The new literacy

October 18, 2009

[Lunsford] organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples--everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring. [...]

Lunsford's team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos — assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. […]

We think of writing as either good or bad. What today's young people know is that knowing who you're writing for and why you're writing might be the most crucial factor of all.

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