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comment by goobster
goobster  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: My Students Push Back

    In writing, the reader is often remote. In formal writing, the writing represents a final recorded thought.

This is an important idea, that might be hard for this generation to understand. I'm old enough to remember before the internet, when information came from books, newspapers, magazines, and the like.

These were carefully architected pieces of writing, consisting of a central thesis pitched to an editor, the editor tweaking the idea and making suggestions for key points to cover, the writer doing the research and writing the first draft, the editor responding with notes, and then a final version penned, which was copyedited by a professional, proof read, laid out, type set, and printed, then reviewed again.

But that kind of writing rarely - if ever - still happens. Even my friends who write for The Economist only get one pass by an Editor nowadays.

So - and here's my central musing - in the era of words-on-the-internet, is it a proper assumption that "formal writing represents a final recorded thought?"

Tweets get deleted constantly. Blog posts and news stories get edited after being published, without any notification that the content has been changed. Scientific papers are routinely proven to be complete fabrications, heavily slanted, or undergo heavy revisions after publication. Books on the non-fiction shelves today have proven to be total fabrications (Mutant Message Down Under, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World), and every mass-market book (ignoring all the self-published dreck out there) you pick up today is riddled with so many copyediting errors they can actually be hard to read, or the author's point can be completely muddied. Etc...

So... in this day and age, what is "formal writing"? Your dissertation that one, possibly two people, will ever crack the cover of, scan through briefly, and then never open again? Papers written for schoolwork that add nothing to world's knowledge or canon?

(Just to be clear, I'm musing off the top of my head, asking the questions that I find there... not commenting on your teaching style or intention. I, for one, am someone who greatly treasures the written word, and beautifully crafted sentences and ideas. I mourn the loss of editors and the amazing writers they honed and polished to a shining finish.)

lil  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You are right. Thanks for your thoughts. I did say "formal writing." By that I mean the thing you send or submit for consideration by others. nowaypablo's essay, for example. Of course writing can be changed and often is, but when you write your letter to the grad admissions department (am_Unition) they are not going to give you a chance to fix it.

Your ability to conform to the minutiae of written expression is an elitist way for institutions to decide which sheep-goat combo they want to enlist. I want my students to, at least, be aware of those little things even if they don't subscribe.

I'm not even being hypocritical. I prefer to read without being confused or distracted by errors.

goobster  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So true! There is a time and place to Write Well, Write Correctly. :-) But those situations are becoming more rare.

    I want my students to, at least, be aware of those little things even if they don't subscribe.

The thinking that "you need to know the rules, and break them with intent and considered purpose."

... like my refusal to put anything inside quotation marks that are not in the original quote. Example:

"Yes, I feel similarly" he said.

as opposed to

"Yes, I feel similarly," he said.

lil  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Are you 100% sure that the comma after yes was in the original quote? If you are, how do you know that the second comma was not?

Of course, do whatever you like. Generally we separate the speaker from the spoken words with a comma. That is why we say, He said, "Yes, I feel similarly." In that case, though, the comma is outside of the quotation marks and, thus, not breaking your self-imposed rule.

MadEmperorYuri  ·  892 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So I ain't a writer by any training, but I was under the impression that quotations of the spoken word followed a separate grammar. That grammar is designed to capture details of how the person said something. For example, "Yes, I feel similarly" (and here I follow @goobster's rule) conveys that the speaker said it in a way that separated "Yes" and "I feel similarly". Two ways that could have happened are with a pause or by raising the pitch of "I". Meanwhile "Yes I feel similarly" conveys that speaker spoke in a monotone, or in a breathless rush of words.

am_Unition  ·  899 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm working on my first paper! Looking forward to analyzing any differences between my manuscript and the end result that appears in the journal. Look what you've done to me, lil. :D