Don’t get all more-grammatical-than-thou. “Like” and “totally” can help establish ironic distance. Using the present tense to refer to something past or future can lend immediacy and emphasis. A caveat: Use sparingly if you’re over 30 and don’t want to be seen as one of those pathetic old types who chat up teenagers at the mall. I mean, ick. –Jay Heinrichs –I’m, like, totally there! (Figures of Speech — It Figures)
The other day I got an e-mail from Heinrichs, inviting me to check out his website, where he regularly takes a quotation or term from current events or popular culture, and examines it according to the principles of classical rhetoric. While he knows his stuff, he’s clearly interested in reaching an audience beyond stuffy academics. His “What’s in It for You?” section encapsulates a take-away message for busy professionals. Very Dale Carnegie.
Heinrichs also has a forthcoming book, In Praise of Argument. The promo page suggests the book will be well-written and catchy.
When I used Eats, Shoots and Leaves as a humorous way to introduce punctuation to my Intro to Literary Study class last spring, it’s probably true that the humor and lively writing kept the students reading, but some students who found punctuation difficult didn’t like the feeling that Lynn Truss was laughing at them. While I think it’s important for English majors to learn proper punctuation, I assigned Truss’s book as an example of creative non-fiction, and I was more interested in getting students to look at the author’s strategies and critique their effectiveness. I didn’t give them punctuation drills, so the subject matter was really secondary.
Perhaps, instead of a unit on punctuation, I should try a unit on rhetoric, and just keep working on punctuation on an ad-hoc basis, through the drafting stage.
Something to think about.