What is flow?

[I’ve just discovered a whole stack of posts under “Drafts” … no idea when I wrote this one. It was a while back.]

As a writing instructor, I’ve been chronically frustrated by the fact that composition textbooks use words no one has ever defined.

Flow, for instance.

What is it?

Or paragraph.

What is a paragraph apart from a list of sentences separated by white space from other lists of sentences inside a longer text?

The answer is that a paragraph has a topic (topic?) and the sentences have flow.

But what is flow?

I think there’s some interesting work on flow and paragraphing etc. from the Prague School of linguistics, and probably also from the field of inquiry called stylistics. But people who write composition textbooks haven’t read it. At least, not so far as I can see.

I managed to make acquaintance with the Prague School while teaching and writing, but my books on stylistics are still waiting.

Google Master is still the Master

It really is uncanny.

After I discovered that Coursera doesn’t offer a stylistics course and left it at that, Google Master surfaced English Grammar and Style at EdX.

That sounds right up my alley. Looking at the syllabus now.

By the way, there are some online courses offered in stylistics, or were a couple of years ago when I looked

I’ll try to get those links posted at some point. 

(Add that to the list — )

What do English teachers need to know about grammar? part 2

An amazing trip down memory lane from Mom of 4:

When I was at my flagship state college, in the 60s, every English major in the College of Arts and Sciences had to earn at least a B in (1) Structure of the English Language and (2) Stylistics, in that order. The professor was outstanding, demanding – I had her for another class – and widely considered to be the toughest grader in the department. I don’t think re-taking the class was possible, and I had a number of English major friends. I do know that many prospective majors bolted to the ed school, over the requirement. The ed school required neither class, although some of the top students did take Structure.

Back in the 80s, my younger kids had a new grad (different state flagship) who practically boasted – as an English teacher – that she had never diagrammed a sentence and thought it both useless and ridiculous. She might have been a better writer if she had; I was tempted to correct her communications and send them back, and my major was not even in the humanities. I spent a lot of time supervising my kids’s work…

Continue reading

Putting things in order

Beth Randall leaves this observation:

Recently I’ve been seeing errors like this: “Putting things in order are difficult.” It seems that people are deciding whether to make a verb singular or plural by checking the status of the most recent noun (“things”) instead of the subject of the clause (“putting”). The horsemen of the apocalypse are not far behind …

And here’s Katharine:

Good diagnosis! Linguists sometimes call it “contact agreement” (as in “The horsemen of the apocalypse is not far behind…”).

I’d love to know more about when and where this kind of mistake happens.