Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.6. Explore attitudes, beliefs and intentions

ryanrori January 24, 2021

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Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if we understood everything that was said or written? There are so many instances where we read articles or books and we are left wondering what motivated the author to write the way s/he did? 

Adapt language to suit different contexts, audiences and purposes 

Let’s first look at the author’s attitude. The attitude of an author towards a subject as the reader understands it is called Tone. Tone can also be described as how the author feels about the ideas presented in the text. Writing style carries TONE. Some words that describe tone include: comic, tragic, ironic (saying one thing but meaning another), cold, witty, pathetic, sentimental, disillusioned, idealistic, satirical (ridiculing).

We now need to find out how the author’s tone is shown in a text.

The tone in each text will be determined by the writer’s objective; does s/he want to inform/instruct or does s/he want to entertain or persuade?

The tone in a magazine is less formal and less technical than that in a text book (this depends on the type of magazine, of course). Articles would comprise opinions, inferences, and some persuasion, in the form of advertisements.

Books, novels or textbooks, newspapers and magazines (not forgetting the Internet) provide us with a variety of information and reading pleasure, so it is important that we are able to understand the information/content so that we can gain the most pleasure or knowledge as the case may be. 

Word choice also depends greatly on the attitude of the writer towards the subject being discussed as well as the type of audience for which the author is writing. Certain word choices would be considered only for the specialist as they would have very little meaning for the layperson; for example, medical terminology.

Language, that is, grammar plays a valuable part in our understanding of any literature. No doubt you will have noticed that language used in magazines and newspapers is often grammatically fairly incorrect. Competent writers may break the rules and get away with it, but this very often leads to ambiguity or failure to communicate intelligently.

An author’s attitude can also be identified by the use of stereotypes and biased language, as well as the way the author’s opinions are expressed and the feelings you, the reader, experience when you read the article or book.

One important point to remember is that attitudes must be distinguished from opinions. Although attitudes and opinions are much the same, attitudes often control opinions. This means that our attitude would determine how we answer certain, possibly personal, questions. Attitudes are long-term; they produce in us the tendency to respond in a given way towards subjects or issues and situations. This response may be how we think or how we feel or how we behave or intend to behave.

Now let’s look at persuasion. The process of persuasion often involves influencing a person to respond to one object or word in the same negative or positive way as to another (similar) object or word.

To persuade, the writer or the speaker has to have credibility. Credibility refers to the receiver’s insight to the writer’s authoritativeness on any given topic. Credibility has to do, not with what the writer is, but what the reader or listener sees him or her to be. A writer with high credibility tends to have more influence on the readers’ attitudes that do those with low credibility.

A writer may have an intention; he/she may want to change our minds or our opinion about a subject, an article or behaviour. Advertising is persuasion: If you want to be a thinking, informed reader (and shopper), you have to develop the questioning ability to analyse advertisements, their messages and the persuasive techniques employed to create them. The art of advertising combines creative understanding with scientific knowledge of human behaviour and needs.