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Perfect Writing

In Uncategorized, writing on November 5, 2009 at 10:05 am

Video 49 0 00 01-10

I hear the word “perfect” a lot in my line of work, and every time I hear it, a little rebellion happens inside me. Students want to learn perfect English and perfect grammar. Students want to get perfect grades, perfect scores on tests. Perfect, it seems, is where so many students set the bar for themselves. I think this is a dangerous practice.

A student once told me a story of taking her final secondary school test. She had perfect grades and was the most perfect student in her class. She was so frightened on test day, though, that she buckled, and she failed the test. Her life changed after that. Another student told me about her fear of tests, how students in her country who didn’t score well enough were not even allowed to attend university. She was terrified of not doing perfectly.

Stories like this are common — especially in countries with high stakes examinations before university. I know that, to some extent, this is the way the world works. We’re tested in school, and the goal is a perfect score. Still, the idea of perfect often paralyzes us. There’s no way to achieve perfection — especially when it comes to English and writing.

Striving for perfect writing assumes that there is one right way to write — and that all other ways of writing are somehow wrong. There are times in life when there is a definite right and wrong. There’s a right answer to that algebraic equation or the multiple choice question. Writing isn’t as clear-cut, though. Writing is basically putting our thoughts and ideas on the page — and there are many ways to do this. There are many ways to organize our thoughts, and there are many ways to write. Pretending that there is only one right way limits our choices, limits our critical thinking, and ultimately, limits our thinking.

Instead of thinking of writing a perfect paper, you might try to think about communicating your ideas clearly. Working to get your ideas across will help you avoid thoughts of perfection — and hopefully, make the writing at least a little less stressful.

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