July 5 , 2019 /


What is plain English?  What are some the hallmarks of a good writer?  Who do you like to read and why?  If you can answer those questions easily, then you know what plain English is.

Four of my favorite writers, among many, are David McCullough, Anne Lamott, Atul Gawande, and Malcolm Gladwell.  They are very different people, write about different topics and yet they capture my attention and hold it.  Why?  Their writing skills, while varied, are evident in their craft.

When I was in the 9th grade, we were given a book by our English teacher, Ethel Hathaway, called Walsh’s Plain English Handbook.The first edition was published in 1936; my ninth-grade year was 1951-52.  Miss Hathaway had high standards and high expectations.

One reviewer, Paula Quinn, said, “this book is the one that got me through school in the 50’s and 60’s; it’s just that wonderful and enduring. It answers every grammatical question with examples and explanations. It’s an essential tool especially now in a world full of technology. As we’ve grown in the ease of communication, (good) grammar has declined and THIS book solves that problem. It’s a Godsend. should have ten stars!”

Wonderful and enduring.  A Godsend. I agree. That little book helped me become a better writer and a better teacher. My teacher then wanted our best work.  I remain grateful to her and numerous other teachers along the way for encouraging us to do better.


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