Ocular Enema: Is the Excellence of Writing an Endangered Species?

/rant on

Under the new direction of Common Core architect David Coleman, the College Board has dumbed down the SAT by making it easier for students of the Common Core system to score higher. For example, they will abolish the writing section and the hard vocabulary words.

As a publisher, I question whether public education is a viable alternative any longer, if this is their idea quality higher learning. I’ve seen test results where misspelled words were marked correct because “they were close enough.” I’ve seen teachers who marked words as being spelled incorrectly, or questioned word usage – and they were in the wrong (never try to outwit an editor, teachers) – because their standards of education were sub-par.

I have tough words for those who believe in lowering the bar to include the less capable; the real world of publishing doesn’t believe in “close enough.” We believe in excellence and will accept nothing less.

On more than one occasion, I’ve rejected queries based solely on the abysmal spelling attempts. And yes, I do comment on this being the reason for the rejection. And on those occasions, I’ve had authors write back to inform me that I’m a dinosaur (this is probably true, since I’m staring down the gun barrel of 60) and that excellence isn’t about the ability to spell, but the content.

This devastates me on a personal and professional basis because effective writing is all about effective communication – and anyone answering the call to the literary world should already have this stamped on their forehead. If I have to train my eye to recognize that the spelling of “enough” has made the magical transformation to “enuf,” then my visual cortex will quickly reach for the smelling salts. If some Einstein decides the spelling should be “enuph,” then where does my brain go for an ocular enema?

My editorial self is unsettled because we’re in the process of breeding a generation of “gud enuf.” Instead of demanding distinction, the educational system, for some incoherent reason, is tossing up its hands and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Naturally, the logic of this escapes me. But more importantly, how is lowering standards good for future writers? Shouldn’t everyone be taught to transcend the mediocre? I hold Behler authors to an extremely high model of fabulosity, which is why I adore each and every one of them. Not only have their lives encompassed experiences that humble me, but they can write like the wind. I’d like to think readers appreciate this.

As I continue to scratch my head in search of sanity, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Just so you know, I don’t see this as a political football, but a quality issue that affects the future of our writing community, so please don’t post anything about politics here. I will let The Rescue Beagles eat those.

/rant off

7 Responses to Ocular Enema: Is the Excellence of Writing an Endangered Species?

  1. Connie Peck says:

    You are singin’ my song! It’s this so-called top down education. I think it’s upside down and lazy. Rant on sister.

  2. Ms. Price:
    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve also seen the shortcuts created from the “good enough” generation. The spelling (and grammar) errors burn my eyes, but my plea for correctness falls, silently into a dark hole of “I don’t care about spelling, just read the story”. But, that’s not how it works! I simply cannot see the story past the errors. I feel sad that the beautiful, melodious, soothing words that I love so deeply are being phased out due to laziness and passivity.
    Please continue the quest for teaching that “gud enuf” simply, is not good enough. With words, perfection is the only acceptable option.

  3. FireKat says:

    Maybe I’m just past your ‘rant/righteous indignation’ phase and moved onto the – ‘you aint gonna change it acceptance mode’.
    This is symptomatic of a whole humanistic regression in the state of human affairs generally. E.g.- Driving, manners, morals, attention spans etc. etc. (perhaps you’ve noticed)
    This will eventually lead back to the caveman state of ‘Ug & Og’ – already appearing as in ‘Chavs’.
    Or – on a more positive(?) note: to the resurgence of ‘Olde English’ Ref: Shakespear (e) ‘yer rites az yer speek’ – leading to a truly ‘individualistic’ style.
    The main problem being – as with accents (spoken) – that nobody has a bluddy clue wot yer onabaat!
    However – carry on fair maiden – my hopes go with you – But – be wary of blood pressure issues detrimental to your health.
    (and nice to see I’m not the only T.Rex in the park 😉 )

  4. FireKat, you just made me laugh up a lung.

  5. John Allan says:

    A little behind the UK, which has been dumbing down since the introduction, in 1965, of comprehensive schools, under Labour and Shirley ‘our Shirl’ Williams.

    But then the media, including the book publishing industry, is not in the best position to lecture, given its products’ own presentation of oft misspelt words, missed, or misused punctuation, and poor syntax; not to mention overly long, and often irrelevant passages, and even whole chapters. And we are talking here of best-selling writers.

    But perhaps I’m being too pedantic.

  6. F. E. Mazur says:

    If one isn’t willing to give attention to correct spelling (which is really attention at its simplest) why would possibly one think I should believe the thoughts inside his or her stories have been allotted any more attention and consideration? It’s, somewhat, like I should be excited because someone out of the the past hailed me by another’s name.

  7. Val says:

    Lynn, I always enjoy your rants! Carry on, sister! (I was going to write sistah, but didn’t want your eyeballs to explode!

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