Earlier this year I helped my oldest son edit a paper he had written for his English class. Although it was fairly well-developed, I suggested that he break up his paragraphs into more manageable chunks. Don't be afraid to address an idea and then move onto the next paragraph. It will flow more naturally, I said, and make more sense to readers.
Care to know where he lost the most points? That's right, the length of his paragraphs. Apparently, they were too short.
I've been blogging for a while now and, while there are plenty of people who disagree with the things I say (I really ticked off my mom tonight with my AOL rant), I think my writing is generally pretty solid. However, most blogs tend toward a journalist's writing style: catch the reader at the beginning and then organize paragraphs that would be appropriate for print in a column. Can you imagine a seven-sentence, fully developed, fleshed out paragraph in 2 inches of newsprint?
Newsprint may not have much of a future, but online publishing, whether from established media, bloggers, citizen journalists, or simply students looking to share their work certainly will. Wikis, blogs, and other Web 2.0 media aren't going anywhere anytime soon and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) have recognized this in a recent report, according to eSchoolNews.
The report defines this new age of writing as the Age of Composition: a period where writers become composers not through "direct and formal instruction alone (if at all), but rather through what might be called an extracurricular social co-apprenticeship."
A lot of jargon there, but importantly, it acknowledges that students are writing a lot these days, particularly outside of school. How well they are writing is obviously in question; a few minutes looking at the average student's MySpace can be fairly discouraging for a teacher.
However, the more opportunities a student has to write and be read, the better. As the NCTE points out, using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom encourages solid writing both in and out of class.