In the introduction to her book, Errors and Expectations, Mina Shaughnessy explains that in it, she focuses on the needs of Basic Writers, non-traditional students who have not mastered the codes of written language. She divides her book into the categories of: Handwriting and Punctuation, Syntax, Common Errors, Spelling, Vocabulary and Beyond the Sentence. In these chapters, Shaughnessy gives examples of problems basic writers might face, provides possible reasons as to why these problems exist and suggests ways teachers might help students overcome them.
Shaughnessy defends her focus on "errors" by stating that "since teachers' preconceptions about errors are frequently at the center of their misconceptions about BW students," she has "no choice." She also cites the fact that many basic writers are frustrated and inhibited by fear when it comes to writing. To many of them, good writing means correct writing, and some of these students have been "damaged" by writing teachers who have contributed to this belief.
To help undo the damage, Shaughnessy wants to help these writers access the codes that have held them back. She also says that correcting errors relates to awareness of audience. Because they shift audience attention from "where [the writer] is going (meaning) to how he is getting there (code), error correction is essential."
I agree with Shaghnessy: good editing does not always equal good writing, but good writing which is littered with errors can be so distracting the message can be lost. I would be interested in looking at Shaughnessy's book. It doesn't seem like a place to start (Elbow certainly wouldn't think so), or something to use in isolation (I have traumatic memories of doing grammar exercise after grammar exercise in high school), but it may be a helpful resource for teachers to use when working with individual students as they try to understand the types of errors they're making.Posted by gust0124 at April 4, 2005 8:14 PM