Parlay Press

specializing in textbooks and academic books on language and writing

Meaning First: A Functional Handbook of Fifty Ways to Polish Your Writing

Carolyn G. Hartnett, College of the Mainland

2000, 112 pages, paper, spiral bound, $22.95 (list). ISBN 0-9644636-7-9. Instructor's Manual available.

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Meaning First is a concise rhetoric and handbook that takes students step-by-step from generating and developing an idea to final editing. Meaning First covers the topics treated by traditional handbooks, but in a functional way. Instead of rules, Meaning First shows patterns and how they work; it explains reasons for choosing one pattern instead of another. In the tradition of Hallidayan linguistics, it combines rhetoric and grammar in a functional approach, assuming that grammar expresses meaning.

Meaning First gathers and assembles information from students through a series of 50 "probes." Each probe consists of a series of questions or suggestions (over 300 in all) that students must respond to as they plan, draft, and revise their writing. Questions or directions in the text's left-hand margin explore a particular aspect of the draft and suggest how to make improvements. Each probe also has a section labeled "Help" that explains more fully how choices influence readers and how the writer can make the draft work as it should.

Meaning First is especially designed for students in college composition. However, other writers will also find it useful, especially those from nontraditional backgrounds (e.g., students in basic writing or ESL courses). .

  • Frequent cross-references to other probes.
  • Probes can be used in any order.
  • Examples throughout illustrate strategies at both the sentence and essay level.
  • Special charts and lists for verb forms, irregular verbs, and easily confused words.
  • Numerous exercises throughout each chapter.
  • Illustrates MLA and APA documentation styles.