Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Delicate Balance

In my last groundbreaking article on writing habits, I encounraged writers -- specifically those who struggle writing discernable sentences -- to explain things to our new friend Bunce the bunny.

HOWEVER: This prescription is not always the right one! Some writers fall to the other end of the spectrum, the dreaded...

Write-Like-a-Text-Message Side!

ZOMG! srsly! ur graed may b on teh line!1!!!1!!eleventy!!!

As much as I love lolspeak, I’m sad to say that neither the academic nor business community have accepted that beautiful dialect. Therefore, we must persevere in our own, proper tongue: English!

The Write-Like-a-Text-Message Side of our writing spectrum rarely appears as dramatically as lolspeak, but I have seen definitive incarnations of near-text message style writing in my years as a tutor. Here are some handy rules for those who may write too casually:

No Contractions
This is a pretty sound and universal rule. The only places for contractions (e.g. I’m, wanna, can’t, and won’t) include: dialogue, informal emails, blog posts, and ransom notes. In other words, no contractions in essays, no contractions in reports, no contractions in applications, and no contractions in anything important.*

Controlled Abbreviations
We must resist the urge to write OK instead of okay. We must -- AT ALL COSTS -- avoid writing lol, omg, and even wrt (which means with respect to). Acceptable abbreviations include: titles (e.g. Mr. or Dr.), organizations (e.g. IMF, PETA, or EU), or other well-known acronyms or abbreviations (e.g. USA or i.e. or e.g.). Some writers -- me included – subscribe to the school of thought that a proper paper should not contain Latin abbreviations (which includes e.g. and i.e.).**

Controlled Interjections
Sometimes when I write a paper, you know, I end up putting all these, like, interjections in it, and they only make it kind of like harder to read. The paper sounds HIGHLY conversational and makes the reader/teacher/grader/boss convinced that there is no base of effort or knowledge behind the writing. We must judiciously employ interjections and completely avoid: you know, kind of, sort of, and unnecessary use of like.

No You
There are few grammatical conventions that I hate more the than the second person, the awful you. As a reader, it makes me defensive and confused: At first, I assume the speaker or writer is accusing me of being a certain way (I’ve read papers that started “You never know what to expect when…” and come away thinking -- like I hell I didn’t know what to expect! I knew exactly how this or that was going to be!). The second reaction is likely confusion because -- at some point -- I may notice that I’m not the target audience (Such as papers that have told me “…the best way to take care of your kids.” Well, I’m sorry paper, but unless you count three video game consoles and two computers offspring, then I am childless.)

Writing can be much like driving: If we drive to slow, or write too lackadaisically, we risk trouble just as much as if we drive too fast, or write too “scientifically.” Instead, we must strike a balance between these twin dangers and achieve the delicate balance.

Here's a pitcherr of a cat that the Writing Center shood bai:


*It should be understood that I am not attempting to imply that I do not care about this blog post. I care deeply for anything my favorite writer, me, writes.

**Readers would be wise to note that this blog post is not a proper piece of writing.

Bradley Woodrum also writes for Homebody and Woman and Cubs Stats and enjoys inventing words like "muscley."

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