Critiquing in a Visual Age
It will be prudent to first address some of the positive aspects observed in the text.  An exemplary case is the implementation of actual articles written in popular magazines and other types of physical media, in addition to electronic media works within the text that help students become better acquainted with the specific ideas that the authors intended to communicate.  Another positive attribute possessed by the work is the quality and depth of explanation that Odell and Katz provide in order to explain why it is necessary for students (and indeed anyone writing in today’s society) to realize that it is becoming increasingly apparent that the visual appeal of a piece of writing is equally important to the content of a piece of writing.  The text relays the idea that a piece of writing must be a synthesis of developed writing and carefully designed appearance.  Another attractive aspect of the work is its versatility.  To clarify, the book covers a wide array of different types of works, advertisements and so forth, and addresses how each respective medium should be structured so that it is appealing to potential investors (this could be readers or customers any number of audiences are taken into consideration).   Also it gives students who are new to writing at a college level countless helpful guidelines to follow when writing in each different type of text.

The book on the whole functions quite well, yet as is the case with most textbooks, the work does contain some areas which might elicit a rather unintended response.  An example of this arises in the areas that sometimes appear at the end of chapters or occasionally in the margins along side certain paragraphs, which direct students to visit the textbook website.  These were created by the authors in order to give students another opportunity to further their understanding of the information that was just presented.  However, in some cases the light blue boxes labeled “Exercises” are sometimes vague in regards to what precisely will take place within the corresponding exercise if the students or faculty were to visit the site.  This creates a rather strange dilemma.  The students or their professors may want to try some further exercises yet they may wish for a bit more information as to what types of information those exercises might contain.  A further discomfort for those who are assigned the examples regardless of the said examples inexplicitness (commuters or students home for the weekend) and who are subject to the joys of dial-up internet, is that their technology at home is so terribly slow that it is implausible to attempt to access the net a reasonable speed. As gas prices are also at shocking high, this makes travel back and forth from the campus to home a burden.  This also leads to an interesting problem for any student or instructor who has dial-up internet at home and wishes to visit the website on a regular basis.  These frequent references to the textbook website ideally provide the reader with tools to further utilize the information presented by the authors. Yet this aspiration’s failing may be expressed by discouraged readers who lack sufficient technology to enjoy the intended productivity of these exercises.

Derek Smith