freshman comp

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Dec 9 17:17:54 UTC 2010

On Dec 9, 2010, at 7:19 AM, Ron Butters wrote:

> As a former Director of Freshman English at Duke, I'd have suggested that Barbara rethink her judgment.

her judgment as a composition teacher?  or her judgment about the sentence (in its context)?

the latter isn't something to rethink; it's a raw response to the sentence in context.  it's not uncommon for referent-finding examples to evoke different responses for different people (i've posted several times on Language Log on such cases), with some people seeing no issue, while others find the examples grammatical but inept.  the fact is that a large number of factors play a role in referent-finding, and different people seem to weight them differently.

the question for any particular example is how extensive the processing problem is for readers in general.  and that's something you can't gauge from your own responses alone, although you can develop a feel for certain classes of cases and how likely they are to be problematic for a significant number of readers.  if they are, then a composition teacher should flag them as problematic.


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