Thursday, July 8, 2010

Don't write like this

Most of what I read is written for a reasonably intelligent and mature audience. Perhaps that's why this article, listing things not to ask your t(w)een offspring, struck me so forcefully: I seldom encounter articles aimed at adults that sound as if they were written by a (stereotypical) teenager.
Believe it or not our kids even like us and want us in their lives! (Really!!!!)

Four exclamation points? I can't take seriously any writer who thinks this is a good way to denote emphasis.
More US kids than anywhere in the world believe ...

There's no way to make a construction like that work. "More kids in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world believe ..." is closer to the mark, but it's still awkward. Something like, "More so than anywhere else, kids in the United States believe ..." might have worked better.
Neuro-imaging confirms that their pre-frontal cortex is still developing – the exact place where decision-making and impulse regulations are forming.

Why doesn't "the exact place where ..." immediately follow "pre-frontal cortex"?
Tweens are discovering the “opposite sex” and have their first “crushes.” When there’s a friendship tiff or breakup with a “first love”, ah the anguish! Though the anguish may seem juvenile, don’t dismiss your kid’s hurt and tell her to “Get over it.”

Overusing quotation marks seems to be a curse of the age. Aside from denoting text directly copied from another source, the main, if not only, reason to use them is to mark off words or phrases requiring special attention, often because they are unusual and are being introduced to the reader. What is so unusual about the phrase "opposite sex"? Why quote "crushes" and "first love" but not "friendship tiff," a phrase not in common use? (And since that last sentence won't stand by itself without the quoted phrase, "get" shouldn't be capitalized.)

If the article were aimed at the t(w)eens under discussion, that might excuse, or at least explain, its breathlessly silly tone. However, it's aimed at their parents.

The author, Michele Borba, holds a doctorate in education. I assume she knows how to write well. I hope this wasn't a representative sample of her best effort.

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