Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Standards for Expository Writing

Archive 20: Articles and ideas published in the 20th century on the teaching of English that are still useful in the 21st century.

Question: Do standards exist for expository writing?

Answer: “Standards for expository writing are remarkably uniform throughout the English-speaking world. Whether the writer speaks pidgin English or tagalong (a dialect used in the Philippines), whether he uses a black or cockney dialect, when he puts ideas on paper to describe, explain, argue or define, he must follow standards—agreed upon rules—for transmitting his ideas.” P. 20.

“Standards exist and should be enforced, compassionately, by English teachers. Further, such enforcement should help students acquire the skills necessary for their economic, educational and social survival. In sum, standards for expository writing are common to the English speaking world; they can be taught and should be taught.” P. 21.

Comment: Today (2011), I’m not sure I accept this assessment that standards for expository writing are agreed on. Writing in newspapers, magazines and books seems to vary from informal to formal, from conversational to the language of textbooks. The conversational approach to writing invites the reader to participate in reading. The formal approach to writing is clear and precise. Both have their advantages. One point is sure, though: students need to be able to write formally when they are expected to. In other words, they need to understand the characteristics of informal writing and the rules required by formal writing. RayS.

Title: “Writing Standards: One Rationale.” Edward Fagan. English Journal (February 1976), 20-21.

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