Could the five-paragraph essay be the reason we’ve forgotten how to think?

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David Labaree published a devastating takedown of the five-paragraph essay, that pernicious container that’s corrupting the teaching of writing everywhere. He’s made me wonder about my own rules and advice for writers. In my mind, writing and thinking are two sides of the same process. Separate the two, and thinking ceases to be important, which … Continued

John Warner talks sense about how to teach writing

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Finally, I found a writing teacher in higher education whose philosophy about teaching writing matches mine. But we still need to align how we teach writing with how people actually use it at work. John Warner teachers writing at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. In his piece “We Know How To Teach Writing” … Continued

Going beyond a Washington Post academic’s prescription for college writing teachers

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Jeffrey Selingo wrote a piece called “Why can’t college graduates write coherent prose?” for the Washington Post. He’s right to require more practice, but ignores the need to practice writing that’s appropriate for a screen. Lots of college students can’t write I know. I’ve hired or mentored many of them. Writing skills are spotty and … Continued

Require my book for your students, and I’ll Skype into your class

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Dear Professor: If you’re teaching writing in 2017, consider requiring Writing Without Bullshit as a textbook. Here’s why (plus a special offer to push you over the edge): In 2017, your students ought to have a writing book that acknowledges that writing must be different for those who read on screens. It uses modern real-world examples. It addresses … Continued

Why is there so much bullshit? (infographic)

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Did you ever wonder why you spend so much of your day wading through bullshit? Every worker must consume masses of information, but most of it is poorly written, impenetrable, and frustrating to consume. How did we get here? I’ve actually studied this question. In fact, Chapter 2 of my book explains it in detail. Basically: Reading … Continued

Why students shouldn’t write on a smartphone

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If you believe the Boston Globe or the Wall Street Journal, students are increasingly writing papers on their phones. While there are some benefits, teachers ought to discourage it, since it interferes with reflection and promotes a pernicious first-draft writing habit. The articles on this topic are anecdotal Like most trend pieces, both of these articles are … Continued

Rewriting the news with stupendous verbiage in place of simple words

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California middle school teacher Leilen Shelton wants her writing students to eschew simple words like “good,” “said,” and “fun,” according to the Wall Street Journal. To demonstrate the problems with this dumb idea, I rewrote a news article about terrorism, replacing all the mundane words with longer ones. Misguided writing teachers are responsible for much of the bullshit … Continued

How we really should teach writing

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Here’s a radical idea. Let’s teach high school and college students to write stuff that they’ll actually need to write in life or in an office: emails, blog posts, social media posts, marketing copy, research reports, and presentations. Take time from analyzing Plato, Great Expectations and Catcher in the Rye and spend it instead analyzing great non-fiction writers like Mary Roach, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael … Continued