Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Killing Me Softly With Your Review

In Part 1, we discussed some of what it takes to earn a Masters’ Degree in Library Sciences and we touched on some of Klausner’s work as a librarian.

In Part 11, we looked at Klausner’s punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors.

This section examines Klausner’s English communication and writing skills based on her Amazon reviews.  Before being accepted into a masters’ program for Library Sciences, participants are required to demonstrate that they have taken instruction in literacy, writing, and communication.  This education is required as part of the underlying Bachelors Degree.  Communication, both written and verbal, is crucial to the degree.  Literacy, storytelling, and writing skills are basic to passing the course and they have to be demonstrated before moving on to a masters’ course of work.

What do Harriet’s reviews say about her writing skill, literacy, and ability to communicate?

To communicate effectively, you must know your audience, understand their level of knowledge, and then speak at the level of understanding. When writing reviews, you write to people who know nothing about a book but want to learn.  Providing that information with simplicity and clarity designed around what the reader needs to know and the best way to deliver that information should be the communicator's focus.  Instead, what we see with Harriet is that:

1.   Her grammar, punctuation, spelling, and misuse of words make it very difficult, even impossible, to understand the meaning of a sentence.
2.   She doesn’t explain key information that will help a reader to understand either the context for a statement or the statement itself.
3.   She often uses obscure, secondary word meanings for common words that don't ring true.
4.   She often uses obscure words or cultural idioms that trip readers up, thus clouding the meaning of a sentence.
5.   She combines too many thoughts and ideas in sentences, many of which are frequently conflicting or have no bearing on each other, rendering her sentences unintelligible more often than not.
6.   She does not meet readers' needs in her writing; she writes for expediency and not clarity.
7.   She doesn’t address her audience appropriately.  (E.g., she makes 60’s and 70’s cultural references, and obscure leadership studies, when writing reviews for children and young teens).
8.   She writes mysteries in her reviews by identifying key players as “he”, “her”, “the man”, “the changeling” and not stating their names until later in her reviews.
9.   She frequently changes the name of a character midway through a review confusing readers.
10. Her sentences are too wordy.         

In evaluating Klausner’s written style, it seems like she’s having fun making people jump through hoops in futile attempts to understand her writing.  She doesn’t write sentences with clarity and logic.

Literacy is more about the process of internalizing written information, processing and understanding it, and  then spitting it back out sensibly.  At first, I asked, how would you measure literacy in this case?  It turns out the answer was easy.  Read a book and then read Harriet’s review to see how she interpreted the book.

I took my own advice and began to read Harriet's reviews after reading a book.  What did I find out?  I discovered tons of misinformation from wrong storylines, locations, main characters, side characters, names, to even book titles.  I also discovered recitations of events and things that never happened in the books.  But the biggest problem wasn’t what was wrong so much as what was left out.  Often main characters aren’t even mentioned, nor are the main storyline, character relationships, and the elements that cause tension.  Most of the big stuff is always missing.

There are two reasons that this reading problem could occur:  (1) a not very high literacy and reading comprehension level, or, more likely,
(2) Klausner doesn’t read the books she reviews.  Neither option is pretty.  But, there are plenty of discussion and a mountain of proof that support the conclusion in Option (2).

Ability to communicate is closely tied to the ability to take in and process information, as well as express oneself orally and in the written form.  We have seen that, for whatever reason, Klausner is not processing and writing book information accurately and that her writing is unintelligible.

Given these factors, I’ve asked myself whether or not there are other intervening causes since obtaining a masters degree that would have caused Klausner’s English abilities to fall below a high school level.  I don’t know.  But the evidence so far tends to lean away from that direction.

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