Novelist Michael Laser was hired to teach university freshmen to write essays. But he discovered his students can’t write clear, grammatically correct sentences.
Teaching writing to first-year students “has become an academic specialty with its own dominant philosophy,” Laser writes. Teaching “critical thinking” is in. Teaching grammar is out.
He’s supposed to stress “developing an arguable thesis, presenting strong supporting arguments, using quotations as evidence.”
But his students write so badly it hurts.
- Neglecting to recognize the horrors those people endure allow people to go to war more easily.
- The money in the household shared between Nora and Torvald contrast the idea of a happy marriage.
- The similarities among the speakers and their author are illustrated differently through their speaker’s separate tones.
While teaching essay writing, Laser “added lessons on revising awkward phrases and replacing fuzzy abstractions with more concrete specifics.” Students could recognize the difference between bad and better writing, but struggled to revise “terrible sentences.” He saw little improvement in their writing.
In the future, he plans to use John Maguire’s manual, which “stresses concrete nouns, active verbs, and conciseness.” But he’s looking for more advice on how to help his students.
I used to advise students to read their work aloud. Does it sound clunky? It is. If you were explaining this idea to a friend, what would you say?