Saturday, October 13, 2012

Style and Stance #7: Pinning Down My Categories

I came a long way in my last post ... Let me quote myself:
  • "For written texts, style has always been the main way to convey stance because we do not have the other options of voice inflection, dress, gestures, etc that are considered when we look for style in spoken language.
  • "Academic writing wants to show a certain stance so adopts a certain style in presenting a given content."   
  • "My task now is to categorize this stance and define this style to see if journals are intentionally disaligning from this stance by making different style choices."
  • "Rather than stance being the primitive that drives style, stance is the created by style." 
But I am left with somewhat the same question I had before: how does content fit in?  What is the role of all of the stuff we want to jam into our writing?

Teasing Out Definitions of Stance and Style
In my data sets, content is clearly a choice -- something that creates stance. The content is markedly different for text of the same purported purpose. This fits with stance involving content. Yet for me, I see stance in written texts as equally created by content as by style ... but style is an entirely different category in sociolinguistics and not a part of stance. So, when I say above that stance is created by style, this is only partially true because the content is also creating the stance by definition. So, why is one (content) part of the definition of stance and the other (style) not? I think I might go out on a limb and move content to be a style choice in written text -- what we include and how we include it both make up written discourse analysis.

This leads me to a definition of stance by Kiesling that I believe supports this idea when applied to written texts: "[A]ny choice of linguistic form made by speakers is based ultimately on the interpersonal or epsitemic stance they wish to take with their various interlocutors at a particular time, and that it is stances that become associated, through cultural models, with various identities" (Kiesling 172). What is included and the style of how it is written clearly creates the stances of my two data sets.  I redid my earlier categorizing to fit into this division.

Data Set #1
Computers and Composition:
 The Traditional Academic Journal Put Online
  • Four references to style guides
    • Explanation that authors will be walked through expected style in submission process
    • Direction to reference the AP style guide
  • Submissions consistently referred to as "manuscripts"
  • Traditional parts of academic article (abstract, cover page) delineated in how to submit
  • The only specific guidelines are textual (page length, margins ...)
  • Link to a style manual for editors
  • A separate section delineating APA guidelines
  • No images
  • Copyright statement is traditional form
  • Two-column layout of vertical text (list of links to articles in left column and guidelines in right)
  • Script font in journal title
  • Times New Roman for all other fonts
  • Overall title then sections broken by sub-headings: all explicitly stating the content to follow
  • Traditional capitalization
Data Set #2
Computers and Composition Online:  The Online Academic Journal
  • Listings of many types of submissions beyond traditional articles
  • Clear statement of peer review process
  • Open encouragement to submit
  • Required electronic submission
  • Style guidance is specifically "web aware" and not links to existing manuals
  • No images
  • Right from the start, hyperlinks direct you to additional information
  • Two-column layout that is text heavy
  • Formal fonts except script font for journal title
  • First person point-of-view
  • Call submissions ordered by type versus topic (shows that format is important too)
I also see style appearing in these data sets in two ways: the syntax of the content and the design of each of the sites (under which I could place content and form).  I have started to break these down into categories for possible coding.
Style Attribute #1:
This is an abbreviated version of the categories Becky Francis used for an analysis of gender issues in academic writing. I think these categories could work well to show if the traditional bold voice of academia exists equally in the sentences of both data sets.

Example Sentences
Bold 2 (argument)
Clear assertions of a viewpoint; follow a linear argument, state facts without qualifiers

Tentative 2 (qualification)
Sentences that are qualified

Acknowledge alternatives and other view points and possibility

Style Attribute #2:
These categories come from Robin Williams. Here, I could look at how each data set approaches the intangibles that are encapsulated in design for written texts because there is no inflection, dress, etc.  Design is how written words are dressed and voiced.

  • "Contrast is created when two elements are different" (65). 
  • "If two items are not exactly the same, then make them different. Really different" (65).

  •  "Repeat some aspect of the design throughout the entire piece" (51). 
  • "Think of repetition as being consistent, which I'm sure you do already. Then push the existing consistencies a little further ... Then take a look at the possibility of adding elements whose sole purpose is to create a repetition" (64).

  • “Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every item should have visual connection with something else on the page” (33). 
  • "A centered alignment often appears a bit weak. If text is aligned, instead, on the left or the right, the invisible line that connects the text is much stronger because it has a hard vertical edge to follow" (35). 
  • "Lack of alignment is probably the biggest cause of unpleasant-looking documents. Our eyes like to see order; it creates a calm, secure feeling. Plus it helps to communicate the information" (43). 

  • "Items relating to each other should be grouped close together ... This helps organize information, reduces clutter, and gives the reader a clear structure" (13).

Final Thoughts
Am I biting off more than I can chew at this early stage in my sociolinguistic life?  To analyze the content and form by applying the two style attributes of syntax and design seems huge. So the follow-up question then is which one could I do without needing to also explain the others?  Can I analyze design without syntax? Or could I analyze both syntax and design but not for content AND form?

Works Cited
Francis, Becky, et al. "An Analysis of Undergraduate Writing Styles in the Context of Gender and Achievement." Studies in Higher Education 26.3 (2001): 313-26. Web.

"Hall Closet" Image.

Kiesling, Scott F. "Style as Stance: Stance as the Explanation for Patterns of Sociolinguistic Variation." Alexandra Jaffe, ed. Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Kindle edition.   

Williams, Robin. The Non-Designer's Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice. Third ed. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 2008. Print. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the way this post shows your genuine intrigue in trying to determine your own stances on the role of content. I like the assertion that content is also a stylistic choice in written texts. My mind is reeling with your final paragraph of questions! Excellent analysis here.