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From the Archive - 01.07.1977

Letters: Creative writing? It's appalling

Sir, Put down any peevishness you detect in this letter to the fact that I write straight from marking 480 CSE creative writing scripts. The exercise is calculated to leave anybody feeling peevish - and utterly bewildered at the same time.

How - the astonished examiner asks himself - can any school concerned about its reputation submit for open examination so many candidates who have not been properly prepared for such a test? In more than 25 per cent of the scripts, the standard of English is so bad that, quite apart from meriting some sort of educational certificate, it ought to be the subject of alarmed and confidential discussion between the candidates themselves and the teaching staff of their respective English departments.

I do not mean that these creative writing scripts are poor: I mean that they are quite appalling. Many of the candidates have no idea of what is expected from them. Their works show no attempt at planning or construction; the sentences do not hold together grammatically; the language used is inappropriate, casual and vague. Scripts - in their scores - are so badly spelt and punctuated as to be almost incomprehensible.

I know the arguments against the teaching of spelling, but when they result in manuscripts which look like writing in a foreign language, the argument (or the examiners) break down altogether.

I am not talking about difficult or abstruse words; I am talking about words with which the candidates have been familiar since babyhood; words like "any" (eny), "next" (nexcted), "stop" (stope), "busy" (bizzy) and "died" (dieded).

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