Prior to the technological revolution, a common lament from geezers was that the younger generations no longer had a mastery of the written word. Instead of writing letters, they would talk on the telephone. Instead of reading books, they would watch television or go to the movies. The result was that literacy, or what passed for it, had declined. Read the letters of soldiers from the Great War or the Civil War and you see their point. Even the most humble citizen had good penmanship and the ability to express himself in writing.
Ironically, the technological revolution brought writing back to prominence. Word processors solved the penmanship issue, allowing anyone to type out well formatted printed text. Of course, the explosion of e-mail meant that people were back to writing letters to friends, relatives and colleagues. The explosion of websites, providing written information, meant that even the dumbest people were reading. A strange and unexpected result of the internet has been a greater demand for literacy.
Despite the gripes from today’s geezers about the kids and their phones, people are better at communicating via the written word. In fact, we make judgments about one another based on our writing skills. It’s why gold plated phonies like George Will can pass themselves off as deep thinkers. In order to have a successful career, you have to express yourself in writing to your peers and superiors. If you want to get involved in social issues, you better be able to write well. Good writing is essential knowledge.
The most important part of writing is knowing your audience. Writing a proposal to a client is different from sending a buddy an e-mail about your weekend. Formal work correspondence not only needs proper spelling and grammar, it should lack colloquialisms and slang. The client does not want to see “Let ‘er rip, tater chip” in your proposal. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger, you should not get hung up on formalism. The point of casual writing is to be accessible, so the reader can breeze through it over coffee.
Of course, writing should have a point. We are are flooded with e-mail and texts. There are millions of places on-line offering up content. The only reason for you to be writing is that you have a point that needs making. Before you sit down to compose your e-mail, letter to your Congressman, or blog post, ask yourself, “what’s the main point I want to express to the reader?” This not only helps you focus, it helps the reader determine if they should be reading whatever it is you have written. It’s only fair.
If you have ten points that come to mind, then try to arrange them by subject. There’s a good chance you can consolidate them into a few main points. Once you have a clear idea of the main topic, the point of what you’re writing, then the other points should be in support of that main topic. The items that don’t fit, can and should be left out, in order to not take away from the main points you are trying to make. This is especially true in business writing, which needs to be on-point and free of unnecessary chatter.
If you end up with a bunch of important points, that cannot be boiled down to a manageable number, it means you have tackled too broad a topic or you don’t know the material well enough to write about it. The exception is you are writing a book about something like the Civil War and you expect it to be a big book. Since hardly anyone reading this will be writing a book, a good rule of thumb is to have one main point and three supporting points. That keeps you from meandering on the page and losing focus.
Another good rule in this regard is to set limits. If you have a general point and three or four supporting points, put a word limit on the whole thing and then assign equal space to your points. Good proposal writers do this. They know the prospect will look at the first few pages and then jump to the important bits, like the pricing page. Clear breaks in the proposal, between the sections of the proposal, makes it user friendly. An essay that follows this format will quickly cover the material and please the reader.
The key in all expository writing is brevity. A 5,000 word blog post is unreadable, which is why they tend not to be read. If you need 5,000 words, you either picked too big of a topic or, most likely, you don’t know the material well enough to state your case. Humans can read about 1500 words of an argument before their minds start to drift. Similarly, if you are sending an email to a friend, remember that they are your friend. Making them read 5,000 words about your trip to the vet is a rotten thing to do to someone you like.
Then there is the issue of vocabulary. The temptation to use complex vocabulary, or insider language, should be resisted. Studies suggest that readers, when confronted with complex grammar and vocabulary, suspect the writer is trying to hide their stupidity. Never use big words when little words can do the job. Plain language and straightforward sentence structure, gets the point across and shows the reader some respect. The point is to clearly make your points. Leave the thesaurus on the shelf.
As far as resources, you cannot go wrong with a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. Another classic on writing is On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. These are two classics that all good writers recommend for a reason. A personal choice is The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. For business writing, this is a great choice. It’s a book that takes its own advise. Of course, using Google for spelling is a good idea too. I like this site for grammar opinions.
Avoid using lists. A list is great for a lunch order, a grocery run or a packing slip, but it has no place in expository writing. The reason is the reader will simply look at the headings and skip to what they want to read. Lists invite skimming. Unless you work for Teen Vogue or some other pop publication, where the readers are assumed to be dull witted, you should avoid lists in writing. Even in business writing, lists are best used as summaries at the end of a document or in a graphic to illustrate a point.
Finally, think about how the reader will be consuming your content. An e-mail to a buddy will be read on a PC or a phone. A work e-mail is most likely being read off a PC at a desk. That proposal will be printed and read as paper. The point is, reading from a phone or tablet is a different experience than the written page. If the reader is most likely using a mobile device, short paragraphs are better than long ones. If it is a web site, then you will have a range of ways to consider. Again, the idea is to make reading you easy.
Listing Strunk & White first was good to see, raised you several notches in my opinion. 🙂 It’s one of the best guides on concise writing.
Hey Zman…Always love your posts…but felt this post had nothing to do with the remaining Essential Knowledge? As if they were focused on history and evolution, and this one is a side blog.
I would agree that it was the weakest entry. I got some requests for it and one on math, which I’ve been putting off.
But hey, they all can’t be museum quality.
I remember The Economist’s Style Guide being both helpful and amusing. There is even some irony in Style Guide. Say’s law is so crudely and misleadingly summarized that “The Bestselling Guide to English Usage” becomes a useful antidote to the delusion, common among college grads of economics programs, that The Economist is trustworthy.
You can download for free a PDF copy of the bestselling guide, but the edition which I found is about twelve years old.
Glad you mentioned Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. It is a book I discovered in the summer between my discharged from the Air Force and the start of my freshman year at the University of Vermont. That little red book saved my buns countless times throughout college and has remained in my library ever since. It taught good writing by example; its brevity was its success.
Here’s a link to Orwell’s rules, all 12. The help you hone your writing.
Before you do pick the goals of the article/post/… , you need to pick the goal for which you are writing. Your post assumes everyone has the same goal, and therefore should have the same rules for writing. But that is not true. Some are writing for money, some for self-esteem, some out of desperation at conditions, some because somebody suggested they write, and so on. Some are looking for the one reader who is smarter than them, others are looking for the thousand readers who are dumber than them. Each meta-goal has its own tweak of writing choices.
I should clarify to stop short any obvious responses. I am only speaking about those writing blog posts or internet articles. You do mention business writing and so on, but the residual divisions are not fine enough.
i do get a kick out of people calling out spelling and grammar on twitter. to me it’s a highly informal medium typed on mobile phones and calling it out is just plain losing the argument, and i believe i’ve seen Mcinnes do it. Even on this comment section i take non capitalization and a few errors as a given.
The shift key: It is the friend and ally of all humans who use a typewriter or a computer with a keyboard. Like any good friend, the shift key makes few demands upon our time and energy but rewards us richly if we interact with it appropriately and without resentment.
I’ve been told for years, “you have amazing stories that you tell, you should write a book.”
I’m still waiting for a time when people are into reading rantings by someone who uses weird language, cannot self-edit to save their life, who tells stories within stories, and eventually meanders into 3 other topics not even remotely related to the original topic.
Perhaps one day my time will come, but so far, I’m not seeing it.
For fun, you should try writing a short story or two. I found that the skill set that would allow you to successfully deliver such work is completely different from the one used in forums such as this one. Making observations and articulating one’s understanding of what one sees as a strong argument, is completely different from conjuring up a story, in which large parts of it, if not most of it, is a fictional construct. I admire those who build strong real world arguments in their writings. I am in awe of those writers who can create a world and populate it with fascinating characters and a compelling plot.
ok, sign me up.
A good compliment to this blog post would be to teach “defensive reading.” A lot of what passes for exposition these days is really just thinly veiled propaganda, and the repetition of messaging is an insidious form of memetic infection. Rap music isn’t just entertainment, it destroys cognition.
That is an excellent idea. I shall steal it.
I shall steal it also. I find I have to do a LOT of this with Intro classes. Kid: “blah blah some PC tripe that ‘everybody knows,’ e.g. the female wage gap.” Me: “Really? Because I’ve been in the business world, and let me tell you, labor costs are a real killer. You mean I can cut my annual budget by **a quarter** if I hire all women? Why doesn’t every single business in America do this?” I call it “the smell test” — as in, “that assertion stinks. It doesn’t pass the smell test.” “Defensive reading” works better.
And defensive listening skills.
A popular current construct is to claim that “some say” or “some might think” in one’s argument. This is so the writer can make provocative or outrageous claims, get them out there, but not own them or need to substantiate them. In the time of Trump, this sort of thing has appeared all over the place. I believe it is a way to invent stories (“fake news”), but not be held to account for the sources or the reality of the statement. Similarly, I cringe when someone claims “everyone knows” or “everyone thinks” something. What amazing talent gives the author the ability to enter the minds of “everyone” and know what they are thinking? Just venting, I’ll stop now.
Similar to the technique used in a union shop or store: preface one’s offensive statement with “In my opinion…” or with “In some people’s opinion…”
Read “How To Read A Book,” by Mortimer Adler
Re Buckley in retrospect: He began writing just as the post WWII WASP elite was being converged by various strains of Marxism from Central & Eastern Europe disguised as academic expertise. He evidently hoped to call his fellows back to God and Country.
My conjecture is that, while he knew that his own uber-elite status was necessary for the task, he also knew that it was not sufficient. He risked his fellow Yale Bonesmen dismissing him as a crank throwback to a bygone era.
So, from the beginning, it was important to him that his fellow elitists not be able to easily dismiss him simply for violating any of the elite status markers of his (now bygone) era. In addition to ‘right background, right schools’, these status markers included classical erudition and a large vocabulary sprinkled throughout one’s communications.
But his project failed because a much diluted WASP elite failed to understand that they needed to enforce their disappearing standards against their own collective Boomer progeny. Lacking standards, their progeny preferred their Marxist academic enablers and cheerleader’s promises of a utopia later and sex, drugs and rock-and-roll right now, fueling the upheavals of the ’60’s and ’70’s.
So, in retrospect, Buckley’s project had failed by the Clinton I era. And, as Z Man said above, he either couldn’t retool for the new, more degenerate, reality or didn’t care to. I have to have some sympathy with Buckley since I now find myself in the same place.
I think of Buckley as the verbal version of the guy who insists on wearing a bow tie. The look is somewhat eccentric, but you can pull it off if you are good at what you do. But if or when you lose your mojo, it comes off as a bit ridiculous.
Yah, at some level, if you’re a self-defined intellectual that’s unsuccessful in your intellectual projects, good intentions ceases to be an effective defense against objective failure: After all, you claimed to be among the ‘best and brightest’.
FWIW, I look at Buckley similarly to the way I (sadly) look at GWB now: Elite guys who meant well and intended to stem the spreading rot, but ultimately failed. Absent God.
The internet has improved reading skills, I’m sure.
I still find myself tuning out articles when I encounter bad spelling or grammar (not that my own grammar and spelling is perfect, but I try). That is to me the downside of the typed word; we expect spellcheck to correct our errors and don’t check our written word before hitting “post comment”.
Writing by hand eliminates that problem, almost.
I think the fact that I have been on-line for so long has something to do with my militancy about the topic. I recall taking my school work to a typist and paying her to edit and type my work. Under those conditions, the expectations is that the form, grammar and spelling are perfect. The whole point of social media and ad hoc media is to bust up the formalism and let a thousand flowers bloom. The grammar bees buzzing around trying to impose antiquated rules are just wasting people’s time.
Nothing wrong with grammar nazis if they keep up with the evolution of our language.
I have done fine art painting most of my life and make a living in commercial graphics. The best keep it simple, no extraneous filler or extra copy that can’t be bothered to be read. My friend calls a good layout , clean, tight and nice.
My favorite painter is Edward Hopper. Artists can learn so much, don’t add any more detail or brush technique than is needed. His landscapes and urban scenes qualify as still lifes in their use of form.
I think of Hopper as the classic painter of the radio age. Radio programs would spin a story out of the detail of what was going on with the narrators, and do little to fill out the background and environment of the scene, leaving it to the listener to create it with a few aural cues. Hopper does the same thing with his paintings, giving you a glimpse of focused detail and letting the viewer fill in the larger environment with his imagination. Hopper is one of my favorites as well.
John Taylor Gatto goes into much about the literacy within a young, and unschooled, unindoctrinated America. His magnum opus “The Underground History of American Education” is a deep exploration of the deadening effects of compulsory schooling. “The Underground Grammarian” – a professor who wrote extensively (while pulling out the sharp knives) about the absurdities of Academ-ese is also a great internet find.
Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style is a pretty good style guide. It’s pretty modern and focuses on the “why” rather than just throwing out lists of proscriptive rules.
Downsides include his using his wife as an example of good writing and a part where he misattributes the quote “Render unto caesar…” to Shakespeare.
*Prescriptive heh heh
Never use big words when little words can do the job. Plain language and straightforward sentence structure, gets the point across and shows the reader some respect.
One time when I was a TA in a big intro course in grad school, the instructor had a meeting of the TA’s where some woman from a “writing program” came in to moderate a discussion about grading papers. I got into a big argument with some Palestinian grad student from something like PoliSci. I said that it should be possible to argue any position in simple, clear vocabulary. He took strong exception to this, arguing that sometimes you needed to use jargon to get ideas across because the discipline you were talking about had its own vocabulary. No doubt if you’re talking about vacuum cleaners you need to use the words that describe their parts and the scientific principles by which they work, but that’s not what I meant. I always suspect that using needlessly fancy words and obscure jargon is a way of either showing off how smart the writer is or of short-circuiting discussion of the underlying ideas.
On the other hand, I once came across a website into which you could paste some words and it would tell you how much education you needed to read the text, so for amusement’s sake I pasted in a paragraph from a book I wrote. Said you needed 32 years of education. And that was from one where I was intentionally trying to address a general audience. The best laid plans and all that!
As for Buckley, he always used to annoy me as he used those pointless sesquipedalian words while twirling a pencil against his forehead. Even as a teenager it seemed clear to me that it was just his version of mugging for the camera, and it just made him look foolish.
Ahhhh, academia. I remember getting a dissertation chapter rejected over and over by a reader because I “lacked sufficient theory.” (My discipline, of course, is not an overly “theoretical” one, and the chapter in question was about as straightforward a fact presentation as you’re likely to find in a grad student production). So finally I just found the most obscure French “thinker” I could, copy-pasted a paragraph of his most impenetrable gibberish into my intro, and declared this passage the key to my entire work. It sailed right through committee.
In the cognitive sciences, you see scads of jargon. It’s like the hex signs you see on Amish barns. The use of jargon is intended to scare off outsiders.
To scare off intruders, and to serve dirty filthy capitalism. Since Shakespeare ain’t writing no more sonnets, the only way to get a PhD in English literature is to constantly expand the definition of “literature.” You can make anything sound like “literature” if you use jargon so obscure that not even your fellow frauds know what you’re talking about. Academics are Marxists everywhere else, but when it comes to *their* bank accounts they put JP Morgan to shame.
That’s the other side of the jargon coin in the academy. It disguises the nonsense. The critical theory guys made an art, ironically, of this form.
Jargon and acronyms certainly can serve the cause of baffling outsiders and as status markers for the initiated. But they can also serve to communicate in a word or two or letter of three or four a precise meaning that is easily understood by the trained reader or listener. That’s why they are so prevalent in the military: They facilitate efficient and effective communication. Often they incorporate inside jokes as well.
For example, ‘MOAB’ = Mother of All Bombs (adopting an Arabic usage into the name of a device particularly useful against jihadi’s) = Large mass, Thermo-baric effect, dispersed fuel-air explosion powered, above ground burst (only) weapon that can only be delivered in dominated airspace…
A Marine buddy of mine once told me that the most important thing to know about any weapons system was its TLA. “What’s a TLA?” I aksed. “Three letter acronym,” he replied, perfectly straight-faced. I understood a lot more about the Marine Corps after that.
Speaking of modern kids’ lack of clarity, I meant “my buddy was in the Marines, explaining the Corps to a non-Marine.” I myself was not in the Marines, despite the world of good that would’ve done me in my youth.
Just like the Marines to not know about FLA’s (four letter acronyms) 😉
Just kidding. Marine officers I knew were _highly_ intelligent, just wired differently from most of the rest of us.
Perhaps somebody can tell me what teapartydoc’s ‘TLDNR’ means, then?
(I upvoted it for its brevity of wit- that, and mortal terror.)
For the prefrontally challenged, pointing and an “ook, ook” are about all the nuance we can muster.
Too Long Did Not Read
Your language becomes clear and strong, not when you can no longer add, but when you can no longer take away. Isaac Bashevis Singer.
“How can I make this shorter” is a great tool to have in your head. The old saw about brevity being the soul of wit is a great truth of writing and speaking.
Having done no fiction writing, I wonder if this applies to story telling.
It does, at least to me. I have the Singer quote on my desk. The best fiction writers in my opinion are those who write lean.
Here’s the Pascal quote–I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.
Probably, just so long as you don’t go the Full Hemingway: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To die. In the rain.”
This reminds me of the Kevin Costner acting school. “Look. In the road. A head.”
All things equal, it’s better to keep it shorter in fiction as well, but like a lot of things the rules are less firm the higher the level of mastery you achieve. If your name is Dostoyevsky and you want to go on for a couple dozen pages taking the reader through the murderer Raskolnikov’s paranoia as the detective Porfiry Petrovich slowly traps him with innocent dialogue, there’s no reason not to. Nevertheless, your verbosity still has to have some kind of point to it. In fiction you often show, rather than tell, your conclusion to the reader, but you still have to be getting your main point across either way.
I’ve thought about trying my hand at fiction. My hunch is you need to be patient when describing a scene or action. The idea being to create images in the reader’s mind. “He had a face like to lumps of coal pressed into bread dough” does more than “he had a potato face.”
Having picked the low hanging fruit of the fiction tree, and finally the secondary stuff, I reduced myself to searching for female authors, which have clearly multiplied over two generations. I have found not one to be greater than tolerable. To multiply words and descriptions is a female thing, and I do not doubt that they know their audience.
Would it be legal to kill the inventors of Powerpoint? And for good measure, the engineers that figured out how to extend the range of a 737 to make it a “coast to coast” aircraft.
Why such hate at PowerPoint? It is a tool and if used properly a powerful communications tool. Graphics communicate a lot of information “a picture is worth a 1000 words” and is good and easy reference material for later use.
I used it a lot in my work with my product lines and businesses and got pretty damn good with it. If anything, I had one higher up complain that I was wasting time with PowerPoint and I replied that it was my tool of choice and I created my presentation on the fly, that is, I didn’t do it on paper first and then create it in the app. It is a very versatile tool. The fact that you don’t like it is probably due more to the “driver” of your presentation, that is, the creator and the presenter if not one and the same.
Want to kill someone? There are alot of Lefties out their just screaming for some relief from their mental illnesses.
I personally like Michae; O Donoghue’s “How to Write Good” from the old Nat Lamp. And, I do believe that the ‘listicle’ has its place.
And suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck.
I think this is it: http://www.workableweb.com/_pages/tips_how_to_write_good.htm
Don’t mean to guck up the comments section, but this is the end piece of the Civil War memoirs my gg grandfather wrote at the end of his life. He had, at best. a 6/7th grade formal education-in one room school houses on the midwest prairie and the last labor of his life was to write this all down. At the very end he put in a speech he gave on Lincoln’s 100th birthday to his local GAR. Personally have never been able to write the clarity and directness contained in that little book.
A masterpiece of simplicity and emotion. Less than 300 of a 1200 man regiment were left by the time they marched Grand Review in 1865.
“We have met tonight to celebrate a great event—the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the greatest man who ever lived, I think. I stand before you as one of Abraham Lincoln’s boys of 1861, and I am proud of it. I well remember him making a speech down at Springfield, Illinois in the fall of 1860 while he was running for president of the United States, when he told of what a terrible war was coming on; how fathers and mothers would see their sons go into service; how wives would part from their husbands and sisters with their brothers. Then he turned to the boys of my age when he said, “Boys in less than a year many of you will be carrying guns in defense of your country.” Sure enough I was. I saw him no more until February 1861 after he had been elected president, when on his way to Washington city to be inaugurated. He passed through on the Wabash RR, stopping at different stations along the line. People gathered in great crowds to see him and hear what he had to say. At State Line City where I was he came out on the rear platform of the car he was riding in. There was a great excitement. The report was that he would be killed before he reached Washington. Old people were crying especially old ladies. He says, “don’t worry about me, I will get to Washington all right and I will be President of the United States.” Sure enough he was, and the war came on as he predicted. I went into the service. I have seen the flag torn from our ranks when I was captured in 1863 by General Van Dorn and General Forrests rebel forces and I didn’t see that flag again until I was taken out of Libby Prison to City Point, where was a flag of truce boat waiting for us with the stars and stripes flying over it. I thought It was the most beautiful sight that I ever saw. I love that dear old flag and well I might: I fought through many battles for its preservation. I followed it to the sea under Sherman. I followed it up through the Carolinas until we reached Raleigh, North Carolina where we were when the war closed. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Greenville, North Carolina. All was joy with us in the thought of seeing home and friends once more. We were cheering in the different camps throughout Sherman’s army when all at once the cheering ceased over in yonder camp and over in that camp. We began to wonder what it all meant, such a sudden change. Presently we saw a courier coming as fast as he could ride and brought the sad news that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. O what a sad hour that was. Our Captain, our great commander was slain. What shall we do? Today the children from Maine to California join with one mind and one heart in the study and love of that great man—Abraham Lincoln, the man who made it possible by the assistance of his loyal army for the stars and stripes to be the flag of the world.”
Thanks for sharing. It really is amazing how well men with just a basic education were able to communicate in writing. Of course, we have the examples that are excellent. No one kept the letters full of gibberish and cross outs. Still, it does suggest that a basic education in reading, writing and math is most of what a bright person needs from school. The rest they figure out on their own.
The gibberish and cross-outs are found in archives, along with the brutal handwriting (trust me – lots of those quotes from e.g. “the common soldier” in Civil War books aren’t necessarily because the writer was so quotable; sometimes he’s the only guy you can decipher). What they all could do, though, is write for their audience. The same guy who can’t spell the same word the same way twice can effortlessly adjust tone and diction for different audiences. Moderns have no idea this can even be done, let alone why anyone would want to. Free pro tip: When you’re writing me to beg for a grade change, a makeup exam, etc., you should NOT start with “yo dude wassup.” I wish I were kidding.
This. Having read a fair number of very old books in their original, what jumps out is how little effort was expended on form. They invested their time in getting their points across to the reader. It is where I originally got the idea of doing this blog with zero edits. I was going to just do each post as an off the top of my head sort of thing with no edits, but then the swarm of grammar bees attacked early on and I gave up on it.
That’ll be an interesting discussion for future historians — the “philosophy of blogging,” which sounds super pretentious but you know what I mean. My blog posts are more “here’s what I’m thinking about; what do you think?” rather than didactic essays, so they’re mostly stream-of-consciousness, with minimal editing – I catch the typos I catch at the time. Others are grammar bees. And Lefty writers seem to be nothing but form — they must take a class in college to learn to write like that (Snark 201: Advanced Smugness), because they all sound the same, from the NYT editorial board down to your local #BLM loon.
Grammar bees gave me a good laugh, better than than grammar nazis.
My 27 yr old son has a satisfactory IQ, received a fairly decent education, and is quite adept, verbally. However, when he attempts to put pen to paper, it is just monkey scratching and spelling errors. I don’t think he’s unique in this, at all.
I was in the rebellious same antinomian (no rules for ME_!) path, post-hormones. IMHO, basic correspondence competence (not excellence) is a skill development that most can attain. It needs hard slog, repeated practice under the eye of a benevolent, goldi-locks type (not too tight not too loose) dictator’s discipline. Nothing personal, but it probably shouldn’t be you doing this any more for obvious family dynamics reasons.
I owe a _lot_ to my faithful, no nonsense, middle school English teacher, Mrs. K. She was from SD and could fix a car, hay bailer or combine in her youth: If she absolutely had to, that is. An exemplar of actual female empowerment that should have been a feminist model. But it never was for obvious class snobbery and lack of actual competence by elite feminists reasons.
Best wishes for his success;
Actually, my point was more about how successful Millennials can be, despite not having what I consider a vital skill needed for success.
He was an A student, from 1st grade thru college, BTW. Essentially, the writing skills I taught him were constantly being undermined by teachers. For example,when he was in 4th grade, his English teacher admonished me for having him rewrite sentences with correct spelling, and despite the fact he had just had lessons in cursive writing the year before, it “really doesn’t matter if he writes in print or cursive, or spells every little thing just so.”
Kids learn quickly to do the bare minimum when that’s considered adequate for a high grade, despite what any bossy parent might think they should learn.
Now there are millions and millions of these kids, sorry, adults, out there.
In my personal experience the grammar bees are an intelligent hive marked by an asymmetrical lack of creativity.
School past 6th-8th grade or so exists to babysit young adults and little else.
There are exceptions but most young men ought to be on the way to learn a trade at 14 or so or getting ready for the military and we ought to be prepping women to marry young like 20 ish and have some children
Of course if we did that, we’d run quickly out of Commies and we can’t have that.
Honestly we just don’t have enough meaningful remunerative work for anybody, haven’t probably since the 1930’s and Kellogg’s 30 hour work week
We also don’t have a political system that can adapt to reality very well either , we still can’t seem to make ideology and policy cope with birth control pills (which have been widely available for mote than half a century) abortion (for more than two decades) automation (increasingly common for nearly a century) or the Internet (twenty years or so) much less actual hard things like immigration, trade and economic regulation
And this pervades the entire system, we can and have changed Representatives out several times and put in new blood. Little effect
Makes me think even term limits really won’t help.
My guess is in the end, we’ll get what Michael Greer calls a Catablic Collapse , the complexity gets too expensive and it all falls apart. well or we settle things with lead
Probably a good thing given the extreme danger of the technocratic state anyway
I assume you dropped in “advise” instead of “advice” preceding the Google for spelling comment just for slapstick. Appreciated.
Exactly. I added italics to make it more obvious.
While I greatly enjoy reading most of the Z Man’s writings, I have to say that this piece is pretty poor stuff. A didactic essay on the importance of clarity, accuracy and persuasiveness in writing simply should not contain as many grammatical and punctuation errors as this one does.
Those who can’t do, teach; I would advise the Z Man that those who can’t teach should confine themselves to doing.
There are zero grammar or punctuation errors. There are, however, a few well placed spelling errors.
You should take the advise offered here to heart.
Bet you were leaping at the chance to use “didactic” in a sentence!
My protruding brow furrows with the effort of thought.
Thanks, Zman, this is a saved, and is much appreciated by us sloping forehead types.
P.S.- I confess: I had to look up “didactic” whilst chipping my spear points. Curses!
“Didactic” is one of those words some smarty-pants in the 17th century coined to impress his friends. I looked up the entomology once and the word just magically appeared in the 18th century.
Was this an attack on Bill Buckley? That phony with his fake accent (mid atlantic or prep school mutation) his long ang pedantic writing , and obscure ten dollar words.
As far as lists, Gavin McInnes has that down to a weekly submission.
Buckley put on that act mostly to inoculate himself from being called a dummy bu his contemporaries. That was the go-to move in his day, when dealing with critics. His act made that dismissal impossible. Even so, like the ventriloquist’s dummy, his act took possession of him at some point. By the 90’s, he was unreadable.
Listicles are the worst. McInness is fine as a TV comic, but he really should avoid writing.