Master and Dummy, on Writing

We shall consider quite a deep question - do you ever need a girlfriend or boyfriend?

Some weeks ago people on the Internet argued whether English should be omitted from Higher Education Entrance Examination or kept as it was. The answer is NO, obviously, students tend to prepare for a mindless test rather than one that requires you to bring up an insightful idea and develop it gradually. The only thing they have to do is memorize words, phrases, so-called golden sentences and omnipotent formalist templates for “essays”. Teachers praise students who use big words - “notwithstanding”, score! “despite”, what are you? A little baby from a kindergarten?

Let us summarize the key of a very successful and fantastic writing section of Chinese-make-and-score English tests - various use of big fancy words, long and complex sentences, appropriate and non-repeat conjunctions, and most important, NEVER OVERFLOW THE VOLUME OF WORDS, OR LESS POINTS WILL BE SCORED - despite your developing the idea effectively.

So take a look at a precise example:

As far as we know the fact that puppy love is not allowed in any mid- and high- school campuses. The reason is that adults in the system, e.g. teachers, believe that students are not mature completely and due to adolescence, they may easily fall in love with the one whom s/he has a crush on. What’s worse, puppy love invites bad scores on exams. Another extreme result is that after breaking up they may purposely hurt or get back at each other. So above all, the fact that puppy love should not be allowed is reasonable.

Wow, long sentences and clauses, score! Good conjunctions, score! The most important, it meets the limit of words, SCORE! The paragraph gets 100 points, i.e. 100 out of 100!

Now move on, just peek at the poor, plainer version of what I wrote before:

We know teachers in China forbid students to love during mid- and high- school. They believe that puppy love and adolescence would easily lead students to “love” and invite terrible academic performance. Even worse, breaking up may cause purposely hurt and malicious revenge. Hence no permission to love in schools.

Fewer words and conjunctions and clauses, how could you expect it to receive a high point?

Of the two, it shall be clear, however, students learning English language in China pursue writing like the former one. English teachers always ask us to write as many as we can - even sometimes we have nothing to express at all - therefore the unnecessary and copious style is needed. But ideas speak louder than words, neat and plain essays usually deliver an idea more effectively and clearly.

Trace back to the very first question - should English be omitted from Higher Education Entrance Examination or kept as it was - we do not have to leave it in our memory but change the method we learn English, or generally, languages.

I did learn a lot of writing and composition by reading The Elements of Style and How to Speak and Write Correctly. These two help you build strong writing fundamentals - even you are not going to be a writer.

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