Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Knowing what you're doing ...

... Book Review: In the Basement of the Ivory Tower - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Once upon a time I taught English composition. I had the advantage that I had already worked for a while at a journal and had published my first professional review. I also understood that my job was to be a writing instructor. The syllabus I was supposed to follow had obviously been put together by someone with little or no real-world publishing experience. So I ignored it. I reminded my students that they had things on their minds, things they thought about and talked about. Maybe they even had some things they'd like to tell me. So I asked them to write me a letter -- and not to worry about grammar and usage -- just say what they wanted to say the way they would say it to anybody.
They seemed enthusiastic about the idea and what they turned in proved interesting. So, I sat down with each of them and showed them how to improve what they had written, pointing out how, in some cases, the ideas could be arranged better, and how they might have phrased things better. This enabled them to understand that there was no great mystery to writing clearly and correctly. The aim was not to turn them into Tolstoys, but to show them how to be able to communicate on paper. They all ended up doing quite well, that is, learning the subject.

1 comment:

  1. That calls for the kind of commitment that few are willing to show, alas!