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ERIC Number: ED387825
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
"I Don't Write, I Print": A Case Study in Literacy.
A copy of a letter to a cable company, printed in large block letters and not following standard rules of spelling and syntax, serves as a catalyst for thoughts about the person who wrote the letter and a discussion about what constitutes literacy. Despite the appearances of the letter, a case can be made for the author as a writer. A close look at her spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, vocabulary, voice, and pragmatics show that her rhetorical skills are better than those of many college students. Syntactically, the letter contains some surprises. The first sentence contains two subordinate clauses and two infinitive phrases. Its author's grammar contains several nonstandard phrases characteristics of Black English. Punctuation is idiosyncratic but consistent. Rhetorically, the letter is a good example of business writing. According to most functional criteria, the writer would be considered moderately literate, although she never attended school. Her case raises serious questions about how teaching literacy is approached in primary and secondary schools--what is it in schools that grinds down self-esteem and discourages a student's inherent abilities. Teachers must learn to look beyond errors, to stop equating literacy with knowledge of standard conventions. Too often feedback focuses too much on correctness and not enough on problem solving. In the case of the elderly writer of this letter, she had a long working life as a cook or dietary worker at hospitals. She is clearly successful as a writer/reader. (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (46th, Washington, DC, March 23-25, 1995).