Humanising Language Teaching
Writing for Effect ( from the work of Saxon Menne)
Saxon Menne, who died in 1995, in 1980 published a marvellous little book on the rhetoric of writing English, a subject I have not seen tackled by any other writer, before or since.
Here is part of Unit 7 : QUESTIONS.
The FPP know a lot about politics but they know nothing about government. They have talked about all the reforms they want to make, and all the laws they want to pass, but I don't think they can do that without catastrophic effect on our economic and social life. Government is partly about what you want to do; but much more, it is about what it is possible to do without causing too much hardship. I don't suppose you want your taxes to go up, your savings to be spent, your local community to be bankrupted. That, whether they know it or not, is what they are promising you.
The FPP know a lot about politics, but what do they know about government? They have talked about all the reforms they want to make, and all the laws they want to pass, but do they think they can do that without catastrophic effects on our economic and social life? Government is partly about what you want to do; but much more, it is about what it is possible to do without too much hardship. Would you like your taxes to go up, your savings to be spent, your local community to be bankrupted?
That, whether they know it or not, is what they are promising you.
I want to come and visit you at lunch-time on Tuesday. I don't suppose you will mind if I bring my aunt Agatha with me. By the way, I think I saw you in the shops today. I think it was you, buying a crate of peaches. I may have told you that my aunt Agatha and I both love peaches.
Do the management take us for fools? Do they think we can't see what is behind this latest scheme of theirs? Don't they know that we can see through their speeches and statistics? What do speeches and statistics mean when we all know the basic facts?
Are they, or are they not, trying to get us to work longer hours for less money?
Please supply the following information: a) whether your car can be mended; b) how much it cost you originally; c) how long you had had it; d) whether the accident was your own fault or another driver's; e) whether the police are taking any action over it.
You still love me. You won't believe those silly stories that people tell you about me. We can start all over again. You'll forget those terrible things I said about your family. You know I wasn't serious when I said them.
Comment: as you see from the Unit extract above, Saxon is concerned with the rhetorical effect on the reader of a piece of writing. He does not focus the learner's mind on lexis, collocation or grammar, but rather on stylistic effect.
His work chimes with the NLP maxim that " The meaning of a communication is the response you get ".
To my mind Saxon's genius to make this thinking available to intermediate students.
Here are the stylistic areas he deals with in Writing for Effect, OUP, 1980:
Writing for exams.
To my knowledge, no one has produced a book following on from this classic. If
I am wrong, please e-mail HLT and put me right.