3S: SUBJECTThe subject of an essay is the writer’s main point, the topic being addressed.There are sometimes multiple points.In an ironic essay, the point may be the opposite of what is being said.Ask: “What is the writer talking about?”
4O: OCCASIONThe occasion of a piece is the situation that gets the author to sit down and write.Ask: “What circumstance or event led the writer to pen this essay?”
5A: AUDIENCEThe audience is the person or group of people a writer is addressing in a piece.Audience includes the type of people the writer wants to reach.This includes all kinds of demographic groups: different races, ages, income levels, education levels, political beliefs, etc.Ask: “Who is this essay for?”
6P: PURPOSE Purpose is the reason behind a piece. This includes both the subject and the occasion, but it is not the same as these two.Purpose can be to argue an issue, to describe a scene, to tell a story, etc.Ask: “Why did this writer put this on paper?”
7S: SPEAKERThe speaker is the person addressing the audience in the essay.The speaker is NOT merely the author.An essay’s speaker is always a persona; i.e., an element of the writer and not the whole person.Ask: “Which part of the author’s personality is speaking through this piece?”
9D: DICTION Diction is the writer’s choice of words. Remember that words do not get onto the paper by accident. Each word represents a choice.Diction can be elevated or low, common or academic.Diction draws on words’ connotations, their extra meaning outside the literal.Identify powerful or important words, and then ask what effect they have on the piece.
10I: IMAGESImages are the mental pictures a writer draws for the audience.Images can affect the tone of the piece and lend weight to a narrative or an argument.When you encounter an image, ask yourself why the writer chose it and what effect it has on the piece.
11D: DETAILS Writers select the details they will use very carefully. In narrative, details help create the scene and the mood. They help tell the story.In arguments, the details are the supports the writer uses to convince the audience of a point.Ask: “What does this detail add to the story or to the message?”
12O: ORGANIZATIONOrganization is the way the writer has put together the essay.Some types of organization:ChronologicalCompare/contrastCause/effectJuxtaposition (placing very different things next to each other to draw attention to their differences and similarities)Ask: “Why did the writer put these ideas together in this way?”
13L: LANGUAGEIn addition to identifying the type and level of diction, pay attention to patterns in the language.Is there a rhythm? Are there foreign phrases included?Ask: “What do these language choices tell me about the writer’s purpose? The intended audience? The writer’s attitude?”
14S: SYTNAX Syntax refers to the structure of the writer’s sentences. Sentences can be simple or complex; they can use parallelism; they can be fragments.Ask: “Why did the writer choose this type of sentence? What does it contribute to the piece? What does it say about audience and speaker? How does it help or hinder the message?”To understand syntax better, you need to understand grammar better!
15Good readers use these tools for every book, story, poem, and essay they read. Good writers make conscious choices about these tools in every piece they write. Practice Makes Permanent!