Friday, April 22, 2011


After several recent online discussions about the correct usage of the English language, people keep asking me why my vision of the language is so unbending. "Why can't you accept split infinitives, double and triple negations and words like "birthed" as linguistic experimentation and a sign of a person's own unique language style?" they ask. Well, let me tell you why.

I will be teaching two courses next semester, and both of them will be in English. The written component in these courses will be intense. I am already bracing myself for a new round of sentences like "A think that these text kinda sucks" and "Sarmiento and Rodo are Latin America writer's and there affect is huge." Given that I will grade at least 250 such essays over the course of the semester, you can imagine how much I'm looking forward to that. If somebody had taken the trouble to educate my students about the basics of the English grammar and spelling, I wouldn't have to waste so much time on correcting such silly mistakes and could finally try to engage with the content of what they are saying.

There is creativity and there is simple ignorance. The right to creativity, in my opinion, needs to be deserved. A student asked me yesterday, "Can I write my essay in sentences that are 30 lines long? This is what Goytisolo does, so why can't I?" So I explained that Goytisolo wrote several very popular novels and many essays and articles before he created his own unique personal style. First, you learn to write correctly and then, if there are still people who want to read your stuff, you can proceed to work on your distinctive style of writing. When, however, people try to sell sheer laziness as originality and creativity, that's just annoying.

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