Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Sociality of Error

In Chapter 6 of Representing the Other, Bruce Horner contemplates the sociality of error. Section one addresses the possibility that errors are in a sense a social achievement, that is to say that errors are dependent on many factors involving both the reader and the writer. A writer may intentionally supply less than standard usage. If this writer is considered experienced, one may deem his error as a stylistic choice. Several fiction writers today choose this method. In class Monday evening, someone mentioned James Patterson as an author he has difficulty reading because of the usage. Many of my high school students adore James Patterson. While my classmate is made painfully aware of the fragmented sentences and often omitted commas in Patterson’s writing, my students are somewhat oblivious to these “errors.” Point of fact, my students may be more comfortable reading an author whose usage is not perfect. Nonetheless, the students are much more forgiving because they are not bound to the conventions of Standard English.. Although it may distract us from our enjoyment to an extent, even we as teachers are forgiving of writers such as Patterson. We chalk the “errors” up to being a “stylistic choice” based on the experience of the writer, but if a student commits the same error, it is not overlooked. Joseph Williams is quoted on page 143 as saying “if we [teachers] could read those [error-ridden] student essays unreflexively, if we could make the ordinary kind of contract with those texts that we make with other kinds of texts, then we could find many fewer errors.” I agree that a contract such as this would allow us as teachers to read beyond the surface and focus more on the actual writing. This is not to say that mechanics and usage ought to be thrown out completely, but maybe just set to the side. Taking the focus off of the errors removes the pressures put on the writer, thus producing a higher quality thought process.

Works Cited

Horner, Bruce, and Min-Zhan Lu. Representing the "Other". Urbana, IL: NationalCouncil of Teachers of English, 1999.