Saturday, May 8, 2010

Better writing but how?

One of my clients, a graduate school of nursing here in Portland, sent me a small project to edit on Friday night. It was their updated statement of the graduate writing requirement, the writing skills they wanted their doctoral candidates to demonstrate. There was nothing new on the list and I was glad to see them so plainly stated. At the same time, I wondered how they were going to make this happen.

Most graduate programs are credit heavy with course work, skills and information, and there's no extra room to offer writing classes. At the same time, faculty are not writing teachers or editors. Even those who write well may be unconscious writers; that is, they can do it themselves and can recognize bad writing in others but do not know how to teach writing improvement.

And from my own experience as a writing teacher, it's reasonably simple to explain how things work and what the rules and standards are, and another thing entirely for students to change the writing habits of a life time. It takes time, energy, and discipline--things often in short supply for busy graduate students with other priorities. Such training needs to come decades earlier--junior high, high school, and sadly, that doesn't seem to happen much anymore.

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