On Writing – Part IV

On Writing

 

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir, he engages in an activity.”

 

– William Stafford

 

Part IV

 

I was fairly competent at spelling, but not perfect.

 

I never entered a competition to test myself against others.

 

I cannot recall ever being assigned a writing exercise as punishment.

 

In elementary school I was always willing to stay behind and wash the chalk board.

 

I enjoyed games like hangman, I always enjoyed using the word “zephyr” on a new group of kids, a word which I had learned from Dungeons & Dragons.

 

I stopped paying attention in class when it came time to learn how to diagram sentences.

 

I do not remember doing anything of the sort in elementary or middle school, but it was a part of the 9th grade curriculum, and I was content to never turn in any of that homework, and fail those lessons alltogether.

 

My grammar is fine, though on occasion I write a long sentence, and I might quibble with an editor over the placement of a comma; I occasionally misuse the semicolon.

 

I remember once in the 4th grade getting stuck, experiencing a mental block on how to spell the word “use.” I spelled it, “youse” and the teacher called me to her desk about that.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

I knew that I was spelling the word wrong even as I was printing it, but for some reason I could not think my way around it.

 

As an undergraduate I often chaffed when a teacher in a philosophy class or a theology class would take points off a paper for grammar and spelling.

This did not have a huge impact on me but it did have some.

 

I was especially perturbed when they would do this in areas of grammar where the rules are “gray,” un-fixed, and where the writer has some choice.

 

I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen years old.

 

I did not take another writing class or English class, or a class of any kind  until I was nineteen.

 

I started back up at the Minneapolis Community College.

 

I was enrolled in a remedial writing course.

 

We were asked to write a couple of paragraphs every day. The first paragraphs that I turned in came back to me covered in red ink. All of the professor’s comments were related to punctuation.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

The teacher was very kind, and he explained in very simple terms how to use a comma, period, and a semicolon.

 

No one else has ever explained it so clearly.

 

Even I cannot recreate his simple mode of instruction, but following his guidance, every assignment I turned in thereafter was perfect.

 

  1. A period is used to end a complete clause
  2. A comma may be used in a place of a period at any time, because a comma can be used in two ways; either to join a complete clause to an incomplete clause, or to join two complete clauses.
  3. A semicolon can may be used to join a two complete clauses, in which the subjects or main ideas of each clause are closely related. It may also be used to break up parts of a list.

 

 

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