Today I was trying to explain to an adorable student who thinks he is not capable of learning how to write different kinds of texts why I disagree with him.
Human life is all about texts, both oral and written. The texts we create are as important as our looks when it comes to giving information about ourselves, about who we are, what we are like. When we make the decision of respecting our minds, ourselves (and this is something we need to learn to do because our culture teaches us to despise the most important things in life, and one is ourselves!), we improve a great deal in the kind of texts we share, for instance, we are able to increase the number of different kinds of texts we can produce.
As you know, I’m a misfit: I refuse to fit in. I don’t like what social life makes us do. I don’t agree with the idea that we shouldn’t trust people. So I trust people, till I find a good reason not to. And mostly I don’t. Most of the times you just need to understand that we do what we can. The important thing is to keep trying to improve. And if you don’t enjoy this learning, you’re putting yourself at risk — at risk of somehow dying, which means, at risk of accepting to limit the development of your amazing mind, which is also the place where your feelings develop.
If you consider yourself incapable of learning about the different texts in life which can help you develop different skills, different ways of relating to people, matters, knowledge, you are telling us you are just good for the only thing you think you are good at.
We don’t speak or write in the same way for all the purposes, situations, intentions. Although we can explore the frontiers that separate different kinds of texts — like I do when I swear in class, for instance; or when I want to explain the importance of textual structure and also make people laugh and write a job-application cover(ing) letter following the textual structure and language of an informal letter — we have to be clear about what kinds of texts are going to help us perform in whichever way we want in different situations.
You cannot write a (business) report (the one with headings) as if you were writing your travel diary or an informal news report for your school magazine. If you are asked to write a formal or semiformal letter in academic writing, you cannot use contractions or words like “lots” or “kids/teens,” “so” (instead of “Consequently,” for instance) and abuse “many” (diversify: “numerous,” “a great deal of,”) or “but” (“However,” “In contrast,” “On the other hand,”). A shopping list is about bulleted key words. An article for a magazine has a fucking catchy title, and a beginning which helps the reader read on, and know what he or she is going to read about! You have to walk in people’s shoes when you attempt to communicate. It’s all about empathy, really, and knowing the human world.
As a university student, I refused to use the kind of formal language which was more about saying “I’m so intellectual” than about loving what you were analysis. But I did write differently, and formally. Have a look at an example: Violence & Gender. We See What We Believe In. Tracking Taboos. My posts here are a written version of me talking to you in class, this is, of an oral text. This kind of oral-written text is not included in textual taxonomies (categories for sorting out the different kinds of texts). We have made it up thanks to the Internet, and it’s full of different kinds of oral-written texts!!! Texting, chat rooms, forums, social networks… you probably don’t use exactly the same kind of text for all of those! If you text using the language you use when you write a composition, you are not using the correct kind of text! SMS messages are SHORT, forEmmassake! And abbreviations and that amazing linguistic creativity pioneers are using are appropriate! If you have a task with a word limit, how many interesting things you have to say is not your best option: write them all down and then select a few that you can present in logical progression. THEN order them in an outline. Finally, write. Word limits are about finding out if you have the ability to organize and select your ideas! If you think you can’t learn this, try writing minisagas. You’ll master word limits very quickly, plus you will be delighted to discover you are more creative than you think!
Well, I could go on and on with this but you might be yawning if you actually got here, so I’ll stop now!
List all the kinds of oral and written texts you have been using along these years of study and ask yourself: do I know what the textual structure is, and what kind of language I need to use for each? If you have no idea, open the fucking textbook! (Demented laughter)