It’s been said that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.
Our grasp for the English language, vocabulary and ability to turn a phrase is honed by reading and, I think, by using a dictionary or asking a question when you hear a word you’re not familiar with. The retired English teacher who critiques our paper each week will likely have a problem with me ending that last sentence with a preposition, but even though I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to AP style in the newspaper, I also understand that most people don’t know what AP style is (and don’t care) and I believe that writing rules evolve over time. Those rules also can be relaxed depending on the medium. For example, the writing style is much more relaxed in a thank-you note or blog post than a news story.
Remember in high school when you had to write essays that have an introduction, thesis statement, three supporting points and a conclusion? I don’t think anybody does that anymore. We also don’t use commas as frequently. We’re allowed to say “over” when we really mean “more than.” And I believe we can start a sentence with the word “and.” See what I did there?
I think that columns such as what you’re reading now (i.e., not a hard news story; in a column I can use first-person tense and express my personal opinion) take on a conversational tone. Not every sentence has to have a subject and verb and be diagrammable. You can even make up words like “diagrammable.” I’d rather my readers flow through my copy with ease and not feel like they’re taking an English class.
The other day my boyfriend started a sentence with, “There are myriad reasons why …” And I just cut him off and told him how much I love that he knows the proper use of that phrase. People have a tendency to say, “There are a myriad of reasons …” That’s wrong, people!
But I digress. Reading is good for our brains. It educates us and makes us better able to express ourselves.
I read every single day of my life, but I also have a full-time job and in my spare time, I watch a lot of television and movies. So while I read often, I’m actually a rather slow reader. I probably read about a book a month. I’m terrible at Words with Friends, which is an iPhone scrabble game. I’m not some elitist when it comes to the written word (yeah, tell that to the last person who texted me “your welcome.”)
In all seriousness, though, I think reading is a form of entertainment that’s good for your soul. If a book is just terrible and you have difficulty getting into it, you can put it down and start reading something else. You haven’t really wasted any time. You’ve learned something.
I’d like to challenge those of you who have made it all the way through this column to try reading something every day and journal some of your thoughts. Putting pen to paper is a great form of therapy. Let’s make 2018 the year of the book.
What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.