Saturday, September 30, 2006

Concrete Doesn't Dry

I always hated grammar as a child, but as I began to write more and more throughout my life I began to realize the power of words. Much of that power is lost if you don't understand what words mean when you use them.

On the surface, it just broadcasts to the world a lack of understanding or education. Like when people consistently use "alot" or "allot" when they mean "a lot".

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a nit picky person trying to rid the world of dangling participles. I just get a kick out of grammar. If you don't yet, you should check out "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynn Truss.

This is at the front of my mind because I am developing an educational school assembly program about the writing process.

Then, on the local news last night I heard a commentator announce something about concrete on a construction project drying. But concrete doesn't dry, it cures. In fact, if you pour concrete in very arid places, you have to cover it with plastic and/or spritz it down with water periodically as it cures because if it does dry before it cures then the concrete is less stable.

So should she have used "cured" rather than "dried"?

It might have confused a large part of the audience and everyone knew what she meant when she said "dried". But a great part of how we learn things is by seeing, hearing, and experiencing them in context. This is why the school programs I produce are so effective. They aren't a list of vocabulary words to be defined and copied and recited. My programs are a living example of the vocabulary words, defined and presented in context, then used appropriately.

Shouldn't we strive to speak and write as examples to the greatest extent possible?

By the way, I'm not talking about stuffy writing. I think that you have to write to your audience. This is why the concrete thing bothered me so much. Not because she said "dried" rather than "cured" but because I think it was a good choice in this situation. I think saying "cured" might have confused some of her listeners and no one was confused when she said "dried".

So as I develop this program on the writing process I find myself supporting the decision to perpetuate a misunderstanding just because it is already a misunderstanding. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

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