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Metadiscourse

Writers use metadiscourse to guide readers through their texts, giving them prompts on how to approach their arguments or how to situate their arguments amongst others in a larger discourse community (Longo, 1994, p.348). Through textual analysis, Longo (1994) closely examines expert and novice use of metadiscourse in design proposals that they wrote and shows that using metadiscourse is a mark of mature writing.

Expert Approach 

In Longo's (1994) study the two expert writers showed the greatest differences from novices in their ability to place their writing in a greater body of related work—their discourse community—and use words and phrases that guide readers through the text (Longo, 1994, p.350). Two important categories of phrases and connectors experts tapped into were hedges and attributors.  Hedges moderate statements and make a writer sound less one-sided and more reasonable, and attributors call upon outside knowledge or writers to put the work in dialogue with a bigger community (Longo, 1994, p.351).

Experts, through these and other strategies, like addressing readers and guiding them through the paper with connectors and announcements, rhetorically created an ethos of credibility.  Longo (1994) emphasizes that being part of the discourse community improves a writer’s standing.  Rather than relying on their own opinions, expert writers know when to cite others to support their arguments.  These structural metadiscourse elements are therefore key in building credibility and expert writing.

Novice Approach

Novice writers in Longo's (1994) study, however, largely neglected to call upon the larger discourse community and instead relied on their own knowledge and opinion (pp.350-1). Longo (1994) likens the novice writers of the design proposals to "an enthusiastic salesperson" because they are focused on persuasion and do not spend time on outside support or guiding readers through their logic (pp.350-1). Lack of references and larger guiding structures in their texts ultimately weaken their arguments and isolate them from the discourse community they ought to take part in.

Applications 

  • Use metadiscourse connectors. Writers should guide readers through their texts by directing their attention to appropriate places and connections.  For example: "shown in Figure1" (Longo, 1994, p.350).
  • Cite outside references. Especially in persuasive writing, writers should appeal to other authorities and sources to back up their arguments and show that they are part of the community. Examples from Longo (1994) include "Raymer suggests" and "based on sketches" (p.350).
  • Use hedges. Writers should not sound completely one-sided, but instead try to use tempering words like "'in many cases,' 'appears'" (Longo, 1994, p.350).