Three Misconceptions about Writing Assignments in College
Before I enrolled in this class, I held a lot of misconceptions about writing. I used to think it was hard and that only some people were meant to be writers. But to be a writer it takes practice, and most importantly writing is never perfect. There is always revision to be done, improvements to be made. In high school, since only my teacher would see my writing, only she would give me feedback on the words I worked so hard to make into a paper, I used to only see writing as an assignment. Second, I believed quotes spoke for themselves. I thought, yes, this sums up what I want to say and my reader will understand it as is. Third, it was engraved in my mind that a paper only contained five paragraphs, no more no less. It is unfortunate that it took me three years to take a class that has made me a better writer, academically and socially.
1. Writing only takes place in class. “Do you have a blog? Do you contribute to a fan wiki about your favorite TV show, movie, or book series? Do you tweet? If you do, you may be thinking I don’t need no stinkin’ style manual.”
Actually, writing is everywhere. Whether you see now or not. It takes place in all of your accounts: email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, blog, and many more. As high school students we may not realize that our teachers are not the only ones seeing our writing capabilities, our family members and friends are as well. In “Writing in the Genres of the Web” they suggest that writing on the web is crucial and can either be a good thing or bad thing. For example, writing on the internet about what interests you can be effective and may attract many different audiences, they then will be intrigued by your writing. The bad thing is, if you use it for a place to vent about work, school, or friends and family or disclose personal information about others it can affect how your audience will think of you (your ethos). It will affect your employment or school acceptances. It can also follow you for the rest of your life. Your writing represents you, so be careful about what you post on the internet.
According to Performing Prose “The Rhetorical Tradition” by Chris Holcomb and Jimmie M. Killingsworth, there are three different types of writing styles: high, middle, and low. It is important to know these three different styles because it will help you relate to your audience. And the audience comes first. High style, only certain audiences that know the jargon being used will understand the written piece. Middle style is written in a form of entertainment. For example, the “Mustang vaults into relevance” article by Dan Neil only pertains to those who have an interest in cars, however his writing style is entertaining which allows for other types of audiences to read it. Low style can be a business letter. All audiences can read it and understand what is being read.
2. When I use quotes, the reader will automatically understand it, no need to explain it. “Write with readers in mind.”
According to Kyle D. Stedman in “Annoying Ways People Use Sources” I found that two of his several points would have been helpful to know before entering college. First, Armadillo Roadkill, this is where writers will just drop in a quotation without introducing it first. As writers, we may feel that this is okay because the quote speaks for itself. Well, it doesn’t. The readers want to know where the source came from and whether it is credible or not. This is where ethos is most important. They should not feel surprised to see a quotation coming ahead, such as when one feels surprised to see a dead animal on the road. The second point is, Dating Spider-Man, where a writer starts or ends a paragraph with a quote. This is impolite to your readers. As a writer, it is important to present the quote with appropriate recognition and also respond to the quote, what does it mean to your paper, why was it included. Do not just say a quote without any commentary and disappear and come back with a different topic, just like spider man. It will confuse your reader.
3. We can only write five paragraphs in an essay. “Imitate writers you admire, not grammarians.”
Grammar are the rules, style is the choice. The rules are considered to be unbreakable, what has been taught in school. The choice of the writer is a convention, it changes over time. As a class we recently attended Dr. Mesle’s, a professor at UCLA, talk about writing. I felt that her talk did not pertain to only aspiring writers, but to people who use words to express themselves everyday as well. In order for others to hear our writing, we need to be interesting. How? Well, be interested yourself. Read other people’s writing, see what works, see what doesn’t. Then read your own writing, where do you find yourself getting bored and fix it. Sometimes expressing your thoughts in five paragraphs is not enough. This is a very structured format and does not leave any room for creativity. So I suggest, when you get to college do not be afraid to write more than five paragraphs, do not be afraid to make your own convention. This may include using certain tropes and schemes to a particular written piece. We are only taught metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, etc. in high school, but I feel it is just as important to learn the others such as anastrophe, ellipsis, antithesis, etc. to be ready for college level writing.
Lastly, I think it is beneficial for a student to enter college knowing how to write an effective business letter. This helps the writer understand the basis of their relationship with their reader. A writer should always be mindful of who their reader is. From this, they learn physical and social space, the purpose of the piece, and what they want their reader to get out of it. They will understand structure is important in order for their writing to flow, but it does not always need to be constrained to five paragraphs. Therefore, I think a business letter should be the only structured written piece a student should be taught.
I would like to thank my readers who took the time to read my posts. I wrote with you in mind and I hope you enjoyed it, just as much as I did writing them.