I received another article for the next issue of the teen newsletter yesterday. No awesomes, but... oh my! This author has moved away from the area and is no longer homeschooled. She wrote the adult advisers of the teen group and wanted to know if she could have something put in the newsletter this year... so it was handed off to me. I reviewed this for the newsletter as a favor. I could reject it on the basis that the young woman is no longer a part of the local homeschool teen group. However, if I rejected it out right, then it would mean that if my daughter wanted to continue her world music column after we move, she couldn't because we would no longer live in the area. This left me in a quandary.
This young woman was desperately trying to sound intelligent. She was a bit too fond of her thesaurus and seemed to think that if she used all big words it would be better. What she neglected to focus on was her audience, the teens reading the piece. Most of them aren't going to get past the first two sentences, which is just as well because even if they finished it, they might never quite know what she was trying to say to them. The idea of a topic sentence in any paragraph was a foreign idea. Any attempt to clearly state what she wanted to say and then support her ideas became all muddled up when she tried to boost her vocabulary and focused more on that than the writing and ideas. If she were my teen I would have kicked it back to her and told her to clearly state say what she wanted to convey. I would suggest making up a brief outline to organize her thoughts.
Alas, I took the easy way out. Along with my son (as senior editor) we highlighted a few things that needed to be changed. There were several sentence fragments and spelling errors. We corrected the word she made up (by adding extra suffixes). Neither of us addressed the real problem: that the piece lacked coherent, organized thoughts and came across as stilted and disjointed. Yeah, we're chickens. [insert appropriate chicken noises here] Actually, I have a feeling that the young woman wrote this essay for a class and received a good grade on it, so she wanted to share it with us. I'm sure that the teacher didn't read all the way through the piece or the sentence fragments, spelling mistakes, and made up word in the last half of the piece would have been noticed (one would hope). I am appreciating my teens writing abilities more and more.