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The mechanics of writing matters

Every student who has ever written something for someone has been evaluated on structure, spelling, grammar, and usage. Well, one hopes this is true, anyway. I have not had children in public school for a while. When I homeschooled, those things mattered. How can we communicate good answers unless we structure them properly?

Every rubric for a writing assignment includes a small amount for structure; usually 10% or so, depending on the teacher. When I was in university, and taking an introduction to academic writing, the prof exhorted us regularly with this reminder: don't blow off those ten little marks. They're an easy ten marks. As long as one has a manual of some kind to provide guidance, those ten marks can be earned. Many of us think instead, "It's only ten marks, who cares?" Ten marks is ten marks, and they could make a big difference.

What if my arguments are weak? What if my arguments are poorly supported? I'm going to lose marks. Wouldn't those ten marks provide a nice cushion if I just can't wrap my mind around what I want to say? Those ten marks can really help.

I've never really had a lot of trouble with the mechanics of writing. In all of my hermeneneutics papers, I got the full marks for structure, grammar, and usage. It was good that I did, because on one paper, I struggled with a particular point, and I saw that I lost marks because of it. Similarly, this past spring, on one of my papers for my Old Testament in the New Testament class, I got careless and made a few mechanical errors (I was lazy, and didn't proof read enough), and it pulled my mark down. I was mad at myself, because a little extra attention could have saved me a few marks.

Well-structured writing is a joy to read. It makes it easier for the one marking the paper as well, which means you may get it back from the teacher sooner rather than later. As someone who used to help students edit their papers, I can tell you that it is very hard to evaluate someone's writing if you can't make heads or tails of it. It takes very little effort to check things out. And that goes for blog posts, too. I've read some blog posts that could use some editing, and I've written some that needed editing. It really isn't hard work to learn proper sentence structure, grammar and usage. With manuals like The Chicago Manual of Style and A Manual for Writers, there is help. And barring that, do a little self-teaching with a high school grammar program, easily obtainable at any homeschool book seller.

School is back in session. If you have a child who balks at checking for grammar, spelling, structure, and usage, just tell him or her that a little cushion didn't hurt anyone.

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