What I Remember
I’ve been hearing a lot about a bad boy who’s been hanging around lately. Bad boys of writing are tapes in our head that tell us things that undercut our productivity. This particular bad boy is more of a nuisance than most because he thinks we should remember every detail about writing we learned in school.
The Every Kid Bad Boy says “What’s wrong with you? Every kid knows when to use a comma. Why don’t you?”
Don’t Go Believe Those Absolutes
Bad boys love to talk in absolutes. There isn’t one thing that every kid knows and none of them get commas really. I can attest to that as I was a teacher. Even if they did, name me a grownup who remembers half of what was taught in school. You only keep what you need and use regularly.
I’ve been thinking lately about 8th grade. I was 13 the summer after. This is what I remember most clearly:
- I can still diagram a sentence.
- I still know which seat I sat in for two classes.
- I think I know one teacher’s name and several kids’ names.
- Our English teacher told us we sprinkled commas from a salt shaker.
- Our Music Teacher liked the Ballad of the Green Beret.
- I know the name of one book we read.
My point is I don’t remember much at all of what was taught. Most of what I know about grammar, usage, mechanics. and effective, expressive writing, I learned working in publishing decades after.
For the last program on which I worked, we talked to the grownups who would be teaching it and found out they were feeling pretty uncomfortable with the idea of teaching what they felt they didn’t know either.
Even the best editors have to look things up to be sure. I don’t know any that have mastered the comma.
I’ve got a plan to run this guy out of town. It’s called power writing hits. You’ll see the first one this afternoon.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you’d like Liz to help with your writing, check out the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.