Why Perfect Sentences Don’t Matter
When I began grad school my writing was rusty and feedback on papers was matter-of-fact—like “write in active voice”—and often included edits without explanation. I felt like an imaginary template to write correctly in grad school existed that I was not privy to! I tried to hear why the edits made sense and I started repeating those patterns I was told were “correct,” without really knowing why they were better. In this way, I started to think that the key to writing well was crafting these “perfect sentences.”
So when I started working at the VWC, I approached other students’ papers similarly—“correcting” sentences without explanation, thinking that would help them succeed in grad school. I found myself telling students to write in active voice like I was told; yet I could not tell them exactly what that meant. I was fortunate to learn from the VWC team that helping our fellow students improve their writing is not synonymous with imposing our personal definition of what makes a “perfect” sentence.
Working at the VWC has shown me that the beauty in writing is the diversity and uniqueness that every writer contributes. Reading the diverse and exciting papers my peers write helped me see how insignificant a “perfect sentence” is as long as the sentence enhances a well-developed, creatively expressed idea. Sure, we all have to conform to some academic writing standards. Still, my VWC experience has helped me learn the value of focusing more on the important ideas I express in my writing and less on crafting perfect sentences.
Katryna (Katie) Kibler
Virtual Writing Center