The Problems with Academic Writing, Grammar, and Tweeted Novels

Field Notes headerOur writers this week dig into longstanding tensions in the field:  the question of what is ‘good’ academic writing, how or why to teach grammar to college students, and how to effectively use social media as a storytelling device.  Each article encourages a critical, second look at the status quo and encourages further exploration.

Why is Academic Writing So Academic?

Have you ever wondered why academic writing is the way it is?  Why it’s so “dry but also clever, faceless but also persuasive, clear but also completist?” Or why it reads so impersonally when it’s generally intended for a small, familiar group of super-knowledgeable specialists?  The New Yorker‘s Joshua Rothman looks at why academic writing is so repellant to those outside the academy and institutional forces make it nearly impossible for professors to write more populist pieces.

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar

In The Atlantic, Michelle Navarre Cleary of DePaul’s School for New Learning argues that traditional grammar instruction doesn’t help students become better writers.  Her arguments will sound familiar to most WRD students, as she advocates focusing on writing first and targeting grammar only after students have produced editable work.  Cleary also provides an interesting look at a few colleges who have shifted their focus from traditional grammar, and the methods she describes may be pertinent to future teachers or writing program administrators.

Authors and Social Media:  Too Many Tweets?

The Economist explores the latest development in digital storytelling:  authors who have chosen to disseminate their work through Twitter.  The article suggests that there is an inevitable downside to this phenomenon as the stunt of social media distracts from the narrative.  The article goes on to suggest that Twitter is perhaps too cacophonous for novelistic storytelling.  However, as part of the battle for readers’ attention takes place through social media, how can novelists harness tools like Twitter effectively?

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