Posts Tagged ‘lesson


Free Beer – The Wrong Way to Hook a Reader

I’m not a big fan of telling writers that you need to start papers by “hooking the reader.” I feel the idea that “hooking readers” focuses too much on how to get a reader’s attention and too little on how to keep it.

Too often writers try to hook their readers by starting with hyperbolic statements. Over exaggerating the importance of an essay topic creates a false promise that the essay can’t live up to. That’s not a good thing. A band called Free Beer would almost certainly draw a crowd, but it’s also likely that crowd leaves angry and sober. The same principle is at play in writing.

As everybody knows from “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, grabbing someone’s attention when you don’t have something relevant to say is a great way to guarantee that people will stop listening to you.



Imagine that a man carrying a gun runs into your classroom. What is your reaction? Now imagine that man carrying a gun is wearing a police uniform. Do you have a different reaction?

That story is how I explain what context is and why it is important. Put simply, context is anything outside of the text that is needed to make sense of it. Before you know the man is wearing a police uniform, you see gun and read threat. After you see the uniform, your interpretation changes. The police uniform is the context for determining the danger in the situation.

Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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