be uttered in a continuous unit. If the speaker pauses for some motive (e.g. those in IV2.19), the whole phrase routine may get re-run from the start. If the phrase is output from a buffer representation by means of automatic subroutines, one could easily lose one’s place during a pause (cf. III.1.21; III.2.31; III.3.34; IV2.30; V.1.35, 45). Significantly, restarts of all kinds occur more in fast speech (Maclay & Osgood, 1959: 36) and on hard speaking tasks (Lay & Paivio, 1969: 31)—times when processing would be heavily loaded.

   3.21 In writing, few restarts remain intact, e.g.: 

(398) But I know that deep down that everybody knows nobody wants a nuclear war

(399) it requires a great amount of keeping up with new laws as well well as old established ones 

The re-activation is evidently not registered at all, either at the time or during later proofreading. More often, restarts are amended by crossing out the first part. On the Chaplin film, my students wrote: 

(400) He saw a < bu > big bully

(401) The bully wanted <his> the man’s girlfriend.

(402) He proceeded to break up this fight <and save> by beating up the man. He saved the day.  

A writer may decide to insert a modifier (400), clarify indeterminate coreference (401), add details (402), and so on. If the crossed-out item appears again later (400, 402), its first use was probably pre-activated, or else the items between the first and second uses were post-activated (V 3.20). On my video-tapes, a written restart shows up as a stop, a crossing out, and then a resumption. Pausing and changing are slower and more deliberate than during a spoken restart. {267}

    3.22 SHIFTS occur when an initiated structure is abandoned and another one is executed instead. In (377), the filler ‘and’ was sometimes disregarded in the following structure (V3.13): 

(377.7) they think he’s the Baron of Greenland / and which shows they don’t have too much intelligence 

Like restarts, shifts can reflect a reconsideration of options in phrasing (377.12), reference (377.14), and the like: 

(377.12) he covers it up by says that he’s slumming too

(377.14) they / everyone starts fighting 

My transcripts contain numerous contaminations among conflicting phrase options, e.g.: 

(403) I started by / took off the air filter 

In student writing, shifts appear both as omissions and as contaminations (cf. III.3.39). 

(404) In direct lobbying there are some things in which lobbist must use to be effective.

(405) Education gives the student a sampling of each of the areas before making the decision is made on which area to pursue. 

Omissions should occur if one option is discarded midway and another is abruptly begun. Contaminations should occur if both options are evenly matched and compete during execution. Possibly, different phases, such as conceptual development and expression, send conflicting requests to the linearization phase. Or, the surface text might become disordered or indistinct in the buffers of working memory (cf. III.3.7; V3.30), especially during long stretches or pauses.

   3.23 NON-AGREEMENTS form a sub-class of shifts in which a grammatical category, such as number, person, or tense, is inconsistently implemented. Non-agreement between subject and verb is a traditional sore point in the schools, less because it damages comprehension than because it is associated with non-prestigious dialects (cf. V2.28). Untrained writers apparently either generalize one verb form across singular and plural, e.g., ‘don’t’ (406), ‘have’ (407), and ‘there is’ (408); or else strive for hypercorrectness by adding the ‘-s’ where it’s not needed (409) (Shaughnessy, 1977: 114ff):1 [The same hypercorrection seems to lead native speakers of Caribbean Spanish, which ,often drops final ‘-s’, to add ‘-s’ to the singular of English nouns.]

(406) More education don’t hurt anybody.

(407) My father have four brothers and three sisters.

(408) There is only 97,000 openings per year.

(409) advance to the position they wants. 

Shaughnessy’s students reported that ‘there are’ “seems stiff and distant.” Certainly, ‘there’s’ or ‘there is’ followed by a plural noun is widespread in speech, as if ‘there’ is considered a singular pronoun (like the dummy ‘it’, cf. IV2.63) in the subject slot of the sentence (Quirk et al., 1972: 958). Collisions between language habits or intuitions vs. standardized grammatical categories are tricky problems for instruction (Marckwardt, 1966).

     3.24 The same collision may contribute to a contamination known as ATTRACTION: a verb that agrees with the nearest noun, rather than with its grammatical subject, as in (Quirk et al., 1972: 365): 

(410) Every member of that vast crowd of 50,000 people were pleased to see him.

 In speech, attraction seldom draws notice-the listener’s memory presumably doesn’t persist much better that the speaker’s (V3.8, 10). Writing offers more chances to survey a clause and detect inconsistencies, yet attraction readily escapes proofreading. The intervening noun could prevent the distinct error feedback that (406) and (407) would elicit. I find attraction in students’ final copy where most mechanical matters have been carefully checked, e.g.:

(411) One out of every three American marriages end in divorce.

    3.25 An acute collision between language habit and school grammar involves pronouns that co-refer with ‘everybody/-one’, ‘somebody/-one’, nobody/-one’, or ‘a person’. Though logically singular, these words are operationally treated as plurals in everyday language (Quirk et al., 1972: 370):

(412) Everybody thinks they have the answer.

The further away the pronoun, the stronger the tendency toward the plural. In (413), the student switched number right in the midst of a compound predicate: 

(413) Everyone gets excited and tear up the cabaret. 

In cases like the following, the student’s choice (414) is the only possible one; the grammatically precise (414a) is misleading or nonsensical:

(414) Everybody received Charlie very well, because they believed he was the man which the card announced.

(414a) Everybody received Charlie very well, because he believed he was the man which the card announced. 

Similarly, a question-answer set like (414b) would surely not occur:

 (414b) Did everybody receive Charlie very well? Yes, he did. 

Besides, ‘they’ avoids the sexist usage of the masculine for the whole world (cf. 111; 1111). {269}

    3.26 Student writers regularly shift pronouns when the referent is not well-defined. If one member of a group is mentioned, a later shift from singular to plural can result, e.g. from ‘patient’ to ‘their’ in:

(415) Sometimes after a stroke, the patient loses their ability to communicate.  

 Multiple shifts occur as well:

(416) A student will make more of an effort to make the highest possible grades when the major they have chosen is what he has chosen out of interest.

Students find it hard to maintain in writing the somewhat formal impersonal pronoun ‘one’ seldom used in their speech: 

(417) Also, one has a better chance of getting into upper division college earlier when you begin with all the right prerequisites. 

‘You’ is more habituated, and easily intrudes.

    3.27 INDETERMINATE grammatical categories, as illustrated by pro-forms, are common in speech (cf. IV2.17; V2.18), and sometimes carry over to writing. Coherence is normally maintained well enough to resolve indeterminacies allowed by grammar alone (cf. IV.2.43, 66). Pronoun problems are among the “errors” most often marked by English teachers (Greenbaum & Taylor, 1981: 193) precisely because ambiguities are so easy to overlook. In speech, pro-forms are casually used when referents are recoverable from the situation. Hawkins (1969) studied five-year old children narrating a story from pictures and diagnosed indeterminate pro-forms as a feature of the lower-class ‘restricted code’—a notion of Bernstein’s (1964) e.g. (418) rather than (418a):

(418) They’re playing football and he kicks it and it goes through there

(418a) Three boys are playing football and one kicks the ball and it goes through the window

Children who see pictures right in front of them have no compelling motive to spell out all the referents. I had found the same usage when middle-class students described the Chaplin film, e.g.:

(419) She took him to her home and was introduced as Prime Minister of Greenland. They asked him over for a party and he accepts.

 The referent for ‘they’ was in the film, but nowhere in the paper. (Notice also the shifts from active to passive and from past to present.) In conversation, pro-forms are typically used for items in focus (cf. Reichman, 1978: 290), since the latter are already firmly identified. Even literate speakers from middle-class backgrounds commonly use these indeterminate pronouns in their speech:

(377.9) her previous lover is on the side the whole time trying to reveal his true identity because he was he had been spying on him / and he knows that he really works in a bar  

 but not in their writing:  

(378.16) her ex-lover is <in> on the side lines trying to reveal Chaplin’s true identity (which he has discovered through spying).

 Plainly, the speech vs. writing distinction may matter here more than social classes and their “codes.” The notion of a “restricted code” makes sense only if one naively assumes that language systems must all be differentiated on the same level (cf. I.2.23.4). Traditional middle-class schooling favors the alignment of the spoken modality with the written standard in which, for example, referents are usually spelled out. Other dialects, such as Black English, use nuances of intonation and non-verbal signalling for distinctions the written standard indicates with grammatical patterns and inflections. Such dialects are not “restricted,” but “elaborated” on their own levels (I.2.23.4).

   3.28 Referents for indeterminate pronouns need not be visually present, but only established in the writer’s mental representation (IV.2.43, 45). Students use ‘they’ for ‘whoever is involved’, e.g. in an institution: 

(420) Law school is highly competitive and difficult to gain admission to. They usually require a high grade point average.  

In a paper on repairing an engine, a student wrote (421), even though the ‘car’ hadn’t been mentioned so far: 

(421) Now we pushed it out under an overhanging tree and connected an engine hoist to a chain around the tree and just pulled it right out.

The concept ‘car’ was part of a main idea left implicit rather than made into a topic (cf. III.2.16). The second ‘it’ gets its referent from the highly topical modifier ‘engine’. The modifier has the same form as the noun in (421), but need not do so in order to supply a referent:

(422) Consenting to treaties is a Congressional privilege they are reluctant to surrender. 

The notorious vague ‘this’ toward the beginning of a sentence (cf. II.3.47) often lacks a clear referent in the paper, e.g.: 

(423) PL/C has a few built in functions. This is a program condensed into one word.  

 where a singular follows upon a plural.

  3.29 Indeterminate pro-forms, as we see, don’t really block communication in everyday practice. The attitude that they are “errors” (V.3.27) reflects the situationality of written discourse. The writer must somehow negotiate the transaction with readers (Tierney & LaZansky, 1980; Shanklin, 1982); they must be interested and accommodated enough to accept the text without its producer there to present it and to supply background or commentary. Careless writing means arduous reading {217}  (III.3.16; IV.2.67). People will not voluntarily read an inconsiderate or careless text. Indeterminacy that distracts attention is an unwise impediment, whether or not it can be resolved with extra effort: 

(424) Joan told Sheila she couldn’t come to her party.

(425) The difference between the avid golfer and the sandbagger is that he never practices.

(426) I hated grapes, but these people were so hospitable I had to eat them.

The point is not whether readers can puzzle out the intended sense; but that the writer can’t afford to demand this extra effort from people who don’t already have the context firmly in mind (III.3.17, 40; IV.2.68; IV3.35).

    3.30 POST-ACTIVATION is an inconsistency caused by implementing a word or phrase in a position past its-normal linear slot (cf. III.2.30; III.3.32; IV.2.11; V2.34). Input from the conceptual development and expression phases apparently reaches linearization too late. For example, modifiers follow a head noun they should precede: 

(427) this big plate of grapes / these big purple there were these eggs sitting on the table for me / scrambled 

Modifiers are also furnished after the fact in restarts: 

(377.2) he / has the opportunity to save a damsel in distress a rich damsel in distress

(428) the bearing uh the rod bearing

The time lag is not easy to explain. A long, difficult memory search might not finish in time to supply a needed word (cf. III.2.29f; III.3.12; IV2.27). But this account cannot be the only one. In the four examples just cited, the delayed items couldn’t have been hard to think of. The types of ‘grapes’ and ‘eggs’ (427), the ‘richness’ of the ‘damsel’, (377.2), the fatally burned-out ‘rod bearing’ (428)—all these elements were crucial to the whole point of the respective stories (cf. Beaugrande, 1982c, 1982h). Moreover, we saw in V.1.35ff that letters can be executed at the wrong place even though the writer knows the correct spelling. It is therefore clear that items can be available in working memory and yet not be implemented at the moment they should be. The items evidently do not form a strict sequence in working memory, but a loosely ordered array annotated with instructions for linearization (III.3.32; V.1.35, 45). These instructions may be contaminated, displaced, or lost during the act of uttering or inscribing, especially if processing is heavily loaded. The core might come out before its adjuncts (e.g. head noun before its modifiers) because it acts as a control center, or heaviness tends to move items earlier (IV.2.57).1 If so, the conflict between heaviness vs. core-adjunct again shows why the two principles should be kept distinct (cf. IVI; IV.2.53) {272} Or, some items are not recognized in time as relevant to the current context, e.g., that the stranger in the park scene will later turn out to be a ‘rich’ society lady. Or, an element may get moved outside its normal slot in order to receive intense focus (IV2.53; V2.32).

   3.31 In writing, post-activations rarely survive into final copy. The slower rate of inscription compared to utterance reduces the danger of time lags, and the surface text reveals order errors, provided the writer inspects it closely (cf. III.3.7; V.1.22; V.3.21, 24). Students sometimes notice the delayed item and set it in parentheses as displaced commentary: 

(429) Most of us share certain needs and wants (psychological).

(430) The adenoid is the size of a pecan nut (in childhood). 

Cross-outs may also be done to compensate for post-activation (V.3.21). But the clearest evidence for post-activation are the insertions above the line or in the margins (curly brackets shown here): 

(431) Charlie takes his dog on a walk away from the {dirty and ugly} slums to a nice big {clean} park {on the better side of town”} where he tries to impress the ladies. (432) He stays long enough to impress the notables {and to lose a cuff } and returns to work {minus his dog} followed by the coward. 

As the text evolves on paper and the writer takes stock of the topic, decisions about relevant materials become easier to make. Students have reported that getting their materials together too late is their worst obstacle to producing clean copy, even if there is no hurry. For the sake of good organization, I encourage last-minute editing and inserting on all papers except formally declared final copies. No advantages are served by omitting relevant materials, worrying anxiously about order, or distorting the sequence to force in late arrivals at the wrong place further on.

   3.32 The factors surveyed in V.3.11-31 result from filling gaps or making provisional, approximative, and inconsistent choices. REDUNDANCY contributes another set of factors which, if projected over from speech, can hinder good writing. Aside from composition textbooks (e.g. Strunk & White, 1979; Williams, 1981b), these factors have been studied much less than speech disruptions because the events involved in redundancy are much less well-defined than the latter. The sum of different words vs. the total number of words (the “type/token” ratio), though easy to compute, overlooks the substantial proportion of cases where the text producer presents new expressions for the same content, and new content in the same expressions (cf. IV.2.39; V.3.36). Speech is characteristically redundant because the traces of the surface text rapidly decay from memory. Speakers tend to remind both themselves and their audiences what the issues of concern are (V.3.10). Listening to a talk read from a prepared written text can be taxing because redundancy is lower than usual for spoken communication. {273} The writer’s elaborate organization, attained through lengthy deliberation, may be hard to discover and reconstruct as the surface text rapidly runs by in a stream of speech and is forgotten. The informationality of texts (1.4.II.7; III.3.2.9) differs significantly for the two language modalities.

    3.33 RECURRENCE is the direct return of previously used expressions (IV2.37ff), e.g. ‘harassed’ (377. 1, 5, 10), ‘break’ (377.5, 10), ‘bar’ (377.9, 10), and ‘slumming’ (377.11, 12). The first occurrence may be intentionally disregarded in spoken restarts (V.3.20), e.g. 

(377.2) whose lover doesn’t / whose lover can’t help her 

or unintentionally overlooked in written restarts, e.g.: 

(433) Speculations arose that in our zealous attempt to become president, that some were cheating. 

Reactivation can produce recurrences that, unlike (433), don’t disrupt cohesion, but still irritate the reader: 

(434) There is also a large difference between the two also.

(435) Psychology is the science that studies the way human beings and animals behave the way they do. 

If students are laboring to put an item in a hyper-correct slot, they may involuntarily repeat it in its habitual slot as well. Such is the case with attempts to keep prepositions before the relative junctive ‘which’— another conflict between language habits and a classroom grammar prohibiting a form professional writers employ without hesitation (cf. Flesch, 1972: 24f; V.3.25f): 

(436) a form of power for which the population will pay for with their lives. 

Speech habits naturally favor recurrences that unskilled writers do not find tedious. Spoken passages like these are common and perfectly acceptable: 

(437) they brought out this big plate of grapes [... I this big plate of grapes

(438) it wasn’t the kind I liked […] I don’t like that kind 

But in writing, comparable recurrences are more likely to be noticed and judged tautological (439) or wordy (440): 

(439) Treatment of broken bones depends on the broken bone.

(440) This subroutine will be gone through after each move, and this subroutine is made so that any possible move will give the proper response. 

   3.34 In PARTIAL RECURRENCE, the same word-part appears in different forms or word classes (IV.2.37). Again, the result is normal in speech: 

(441) I’m interested in horror I uh I’m interested in what horrifies us but conspicuous in writing (cf. III.3.34): 

(442) The reason for this is the cutting back of President Reagun’s defense cuts.

(443) The logic in the game must be programmed into the program. The programmer must now program it so the computer gets the first move in one of the four corners

(444) You mustn’t fit the child with a shoe that has too wide a width. When he or she gets older it might be hard for him to find shoes with that wide of a width.  

Some spontaneous spoken narratives have a recurrent style in which the beginning of each new statement looks back at what was conveyed toward the end of the previous one: 

(445) we uh / took off the [cylinder] heads // after we took off the heads then we took it out under the apple tree

(446) keep going down that street until you come to the intersection of Musuem Road /1 once you come to the intersection of Museum Road across the street you’ll see two large brick buildings 

The same pace of two steps forward, one step backward, is tedious in written narratives: 

(447) Once there lived a hero named Charlie. Charlie was your average poor person and he work in a resterant. After working for a while Charlie was able to get a one hour break. On his hour breack Charlie took his dog and went for a walk. While walking he saw a man and a woman fighting. 

   3.35 Writing requires a more careful control of informationality. Skilled writers fit the ratio of recurrences to the occasion (IV.2.38). The word ‘work’ appears five times in our spoken sample (377.1, 9, 10, I 1), but only three times in the written (378.8, 19, 20). On two occasions, the waiter’s ‘work’ was asserted in speech (377.1, 9) where the writer assumes we can infer that an ‘ordinary waiter’ works (378.1), and can remember Charlie’s ‘true identity’ (378.16). Here are further cases where the spoken version (377) shows more recurrences than the written (378):

(377.5) harassed more and beaten more

(378.20) more harassment and beatings

(377.5) he comes back [ ... ] identity

(378.16) reveal Chaplin’s true identity [... ] reveals his true colors

Though the student was not a highly polished writer and had occasional lapses (e.g. ‘her affection’ twice, 378.4, 5), she had a good feel for the essential difference in recurrence ratios between the two modalities of language.

   3.36 SELF-PARAPHRASE can designate instances where the text producer rehearses the same content, but in different expressions (cf. IV.2.39). Self-paraphrase is common and innocuous in casual speech, e.g.: {275}  

(448) what horrifies us // what we [ ... ] seek out to be terrified by

(449) brought it all up to the roof by you know brought it up the ladder put it all / put all my materials on the roof

(450) talk differently [... ] varies his speech  

Though less obtrusive than recurrence, self-paraphrase is a problematic trait of unskilled writers, both on a small scale and on a large one:  

(451) I did not start out with much responsibility at first.

(452) Both young and old go to the Alachua county fair to have fun. People attend the fairs to have a good time.

(453) Lennie and George’s constantly moving about has forced them to become drifters. They have no permanent home and no family. They constantly move from town to town.

(454) Stuttering is a common speech disorder in society today. It is still, however, the center of much controversy. The case of stuttering is still in debate. There are many explanations, and not one explanation wilifit every victim of this unfortunate disorder. This is a collection of answers to stuttering.  

In (454), the student was determined to milk a long opening paragraph from the thesis that the causes of ‘stuttering’ are controversial. The result is a pattern of redundancies that act out conceptual stuttering on a large scale. The extreme self-paraphrase is the full tautology whose parts necessarily follow from each other (cf. III.3.33):  

(455) Computer games are so ever popular that almost everybody likes to play them  

These cases may be due to confusions in memory search and linear phrasing, e.g. reactivation (III.3.33). Another contributor would be the compulsion to compose essays of an arbitrary length on topics that bring precious few ideas to mind (cf. I.2.14; I.3.24; III.2.19).

   3.37 The crucial question about redundancies such as recurrence and self-paraphrase is when they support clear, efficient communication, vs. when they waste time and effort. Most texts contain some needless wordage, but the threshold where the latter becomes a hindrance is one of the hardest issues for a writer to master. A recorded passage like (456) will do for speech, whereas (456a) would be much better for writing:  

(456) bowling can be fun if it’s done the right way and the way in which you bowl well the object of the game of bowling is to get all the pins down in one throw of the ball / aand // you need the right equipment in order to do this / and the equipment you use is a bowling ball and shoes (60 words)

(456a) Bowling can be fun if it’s done right. The object of the game is to get all the pins down in one throw of the ball. You need the right equipment, namely, a bowling ball and shoes. (37 words)  

In my experience, needless wordage is among the most serious problems facing unskilled writers, both inside and outside the schools. Mental and physical resources are wasted for everybody: {276}  

(457) increasingly, people are engaging in the practice of growing vegetable gardens for the home.

(458) I would like to specialize in tax and estate law. This type of law deals with tax laws, which change rapidly, thus meaning that it requires a great amount of keeping up with new laws as well well as old established ones Since tax laws change every day, it is very important that a tax lawyer keep up with these changes. He must do a tremendous amount of reading, and be able to keep a running file on all new laws as well as already established ones [... ] The job requires a great deal of keeping up with new laws, meaning that his after office hours are spent reading and researching these new laws. 

Students may produce passages like (458) because they haven’t done the necessary research on their topic, and want to hide thin content behind a thicket of verbiage, e.g. (459) rather than (459a): 

(459) An accumulation of time periods has as its consequence an increase in the age factor.

(459a) As time goes by, people get older.  

However, many students sincerely believe that quality writing demands a ponderous, redundant style, e.g., that (460) is genuinely better than (460a):  

(460) He served in a lead software capacity over two other software specialists to whom he provided work direction.

(460a) He was the supervisor in a group of three software specialists. 

This conclusion comes from reading samples written by administrators, officials, and scientists (cf. II.3.26; III.3.16; VI.1.26, 28). Students see little motivation to invest the hard work in good writing as long as convenient, bad writing apparently brings power and rewards.

     3.38 Ideally, college should help students become habituated to expressing themselves concisely in writing. Our sample student, though writing extemporaneously about the silent movie, easily used fewer words to say the same things as her spoken performance (cf. V3.10, 35) about the silent movie: 

(377.1) it starts with Charlie Chaplin working in // a cabaret / and he’s just a common waiter

(378. 1) Charlie Chaplin, who is an ordinary waiter at a local dive

(377.2) when she’s being robbed

(378.3) from being robbed

(377.6) with the cuffs that are always falling down

(378. 10) his failing cuffs

(377.10) so Charlie Chaplin was again was just on a break

(378.9) on his next break 

But for most people, such habits don’t come easily. Motivation is low when good writing seems mysterious, tricky, and unrewarding. And the effort involved in writing well is enormous, even when one’s skills have finally {277} begun to cohere (VI. I.25). A writer is always haunted by an unholy host of commandments and taboos regarding style and usage (cf. I.2.11ff; VI.I.12ff).

    3.39 Still, some hope seems justified by our results in training college students to recognize the influences of their everyday speech on their writing and to revise accordingly. Passages designed to illustrate such problems are presented for editing (cf. Beaugrande, 1982a). At first, each passage stresses just one problem: fillers, hedges, shifts, repetitions, needless words, and so on. Later, the demonstration passages raise several problems at once until finally, complete texts undergo general revision. In principle, actual student samples from past courses would be the best and most realistic materials to edit. In practice, though, manipulation is usually necessary to control the density and type of problems in a given sample. I try to determine from early diagnostics using films and tapes (cf. V. 3.6; VI. 3.8ff) which problems are most urgent for each class, so that I can tailor the training to the learners (cf. I.2.23.8). Individuals are assigned additional revision as seems warranted.

    3.40 Some developmental writers make impressive strides toward reliably revising the same sort of clumsy prose they were writing themselves at the start of the course. One freshman’s first paper opened like this:  

(461) Ever since the earth has been inhabited by people, snakes have had a bad reputation. From the era of Adam and eve to present day, snakes have been misconstrued. People always have and always will, think of snakes in the pessimistic way. They think that snakes are always out to hurt people. A lot of the population falsely believe that snakes are slimy and disgusting. Snakes are not slimy. People refuse to accept the fact that they are not slimy, and that most of them are quite friendly.

Here are the inconsistencies, the vague pronouns allowing improbable, incoherent readings, the recurrent words, and the self-paraphrases so characteristic both of speech and of unskilled writing. I could tell from interviews that the student was knowledgeable and interested regarding the topic of ‘snakes’; yet he couldn’t manage to organize his statements. Ten weeks later, after much revision practice, he took an in-class quiz that included revising this passage:

(462) One of the many things that are hard when you leave high school and go to college is the fact that your in college not high school any more. This being a major change. Untill now they treated you like a little tiny baby and your on you’re own now and you have reponsibilities and you gotta be responsable about them. For example registering. You register by going to registration at the time they give you to register. So you start to go there and there are zillions of problems and no courses anyone would would want unless except their out of there mind or something, you know? {278}  

With no aids but a dictionary, the student made this revision in a few minutes: 

(463) One major change when growing up is the switch from high school to college. Unlike high school, the students in college have more responsibilities and are therefore treated like adults. One responsibility in college is registering. Each student is expected to register at the time that was assigned. One of the many problems in registering is the lack of wanted classes and the overabundance of unwanted classes. 

Admittedly, (463) is not brilliant, polished prose to delight a Steele or an Addison. But it is reasonably well-organized in a way that the student’s writing at the start of the course (461) was not. The gravest problems had been brought under enough control that his future progress in writing looked far less precarious.

   3.41 In general, the “talking versus writing” approach has worked quite favorably. It doesn’t stigmatize student language habits as “bad English,” “illiterate,” or whatever, nor does it cast aspersions on anybody’s intelligence, ability, or social status. Instead, students become aware of the natural effects of moving from a well-practised activity over to a comparatively unfamiliar one. They already command English for numerous purposes, and can now expand that resource toward new uses. The steps along the way are clearly explained. The directions for revising are kept sufficiently specific and manageable for anyone willing to carry them out: removing needless wordage, combining the remaining sentences where appropriate, working toward a direct, clear style, and so on. Though writing never seems to get very easy, it at least ceases to be a mysterious game that many students are predestined to lose. When effective writing is required in their later lives, such as a letter of application for a career, they have some methods to help them attain the quality of text that will not harm their chances for success. 


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