The Coaching Educator

Ugh 3: When “Professional” Writers Get It Wrong

bad writing

By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

The Coaching Educator believes in coaching and in education. Ask anybody. Since our primary purpose is to help kids get into and succeed at the right college, with essay-writing guidance being an important component of our program, we naturally consider good reading habits a matter of the highest importance, a point we recently discussed in the second installment of our free podcast, The College Light Bulb.

Our little cyber-powwow addressed, among other things, the importance of reading books that weren’t written recently, for two reasons: Older books improve our perspective on our own lives and times by helping us step outside them, and older books tend to be written and edited on a much higher standard than the one now prevailing, if indeed there still is one at all. I often—very often—think about Will Durant’s description of the life of the medieval craftsman:

“He…had at least as wide a cultural life as the master workman of today. He did not read much, and was spared much stupefying trash.”

One recent book I have enjoyed—if that is the right word—is Tara Westover’s Educated (Random House, 2018), a harrowing account of her journey from an isolated upbringing in an apocalyptically paranoid rural Idaho family to her completion of a Ph.D. from Cambridge. She recalls that when she enrolled in college, with no previous formal schooling and nothing even resembling a responsible home-school education, a teacher told her that she wrote well but that her language was “oddly formal and stilted.” This stood to reason, since Westover had read practically nothing except the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and speeches by 19th century Mormon hierarchs. My first thought was, “I wish I’d had ten just like her every year I was a teacher.”

Educated is a contemporary rarity: It’s well-written and capably edited, as if by people who are, uh, educated. Even in book publishing, a sound grasp of the language has become the exception. The news media are rapidly descending into unrelieved disaster. The offerings in marketing, advertising, and promotion, including signage, are likewise painful to behold.

Once in a while, one of our student/clients will ask me what to read, and sometimes I feel like crying out, “Oh, dear sweet child, I wish you wouldn’t.” However, those who choose well and learn accordingly will at least have a basis from which to derive some amusement from the now-unavoidable and ubiquitous “stupefying trash” of our own day.

Laughter in the face of calamity doesn’t always come easily, however. For one thing, we obviously can no longer depend on anyoneand I do mean anyoneto know the basic rules of punctuation:

bad writing

In this atmosphere, it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between scams and legitimate communications. Is this for real, or not?

bad writing

Nonetheless, at least the government can still sometimes be depended upon to provide suitable corrective measures:

bad writing

Disturbing theories about a conspiracy to install a one-world government are nothing new, but the forces of darkness appear to have extended their ambitions even farther than Tara Westover’s father could have imagined. In Part 2 of this series, we complained about so-called journalists who are unable to write about one sport without borrowing imagery from another, but we now realize that their vexatious habits stem not from ineptitude but from an insidious attempt to blend all our beloved pastimes into one polyglot globalist sport:

bad writing

You definitely could get crippled that way. When they ask you not only to “kick-off” the racing season (they’re runnin’ with a ee-legal hyphen) but to step up to the plate for a slam dunk, it’s time to take to the hills and hold out until they come to pry your puck out of your cold, dead fetlocks.

Elsewhere in the realm of the automotive, we recall reading about the “short-lived demise” of the Ford Taurus. Now it appears that Ford Motor Company will be killing the Taurus again. We suspect the next death of the Taurus will have a longer life than the previous death did. Come to think of it, though, the Ford Lazarus would be a pretty cool car. It would look nice parked next to your Kia Soul.

In so many ways, these are times of tension, conflict, and uncertainty, and law enforcement authorities are getting tougher:

bad writing

Man, that’s cold right there. Not an actual charge, just a potential charge. That walkin’-around-free “Are they gonna charge me?” period is really stressful.

Some journalists advocate being strict with the entire country:  

bad writing

Don’t just buckle it up. Put it in a straitjacket and take no chances. That story is by a senior editor at Yahoo News, so I think we can assume that the headline was approved at a fairly high level. Maybe “editor” at Yahoo is an honorary title, like Mike Tyson’s doctorate in humane letters. 

Longing for a simpler time is common:

bad writing

Well, wer’e sorry, folk’s, but it i’s’nt 1995 anymore, so they’re. Or “so yea,” now that “yeah” is often spelled “yea” while “yea” is spelled “yay.” It’s enough to make a man want to skreem.

bad writing

Meanwhile, the widespread decline in education and intelligence is actually not occurring quickly enough to suit some of our leading commentators:

bad writing

And he’s worried? We’re relieved that there’s some sort of literacy remaining. Meanwhile the usual questions about the educational system continue:

bad writing

Maybe they is gonna go on strike. But The Coaching Educator don’t never go on strike. No sirree, Bob, we don’t never let up.

Egregious real-world examples notwithstanding, we don’t see much truly bad writing from our student-clients, and we have a lighthearted way of making boo-boos disappear via our Socratic essay-coaching program that’s based on the Oxford tutorial system–but that’s more fun. 

The Coaching Educator emphasizes being strategic and making wise decisions. That’s a big part of why we’re here. To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links in “Credits, References, and Recommendations” below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Credits, References, and Recommended Reading About College Admissions

Images: Mike Tyson by The Economic Times. Ford Taurus by Autoblog.com. Lazarus by FreeBibleImages.org

Carroll, Rebecca M., and Paul Culp. “Getting Serious About a Lighthearted Approach to the College Admissions Essay” on The College Light Bulb, audio podcast, The Coaching Educator, accessed 8 March 2019, http://thecoachingeducator.com/podcasts/

Carroll, Rebecca M., and Paul Culp. “The Importance of Reading” on The College Light Bulb, audio podcast, The Coaching Educator, accessed 8 March 2019, http://thecoachingeducator.com/podcasts/

Culp, Paul. “Getting to Know You: the College Admissions Essay,” The Coaching Educator, 8 June 2018, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2018/06/08/getting-to-know-you-the-college-admissions-essay/

Culp, Paul. “Ugh: When Professional Writers Get it Wrong,” The Coaching Educator, 24 January 2019,   https://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/01/24/ugh-when-professional-writers-get-it-wrong/

Culp, Paul. “Ugh, 2: When Professional Writers Get it Wrong,” The Coaching Educator, 14 February 2019, https://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/02/14/ugh-2-when-professional-writers-get-it-wrong/

Culp, Paul. “Ugh 3: When Professional Writers Get it Wrong,” The Coaching Educator, 12March 2019, https://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/03/12/ugh-3-when-professional-writers-get-it-wrong/

Culp, Paul. “When Grammar Takes a Nap: The 10 Most Common College App Essay Boo-boos,” The Coaching Educator, 1 January 2019, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/01/01/when-grammar-takes-a-nap-the-10-most-common-college-app-essay-boo-boos/

Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950.

Westover, Tara. Educated. New York: Random House, 2018.

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