Iain McGee

Jun 8, 2021

Understanding the Paragraph and Paragraphing

Equinox 2018

Listen to this interview of Iain McGee (PhD, Cardiff University) a PhD student in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of Bristol (UK), and an EAP teacher at Cardiff University. We talk about his book Understanding the Paragraph and Paragraphing (Equinox, 2018), the paragraph as a break in the text, about the paragraph as a unit of the text, and about the .

Iain McGee : "Often writing instruction in classroom environments is readerless in terms of the actual text and in terms of who will engage with it. Many writers in classrooms know that the only reader will be the teacher. But when it comes to writing for purposeful reasons, then we will be thinking of the reader, and the reader will have certain (as Michael Hoey puts it) textual colligation expectations, that means that the reader will be expecting paragraphs to flow in a certain way, will be expecting certain ways of organizing that text. And so, for the writer in that environment, the writer needs to be aware of those discourse-specific ways in which we communicate. One of the points I make in the book is that, Alexander Bain and his work in particular never really considered the reader and as such, made rather prescriptive, one-size-fits-all comments on what good paragraphing is. But in reality, the genre very much determines how we will go about writing our paragraphs, for example, how many sentences we might have, or the kinds of links between the paragraphs, for example, those links will be very different between reading an article in a newspaper and reading a journal article. And so, that sensitivity to genre is one of the focal points of my research, and I want to draw attention to the fact that we need to understand genres better so that we can make comments about the paragraph which are more intelligent, more specific, and more relevant to the actual readers of real genres and to the writers engaged with those genres."

Daniel Shea heads Scholarly Communication, the podcast about how knowledge gets known. Daniel is Director of the Writing Program at Heidelberg University, Germany. Daniel's YouTube Channel is called Write Your Research.

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