How do you address process and product?

Video created by Elizabeth Uva Employee on Oct 23, 2015

    Huot: For me, there's not very much difference between the process and the product because a rhetorical awareness makes you always think about what the product's going to be, and the process, then, are just the steps that you use to get to that.


    Condon: Process and product are, in a way, kind of meaningless distinctions.  There is no, as we know it... no piece of writing is ever finished, it's just due.  So to that extent it becomes a product.  But I've never written anything that I felt was finished.


    Huot: If we think not about grammar--because when we think about writers we don't think about them as being grammarians--but a good writer is a good reviser, is a pretty good proofreader and editor.  What I want to teach students, then, is how to revise and how to be a proofreader and editor.  And for me, that's a very different move than saying how much grammar, and by grammar I'm talking about, you know, the formal structures of the language we need to teach.


    Condon: As far as correctness goes, I think correctness is overrated.  I don't really, despite what many of our colleagues might think in other fields, I don't think correctness has a whole lot of place in first year composition.  Again, I think it's about invention, I think it's about audience.  To the extent that correctness matters, it's about caring.  I do try to help students learn the notion of craft, that there are ways to say things that are effective and really, again, in a first year composition course, if you can get them to say it in a logical way, if you can get them to think about organization and order from a reader's standpoint, you're going to make a lot of progress with correctness.


    Glenn: Now, for me, I tell myself it's very foolish to reward one thing and expect another.  So if I'm rewarding only mechanical correctness and expecting students to have this deep reservoir of words that they can tap without rewarding that, that's foolish.  So I have to have daily activities in class that allow students to produce words that aren't graded, to get something down on paper.  And then, ultimately, we always work on punctuation and grammar.  And what I do is have a little grammar lesson every day, in every class meeting.  And I make it a rule that I don't mark things off on a student's writing unless I've taught that to the students.  So the first week I might start with sentence boundaries, and then if students have comma splices, for instance, I'll mark those.


    Condon: There are some products that need to be correct.  Business letters need to be correct.  Journal articles need to be correct.  There are usually plenty of apparatuses available at that level to bring something to perfect correctness.  The writers at the "New Yorker," the best collection of writers probably anybody's ever assembled over a period of years, have teams of copyeditors, people they think of as the dragon lady, you know, going over their prose and finding the dangling modifiers and finding the little mistakes and making it absolutely perfect, and then, even then, you get some mistakes.  But if John McPhee needs a copyeditor, how can I tell a freshman student, you know, you've got to produce this and it's got to be correct and you have to do it on your own?


    D. McQuade: It takes students varying amounts of time to discover their own resourcefulness with language, and it takes students different lengths of time to relax into their eloquence.  Teaching writing is encouraging students to take risks and not penalizing them for taking those risks.  And once they begin to discover that risk is going to be rewarded, they begin to relax into their ability.  So they're going to stretch themselves out much, much farther, and they're going to be willing to explore their own resourcefulness with language a lot more if they're operating in a supportive environment, one which doesn't penalize people for taking risks.  And because writing is a recursive process, in a certain sense, in principle, you can't do it wrong because you can always do it over again.  It's like doing something... like throwing a pot.  If you're shaping a pot, if it doesn't work on the wheel, you can always take it down and do it again.  But the whole point of writing is to have enough clay to work with.