I try to be a good little student. I try to adhere
to your guidelines
. Even though I am no longer in high school
, I try to avoid contractions
and avoid sentence fragments
. I attempt to connect my lists with commas, and keep the comma before the "and" even though newspapers tell me not to do so. However, some of your rules just do not apply in real life
. For instance, starting a sentence with "for instance" or "however" or "but" is not bad. Nor is it wrong to attempt prettier prose by occasionally
flouting standard rules of diction. Most importantly, you absolutely must
stop with this silly business about "five-paragraph essays."
What is the purpose of the "body paragraph
?" Allow me to speculate
that this structural convention
is an attempt to clearly separate thoughts and ideas into blocks. You are attempting to teach students how to structure their thoughts for maximum effectiveness, and thus the strict code of introduction, quote, analysis, transition, and the like. Certainly this format is appropriate for two or three page essays about one book. It is appropriate when a student is attempting to convey three major ideas with textual evidence. But there are many places when this format is not appropriate.
You may notice that I end each of my paragraphs with a "hook" or "transition" into the next paragraph. Then I launch into the next paragraph with additional explanation leading to a primary point
; upon reaching said, I move on to the next paragraph. This format is good and appropriate because it allows both the writer
to clearly delineate disparate thoughts and ideas. The eye is not tired by one long stream of text. The reader can easily jump
to an appropriate section. The addition of section headers
makes this navigation even easier. This is the new way of writing.
is the new way of publishing. Hundreds of thousands of people keep online journals called "weblogs
." Millions post in online forums, message boards, and chat rooms. Millions more use instant messages
to communicate in real time
. All of these formats rely on concise bursts of ideas clearly deliniated. In short, these mediums rely on a style
completely in opposition to your standard
are clear and widespread. People either rebel
against the rules of grammar entirely by refusing to capitalize
and use correct punctuation or they attempt to confine their online posts to your standard format. Only those who have learned differently (either through college education
, by reading
, or another method) can break this nasty habit
. And those people are forced to endure the stupidity
of a format not meant for this world.
When in life will people write essays and reports in five-paragraph form? Never in business, and rarely in academia
. I have never found a college professor
who demands a five-paragraph essay. I have never found a book, article, report, or study written as one. I have, however, seen online postings where paragraphs go on for pages, where there is no clear break between ideas, where obligatory quotes to useless information are thrown in because people think they should be.
This format is extremely detrimental
to a new digital society that is not only prevalent but is saturated
into our culture!
By all means, keep your format. Teach the five-paragraph essay. But while you're at it, teach students to write in the same format as they read. For once, teach them to use apostrophe
, instead of just reading it. Teach the writing of poetry
. For goodness sake, teach them how to write basic prose!
For the good of all humankind
, do this for us. Teach students that literary analysis
has a purpose, but it is not the only way to write. It is not even the standard way to write -- in fact, it is a method of writing that is very narrowly defined and generally not used in the real world. It is good for teaching the structure
of argument, but it is only one tool
If you disagree with me, take your typical news analysis and combine it into five neat paragraphs. See if you can do it, and then see if its more readable than before.
Next, try a dissertation
P.S. - You really do spend a lot of time obsessing
about line spacing and margin
widths as opposed to actual content
. Why is that?