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Date Posted: 04:04:30 12/02/15 Wed
Author: Denny Whalen
Subject: Mixed messages

I listened with some amusement as one of the English teachers I co-teach with presented a lesson on adjectives and action verbs to our disinterested freshmen. The class is called English I; literature and Composition. As she stressed the value of using appropriately strong descriptive words to make nouns more interesting, and how verbs of action make a story come to life, I recalled the teachers in my many fourth grade classes pushing the use of "dazzle words" to brighten our stumbling efforts at composition. Then, I was reminded of the instruction of my college professors and the editor for whom I currently write; "cut out all the unnecessary and useless adjectives and adverbs, use the correct words, write tighter, just use ""said"" when attributing dialogue." And to force me to follow this advice, there is always the command,"cut 150 words from this piece."
In elementary school and high school, adding those "dazzle" words was a welcomed technique for meeting the required word and page count. In life, the editors want concise, non-ambiguous langguage. It's like the carpenter or mechanic using the proper tool for the job--it IS using the proper tool.
The members of writers's guild I preside over look to me as an authority, mainly I suspect because I am the oldest, my writing encompasses several genres, I have worked and been PAID, for writing, and I have the key to our meeting place. In our meetings, I find I have become the echo of my professors, and a stringent editor. I don't pat them on the back and tell them what fine writers they are, unless compliments are earned, much unlike their spouses and friends who are less honest, or less knowledgeable.
The criticisms I offer are sometimes resented and ignored , but usually appreciated as helping them become better writers. I'm not heartless, I do praise what needs praising, I console when a shoulder to lean on is needed, and I correct gently. However, I do push for improvement.
Isn't that what life dictates?

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