Mon 18 November 2019
In the Media
Publishing
Digital Reading
Young Writers in the News
Reports
Books & Reading
Goings On
You are here: Home > Young Writers' Hub > Blog > A lesson in teaching writing
A lesson in teaching writing
I'm agnostic about the benefits of creative-writing classes, but would-be fictioneers could do worse than emulate the greats writes Robert McCrum

Can you teach writing? Americans think you can, broadly speaking. They are happy to attempt a definition of good writing. In the UK, we are a bit more sceptical. At a pinch, we'll concede that there's good and bad usage (for instance, all serious newspapers have a style book), but we wouldn't go much beyond the horror of the split infinitive or the dangling participle. We have Henry Fowler, who is not really quotable – very conservative and rather old maidish. They have Strunk and White, whose "omit needless words" and "prefer the standard to the offbeat" have reverberated through American prose for half a century.

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style was published in 1918, has gone through countless editions and has never been seriously challenged (or should that be "seriously been challenged"?). Last month in the US, the influential critic Stanley Fish published a contemporary variation on an old theme with How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One.

All his career, Fish has grappled with one question: how do forms of writing produce forms of thought? His new book is really a long, and very interesting, footnote to that endeavour. I hope it gets published in the UK. It certainly deserves a UK audience – but I'm not going to attempt a review of it here, now. Today, I'm more interested in the idea of instructing people how to write.

I'm agnostic on the teaching-of-writing question. I have no doubt that there are some great creative-writing professors, just as there are also plenty of charlatans and timewasters. I certainly do believe that you can show would-be writers examples of good prose, as an inspiration. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that one way to limber up for one's own writing is to read, at random, from other books. Not so you fall under an influence, but just enough to be reminded about the magic potential of original prose.

For the full article and some examples of technique

The Guardian


Comments & Opinion

To add a comment about this news story please click the link below. Please note all comments are moderated before appearing.

Add Comment
Comment History
We currently have no comments for this Blog.