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Why do the Maxwells write so awkwardly?


YPestis

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I find both Steve and Teri passable writers. From the snippets I've seen, the two oldest boys are also ok. However, Sarah and the rest write very....awkardly...? Is that the term I'm thinking of? I admit to buying their "keeping children's heart' book where each of the older children were allowed to write a section. Sarah's portion was just so poorly written I couldn't believe she's a professional writer.

 

What sticks out for me is the awkward sentence structures and outdated and overuse of a limited vocabulary. Grammatically, most of the Maxwell writings are passable (although there are plenty of mistakes). However, their writing just doesn't "flow" right. They write like foreigners who learned all the rules of English writing but none of the nuances of the language.

 

It makes me wonder if the reason is that the Maxwell children, especially the younger ones, were given such limited reading materials. Maybe they never had examples to emulate or learn from. The Maxwells have said their children don't do lit in high school due to the lack of "godly material" that pass their muster.

 

Both Teri and Steve have attended college. It amazes me they think their children can become proficient writers without have to read extensively.

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I think that in order to write well you have to read a variety of material. If there is a lmit to what they are allowed to read, no wonder their writing suffers.

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I think you're right about the lack of reading causing a lack of writing skills. Let's face it, an HTML book isn't exactly a riveting read and won't teach you much about dialogue, plot, meter, or anything else that makes for good narrative writing.

Also, I'm guessing that their own speech patterns have made their way into the writing style - which is normal, of course, but because they don't associate with very many people, they're not exposed to other speech patterns, vocab, etc. Plus, the people they are friends with are all elderly and thus might use antiquated language themselves.

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I think - and I'm just guessing here - that it has something to do not only with their actual education but the material used. When the main book you read in life is the bible, it's a little difficult to grasp the written word. The bible is not exactly an example of educated writing...by that I mean it isn't written to be written well in the English language, it is written to get a point across. The bible doesn't 'flow' or follow structural or grammatical rules because, well, it isn't meant to and it is translated and altered and all that.

I think it is partly due to the education they were given by Teri and it probably lacked some key elements. But, mostly, I think it's because of the limited material they have ever had to work with. The bible, religious texts, how to manuals.

A little off topic but a little on the same train of thought - in an episode of Roseanne that I just came across one night recently, Jackie was taking her son to the doctor because she was concerned about the way he was saying his words. He broke everything up, like tri-an-gle and hel-lo. She said it was really weird and she didn't understand why. She left the room and Roseanne bent to talk to the little boy who was playing with an electronic toy. Turns out the toy that said recorded words just like that in a robotic tone - he was speaking as he was being taught by/learning from the toy.

You learn from what you're given and with the material you are given. If you are not reading a broad, wide range of material, you're not going to learn a wide range of skills with the written word.

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I just can't get over the fact that a "professional writer" doesn't know when to use "I" vs. "me", as evidenced by one of the recent posts. "Abigail and I". No, it's "Abigail and me". A way to tell when to use I vs me is to drop the other person. "Me and him went to the store" -- drop "and him" and it becomes "me went to the store."

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Quite a few reasons for this. One, undereducation as you mention. If you generally only get a KJV to read and you weren't exactly going to amaze the world with your brains in the first place, your writing style will get pretty stilted pretty quickly.

Second, though it pains me to say this, strong ideologies will do that to a person too. This has happened to me more times than I can remember and I have mates who you can't ask the time without getting a flood of impenetrable lefty jargon. I have got better at seeing the look of total incomprehension and rephrasing, but how would a Maxwell practice that? They speak fluent Fundie and they never need not to, and that bleeds into their writing.

Finally, related to my previous point, you need a sense of humour and/or a strong awareness of the world to write well. Lacking that produces the EFL effect you notice, where stuff is mostly in the right place but emotion doesn't seem to be there, or seems inappropriate.

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I agree that their writing is stilted and seems to lack grown up vocabulary. It probably is due to a lack of exposure to various tpes of literature and literary styles. Perhaps they should spend some time playing on freerice.com, or doing crossword puzzles, or playing scrabble.

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The English language isn't really easy to learn and I can't imagine how these children are learning to write well, if they've no access to decent literature. When I moved here and had to learn how to speak the language, part of it came from actual classes, but a large part of it came from trying to read English books and once I started to get a good handle, I read every book or piece of literature I could get my hands on, from classics to the back of the cereal box.

If they're not reading and learning how to use the words they know, they're never going to understand how to express themselves. Reading the Bible is problematic, because it's not originally written in English, making the sentence structure and wording akward. Tech manuals.... do I even need to explain that? They need some Charles London, some Ayn Rand, some Charles Dickens and some other actual well written English literature.

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I just can't get over the fact that a "professional writer" doesn't know when to use "I" vs. "me", as evidenced by one of the recent posts. "Abigail and I". No, it's "Abigail and me". A way to tell when to use I vs me is to drop the other person. "Me and him went to the store" -- drop "and him" and it becomes "me went to the store."

That should actually be 'he and I' if you follow the same rule with regards to dropping the 'I'.

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English grammar can be difficult to learn. If you are learning from a substandard source - and many HS curricula are substandard - then you aren't going to learn the correct rules. Let's face it, even teachers can get the finer points of English grammar wrong so what hope is there for a home-schooler learning from TSOTDRT.

If your reading material is limited, and we know that the Maxwell kids will not have had access to a variety of fiction and non fiction, then you aren't going to pick up pointers from that. I would love to actually hear one of the Maxwell kids read out loud actually. I wouldn't be surprised if their reading flow was stilted even if they could read properly.

From the little I have read of the Moody series, Sarah writes like a much younger girl. Yes I know she writes for children, but to be she writes AS a child, not just for children. She comes across as 12 or 13 in her books.

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JesusFightClub, I think you're right about the strong ideology, too. When you have beliefs that you assume are shared by all of your readers, you don't have to take the time to explain yourself.

For example, it struck most of us as callous and inappropriate to mention abortion in a post dedicated to soldiers and their patriotism (the "infamous" Memorial Day post). In fundie world, though, it's quite common for people to equate aborted babies with murder victims, or soldiers who died in battle, or holocaust victims. So, to the Maxwells and to their audience, it's not weird to mention abortion and soldiers at the same time.

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Finally, related to my previous point, you need a sense of humour and/or a strong awareness of the world to write well. Lacking that produces the EFL effect you notice, where stuff is mostly in the right place but emotion doesn't seem to be there, or seems inappropriate.

This sums it up perfectly for me. I can detect very little emotion in their writing, especially Sarah, and Teri (who seem to me to have similar writing styles). Their personalities just don't come through. I wonder if Teri and Sarah are so focused on keeping a meek and quiet spirit that their personalities are inhibited. I mean, sheesh, if Sarah's feeling guilty about a little grumbling to herself...

I can handle some grammatical errors if the writing is vibrant and interesting. But, let's face it,the Maxwell's writing is only interesting in a car wreck sort of way. And Sarah is only a professional writer because she and her parents decided she was (and some silly fundies keep buying her books).

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When I met the Maxwells, I was very struck by the lack of personality. Honestly, Ma Maxwell is a decent speaker and there's a spark of intelligence below the dourness, although you have to look for it. Pa Maxwell is creepy as all get out, but there's a sense of a "whole person" there and he and John both have a bit of that "it" factor -- not like what you see with celebs, but a certain amount of spark, or whatever you want to call it. Mary, Anna and Sarah are particularly bland. They are almost without any personality. There's a lack of vitality, a lack of hmm... how to put it? Sharpness. There's no spark, no wit. Just sort of empty strained smiles.

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I can't remember exactly which post it was - but the Maxwell's said that "they don't read - they write". This is one of their problems. I think that if they want to write better they should read more (and not just the Bible or HTML manuals). It might also help if they unclenched their respective anal sphincters just a wee bit.

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JesusFightClub, I think you're right about the strong ideology, too. When you have beliefs that you assume are shared by all of your readers, you don't have to take the time to explain yourself.

For example, it struck most of us as callous and inappropriate to mention abortion in a post dedicated to soldiers and their patriotism (the "infamous" Memorial Day post). In fundie world, though, it's quite common for people to equate aborted babies with murder victims, or soldiers who died in battle, or holocaust victims. So, to the Maxwells and to their audience, it's not weird to mention abortion and soldiers at the same time.

I remember that! It wasn't offensive to me but it came across as so, so weird. Like as if it was a memorial day for soldiers and they had said "While we are at it, let's remember all the people who die from falling down holes, too."

I admit to having a bit of sympathy for the Maxwell lassies on this one as I have far more chance to interact with people who don't share my views and I still keep making mistakes on this score. But it does go to show in the Maxwells' cases that Daddy Maxwell is really an inexcusable bastard. To bring up kids so, as other posters pointed out, they think and write like children well into adulthood and behave like robots is not a sin with a name, but were there a God, I reckon it would be a sin nevertheless.

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I agree with most of the points mentioned, but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the KJV as a literary model. Two authors whom I consider to write absolutely stunning English prose (John Steinbeck and Isak Dinesen) both use consciously biblical cadence to great effect (although with contemporary vocabulary). Just because the Maxwells can't assimilate it well doesn't mean that it isn't an effective literary model.

In addition, I don't think it's right to say that the Bible doesn't have grammatical or structural correctness, or that it is only meant to communicate information without a rhetorical or literary framework - the different books are written in different (and ancient) literary genres that have their own sets of conventions, which may or may not line up with modern conventions.

But back to the Maxwell snark! The idea that "we don't read; we write" shocks and baffles me just about as much as the "we can learn music better from instructional videos than from real people."

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That should actually be 'he and I' if you follow the same rule with regards to dropping the 'I'.

Herp derp! Thank you, sorry for the brain fart! ;)

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The KJV has beautiful language which has inspired more great writers than I can count. But you need to have the spark of talent in the first place, and the Maxwells don't. They are not getting the whole business, they are too stunted by their lives to see the KJV as a source of literary inspiration in a wider sense than "good writing is talking funny and using strange constructions like the Holy Book does".

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On the "professional writer" post,it doesn't take much in the homeschool world. My sister and her adult daughters crank out a few books a year and self publish them to sell to homeschoolers. Would I call any of them "professional writers"? NO. But if you are looking for religious or modest school or homeschool materiala then you will buy it, just like Sarah's books.

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On the "professional writer" post,it doesn't take much in the homeschool world. My sister and her adult daughters crank out a few books a year and self publish them to sell to homeschoolers. Would I call any of them "professional writers"? NO. But if you are looking for religious or modest school or homeschool materiala then you will buy it, just like Sarah's books.

Well, my definition was anyone who makes money off of their writing. You are correct that Sarah Maxwell does not write as most writers who do it for a living. If her family didn't publish their own books, I rather doubt her books would ever see the light of day.....

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On the "professional writer" post,it doesn't take much in the homeschool world. My sister and her adult daughters crank out a few books a year and self publish them to sell to homeschoolers. Would I call any of them "professional writers"? NO. But if you are looking for religious or modest school or homeschool materiala then you will buy it, just like Sarah's books.

I believe it's time for Free Jinger to develop its own homeschool curriculum.

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