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Literacy skills are about communication, and so they intrinsically involve the communication and extraction of meaning. Expression is the process by which a person is able to start with an internal thought and end up producing complex sounds or marks on a page, from which other people can extract meaning. As such, it requires a series of specific decisions and actions that lead from the idea to the final form expressed as a message or text.

Expression requires coordination across different types of mental representations, so that one represenation leads fluently to the next. Fluent expression occurs when someone engages a purpose within a social context, conceptualizes what to say in order achieve that purpose, structures that message so as to express it in a logical order, finds the right phrasing, and transcribes it letter by letter, whether manually or with a keyboard.

To the extent that people can carry out this entire process fluently and effectively, we are likely to consider them better writers, though in fact an expert writer makes heavy use of interpretation and deliberation—a so-called knowledge-transforming approach to writing. Novice writers are more likely to rely exclusively on a knowledge-telling approach to writing, which emphasizes structuring, phrasing, and transcribing over the development of content.

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