Information Units: Core, descriptive, and interpretive elements
How much information are you giving your audience in your paper? What kind of “information units” are you using? Skillful writers use and arrange three kinds of information units in certain ways. The three different kinds of information units are:
1a) Core (narrative) Eventives [CoEV]: indicate actions that advance a plot, events that occur at a specific time and place; the things that happen as the story progresses; using past tense dynamic verbs; not using be, have or stative verbs (feel, think, believe)
1b) Core (expository) Propositions [CoP]: indicate generalized ideas, arguments, claims, or statements; uses speech act verbs, like “allege,” “claim,” or “propose”
2) Descriptives [DES]: describe facts, physical characteristics of the people, places, or states of affairs involved in the core eventives/propositions; illustrates the motivations, causes, purposes and/or setting of the propositions or events
3) Interpretives [INT]: reveal a writer’s personal, subjective attitude, feeling, judgment, and evaluative commentary about the core eventives/propositions; interpretives might provide emotional background material about the descriptives; might be a “follow up evaluative” comment at the end of a story
Core eventives are the main actions that drive a narrative and core propositions are the main claims or arguments that drive expository writing. Descriptive elements provide the setting for the core actions or propositions, telling your audience about the characteristics of the people, circumstances, and background information involved. Generally, non-action verbs (be, have, feel, think) are used in descriptives. Then, interpretives are all about a writer’s personal, subjective feelings about the eventive or the descriptive elements—possibly the moral lesson of a narrative, or the writer’s evaluation of a claim or idea.
Skillful, experienced writers use few core eventives. Their papers are not filled with many events, or many separate claims/propositions. Instead, there are a few core eventives or descriptives that are skillfully illustrated, described, and evaluated with the descriptives and interpretives. Look at what the writer does in the following expository example:
Many people claim that a school uniform policy in my school would do more harm than good [CoP1]. They want to discourage any attempts to place new rules on the student population [DES1]. It is hard to take this position seriously; indeed, it is near ridiculous [INT]. There are already many problems with clothing in my school [DES2]. Instead, a school uniform policy seems to be the best idea school officials have proposed since I started attending this high school [CoP2].
This example shows how the writer began with a core, main idea/claim [CoP1], described the motivation behind it [DES1], and then gave a personal, subjective comment about his/her feelings toward the core claim [INT]. A second descriptive further illustrates the motivation behind the interpretive [DES2], and then the writer introduces his/her own claim [CoP2]—and the paper would continue to describe and give evaluative comment on that. Now, the above example is highly compressed, there should be more descriptives/interpretives, marked by discourse markers, between [CoP1] and [CoP2]. Let’s now see how this would look in narrative writing:
When I was sixteen, I transferred to a different high school [CoEv1]. The high school was in a different state [DES1]. I had no friends there, and it was really hard to fit in [DES2]. One good thing about the new school, however, was their school uniform policy [DES3]. I did not feel out of place because all of the girls there wore the same uniform [DES4]. That was a huge weight off of my shoulders [INT].
Here, the writer provides one core eventive element, followed by four descriptive elements, and concluding with one interpretive element. In narratives, interpretives [INT] often close stories, such as what the writer did above, expressing how relieved she felt.
Now that you know the different kinds of information you can express in your writing, you can present your information in a very clear, interesting way. Does your paper include too many core eventive elements? Are there too many descriptions, or not enough? Are you missing an interpretive element where you should contain one? Are you using discourse markers to introduce these different elements? This is another point to consider on your journey to writing well-formed, effective discourse.