Thursday, August 25, 2011

Readin’, 'Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic

Readin’, 'ritin’, and ’rithmetic,
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick…

School’s starting again, and it’s come a long way from the little jingle that was popular decades ago. Is that a good thing? I suppose it’s a matter of opinion, but what’s interesting about the above is the reference to writing right along with the necessities of reading and math. That for a certainty has not changed. The hickory stick, on the other hand, has fallen by the wayside.

Today, the ability to write well is just as important as it was in the pre-computer world. (Yes, there was a world before computers.) Emails and texting have replaced more conventional forms of written communication—and those come with their own peculiar abbreviations and acronyms—but the art of formal writing is more important than ever in our shrinking world - one that communicates less and less on a personal level. What does this have to do with going back to school?

Dull and boring as many consider English class to be, it serves a vital purpose in our lives. Learning to read and write separates us from the animals and gives us a wealth of past wisdom and experience on which to base present directions and decisions. Without written language skills, we wouldn’t have laws that create civil order, histories that show us how we arrived at the present, medical records and reports and research papers that save lives, or anthologies that tell us who we are and where we came from—the list goes on and on. The legacy of the past is written for us in the present and those to come in the future. Without it, we have no basis for government, no map for our destination, no guide for living.

Moral of the story? Learn to write well! The skill acquired in a few short years of school will serve you for a lifetime.

Why do you think it's important to learn to write well during one's school years?
Linda Lane believes that writing well is essential for all written communication. With this goal in mind, she and her team at editors work with writers to create great books that hook readers and build fan bases. Learn more about what she does at


  1. At the risk of sounding old and cranky, I shudder at the thought of the written language descending to the level of constant texts.

  2. I guess that makes me old and cranky, too, Elspeth. I get texts I have to ponder over to figure out what the sender is trying to convey, and I long for the days when we spoke (and wrote) plain and simple English.

  3. I've read some classics that were anything BUT plain and simple English! Tomorrow, I'll post an example of that. Then maybe I'll re-publish the Gettysburg Address written in the vernacular of MY youth - Beat! If you go to you can experience a piece of writing from a young college student who is an example of the young people I hang with. We have no more worries today than we ever had, trust me. If anything, fewer, when it comes to writing because we have far more resources to rely upon. How old am I? Probably somewhere between you two.

  4. Fourscore and seven years ago…

    You're quite right, Dani. "Understandable" English might have been a more accurate rendering of my thought than "plain and simple." The things that throws me are all the abbreviations. Sometimes I need a code book to decipher a text message.

    Still, being able to write a great novel, an urgent business letter, a note of thanks, or a myriad of other types of correspondence is a desirable skill, I think.

  5. This post isn't intended in any way to belittle modern forms of communication such as emails, text messages, etc. These do, indeed, have their place. We need to embrace all forms of communciation, just not at the expense of traditional forms that have withstood the test of time. Each is an artform in its own right and speaks volumes about the generations that have used it.

  6. When I speak to junior high school students at career weeks, I always point out that excellent writing skills make you more valuable no matter what your job is. This may or may not translate into more money, but in this economy, if I was told I had to lay off one of two employees who were equal in every other way? I'd keep the writer.

  7. As someone else pointed out, plain and simple vs. understandable are two different things. Reading Shakespeare sometimes feels like it was written in code. That being said, writing is vital to any career field and should be treated as something to be learned and understood, rather than avoided.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook