Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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9

Oct

2019

One rule for open discussion

Author: Jim Taylor

I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. Although my aging body no longer allows some physical activities I once enjoyed, I haven’t lost my love of a lively discussion. Yet.

            Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion -- from saying too much to saying too little.

            Still, in my experience, the most pernicious fault is dragging in an external authority. Perhaps a quotation from a famous writer. A statement from a scientist, ripped out of context. A dictionary definition.

            Or selected verses from the Bible.

            Especially, perhaps, from the Bible. Because the Bible can be used to support almost any stance, from slavery to prostitution, from genocide to a flat earth. The same is probably true for the Qur’an, the Hindu Upanishads, and the Analects of Confucius. They were never written as reasoned arguments for a unified worldview.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: rules, discussion

21

Jun

2017

Rules can never create fluency

Author: Jim Taylor

For a few years, I taught writing and editing courses for businesses. Some workshops flew; others foundered on the simplest points.

            Pharmaceutical companies, in particular, often hired Asian immigrants. I’ve no doubt they were well qualified, highly trained, even brilliant. They had studied English. But they came from languages that didn’t use little things like prepositions. Or articles. Or even commas.

            “Why you need ‘the’ before noun?” someone might ask. 

            Or perhaps, “Why sometimes ‘agree with,’ sometimes ‘agree to,’ sometimes ‘agree on’?”

            I offered examples. They would ask, “Where we find book that teach us these rules?”

            There isn’t one. Or more accurately, there are hundreds. 


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18

Jan

2017

Un-learning things we were taught

Author: Jim Taylor

You probably had drilled into you, at school, a number of rules about writing:

·       Never split an infinitive.

·       Never start a paragraph with “I”.

·       Never end a sentence with a preposition.

·       Never start a sentence with “And” or “But”.

And you’ve spent most of your adult life trying to conform to those Never-Never rules, even when doing so required a mental hernia. 

            Those rules never were rules. Every one of the great English writers, the ones who set a model for us, broke those rules.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: grammar, English, rules

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