A Doug's Life: Let the Writing Begin

As a former newspaperman and current college journalism professor, I have a certain affinity for the written word.

Professionally, I have spent the last 35 years figuring out the best way to assemble written words. I enjoy teaching others the many options they have in doing so. At the same time, I respect the rules of grammar and punctuation that require a certain amount of discipline in writing clearly and concisely.

So on the one hand, I cringe every time I read something with a misplaced comma, a sentence fragment or a subject that doesn't agree with a verb. "Text talk" drives me crazy. It's before, not B4. Are we rewriting the language with terms such as LOL, OMG and BTW?

On the other hand, I appreciate the fact that the Internet and text messaging have renewed interest among young people in reading and writing. I tell my college students that as long as they keep the LOLs in their informal chat and out of their job applications, I will look the other way if they promise to keep writing.

In a strange sense, it seems that all this modern technology was God's gift to the human race to help save the written word. Some things simply are better expressed through artful use of the language, giving careful thought to a sentence or phrase that might be mutilated if blurted out orally.

But even more important, we should be encouraged to write thoughtfully and often in order to develop our skills of creativity.

That's why I love the idea of the Menifee 24/7 and Arts Council Menifee Writing Contest.

Announced at Tuesday night's Menifee City Council meeting, this contest is open to students from kindergarten through eighth grade, in three age categories. Students are invited to enter the contest with an essay on the theme "Why I Like Menifee."

Awesome. That's pretty much been the theme of this column for the five months I've been in town. I can't wait to read the youth's take on it.

Think about it. Most of the writing done by young people falls into two categories: Assigned school projects and text messages or Facebook posts. The first sometimes is too structured and complex to be any fun. The second is fun, but not structured enough to develop true writing skills.

This contest allows students to express their true feelings about their hometown, with just the right mix of factors. The rules of the contest and spirit of the competition should motivate them to write effectively. The subject matter should evoke the free expression we often see in their texts, blogs and status updates.

And of course the lure of prizes doesn't hurt. The winners will receive a gift bag of prizes from local merchants. In addition, they will have lunch with Mayor John Denver; receive a certificate of achievement from the City of Menifee; and have their entry published here on Menifee 24/7.

So parents, make sure your children know about this contest. Encourage them to enter. Students, sharpen those pencils, burn up that computer keyboard, let your imaginations loose.

No matter how many gadgets are invented to enhance communication, people always will have the urge to send written messages to others. You don't have to make a living of it, like some of us, but the more effectively you can do it, the more successful you will be in life. Here's a great chance to practice.

Besides, it could be fun!


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