FOUR RHETORICAL PATTERNS

 

In college composition courses, in other content areas, as well as in some job situations, you will have to write expository prose. Simply, this kind of writing presents a reader in a logical manner some facts you are aware of; it is writing to inform. In the college composition class, the reader may or may not know what you are telling him, and how much he already knows is not always important. On the job, however, you may be writing for a totally uninformed audience. In either situation you want to present information in a systematic and logical manner to impress the reader with what you know. With this objective in view, perhaps you can look at learning the methods of exposition as acquiring necessary communications skills that will help in all college courses and in whatever writing may be associated with your career. Learning to write clearly and communicate effectively is not something to master for English or college courses alone; these are skills that will help you in anything you do.

Possessing a good deal of information about a subject does not in itself guarantee that you will be able to communicate it. You must know how to organize your facts as well. Writing expository prose will require that you know some patterns of organization. The purpose of this chapter and the exercises that accompany it is to introduce you to four basic rhetorical patterns: classification, comparison and contrast, process analysis, and cause and effect.

In previous chapters you worked with the principles of paragraph unity and with several develop-mental techniques. Now you are going to be working with some methods of overall organization in which you will have to use the techniques you mastered in the previous chapters.

In the exercises that follow this chapter, you are asked to write classification, comparison/contrast, process analysis, and cause/effect paragraphs, but you will have to use the developmental devices to develop these. The point to grasp here is that very little of what you learn about writing is discrete or useful only in isolation; all developmental techniques and rhetorical patterns (as well as grammar, punctuation, and diction rules) are a part of good expository writing.

 

CLASSIFICATION

Classification is one of the most useful rhetorical patterns. Basically, classification identifies the members of a group or set according to their individual characteristics and/or the characteristics which make them members of the group or set. Any group, set, or class of people, objects, institutions, etc., can be broken down into its component parts and these in turn labeled and described. For example, you could classify carbonated soft drinks as cola flavored, fruit flavored, or citrus flavored; or, you could classify parents as authoritarian, democratic, or permissive. In both instances you would want to identify each member of the class, define the category it belongs to if necessary, and give examples of it. Essentially the organizational pattern for a classification is this: a subject is made up of several classes. In diagram the pattern might look like this: subject = cl, + cl, + cl,...

 

The Classification Paragraph

Let's look at two classification paragraphs and see which is satisfactory and why and which is unsatisfactory and why.

 

Sample One

There are three types of soft drinks. They are cola flavored, fruit flavored, and citrus flavored. Cola flavored soft drinks are dark in color and not too sweet. Fruit flavored drinks are too sweet for most people. The citrus flavored soft drink is frequently used as a mixer. Soft drinks offer something for everybody.

Sample Two

Soft drinks can be classified into three categories: cola flavored, fruit flavored, or citrus flavored. The colas, like Coke and Pepsi, are the favorite among real connoiseurs. There is nothing, they would say, like a cola to pick one up or refresh one on a hot day. The fruit flavored drinks are for those with a sweet tooth because they are almost too sweet. The strawberry or grape flavor is frequently overwhelmed by sugar, and to many people these drinks seem syrupy. The citrus flavored colas, like Sprite and 7-Up, are for people who like a tangy drink as these seem to be a paradoxical mixture of sweet and tart. Also, these drinks are good for mixing with other, stronger beverages. These types of soft drinks offer satisfaction for every type of taste buds.

 

In each of the paragraphs above the subject is "soft drinks" and the classes are "cola flavored," "fruit flavored," and "citrus flavored." The differences between these two paragraphs are, hopefully, clear. Sample two has a strong topic sentence which lets the leader know that there are three types of soft drinks and then names them. Sample one, on the other hand, uses two choppy sentences to identify its topic. The development of sample two far exceeds that of sample one. Whereas the first sample only renames the types of soft drinks and associates one quality with each, the second samle cites examples of each type and mentions the qualities and appeal of each.

Hazards to Avoid

One of the hazards of classification is overlapping among the members of the class, that is, not making a sharp enough distinction among the members. If you classify types of dogs as mongrels, thoroughbreds, and house dogs, you have made a mistake. The third category is so large as to embrace the other two because both mongrels -and thoroughbreds can be house dogs also. You should seek; another way to classify types of dogs.

Another hazard is setting up categories that lend themselves to simplistic treatment. If you classify dogs as long-haired, medium-haired, and short-haired, you have made a rather nonproductive distinction among types of dogs. This classification lends itself only to a discussion of hair length, the results of which will not be particularly profound or informative.

 

The Classification Paragraph

A classification paragraph can be built into a classification essay by taking. each member of the class and giving it full treatment in a paragraph of its own. If you had written a classification paragraph on types of parents, the product may have looked something like the following:

Since the word parents encompasses such a large number of people, it is easy to understand why there are so many types. Even though there is such a variety, there are three basic types of parents: autocratic, democratic, and permissive. The autocratic parent's word is the law, and when he says jump, everybody had better do so. He assumes that he knows what is best for his children and that they will learn discipline and respect for authority from his regimentation. The democratic parent, however, is not so strict. He is willing to discuss rules and punishments with his children and to listen to their side of an argument. Instead of laying down so many iron-clad rules, the democratic parent works in the role of an advisor because he realizes there are some facts about life that children must learn on their own. The permissive parent, on the other hand, has no rules for his children and offers little guidance. Frequently, this parent is too busy to take time with his children and leaves their rearing to T. V., school, and chance. Although this parent's children seem to "have it made," they really suffer a disadvantage not even the autocrat's children have. They have no concept of authority and in later life will have to make sharp adjustments to accommodate themselves to the rules all adults must abide by. All three of these parental types are easily recognizable by their relationship with their children, but one; the democratic, stands out as the most admirable type.

 

To make this paragraph into an essay, all you have to do is pull apart and expand what is already there. The first two sentences are a good start on an introductory paragraph; the next two sentences are the kernel for a body paragraph on autocratic parents; the three following provide the kernel-for a body paragraph on democratic parents; and the last two are the kernel for a body paragraph on permissive parents. The last sentence will provide the basic material for an ending paragraph. The essay that follows uses everything in the paragraph and adds some more detailed description of each type of parent.

 

Sally Student

ESOL 1309

Classification essay

Dr. Kline

October 31, 2003

Different Types of Parents

Anyone who is biologically capable and who can find another biologically capable person--of the opposite sex, of course-can become a parent. Parent-hood is a state that has no special conditions, and one must pass no qualifying exam to enter it. Since the word parents encompasses such a large number of people, it is easy to understand why there are so many different kinds. In terms of how they treat their children, however, within this variety, there are three basic types: autocratic, democratic, and permissive.

The autocratic parent's word is the law, and when he says jump every one had better do it quickly. He assumes that he and he alone knows what is best for his children and that they will learn discipline and respect for authority from his regimentation. What he does not consider is that he may not know best and that rules untempered with mercy breed rebellion and contempt far authority. The authoritarian whose child came home one hour late from a date because there had been a major accident on the highway tying up traffic for miles would allow the child no opportunity to explain his reasons for being late. The child would be immediately grounded and have his allowance suspended This kind of parent probably has good intentions, wanting his child to grow up "right," but approaches the task as if his family were in boot camp.

The democratic parent is not so strict. He is willing to discuss rules and punishments with his children and to listen to their side of an argument. If his child had come in an hour late from a date he would listen to the explanation about the major wreck that tied up traffic for miles. Since this is such an easily verifiable story, the democratic parent would suspend any punishment in this case when he sees the morning paper or hears the morning news. In general, the democratic parent lays down fewer rules than his autocratic counterpart because he realizes there are some things in; life children must learn on their own. He prefers to work in the role of an advisor and always to be available when his children need help.

The permissive parent has no rules for his children rind offers little guidance Frequently, this parent is too busy to take time with his children and leaves their rearing to TV, school, and chance. Re sets no rules for his children, so it would be impossible for his child to come home late from a date. He allows his children to come and go as they please either because he doesn't care what they do or because he thinks they must learn to set their own rules. He doesn't understand that all young people need guidance because when the; mature, they will have to abide by society's rules. Not learning a respect for order early may cause this parent's children to resent the rules everyone must obey.

Too few, people with children are democratic parents, which is the best of these three. Too much authority. or too little often breeds disrespect and resentment. A good parent should offer guidance and advice and not try to rule or disregard his children completely.