“He will be brought up in a suitable environment…”

My student is writing about the case of a young woman who, needing money for college (you have to sympathize with that), agreed to be artificially inseminated and bear a child for the biological father and his wife—but after the birth refused to part with the little boy.

The essays on this subject tended toward the impassioned-but-inarticulate, and I jotted down a lot of spectacular sentences.

What interests me most about the example here is its diction. In fact, my student made no errors whatsoever, unless the reader is, like me, determined to preserve the so-called Oxford comma even though Oxford University has itself become so foolish as to make it a judgment call. But her sentence makes clear that good writing requires a lot more than correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

What is remarkable about what follows is not the correctness, but the language choices. A perfectly reasonable beginning suddenly tilts, with “suitable environment” as the fulcrum, into the voice of a Chamber of Commerce or realtor’s brochure.

She’s arguing that the contract should be upheld and the child should be part of his father’s family. After all, she reasons, the biological mother is still in school, in need of money, uncertain of her future. The father and his wife are a prosperous and stable couple living in a good neighborhood and eager to give a child the good life they clearly can afford.

Reading this sentence, wouldn’t you feel the appeal? Here we go:

“He will be brought up in a suitable environment with convenient recreational centers, clinics and transportation.”

As the song says, Who could ask for anything more?

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

7 responses to ““He will be brought up in a suitable environment…”

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