I teach a writing class at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas for adults working to earn their high school equivalency certificate. Mostly, they are a reluctant audience whose primary goal is to ace the essay portion of the test.
The nuances of writing are of little importance to them.
Most think that writing is just speech on paper.
I explain that written words cannot convey a person’s tone, inflection, mood, or expression. Grammar and punctuation help the reader “hear” their voice.
I encourage respect for the language they speak, which in most cases, is English.
“You can break the rules of writing only when you have mastered them,” I say.
“People can distinguish between a writer who breaks the rules for artistic purposes, and one who does not know the rules.”
Well-crafted writing–whether fiction or nonfiction–offers a window into to a writer’s beliefs, values, and feelings.
Grammar and punctuation infuse his or her sentences with meaning.
I love you!
I love you?
I love you.
Serious writers–not just professionals–are lifelong students of the fine points of language–how we use it, how others use it, and how it changes over time.
I ask a lot of my students, who attend classes, raise families, and work, because I know skillful writing can take them anywhere they want to go.