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Model Informative Essays

Model Informative Essays

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson models readings of the assigned essays.

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Source: Pack, Jenna. “Breaking Down an Image.” Writing Commons. Belviso, Luciano, "Day 34" June 11, 2011 via Flickr. Creative Commons. Richards, Dan. “Digital Ethics.” Writing Commons.

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Welcome back to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we'll be taking a close, in-depth look at two informative essays, one analysis of a text and one definition essay.

The first text we'll analyze is itself an analytical essay titled, "Breaking Down an Image," by Jenna Pack. Pack's analysis focuses its attention on the image of a sports watch with a blurred male behind it. As you can see, it's an advertisement that the author chose to analyze. In order to do so, she focused on many of the image's parts, features like the placement of the watch at the bottom corner, which causes the eye to cross over the blurred man, rather than focusing on him.

And how the man himself, while not in focus at all, is obviously meant to be a focus of the reader's attention, using his part of the entire image to conclude the intended audience is most likely men or male sports enthusiasts. Pack uses many different lenses to analyze the image, from audience and context to purpose, tone, arrangement, location, scale, and text, as well as typography, font size, and type, and of course, color, connotations, and readability.

By breaking down the seemingly simple advertisement into its component parts, Pack was able to draw conclusions about it. Not just its male intended audience and its obvious purpose to sell watches, but also more subtle, nuanced aspects of image's rhetorical situation.

For example, when discussing color and connotation, Pack writes that the red hues, particularly at the bottom of the image, quote, "could connote warmth, raising the heart beat, getting the blood pumping, which all symbolize that the watch is effective for athletes." As you can see, she's not just looking at the image.

She's actively breaking down and isolating its individual aspects, asking questions about everything from its color palette as we've just seen to why the artist chose to make the time indicated on the watch bigger than the logo of the watchmaker-- an odd strategy for an advertisement.

And as we can see from this text, which I encourage you to visit online and read in its entirety, there's value to be had from performing this kind of close analysis. Considering that this is just an advertisement and not something meant to persuade its audience of anything particularly important-- watch and fashion choices aside-- there's a lot to work with.

So consider that the next time you're faced with just an advertisement. And besides, as Pack writes in her introduction, quote, "images have power, which is why we need to understand how to analyze them."

The next essay we'll look at is a definition essay titled "Digital Ethics" by Dan Richards. This essay forms the definition of the word "netiquette," a hybrid word combining "network" and "etiquette," which he defines first and most simply of course, as a social code of the internet. This essay is trying not only to convey the meaning behind its relatively new word, but the reason we need it. Richard states that just as etiquette is a question of ethics in the real world, netiquette is also a question of ethics. As he says, "because ethics refers to the way groups and individuals relate to, treat, and resolve issues with each other, digital ethics then encompasses how users and participants in online environments interact with each other and the technologies and platforms used to engage."

He then goes on to say that, "one of the most immediate reasons why digital ethics are important is because how we present, indeed construct our persona or personas affects the way in which our communication and intentions will be received. The notion that individual ethics impact our arguments is nothing new. Much of how we understand and categorize argumentation today stems some Aristotle's 'appeals,' which are generally understood as the means of persuasion-- how we support our arguments for specific audiences."

Then Richard applies the Aristotelian ethical terms of logos, pathos, and ethos to our online presences, asking questions like what it means that we now have to consider pictures of us posted on Facebook as part of our characters, part of our ethos in the online world. All of this, Richard states, is governed by netiquette, the code of behavior online.

So as you can see, in this essay, Richard does much, much more than simply define a term. He goes beyond that to explore not only what the term means, but what that definition means to us, the ways in which it impacts our world. He's also careful to set parameters about his subject, making sure we understand that there's no such thing as a strict code for behavior, online or otherwise. And that he's not about to attempt making one here.

Instead he confines himself, smartly, I would say, to defining his ideas of online ethics and talking in more general ways about what it means that we have a code at all. How online interactions are, despite what others might say, a reflection of real world interactions with the same kind of codes and the same kind of penalties for infringing upon that code.

Richards ends his definition essay with a discussion of ethos online, about the character building we do through social media and how this affects our ability to make arguments from job applications to less professional pursuits. And as Richard asks to close, "social media sites often feel meaningful insights into a person's character, and, if online self-presentation as a core component to rhetoric, then how well will your arguments stand?"

What did we learn today? We learned about the depth and detail with which writers of informative essays can engage with their subjects, from an image to be analyzed to a new term to be defined and perhaps even more. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

"Breaking Down an Image" by Jenna Pack


Source: Pack, J. (n.d.). Breaking Down an Image. In Writing commons: The home for writers. Retrieved from

"Digital Ethics" by Dan Richards


Source: Richards, D. (n.d.). Digital Ethics. In Writing commons: The home for writers. Retrieved from