English teachers would say, “Yes.” After all, they’d be out of work if the powers that be felt instructing students on the fine points of understanding the parts of speech or appropriate sentence structure held no relevance today. Those in the marketing realm, however, will tell you to disregard what you’ve been taught and write like you talk. They argue a more conversational style sells products, and in that respect, I’d have to agree. Yet a well-written sentence is to the reader what a Da Vinci masterpiece is to the art connoisseur. An artist could get his message across using stick figures or rudimentary drawings, but there’s certainly no comparison to Da Vinci’s renowned Last Supper. The same is true in writing.
A friend sent me an interesting article by Jhumpa Lahiri entitled, My Life’s Sentences where the author describes her passion with words. In the article, she seems to accomplish the best of both worlds described above. The article is both grammatically correct and conversational. It’s interesting and engaging, yet she does not resort to slang or jargon to express herself. Her words paint a vivid picture that draws you in. Lahiri almost gives life to her words and hence develops a relationship with her ideas and the reader. You can readily understand why she’s won the Pulitzer Prize.
Coming from the business world where you almost need an interpreter to decipher an email message and glancing over essays of local teens, you wonder if that caliber of writing is a thing of the past. Do teachers continue to labor over diagramming sentences and reading fine literature so that they comprehend the value of excellence in writing? I, for one, hope they do and that they not only continue, but also step it up a notch.