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I needs to write about this

"The world is full of lousy writers," I tell my students. I do this to encourage them to work hard to become better writers, so they'll be standouts.

Today's example of language mangling comes from a promo commercial on WGRZ-TV in Buffalo. A news reporter is explaining how it's important to ask the right questions, tough questions (and here's where the lousy writing surfaces), "the questions that you, the viewer, believe needs to be asked."

What kills me is that this spot has been running for weeks. I don't know—maybe people don't care about these things anymore. But people who make a living with the language, people like TV reporters, damned well should.

The rules of grammar never change. They stand still so you can grab them and use them to communicate clearly. How can a reporter be trusted to get elusive, slippery facts right if she can't correctly use rules that stand still?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2014 09:57 pm (UTC)
I learned very, very little about the English language in school. That was when we had to diagram sentences, which I did not understand whatsoever and which I believed was punishment. I can't tell an adverb from a dangling participle.

98% of what I know about language and writing I learned from reading and then mimicking the style of authors now long passed.
Dec. 31st, 2014 10:15 pm (UTC)
I hear you. I read voraciously all the way through high school, and that's the best way to learn grammar, punctuation, etc. But when writers know the rules (even just a couple of them), it makes them better writers.

I hate to make general assumptions, but reading anything longer than a tweet or Facebook post doesn't seem to be a priority for the students I deal with. Hell—many of them don't even bother reading the syllabus, or, even worse, a 200-word essay prompt.

And, frustrations aside, that's all OK with me. If students were good writers, then I wouldn't have a job.
Dec. 31st, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
We called them dinosaurs, we hated them because they were so meticulous and picky. They carved up an essay and required it to be handed in before days end with their corrections in place...Where have you gone Doris Leary, Helen Hannigan, and Mary Driscoll. In 8th grade Miss Hannigan had us copy grammar rules everyday. If I had any idea of their value I would have never thrown them away. Holiday
Jan. 1st, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
Helen Hannigan and Mary Driscoll were two of the most important teachers in my life.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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