Friday, April 17, 2015

Is Plain Style Too Plain To Be Trusted?

 A possible objection here is that not using plastic bags is inconvenient in daily lives. I freely admit this is true, but we cannot ruin the environment that we are living in just because of convenience. In many situations, we have to put up with the inconveniences for the bigger good. For instance, we brush our teeth everyday no matter how inconvenient it is and how sleepy we are, because we know that is good for our health. If we don’t brush our teeth every day, gum diseases and tooth decay develop slowly, and without the ability to eat we compromise our health and could even die before our time. This means we will have many more inconveniences as we age, like the pain, the foul smell in our mouths, and dentist bills. This is comparable to using the plastic bags. Plastic bags are like those gum diseases and tooth decay, the earth is like our teeth. If we keep using plastic bags every day because of convenience, we will ruin our planet. Who can benefit from your little convenience? The answer is no one, because nobody wants their children to live in worse circumstances and pay for their own “convenience bill.” Although it is easier to live life conveniently, inconveniences sometimes are more beneficial in the long run. (Aijing Song 2014).
This paragraph comes from an assignment I did for English 110, which I took last semester, 2014. For this assignment I had to write a persuasive essay that could be published in a newspaper. The reader of this assignment was the professor, classmates and, if published, the general public, especially people who do the grocery shopping in their household. This could be anyone, such as a housewife, a working mother, a single man, or a student. This essay aimed to convince people to stop using plastic bags by providing a lot of examples and giving evidence to explain why stopping the use of plastic bags is so important. Since few people have awareness of the issue, the environmental problem is getting worse. Even though this essay is written in plain language, it is effective and clear to the audience in any fields. Plain language is the best choice for a persuasive news article because it has the best chance of reaching a large audience.
According to Flesch’s 1949 analysis of the readability of adult reading materials, this paragraph’s Flesch-Kincaid reading ease of 64.4 is at a standard level. The range goes from 60-70. Although the average grade level is 9.9, the Estimated School Grade is 7th or 8th grade, which is accessible for the general public.
This is definitely an example of plain style because it uses a conversational tone and active voice throughout the paragraph. It uses tons of first and second points of view such as “I”, “we” and “your” to lower the levels of formality of this passage to reach as large of an audience as possible. Although it contains few complex sentences structure, most of the sentences are short and made of the simplest sentence structure—I put the subject, verb and object as close as possible, which is easy but the best. Words in this paragraph are so easy and common that we use them everyday in our life, such as “gum diseases”, “tooth decay” and “dentist bill”. The first two sentences are a good and quick opening that present two opposite arguments. The first sentence gives the general public’s argument and the next sentence followed by my own opinion and supporting argument. “I freely admit this is true” is the safest way to present an argument without offending other augments and it is the fast way to draw the audience into this paragraph and grabs audience’s attention.   
  Further dissecting the plain style in this paragraph. There are a lot of plain style strategies such as Metabasis, Exemplum, Analogy, Conduplicatio, Disticto  and Hypophora. The first two sentences use Metabasis because they start with what has been said among the general public about inconvenience and next followed by my argument about convenience will ruin our planet. “For instance” and “like” are the signs of Exemplum, aims to give examples that’s relevant to audiences’ situation so that help to relate themselves and come up with the agreement with my argument. The analogies I used are “brush our teeth” and “stop using plastic bags”, “gum diseases and tooth decay” and the environmental problem, “tooth” and “earth” as well as “dentist bill” and “convenience bill”, which would naturally inspire audiences’ imagination and lead them to the self-criticism. This is effective because my professor and most of my classmates were convinced by using these analogies and realized that we have been hurting our environment and themselves unconsciously, some of them were starting to consider giving up plastic bags. Moreover, this paragraph applies Conduplicatio by repeating the word “(in)convenience” from the beginning to the end of this paragraph, aims at emphasizing that “(in)convenience” is the main motivation and repetition can also create an emotional effect to the audience. “This means” in the middle of the paragraph is using Disticto, further explaining by following the common consequences we might have experience such as dentist problem, resonates with the audience. “This is comparable to using the plastic bags”, “this” here is a pronoun, so avoid repeating. It is also a transition word, which makes a clear connection between the bad consequences of not brushing our teeth and the baneful result of using plastic bags. Hypophora is also being used in the second to last sentence, I asked a question and I also provided the answer. 
Different people might have different reactions while reading this passage. In addition to the style of language used, the type of publication that the essay appears in might make a difference. College students, housewives and parents might be persuaded because they can easily understand the plain language. Thus, if understood easily, college students would change their habits because they cannot only use this knowledge to educate themselves but also their friends around them. For instance, students on our campus could choose not to use plastic bags in dinning hall facilities. Housewives or parents would also consider changing their habits, like choosing to use reusable grocery bags, because they are more likely to want to set an example for their children because they wathem to live a better life. On the other hand, environmental experts might find the language in this passage too plain to be seen as creditable and authentic enough to convince the general public of the urgency of the problem. Thus, my argument would never have the possibility to convince all people in my class or the people who read it form the general public since people would base their opinion on their own self-interests. If my argument is beneficial to them, they will take it into consideration and sacrifice their small convenience (using plastic bags) for the greater good; if it is not, they will ignore it and find all kinds of reasons to raise their objection and continue their convenience (keep using plastic bags).
Since the targeted audience for this essay is anyone who does the household grocery shopping, and this person could be male or female, we have to keep in mind that the average American has a reading level of 7th grade. Therefore, if my essay had been written in official style and published in the newspaper, the grade level would likely be much higher, and the essay would not be understood and accessible to the general public. I don’t think plain style is less credible or trustworthy than official style, and I don’t think it is a good thing to trust someone when we cannot understand. So if it is published in the newspaper, how could the general public understand if they cannot accept the writing style? Thus, it would be more believable and effective to write in a plain style because it is more clear and concise and has more opportunities to reach as large of an audience as possible.
However, there are a lot of people that believe that written works in official style are more credible and authentic. This is also true, since there are all kinds of people—students, housewives, scholars or experts from any fields…etc.—reading newspapers everyday. Newspapers need to be easy to understand and trustworthy at the same time, something that cannot be achieved by plain style alone. So is it better to combine official style and plain style in the newspaper? Would combining the two styles make the writing authentic enough and also give it the ability to reach a majority of the audience?  

Aijing Song

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