What readers keep in mind...(1)
1) From: George D. Gopen, Expectations: teaching writing from the reader’s perspective, Pearson Education, 2003
agency and perspective
It is obvious that in the sentence "Peter hit Jane
on the head with a stick." Peter is the agent.
We also read this action from his perspective.
Is this also the case in the sentence "Jane was
hit on the head with a stick."?
What about "The stick hit Jane on the head."?
agency and perspective
The noun or pronoun that is first mentioned in
the sentence is usually the perspective of the
action and therefore in stress position.
As part of an experiment, a scientist wishes to measure
the change in the temperature of a heated liquid over a
period of time. She sets up the apparatus, takes a number
of measurements, and records the perceived temperatures.
She then wishes to present her data in print. Here is one
t(time) = 15’ T (temperature) = 32°; t = 0’ T = 25°; t
=6’T= 29°; t=3’T=27°;t=12’ T= 32°; t=9’ T=31°.
Do you think it easy to interpret these data?
How about if these data is presented as follows?
After 15 minutes, the temperature was 32 degrees, at the
beginning, it had been 25 degrees; at the 6-minute mark it
was 29 degrees; after 3 minutes, the temperature was 27
degrees; at the 12-minute mark it was 32 degrees; and after 9
minutes it was 31 degrees.
How about this?
It seems to tell us that if you want to let the time pass, you
have to heat a liquid.
Time Temperature (in degrees)
This structure makes it a lot easier to understand the
data, because of the fact that what shows up first gets
multiple stress positions
The easiest way to make more stress positions
is to make more sentences.
If you want to create more than one stress
position in a sentence, use the semi-colon (;).
Or colon (:).
What precedes the colon must be able to stand
by itself as a complete sentence.
What follows the colon redefines what
The colon functions as a kind of “=” sign:
a) This film has been modified from its original
version. It has been formatted to fit your TV.
b) This film has been modified from its
original version: it has been formatted to fit
More on the colon
The other use of the colon is to introduce a list
of examples. E.g. To bake an applepie one
needs the following ingredients: apples, .... etc.
The semi-colon is used to suggest that there is
such an intimate relationship between the two
halves that they need to be locked together in
the same grammatical unit. It tells the reader
to expect a continuation-complexification of
the first clause.
E.g.: The meeting ended at dawn; nothing had
Although the rule is to put only stressworthy
information in the stress position, look at the
following example, in which this does
certainly not happen, but in which it brings
about a strong effect. Question is: should the
case be heard in Massachusetts or in New
New hampshire or
In this case, the private interests of the litigants, the
Bentham children, is best protected by a resolution of the
issues in the New Hampshire Courts. The children’s mother,
Hannah Bentham, dealt with an insurance company,
Christian Mutual, incorporated in New Hampshire, with a
principle place of business in Concord, New Hampshire, and
purchased a policy which was issued in the State of New
Hampshire, administered in the State of New Hampshire,
and the proceeds of which would be paid from the State of
competition for emphasis
What happens if you have two clauses, each
with their own Stress position? Which Stress
position wins in the end?
Consider the following sentences:
fred and his dog
a)Although Fred’s a nice guy, he beats his dog.
b)Although Fred beats his dog, he’s a nice guy.
c)Fred’s a nice guy, but be beats his dog.
d)Fred beats his dog, but he’s a nice guy.
End placement (whatever comes last wins)
The main clause wins
The following rules count:
Fred and his dog...
What happens with the four Fred sentences?
a) Although Fred’s a nice guy, he beats his dog.
end-placement: dog-beater; main clause: dog-
b) Although Fred beats his dog, he is a nice guy.
end-placement: nice guy; main clause: nice guy.
c) Fred’s a nice guy, but he beats his dog.
end-placement: dog-beater; main clause: nice guy.
In general, the reader vote is usually more
negative than positive. Why?
Fred and his dog....
d) Fred beats his dog, but he’s a nice guy.
end-placement: nice guy; main clause: dog-beater.
In general, the reader vote is distinctly more
positive than in c). Why?
Because when there is contradictory information,
end placement wins.