Posted in nonfiction

‘Don’t use YOU’: Writing advice from a high school paper on Shakespeare

Reviewing one of my high school papers I saved from over two decades ago, in which I discussed King Lear, I note my original paragraph:

Some people are able to maintain their goodwill to others despite personal insult and tragedy. Edgar says, ‘[I,] by the art of known and feeling sorrows, / am pregnant to good pity.” The context is not optimistic, but his philosophy is clear, and it is more promising than the idea that people are born evil and misfortunate. Edgar says that when bad things happen to you, you can make something good out of something bad or at least grow as a person.

The teacher’s feedback in red pen on that last sentence: “Don’t use you.”

The teacher was correct. “You” was a bit too informal here, especially as my paper about human nature was otherwise written in third person.

But when my inner self-critic finger-wags at me, even today, “Don’t use you,” I’d do well to remember where this teacherly advice came from. It was shorthand advice that applied to a specific paper. It may or may not apply to whatever I’m writing today.

A photograph of an old high school essay about King Lear. The sentence is: "Edgar says that when bad things happen to you, you can make something good out of something bad..." The teacher wrote: "Don't use YOU."

“…when bad things happen to you, you can make something good out of something bad…”

Author:

Novelist of matters surreal and magical. Studied philosophy and journalism. Worked in technology and finance. Knows about UX design and life coaching. Helps people write their books. Ask. Don't be shy. Author of TEN PAST NOON, BAD FIRE, PAINTING DRAGONS, and ENKIDU IS DEAD AND NOT DEAD.

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