by Milo
free college text book


    You probably have seen a lot of this before, some of it way back from your earliest schooling.

    In high school they tried to teach you the mechanics of writing (especially spelling, grammar, and usage).

    The vast majority of your college professors know these mechanical rules fairly well — not just the English teachers. And the vast majority of your college professors are going to hold you to these mechanical rules, possibly even flunking you over them — in pretty much any class, not just English 101.

    But your college professors will expect more than mere mechnical skill.

    You will be expected to propose interesting ideas, demonstrate evidence to support your ideas, and defend your ideas.

    You will be expected to write something interesting. Something compelling. Something that shows critical thought.

    You will be expected to take your writing to a higher level.

    This time it is for real.

first rule of good writing

    The first (and possibly only) rule of good writing is that writing must achieve the effect that is desired.

    Different kinds of writing have different intended effects. The rules are very different for an academic thesis, a stage play, a movie screenplay, a fictional novel, a children’s storybook, a poem, a short story, a web page (or web site), a radio drama, newspaper article, a television commercial, a radio advertisement, a non-fiction book, a love letter, a business letter, a memo, etc.

    At the 1968 Masters golf tournament, Roberto DeVicenzo signed a score card that had an incorrect number on it. because of pro golf rules, the mistake dropped DeVicenzo from a first place tie (with an 18-hole playoff the next day) to second place. He explained to reporters “What a stupid I am.”

    As a native of Argentina, DeVicenzo had the excuse that he was speaking a foreign language. Despite the broken English, DeVicenzo met the first rule by clearly communicating his anguish.

breaking the rules

    Good writers often intentionally break the rules.

    Of course, you have to know the rule in order to intentionally break it — and to know why it was vital to the success of your writing to break that rule.

    Ernest Hemingway intentionally wrote sentences that started with the word “And”, breaking the old rule that sentences can never start with a conjunction. Now it is common for writers to start sentences with “and”, “but”, and sometimes even “yet” (note that I intentionally broke a rule of quotation marks).

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) purposely used the word “ain’t”, as in “A cat ain’t ever anybody’s slave or serf or servant, and can’t be — it ain’t in him to be.” from “The Refuge of the Derelicts”.

    Robert A. Heinlein popularized the acronym “TANSTAAFL” and the corresponding adage “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” (ain't and a double negative) in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (note that the phrase long predates Heilein’s use).

    Of course, your professors may not realize your brilliance if you intentionally break the rules in your next term paper or assignment.

Credits:Copyright © 2008 Milo of www.ThisSideofSanity.com.

If you have comments or suggestions, please contact contact00@ThisSideofSanity.com and label your message “summary”.

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    Copyright © 2008 Milo

    Last Updated: September 1, 2008

    Created: August 30, 2008

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