Many of us do a great job getting students to write and write and write. One of the skills that we don't do as well is getting them (and ourselves) to attend to required restrictions. Assignments that require writers to compose to particular specifications--no pronouns, dialogue only, haiku format, one-syllable words only, or no more than six words. These constraints force us to grapple with our writing in ways that we don't normally do; they help us to be aware of and to strengthen our skills.
An extreme and amazing example is Ernest Vincent Wright's 1939 Gadsby -- a 50,000 word novel written entirely without the use of the letter "e". By the way, writing that eliminates a letter of the alphabet is called a Lipogram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipogram). Letter e lipograms are among the most difficult. Try writing even a paragraph without an e.
While these are good exercises to improve our writing in general, they have a practical purpose too. As our students begin to write college applications, seek employment, and vie for competitive grants, they will find that careful attention to guidelines can mean the difference between success and failure.
Your students are developing skills that just may give them the edge they'll need in the future.
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