Center Stage On The Mic (Let Me Clear My Throat)
I don't know who this Joseph Williams guy is, but I'd like to buy him a drink. I think Kirsten mentioned in class once that a previous class had ripped Style to shreds, which is interesting to me; I think I agreed with pretty much everything in those first twenty pages or so.
What I would like to focus on, at least for the moment, are the tutoring implications here. Specifically, I'm thinking of how to deal with the "Invented Rules," as Williams (can I call him Big Willie Style?) calls them. Those are rules I wrestle with all of the time; let's say that I want to prominently split an infinitive. But someone could come along, read what I've written, and just assume that I'm borderline-illiterate for breaking such an obvious rule. That's a trade-off I'm usually willing to make, although I still catch myself doing stupid crap like writing convoluted sentences just to avoid ending on a preposition. (I think I've even done that on this blog once or twice.)
Anyway, my point: how should we deal with that kind of risk-taking in a paper that isn't ours? Especially when the writer isn't even aware that they're (and there are all kinds of fun things to say about the gender bias stuff, too) breaking a pseudo-rule. Especially especially if English isn't the writer's first language. Then, maybe it's easier to just say "hey, it's a bad idea to start your sentences with 'but'". That throws us directly in conflict with the minimalist tutoring idea, though: we really ought to stop and explain the how "this rule isn't really a rule, but lots of people think it's a rule, so maybe it's best just to follow it anyway." I could see that doing a lot more harm than good, though.
Most (nearly all?) of the people who come into the center aren't going to be nearly as interested in grammarian politics as I am; they just want to figure out how to write a paper their professor won't hate. I probably don't have the right to try to force my love of "nontraditional Capitalization" on them; instead, I should probably just help them get through it. It's related to the idea of keeping our expectations in line for any given consultations; since we can't cover everything, it's probably best to focus on more pragmatic goals.
Hmmmmm. I work Monday mornings, and I can get grumpy on short sleep. It'd probably be for the best if I put a lid on this for now.