In the introduction of their book, They Say / I say, Graff and Birkenstein argue the proper way to write in the English language, and the difference between what the author writes, and what the reader understands. Graff and Birkenstein show that for every idea that an individual wants to write; there is a certain template that must be used. It is imperative to realize that not every paper is written the same. Critical writing is a much more complicated task than general writing. While general writing has basic templates, for example, “ Many Americans assume that …. ”, when summarizing a widely held belief, critical writing has a much deeper meaning than just putting words on a piece of paper (2).
This is where the idea of “They say … ; I say …” develops. In fact, by analyzing this part of the book, I am using this formula. The “They say ; I say” template does the following. It helps the writer describe and summarize what the author is explaining, which is the “They say” part of the equation. When the writer evokes a response to what the author is saying, that is the “I say” part of the template. This not-so-complicated idea is used mostly in academic writing. Academic writers who write scholarly articles and use critical writing in their papers usually have more than one perspective in their papers. Graff and Birkenstein argue that in order to have a good foundation for this paper sources are extremely important. There must also be a deep understanding of the topic so that the person reading the paper believes that the writer actually deeply analyzed and researched their topic.
Another big idea that Graff and Birkenstein explore in the introduction of their book is that there must be some sort of argument within their writing. Arguments usually come from something that an author that does (or doesn’t do) or says (or doesn’t say) that may stir up some attention with a crowd. An argument must make an impact. It must make the reader accept the argument, and convince them that although they may not believe the argument, they are willing to understand the opposing side. I believe that if a writer is really motivated to write about a certain issue, then their passion will be seen, which could also inspire the reader. Graff and Birkenstein explain that there is also a hidden reason as to why people start writing about a certain subject. As it is said in the book, “Clearly, King would not have written his famous letter were it not for his critics, whose views he treats not as objections to his already-formed arguments but as the motivating source of those arguments, their central reason for being.” (6). This quote shows that Graff and Birkenstein argue that there is always a motivation behind writing.
Another important aspect of writing is having templates. As Graff and Birkenstein explain, templates equate to creativity. Creativity is one of the most important aspects of writing. Using templates throughout this book will not only help a writer figure out how they will structure the rest of their paper, but also help him or her think of more creative ideas as they begin to write.
The above picture explains perfectly the difference between “They say” and “I say”. As seen on the left, “They say” is mostly referring to the author or narrator of the piece depending on the way it is written. It is about another author arguing, assuming, agreeing, arguing etc. The “I say” side is about personal opinion, such as how the reader may have interpreted the author’s argument, and how it differs. Overall, the “They say ; I say “is very helpful in certain situations. To reiterate what Graff and Birkenstein have been saying throughout the introduction, this template is extremely useful for a writer who is looking to improve their writing skills. It is especially useful for academic papers, or papers where one writer argues a certain idea, which ultimately should be how every paper is written.
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.