Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/23/2009

Bad Writing Habits You Learned In School


Is a new paradigm for teaching “writing” developing? Or has one already evolved out of the crushing current of new generation need for time-saving shortcuts.

Jon Morrow, an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and Cofounder of Partnering Profits, discusses the bad habits that we probably learned in school:

What is good writing?

Ask an English teacher, and they’ll tell you good writing is grammatically correct. They’ll tell you it makes a point and supports it with evidence. Maybe, if they’re really honest, they’ll admit it has a scholarly tone — prose that sounds like Jane Austen earns an A, while a paper that could’ve been written by Willie Nelson scores a B (or worse).

Not all English teachers abide by this system, but the vast majority do. Just look at the writing of most graduates, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s proper, polite, and just polished enough not to embarrass anyone. Mission accomplished, as far as our schools are concerned.

But let me ask you something:

Is that really good writing?

I think most good writers listen to the way English teachers want them to write and think, “This isn’t real. It has no feeling, no distinctiveness, no oomph. You’re the only person in the world who would willingly read it. Everyone else would rather chew off their own eyelids than read more than three pages of this boring crap.” And they’re right.

Compare an award-winning essay to a best-selling novel, and you’ll notice that they are written in almost completely different languages. Some of it has to do with the audience, sure. It’s natural to write differently for academics than you would for everyday people. But my question is: who are you going to spend more time writing for?

My guess: everyday people — your family and friends, your blog audience, your boss at work, maybe even a Letter to the Editor every now and again. None of them are academics. None of them want to read an essay.

Personally, I think good writing doesn’t have to be educated or well supported or even grammatically correct. It does have to be interesting enough that other people want to read it. Much of what comes out of high schools and universities fails this test, not because our students are incapable of saying anything interesting, but because a well-meaning but flawed academic system has taught them a lot of bad habits.

Let’s go through some of them…Read more at http://alturl.com/evpt

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