Intermediate Reading Course. Section 3: Interpreting the Message
The Writer’s Point of View
Seeing Things from Different Angles
People see the same thing differently depending on their point of view. Your point of view (or viewpoint) affects what you say about a topic.
Below are two situations seen from different points of view. Keeping in mind that people are responding to the same situation, notice how their different points of view color what they say about it.
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Same situation, different point of view
Situation 1. Parents make their children turn off the TV and go to bed early on a school night.
From the parents’ viewpoint, they are being good parents by teaching their children good habits. They care about their children, so they want them to be well rested when they go to school the next day
From the children’s viewpoint, their parents are being overly strict and controlling. They hate their parents for that, and think that they will never do the same to their children when they grow up.
Situation 2. A wealthy person and a poor person describe a house that they just visited.
From the wealthy person’s viewpoint, the house looks cheap. It does not have enough room for a family of four. The rooms are very small. The backyard does not have enough room for family activities.
From the poor person’s viewpoint, the house looks refined. It has plenty of room for a family of four. The rooms are spacious. The backyard has a lot of room for family activities.
Interpreting the Writer’s Point of View while Reading
When you detect the writer’s point of view, you can judge what the writer is saying. It helps you question the writer’s motives for including or excluding information in the passage.
For example, a senator delivers a speech supporting a new piece of legislation. Read how two journalists described the speech, and see if you can tell their different points of view. Then decide how their descriptions affected their descriptions.
Reporter 1. In his repetitive speech, the aged senator failed to present all the facts and presented an unconvincing argument.
Reporter 2. In his brilliant speech, the experienced senator emphasized important facts while presenting persuasive argument.
When reading how these journalists reported on the same speech, you can tell that Reporters 1 and 2 likely have opposing political viewpoints. For example, why does Reporter 1 describe the speech as repetitive and Reporter 2 describes it as brilliant and emphasizing important facts? Clearly, their different viewpoints create a negative or positive bias, which is reflected in their writing. (We will discuss bias in an upcoming lesson.)
Main takeaway from this lesson
It is up to you to decide whether or not to accept what a writer wrote. When reading the news or persuasive essays by different authors, for example, you must decide who you believe is the most accurate or convincing.
That is not always easy; however, when you identify and interpret a writer’s point of view, you have a better chance of reading critically rather than anything you read blindly.
Up Next: The Writer’s Tone and Attitudes
Go to the next lesson to learn about detecting and interpreting the writer’s tone and attitudes.