After a decade of teaching in a community college, I’ve finally figured something out. It’s an indictment that it has taken this long, so I’ll take my licks.
There seems to be someone out in the world who is teaching young writers that paragraphs should have 6-8 sentences, and that those sentences should consist of about 8-12 words. Given these requirements, a page ends up consisting of about five paragraphs, just perfect for the five paragraph essay, a stack of neat little boxes all about the same shape and size.
This is baffling. Where did this idea originate? I’m sincerely curious. How can anyone who has ever read even a dozen newspaper articles or a couple of novels conclude that all paragraphs have 6-8 sentences, each composed of 8-12 words?
I don’t even know if I’d be able to write a paragraph like that. Let’s try it.
Belly button lint occurs when small bits of clothing end up trapped in one’s belly button. (fuck, too many words)
Fuzz trapped in one’s belly button is known as belly button lint. This stuff can really be annoying to people of any social class. It will be made of the material one wears. When this material rubs against our skin, small bits fall off. Sometimes it ends up in our belly button. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Belly button lint does not discriminate or judge. If you think otherwise, you’re among the misinformed.
That’s the worst piece of crap I’ve ever written. And it broke my head. If I had to write an entire essay by following these guidelines, I’d probably hate writing, especially if someone gave me a topic like “recycling”.
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