When a friend and I passed a restaurant yesterday that advertised “polished casualness” as its motif for fine dining, I immediately thought of the kind of writing I expect my students to do. We didn’t eat at the restaurant, but as we passed by, I pictured the pristine but stress-free atmosphere, just the kind of ambiance I hope to see in the students’ essays. I insist on order, precision, and correctness, but I also encourage a little looseness and liberty in their writing, a bit of the casualness that probably comes along with the polish in the restaurant we passed. There’s room in good writing for both tidiness and independence, both adherence to rules and affection for inventiveness. I’d like to see sentences in their essays that are graceful and at the same time somewhat undomesticated. I always hope their writing stands up with stateliness and last-word authority, but also dances with the most casual kind of confidence.
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