Tracker Pixel for Entry

Write This Way

by Dr. Elizabeth Nawrot | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Live and Learn | December 10th, 2015

I’m seeing red. It’s no coincidence this is the color of ink generations of teachers have used when correcting papers. I may not be an English teacher, but the slow, torturous suffering of the written word is enough to make me bristle. My note in the margin, “which is used for dependent clauses and does not begin a new sentence,” written in jaunty purple ink just doesn’t express the necessary gravitas.

Perhaps I’m being nitpicky. If lyrics from the preset channels on my teenager’s car radio are any indication, my language sensibilities went extinct with the dinosaurs. Perhaps I should embrace the linguistic diversity of our ever-evolving lexicon? Was Geoffrey Pullman right in his English Todayarticle calling the Strunk and White’s classic “Elements of Style” an “error-stuffed, time-wasting, unkillable zombie of a book”? I have been in academia for more than 30 years so my view from the top of the Ivory Tower might be cloudy. Does anyone really care about grammar anymore, or am I just keeping Bic in business?

Of course students are concerned with getting the skills that get them the jobs, particularly those jobs in emerging areas such as technology, business and global affairs. But higher education is more than just job training; no matter what the major, the emphasis is on developing skills like critical thinking, communicating and problem solving. These so-called soft skills are in demand in the workplace every bit as much as the technical skills. According to a recent report at CNBC.com, “Communication skills ranked as the most or second-most desired baseline skill in all industries … Organizational skills and writing abilities were also in high demand across the board”.

When it comes to writing, students are often frustrated by what is the “right” way to write? It seems that each professor wants something different: short answers, long essays, abstracts, lab reports or term papers, and the forms are almost as endless as the citations styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). And just when you’ve figured out how to write for one professor, the class ends and you have to learn a new form for another class, like you’re writing some kind of discourse decathlon. A childhood spent with a handful of years in “grammar” school is not enough to master the linguistic vicissitudes of the college classroom, or the “real world” for that matter. Pioneering novelist Gertrude Stein recognized that “writing for the normal person is too complicated an activity to be indulged in automatically.”

But practicing a variety of written forms is the key to mastering function, and the function of language is communication. Being able to express yourself and communicate ideas across a wide range of disciplines, audiences and styles is key. And of course this is why skilled writing is such a valued commodity, in and out of academia. Learning the rules of successful and effective writing goes well beyond diagramming sentences. MIT linguist turned activist Noam Chomsky says that language, “for all it’s open endedness, it’s not a free for all, it obeys rules and patterns.”

OK, so if you’re Gertrude Stein you can be forgiven for bending the rules. But even her famously nonsensical quote, “There is no there there,” is grammatically correct (she didn’t write, “Their is no there they’re”). Adherence to the rules of grammar even allows us to make some sense of the very strange poem in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” that begins, “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.” Elbow deep in red ink-stained term papers, I can sympathize with Alice. And when the grammacide is more than I can take, I turn to the classics. Wasn’t it Keats who wrote:

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, O Grammarly.com! O Online Writing Lab!

Who say’st unto you, replace that period with a comma,

For a dependent clause is not a sentence.

That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

[Editor’s note: Dr. Nawrot is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Child Development Lab at MSUM. She earned a Masters degree and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley, and has been working on her M.r.s. and M.o.M. degrees for over 20 years.]

RECENTLY IN

Live and Learn

Tracker Pixel for Entry Spring Packages Winnipeg Tracker Pixel for Entry SkootersPlumbing Tracker Pixel for Entry LionsWay2 Tracker Pixel for Entry The Sweet Trip Winnipeg

Recently in:

FARGO– A legislator, hopeful politicians, and business owners appealed to the governor’s office Monday morning with hopes of an executive order to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Net Neutrality.The…

Last week we talked about my lack of photographic skills and then what the heck am I going to do with all of these bad pictures that I take. Storage options for those pictures continues this week:RAIDAnother storage option is a…

Wednesday, April 25, 9pm-howlingThe Aquarium, 226 Broadway, FargoYou may have heard their sick beats on 95.9 lpfm on Friday's from 5pm-midnight. Now you can dance your pants off in the presence of the minds behind ”The Riverside…

According to Greek mythology Hades is to blame for the Earth’s mournful state of winter. The story involves Persephone the goddess of nature and Hades the god of the underworld in a classic caper of obsession, abduction, and…

Does That Old-Time Religion Signal The End Of Rational Thought?An incident about gender identity in the Maryland Legislature last week magnified a microcosm of what we are going through in the United States about religion in the…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Oysters

by HPR Staff

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comAs a North Dakota native, raw oysters are just not a food staple that I think about. We are about as far from the coasts as we can get and we have a backyard full of tasty local cuisine, like walleye…

Record Store Day is all about music artists and fans celebrating “the culture of the independently owned record store.” A variety of unique and special releases are pressed for Record Store Day and those are only distributed to…

Leveraging whatever name-brand clout it might carry with the target demographic, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” -- the onscreen title for the pre and post-credit sequences -- won’t make the kind of impact previously enjoyed by…

There are so many cool places to be in Austin during the South by Southwest Festival -- like the Flatstock Market, which displays the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The show features posters of varying styles,…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

Calm was the day in late JulyAnd bright was the sun across the skyBut inside his chest the calm had brokenGovernor Sinner had started croakin’.I laughed the first time I read that, and I’m still laughing every time I think…