Tutor profile: Olivia S.
What makes "good" writing?
Above all else, "good" writing is communicatively effective. What do I mean by that? Communicative effectiveness refers to the ability of a piece of writing to communicate its intended meaning to a reader. This is done primarily by utilizing style and conventions. Style refers to the tone, the format, and structure of a piece of writing. For example, the distinctive structure of a business letter signals the reader to what they are about to read. The reader will see the heading and the salutation, notice that the paragraphs are not indented, and that the font is simple and small in size. The reader will begin reading this piece of writing anticipating a professional tone using first person point of view. When the writer follows the expectations of style, the writing is communicatively effective. The second component, conventions, refers to grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax. The writer needs to use enough correct conventions so that the writing is understandable. Readers carry expectations about the formality of conventions for different forms of writing. For example, a personal narrative might use grammatically incorrect phrases such as "y'all", but this would not be appropriate for a business letter. By understanding expectations and mastering the anticipated style and conventions, communicatively effective writing can be produced by anyone.
Why do we need to study literature?
Many reluctant readers ask these questions on a regular basis: Why do we need to read books that were written a hundred years ago? Why do they matter now? And of course, there are countless arguments to be made in defense of the classics, but all of them can be boiled down to this: We need to study the literature of the past in order to continue inventing the literature of the future. Whether today's students know it or not, they are all writers and they are constantly composing in text messages and social media. Slang and internet speak dominate verbal and written conversation, and this proud tradition of inventing new words and new meanings was started with Shakespeare. It is a commonly known fact that Shakespeare is responsible for inventing many of the words we commonly use in the English language; from scuffle, to madcap, to gossip. We study Shakespeare in part to know how language is invented, and how we can continue inventing it today. Without the study of the past, we would not have the language of the future: woke, savage, and hype, among other new creations. This is only one example of the past being used to define the present and future, countless other cases can be made for why literature is still important and relevant today.
What is “English”?
English is one of the most broad and most specific subjects that we study in school. It is all encompassing of grammar, theme, storytelling, and communication, but it also asks us to consider incredibly specific questions: What is a prepositional phrase? How does color symbolism contribute to the theme of The Great Gatsby? How do certain words or phrases contribute to the tone of a business letter? Therefore, the study of English is both a study of the very specific experience— analyzing a single poem— as well as the study of the breadth of human experience. Being a student of English means being a student of history, of science, of art, of people. English is a subject that is deceptively complex and difficult to study alone— which is why interacting with schools, tutors, and fellow students is so critical to understanding.
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