I used the nine-cell matrix in the previous post in conversations with colleagues and in my “Teaching Writing” seminar. After these discussions, I decided that the matrix needed some extensions, which I have represented here:
These extensions are closely related to the cells they are above or below. Writing in a home dialect such as Black English, Spanglish, or Hawaiian Creole is clearly related to self-expression and also to audience awareness. Composition instructors need to be aware of the ideological, ethical, and rhetorical implications of insisting that students always write in Standard English. I sometimes have my graduate students look at the websites of Jamaican newspapers, where the articles are written in a prestige Jamaican dialect that has similarities with British English but is not quite the same as either British or American English. However, when the Jamaican reporter interviews a witness to an event, the responses are written in Jamaican Creole.
In the adjacent cell to the right I have introduced the skill of storytelling. Narrative is often neglected in writing courses, but in our culture today, a good story is often more convincing than facts and arguments. I explore this further in the post, “A Narrative with a Point.”
Finally, the cell in the bottom right is a counterpart to the one above it. A good writer knows the conventions and knows how and when to break them, especially in creative writing. I explore this a bit in “The Alternate Style” and in “What Makes Punctuation So Confusing?”
The matrix is not so neat and tidy anymore, but the apparent tidiness of the first version was misleading. This one is not designed to be definitive either. What I hope to do is inspire conversations about writing courses that will help teachers and outsiders see how complex they really are.