Week 7: Reading Critically

This week you’ll learn how to read critically; that is, examine the ways a writer uses language and modes of persuasion to convince a reader to believe an argument.

Also, this week, you’ll begin reading your Outside Reading book.

Although simple comprehension is the base of all reading experiences, it is not the true goal of most college reading assignments. Your instructors want you to move beyond what the text says and begin to ask questions about the how and why of the text’s meaning. Reading critically means reading skeptically, not accepting everything a text says at face value, but wondering why the argument is made in a particular way.

Proficient readers often ask “what if?” questions to help them read more critically:

  • What if the essay had started a different way?
  • What if the author had included different evidence?
  • What if the author had drawn a different conclusion?
  • We use the same skills for critical reading as we do for critical thinking.

Watch the YouTube video “The Power of Critical Thinking” by Maria Mamah and consider the questions that follow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd4KrUH8Ky4&feature=emb_title

  1. What did you think about the video?
  2. Did you watch it with a critical mind?
  3. Did you question it?
  4. Did you accept everything the woman said or did you wonder about why she made her arguments the way she did?

Persuasive Language

Writers use language in many ways to influence and persuade their readers. Consider the way the meaning of words can vary, depending on context and tone of a passage. For instance, a writer might use the word “harsh” to describe a law with which she disagrees, but she might say that the government must be “firm” on other offenses. These words have different connotationsideas or emotions that a word invokes, as well as different meanings. Other examples include compassionate versus bleeding heart, cop versus police officer, and forceful versus bully. Now consider the use of euphemisms, which are words or phrases that substitute for blunt words or phrases. For instance, passing is a recent euphemism for dying; slender is a euphemism for skinny, senior citizen is a euphemism for old lady. A close relative to euphemism, is politically correct language, or terms that avoid offending whole groups of people. Some examples are undocumented immigrants versus illegal aliens, hearing impaired versus deaf, or someone who disagrees with the far left versus bigot.


Exercise 7.1

Type a list of three euphemism that you know or have heard recently. Do you use these terms? Why/why not? What do you think of the use of politically correct language? Do you think we have gone too far with it? Why/why not? Consider the various connotations of the word Undocumented migrants, the acronym LGBTQIA, size-inclusive, and the “N” word. Do you think these help or interfere with communication? Do you think they are valuable? Explain your reasoning.

Rhetoric, Argument & Modes of Persuasion

The word “rhetoric” means the art of persuasion, especially through language. An argument in philosophy or logic is not a disagreement; it is a series of statements that are intended to persuade.  In formal logic, these include a statement of a claim, statements of support, and a conclusion. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that there were three effective ways to appeal to an audience; these included appealing to their intellect, appealing to their ethics or values, and finally to their emotions. An intellectual appeal is called Logos, from which our word “logic” comes. Ethos is the term for an appeal to our ethics, or character. And Pathos is an appeal to our emotions. Our words “pathetic” and “sympathy” use this Greek root. Notice how often advertising, political speeches, and news stories use these appeals. Watch the YouTube video analysis for an example of the use of pathos.



Exercise 7.2 

Find an example in advertising, the news, a speech, or a poltitical cartoon of the use of one or more of these appeals. Type a description of where you saw or heard the appeal, name the appeal. Do you think the appeal is effective? Why you think the writer or artist used that appeal.

Outside Reading Assignment

Begin reading outside book. Respond in journal form.

Personal Dictionary Word

Latin Roots Quiz #6

Latin English Words
dis- not dislike, disdain, disappear
il- opposite illegal, illegitimate, illogical
spec- look spectator, spectacle, respect
script write scripture, perscription, script
phon sound phone, symphony, microphone
port carry portable, report, port
photo light photosynthesis, photography, photo


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Developing Reading Skills by Grace Richardson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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