kitchen table math, the sequel: the natural

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the natural

I read a fabulous passage the other night re: process writing, purportedly drawn from Peter Elbow's work. Can't track down the original to confirm, but it's too droll to pass up posting here:
Start off writing as naturally and comfortably as possible. Don’t think about grammar or about any minor matters of phrasing or spelling. Think only about what you want to say....

Next . . . get your text to say exactly what you want it to say—but still without worrying about minor matters of phrasing, grammar, or spelling....

Now turn your attention to phrasing, spelling, and grammar. . . . [R]ead it aloud to yourself ...and read your piece aloud to one or two listeners. . . . Give your final, typed version to another person to copy-edit.

Tryg Thoreson on Peter Elbow
My favorite part is paragraph 2, where you get your text to say exactly what you want it to say without worrying about spelling, grammar, or "phrasing."

I mean, jeez. If we're dispensing with phrasing, why not go all the way and dispense with writing altogether?

Writing is hard.

Talking is easier.

Also, where are all the volunteer copy editors? Do they copy edit blog posts?

Thoreson's article is a lot of fun.


Anonymous said...

I think that you are supposed to marry your copy editor.

Students are expected to copy edit each other's work, which is fine if they actually understand punctuation and grammar well enough to do so.

Glen said...

I'm not sure if you saw "60 Minutes" a couple of weeks ago, but there was a story about a Nevada manufacturer of machine components who was complaining about being unable to fill job openings. The CEO made a statement that was roughly (from memory here): "We get people--some of them college graduates--who apply for a job who can't write a sentence without making mistakes. We make components for aircraft. People's lives depend on us. We're in the business of *perfection*. If you can't write a sentence without errors, you can't work here."