Friday, February 25, 2011

Can Good Writing Be Taught?

Can good writing be taught? Maybe not, hazards Robert McCrum in a Guardian piece for which commenting is now closed.
Can you teach writing? Americans think you can, broadly speaking. They are happy to attempt a definition of good writing. In the UK, we are a bit more sceptical. At a pinch, we'll concede that there's good and bad usage (for instance, all serious newspapers have a style book), but we wouldn't go much beyond the horror of the split infinitive or the dangling participle. We have Henry Fowler, who is not really quotable – very conservative and rather old maidish. They have Strunk and White, whose "omit needless words" and "prefer the standard to the offbeat" have reverberated through American prose for half a century.
If anyone has reason to have given deep thought to the question it’s McCrum, whose Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language (W.W. Norton) we looked at in this space last June.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Bluestalking said...

You can definitely teach improved writing. Can you make just anyone into David Foster Wallace? Mmm, methinks not.

Friday, February 25, 2011 at 2:04:00 PM PST  
Blogger Jeff Adair said...

I'll agree with that. Genius can't be taught.

Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 11:51:00 AM PST  

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