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Research Papers, Grocery Lists, and Starbucks Cups: It’s All Relevant

Did you know that writing is NOT just about five paragraph essays and hamburger paragraphs? You probably don’t believe me, but it’s true. To be fair, I also had trouble believing this. Think of how many times you wrote today. Even stupid little notes to remind yourself not to forget to bring shoes or the grocery list your mom asked you to start. I’m sure it was a lot, right? Now, add about 25 more examples to the number you have in your head…that’s probably a bit closer to the amount of times that you actually wrote today. Crazy, right?

The applicability of writing hit me at work the other day. I work at Starbucks and we have these sticker machines now so unfortunately the art of writing on cups has slowly disappeared. However, sometimes there are problems with the machine or a customer makes an modification to their drink and we need to write on their cup. It’s a bunch of abbreviations that probably look like another language to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at. For us baristas, we know exactly what every letter, marking, and symbol on the cup means. And it is serious business. You would not believe how seriously people take their coffee orders. If they want their sugar free vanilla latte with heavy cream, eight splendas, four pumps of caramel syrup latte at 180 degrees, you better NOT write 179 degrees. They’ll know the difference. I don’t know how they know… but they know. Look at this cup for example.

The sharpie marking is very important. It’s a form of communication, like any other writing. Schools probably wouldn’t ever teach kids that writing on cups is a form of “writing” but why not? A pen hit the surface. Words were created. Ideas were shared. Why is this not considered “writing”? We can’t just hide kids from a whole world of writing because we decided along the way it’s not “good enough.”

Imagine this: a career day where kids get to dress up as different professions and talk about how writing is used in that particular space. What a creative and fun way to introduce the versatility in a school setting. Bring in guest speakers from different professions too! Why not?!

We use writing to communicate ideas and to connect with people. It’s a “social activity”, according to authors Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury, and I couldn’t agree more. The social aspect, especially in a world so focused on social media, is critical to our understanding of writing. Moving past the idea of academic writing and accepting writing as a fluid concept in the sense that it has a place in all spaces will enhance writing and allow for more creativity and deeper thinking. 

Related to creativity, I love that there is no such thing as “THE” writing process. Authors Lindblom and Christenbury stress this in their book as well. Two authors can choose to write two completely different ways for different situations; this doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. Why would we let anyone decide who is right in that instance? I don’t know anyone who I’d trust with that much power. The idea that there is no one writing process is very empowering. If one style doesn’t work, try another. This can help encourage young writers who may struggle with those “outline” worksheets. People generate ideas differently and that’s okay. Encourage that. Don’t stifle it. Everyone has their own approach because everyone’s experiences influences how they approach an essay question or a book report, for example. 

So whether you’re writing a grocery list, a research paper, or a Starbucks cup– it’s all writing and it’s all relevant.


One thought on “Research Papers, Grocery Lists, and Starbucks Cups: It’s All Relevant

  1. Hi Alicia. I really enjoyed your blog post. It was fun and informative! I like the way you pointed out the many forms of writing that we all take for granted on a daily basis. As stated in NCTE’s “Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing” from February 28, 2016, “writing is not just one practice or activity. A note to a cousin is not like a business report, which is different again from a poem”. We use so many different forms of writing on a daily basis that should be acknowledged and taught through authentic writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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