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Titles As Signals. Titles + first sentences . “Don’t Blame the Eater”. “What You Eat Is Your Own Business”.

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titles first sentences
Titles + first sentences

“Don’t Blame the Eater”

“What You Eat Is Your Own Business”

This June, Time magazine and ABC News will host a three-day summit on obesity… Judging by the scheduled program, the summit promises to be a pep rally for media nutrition activists, and policy makers – all agitating for a panoply of government anti-obesity initiatives, including prohibiting junk food in school vending machines, federal funding for new bike trails and sidewalks, more demanding labels on foodstuffs, restrictive marketing to children, and prodding the food industry into more “responsible” behavior.

  • If ever there were a newspaper headline custom-made for Jay Leno’s monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald’s this week, suing the company for making them fat.
types of essays
Types of Essays
  • “So, You Want to be a Writer? Here’s How”
  • “Two Churches, Black and White”
  • “If You Are What Your Eat, Then What Am I?”
  • “The Deadly Allure of Smoke”
  • “Don’t Make English Official, Ban It Instead”
chapter 1 they say starting with what others are saying
Chapter 1 “They Say” Starting with What Others Are Saying

Dr. X’s work is important. Dr. X’s work is necessary for our survival. Dr. X’s research is pivotal. Dr. X’s thesis is… Dr. X… Dr. X…

Dr X’s work sounds important enough, but why does the speaker have to go on and on?

I’m not really following this guy’s point.

Presenting at the academic conference

chapter 1 they say starting with what others are saying1
Chapter 1 “They Say” Starting with What Others Are Saying

Well, Dr. X’s research has been vigorously challenged. And some in the scientific community are doubting Dr. X’s work – seriously questioning the validity. They say we don’t have to worry about extinction – that the big meteorite in the sky won’t hit us.

Ah, so he’s responding to someone’s challenge of Dr. X, That certainly explains why he was going into so much detail before. Extinction!

Now, I see his point.

Then fielding questions…

lesson 1 writing should have a point
Lesson 1: Writing should have a point

Not all texts start off with responding to what “they say.”

But, it is a good idea to summarize what “they say” as soon as you can to remind readers of the strategic points in your own writing.

This isn’t suggesting you have to cover all of what they are saying.

What it does suggest is that you state your own position and the one it’s responding to together. Consider them a unit.


Consider the following essay’s introduction on the English language…

“Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language – so the argument runs – must inevitably share in the general collapse…

But the process is reversible. Modern English… is full of bad habits… which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.”

- George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

What Orwell is responding to

Orwell’s position

Orwell is responding to the claim that most people assume that we cannot do anything about the bad state of the English language.


Consider this opinion piece from The New York Times Book Review:

“I’m a reader!” announced the yellow button. “How about you?” I looked at its bearer, a strapping young guy stalking my town’s Festival of Books. “I’ll bet you’re a reader,” he volunteered, as though we were two geniuses well met. “No,” I replied. “Absolutely not,” I wanted to yell, and fling my Barnes & Noble bag at his feet. Instead, I mumbled something apologetic and melted into the crowd.

There’s a new piety in the air: the self congratulation of book lovers.

-Christina Nehring, “Books Make You a Boring Person,” 2004

Nehring’s anecdote

Nehring’s claim/position

Nehring is anecdote is really a kind of “they say”: book lovers keep telling themselves how great they are.

chapter 1 they say1
Chapter 1 “They Say”
  • They say that kids suing fast-food companies for making them fat is a joke; I say such lawsuits are justified.
    • ”Don’t Blame the Eater”
  • They saywe need rules and regulations, restrictive marketing; I say our government ought to be working to foster a sense of responsibility in and ownership of our own health and well-being.
    • “What You Eat Is Your Own Business”
the main claim
The main claim

EN101 English Composition and Rhetoric

types of claims
Types of claims

Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact.

  • Example: What some people refer to as global warming is actually nothing more than normal, long-term cycles of climate change.

Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur.

  • Example: The popularity of SUV's in America has caused pollution to increase.

Claims about value: These are claims made about what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something.

  • Example: Global warming is the most pressing challenge facing the world today.

Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem.

  • Example: Instead of drilling for oil in Alaska we should be focusing on ways to reduce oil consumption, such as researching renewable energy sources.
ways to visualize a thesis
Ways to Visualize a thesis


an example thesis
An example thesis

In America today, the documented increase in childhood emotional disorders reflects changes in institutional practices rather than the deterioration of family values.

don t blame the eater
“Don’t blame the eater”

In America today, childrenshould not be blamed for being obese because of the lack of healthy choices and information regarding food.

what you eat is your business
“What you eat is your business”

Nowadays, instead of manipulating or intervening in the array of food options available to American consumers, our government ought to foster a sense of responsibility in and ownership of our own health and well-being.

don t make english the official language ban it instead
“Don’t Make English the official language. Ban it Instead”

In America now, I would like to make a modest proposal to resolve the language impasse in Congress. Don’t make English official – ban it instead.