Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Topic: Oral Culture and Writing

10-second review: Ten minutes a day enabled me to help students eliminate the influence of an oral culture on writing.

Comment: What are the elements of an oral culture? Repetition. The over-use of “it,” “get,” “thing,” “there,” and demonstrative pronouns without clear antecedents. Unnecessarily repeated words.

My purpose was to introduce students to “formal style.”

Students came to class prepared to write on a subject of their choice. They wrote for ten minutes as well as they could write. At the end of ten minutes, I collected the papers.

That night, I rewrote their original 10-minute essays, showing them how to eliminate “it,” “get,” “thing,” “there” and any unnecessarily repeated words. I also showed them how to make clear the antecedents of the demonstrative pronouns, “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.”

Example: “That was what I meant” became: “That negative attitude was what I meant by alienating his audience.”

10 minutes a day. 10-minute essays. I returned them corrected. They rewrote, incorporating any changes. The results? By the end of the semester, they wrote clearly, specifically and precisely. They had eliminated the influence of the oral culture from their writing.

Of course, I pointed out that increasing repetition also made their writing less formal. And informality in writing has some advantages, depending on the audience. Now, if they needed to write formally—or informally—they could do so. RayS.

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