Writing for a Reader

When we write for ourselves, we already know what we’re picturing. We already contain the context. But when we are writing something for someone else to receive and read, we have to continually imagine that they can’t read our minds. We have to compose our words in a way that we give the reader an experience, no matter what kind of writing it is. It must be clear, and it must be interesting enough to keep the reader listening in.

Kernel Essays Text Structures Truisms Correspondence

Kernel Essays

A writer writes about the topic, using the text structure as a guide, creating one sentence per box. These sentences are called a kernel essay. The next step is for the writer to read the kernel essay aloud to several listeners to see how that structure worked for the writer. Peter Elbow calls this a “skeleton essay.” If the writer wants to develop this into a full essay, all the sentences need now are details and craft. 

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Text Structures

The text structure is the plan, or path, that a writer uses, in order to “track movement of the mind.” In other words, the structure will allow a reader to glimpse what you know, and how you know it. Text structures can be revised to make them work for the writing situation. They can be created intentionally by a writer or gleaned from reading. For simplicity, we place these steps into sequenced, horizontal boxes, resembling stepping stones. 

Check out Gretchen’s explanation of text structures and kernel essays in this presentation.

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Truisms are life lessons, statements that are true for most people. Written in third person, present tense, they are sentences which are generally about the world, about people, or about life. They are also called “thematic statements.” They might be the thesis statement of an essay, or the claim in an argument, or embedded as a detail. They are always debatable. They are not written as imperative sentences. 

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When writers are having trouble knowing how to sound, Sandra Cisneros advises them to find their voice by imagining talking to someone so close that it feels natural talking to them in pajamas. It’s also easier to write when it’s in the form of a letter, being delivered to someone. And these days, when people feel so disconnected from other people, writing letters is a wonderful way to connect, both intellectually and emotionally. Furthermore, letters make it easier to understand the writer’s purpose. (Selling me something? Inviting me somewhere? Needing something?)

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