Dialogical Writing/Reading

Dialogical Writing, or “Chaining,” is a technique that uses a series of statements clarified by prompts in order to generate text that flows, has clear voice, and is direct in focus. To perform this exercise, first divide a sheet of paper into two columns: “Statement” and “Prompt.” In the Statement column, make a clear, factual statement. Across from this statement, under Prompt, create a prompt that will elaborate, restate, extend or enhance this initial statement. (NOTE: The task of creating prompts appears quite often in these resources, and for good reason, as good questions always lie at the heart of good writing.) Now create a second statement to address this first prompt. Continue making this chain until you, acting now as both author and audience, feel that the point has been made. I have provided an example below. I have connected statements and prompts with red arrows to show the flow of “dialogue.”

Now I take all the statements, tweak them a bit, combine them, and get this:

Bees are important pollinators. They pollinate almost one-third of the world’s crops, which means that one out of every three bites a person takes is directly due to pollination by bees. Although it is a common misconception that commodities like meat do not require pollination, meat comes from cows, and cows eat alfalfa, and alfalfa requires bees in order to propagate and survive. While wind and other animals can aid in pollination, bees are the most necessary pollinators because they are the only animal that gets all of their required nutrients exclusively from flowers. Bees get their proteins from a mixture of flower pollen they make called “bee bread,” so while other animals need meat or vegetables to get protein, bees need only flowers to live. Bees are so necessary that without them, there would be a massive decline in crops and flowering plants. Coffee, chocolate, and almost all fruits would disappear from grocery stores. Unfortunately, overuse of pesticides and a lack of variety of flower pollen on farms may lead to the extinction of many species of bees, which could result in the realization of this bleak reality.

This piece of writing could have come off as stiff and unaccessible, but now it reads more openly and with a tighter, more direct flow. Also, the writing is formulated much easier using this method because it originates as simple, direct dialogue instead of halted, elevated prose. This same exercise can be performed backwards, with a piece of writing being dialogically dissected in order to access the author’s meaning and supporting arguments. For example, take these two paragraphs from the book, Spatial Hearing: The Psychophysics of Human Sound Localization by Jens Blauert (1997):

Now, spatial hearing and psychophysics are two things I admittedly know nothing about, but by using dialogical reading on this piece I can better understand what the author is trying to say:

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