May 11, 2019
The Decisions that Transform Your Writing
Every sentence is a new decision that will determine the success or failure of an essay. Throughout this class, I have consistently progressed my ability to make better decisions regarding the rhetorical elements of an essay. Without utilizing genre features, overcoming or embracing constraints, and properly backing up my argument, I wouldn’t have grown as a writer.
Genre is one of the most important aspects of writing. In the past, I treated every essay the same. No matter what, the rules were “don’t use ‘I,’” and “make sure your Works Cited page is complete.” While these rules may be appropriate for some genres, and plagiarism is never allowed, it is important to take the medium you are writing for into consideration. In writing the first essay, I didn’t understand the review genre as much as I should have. I created my first draft with a collection of paragraphs that talked about the article “In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing?” by Joshua Rothman, but I presented very little of my own perspective. This is how you write in high school. For my final draft, I focused on revamping my main point and building each paragraph up to the final conclusion. Introducing more purposeful topic sentences such as “Rothman’s conclusion is incredibly compelling, because he finally opens up with a powerful self-reflection that he believes everyone should recognize,” made the evidence in my paragraphs more useful and allowed for more purpose (Nixon, “The Synonomy” 4). The review genre also required a substantial amount of voice throughout the essay because it was crucial to critique the author as I was writing about their decisions. Evident use of voice was also a crucial aspect of the research paper genre. By making connections between the different articles being researched, I was able to make new conclusions that led to a discovery. In a revised version of the third essay, I was able to conclude that “The awareness of gender-based inequality that was exhibited in the MVP program can be translated to a solution for toxic masculinity in a similar fashion” (Nixon, “How the Perpetrators” 7). While I didn’t go into enough detail in this paragraph, I think that I effectively introduced my voice into the essay. Including my own perspective added an appeal to ethos, because when combined with the statistics included, I was able to show thinking instead of just stating a variety of facts without any real warrant. Writing the cultural analysis essay also required a comprehensive knowledge of the genre. Because genre was a major focus in class during the writing of this essay, it was much easier to grasp onto than the first essay. Similar to the research essay, the cultural analysis essay required a substantial amount of my own voice that took not only a close description of the videos, but an explanation of each individual part of the video and how it related to society’s problem with the media’s portrayal of men (Nixon, “Being the Better Man”). The lack of a works cited page was another obvious genre feature in my essay. Because my medium likely would have been an online source, and I was focused on a younger audience, I used hyperlinks to the videos I wrote about instead writing citations at the end of my paper. This decision would allow my readers to click the link to the videos without losing their place by scrolling to the end of the page. The decisions that went into writing for the different genres are well beyond anything I would have done before this class.
In addition to genre, writing involves an awareness of audience. Every audience has its own constraints that must be overcome in order to write a successful essay. Constraints don’t always have to be negative; for example, a positive constraint for this self-reflection would be that my professor knows that I have learned a lot in this class because my essays have improved significantly. I focused my research essay towards not only the academic community, but specifically males. I learned that there are many men who believe the removal of toxic masculinity is an attack on masculinity itself. To get past this constraint, I included examples that stated, “Contrary to most papers, which suggest that all masculine traits were harmful, a small number of traits, such as ‘winning,’ were negatively associated with depression symptoms” (Nixon, “How the Perpetrators” 3). I also found that some men don’t believe that toxic masculinity is a problem at all. I spent a significant amount of my essay demonstrating how toxic masculinity is hurting men as well, in hopes that this will help them realize that there is an issue. Constraints aren’t something that I focused on enough in the first two essays, but in the cultural analysis essay, I realized that my audience could not be advertisers because I didn’t include many statistics that would be necessary to persuade them to change the ways they portray men in advertisements. Without tackling constraints, it is next to impossible to create an effective argument.
Included in the constraints for almost any audience is the need to back up every claim with evidence and warrant in order for them to believe you. If the claims lack evidence and warrant, the author is likely to lose their credibility. I found that many of the claims I made in the review essay lacked warrant. When I revised it, I noticed the use of examples that pointed out how the author made a smart decision in explaining an example, but without reason until I added that the “valuable point [that alterations in images can be discovered with the use of similar technology] indicates Rothman’s position on the positive impacts of artificial intelligence” (Nixon, “The Synonomy” 3). Adding to this sentence improved the logos of my argument because there was a logical reason for the example that I used. Because I was able to include the warrant, it made my stance clearer than it had previously been. Writing the research essay was different than any other research essay because I began the paragraphs with a claim, followed by a summary of the research paper I was focusing on, and then I provided my own connections and insight as well as the warrant. This construction was a very different way of putting together the claim, evidence, and warrant, but it is more effective than simply listing quotes and their meanings. The research essay, as opposed to the cultural analysis essay required more of an authoritative tone in order to add to my ethos. By having a strong ethos, it makes the audience more likely to appreciate the arguments that are being made. This reliance on ethos was evident from the class’ blatant disregard for the argument in the in-class reading assignment that we did with the article “Why Memes are Bad.” It is crucial to an argument that the author provides themselves with credibility and back their claims up with evidence and warrant.
With the use of genre features, constraints, and properly structured arguments, I have become a more mature writer. The improvement that I have made is clear through each draft of my essays. I would still be writing like a high schooler without improving the decisions I make about rhetorical situations.
Nixon, Candan. “Being the Better Man Has a New Meaning.” Seton Hall University, South Orange NJ, 18 Mar. 2018.
Nixon, Candan. “How the Perpetrators of Hegemonic Masculinity Are Being Affected by Their Own Pernicious Behavior.” Seton Hall University, South Orange NJ, 6 May 2019.
Nixon, Candan. “The Synonymy of Seeing and Believing Has Been Disrupted.” Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, 25 Feb. 2019.