Friday, March 4, 2011

Practicing Writing: The Ten-Minute Essay and Standard Written English

Question: How did I, RayS., help students understand the difference between an informal style and standard written English?

Answer: The ten-minute essay (continued).

What follows is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, From Passive to Active in High School English.

The Ten-Minute Essays and Standard Written English
The second time around in the school year, I had another purpose for the ten-minute essays: to demonstrate the meaning of standard written English.

For me, one of the most important questions I had to answer for students was what I meant by “standard written English.” Most of the students in the beginning used informal, conversational expression. They wrote as they spoke. They really did not understand what I meant by “standard written English.”

I tried to explain to them that the more they wrote as they spoke, the further they were from standard written English. The characteristics of conversation are the use of contractions. Needless repetition of words. The use of “there” and “It” as the subjects” of a sentence. Failure to use clear references for the demonstrative  pronouns, “this,” “that,” “these” and “those.” Imprecise word choice,  represented by the noun “thing,” and the verbs, “get,” “getting,” “got.” Problems with passive/active voice. Problems with dangling and misplaced modifiers, and problems with parallel structure.

Next blog: The ten-minute essay and standard written English, continued.

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