National Writing Project

The Final Free Modifier—Once More

By: Richard L. Graves, Sherry Swain, David Morse
Publication: Journal of Teaching Writing
Date: February 11, 2013

Summary: This article explores generative rhetoric, the practice of generating and adding new content in the form of modifiers to an existing sentence, and its use for improving the quality of writing in secondary schools.


Excerpt from Article

Once again we return to the question we asked at the outset: Why hasn't generative rhetoric been generally accepted as a means for improving student writing? Several possibilities come to mind. Teacher education programs may not include generative rhetoric in the education of writing teachers, so many teachers may not be aware of it. Some teachers may assume their students cannot master the complexities of the various final free modifiers and levels of modification. Some may view verb clusters as misplaced modifiers, or dangling participles, not understanding the power of what a participle can do in a sentence. Some may not see the connections between the popular process models of teaching writing and the teaching of style. Still others may think that generative rhetoric is more appropriate for fiction than nonfiction or, as described earlier, that form and content are separate entities and do not relate to each other. We suggest that the answer is at once more pervasive, more systemic than any of these: We simply never did know how to teach it. . . .

Copyright © Journal of Teaching Writing. Reprinted with permission.
Graves, Richard, Sherry Swain, and David Morse. 2011. "The Final Free Modifier—Once More." Journal of Teaching Writing 26 (1): 85-106.

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