The Death of Creativity in Writing

The Death of Creativity in Writing
Wendy Thomas - Thu Apr 26, 2012 @ 01:57PM
Comments: 5


This week my kids are on spring vacation from school. One of my sons, who had done poorly on the writing essay portion of 

the SATs, along with two of his buddies, will be taking a class I am teaching on how to write an essay for the test. Photo credit: aaron13251

The SAT does not ask you to be creative; instead it asks you to follow a format. It wants to see if you can follow rules. When asked for an essay, you had better provide one using 5 paragraphs with the following format:

·         Introduction

·         Example 1

·         Example 2

·         Qualification

·         Conclusion

Or you will fail.

“Can I use “I”?” one of the kids asked.

Nope, the graders don’t care what you think.  They only want to see that the structure has been followed - is your thesis sentence in the right place, do you have 5 facts in each example paragraph, and have you acknowledged the other point of view?

“I’m not teaching you how to be a good writer,” I started the class with, “I want you to understand that I am simply teaching you how to write for a specific test.”

“What about personal opinion?”

Not allowed.

“What voice should I use?”

Only authoritative and never chummy, do not have a friendly discussion with your reader. Assume that you are in a court of law and you need to convince the jurors of your position.

One boy in the class told me that he was told by his English teacher that if he couldn’t come up with a reference for the test essay to make one up, but to be sure to make it “looks like it’s real.”


This is what writing has come down to. And while I understand the need for some sort of metrics, it makes me sick that our kids, the future of tomorrow, are being taught to write like this.

This is a formula - follow it. Breaking from the mold will result in failure.

If you can’t make it, then fake it, as long as you can conform to the standards.

While we are rapidly heading into a world where group allegiance to the whole will be demanded from kids who are taught to numbingly follow the rules, in my world of art and creativity, we are silently weeping.




Wendy Thomas is a writer, journalist, and blogger on subjects ranging from social networking and e-marketing to owning backyard chickens. She spent more than 20 years as a technical writer and has taught classes in technical writing and instructional design both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Through her business; Jackson and Thomas e-Writing, her work with, and as a Savvy Sister at, she regularly consults with companies advising on best practices to use when trying to effectively get their brand and platform recognized on the Internet.

Wendy has been a guest speaker, a columnist, and has been published in regional and national newspapers and magazines, as well as on many blogs. You can contact Wendy at



Comments: 5


1. Tim Burris  |  my website   |   Tue May 01, 2012 @ 08:49AM

No Doubt! I totally agree with you Wendy Thomas. No creativity no confidence, we are just here to follow rules. No one cares about our skills or our ability they just want us to follow their rules and to meet their criteria.

2. Wendy Thomas   |   Thu May 03, 2012 @ 10:44AM

I definitely feel your frustration. While I'm all for testing people to see if they can follow rules (a good example of that is qualifying those for the military) what I find disturbing is this need to write to a test. The kids are not graded on how well they write, or how creatively they write.

They are graded on whether the topic sentence is the last sentence in the first paragraph and whether 3 examples are cited and 5 facts are supplied for each example.

It's at the point where my son's teacher actually told the class that if they can't think of a fact to make one up but to be sure "to make it look like it is real."

Are we really testing a person's ability to write or are we testing a person's ability to manipulate a system?

Thanks for your comment.


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