I’m studying for my Writing class and need an explanation.

thinking critically about this reading . here is the question , is Winik talking about classifying both female and male friends in her essay, is she speaking only of female friends, or is it difficult to determine whom her subject are? Support your answer

with evidence from the essay.

Division and Classification


A writer practices division by separating a class of things or ideas into categories following a clear principle or basis. In the following paragraph, journalist Robert MacNeil establishes categories of speech according to their level of formality:

It fascinates me how differently we all speak in different cir- cumstances. We have levels of formality, as in our clothing. There are very formal occasions, often requiring written English: the job application or the letter to the editor—the darksuit, serious-tie lan- guage, with everything pressed and the lint brushed off. There is our less formal out-in-the-world language—a more comfortable suit, but still respectable. There is language for close friends in the evenings, on weekends—bluejeans-and-sweat-shirt language, when it’s good to get the tie off. There is family language, even more relaxed, full of grammatical short cuts, family slang, echoes of old jokes that have become intimate shorthand—the language of paja- mas and uncombed hair. Finally, there is the language with no clothes on; the talk of couples—murmurs, sighs, grunts—language at its least self-conscious, open, vulnerable, and primitive.

–Robert MacNeil

With classification, on the other hand, a writer groups individual objects or ideas into already established categories. Division and clas- sification can operate separately but often accompany each other. Here, for example, is a passage about levers in which the writer first discusses generally how levers work. In the second paragraph, the writer uses division to establish three categories of levers and then uses classification to group individual levers into those categories:

Every lever has one fixed point called the “fulcrum” and is acted on by two forces—the “effort” (exertion of hand muscles) and the “weight” (object’s resistance). Levers work according to a



simple formula: the effort (how hard you push or pull) multiplied by its distance from the fulcrum (effort arm) equals the weight multiplied by its distance from the fulcrum (weight arm). Thus two pounds of effort exerted at a distance of four feet from the fulcrum will raise eight pounds located one foot from the fulcrum.

There are three types of levers, conventionally called “first kind,” “second kind,” and “third kind.” Levers of the first kind have the fulcrum located between the effort and the weight. Examples are a pump handle, an oar, a crowbar, a weighing balance, a pair of scissors, and a pair of pliers. Levers of the second kind have the weight in the middle and magnify the effort. Examples are the handcar crank and doors. Levers of the third kind, such as a power shovel or a baseball batter’s forearm, have the effort in the middle and always magnify the distance.

The following paragraph introduces a classification of the kinds of decisions one has to make when purchasing a mobile phone:

When you buy a mobile phone you have a great number of options in phone technology and business offerings from which
to choose; for example, plan type, coverage, minutes, data usage, voice communications, battery life, design, size, and weight. In just the area of design alone, there are even more options, each with
its own advantages and disadvantages: flip, candy-bar, clamshell, slider, and swivel or twist open (with single or dual screens) styles.

–Freddy Chessa, student

In writing, division and classification are affected directly by the writer’s practical purpose—what the writer wants to explain or prove. That purpose determines the class of things or ideas being divided and classified. For instance, a writer might divide television programs accord- ing to their audiences (adults, families, or children) and then classify indi- vidual programs into each category to show that television networks value certain audiences more than others. A writer who is concerned about violence in television programming would divide programs into those with and without fights and murders and then would classify several programs into those categories. Other writers with different pur- poses might divide television programs differently (by the day and time of broadcast, for example, or by the number of women featured in prom- inent roles) and then would classify individual programs accordingly.

Another example may help clarify how division and classification work hand in hand in writing. Suppose a sociologist wants to determine

whether income level influences voting behavior in a particular neigh- borhood. The sociologist chooses as her subject the 15 families living on Maple Street. Her goal then becomes to group these families in a way that is relevant to her purpose. She knows that she wants to di- vide the neighborhood in two ways—according to (1) income level (low, middle, and high) and (2) voting behavior (voters and nonvot- ers)—but her process of division won’t be complete until she can classify the 15 families into her five groupings.

In confidential interviews with each family, the sociologist learns what the family’s income is and whether any member of the household voted in a state or federal election in the last four years. Based on this information, she classifies each family according to her established categories and at the same time divides the neighborhood into the subclasses that are crucial to her study. Her work leads her to construct the following diagram of her divisions and classifications.

Purpose: To group 15 families according to income and voting behavior and to study the relationships between the two.

Division and Classification 463

Subject: The 15 families on Maple Street


Subclasses (basis is family income)

Subclasses (basis is voting behavior)

Low Income (less than $35,000)

Bowman Packer Eells Weiss Murray Nadel Sikorski

Middle Income ($35,000–$90,000)

Reilly Santana Lane Pfeffer Halstead

High Income (more than $90,000)

Rigby Kretz Wagner

page495image15091200 page495image15091776 page495image15091968 page495image15092544 page495image15092160

Non- Voting Non- voting voting


Reilly Santana Pfeffer Halstead

Non- voting



Rigby Kretz

Bowman Packer Eells Weiss Murray Nadel Sikorski


Conclusion: On Maple Street, there seems to be a relationship between income level and voting behavior: the low-income families are nonvoters.


The diagram on page 463 allows the sociologist to visualize her di- vision and classification system and its essential components—subject, basis or principle of division, subclasses or categories, and conclusion. Her ultimate conclusion depends on her ability to work back and forth among divisions, subclasses, and the actual families to be classified.

The following guidelines can help you use division and classifica- tion in your writing:

1. Identify a clear purpose, and use a principle of division that is appropriate to that purpose. If you want to examine the common characteristics of four-year athletic scholarship recipients at your college or university, you might consider the following principles of division—program of study, sport, place of origin, or gender. In this case, it would not be useful to divide students on the basis of their favorite type of music because that seems irrelevant to your purpose.

2. Divide your subject into unique categories. An item can belong to only one category. For example, don’t divide students as men, women, and athletes.

3. Make your division and classification complete. Your categories should account for all items in a subject class. In dividing students on the basis of geographic origin, for example, don’t consider only the United States because such a division does not account for foreign students. For your classification to be complete, every student must be placed in one of the established categories.

4. State the conclusion that your division and classification lead you to draw. For example, after conducting your division and classifi- cation of athletic scholarship recipients, you might conclude that the majority of male athletes with athletic scholarships come from the western United States.


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