Monday, September 18, 2006

what is up

I'm working on a fellowship application lately--or should I say, I am working on a fellowship application? Get the difference? I've spent the last five years or so working hard to rid my academic prose of its stiffness, its stuffiness, its (let's be serious) unreadability. Though I always thought I wrote conversationally, the years in graduate school and beyond had an effect, and when I first tried to sell some non-academic writing I got smacked down, hard, for my pretentiousness. Over the years I've tried to adjust, and I think I've been reasonably successful.

So anyway. I'm applying for this fellowship, and the person who advises me on such things tells me to avoid contractions in formal prose. I've been teaching writing for 20 years and I've never told a student to avoid contractions.

But audience is everything, and if she says formal contractions won't fly, out they go.

You'll be glad to know this equanimity took at least an hour of me growling at the keyboard and refusing to remove my apostrophe. But it's like parenting, this writing gig: you have to pick your battles, and the apostrophe was starting to look a lot like a meal Nick didn't want to eat--not worth this fight, even if I still want to hold to the principle.

OK, so the analogy is strained. But you get the point.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

Oh, I had to read the whole post before I saw the "what is up." Interesting thoughts.

Well, I'm dissertating, so I've gotten into the habit of avoiding contractions. I even did that with the essay you've been helping me edit, although in the last additions I did put some contractions there...

I sometimes feel so relieved when I write a blog post. "I can use contractions, yay!" I often think...