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Writing Strategies To Help You Read

Have you ever been reading a textbook or an essay and wondered what the author was trying to say?  Well, we can increase our ability to comprehend textbooks and essays by noting the similarities and differences between each, and by applying what we know about good writing.

Textbooks and essays are different from each other. The author of a textbook wants to explain and instruct. The essayist may want to do that as well, but may also primarily want to entertain or persuade. However, the author of a textbook and the essayist each have a general audience in mind, each use specific organizational strategies to communicate their main and supporting points, and each use design strategies in order to help readers keep on track.

For example, a well-designed textbook chapter is organized around clearly stated objectives and uses headings, examples, and visual aids to help readers comprehend material. This allows readers to gain a quick chapter overview, turn headings into questions, and then focus on the most important information by reading to answer these questions. On the other hand, a well-crafted essay first captures readers’ attention and then leads them to a clearly stated main idea statement, or takes them from one point to another so that the unstated thesis statement may be inferred. In either case, main points are often supported with examples and other details, and organized through the use of transitional words and phrases which helps readers follow along and see what the writer has to say.

In this way we can see that the same strategies for effective written communication can help us become better readers. Taking time to consider the writer’s purpose and intended audience helps us understand why a writer decided to use certain words and phrases, included certain examples and details, and organized their thoughts and ideas in a specific way.

So the next time you read an essay or textbook and find yourself becoming confused, try reading from a writer’s perspective and see if that helps you to identify the main point and how the writer has used elements of language, organization, and support to help you see and understand what they are trying to communicate.