Rules vs. Passion in the English World

At my writing center job and in my personal life, I’ve been exploring the dichotomy between the rules of English and the passion that goes into strong content. Grammar and rules are obviously important. I’m one of those people who gets disgusted if they find too many errors in something I’m reading. I like my citations and my grammar to be perfect, although I often fall short.

I recently read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about student’s obsession with citations. At the writing center, we get really frustrated when  people utilize our services exclusively to ask us citation questions. We never mind helping, but we’d much rather work on the quality of the writing than the perfecting of inane citations. This article was entertaining but also highlighted some important issues.

Author of the article, Kurt Schick, suggests:

“Professors’ overattention to flawless citation (or grammar) creates predictable results: Students expend a disproportionate amount of precious time and attention trying to avoid making mistakes. Soon, they also begin to associate “good” writing with mechanically following rules rather than developing good ideas.”

I agree. I understand how important citations are, but citations formats seem to be arbitrary and random at times. As long as someone can determine where you’re information comes from, does a comma really matter more than my ideas?

I also watched this passionate video about English snobs (which all English people revert to at times).

I can’t really follow that up. English is about passion and the greatest writers know that. What about those of us who aren’t yet the greatest?

What are your thoughts?


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