Sunday, October 28, 2012

French Wine and the Official Style

        For my first blog assignment, I chose to analyze a scholarly article entitled “Perception of wine quality according to extrinsic cues: The case of Burgundy wine consumers.” To give some background, this article described a study where French citizens of Burgundy examined wine bottles and judged the wine based on quality. As people are rarely allowed to taste wine at a store before they purchase it, these researchers looked at extrinsic factors to see what influences consumers to buy untested wine.
Statistics on the readability of this article are as follows. The article scored a 23.9 on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease. According to the readability statistics, the article is written at a 17.3 grade level. The article also had an average of 26.9 words per sentence. These statistics show that this article is written at a high readability level, especially as it is 10.3 grades higher than the average reader in the United States can comprehend.

       This particular article was definitely written with many elements of the official style. For starters, article is written in the passive voice. The article is highly impersonal, only ever mentioning the subjects of the study but never using their active voice. The sentences are also quite complex, for example: “Among the bulk of literature dealing with wine choice, there is an important number of papers devoted to the development and application of different methodologies for evaluating the impact of extrinsic cues on consumer choice preferences of wine.” This sentence could be simplified very easily by saying, “According to books on wine choice, there are many papers that analyze different methods to see the effect of outside features that make customers choose certain wines.” This could be simplified even further by breaking it into two sentences. Instead, the author chose to use more a more complex sentence structure and more difficult vocabulary. This complexity continues further with the use of many prepositional phrases throughout the article, which makes the article quite lengthy to read through.
        Another use of the official style is shown through the many euphemisms placed throughout the article. Instead of saying “tasting” the wine, the author calls it the “intrinsic factors” of the wine. On the other spectrum, instead of saying the “packaging of the bottle,” the author refers to these qualities as the “extrinsic factors.” Many more euphemism examples exist throughout the article as the author uses more official style wording to describe certain subjects or characteristics.
There are many different activity systems inside of this text. These include wine consumers, store owners, wine makers, wine bottlers, and etc. The activity system that I decided to explore is what I call a “criteria for wine purchasing” activty system. The objective of the activity system is to determine which extrinsic factors lead customers to purchase certain wines. The subjects inside of this activity system are the people involved in the study who are acting as fake consumers. Mediating artifacts include the wine being used in the study, the simulated wine shop, the “money” the consumers were able to spend, and any other objects needed to make the study possible. The rules and norms involved in this study showed certain rules involved in a buying process and also the norms of the French culture in purchasing wine. The community in this activity system would then be the French citizens who purchased wine. Finally, a division of labor was shown through the workers or the simulated shop and the consumers.
       Certain conflicts inside of this activity system could be that the consumers, or even the wine makers, store owners, etc., do not believe that customers are motivated by extrinsic factors. Certain people might feel that wine consumers choose their wine based off of the taste, color of the wine, or reputation of a certain wine. Therefore, the bottle label or other factors might not make any difference. Another conflict could be that because this is a simulated study, customers would not make the same decisions that they would in a real purchasing situation. The money used inside of this study also makes could prove to be a problem. Since the customer is limited by resources, I think this would alter their wine purchase decision. Some might argue, though, that this monetary limitation would actually show store owners, how they could tailor certain wine to customers with less money. 

     As I previously mentioned, the creators of this study were motivated to see which extrinsic factors were important in purchasing wine. As many stores do not allow customers to taste the wine before purchasing, the findings could be very important for wine sellers who wish to better market their products. It is helpful to look at both the readability and the activity system together to see where there could be certain connections or conflicts in reaching the wanted outcome. One potential conflict could be that some wine sellers do not have the reading capacities of a 17.3 grade level. This could make the findings of the study irrelevant and unhelpful to these certain individuals. I believe, though, that this readability and official style definitely suits this specific activity system, because for a majority of the wine sellers, this text will be manageable. The more complex language deals in a lot of the wine business’s jargon, which the majority of wine experts should know. The text also includes some graphs of the results that were found in the study, so the text is supplemented to help readers understand everything visually. It is also appropriate for the author to leave out personal thoughts and feelings to keep the text objective and have the study appear more credible.
      Although this is a more difficult read, I think the style is appropriate for someone who has a lot of knowledge about wine purchasing. This high readability blends well with this specific activity system to deliver a nonbiased set of results that will help businesses be more effective in selling their wine. If, though, someone was just beginning to learn about wine, I think this would be a difficult article to start with. This article could be much more accessible to the average reader if the writer would simplify the language choice and shorten the length of the article.