Monday, May 25, 2009

Advice to a college freshman

A fried of mine is a college freshman. She is a master of all the usual styles of academic writing: MLA, Chicago, APA. But she is, as are all underclassmen at that university, required to take a class on how to write a research paper. This was my advice to her.

I have given this a lot of thought, and, I think, that to be a good writer, especially a good academic writer, one must have poetry in one's heart. But good poetry. Poetry that enthralls. I think the King James version Psalms, Kipling's "Gods of the Copybook Headings", and Longfellow's "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" are all examples of the the kind of poetry I mean.

Do not concede the use of our language to the heartless, the scientist, the academic. They strip it of beauty and would reduce it, if they were able, to mere logic and math. They make up rules about what is and what isn't academic writing style. They are wrong. English is too beautiful for us to let them wrap it in straight jackets and chains. Read poetry. Fill your heart with it. Let it flow from your fingertips even when writing about science; especially when writing about science.

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