Thursday, April 15, 2010

Style and grammar

After the wonderful party for the print department on 14 April, I wondered if I should share some of my thoughts on writing with all of you. Here is what I have to say.

Good writing

My most disappointing failure as a teacher has been my inability to convince my students of the importance of good writing.

Style is great but so is grammar.

The best writers among my students have style, a certain way with words.

Unfortunately, not a single student seems to be interested in crafting perfect sentences, in paying close attention to detail, in rigorous self-criticism.

Perfect writing demands thinking long and hard on the subject you are writing on.

An orderly mind produces uncluttered writing, and that is half the battle won in communicating your thoughts.

Arrange your ideas in a logical, sensible order that facilitates the proper building up of a story.

Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, tense, beginnings and endings, transitions.

Time after time, I find students more interested in making a page than in writing well. Little attention is paid to the need for good editing, for peeling away at unnecessary, redundant adjectives and adverbs.

The tendency to dismiss the textbook prescriptions of powerful verbs as just so much theory prevents you from becoming better writers, willy-nilly acquiring better vocabularies.

I know I sound harshly critical.

Some of my colleagues think differently.

A couple of them told me they did not agree with me, they found the students to be very good writers.

I wanted to tell them, “Maybe they are, but my standards are higher.”

As it so often happens, I let the opportunity for brilliant repartee pass.

But the truth is, my standards are higher.

And that can only help students, at least in the long run.

I’ll be thrilled if even one of you begins to exercise greater rigour over his or her writing.

If one of you decides to be a perfectionist.

1 comment:

Aparna Prakash said...

Uncle, this is a lovely write-up.