You are on page 1of 33

FEATURES OF A WELL-WRITTEN TEXT

A well-written text exhibits two important


features :
1) It has coherence
2) It has cohesion
These inherent features of a well-written text
facilitate the interpretation of the text during
the reading process.



COHERENCE
Coherence is the quality that makes a text
conform to a consistent world view based on
ones experience and culture or convention,
and it should be viewed as a feature related to
all three participants in the interactive process
: the writer, the written text, and the reader.
COHERENCE
Experts Voices About Coherence and Cohesion :
According to Widdowson, coherence is perceived
through the interpretation of the particular
illocutionary act or acts and through the illocutionary
development of the conversation or the written text.
Hasan (1985 : 94) further asserts that ... cohesion is
the foundation on which the edifice of coherence is
built. Like all foundations, it is necessary but not
sufficient by itself.


COHERENCE
In the interactive approach to reading, as we have seen,
coherence is not only text-based it is also reader-
centered. From the readers point of view, coherence is
the result of the interaction that takes place between
text-presented knowledge and text-users schemata or
stored knowledge regarding information and text
structures. In other words, in order to process and
understand a text, readers need to match the schemata
of context and form presented by the writer in the text
with their own schemata and their own view of the
world and of the subject area or content presented in the
text
COHESION
Cohesion is an overt feature of the text, providing
surface evidence for the texts unity and
connectedness. Since cohesion relies heavily on
grammatical and lexical devices, it relates to the
readers linguistic competence.
COHESION
This is an example of how some cohesive devices
work, consider the following sequence of sentences
taken from a narrative constructed by a young child
:
(1)There was a little boy who had a dog and a frog.
(2) One day the frog got out of its jar and ran away.
(3) The boy and the dog looked for the frog
everywhere, but they could not find it.
The three main characters in the story are all
introduced as new information with the indefinite
article in sentence

COHESION
There are basically two types of reference that are
important in constructing cohesion :
1). endophoric reference, which relates to anaphoric
(i.e., backward) and cataphoric (i.e., forward) reference
within the text,
2). exophoric reference, which relates to context
outside the text.

COHESION
Cohesion is not to be confused with coherence :
1). A text may be ostensibly cohesive but make no
sense (lacking coherence)
In the following text taken from an example given by
Halliday and Hasan (1989 : 83) we have a superficially
cohesive text that makes no sense and is therefore not
coherent :
A cat is sitting on a fence. A fence is often made of
wood. Carpenters work with food. Wood planks can
be bought from a lumber store.

COHESION
2). A text might lack overt cohesive devices yet be perfectly
coherent if the ideas or information presented make logical
connections with reality
Carrell (1982 : 484), on the other hand, provides a good example
of a short text that seemingly has no overt cohesion yet it makes
perfect sense and enables the reader to perceive it as fully
coherent :
The picnic was ruined. No one remembered to bring a
corkscrew.
Coherence in this text is created due to the fact that both the
writer and the reader share knowledge and schemata that relates
corkscrews to wine bottles and wine to picnics. In fact nonnative
speakers of English who do not drink wine often find Carrells
short text to be incoherent.



DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY
READERS WHILE READING

GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
Readers often face a dilemma with respect to the
plausibility of the message or the information
presented in the text, when perceived from their own
point of view. In cases like these, we say that there is a
mismatch between the readers view of the world and
the view that seems to be presented in the text.


DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY READERS WHILE
READING

GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
The following paragraph is taken from an article,
Accidental Drug Addiction, by Muriel Nellis (1978).
:
Prescriptions for mood-altering drugs are
disproportionately high among women because they
constitute the largest group of patients seeking
medical advice. It is known that women will reach out
for and accept help at critical points in their lives.

DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY
READERS WHILE READING
GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES

The reader who encounters above paragraph and
who is preoccupied with sex discrimination might
misinterpret the article as a text with a bias against
women and one in which the author treats women
prejudicially In fact, when the entire text is
examined, it is clear that the article criticizes
physicians who have a tendency to more readily
prescribe anxiety-reducing drugs for women than
for men.


DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY
READERS WHILE READING

GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
Since at this intratextual level of processing there needs to be
interaction between global coherence and local coherence,
language teachers can help students look for and recognize some
of the features related to these concepts by asking these
questions :
1. Where did the text appear and what do we know about the
journal or the book where it appeared?
2. Who is the author and what do we know about him/her?
When was the article or text published and what were the
issues of concern at that time?
3. Strategies that combine top-down processing with scanning
the text for key sentences can help the reader construct the
overall coherence of the text.

DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY READERS
WHILE READING

GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
The example of how a close match between global and local
coherence is maintained via the rhetorical structure of the text
and cohesive elements that indicate relatedness of ideas within
the text. A short article by Alfred North Whitehead (1957) :
1. The justification for a university is that it preserves the
connection between knowledge and the zest for life by uniting
the young and old in the imaginative consideration of learning.
2. Imagination is not to be divorced from the facts : It is a way of
illuminating the facts.
3. Youth is imaginative, and if the imagination is strengthened by
discipline, this energy of imagination can in great measure be
preserved throughout life.


DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY READERS
WHILE READING

GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
Often, however, such global and local connections are
not this explicit and the reader has to exert
considerable effort to make sense of the writers
intention. Language classes need to make students
aware of such difficulties and encourage them to
develop individual strategies as well as to develop some
tolerance for coping with complex or poorly written
texts. Another source of difficulty might be in the
interaction between old and new information.

DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BY
READERS WHILE READING
GLOBAL PROCESSING DIFFICULTIES
Carrell (1988) discusses two types of difficulties that
learners may encounter when reading :
1). too much reliance on text-based features via
bottom-up processing resulting in text
boundedness,
2). or alternatively, too much reliance on
knowledge-based processing, thereby allowing
inappropriate schemata and irrelevant extratextual
knowledge to interfere with proper text
interpretation.
Grammatical Feature that Cause
Reading Difficulties

What is nominalization in English ?
What is the example of noun phrase may be due to
multiple modifier:
What is the in examples of ESL/EFL readers that
might have a hard time recognizing the head noun of
the compound:
Common prescribe drugs
A recent government study
Peak efficiency level
Mood altering legally prescribe drugs


Adjectival clauses with deleted subject
potentially create a twofold difficulty . On one the
one hand , they may interfere with the
identification of the modifier and the head; on the
other hand , the grammatical form of the
participles may mislead readers into thinking that
such a construction is a verb phrase. The following
examples will illustrate these two problems:
Hundreds of species of plants and animals , hurt
by dramatic environmental changes in the next
century , will face extinction
Science based technology has been described as
the principal tool
Leaders selected democratically reflect voters
choices

Discourse Feature that Might Cause
Problems
Reference need to be maintained throughout a
written message reader of any sort in order to ensure
both cohesion and coherence. The reader relies on
grammatical feature that provide indication of
reference such as the pronoun system, the article
system, or demonstratives. However, English often
creates ambiguity in terms of such referential ties since
redundant elements such as case and gender are not
always available, or if available, still allow for multiple
possible antecedents. For examples , Bob talked to
Hans and then drove his car to Berlin. What does his
refer to Bob or Hans ?

Let us consider some of the pronoun reference in the
following passage from The Half People by Marya
Mannes ( 1958):

People on horses look better than they are . People in cars
look worse than they are . On any of our highways this last
observation , unfortune as it may be , is inescapable. For
the car, by bisecting
the human outline , diminishes it producing a race of half
people in a motion not of their own making . Automobiles
can be handsome things , particularly if they are foreign ,
but they bestow none of their power and beauty on their
passengers . It is not
only that the people in cars face in one direction , like gulls
in the wind or curious penguins , but that the sleekness and
brightness of the car exterior makes them look shabby if
not down - right- sordid.

Lexical Accessibility

Psycholinguistic models of reading have placed
special emphasize on the reader being able to
combine personal knowledge ( i.e, top d own
processing ) with textual information ( ie bottom-up
processing ) in order to get at the meaning of written
text
Accordingly , text book writers and reading
specialists have often suggested that readers guess
the meaning of unfamiliar words by using clues from
the text , thus minimizing the use of dictionaries .
Hayness( 1993) in her study of the perils of guessing
field that ESL can be good guesser only when the
contxt provide them with immediate clues for
guessing , while insufficient context and low
proficiency level on the part of the learner may lead
to mismatches in word analysis and recognition that
can cause confusion and misinterpretation of the
target text
Dubin and Olshtain( 1993) further emphasize the
need for teacher to consider the extent to which a
given text provides useful contextuals clue.

The optimal level of textual support , from the
readers point of view , for any particular lexical
items in the text should be derived from the
combination of five difference sources.
The reader general schemata or general
knowledge structure extending beyond the text
The readers familiarity with the overall content
of the text
Semantic information provided in the paragraph
within which the lexical item appears
Semantic information in the same sentence
Structural constrains in the sentence

The following paragraph from dubin and olshtain
(1992: 186) entitled The Demise of the
dinosaurs contains the word succumb in the
forth line , a word which no be familiar to many
ESL/EFL reader yet whose semantic elements can
easily be reconstructed from the text since all five
types of support occur:
In an age when our own species, Homo species
Ponders survival , it see particularly important
To find out what happened to the reptiles that
Dominated this planet for so long . Did they
succumb
To a single catastrophe

SUGGESTIONS FOR DEVELOPING A READING
COURSE

Defining Reading Goals
Students will increase in the use of cognitive strategies to
build knowledge from text. Evidence of strategy use will
be based on frequency, appropriateness and effectiveness
of the use of strategies, and the complexity of texts to
which strategies are applied. The focus being that a
reading course today should try to do the following :
maximize independent reading opportunities,
facilitate negotiated interaction with texts, foster
metacognitive awareness and learner autonomy, and
expand access to new content areas.

When planning a reading course, one of the major
considerations should be giving learners ample
time and opportunity to engage in independent
reading. Silent reading in guided situations,
shared reading in groups, and individual reading
inside and outside the classroom should all be
carefully planned as all integral part of the
reading course. It is only when reading
independently, according to self-defined needs
and goals, that the learner can develop truly
effective reading strategies
A discourse-oriented reading course should
allow learners to negotiate their interaction
with text by constantly being involved in
making choices and decisions with respect to
the text. For example, learners can be told of
different reading purpose for the same text
and the consequences related to each.
For readers to become effective and
autonomous, they should be aware of the
various considerations and strategies involved
in successful processing.
Metacognitive awareness helps readers make
decisions and choices before, during, and after
their reading of the text. Good strategies can
often overcome linguistic deficiencies when
dealing with complex texts.

Another important goal of a discourse-oriented
course is to expose the learner to a variety of
texts, genres, content areas, and styles of
writing. While engaging in the processing of
such different text and in doing the
accompanying activities, the learner can
develop both the knowledge component and
the processing skills.

READING ACTIVITIES THAT LEAD TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF
STRATEGIC READING

The knowledge component necessary for reading effectively,
consist of three subcomponents that need to be tackled in
the developing a reading course:

a. Language knowledge, which includes recognitions of
vocabulary and syntax as well as graphic representations,
b. Discourse knowledge and socio cultural knowledge, which
include recognition and understanding of discourse
features that are textual in nature (e.g., cohesion),
discourse features that relate to writing conventions and
genres and social and cultural knowledge related to writing,
c. General ( prior) knowledge or knowledge of the world.

In order to help learners become independent and
strategic readers they need to engage in the
processing of a large stock of multipurpose
reading matter. The selection of the reading
passages, stories, and articles is perhaps the most
important features of a good reading course.
These selections should be interesting from the
students point of view, so that they will motivate
reading as such, and they should be suitable and
adaptable to the kinds of learning and reading
activities that the course intends to promote.

For younger learners, reading activities can
focus on :
a. The purpose of reading
b. The development of reading strategies,
c. Gaining information and knowledge.

Conclusion
The reading process as an interactive communicative
activity in which the reader plays a crucial role in the
interpretation process and in which the text as
produced by the writer, includes both facilitating and
complicating features that need to be utilized and
tackled. Intermediate and advanced course in ESL/EFL
reading should enable students to experience, practice,
and become efficient in coping with textual difficulties
of the types. The ultimate aim is for readers to become
self-sufficient and responsible for developing efficient
reading strategies that suit their needs and interests.