Monday 2 July 2012

Teaching proposal: children as school sub-editors

One way to help children present writing in acceptable ways is to ask them to be 'sub-editors'. This profession is made up of people who know how to look at 'text' and make it correct according to the rules of the particular publishing house they are working for. (Many 'rules' vary from publishing house to publishing house, by the way, and this in itself is apparent moving between books, magazines, comics, street signs, public information and so on.)

So here's a proposal for schools: they set up rotating teams of sub-editors. Their job is to scrutinise and sub-edit letters going home, material going up on websites, stories going into books of children's writing that are being produced, wall displays, signs, information circulating in the school and so on.

In addition, the children are encouraged to spot variations, discrepancies and mistakes when they're out and about in the streets, reading books. These should not be a matter of point-scoring but material for investigation and discussion. Is this or that form acceptable or not? If not, why not? Or is it OK for there to be several possibilities? Why do most signs not use fullstops? And so on.

Then, as sub-editors are there different kinds of mistakes? eg 'typos' mistakes that the writer would know are mistakes? errors which the writer didn't know they were errors?

So, to kick off, why not use a sample of writing from Ruth Miskin? Is there something here that doesn't 'sound right' or appears to be some kind of mistake. It looks to me as if it's a 'typo' - entirely trivial. Most certainly doesn't matter, other than it's quite funny that it comes from such a source and will infuriate them that it got through the editing process.  


"Because of the skills our trainers develop, they have raised the literacy standards in their own school to the highest levels, which has had a huge impact upon standards across the whole curriculum.
We particularly need to trainers in:"

[End of example]

As it happens the first sentence is a great example of clumsy writing by someone trying too hard. Instead of trying to write a long sentence (thought by some to be proof of 'good writing') , the writer could have got rid of the 'which', put in a full stop and begun a new sentence with 'this'. I suggest that people who become obsessed with the rules of writing often write like this because instead of listening to the 'cadence' of writing ie how it sounds, they concentrate on commas and 'compound' sentences, or some such. 

So, first sentence, fine example of 'correct' writing of a sort - but bad. Second sentence, 'typo'.