[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?
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.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of coding lately—I’m working on an upgrade to GrammarTrainer to make it more user friendly and more informative about student progress.
I mentioned the other day that in trying to revise the dyslexia passage I became convinced I couldn’t do it just by rejiggering the sentences.
That was a shock. I thought all choppiness, in all cases, could be fixed via sentence combining and de-combining. Now I’m not so sure.
In the following questions, the first sentence of a paragraph is given. Your job is to “unscramble” the rest of the paragraph by putting the next five sentences in the correct order.
The other night, trying to revise the dyslexia passage, I convinced myself it couldn’t be done without adding new content.
I’m sure that’s wrong, but I’m finding it much easier to fix the start-stop quality (technical term: choppiness) of the original by changing the content, not just the syntax.
Part of what’s distinct about Catherine’s and my curriculum is that we’re zeroing in on the basic building blocks of writing–phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
As a writing instructor, I’ve been chronically frustrated by the fact that composition textbooks use words they don’t define.
Flow, for instance.
What is flow?
What is a paragraph apart from a list of sentences separated by white space from a bunch of other lists of sentences inside a longer text?
The answer the books give is that a paragraph has a topic (what’s a topic?) and the sentences about the topic have flow.
But that’s no help because now we’re back to flow, and the books don’t tell us what flow is.
Then there’s the universal awkward, awk for short.
What is an 18-year old college freshman who writes awkward sentences to make of the word awkward?