Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Write? Susan Doll Speaks

Author and film historian Susan Doll teaches cinema studies in addition to writing about film and popular culture. She is a contributor to Armchair Reader Goes Hollywood, and blogs regularly for the Turner Classic Movies blogsite.

Why is writing so important for young adults?
Writing is all about expression and communication. Expression — whether writing something creative or fulfilling a college assignment — offers satisfaction and peace of mind. Coherent communication is the backbone of most professions, careers, or jobs. If you cannot clearly communicate your ideas, opinions, work strategies, etc., then you won't be successful in the work place or at your job. If you don't acquire these skills when you are young, you will never learn them.

Case in point: The other morning I received a sellsheet for a new DVD release The description for the film was a paragraph of about 100 words. In that paragraph, there were two misspelled words (including the word "where"), an incorrect verb tense, incorrect punctuation, and a lack of clarity in describing a character's motivation. If the marketing department of this company thinks they are going to sell any DVDs based on this description, they are sadly mistaken. This is a good example of bad writing adversely affecting the bottom line.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were a tween or teen?
I wish I realized how lucky I was to have English teachers who forced me to diagram sentences. Though I didn't hate it like some students did, I couldn't figure out what the value of diagramming sentences was. Now I know. It gave me a theoretical understanding of sentence structure and a sixth sense about correct grammar that surpassed my peers in college — many of whom did not diagram sentences in junior high. I have heard that exercises like diagramming sentences are passe now. Too bad. In my opinion, any English teacher who does not make her students diagram sentences is not doing his/her job.

How has the ability to express yourself helped you in life?
I come from a small factory town in northern Ohio. Without my skills at writing while I was in college or while I was working my way through my first jobs, chances are I would still be there. Getting an education and learning to use it — including learning how to skillfully write — was my ticket out of that kind of background.

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