The Continuum

“Writing helps you discover and express ideas that you would otherwise never think or say,” says the writer of my university text. It’s first year comp and mostly all the students are trying to decide whether they like college or hate it when they arrive at their English class.

This was the one that was supposed to teach them how to think critically. I guess that after taking the class, it would be easier to come up with an opinion about school and support it with the appropriate argument to convince Mom that her money would be better spent on shoes.

I know that taking that class was different than helping to teach it. It was much easier to work towards a degree than to help over thirty people pass that class that had been so easy for me. It was Patricia, my instructor at the university, who had made it easy. Back then, you still used trees to teach grammar.

“Research has shown that managers, accountants, lawyers, engineers and other professionals spend, on average, forty-four percent of their professional time writing,” the writer adds. I am grateful to Patricia. Many people think that “normal” people will never use the skills taught in first year college English class. When you have a cake decorating business, you might have to write marketing materials or proposals to send to the bank. I say you might, because you might have an extra grand to hire a marketing firm or a couple of hundred to send to a writer.

To learn to write clearly and effectively in this grueling first year, it’s helpful to analyze and study writing along a perspective of structure. At the university, they said that writing falls within a “continuum.” There are open form essays and closed form essays. These exist at a continuum with closed being at one side and open form being at the other.

I subscribe to this elegant magazine called The Sun where all of this excellent writing gathers like wild, jungle animals at watering holes. These exotic essays, stories and poems meet at the magazine’s pages to edify and entertain. I suppose that masters of these forms can write for readers of that magazine.

Closed form essays have a clearly defined structure and a plainly expressed thesis statement. Open form essays are fluid and not bound so much to structure of one kind or another.

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