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.


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  

Post a Comment

<< Home