I recall during undergrad no less than three professors making comments about phrasing in my work: “I don’t know where you’re from, but you’ve got to watch out for those regional phrases in your writing.”
I was stymied. I’m born and raised in Seattle and the surrounding area; my mother and father were also born and raised here. I couldn’t understand what it was about my writing that made them wonder where I might be from.
After the third such comment, I realized that what they were noticing wasn’t about region – it was about class. See, I was raised in between working class and working poor, and spent a good chunk of my late teens and early adulthood in the underclass; I left school after completing 8th grade and earned a GED through a program called Job Corps. I even spent some time on the streets. So they were hearing where I was from – not area, but socioeconomic strata. Writing academically had an exclusive vibe to me, and I felt frustrated. “They know darn well what I’m saying – they’re just being snobs!” is a train of thought I battled with for some time.
I still definitely don’t like the idea that the way some of us speak is considered improper (thankfully, linguists agree there isn’t an improper or sloppy English). However, I have come to understand that knowing how to write in a formal tone in academic and business settings is a requirement not unlike a workplace dress code. I might not always like it, but I’ve learned to write for the academic audience while not allowing those rules to erase who I am or where I’m from.
Virtual Writing Center Peer Consultant