Three on English
September 30, 2010
"Failure to communicate: The inability of many students to write clear, cogent sentences has costly implications for the digital age".
When you teach English to college students, you quickly realize two things.
First, many seem to have received little writing instruction in high school. I initially noticed this as an undergraduate English major at Yale, where I helped peers revise their papers. I saw it again in graduate school at Tufts, where I taught freshman writing classes. And it has also struck me at Babson, where, for the past two years, I have instructed first-year students.
The second thing English teachers realize is that correcting students’ papers is tremendously time consuming. I constantly do battle with myself to spend less than 20 minutes on a paper. At meetings, instructors are often urged not to exceed 15 minutes, but I frequently end up spending double that. This can be a genuinely frustrating experience: 50 papers stacked on the coffee table, 10 in the finished pile, and an entire afternoon gone.
Eble—an English professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—was kind enough to share her latest slang list with me. She’s been collecting such lists of “good, current campus slang” since 1972 in her undergraduate English classes. The lists are not just about collecting new slang, but about seeing what older slang is still in use, so I wasn’t surprised to find familiar terms like “absofreakinlutely,” “alrighty,” “blow off,” “craptastic,” “food coma,” “hammered,” “hook up,” “preggers,” “splitsville,” and “tramp stamp.” Though slang has a reputation for being ephemeral, some terms do stick around for decades—look at what a run “cool” has had.
"Perversely in praise of the passive voice".
Most of what you've heard about the passive voice is true: It's wordy, weaselly, and wimpy. Much academic writing, in particular, would benefit from recasting into the active voice. Some scholars are evidently fearful of sounding too lively and perhaps actually being read.
But occasionally the passive voice can be useful