The Most Used Form of Communication
Writing has, quite surprisingly, become more and more important in today's electronic society. Everywhere you look on-line there are words. Many used to think that the written word was becoming obsolete, but with the rise of the Internet, text messaging, and the like, words have come to the forefront of communication.
I still remember a "discussion" I had with a fellow student in college-he was an artist. His premise was that art, video and pictures-visual communication-would quickly surpass the written word as the dominant form of communication in society, especially with the Internet. I held fast to my love of the written word and emphasized that anything that can be conveyed with art and pictures can be conveyed through words. (Now don't get me wrong, I love a good painting or photograph-every picture is still worth 1000 words-but you can still convey the message and the image through words... it just takes 1000 words.)
A recent AOL study showed that almost 3 out of 4 teens prefer instant messaging (IM) over e-mail as their form of communication. The study also showed that 20% of teens who use IM can't imagine their lives without it. And for a wordsmith like myself, that statistic just validates my point. Writing-in whatever form it comes-is still our most-used medium of communication over distance. Kids, whether they know it or not, are writing more than our generation did, and for fun!
Using words (as opposed to just sending pictures or video) is important, but how you use those words is also extremely important. Here are some examples of metaphors on actual high school creative writing papers. Unfortunately, this is what kids thing "good writing" is.
He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.
The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup.
From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.
He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man."
John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.
His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
Very descriptive. Horrible metaphors, but descriptive.
So how can we teach our kids to write, and write well? Practice. Practice out of school. Have your student write a story, instead of popping in a DVD, during a long car trip. Encourage your children to write short stories for grandparents' birthdays or Christmas. Make them write long-hand like the old writers did.
Reading books also encourages good writing. Encourage your kids to read anything they can get their hands on. Every writing style and author's voice can be incorporated into one's own style.
As the Internet revolution continues, and more and more people are glued to a small glowing box for their human companionship writing will become more and more and more important. Good writing especially. Good writing is not something you come about naturally, or can be taught on the computer (as the above metaphors can teach us). Good writing only comes about with a lot of practice.