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Writing Across the Curriculum

Glossary of Writing Terms

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Writing Glossary: some key words and concepts for writers

 

Abstract: A concise summary of a text or a brief summary a larger work of scholarship. 


Analysis
: Breaking down of ideas, concepts, or texts into the parts that make them up and considering how those parts function together as a whole.


Annotated bibliography
: In the context of an annotated bibliography, “annotations” are short summaries of sources that are used to frame an issue or idea that the writer has researched. Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is accompanied by a bibliographic citation (in MLA, APA, or other citation style) for the source being summarized. Depending on the purpose for the annotated bibliography, annotations can also include the bibliography writer’s evaluation of the relevance or quality of the source and/or a discussion of how each source relates to other sources in the bibliography.


Argument
: Claims and support for those claims that a writer presents in order to persuade an audience. Support often takes the form of rhetorical appeals.


Audience/Intended Audience
: The targeted reader(s) whose opinions and actions the writer hopes to influence or change. 


Audience Analysis
: A process by which a writer identifies the characteristics, interests, values, etc. of his or her audience. Audience analysis can also refer to the part of a rhetorical/text analysis in which the writer of the rhetorical analysis considers the characteristics, interests, values, etc. of the intended audience for the text that he or she is analyzing. 

 

Claim: A point a writer wishes to convey within an argument. A claim is often accompanied by supporting evidence. A text often presents multiple claims to the audience in the interest of bolstering his or her main claim (a main claim is also frequently referred to as a thesis or a controlling purpose).    


Coding
: A prewriting strategy whereby writers analyze and synthesize information from their notes and research processes to discover emergent themes. This method helps writers identify trends in their thinking, in sources they have consulted, or in data they have compiled.


Connotation
: An attitude or overtone a word or phrase may carry with an audience. This overtone is above and beyond the literal meaning – the denotation – of that word or phrase. For example, the phrase “purple and gold” means more than just two colors to members of the ECU community.


Context
: The larger social, cultural, historical, technological, material and rhetorical conditions/situations in which a text is written and/or received.


Credibility
: The authority of source (article, book, website, person, etc.) that a writer incorporates into his or her text in order to convince the audience of an idea’s strength (e.g., a medical doctor’s statement on the best treatment method for an illness or a well-known economist’s viewpoint on the stock market).


Deduction
: The process of moving from general reasoning to a more specific point or position


Denotation
: The literal understanding of a word or phrase by a reader (see also connotation).


Description
: Details one provides to a reader, such as sensory images, observations, and vivid language, to help the reader better understand a topic, object, or situation.


Diction
: The words a writer chooses to express a claim and/or idea.


Discourse
: The text an author creates to inform, persuade, argue, and narrate.


Editing
: The process of making changes to word choice, spelling, sentence structure, grammar, or other semantic issues within a text without making significant revisions to content and purpose. Also referred to as proofreading.


Ethos
: See Rhetorical Appeals.


Example
: A specific piece of evidence that a writer provides to a reader in order to produce understanding or to support a claim.


Explication
: The process of explaining a complex idea, text, process, etc. Explication is also sometimes used to refer to analysis.


Exposition
: Writing in which the main purpose is to provide information about or to explain something complex.


Evaluation
: Assessing the quality of a resource and/or idea.  For instance, one may evaluate the reliability of source material by addressing elements of its credibility (i.e. author, date, or publisher).  A writer may also evaluate the clarity of a document, idea, solution, method, approach, etc. 


Evidence
: Supporting documentation or information for a writer’s claim.


Free-writing
: A prewriting strategy whereby an author simply begins writing anything and everything regarding the topic they will be writing about or any aspect of their drafting process. This is a task to facilitate idea generation and ease writing anxiety. 


Format
: Structural components of a text such as margins, headings, spacing, and font.


Generalization
: A broad, overarching statement about a topic


Genre
: A common type/format of writing produced for a specific, usually recurring purpose.  Some examples of genres include a speech, an e-mail, a memo, a lab report, a grant proposal, a progress report, an incident report, a legal brief, etc.


Imagery
: Written descriptions that use the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).


Induction
: The process of moving from very specific fact(s) or points to general principles—the reverse of deduction.


Inference
: An assumed idea or relationship.


Jargon
: Specialized, discipline- or field-specific terminology.


Listing
: A prewriting strategy whereby an author lists and/or categorizes information about a topic, idea, or issue.  This is a useful practice for generating ideas and identifying themes. 


Logos:
See Rhetorical Appeals.


Meta-awareness
: a writer’s ability to recognize the choices that he or she has made within his or her individual writing process.


Metacognition
: A writer’s ability to identify and assess the effectiveness of the choices made within his or her writing.  Metacognition involves a writer thinking about why he or she has made certain choices-- revisions, word choice, topic selection, claims, rhetorical appeals, etc.-- within his or her text and determining if those choices are effective. Similar to meta-awareness.


Mode
: A category of common academic writing (e.g. narration, argument, exposition, etc.).


Mood
: The attitude, feeling, and/or emotion a writer seeks to convey within her or his writing.


Narration
: A type of writing in which writer gives an account of a sequence of events, often using the first person (“I”).


Objective
: (1) A noun that refers to the goal of a text. (2) An adjective that describes an unbiased account, source, or writer.


Occasion:
The specific situation that has prompted the writer to produce a text.


Parallelism
: Use of the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level.  Usually it is done to increase understanding, to enhance readability, or to generate audience interest.  An example of parallelism is included in the underlined portions of the previous sentence: notice how the “to” repeats, followed by the verb, then followed by a direct object.


Pathos:
See Rhetorical Appeals.


Persuasion
: A type of writing in which the writer attempts to convince an audience to adopt a particular position or take a particular action.


Prewriting
: Strategies a writer uses for generating topics, discovering evidence, organizing ideas, or developing other critical aspects of a text. Prewriting often occurs at the beginning of the writing process, but it can be used with good results at any time during the writing and revision of a text. See also free-writing, listing, and coding.


Purpose
: The goal or objective that the writer is trying to achieve through his or her text (e.g. writing to persuade, writing to inform, writing to describe, etc.).  


Reader
: An individual reading and interpreting a text. Note that a reader may not always be part of the intended audience.


Repetition
: In the context of writing strategies, repetition refers to the repeating of facts or ideas for a particular purpose and effect. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech before Congress following the attack upon Pearl Harbor clearly exhibits repetition (combined with parallelism) for a very specific purpose, when he states, “Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.  Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.”


Revision
: Making substantial changes to a text beyond fixing typos, shifting word order, addressing grammatical issues, making spelling changes, or addressing other sematic issues. Revision, unlike editing, significantly alters the purpose, organization, audience, tone, and/or content of a text.


Rhetorical Appeals
(Ethos, Pathos, Logos): Ethos is credibility or authority.  We may provide an audience with reputable facts or explanations from noted experts to convince them of our knowledge about an issue or topic.  Pathos is an emotional appeal to our values and beliefs.  It may enhance a writer’s ability to persuade the audience through examples that speak to the audience’s values and beliefs.  Logos is reason and logic.  To be most successful, then, a text should be based upon credible information (ethos) and examples that speak to an audience’s values (pathos) to arrive at reasonable conclusions (logos). 

Below are several questions one may wish to address when analyzing the rhetorical appeals of a text.

What claims are made within the text?  How does the author provide support for claim(s)? Does the writer make any emotional appeals?  What is the character and/or professional background of the writer?  Is the writer credible or trustworthy? Did statistics or facts contribute to a logical conclusion?


Rhetorical Situation
: The writer, purpose, audience, context, and occasion for a text and the interaction of these elements as they affect the text. 


Style
:  How a writer structures words and phrases within a text (diction, syntax, voice, and tone are parts of style).  Styles of writing differ widely, and are often dependent upon a field of study.  Social rules of language also determine how a writer uses style to convey both their ideas clearly and effectively to the intended audience. 


Subjective
: A term used to describe opinion-driven or emotionally influenced writing that may be based upon personal feelings and observations by the writer.


Summary
: A condensed overview of a text that includes essential information for an intended audience. A summary should only discuss what is in the original text and should not include new ideas or information. Summaries of other writers’ work should include citations in order to properly attribute credit.


Syntax
: Word-order in a sentence or phrase. Syntax contributes to the overall style of a text.


Synthesis
: A process in which a writer pulls ideas and/or other texts together, often by identifying and explaining connections (similarities and differences, repeating topics or themes, common perspectives, etc.) across those ideas and/or texts.


Text
: Any kind of communication that transmits ideas.


Theme
: A topic, or focus that runs through multiple texts or different parts of the same text.  


Thesis
: The key claim that a writer wishes to convey to his or her intended audience.


Tone
: The feel, atmosphere, or attitude that writing conveys to a reader (for example,  formal versus informal, inviting versus intimidating, serious versus light-hearted, etc.).  A writer should consider the purpose and intended audience of a text when determining what tone to use. 


Topic
: The subject matter on which a writer writes in a particular text.


Transition
: a word or phrase that facilitates the linking and of ideas within the text both at the paragraph and sentence-level. 


Voice
: The persona that a writer projects to an intended audience (for example, an expert versus a novice; a boss versus a friend, etc.). For instance, if the same author is writing a personal blog versus crafting a press release for a company, the writer would use a different voice. Voice and tone are often interconnected, with each contributing to the other.


Writing Process
: The various cycles, steps, stages, stops, and starts that a writer engages in while composing a text. Writing is a recursive process, meaning that a text is constantly changing and evolving, with deletion, addition, revision, and editing occurring up until the “final” version is completed. A common misconception is that strong writers simply write a single draft and, “voila,” the text is ready to be distributed to the intended audience. This is not the case: multiple, substantial changes—often through multiple drafts— characterize an effective writing process.


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ECU graduate student Matt Herrmann compiled this glossary with assistance from ECU faculty member Wendy Sharer.  We envision this glossary as a dynamic, evolving resource: your comments on and suggestions for entries are welcome.  Send feedback to sharerw@ecu.edu.

 

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