2013-03-08 / Columnists


by Eileen Hodges

As an Adjunct Professor in English and composition for both college and high school, I am amazed at how often students holler, “But when I am ever going to use this?” Really kids? You are wondering when you are going to use reading and writing in your future life?

In this day of “u r cool” I suppose being able to comment on literature or write the ubiquitous compare and contrast paper might seem obsolete, but far from it. You see, words are tools, and the more you have in your toolbox and the better you know how to use them, the farther you will go. Just like anything else you need to get better at, it takes practice. Reading a lot and writing often is practice.

Your thoughts are vastly important to you and to the world at large. We want to hear them! Being able to choose just the right phrasing or word to get your point across will serve you well every time. Communication is one of the untold keys to happiness. The next time your child, spouse, brother or friend mentions the fact that being able to write well isn’t necessary anymore… pull out this article. Here are just a few direct correlations.

1. Commenting on literature enables you to really look at what you like or do not like about something. When you practice putting that into words your ideas are shaped and sharpened. When was the last time you needed to discuss what you did or did not like about something… last week, yesterday, a few minutes ago?

2. A compare and contrast paper looks at two distinct things and you the author, reader, viewer, discusses where they are alike and where they are different. Have you ever had to do that, say, when you bought a phone, car, house? Or perhaps you are deciding between colleges or jobs? Compare! Contrast! It is the thinking person’s version of the pro/con list.

3. Crafting an argument in an essay means you are making a point and backing it up. You will, or have, done that very thing when you put yourself forward in a great cover letter, write a letter to the editor, or ask for a raise from your boss. Perhaps you are making a case for a blow up you’ve had with a loved one, this is your chance to use these skills. You have a point to make and it is necessary to choose your words carefully, make your reasoning logical and bring it home!

4. Reading great stories, poems and nonfiction gives us more tools to use and by seeing how terrific writers use them, our own skills increase. It is a very fine feeling indeed when your language skills improve to a level where you can truly talk or write your way to success.

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