I think that from now on I’ll just hand this piece out at the start of my editing classes:
I must also caution you from the outset that this course is appallingly, unrelievedly dull. A student from a previous term complained in the course evaluation that “he just did the same thing over and over day after day.” Exactly. So will you. Editing is done word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and we will go over texts in class, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. No one will hear you scream.
I’m going to turn my back for a minute so that anyone who wants to bolt can escape.
Still, Kennedy’s essay shows a profound, if unintentional, understanding of the primary value of attending an elite school: status and personal connections, rather than mastery of academic skills and knowledge. [emphasis mine]
Really? That’s the primary value of attending an elite school? Sorry, no. This is the sort of cynical comment I’d expect from my students, not from “a senior associate editor at The Atlantic” who “oversees the Education Channel.” I graduated from an “elite” college, and I can assure you that four years dedicated to the life of the mind was exactly the primary value of that experience for me.
One of the hardest things in teaching writing and editing: defining a sentence, a.k.a. “independent clause.” “Expresses a complete Idea” is a truly unhelpful and unilluminating explanation. Today we spent the day making and taking apart sentences and playing “find the independent clause.” Subordinate clauses cause all kinds of trouble.
Riveted my students on the subject of comma conventions #1 (twoindependentclausesjoinedbyacoordinatingconcjunction), #2 (introductorymaterial), and #3 (non-essentialsentenceinterrupters). You know what gets their attention? Making them make up the examples. And 3 is about all anyone, including me, can take in a single class.