Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The "Dear" Problem

For financial purposes (student loans) I'm in the process of writing a letter, note... thing. In the process I've realized something. I never start a letter with "Dear". Typically it goes Hello. I'm (My name), a (brief description of the capacity in which I'm writing to them i.e. local blogger).

I'm sitting down and I realize I don't even know how to write a formal letter or if I should. Hell, I've been thinking of doing away even with my normal opening considering almost all of my correspondence is sent to people who in theory I know by email, which includes a good chunk of that stuff in the heading anyway.

In a weird way I feel people write more to friends and coworkers now than they did in previous years, with email, and all of that that formalism can seem rude. "Dude, you're my chem lab partner. We saw each other two hours ago. Why do you sound as if we never met?" Furthermore it wastes time. I know you. You know me. Let's cut the intros and talk business.

If you're wondering about the college reference, well that's when I mostly started writing letters, group projects, done almost entirely by email and Google Docs with the occasional professorial question. That opening started as Hello. I'm Greg Miles, a student in your (let's go with econ.) Econ 101 section 3 class. And for really small classes where I knew the recipient knew me, just, "Hi. This is Greg Miles. I was wondering..."

It just seems weird because I remember my 3rd grade English class and my 7th grade typing class spending weeks on proper letter formatting, with quizzes on it's parts. Greeting, address, salutation, signature body closing, etc, and I've only written maybe 5 letters like that in my life, and don't ask me which. 

How should we teach kids to write to each other, knowing that most of it is going to be through short email notes and texting.

Now that I mention it it's similar to another problem that cheeses me off. The make up of an essay. The first thing you learn when reading academic essays in college is, that most of the stuff you're reading is not structured that way. You might be four pages in until you have a clue what someone is talking about, yet if you don't conform to that format especially in secondary school, points off Gryffindor.

I understand to a degree. If you tell a kid who isn't comfortable with the writing the golden rule. "There are no rules, only what works and what don't," their heads would explode.

Well that and you would get the infamous wall of text. But at a certain point, the gloves should come off. And rather than, "Do you have 5 sentence paragraphs?", teachers should be asking, "Did you make your argument?"  and "Was your argument worth making," or "Did you inform or entertain your reader in a way that holds attention?"

When trying to build an argumentative essay you often have to establish base concepts so that the audience can comprehend a later argument. The same goes for fiction. Exposition. Teachers don't always know that.

Anyway this had become a bit ramblely and I just was thinking about how I was going to write my letter.

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