Natalie Goldberg

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How can Lederer’s, Merrill's, and Goldberg’s principles improve college students' writing skills?

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To convince college students that Richard Lederer, Paul W. Merrill and Natalie Goldberg offer effective principles that, when applied, will allow for becoming a better writer, you will want to do a few things in your essay along with clearly explaining what each suggests:

  1. Show the relevance of the points made by each.
  2. Explain the effects of their advice on a writer's proficiency.
  3. Illustrate the outcomes of following their recommendations.

Exploring Lederer's thesis, he advises using short words that are old words: "Short words are as good as long ones, and short, old words—like sun and grass and home—are best of all." Though not explicitly stated, "old" words refers to words that have an English etymology, those that have carried over, with minor changes in spelling and inflections, to contemporary English from Old and Middle English, such as than, enough, give, said, of. Compare these short, old words to old words from French and German:

French: démarche, voussoir, communiqué, détente.
German: Abendmahlgast, abgestorben, Backhausmann, beziehungsweise.

Exploring Merrill's satirical tips for writing poorly, he advises many things within his three tongue-in-cheek emphases (not to be taken seriously): 1) "Ignore the reader," 2) "Be verbose, vague and pompous," and 3) "Do not revise." Mentally reversing what he wrote in order to reflect what he meant, Merrill advises writers to keep the reader in mind while composing as the end objective of writing is to communicate; be concise, precise, clear and genuine; be disciplined and diligent and respect the comments on your writing made by qualified colleagues. Just remember to reverse what Merrill says to find what he means: "Write hurriedly, preferably when tired. Have no plan; write down items as they occur to you. The article will thus be spontaneous and poor."

Goldberg advises, along with using specific words (echoing Lederer and Merrill), ways to tap into the authentic intents you have as a writer. She advocates a type of free-writing, often timed, in which you write the ideas that come to mind in just the way they come to mind. She calls this accessing the "wild mind," which she defines as part of universal experience. She also stresses writing a lot and writing often, a very good strategy through which to discover individual voice and perspective: "The idea is to keep your hand moving for, say, ten minutes, and don’t cross anything out. . . ." Bear in mind that these recommendations are great for learning to write but need sensible modification for final drafts to be submitted as essays. You may notice that Goldberg disrupts traditional writing theory as she advocates freedom of mind against discipline of mind.

In general terms, the persuasive relevancy of these approaches is that each teaches writers to overcome the snares that are obstacles to writing. Lederer teaches how to overcome the impulse to sacrifice clear communication for the impression of loftiness of thought by using short, old words everywhere possible (although his own essay shows that not everywhere is possible or desirable). Merrill teaches how to follow the rules of good writing concerning clarity, continuity, flow, grammaticality and revising (proofreading and rewriting). Goldberg teaches how to break out of inhibitions and connect your writing with your authentic thoughts. In general, the convincing effect will be that after following their suggestions, a good writer will produce good writing, and your own improved writing will illustrate the outcome of following their advice.


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