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Like novelist and essayist joan didion grammar is a

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Like novelist and essayist Joan Didion, "Grammar is a piano I play by ear,since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules werementioned." She adds that knowing grammar is one of the keys to writingwell, not just for correctness, but to express ideas:All l know about grammar is its infinite power. To shift thestructure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, asdefinitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters themeaning of the object photographed.Didion implies, and I agree, that the best way to learn how to write well isto read a lot of well-written essays, articles, and books.Starting around fifth grade, we were assigned at least one research reporta year, usually about a country of our choice. I remember the reports Iwrote on Burma, Canada, and the Philippines. In middle and high school,we continued to write research reports; instead of just looking up subjectsin an encyclopedia, we went to the library to find books on particulartopics. In English classes, we were assigned to write essays analyzing andinterpreting novels, short stories, and plays.In my senior year, in English class, we were assigned to write a longresearch report on a writer. I choose American poet e.e, cummings.However, we weren’t instructed on how to write a research paper, so Iwrote the kind of research report I had written from elementary schoolonward, which involved primarily copying information from books.Looking back, I realized that my report contained a lot of plagiarism. MyEnglish teacher commended the paper: "You write like a college student;your report is as good as a graduate student's paper." She gave me anA+. Had I understood what plagiarism was, I might have told her, "Itshould be good—I plagiarized most of it from books I found at thelibrary." Reflecting later on her commendation, I wondered if she wasbeing ironic—that she knew the report was largely plagiarized, but didn'twant to tell me. However, the research assignment helped in my literacydevelopment because I learned how to analyze poetry from reading bookson e.e. cummings.Missing from my high school education were assignments that requiredme to write argumentative essays with a thesis or to critically analyzetexts in subjects other than English—the kind of assignments in Social
10/3/15 11:51 PMEng 200 2.11Page 13 of 16Science, History, and Philosophy or Natural Science and Math included intheBard College Entrance Exam(2014). (This exam in referred to inquestion 3of Assignment 2.11 below.)So when I enrolled at the University of Hawai‘i, I could write essays aboutliterature, but wasn't prepared well for writing in other disciplines. In myfreshman English course (English 100—Composition), I learned how toanalyze essays from a reader and write argumentative essays with athesis statement; also how to paraphrase, summarize, and quote to avoidplagiarism. To review grammar and style, we read William Strunk, Jr.'sshort classic,The Elements of Style, which covered using apostrophes,

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Education in the United States

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