4 November 2010 (plus B&A on avoiding shorthand)

Today we’ll continue with the film & your journaling.

As we’re winding down on Task 2, I have another before and after to offer you.  Many of you are falling into the trap of speaking in “classroom shorthand”–in other words, you talk about the book the way you might in a classroom full of people reading it at the exact same time and with the exact same tools as you are reading it.

But in this context–writing to a school board member–that’s just sloppy.  You need to actually take the time to explain exactly what you mean and how it works.  See the before and after below:

Before

…or the symbol of the snowman near Scout’s house (made up of both snow and dirt, being of both races) being melted by the fire, showing the disregard…

After

…or the symbol of the snowman.  Early in the novel, Maycomb experiences an unusual snow and Jem  determines to build a snowman.  However, he does not have enough snow to make the man entirely.  Instead, he forms the snowman from dirt and then covers him with a coat of snow.  This symbol suggest that Maycomb, like the snow man, is made up of both races.  When a nearby house fire melts the snow man, the snow and mud become as indistinguishable as the citizens of Maycomb after the emotional fire of the trial.

What am I doing in the “after” that’s better than the “before?”

  1. I am eliminating parentheses and short hand (e.g. “the symbol of the snow man”)
  2. I am taking the time to explain the context of the symbol in the story.  Without assuming my reader is completely ignorant of the book, I still do him/her the courtesy of placing the discussion in context.
  3. I am taking the time to explain exactly what the symbol represents and how it works in the story
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