Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Writing Center: Chapter 6: 'Earth Aches by Midnight': Helping ESL Writers Clarify Their Intended Meaning

A guide to information to help you research and write more effectively.

Summary of Chapter 6

Kim Dingess
Chapter Summary of ESL Writers by Bruce and Rafoth, Second Edition
 
Chapter 6: “ ‘Earth Aches by Midnight’: Helping ESL Writers Clarify Their Intended Meaning” by Minett
 
Summary:
            This chapter was focused on how to help the ESL writers edit their papers so that they make sense to the English reader. It started with pointing out specific reasons as to why you may not understand the meaning in an ESL writer’s paper. Two of these reasons include: “logic” is different in different cultures; and, other cultures put more responsibility on the reader to figure out the meaning of the text. The chapter then gives different methods to help understand what the writer means. The first is the topical structure analysis. This method had the writer point out the topic of sentences in a paragraph and then would show the relationship between them to the writer. The next method is focus on form. In this method, the tutor focuses on individual words that, used incorrectly, change the whole meaning of the sentence. It is important, though, that the tutor not just gives the correct word, but rather sees if the writer can find the error themselves. The chapter lastly talked about interactional cues, such as pitch in the voice, facial expressions, and pause times. Being able to interpret those will help you as a tutor to know if the writer just needs time to figure it out, or if he/she is just confused and needs you to just tell him/her.
 
Key points:
·         “logic is not universal but culture specific…”
·         Understanding culture differences
·         Writer friendly vs. reader friendly
·         Topical structure analysis
·         Focus on form
·         Let them find and fix their error if they can
·         Interactional cues
·         Clarifying words
 
Question to consider:
·         The difference between writer friendly and writer friendly
·         How do w attempt to understand cultural differences?
·         Where is the line between fixing the writer’s paper and helping them fix their own?

Summary of Chapter 6

Katie Rosenbaum
Chapter Summary of ESL Writers by Bruce and Rafoth, Second Edition
 
Chapter 6: “ ‘Earth Aches by Midnight’: Helping ESL Writers Clarify Their Intended Meaning” by Minett
 
Summary:
            In this chapter, Minett writes to help a tutor be able to recognize and clarify intended meaning with ESL writers. She looks at four different levels at which the tutor can help clarify meaning with different strategies: essay, paragraph, sentence, and word. An overall essay can often be confusing if the writer has learned, contrary to English conventions, to place their thesis at the end of the paper. One might feel lost throughout the essay and then find their bearings only at the end of the paper. Oftentimes, this is because of cultural differences regarding how a paper should be organized. A strategy given to help the writer clarify here, looking at the textual organization,  is simply to discuss the conventions of organization which they have learned, and then explore how English papers generally are organized. Paragraph development also may differ between cultures. Minett offers to use Topical Structure Analysis—where the writer looks at each paragraph and underlines each sentence’s topic and then seeing how they flow and connect with each other and within the paragraph. Single sentences are often difficult to understand, so Minett encourages to talk with the writer about what they mean if the intention is not clear, but to take care not take over the paper—let the writer figure it out. Words can often be vague and confusing, so Minett again just encourages the tutor to talk with the writer about words and ambiguity, which also help them clarify their meaning on a sentence level, which transfers into the overall meaning of the essay in its entirety.
 
Key points:
·         Explore with writers how they learned to write and the expectations of American Academic Writing.
·         Help them analyze flow—the coherency of paragraphs.
·         Guide them through rough sentences and help them choose clearer words.
·         Very much base your time on discussion, not mark ups and putting as much red ink as possible on their paper.
 
Question to consider:
·         Describe a time when you jumped to a conclusion about a non-intended meaning.
·         How can we discuss with writers the expectations of American academic writing, without making those expectations seem unattainable or “better” than the expectations they’ve experienced in their home country?