Greg’s Practical Advice: On Writing Mindfully

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Here’s another edition of Greg’s Practical Advice! For more info about this recurring column, check out the first post here.

One day in class, Greg asked this question: Why do college students turn in assignments that are rife with grammatical errors? The answer: because there’s no consequence! Our teachers, although well-meaning, are busy people and often let things fall through the cracks.

He told us a story of a college student he knew who had the feeling that his professors weren’t reading and critiquing his papers properly. In an assignment, he included the sentence  “If you read this line, I’ll buy you a pizza.” Sure enough – the professor didn’t notice. He tried it again in other classes – those professors didn’t notice either! Eventually, someone caught the line, and the student treated his professor to pizza.

This means that we have to take it upon ourselves to learn to write effectively. How? Read, read, read!

Textbooks and academic publications are the worst things to read if you want to learn to write well. They’re verbose, clunky, and hard to internalize. Pick up a book. Try something that is universally received as good literature. Read Hemingway if you want to learn to write in short sentences. Read Orwell for grammar and syntax. And of course – learn to write without careless mistakes! It could cost you more than a pizza someday – it might cost you the interview.

Image courtesy of Flickr user beachblogger42.

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