Finding a folder of school essays today was a poignant, not altogether happy experience.
I was delighted at the insight I had shown many years ago when commenting on then current events, my observations of a quiet evening by the lagoon at Turakina, my thoughts on Keats' Ode to Autumn.
Correct grammar and spelling was the way to get high marks. Original thinking and insight was ignored.
In my haste to get all the thoughts in my head onto paper, spelling suffered. My handwriting wasn't too great, either. What I now see as insightful comment by a 16-year old was not considered praiseworthy. It just needed some subbing, instead of "6/10. Could do better. Spoilt by careless mistakes."
Yet there were undeniable benefits from this focus on grammar and spelling. It has stood me in good stead as I've untangled other people's tortured and tortuous words. And helped my own writing, although my long-dead English teacher would be horrified to see me start a sentence with 'and.'
Has the fear of making a grammatical error has stopped other Baby Boomers putting their thoughts on paper, or led to them writing stilted, awkward prose?
Time will tell whether modern English education, which focuses on getting thoughts on paper - any old way - is a better option, although academics teaching English report having to teach extremely basic stuff to first-year students majoring in English.
If you do find writing a struggle, and especially if you're having to write for the web, Rachel McAlpine's online course is excellent - www.contented.com