Thursday, March 12, 2015

Official Style of Bruffee

“To the extent that thought is internalized conversation, then, any effort to understand how we think requires us to understand the nature of conversation; and any effort to understand conversation requires us to understand the nature of community life that generates and maintains conversation. Furthermore, any effort to understand and cultivate in ourselves the kind of thought we value most requires us to understand and cultivate the kinds of community life that establish and maintain conversation that is the origin of that kind of thought. To think well as individuals we must learn to think well collectively—that is, we must learn to converse well. The first steps to learning to think better, therefore, are learning to converse better and learning to establish and maintain the sorts of social context, the sorts of community life, that foster the sorts of conversation members of the community value” (Kenneth A. Bruffee 88). 
This paragraph comes from an academic article, Collaborative Learning and the “Conversation of Mankind”, written by Kenneth A. Bruffee, which was collected in Composition in Four Keys: Inquiring into the Field. Published in Mountain View, CA, by Mayfield Publishing Company in 1996. The reader of this article might be an English Rhetoric and Writing major student or English Scholar. This article aims to provide suggestions to scholars or students in the field about how to think and learn well. If his goal is to help students and teachers become good collaborative learners, the students and teachers reading his work need to be able to understand it. However, I don’t think he follows his ideas because he uses a difficult language to be understood by us. Thus, we wouldn’t be able to think collaboratively and work collaboratively with each other. I think that good writing is clear and concise, and the official style Bruffee uses in his writing is not clear. The way he write is not beneficial to his audience, but to himself because he uses devices intentionally to make people believe him. I would argue that Bruffee should have written this in a plainer language so that the average student or teacher would be able to understand and learn from his ideas.
This paragraph is definitely an example of official style even though there are no complex words or jargon in it. But why is it official style? First of all, when I started to read it, I found out it was hard to follow his ideas because of the long and verbose sentences. Second, these four sentences are all complex sentences, which have certain structures with numbers of ideas increasing throughout each sentence. The four sentences also contain a lot of rhetorical devices and other official style strategies. “Furthermore” and “therefore” are also used to connect ideas and sentences in order to strengthen Bruffee’s argument. Lastly, punctuation marks are increasingly used in the passage such as semicolon, commas and dash.  
These are the statistics for this paragraph from the readability calculator:

Flesch-Kincaid reading ease
Average Grade level
Characters per word
Words per sentence

  According to Flesch’s 1949 analysis of the readability of adult reading materials, this paragraph’s Flesch-Kincaid reading ease of 28.4 is at a very difficult level. The range goes from 0 to 30. This is very difficult and inaccessible for anyone in the general public to read and understand. It is not surprising that the average grade level is 18.3, as the structures are complex and the strategies and rhetorical devices are vastly used in this paragraph. This number is far above the average reading level of the general public in America, which is the seventh grade. The verbose sentences are too formal and too academic which might cause the reader to get bored and cease to be further engaged in such an official style. The words in each sentence are 36.5, which is a very high number; even though the characters per word are only 5.2.
  Further dissecting the sentences’ structure, it is obvious that this paragraph has certain structures in these four sentences. It is interesting to see the first two sentences use the same structure and the last two sentences use the same structure. For example, the main structure of the first and second sentence is “noun + to + verb”, whereas the third and the fourth use “to + verb” structure. There is an incredibly vast use of parallelism in this paragraph, almost every part of this sentence and several other sentences are expressed similarly to show that the ideas are equal in importance. For instance, Bruffee uses “any effort to understand . . . requires us to understand . . .” three times, which is one of the rhetorical devices that he uses to make his argument seem logical and reasonable to his audience, which naturally leads the audience to follow his ideas. However, this paragraph contains different lengths of sentences that would easily test people’s patience.
Once having read this passage, different people might have different reactions. Scholars or college students in the field might believe this is a B.S. strategy—a way to say the same thing over and over again. As an international student who majors in English Rhetoric and Writing, I didn’t feel it was easy to understand when I read it even though I could recognize all of the words. Therefore, I believe other International students or undergraduate students who don’t major in this field might feel it is a powerful strategy to build his argument due to the language barrier, culture differences or lack of professional knowledge. People from the general public might feel confused and frustrated and throw it away immediately.
    While looking deeply and closely at what official style strategies and rhetorical devices, there are tons of prepositional phrases and rhetorical devices being used throughout this paragraph. In addition to prepositions, the first sentence uses the coordinating conjunction “and” to give two independent clauses equal emphasis. It also uses prose style terminology--parataxis, which aims to show the audience in every sphere of human activity that the clauses are equally emphasized and the ideas are explicitly connected. Due to the different perspectives that come from spheres of human activity, contradictions or conflicts could be generated in using rhetorical devices. The first sentence of this paragraph would be an example. “To the extent that thought is internalized conversation, then”, the word “then” here can be seen as Metabasis, which is a transition from one subject to another. Metabasis refers to an idea that has already been explained or agreed on. Bruffee might use this rhetorical device on purpose since he previously argued that thought is internalized conversation. By using this transition, he can lead his audience to move on to his next argument. However, people who have other perspectives might not agree with that Metabasis, they might argue that the word “then” is Expletivehe because it seems unnecessary since it doesn’t explain anything or express anything in this sentence. The second and third sentence also uses Distincto “that is” to explain or remove or prevent ambiguity among readers, which indicates the next sentence is to simplify and explain more about the former one and. For me, this rhetorical device is a signal that what is coming next might explain more clearly the longer sentences.

By doing this research, I learned that a lot of scholars in the rhetoric writing field overuse the complex sentences in their writing. It is interesting that they can use certain structures and strategies to connect simple words or phrases into big and difficult sentences. I also found that these strategies and rhetorical devices are quite contradictory in different discourse communities. Some scholars and students in this field might disagree with the rhetoricians’ style they used because they use those powerful strategies to make small things into big so that can always confuse and fool the general public instead of helping them. Sometimes with official style, when people use complex sentences and a lot of words (verbose) and strategies, the audience will believe what they are writing is true even if they can’t understand, simply because the writer must know what they are talking about. Maybe the fact that it is “hard to understand” makes us think that the person writing it must be very intelligent and therefore believable. However, I don’t think it is a good thing to believe someone just because they “sound” smart or because they use a lot of words and rhetoric. Rather, it would be better to believe them because I could understand their ideas and notice their ideas are good ones. Bruffee is trying to tell us how to learn well, can teachers and students be collaborative learners if they can’t understand how?

-----Aijing Song

Official Style in the Holocaust

            In “The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric Technology, and the Holocaust” by Steven Katz, Katz not only brings to light the ways in which the ‘Official Style’ is utilized within ‘Official’ documents, but he also emphasizes the importance and lack of ethics that are often overlooked within these documents.  In Katz article, Katz analyzes a memo that was written during the time of the Holocaust that allows us to understand how the ‘Official Style’ can conceal and overlook important information.  Before Katz begins his analysis, he allows us to read the original document his article is based on.  “For easy cleaning of the vehicle, there must be a sealed drain in the middle of the floor.  The drainage hole’s cover, eight to twelve inches in diameter, would be equipped with a slanting trap, so that fluid liquids can drain off during the operation.  During cleaning, the drain can be used to evacuate large pieces of dirt” (Katz 184).  The issue of this excerpt isn’t whether or not it uses the elements of the ‘Official Style’, but how it uses the elements of the ‘Official Style’ to affect its readers.
            By incorporating elements of the ‘Official Style’ into his memo, Just not only blinds the readers of the true motives behind his memo, but also eliminates the emotional attachment linked with the given situation.  “…it has been observed that when the doors are shut, the load always presses hard against them as soon as darkness sets in.  This is because the load naturally rushes toward the light when darkness sets in, which makes closing the doors difficult” (184).  Through this passage, we are able to identify some of the ‘Official Style’ elements Just makes use of.  By applying complex sentences, skotison, an impersonal voice, and verbose, Just creates a technically sound and credible memo.  However, by using elements of the ‘Official Style’, Just disregards the importance of ethics.  It is only when Katz analyzes Just’s memo that we come to the realization of the horror Just’s memo is built upon.  “In this memo, the writer, Just, attempts to persuade his superior, Walter Rauff, of the necessity for technical improvements to the vans being used in the early Nazi program of exterminating the Jews and other ‘undesirables’” (184).  Katz analysis allows us to comprehend the true motives of Just’s document.  However, like Just, Katz himself utilizes the ‘Official Style’.
            When making use of the ‘Official Style’, Katz does so to clarify the message Just encrypts within his document.  “…this is not the problem with this memo.  In fact, given the subject matter, we might wish to claim that this memo is too technical, too logical.  The writer shows no concern that the purpose of his memo is the modification of vehicles not only to improve efficiency, but also to exterminate people” (185).  Comparing and contrasting Just’s memo to Katz analysis of Just’s memo, there is a clear distinction between the ways in which the ‘Official Style’ is used and the impact they have on their audiences.
By writing a technical document with elements of the ‘Official Style’, Just is able to shape the way his readers initially interpret his memo.  Just’s memo is expressed as “an almost perfect document” (184) by Katz.  However, through Just’s memo “…expediency and the resulting ethos of objectivity, logic, and narrow focus that characterize most technical writing, are taken to extremes and applied to the mass destruction of human beings” (185).  By making use of the ‘Official Style’ Just is able to hide the true meanings and purpose of his memo.  Just also misguides his audience to be unemotionally attached to the contents of his memo and, therefore, unashamed for accepting such a proposal.
Katz expresses to us how using the ‘Official Style’ can heavily impact the way messages are interpreted through texts.  He states “This ‘ethos of expediency’ can be seen in the style of Just’s memo, particularly the euphemisms and metaphors used to denote, objectify, and conceal process and people—‘observations,’ ‘load,’ ‘pieces,’ ‘operating time,’ ‘merchandise,’ ‘packed solid,’ ‘fluid liquid,’ ‘large pieces of dirt’—as well as use of figures in speech such as ellipsis…and litotes” (185).  When making use of the term ‘load’, Katz translates Just’s usage of this term and allows us to understand what the term actually stands for: people.  This is when we come to the realization that Just’s document is, not only ‘Official’, but unethical as well.

Just’s memo was written in the ‘Official Style’ to accomplish the purpose of his job: to improve vans used to exterminate Jews.  Just uses the ‘Official Style’ to mask the true intentions of his memo and to create an emotional disconnect with his readers.  Unlike Just, Katz uses the ‘Official Style’ in his own text to decrypt the meaning behind Just’s memo and to bring to light how the lack of ethics and understanding of a text can heavily impact its reader’s initial interpretations.   Katz and Just are examples of authors who can use the ‘Official Style’ to convey different messages.  The difference between Katz’s and Just’s texts also gives us insight about how the ‘Official Style’ can be used for good or bad intentions.   Although both Katz and Just make use of the ‘Official Style’ within their texts in different ways, both texts are similar in the fact that the ‘Official Style’ limits the accessibility of both their works.

Sapphire S.

The Official Style in Public Speaking

After I took communication class with a wonderful time last semester, I’m kind like doing the public speech, because I feel that persuading someone and changing their thoughts by the words you say is an amazing thing, and I want to be a public speaker in the future if I have chance. Nowadays public speaking is becoming more and more popular. It can be seen not only in school but also in all kinds of business presentations and meetings or TV shows, sometimes even in the community you are living in. Although we’re pretty familiar with public speaking, it’s still hard for us to imagine how public speech works as the most important medium of communication to spread important information without some auxiliary tools like PowerPoint and posters, especially during a period like World War II, for example.
When I read some speech materials from the 1940s or other periods around that time, I could easily find some that compared to today’s speech. However, most speeches at that time were written in a more formal and sophisticated way, because during that time, militarists and politicians often gave speeches to a large number of audiences about the war and what was happening in foreign countries. Winston Churchill, for example, is one of the famous orators of that time. His speech, Their Finest Hour, was given after the Nazis captured France, and Nazis were trying to find their way to finish off the U.K. In order to grab the attention of a mass audience, Churchill had to mix the official style and plain style in his speech. But, if he used too simple of words in his speech, his credibility and professionalism would be without a doubt lost when the speech went on. But with the audience change with the time, we need reanalysis the speech.The strategies of the official style Churchill used included: euphemism, slow sentence openings, noun style, and jargon, which showed his professionalism very well. However, those strategies he used may also have made him sound ostentatious and hard to understand by some people who didn’t have higher education, and it may have made some people uninterested in listening to what he actually said. 
 It’s very obvious that Churchill wanted to tell the public about what happened in France at the beginning of his speech. He tried to explain the reason why their military didn’t help their allies, but he used a slower opening when he informed his audience about what occurred in France. He began his speech by stating, “I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern armies from Belgium at a moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse.” The timeframe he used, “the other day,” is a little bit inappropriate. It seems like all audiences wouldn’t know which day he meant, and if someone already knew what had happened in France on that day, they would lose their interest in what he was saying before he went to the main point of the speech. On one hand, Churchill was trying to be open with the public, as any politician should be, but his slow opening description about the battle may have made his main point become unclear. Churchill shows what he actually wants to say in an extensive way, and it seems like he might have overelaborated on the subject selection. So, personally, I think that this kind of official style strategy has its value in areas like literature research, but it couldn’t help Churchill to address the British universal population here.
            However, the targeted audience of this speech was the House of Commons, not the whole of Britain. For this reason, he could write his speech in a more political way rather than a plain way.
            Another strategy that Churchill used in his speech is euphemism. After his introduction, Churchill explained that he wasn't saying those things for “recrimination”, which isn't a simple word that can be seen in our daily life. So I think that if he was trying to build a closer connection with his audience, he should say it in a plainer and simpler way, like “I don’t want to blame anyone for this battle in France.” Maybe in a simpler kind of phrase, it makes more sense than that complicated word, although he was trying to sound more formal and professional as politicians should. Personally, I think if he had done it in this way, his speech may have worked better among political and official leaders. Churchill was considered to be a man who raised the art of speaking to the level of high literature, because he liked to wait to revise his language style until the last minutes before he gave his speech. Because he was a new elected official, he was trying to not only leave a deep impression on the House, but also inspire them come together to solve the difficulties of such a crucial time. Here is another example of this kind of strategy he used in his speech: “I should not think it would be very advantageous for the House to prolong this debate this afternoon under conditions of public stress.” I think this sentence could be spoken in a plainer and simpler way. For me, I think things like “I don’t think the House should continue the debate, because we are facing a huge public stress.” makes more sense to me, and it still explains the main points clearly. Although it seems to have lost some professionalism, the audience would understand what Churchill actually wanted to express, and it would help his statements be more direct.  Besides, for the British citizens and other countries’ citizens, adding some plain style would be more beneficial.

As both an orator and a politician, Churchill became famous for his excellent political speeches like this one in the following years. Overall, Winston Churchill did a really good job in showing all the people in England that he noticed the dangerous situation, and he could speak objectively about it. There are many sentences and phrases that could be changed into plainer and simpler language to appeal to more audiences. But, we still need consider the situation that he encountered during that time. It is good material to read on the internet today, but I don’t think most people in the past would like listening this kind of speech though the radio or in a public place, because when I listen to a speech like this, it’s so hard for me to understand the military and political terminology. For this reason, it was hard for speeches like this to cheer the British people up for the coming battles at that time, but in some cases, the official style part has some literature research value. After analyzing one of Churchill’s speeches, I can see the official style can be used frequently to grab the main points and to persuade a large audience to believe a specific factor and cause. However, if the speaker doesn’t use the official style in an appropriate and skillful way, the audience may misunderstand the message given by the speaker, and even begin to doubt the credibility of speaker. But Churchill did a good job in use the official style. Positive responses can be found in many part. Richard Alleyne , a Science Correspondent, said that his speech “full of passion and Shakespearesque language, his appeal for fortitude and courage was credited with re-galvanizing the country in its darkest hour.” Same thing were mentioned by NPR. They think Churchill’s speech “was widely considered one of the greatest political speeches ever, and rallied a war-weary Britain at a time when it appeared to be losing World War II.” This commons all show that Churchill had a nice shot in using the official style strategy. Some might say that Churchill was just trying to get parliament to approve of his actions in not helping France, but I believe that if this was his only motive, he would have just used the official style and not integrated the plain speech in order to sound more professional. However, some may think that the main reason why Churchill’s speeches were so successful is the rhetoric he used, and they think that Churchill just use great logic to persuade the audience to believe what he states in spite of some political factors, which still needs to be known and considered.
                                                                                                                                    Fangfang L

Official Style used in Social Media Is To Reveal Credibility

For this critique, I have decided to examine the article for communication study, Facebook Self-Presentational Motives: Daily Effects on Social Anxiety and Interaction Success by Burke, Tricia J., and Erin K. Ruppel, published on 20 December 2014.  I find this article on the Murphy library resources online where I just clicked the communication link, my favorite field. I think the audiences could be those communication studies group people. They probably pay attention to online social communication study. The sphere of human activity of this case is online social communicator. Everyone’s utterance on his or her Facebook would affect anyone in his social circle by explicit communication and presentation; anything he posts would be seen by his social circle at the mean time influence his circle. The goal of the article is to trigger those who care about social communication to consider whether individuals’ social anxiety and interaction success are associated with their specific self-presentation motives and their social competence described on Facebook.
     Lets come to the first question: is it essential to open a welcoming paragraph in official style? The following is the mission statement from the first paragraph of the article:
       “Social networking sites such as Facebook have exploded in popularity over the last several years. In fact, Facebook had 727 million daily active users as of September 2013 (Facebook, 2013). Relative to face-to-face interaction, Facebook is a distinct forum for interpersonal interaction because individuals have the ability to carefully manage their self-presentation. Compared to the immediate nature of face-to-face interactions, the asynchronous nature of most online social networking site interactions (e.g., Facebook) allows people time to consider the ways in which they can strategically present desired images of themselves online and can edit their communication to achieve those self-presentational goals” (Walther, 2007RIDCIT0028).
      This passage, when run through the readability scale, resulted in a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score of 28.50 and an average grade level of 14.10. The words are not overladen or complex, but it is described with jargon that may not easily be understood or took the place of simpler long words. The instance involves “the asynchronous nature of most online social networking site interactions”; the “asynchronous nature” could not be very easy for all audiences to understand, but works for the audiences who are interested in social problems. In this example, there are also uses of many strategies such as relative clause, participial phrase, prepositional phrases, noun substitute and subordinate sentences structures; these strategies make the article more organized with complex language use. This paragraph has given a very important significance to the audiences is that individual representation on online social networking would influence the goal of self-representation achievement; also the spheres of human activity is the people’s behavior of online social networking related to their real communication and goal. 
            I saw an example of relative clause in the third sentence, on the seventh line of text: “the asynchronous nature of most online social networking site interactions (e.g., Facebook) allows people time to consider the ways in which they can strategically present desired images of themselves.” In this sentence, the subject is long; the noun substitute play a part in the whole sentence that combine two independent sentences into one which make the whole sentence looks more professional and persuasive for the specific audience.  The subordination in the second sentence, on the fourth line of content: “because individuals have the ability to carefully manage their self-presentation.” The whole sentence followed the “ because” but used common words. In this sentence, the author uses ‘ because’ to connect the two part of this sentence which makes it has the causality.
       Also, prepositional phrases are easy to point out. For example, the first line of the quoted text reads, “Social networking sites such as Facebook” And in the second sentence, we see another “In fact, Facebook had 727 million daily active users as of September 2013.” For this sentence, the prepositional phrase segment by starting: “ In fact”, and the end of the sentence: “ as of September”.
     We are going to take a look at one more segment of this content.
     Self-presentation theory suggests that people experience social anxiety as a function of their perceived inability to successfully make a desired impression upon others (Leary & Kowalski, 1995). Given that use of social networking sites such as Facebook is pervasive on college campuses (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007) and is likely a crucial component of young adults’ interactions, these young adults’ self-presentation concerns probably transfer to an online context as well. For the most part, people have the ability to control the information and pictures they post on Facebook (in addition to controlling the dissemination of others’ information about them, such as by deleting wall posts or removing tags that identify them in others’ pictures), giving them the tools to convey a desired impression to others”.
       This piece indicated that people themselves have the ability to control their utterance on the online social networking; also the youth mostly influenced by the online social networking around their social relation circle. This piece is considerably difficult to read but readable by college-educated readers, ranking with Flesch-Kincaid at a score of 14.7 and an average grade level of 20.4; such low readability requires professional training. This example is much more difficult to understand than the first piece in this assignment. There is a multitude of ways he could have stated such simple, non-complex utterances in a plain style. But he chooses to Use such diction sounds more official and credible. Every single word is objective by normative writing rather than subjective oral speaking. Because it is a critique, I felt it was important to show a paragraph of the article that was so formal and difficult.
    Although simple to read, this passage yet contains some strategies: coordination, noun substitute, relative clause, and prepositional phrases. The coordination appears throughout the second and third sentence, evidenced by the ‘and.’ Prepositional phrases are much easier to point them out, like ‘as’, ‘ such as’ and ‘ as well’.
     Among the whole content, three tables of data about Daily Social Anxiety and Interaction Success from Overall Social Competence and Daily Facebook Self- Presentation Motivation were inserted. As it is a critique, I would like to say it gives the article substantial assistance.     
Now let’s go back to the original argument: does this essay use official style because it provided many examples of famous authors and brackets, or because it is necessary for professionalism? Some people would argue that official style is unnecessary in essay and in article or the official style is abominable, in a sense they are true but not for this case. My personal belief is that it is for professionalism as an organization. An article with official style usually is intended for a specific audience within communication studies. It has some big words like “asynchronous nature” and “ interaction” for facing universal audiences. Texts written in official styles would have higher “average grade levels” with result of readability statistics. At the same time, the article with official style would likely be using some sentential adverbs like ‘in fact’, ‘for the most part’. These evidences definitely show the official style features of this article.
     In general, essay would look like more professional within official style; the essay would to be even more creditable in the author’s argument. Additionally, as I showed in the final section, there are usages of table data in this article that are arranged reasonably. I personally think the usages of official style are evidenced in the proper positions of this article such as the analysis section by using the sentential adverbs, jargon, big words and higher “average grade levels” according to the result of readability statistics. For the most part, the article is very rational and logical. Also, the subheading could be regarded as a light spot in this long, technical article.  

The Monster-in-Law Portrayal and The Official Style

When it came to the journal article I chose to assess, I looked into all sorts of communication journals and found one that caught my attention.  With a title like Making Sense of Hurtful Mother-in-law Messages: Applying Attribution Theory to the In-Law Triad, I couldn’t help but wonder how The Official Style was used and why it was used in this case.  Looking more deeply at the text as well as the trends throughout, I was able to recognize the “monster-in-law” stereotype embedded within the text using The Official Style.
 I started off my research by looking into the authors’ backgrounds and their credibility.  Both Associate Professors were in Communication Studies at accredited universities, but I noticed one small detail that may have skewed the article.  Christine Rittenour, of West Virginia University, specializes in women and gender studies.  This explained a lot of the diction used that didn’t necessarily seem to fit the context.  For example, words like “betrayal” and “threats” connect with the topic of gender studies and the oppression of women.  In other words, I would consider these to be more severe choices in diction to help the audience grasp the “seriousness” of the topic.  I think that it made the argument more convincing and helped to facilitate the negative image of a mother-in-law and oppression of the daughter-in-law.
To enhance the audience’s perspective on mother-in-laws, appositives were used throughout to give a better understanding of the topic at hand.  At times there were relevant examples like definitions to clarify the terms in the context of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship.  On the other hand, there were clarifications that ended up being irrelevant to the general topic.  For example, the word “evaluations” was used and followed by “(e.g., “Going out with you was the biggest mistake of my life”).”  These forms of appositives because of the disconnect from the topic.  I saw the underlying women and gender studies background of Rittenour here as well considering these statements were still directed at the daughter-in-laws, which reflect the words of the man in the relationship and the oppression of women.  Rittenour’s bias was deep within the text.
This bias leads to the stereotype that is being reinforced by this journal.  Mother-in-laws were being villainized.  There was a consistent lack of daughter-in-law responsibility when it came to understanding the messages that mother-in-laws were sending.  Using terms like “threats”, “mistreatment”, and “betrayal”, as previously mentioned, to describe the mother-in-law was contrasted with words like “fear”, “humiliation”, and “shame” when talking about the daughter-in-law.  This instills an image or expectation of what mother-in-laws represent.  It creates a villainized versus victimized relationship between the mother and daughter-in-laws.
Interestingly, the language throughout the article solidifies the stereotype, but the lack of specific examples and use of passive voice create a disconnect between the audience and message.  In terms of the topic, I think that specific qualitative evidence pertaining to hurtful messages from mother-in-laws would solidify the main idea about the relationship between mother and daughter-in-laws.  With the study consisting mostly of statistics gathered from a structured survey, it’s harder for the audience to relate to the information.  Personal experiences give explanations, context, and a thorough understanding of the situation.  It eliminates any messages that might infer that the mother-in-law isn’t completely at fault, which would complicate the outcome of the study and more openly lose credibility.  In the long run, I think this hurt the study, especially with the audience being those who read the Communication Quarterly.  Knowing that the statistics come from a strategically made survey also shows the bias within the study alone.  Personal testimonials would serve as more obvious and understandable evidence.  This shows there was some sort of bias involved, like the authors was pushing for results that confirmed their argument.
I can strongly identify the bias and purposeful choices within the text that reinforce this mother-in-law stereotype, but I recognize how the context shapes the way that Communication Studies professors like Rittenour created the argument.  These authors were attempting to make the connection between Attribution Theory and the messages mother-in-laws were sending.  To their defense, I do understand and appreciate that their study was focused on one specific relationship, but I don’t think that they considered the hit that their credibility would take when only discussing one side of the interaction.
The article was a perfect fit for the Communication Quarterly, which I assume had a huge influence on the formatting and use of language throughout.  Commonly, communication concepts are labeled in a technical-sounding way to prove to the audience that the topic is important, that it is complicated and technical.  Being that I have this prior knowledge, I looked for specific examples of technical-sounding elements within the text.  I noticed acronyms immediately.  Typically, the purpose of an acronym is to abbreviate a long-winded or technical concept, especially within the realm of published journal articles.  The use of these acronyms within this specific journal was much different.  The terms mother-in-law and daughter-in-law were abbreviated to MIL and DIL.  Because of the truly uncomplicated nature of the topic, it seemed as though this device was used to make the document more “official” and more “complicated.”  The influence of having the article published in such a journal seemed to influence the way the authors shaped their message in even the smallest way.  If the journal had not used The Official Style, it probably would not have met the criteria to be published in the Communication Quarterly.  It seems that there is a very complicated connection between The Official Style and this published journal article.
As you can see, subtle choices in prose can create a whole different meaning or understanding about text.  I touched on very specific details about the types of choices that were made throughout the journal article and their effects.  With that being said, this does not encompass every device within The Official Style and the other elements used to reinforce the mother-in-stereotype.  Now I leave this to you; what kinds of other devices do you see that contribute to the stereotype?  How else might the authors justify The Official Style?  How does looking at The Official Style change the way you perceive any text?  

Kendra Woyahn

Critique of the Beauty Myth

The language people use to communicate every day is very simple and easy to understand. Even me, an international student can know what people are saying and know how to respond. However, some reading materials in the theory course can be consider as an official style, because it uses a great deal of terminologies, which is uncommon vocabulary for me, and subordinate clause. It can be understanding that why the author will chose to use official style to introduce the theory, because seldom people will question their authority; nevertheless, official style also obstruct public to accept this theory. In that way, I think it will be better if the author can find a balance between the official style and plain language.The quotations I excerpt for analysis is from a book called “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf, and it is also my Critical Theory class reading materials. The title of the book seem to explain theory of woman’s beauty mysteries—is about power instead of sex, the title demonstrated it by saying this beauty is a myth. This book first published in New York: Harper Perennial, 2002. It targeted those woman or people who are interest in the field of philosophy. It is also my reading martial from my course Critical Theory. This is a quotation I want to critique because it is hard for me to understand the meaning. “Women could probably be trained quite easily to see men first as sexual things. If girls never experienced sexual violence; if a girl's only window on male sexuality were a stream of easily available, well-lit, cheap images of boys slightly older than herself, in their late teens, smiling encouragingly and revealing cuddly erect penises the color of roses or mocha, she might well look at, masturbate to, and, as an adult, "need" beauty pornography based on the bodies of men. And if those initiating penises were represented to the girl as pneumatically erectible, swerving neither left nor right, tasting of cinnamon or forest berries, innocent of random hairs, and ever ready; if they were presented alongside their measurements, length, and circumference to the quarter inch; if they seemed to be available to her with no troublesome personality attached; if her sweet pleasure seemed to be the only reason for them to exist--then a real young man would probably approach the young woman's bed with, to say the least, a failing heart.”This is an absolutely official style sample. First of all, the sentence structure. In this quotation, the writer used many lengthy sentences and subordinate clauses. The third sentence, “if a girl's only window … ‘need’ beauty pornography based on the bodies of men”, is the major part in the whole paragraph. This sentence used the word “if” to start, which indicates subordination. Then it used prepositions to connect each sentence instead of a period. Second, the writer chooses many terminologies and uncommon vocabulary, such as “masturbate”, “pornography”, “pneumatically”, and “circumference”. I cannot even find the definition of the word “circumference” in my electronic dictionary. It will be hard for normal people who are not familiar with the philosophical theory to understand. During the process that the writer explained the terminology, Naomi uses rhetorical devices to interpret the phenomenon or behavior. When Naomi explained the “penises were represented to the girl as pneumatically erectible”, she uses a lot of adjectives, “random” for instance. What surprised me is that this paragraph’s Average Grade Level is 23.0, which is a high value. This means it is difficult to read, not to mention understand it. All of the evidence shows that the book’s target reader is those who have higher education or professionals in the philosophy field. This quotation is too sophisticated for the public to understand, so the author should find a balance between the official style and simple language.Then, let us look at another quotation also from “The Beauty Myth”. “For the first time in history, children are growing up whose earliest sexual imprinting derives not from a living human being, or fantasies of their own; since the 1960s pornographic upsurge, the sexuality of children has begun to be shaped in response to cues that are no longer human. Nothing comparable has ever happened in the history of our species; it dislodges Freud. Today's children and young men and women have sexual identities that spiral around paper and celluloid phantoms: from Playboy to music videos to the blank females torsos in women's magazines, features obscured and eyes extinguished, they are being imprinted with a sexuality that is mass-produced, deliberately dehumanizing and inhuman.”This sample is much easier compared to the first phrase. However, its Average Grade Level is 18.5, still higher than normal reading martial. Moreover, it also uses long sentence and uncommon words. For the whole sample, the first sentence “For the first time in history, children are growing up whose earliest sexual imprinting derives not from a living human being, or fantasies of their own” is considered as an easy sentence which I can better understand. The reason why this sentence is easier is because it used common words which I can understand. Otherwise, I have to try my best to guess what the writer want to express. This text is much easier to understand, so the author should integrate this style more often.In conclusion, what I quoted is a reading martial from an academic essay from a philosophy course, which means the purpose of the martial is to introduce the theory. Therefore, it is understandable why it has a higher Average Grade Level and is harder to understand. Using terminology and rhetorical devices indeed helped to improve the professionalism and authority of this book. Besides, because of its terminology and rhetorical devices, seldom readers will question the authority of this book. In my opinion, no matter what kind of theory it is, eventually the theory needs to be explained to people, or students who want to learn it. However, the official style restricts people to understand it, which is official style’s limitation. Some people might give up deeply reading this essay after they scan it because of its complicated sentence structures, uncommon and multiple word choices, and various rhetorical devices. When I read this book, I had to look up almost every word definition, and even when I understood each word definition, I still could not understand the whole sentence meaning. In addition, there are a lot of long sentences in this book, which make it more difficult to interpret. However, if I cannot understand the sentence meaning, how could I understand this theory and respond to this theory? In fact, it is a contradiction that if this book was written in simple language, readers may question this book’s professionalism. However if this book was written in a complex language and used uncommon words, it would be hard for readers to understand. I think this book would be better if the writer found a balance between the official style and simple language.

---Xiaoqian Zeng

A Letter Nobody Can Read

A Letter Nobody Can Read

                To build a pipeline to transport crude oil across the United States, or not to, is the question at hand.  This question is surrounded by a complex web of human activities that play out in economics, politics, law, and social and environmental activism.  Out of this complex array of human interaction came an attempt to help answer this question in the following document, published on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.  Here is a link to that document:
            To boil it down, the letter addresses a previously published document by The State Department concerning the environmental impact the Keystone XL pipeline would have on the environment were it to be built.  The letter is written by Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA, and is addressed to Amos Hochstein and Judith Garber, both members of the State Department.  The letter is also indirectly addressed to the public; it can be found by anyone on the EPA’s website.  And here is where the letter’s pros style can be called into question.
            As can be seen by reading the opening sentence, the letter is written in the official style: “In accordance with our authorities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 309 of the Clean Air Act, EPA has reviewed the Department of State's (Department) Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)…”, and on and on, to form an ever elongating string of prepositional phrases and conjunctions.
What member of the general public, who on average read at a 7th grade level, would take the time to struggle through a document this hard to read?  The answer is, very few.  So it seems as if the public nature of this document is being undermined by the fact that it is written in the official style.  Let’s take a look at some further examples.
First, in bold lettering, we have an example of nominalization, when a verb is changed into a noun to make the action sound extremely important: “The Department has also strengthened the analysis of oil spill prevention preparedness…”.  The author could have written, “…being prepared to prevent an oil spill…”, but instead uses this awkward phrase to sound important at the expense of alienating less adept readers. 
Second, we have an example of metonymy, “a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept.” (Wikipedia).  In this case, the use of metonymy obscures the source of the document (who are the authors?): “Nonetheless, the Final SEIS acknowledged that the proposed pipeline does present a risk of spills, which remains a concern for citizens and businesses relying on groundwater resources crossed by the route.”  This is a silly use of words, since people know that inanimate objects like documents don’t acknowledge; cognizing people acknowledge.  By using metonymy, the authors remain hidden and it becomes very difficult to find out who is taking what position on an argument—something important for the general public to know about the people directly affecting policy. 
 Lastly, the concepts in the document are very abstract.  Unless the reader is already familiar with the jargon, much of the meaning of the text is lost.  For example, a term like, “wells-to-wheels” is so abstract that entire books are written on the subject, yet in the letter, the term is mentioned without any explanation. 
So, it can be seen that even though this letter is available to the public, only a few comprehend it.  The text’s meaning becomes obscured by long sentences, official sounding language, authors who hide behind figures of speech like metonymy, and abstract concepts that are never explained, just dropped for others in the know to pick up on.
 In order for me to cut through this cloud of information and understand what the letter was talking about, I had to turn to some outside sources for clarification.  For example, a google search on the Giles’s letter led me to this article in the New York Times: 
I imagine it is through sources like online newspapers, rather than the EPA’s website, that many individuals heard about Cynthia Giles’s letter.  When comparing the pros style of the NY Times article with the actual letter itself, it is easy to see why this might be: the Times article is much easier to comprehend.  It uses much shorter sentences, less abstract language, and it clearly contextualizes the letter.  Luckily there are avenues like this where information is synthesized into much more comprehensible bits!
I also found a number of blogs with posts referring to the letter.  Here is an example of a blog geared towards the environmentally conscious:  The commentary provided by the blog seems very optimistic about the letter’s abilities to sway policy makers away from constructing a pipeline.  This may be true, but it should be read critically, since the bloggers themselves might have an agenda and therefore the commentary could have a bias.  It was just as easy to find articles online that used Giles’s letter to support their argument for building a pipeline:  The above link is to TransCanada’s website.  TransCanada is the corporation that wants to build the pipeline, so it’s no wonder they have a very different interpretation of Giles letter. 
Ideally, anyone concerned with the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline could just read the document firsthand on the EPA’s website and know exactly what was meant by the author.  But a text’s meaning is never that precise.  Rather than being a bridge, a text is often a gap between the author and the audience and in many cases the official style widens this gap by obscuring the texts meaning even further.  A reader is apt to get lost in the lengthy sentences of official style, so that even before finishing a sentence they have forgotten what it is about. 
In the case of Cynthia Giles letter, the official style is a gap between the people who communicate with it--the policymakers and heads of corporations--and those who don’t communicate with it and don’t even understand it—and these people are often the ones who are directly affected by the policy maker’s decisions. 
There are some cases in which some elements of the official style are useful.  For example, in the sciences, the use of jargon is actually an efficient shorthand for extremely complex and abstract concepts.  Whether or not a reader can arrive at an understanding of these concepts without the official style is a difficult question.  I’m not sure every concept in humanities and sciences can be explained at a 7th grade reading level.  Sometimes it may be necessary for the reader to really struggle with a text in order to gain understanding. 
But this letter.  In it, the official style is used mostly as a formality—a way for bureaucrats to talk to other bureaucrats.  If the pipeline were to be built, it most likely wouldn’t directly affect these people.  It would directly affect the land owners, farmers and native tribes who live right where the pipeline is plotted.  And if anyone, it’s these people that the official style excludes.  So I have to wonder, what good is a letter to the public if it can’t be understood by them?

Sam Petersen