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How is reading an interactive process?

At the end of this chapter you will understand: that reading is an interactive process • that being aware of your audience is crucial to effective communication • what a modifier is • the value of thinking and planning before you write

Let’s begin by being really clear that any piece of writing can be called a text. A text, therefore, could be a novel, a story, a set of instructions, a label on a shirt, a signpost, an advertisement, a poster, a logo and so on. Some people believe that reading is simply a passive process of making sense of the words in a text. They think that reading is a passive process not an active one but this is not true. We interact with a text to create its meaning.

Stop here to interact with a text!

The owner of a company is looking for a catchy name for a new range of jeans. The designer suggests names like “Cool” and “Just for You” and “Stop.” The owner likes “Stop” and decides that the new range will carry a label that looks like the traffic Stop sign. A Stop sign on a fashionably shabby pocket of a pair of jeans will appear in their advertisements.

  • If you know about these jeans, you won’t be surprised to see what looks like traffic Stop signs in shop windows and in ads.
  • If you don’t know about these jeans, you will wonder why these Stop signs are now appearing in weird places. You will wonder what jeans have to do with stopping. You are interacting with the text in an attempt to make sense of it.
  • Knowing about these jeans means that for you, there is no gap between reading the sign in an ad and understanding what it means. Your knowledge contributes to how you interact with the text to make meaning of Stop signs in places we don’t expect to find them.

Without this knowledge, people cannot make sense of these particular Stop signs. They cannot read them even though they know what the word “stop” means.

Mind that reading gap!

Think about the last time you read something passively, letting it wash over you without engaging to make meaning of what you were reading. How did it feel? How much did you remember? Was it worth it?