Don’t Listen to ‘Em

Your teachers, that is.

Most will lead you astray.  Before they “teach” you how to write, read something they’ve written.  I bet nine times out of ten it will sound and read like aca-bureaucratic garble. 

Aca here stands for academic, and I team it with bureaucratic because there’s been a great meeting of the minds over the decades.  Unfortunately, this meeting of the minds has had nothing to do with clarity of expression or a return to simplicity in writing.  Rather, it’s a recognition that a) all money flows from government in one form or another, so you must write and speak in bureaucratese if you’re an academic or a bureaucrat, and b) the less well you’re understand and the more impossible you are to figure out, the more the acacrats will worship you.  Befuddle them, and they’ll beat a path to your door.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this except I bring it up because a student in one of my writing classes the other night reminded me of the sad state of writing at the university teaching level.  I suggested starting a student’s introductory paragraph with a question, and another student shot back adamantly, “Dr. So-and-So taught us never to start an essay with a question.”

Now, where Dr. So-and-So got this mandate from the English gods on high I have no idea, so I enquired what subject this person taught.  “Social services” was the answer.

I rest my case.

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