Analysis of Code-Meshing and Code-Switching

by Izzy Adler

The English Language has hundreds of dialects and accents which span across the entire world and yet, despite the differences, the idea that a Standard English exists remains prevalent. Standard English continues to be the most widely respected and accepted form of communication in schooling when compared to other dialects such as AAVE. The debate as to whether Standard English should be the primary dialect used when speaking and writing in an academic setting is one which has loud voices on both sides; professional linguists, professors of English and Writing, as well as specific individuals to whom the debate feels incredibly personal continue to struggle in finding a happy medium or ‘correct’ answer to the question of if there is a wrong way to speak or write in English. Jamilla Lyiscott’s TedTalk 3 ways to Speak English represents the struggles, points, and implications of both Code-Switching and Code-Meshing.

Language has intrinsic ties to a person’s identity for the simple reason that it is how humans find their place in a group and feel connected to said, group. The desire to want to belong and to convey oneself is one that all people can understand. The difficulty arises when a person wants to step outside of their group and try to communicate and belong in a new setting. A notable example of this struggle can be found when black students who typically speak and/or write in AAVE are expected to write and speak in Standard English and obey its dialectical rules when in academic settings. These students are taught, either outrightly or subliminally, that their normal way of communicating is incorrect and should be forgotten either entirely or at the least while they are in school. The act of entirely adapting one’s speech or writing to fit the situation that a person finds themself in is called Code-Switching. However, there is a more recently developed term called ‘Code-Meshing’ which describes selecting terms and phrases to use in sentences based on which will convey the most clear and effective communication, regardless of dialect. This term allows for far more linguistic flexibility for those that do not use Standard English as their primary dialect. Code-Meshing allows those that speak non-Standard English to be more authentically meanwhile Code-Switching censors the message the speaker/writer is attempting to convey. Jamilla Lyiscott states in her Ted Talk 3 Ways to Speak English that she has “decided to treat all three of [her] languages as equal because [she’s] ‘articulate’” (Lyiscott 1:12). In Lyiscott’s verbal demonstration of her command over the dialects which she speaks, she also demonstrates the mental acrobatics which are needed in order to flip between said dialects. She states that she has been told she is ‘articulate’ for her ability to recognize her audience and adjust. She proclaims, “I speak three tongues. One for each home, school, and friend” (Lyiscott 2:29). Each one of her ‘tongues’ serves a purpose and helps her to connect to others.

The actual Ted Talk by Lyiscott is an example of Code-meshing, while the topic of the Talk is one Code-Switching. Lyiscott’s speech shows how she can mix and move through her different dialects all within the piece without it becoming incomprehensible. In her Talk Lyiscott says “Sometimes I fight back two tongues while I use the other one in the classroom. And when I mistakenly mix them up, I feel crazy- like I’m cooking in the bathroom” (2:39). This is a description of Switching and demonstrates how she perceives her other two dialects to be unfit for an academic setting because they are not Standard English. Stanley Fish argues that “You’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition. You don’t strike a blow against a power structure by making yourself vulnerable to its prejudice.” To Fish, it is necessary to speak and write in Standard English to better advocate for oneself and understand as well as participate in the current world. Because of Fish’s ideas regarding the imperativeness of communicating in Standard English and leaving other dialects at home or with friends, he is advocating for Code-switching and thus would likely commend Lyiscott’s ability to conform to Standard ideals of academic communication.

However, as stated before, not all agree with the necessity of Code-Switching. Melissa Dennihy an assistant professor of English at Queensborough Community College, City University of New York whose research in multi-ethnic literature has been published many times argues, “Although some consider it an acceptable or even progressive practice, code-switching is a discriminatory language policy. It ranks Standardized English as more valuable than other language varieties…” Dennihy makes the point that asking students to Code-switch instills in them the idea that their natural way of speaking is something that should be hidden away or be ashamed of. She goes on to say, “We do not tell students to accept racial or ethnic discrimination as “just how it is,” so why would we give such a response with regard to linguistic discrimination? Blaming the working world is not a fair answer, either” (Dennihy). This particular argument is in direct contrast to Fish’s claim that people must speak and write in the way those in power do in order to ‘strike a blow against a power structure’. However, compared to Lyicott’s argument, it is far more nuanced. Lyiscott does not feel shame about the fact that she speaks two other dialects apart from Standard English. She treats her three ‘three tongues as equal’. Lyiscott has learned to be a chameleon and adapt her tongue to the situation. However, she does admit to struggling to adapt; sometimes she worries she might “[cook] in the bathroom” (2:45). There are times when Lyiscott does not switch and her dialect is made to feel out of place. This introduces the idea of Code-Meshing, of weaving a person’s multiple dialects together to convey a message most authentically.

Vershawn Ashanti Young describes Code-Meshing as “blend[ing] dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts” (114). Young advocates for the weaving of dialects in all settings and the retirement of the idea that there is only one dialect which should be used in schools. Young’s argument is that writing, and speech should be conducted for the purpose of successful communication of emotion or ideas and should not be regimented with rules which further promote division among those attempting to connect. Young asks, “so, what happen when peeps dont meet the dominant language rules? Well, some folks can get away with not meeting those rules while others get punished, sometimes severely, for not doing so” (112). Young demonstrates his control and understanding of the message he is writing about through his own use of Code-messing in the article. Lyiscott’s own speech similarly depicted the act of Code-meshing. Both Young and Lyiscott’s pieces gained an immense amount of honesty and authenticity through the mixing of the writers’ multidialectal word and phrase choices.

Humans have a natural ability to speak and make sound. Meanwhile, writing skills are unnaturally occurring. Despite these differences in the accessibility of the two forms of communication, both are judged with the same harsh and regimented ideals of what is correct and what is acceptable. Humans speak to convey their thoughts and identity; by restricting the words and parts of a person that they are allowed to share, that person is effectively silenced. It is not necessary to entirely forgo the rules of Standard English and remove its place in academic spheres. But rather, schools need to finally start adapting themselves and allow students to show themselves in their writing. Code-meshing offers the opportunity for multidialectal students to use their own words to share their thoughts. As Jamilla Lyiscott said: “This is not a promotion of ignorance. This is a linguistic celebration.” So long as the divergences from Standard English do not impede the reader’s understanding of the writer’s argument or points the piece should be allowed to remain as the writer wrote it. If a word or phrasing choice hinders the clarity of the argument, a discussion should be held between the writer and the teacher. Writing and speaking should be done in the voice of those who wish to be heard.


Work Cited:

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol 12, Issue 1, 2010. Pp. 110- 118.

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, 2009.

Dennihy, Melissa. “Beyond English: Linguistic Diversity in the College English Classroom.” MELUS, Volume 42, Number 4, Winter 2017. Oxford University Press.

Lyiscott, Jamilla. “3 ways to speak English.” TED, June 2014.

Context is Key Code-Switching Essay

by Makenna Stone

So like I dunno how you guys speak but um, I know its different then like most of the way you guys speak down here. While I think about all this stuff, could I get a pop? Yeah, I say pop. It’s definitely not soda. Oh, you can’t help me because you’re eating chicken bog, hitting the lights, and mashing the buttons? Ah, gotcha. Moving to the south changed my world. It expanded my horizons far beyond the small-town, Indiana farm culture I grew up in. Though I first believed the people around me all had the accents, I quickly came to realize that I was the stranger to their culture. It was me who had the accent. Not only did I have the midwestern accent, but I also embodied the midwestern dialect. The phrases, words, and sayings are part of my vocabulary, and they followed me to the south. My midwestern dialect penetrated the southern culture, dialect, and accent. Dialects are present within every language due to regional and cultural differences. Theses dialects and respective cultures must, therefore, be recognized within the educational world to teach students about cultural appreciation. However, due to the formalities required in academic writing, dialects, regardless of race, should not be present in academic pieces.

Dialects are variations of their foundational language. Because they are variations, they not only follow similar grammatical rules, but they also have their own forms of slang and colloquial phrases that should not be present in formal writing. Formal writing constitutes pieces designated for the business, legal, scientific, and academic worlds that removes personal connections and voice of the author from the writing. On the contrary, informal writing constitutes pieces that thrive based on the author’s voice and connections being present in writings used for entertainment, academics, or personal use. Informal writing can also contain colloquial diction such as slang, but formal writing tends to avoid it. Because both formal and informal writings can occur in academic settings such as educational institutions, controversy has begun to occur over when it is appropriate to include formal aspects of dialects within academic pieces. In this case, distinctions must be maintained within various contexts and situations. Creative writing classes, for example, should celebrate formal aspects of all dialects as they enhance writings to include the author’s voice; however, writings in science labs should maintain an unbiased, neutral tone that avoids including the author’s voice. If personal feelings are included in formal pieces such as science labs, then a biased tone could come across and result in decreased credibility. The intended audience of said pieces is key to understanding whether dialects should be present in the writing. Clear and concise writings allow readers to understand the points the author is trying to make (Verblio). Once the author identifies the audience, then he or she may proceed to make a well-informed decision as to include his or her dialect in the writing.

Because the dialect controversy occurs within educational settings, sometimes writers must conform to the rubric of an educator. Such rubrics tend to be based around Standard English, as it is a unified, formal version of English that does not include dialects; therefore, it can be a unifying form of writing that all English-speakers understand. Because it is heavily modified and regulated to sound formal, English-speakers generally do not speak in Standard English, but rather their own dialects. Therefore, no specific dialect is being prioritized within formal or academic pieces. All dialects have been modified over time and throughout regions. In Stanley Fish’s article, he supplies the reasoning behind the CCC resolution for student’s language rights within educational institutions. He explains the “theoretical argument (that) linguistic forms… are not God-given; they are the conventional products of social/cultural habit and therefore none of them is naturally superior or politically ‘correct.’” (Fish 2) Once again, though all dialects should be considered equal, the context and audience of the piece should determine whether dialects are used at all. It is not a matter of using one dialect and discriminating against another, it is deciphering when it is beneficial to include a dialect in the piece to begin with.

Some may argue that educational institutions, by forcing students to abide by Standard English, are dismissing the cultural and social significance and personal empowerment that comes with affirming their natural dialects. Regardless of race, forcing any student to abandon a part of his or her-self for the sake of others is a problem that necessitates a remedial action. Standard English educators and classes already have a large curriculum that must be taught though, so a potential solution could be a linguistic diversity class that teaches various dialects. The class would also allow schools to promote dialect diversity within these unique classes while simultaneously teaching formal writing practices in Standard English classes. A class such as this would work to combat the implicit judgement that Standard English is better when non-standard English is corrected, as Qamar Shafiq explains in his blog “Why I Insist on Standard English in My Classroom.” He notes that “This is not a complicated issue to address. I think students should be made aware there are certain circumstance where non-standard English is appropriate, but that in the classroom it is more appropriate to speak in standard English” (Shafiq). Schools should continue to teach Standard English as formal writing, but also have dialect classes that teach the rules behind certain dialects. The class could not only teach the rules, but it could also teach about the cultures that various dialects stem from. Simultaneously, the class will increase the proficiency of code-switching for both students and teachers, “I think,” Shafiq writes, “we undermine the intellectual capacity of our students that prioritizing standard English means to undermine non-standard English. Students are perfectly capable of code-switching.” Any essay assignments within the class could be written in the student’s choice of dialect, so long as it abides by the formal rules of the dialect. Teachers could go to professional development to better understand the general rules of the dialects; therefore, both students and teachers would be gaining linguistic skills from other dialects. All teachers, regardless of their own race, can attend the professional development to further enhance their teaching methods and understanding of a variety of dialects. Once dialects become widely accepted and understood, then the attitudes Vershawn Young talks about in his article, “Should Writers use They Own Language,” will change. Young claims that negative views toward people who speak in their natural dialects and languages, not the language they are speaking, creates oppression (Young 110). However, if the attitudes toward others begin to shift, then the vulnerability to prejudice that Young speaks of will begin to shift as well.

The controversial topic of the presence of dialects in formal and academic pieces of writing depends on context. Writing is not a subject considered to be “black or white,” but rather a gray area that is up to interpretation from both writer and reader. Because of its gray nature, the presence of dialects requires writers to create a non-traditional solution with compromise from all sides. Writing is the physical form of personal expression. Though there are certain circumstances that require the absence of dialects, discrimination against dialects without purpose creates a negative atmosphere for writers around the world. So, I guess from here I’d say to watch the context, read the room, and write in a way that shows appreciation for all people.

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach? Part 3.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Sept. 2009, Accessed 27 October 2021.

Shafiq, Qamar. “Why I insist on standard English in my classroom.” tes, 13 September 2020, Accessed 1 November 2021.

Verblio. “Do You Write the Way You Speak? Here’s Why Most Good Writers Don’t.” Do Write The Way You Speak? Here’s Why Most Good Writers Don’t, Medium, 22 Jan. 2016, Accessed 27 October 2021.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English.” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2010, pp 110-118.

Code-meshing in Foreign Countries

by Julia Rhyne

Over the past ten years, code-switching has evolved in many places into code-meshing. Whether it is switching between two languages while talking to your best friend who shares the language, or changing the way you talk to a professor versus social media, code-meshing is a huge part of many people’s everyday lives and it is important to understand what it is, and how to be open-minded to everyone’s identity. In Vershawn Young’s article titled, “Should Writers Use They Own English?”, he debunks a previous article by Stan Fish about why there is only one correct way to speak and write to get ahead in the world. Young discusses how wrong this is, and how everyone should not be afraid to use their own language, dialect, or personality when speaking and writing. He basically says in general that teachers should not limit people to standard English, and people should not be limited to code-switching, but should be more comfortable utilizing code-meshing, which is becoming more and more true today.
After browsing through many articles from the last couple of months, I saw how prevalent code-meshing is becoming in relation to code-switching, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Young and others like him put articles out there and took a stand on this issue. In one specific article entitled, “Code-Switching and Assimilation in STEM Culture”, the author talks about using code switching and reverse stereotypes in academia. They mention the fact that code-switching has shifted recently to not only using two or more languages at a time, but now to “the changes in speech, appearance, and behaviors by an individual to adjust to the norms of the dominant culture in a given space” (Morales). The author of this article is definitely referring to many of the same aspects Young talked about in his article, such as the fact that code-meshing is part of self-identity and a better way to speak and write rather than code-switching. This is a huge issue especially today, and having people out there who understand and realize that code-meshing is important to understand and accept, is a big part of how Young’s ideas have developed over the past years. When he wrote this article, it was not as prevalent to talk about such “sensitive topics” in race, ethnicities, and cultures.
After researching more on professors who agree that code-meshing is important to understand and accept, I found an article by Raghad Y. Alkhudair, a professor at Qassim University in the English department in Saudi Arabia called, “Professors’ and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions and Attitudes Toward the Use of Code-Switching and Its Function in Academic Classrooms”. This article was so interesting because it addressed code-switching in the classroom, but not only being used by the students. He talked about using code-switching and even more importantly code-meshing in the classroom especially in today’s time, and in Saudi Arabia, by both students and lecturers (Alkhudair). Even though in an English class in Saudi Arabia, it makes sense that there would be switching between English and Arabic, however since many people in Saudi Arabia already speak English, it is fascinating to see that Professor Alkhudair is open to letting students mesh languages, dialects, and even do it himself. I could tell from his article that him allowing students to be open about their dialects and language in the classroom helped them feel more comfortable and more validated. This example seems like a huge jump right from Young’s article. In his article, he says, “Everybody mix the dialect they learn at home with whateva other dialect or language they learn afterwards” (Young). After reading this article first and then finding people who utilize the opinions in this text, it is apparent to me that people even all the way across the world have used this text and taken action on the issue in schools of code-switching to meshing.
While the classroom is a prime example of where code-meshing can be used and taught, the idea has even spread to politics. “Political Discourse Analysis: A Case Study of Code Mixing and Code Switching in Political Speeches”, is an article by the authors Dama Sravani, Lalitha Kameswari, and Radhika Mamidi, who are from India and found that code-switching and meshing have become huge topics in political speeches especially in India, since India is such a multilingual country with many different political ideologies. I thought this was so interesting as a turn away from the classroom and teaching, and focusing on how people have taken the ideas of previous teachers such as Young and used them in political speeches in India. While there are similarities here to the classroom setting such as proper language for political speeches and teaching styles and being appropriate, it was fascinating to read about three separate speeches given in India, all that used code-switching and meshing in different ways. For example, in one of the political speeches about creating a new state in India, the speaker said, “mIru ganaka commitment won tIskunte, Yes sir come on let us move annAru” (Sravani, Kameswari, Mamidi). To me, this sentence makes no sense, especially out of context and with words thrown in from a language I don’t speak. This is one of the examples of how this speaker meshed English and Telugu/Hindi in the middle of (their) sentence. The audience of these speeches were usually native speakers of the language being used and switched between. Therefore the use of code-meshing in these speeches is so crucial to help the audience feel like they are valued and they can understand the speaker even better. Important people, especially in politics, like to appeal to their target audience, so this is helpful for them to get votes and/or help them connect to more people in that way. In India, like many other places in the world, this has become normalized especially in the past ten years. I think if Young saw this article and/or heard these speakers, he would be impressed at how times have changed and people have adjusted away from code-switching to code-meshing.
Vershawn Ashanti Young definitely had an impact on writers, teachers, and politicians all over the world, in his article “Should Writers Use They Own English?”. Whether it was Young himself who inspired these people to feel comfortable talking and writing in their own dialect or meshing languages whenever they feel necessary, or other previous articles and/or teachers in the past– there has been change. Ten years ago, if a teacher counted off points for “incorrect” grammar on a personal narrative, regardless of the language or country, there wouldn’t have been much notice or care because code-meshing was not as prevalent– it was there, but not such an issue as in today’s society. Today if the same thing happened, it would most likely, or at least should be brought to their attention that it was a personal choice and is ok to do. Young’s inspiring article about, and using, code-meshing was certainly a green light for many people who didn’t feel comfortable enough to express their own dialect and language without discrimination. This world we live in is not black and white, so language should not be either.

Works Cited
Alkhudair, Raghad. Professors’ and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions and … 13 Oct. 2019,

A. Morales, C. L. Walker. “Code-Switching and Assimilation in Stem Culture.” Eos, 28 Sept. 2021,

Sravani, Dama, et al. Political Discourse Analysis: A Case … – 11 June 2021,

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010.

How Should Code Meshing be Taught in School?

by Kylie Armstrong

Amid the Black Lives Matter protests in response to police brutality, the concept of racism being taught in schools has emerged once again. Within this conversation it is essential to discuss the way that language and dialects should be taught in English classes, and whether teaching students to only use Standard English is the correct way for students to succeed in the future. In reply to a New York Times article “What should Colleges Teach” by Stanley Fish, in which Fish argues that the only way students will be able to change the world is if they have the tools of speaking professionally in Standard English, Vershawn Ashanti Young introduces the concept of code meshing. Young believes that it is important that everyone has the ability to communicate their ideas and has an understanding of the functions of language regardless of the dialect they are speaking, and that Fish’s method of teaching solely Standard English is causing a racist attitude towards Black English. From a similar perspective, Jamila Lyiscott, a tri-tongued orator, conveys the ways in which code meshing has been beneficial to her because each language she speaks is important and powerful. Everyone has different opinions on the controversy of how code meshing and dialects should be taught in school, but it is important to acknowledge that all dialects have rules and uses, not just Standard English. 

In his article “Should Writers Use They Own English” Vershawn Ashanti Young writes in  a mix of Black English and standard English to establish his concept of code meshing: “Code meshing is the new code switching; it’s mulitdialectalism and pluralingualism in one speech act, in one paper” (Young). He believes that teachers should teach students how to speak and write using code meshing in a formal and informal setting. He argues that “instead of prescribing how folks should write or speak, I say we teach language descriptively. This means we should, for instance, teach how language functions within and from various cultural perspectives. And we should teach what it takes to understand, listen, and write in multiple dialects simultaneously” (Young). Young is establishing his perspective that the education system needs to allow students to speak and write freely in their own languages in order to combat the negative attitudes towards Black English in the professional setting. Change needs to start with the new generations and the only way to do that is to teach them to be accepting of all dialects and allow them to use them in the classroom.

Jamila Lyiscott wrote her poem “Three Ways to Speak English” after encountering a woman who congratulated her for being very “articulate” during an academic panel she was on. In a Ted Radio Hour interview with Guy Raz, she explained that this encounter opened her eyes to the fact that “had [she] been speaking with [her] family, who’s Trinidadian, or with people in [her] community who speak black English vernacular, that this woman would have maybe not seen the same worth and value in terms of [her] intellectual capacity or just [herself]” (What Does it Mean to Be ‘Articulate’?). In her poem which she performed in a Ted Talk , she explains that she is fluent and articulate in all three languages by switching between them as she delivers her message. Her perspective is that all of her languages are useful in a multitude of settings and teachers should be able to teach about all of the languages and dialects of their students, because dialects shouldn’t be stereotyped as bad or erased and controlled by the education system. She brings in the ideas of prejudices against African American Vernacular English or Black English because of the nonsensical racial disparities that she and others have faced based on their way of speaking, similar to the way that Black hair is seen as “bad” and often controlled by white employers. This controversy over whether AAVE should be taught about and if schools should allow Black students to write using the language that they speak at home and with their friends is a result of these prejudices and negative stereotypes that associate Black characteristics with being “bad”. 

In Lyiscott’s Ted Talk she claims “The English language is a multifaceted oration subject to indefinite transformation” and in hopes of getting teachers to follow in her footsteps, she explains that each dialect has its own rules and that code meshing (as she exemplifies in her performance) should be taught in addition to these rules (Lyiscott). It is possible to be inarticulate when speaking in AAVE, but as opposed to popular belief, Black English is not just broken English. To illustrate this concept Lyiscott exclaims “when mommy mocks me and says, y’all be mad going to the store. I say, mommy, no. That sentence is not following the law. Never does the word mad go before a present participle” (Lyiscott). She demonstrates that AAVE is not just sloppy English, there are still grammar rules to follow, and it should be taught in school the history of and the correct way to use AAVE for the benefit of all students. However, it is important to note that even though schools should expose students to all kinds of dialects and languages, it could quickly become insensitive and considered appropriation if a classroom of white students were told to speak in Black English, or other dialects that they are not a part of. It’s essential for all people to understand and respect Black English as a language, but this does not mean that everyone should use AAVE in school or at home if they are not Black.

Other linguists such as John McWhorter, a professor at Columbia University have also taken similar positions to Jamila Lyiscott and Vershawn Ashanti Young on what teachers should teach about code meshing and diverse dialects. In his book Talking Back, Talking Black, McWhorter argues that Black English is not just “gutter talk” and linguists and teachers are “responsible for the fact that almost nobody knows that there exists something called Black English, which is complex enough to require books and academic articles to analyze, and which has its own grammatical structure, just as Standard English does, or Finnish, or Japanese” (McWhorter 7). He opens his introduction by describing countries such as Switzerland where people speak one language in school and print, but another language outside of a formal setting, and contrasts this with the idea that Americans speak Standard English in school and media, but outside of a formal setting Black Americans use “a lot of slang and bad grammar” (McWhorter 1). The education system needs to change their attitude towards Black English and start to understand that it is an actual language just the same as Swiss German in Switzerland, and stop repressing students’ language in school. 

All three linguists would agree that Black English is a language that should not be seen as just “street talk”. It should be taken seriously in the classroom, just as any other language would be. All teachers should expose their students to a variety of languages and dialects from a young age in order to teach them that there is power in being articulate in multiple tongues. Code meshing should be normalized and students should never feel like they have to speak in standard English to have the ability to make a positive change in the world. 


Works Cited

Lyiscott, Jamila. 3 Ways to Speak English. TED, Accessed 3 Nov. 2021. 

McWhorter, John. Talking Back, Talking Black. Bellevue Literary Press, 2017, pp. 1-11.

“What Does It Mean to Be ‘Articulate’?” NPR, NPR, 14 Nov. 2014, 

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, Accessed 2 Nov. 2021. 



Dear Reader,


The purpose of my essay was to compare how Jamila Lyiscott and Vershawn Ashanti Young think that teachers should implement code meshing and AAVE into the classroom. I focused on Lyiscott’s Ted Talk and the way that she expresses that all three of her languages have rules and in order to correctly speak each language you must understand the rules first. This led me to include John McWhorter’s book Talking Back, Talking Black as a source because he shows similar opinions. 


I think that in my essay I did a good job explaining the way that Black English is its own language and that it has grammar and rules that should be taught in school. I also think that the part I included from Talking Back, Talking Black flows nicely with the way that I was writing my essay, and the content was very appropriate to this conversation. On the other hand, I think a weakness of my essay is that I didn’t talk very much about the differences in Lyiscott and Young’s opinions on code meshing in the classroom.


The challenges that arose for me when writing this essay were mainly trying to make sure that I get my own opinions in while focusing it on the advice that Young and Lyiscott are delivering in their works. I followed the prompt about Lyiscott’s Ted Talk and it focuses more on comparing the opinions of the two linguists but I knew that I had to have my own voice show through in the blog post too. I struggled to do this and stay within the word count, so I ended up trying to tie more of my opinions in with the conclusion, and the additional source (McWhorter) I brought into the paper.


Kylie Armstrong

Code-Meshing Can Be Good Writing

by Lili Ross

In the last few decades, there has been a lot of debate surrounding the teaching of the “Standard” English language, especially in high school and college settings. Some, such as Stanley Fish, argue that while individual dialects are important, they do not have a place in the formal academic setting – students should be taught to use “Standard” English correctly so that they may succeed in a world that requires it. Others, such as Vershawn Ashanti Young, see this separation as unnecessary and harmful to the students – educators are encouraging the flawed practice of code-switching when they should be promoting code-meshing. As Young describes it, code-meshing is “mulitdialectalism and pluralingual-ism in one speech act, in one paper … blend[ing] dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts” (114). I won’t advocate for one teaching method or another, but rather I’d like to explore the legitimacy of code-meshing as an acceptable form of writing if it were to be accepted into “Standard” English rules.

As Melissa Dennihy noted in her essay, what’s commonly referred to as “Standard” English is better defined as Standardized English, as it acknowledges that our current rules have developed from the language of ‘consensus’ – everyone within a specific area generally agreeing that there are certain ways to say things. With this distinction in mind, it is especially important to note that Standardized English has the power to change as English speakers change: the “standard” grammar and linguistic rules of the 1600s are different from the 1800s, which are different from now, and that’s okay. As explained in A History of the English Language, “language lives only on the lips of living people and must change as the needs of the people expressing themselves change … we must not think that the English of London … is the norm by which all other speech must be judged, and that in whatever respects other speech differs from this norm it is inferior” (Baugh 328). It is not unreasonable to expect that perhaps one day, if enough people were to extensively use it, code-meshing could become incorporated into our Standardized English rules. The question at this point becomes twofold: firstly, does code-meshing have the necessary qualities to theoretically function as a component of Standardized English? And secondly, in our current society and culture, is it likely that code-meshing would be eer  accepted within Standardized English?

As explained in the CCCC’s position statement, uniformity is often presented as the only way to attain ‘good’ writing, when in fact, professors of academia should be showing their students that ‘good’ writing comes from “precise, effective, and appropriate communication in diverse ways, whatever the dialect” (3). If professors are meant to be educating their students how to write well under the rules of Standardized English, as Fish argues, then as we’ve posited, they could one day begin teaching code-meshing in classrooms. In determining whether or not code-meshing could function within Standardized English, I would argue that a good test would be to compare against CCCC’s standards for ‘good’ writing. Namely, can code-meshing be precise, effective, and appropriate?

Precision is often defined as the accuracy and exactness present in a writer’s word choice. One university, in trying to help pin down this definition for students, came up with a few examples of precision in writing, with the main point being to “never sacrifice meaning or clarity for novelty” (Butte 3-5). Essentially, the website encouraged students to use language that was widely understood, not replacing smaller words for more complex ones to seem better educated or cultured. This is best illustrated in one of President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s speeches, as he revised a sentence written by his speechwriter to sound more accessible and down-to-earth: in changing the sentence, “We are endeavoring to construct a more inclusive society,” he chose to reflect the values he was promoting, “We’re going to make a country in which no one is left out.” In choosing “simpler” words, the sentence becomes more precise and effective to the desired audience. Young echoes this idea in his essay, noting that many of his graduate students “tend to try too hard to sound academic, often using unnecessary convoluted language, using a big word where a lil one would do” (113). With this in mind, I would argue that when a writer introduces code-meshing into their writing, it can help the essay become more precise. This is clearly demonstrated in the writings of linguist Dr. Geneva Smitherman, a retired English professor from Michigan State University. In one of her published works, Talkin’ and Testifyin’, she describes the nuance in blending dialects, explaining that “the most distinctive differences in the structure of Black Dialect are patterns using be … mainly used to indicate a condition that occurs habitually … For example, The coffee bees cold means Every day the coffee’s cold, which is different from The coffee cold which means Today the coffee’s cold” (19). For people who do not speak the dialect, this subtle difference may be hard to understand, but now knowing the distinction, properly introducing this dialect into a paper could offer a level of precision not easily attained through “Standard” English.

For a sentence to be considered effective, one faculty member from the University of Washington defined six standards: the language must be concrete and specific, concise, familiar, correct, constructive, and appropriate (“Effective”). While these standards all sound similar, I would argue that effectiveness comes when the audience can easily understand the main ideas behind a sentence, often through the distinct word choice. Effectiveness can be achieved in many ways and is a very subjective concept, but similar to precision, it often develops when the writer is using language they have a clear mastery of. In many cases, code-meshing can lead to effectiveness because there may not be an equivalent word in Standardized English. As Dennihy explains, for one of her assignments she asks students to bring in a work that uses a language or dialect outside of Standardized English and analyze it. One year, a student chose a song written in Spanglish – after translating the lines, she “discussed the challenges of translating the text, explaining why certain lines were rendered less powerful in Standardized English and why some words were untranslatable” (193). In terms of content, code-meshing offers a unique chance to discuss an idea that may not be “translatable” in Standardized English, therefore being a viable source of effectiveness. But as the university states, effectiveness also comes from grammatically clear writing – when the audience doesn’t have to reread a sentence several times to understand what’s being said, the sentence can be considered effective. Some may argue that by promoting code-meshing, one would want to eliminate all rules of Standardized English, grammar and all, but this statement follows faulty logic. Oftentimes, when someone uses code-meshing in a piece of writing, the dialect is present in the words used, not the grammar. No matter the chosen dialect, the grammar of the sentence still remains – in a general sense, a sentence is grammatically correct if the sentence is free of comma splices, run-on ideas, and the if subject agrees with the verb. These grammatical rules are not inherently tied to Standardized English – every language and dialect, whether it be English, German, Spanglish, AAVE, or “text lingo,” is able to follow these and other grammar rules. Therefore code-meshing, as long as it is done well, has the potential to be grammatically effective as well as thoughtfully effective.

The final criterion is appropriateness – can a paper using code-meshing be compatible for the subject it was written for? This question is harder to answer as it can widely vary according to context – one must consider the age of the writer, whether it be for a high school or college course, the expectations of the professor, and the formality of the assignment. What may be okay for an introductory English class may not work for an upper-level Chemistry lab report, but that does not discount code-meshing as a viable tool. In situations where the writer is encouraged to develop and use their own voice, code-meshing could be an integral part of their writing, offering a way for the writer to say things in their own language and provide unique and thoughtful insight. While this is less common in scientific settings, it is still important for researchers to provide their own input and thoughts on the experiment – as one article states, “it is important not to bury your voice in quotes from more well-established researchers …  your conclusions should be based on your original thoughts, which clearly communicate your stance” (Robbins 3). If code-meshing is how you attain that, then it should be considered appropriate for the content.

We’ve proven that code-meshing is a viable candidate for ‘good’ writing as it can be precise, effective, and appropriate when done well, but is it likely that others will recognize that? Unfortunately, in current times, when someone refers to ‘good’ writing, they immediately think of “Standard” English, which many argue has no place for code-meshing. Dennihy notes that after assigning The Color Purple, while many of her students enjoyed Walker’s unique use of language, they “remained unwilling to consider the text an example of ‘good writing’ or ‘good literature,’ given its nonstandardized English” (199). Many students, myself included, have been taught to separate the ideas of personal language and academic language – both are okay and acceptable in their own spheres, but personal language never has a place in an academic setting and vice-versa. We have been taught that ‘good’ writing stems only from correct writing, which must follow Standardized English rules, but that doesn’t make it right. In fact, we have seen how, when used well, code-meshing provides opportunities to be precise and effective that Standardized English cannot.

In our current society, it is realistic to say that code-meshing would not be widely accepted as the definition of ‘good’ writing has not yet adapted, but that can always change. As the CCCC notes, “today’s students will be tomorrow’s employers” – if professors of English could start encouraging code-meshing in writing classes today, then eventually code-meshing could be recognized by the world (23). By exposing young students to published works that incorporate code-meshing, professors can begin to shift the meaning of ‘good’ writing, following the CCCC’s supported standards. By teaching students how to use the tool of code-meshing correctly, rather than shying away from it altogether, we can start to change the rules of Standardized English. But to make any change, we must first be open to the fact that ‘good’ writing doesn’t come from the set of rules regarding language, but rather the language itself.



Works Cited

Baugh, Albert Croll, and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. 5th ed., Routledge, 2002.

Butte College. “How to Write Clearly: Using Precise and Concise Language – Tip Sheet.” Butte College, Butte College, 19 Dec. 2019,

“Committee on CCCC Language: Background Statement.” Students’ Right to Their Own Language, special issue of College Composition and Communication, vol, 25, no. 3, Sept. 1974, pp 1-18. JSTOR, doi:10,2307/356219

Dennihy, Melissa. “Beyond English: Linguistic Diversity in the College English Classroom.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S., vol. 42 no.4, 2017, p. 192-212. Project MUSE

“Effective Use of Language.” University Of Washington. Accessed October 30, 2021,

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Aug. 2009,

Robbins, Susan P. “Finding Your Voice as an Academic Writer (and Writing Clearly).” Journal of Social Work Education, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 133–135.,

Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti, et. al., editors. Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching and African American Literacy. Teachers’ College Press, 2014.

Parochial School Curriculum and Individuality

by Morgan Kelly

            The ability to read and write in a clear, compelling, and concise manner is currently, as you know, considered a necessary skill by almost every kind of profession. Although this concept seems straightforwardly agreeable at first, many scholars argue as to what constitutes professional academic writing. Stanley Fish, being a prominent proponent of teaching Standard American English, disparages the idea of code-switching and code-meshing. Fish argues that Standard American English should be required curriculum in primary education settings, but he also insists that it must be taught without deviations from Standard American English grammar. In other words, in Fish’s mind, any dialects other than standard written English are unacceptable in academic writing. At the beginning of his article, Fish mentions that Catholic schools, also called parochial schools, have been the most successful at teaching standard academic English. So, why does Fish believe that Catholic schools do it better, and what is involved in the curriculum that prepares students for academic writing in secondary school, more so than in public schools? Is this curriculum and ideology of a dominant language problematic? Catholic schools incorporate specific instruction on grammar and traditional writing through the curriculum, which eliminates code-switching and code-meshing, thereby stripping students of their individuality.

            Catholic school writing curriculum involves a vigorous focus on teaching grammar and sentence structure. Students are enrolled in separate classes for English subjects and grammar subjects. English classes focus on developing reading comprehension, whereas grammar classes focus on learning grammatical rules and understanding sentence structure. One common activity students are required to practice in Catholic elementary schools is sentence diagramming. Some high school professors also teach sentence diagramming as a one or two-day lesson, depending on the writing expectations of the class. Sentence diagramming is intended to visually break down a sentence in order to distinguish its verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, etc. This helps the student learn the functions of each kind of word by observing the sequence in which they are ordered and the overall part each word plays in the sentence. Kathleen Sokolowski describes her experience with learning grammar in a Catholic school: “I went to a Catholic school and we did grammar workbooks and circled the subject and the predicate…” (qtd in Goldstein). As Sokolowski mentioned, sentence diagramming is not the only method of teaching grammar. Students are also required to complete various workbook activities examining the parts of a sentence. Fish is particularly invested in the idea of teaching students sentence structure, and he believes it is a necessary foundation for learning Standard American English: “You have to start with a simple but deep understanding of the game, which for my purposes is the game of writing sentences” (Fish). Fish then explains how understanding sentence structure and organization is vital in order to know how to write sentences. With Catholic school grammar curriculum often teaching just that, it is understandable that Fish would praise them for their teaching techniques in grammar. In addition to grammar, parochial schools often teach an English class that focuses on writing sentences.

            English classes in Catholic elementary schools often begin essay writing as early as first grade. Students begin by learning to write keyword outlines for essays and practice writing throughout the rest of elementary and middle school, often with implemented rules against using words such as “like,” “said,” “go,” “good,” and “great.” In my personal experience, we participated in a program called the Excellence in Writing program, which required students to add certain elements to every paragraph of their essay. For example, students would be required to include a “who/which” statement, an -ly adverb, a prepositional opening, a clausal opening, and a few other elements into each paragraph of their essay. This practice broadens the vocabulary and writing strategy of students, but it also makes for quite similar essays and writing styles. Essentially, Catholic school writing curriculum embraces tradition and uniformity, while shunning any and all dialects other than their own.

            Fish’s ideal method of teaching students what he considers to be proper English is problematic in many ways, but it is most obviously harmful toward people who use different dialects which are still part of the English language. Parochial schools intend to repress the validity of others’ dialects by teaching what has traditionally been accepted. However, as the nation moves forward, we recognize that how a person speaks does not determine one’s intelligence. Vershawn Ashanti Young expresses the importance of code-meshing, especially in written assignments, in his essay “Should Writers Speak They Own English.” Young describes standard language ideology, a term which explains the implications of Fish’s idea of standard American English on those who speak in a different dialect:

Standard language ideology is the belief that there is one set of dominant language rules that stem from a single dominant discourse (like standard English) that all writers and speakers of English must conform to in order to communicate effectively. Dominant language ideology also say peeps can speak whateva the heck way they want to—BUT AT HOME! (111).

According to Young, dominant language ideology, an idea which Fish subscribes to, is rooted in white supremacy and classism; because the Standard American English taught in parochial schools is the same language that was used to determine the intelligence of people early on, and even now, assuming that Standard American English is the dominant language is itself a proclamation of prejudice. This prejudice is being perpetuated by Fish to push his ideals upon the general population.

            The English and grammar curriculum taught in Catholic schools is problematic not because it is taught based on Catholicism. It is problematic because it insinuates that Standard American English is the only way one is able to speak in order to be perceived as intelligent. However, aside from the obvious issues of race and socioeconomic class embedded in Standard American English, there are some other negative factors that should be considered as well. Standard American English requires that every person uses the same grammar and same English to convey a point on paper. This often leads to a very similar writing style; writers who imbue their works with many different elements from their cultures, through dialect or through sharing experiences, expose audiences to a wider variety of knowledge in the ways which people speak. Dennis Baron notes that he noticed some patterns in a study where students were asked to rate the emotional effectiveness of a sentence: “Furthermore, many passages that were rated by the students as standard in terms of conventional categories (clarity, grammaticality) were downrated when it came to emotional response” (“Reactions to Written”). Baron addresses students’ reactions to different sentence structures and dialects, emphasizing their preference for casual language in regard to passage efficacy. At the very least, this is a sign that the younger generation’s perception of language and dialect is changing. In succession, as the younger generation grows older, the country’s view on code-switching in Standard American English will change as well.

In Fish’s essay “What Should Colleges Teach?” he suggests that Standard American English should be taught and used by students who speak casually in another dialect (2). Fish refers to Standard American English in this case as a “second language.” However, the idea of teaching a second language could also apply to teaching students about African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or other dialects. Brandie Bohney is a high school English teacher who incorporated another form of English into her class through the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. She argues that if Standard American English is to be taught in schools, then students should at least be exposed to other forms of English such as AAVE: “By providing students in primarily mainstream-English-speaking schools exposure to and understanding of the differences among several varieties of English, teachers can help lead off linguicism and prejudice before they take a stronger hold as students get older” (Bohney 68). Similar to Fish’s ideology, Bohney argues that teaching a new language can be beneficial to young people. However, Bohney argues that by teaching AAVE students can address prejudice based on language early on and learn how to recognize it. If most people can agree that teaching two Englishes is beneficial to students, then there is no reason schools cannot teach Standard American English and its grammar as well as AAVE and its grammar.

            Fish supports parochial schools’ method of teaching grammar and English because it used to be the only form of English which was considered proper. However, there are some limitations in solely learning Standard American English. Since I had begun Catholic school in preschool and attended until I graduated from middle school, the method of writing in Standard American English has been ingrained in my brain for many years now. During my time at that school, I had not even considered that there was another way to write academically in addition to the Standard American English we were learning. Now that I’m in college and am being asked to write various personal pieces, I sometimes find that my writing lacks character. While this cannot be attributed to the Catholic school’s curriculum alone, the uniformity of Standard American English definitely contributes to the similar format of writing across collegiate papers. Despite how it may appear that I despise the parochial school curriculum, one thing that I have found to be especially valuable that I was taught in Catholic school is grammar. Almost every professor I have encountered since middle school has expected students to know at least the basics of Standard American English grammar. Although learning grammar and Standard American English in school was beneficial, teaching AAVE and grammar in schools as described by Brandie Bohney would assist students by diversifying writing and teaching them to recognize prejudice.

            Although Catholic schools have successfully taught Standard American English and grammar, students should also be exposed to curriculum involving African American Vernacular English and grammar so they can learn to recognize prejudice based on language moving forward. Even though Standard American English is the dominant form of professional writing at this time, society will continue to move forward by accepting other dialects and varieties of English as professional works. The easiest way to begin that transition is by informing students that there are rules in other dialects and that intelligence is not defined by the way someone speaks. I found the grammatical lessons in Catholic school beneficial because that grammar is considered by many professionals to be the dominant language, so I have predominantly been writing in Standard American English. Even so, I wish I had learned about different dialects in school, and I especially wish we had been taught that different dialects display one’s culture, rather than their intelligence. If schools were to combine the teachings of Standard American English and grammar with an exploration of the culture and grammar within different dialects and variations of English, I believe prejudice against racial minority groups who use those dialects would be significantly reduced.

Works Cited

Baron, Dennis. “Non-Standard English, Composition, and the Academic Establishment.” National Council of Teachers of English, vol. 37, no. 2, Oct. 1975, pp. 176-183. JSTOR,

Bohney, Brandie. “Moving Students toward Acceptance of “Other” Englishes.” The English Journal, vol. 105, no. 6, July 2016, pp. 66-71. JSTOR,

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach? Part 3.” New York Times, 7 Sept. 2009,

Goldstein, Dana. ‘Why Kids Can’t Write.” New York Times, 2 Aug. 2017,

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Speak They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 109-118, Accessed 27 October 2021.

Setting English Free

by Silas Bradley

The way we communicate is tied directly to our feelings of identity and belonging; however, should that identifying and personal style of communication be suppressed when teaching academic writing? This has been a question of some debate over the past few years as academics have argued the place of personal dialects in writing. “Develop your voice.” This is a phrase we have all heard at some point in our writing classes. Teachers use it as a mantra, repeating it over and over when teaching students to write; however, can this really be their goal as they work to grade and restrict the language students are able to use in their academic writing?

Scholars are divided over how individual dialects should be incorporated in academic writing. One sect believes that English teachers should be conforming their students to one proper style of writing and speaking. A firm believer in this idea is Stanley Fish, who writes in his paper for The New York Times, “What Should Colleges Teach?” that you are “not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition. You don’t strike a blow against a power structure by making yourself vulnerable to its prejudices,” (3). Here Fish argues that if students are not equipped with proper and standard writing styles they are unable to succeed or make change in the world. This idea that students must leave behind their own dialects and way of communicating in order to succeed is opposed vehemently by writers such as Vershawn Ashanti Young, who argues that “A whole lot of folk could be writin and speakin real, real smart if Fish and others stop using one prescriptive, foot-long ruler to measure the language of peeps who use a yard stick when they communicate,” (4). Students must be allowed to use their language to deliver their message. Though I am inclined to agree with Young’s argument about the importance of dialectic freedom in academic writing, I believe that the answer to this question actually lies in the way we view the purpose of English and writing classes.

I argue that the purpose of English class is to help students better express themselves in whatever manner they feel best suits them, not to conform or confine students within one way of communicating. When grading students’ work, teachers currently search for places where a student is “wrong.” They seek to find places where students have broken the apparent rules that govern their version of the English language. This distracts teachers from what should be their main goal: developing students’ own communication skills, whatever they may look like. The assignments given to students should not be centered around teaching the right way of communicating, instead assignments should be about helping students to write clearly and intentionally, using whatever style best suits them. By spending so much time penalizing students for making mistakes, teachers are unable to spend the time needed to help students craft their own voice.

As Fish correctly argues, in the current climate, students must conform to succeed, at least in an academic setting. Instead of focusing on making their writing the most effective it can be, students hone in on just painting by numbers and doing the bare minimum necessary to ensure that each point on the assignment sheet is hit. This is exactly what I’m doing now as I write this paper for our class; subconsciously I always have one eye on my writing and one on the assignment grading sheet. However, the focus on just securing the points has some disastrous effects on the writing skills of many. After years of being forced into working within the rules, many students become lost when assignments arise that don’t specify clearly the rules and steps needed to get an “A”. They are so used to coloring within the lines of writing assignments that the moment their blinders are lifted they become lost and helpless. By lifting some of these restrictions students can gain a better handle on their own way of communicating. By allowing students to be themselves and hone their way of speaking, we can create a generation of students that are able to communicate effectively in a wide variety of environments.

One important way that this can be achieved is through helping students to gain an appreciation and understanding of the different dialects that surround us. According to professor of linguistics Kirk Hazen, “If people had a better understanding of how language works, they would probably be less inclined to make negative judgments about speakers of different dialects,” (Hazen). I believe that we should spend time appreciating dialects and codes as literary works just like poetry and academic articles. Different dialects and ways of speaking should be explored more fully in English classrooms as a type of literary appreciation. Just like poetry and spoken word, these things should be studied and appreciated as both free ways of expression and as practical ways of crossing discussionary boundaries. To me, it appears hypocritical that teachers can praise the work of poets and spoken word for using “their own voice” and still shun the use of student’s dialects in their work. Now to be clear, academic and creative writing appear to be very different. However, is the distance really that far? Practicing and studying creative writing helps to hone writing and communication skills. If students can gain a mastery of their language creatively, why can’t they use that mastery in their academic work?

Because language is so closely tied to an individual’s identity, it becomes detrimental when one must shed their language to enter and assimilate into a group. According to champion of linguistic rights Dr. Lordes Rouvira, “One repeatedly encounters poignant stories of having to forget one’s language in order to assimilate or acculturate to a new environment. Sadly, this forgetting often includes losing one’s roots,” (66). The connection of identity with language is another reason there is such pushback against conforming to one way of writing. I believe that individuals should be able to keep their identity in their writing. While there are few that truly argue that students should have their individuality stripped from them when entering the writing classroom, at a certain level this nonetheless takes place under the current method of teaching. Students opt to play it safe and forgo going the extra mile to be different and communicate in a way that is uniquely theirs in order to achieve a safer grade.

The heart of the issue as I see it is that the language used by scholars in academic writing is exclusive. Serving as the culmination of some long research, the language used often stands out as needlessly difficult and made to appeal only to those of highly educated backgrounds. Here, the constraints of what is accepted as academic writing and speech can severely hamper the achievements of individuals who use other dialects, such as AAVE, by providing the added hurtle of having to learn another dialect in order to be taken seriously. I see this as a severe loss, because when we maintain the conformity to just one way of expression, we shut out opportunities for many to speak. However, we can make a change. Students should be taught to celebrate their unique voices and use them in the ways that they feel are most effective. If we adapt the way we teach English, supporting students in crafting their voice, we can improve the communication skills of newer generations and give them the power to speak freely.




Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, 7 Sept. 2009.

Hazen, Kirk. “Teaching about dialects.” ERIC Digest. (2001, August 31). Retrieved November 1, 2021, from 

Rovira, Lourdes C. “The Relationship Between Language and Identity. The use of the home Language as a Human Right of the Immigrant” REMHU – Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana, vol. 16, núm. 31, 2008, pp. 63- 81 

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies Volume 12, Edition 1 2010



Writing as We Speak

by Greer Phillips

The debate as to whether or not people should write in the style they speak has been going on for many years. While this debate can be argued using formal vs informal language, many people see it as a debate of race and the acceptance of all dialects. While I chose to acknowledge this part of the debate, I will focus more on informal and formal writing and the idea of writing how we speak. Many people believe that formal writing should be the main form of writing taught in schools so that students can learn how to communicate well in higher academic and professional environments. However, many other people also believe that teaching students to adhere to grammar and vocabulary rules takes away the student’s opportunity to put their unique voice into their writing, as they can do when speaking. Members of the writing community, which is everyone who can write, are often pressured to pick the side of the debate they support and to stick with it; however, the solution might just fall in the middle ground.

For me, it wasn’t until college that I was encouraged to write some of my papers in a more informal style. Every English class I have taken up until this point has been strictly grammar and vocabulary focused; instilling in me that writing is supposed to be formal and to be formal it must adhere to standard English rules. Because of this, if you listened to me talk and then read one of my papers, you may not be able to tell that it is the same person. When I write, my vocabulary seems to expand far beyond the vocabulary I have when I speak; even when I try to speak formally, it does not compare to my writing. Since I learned to write, I have been repeatedly told to use bigger vocabulary words, adhere to proper grammar, and follow a specific structure, which has led me to write more formally. When I am speaking, however, no one is constantly telling me to do these things which is why I speak so much differently than I write. By teaching me to write formally, past teachers have taught me to view writing as a skill that takes years of practice to become great. 

One reason formal writing is taught in schools is because it helps students to excel in their future academic careers as well as further into their professional careers. Formal writing makes the writer appear to be well educated, organized, and confident in their topic which is why it is most commonly used in academic and professional settings. Academically, students must display knowledge of their topic and typically must also follow grammar rules to get good grades which is why formal writing is beneficial. This helps to provide students with practice writing formally so when it matters, in professional settings, they have the skills to write in this style effectively. Professionally, it is important to write formally to show respect to your superiors and, as discussed before, to appear well educated, organized, and confident in your topic so that it could benefit your professional advancement. Employers often prefer well-spoken and intelligent people in higher-up positions, so writing formally can help you to appeal to the qualities their employer may be looking for. Most successful people, who may be your competition for higher-up positions, are already well equipped with the skills to write formally. Being able to speak to the higher-ups using the language they use can make you a more favorable candidate and allow you more power to pursue and share your ideas. This helps to explain Stanley Fish’s quote “[y]ou’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition.” Being able to speak in a way that matches your surroundings can help your ideas advance over others and give you more success.

So what is formal writing? To me, formal writing can be described as standard English. One important characteristic of formal writing is vocabulary. When writing formally, it is important to refrain from using slang and to use sophisticated vocabulary words. As discussed earlier, this helps to achieve one of the many purposes of formal writing which is to appear intelligent and it also prevents the reader from misunderstanding words that, since they are slang, may not be easily found in a dictionary. Another characteristic my teachers spent a lot of time teaching me was proper grammar and punctuation. By using these two things, the writer is not only making themselves appear more knowledgeable, but they are also making it easier for the reader to understand. Another important thing to do when writing formally is to avoid the use of first and second-person pronouns. In formal writing, it is often important to refrain from talking about yourself by using pronouns such as “I” and “we” so that the piece can remain objective (Love2Edit). It is also important to avoid pronouns that include the reader, such as “we” and “you”, since the statements you are including the reader in may not apply to the them. To look at the overall picture, all formal writing also typically follows a similar structure. Formal writing starts with an introduction and ends with a conclusion and the body paragraphs that fall between are meant to provide information on the topic. Formally written paragraphs tend to have supporting evidence and can often be quite long in length. Formal writing also needs to have a nice flow so there must be transitions between each paragraph and the paragraphs should be arranged in an order so that the information can be easily understood. That means that, for example, if the writer was discussing a series of events, it might be best to arrange the discussion of these events in chronological order. These, while they are only some, are, what I believe, the most important characteristics of formal writing. Having this many rules is what makes writing an art; without practice and knowledge of the rules of formal writing, it can not be done well.

While formal writing is a very important skill to have, informal writing is equally important. As I discussed prior, much of my writing education has focused on formal writing. This has made it challenging for me to adapt to situations where it may be beneficial or even necessary for me to write informally. I often find myself struggling to refrain from using large vocabulary words and writing in long structured sentences. Many teachers start by teaching students to write informally before they write formally. This allows students to grow more confident and to be less intimidated by all the rules formal writing has (“Students May be Intimidated”). Informal writing is overall more casual and has fewer rules. While punctuation and grammar are still important, the vocabulary used is much more relaxed. Many informal writing pieces include slang so that they are popular among specific crowds. Informal writing pieces also possess a much more casual structure which can be seen through the shorter sentences and paragraphs This makes informal writing much easier, for most people, to write as well as to read. While informal writing may not always be acceptable to use in academic or professional settings, there are many settings where informal writing excels over formal writing. Informal writing is often necessary for writing commercial scripts, advertisements, flyers, and many more things. This is because informal writing does not take as long for the reader to understand or read due to its shorter length and more casual vocabulary so it makes things it may be advertising more appealing. While informal writing does not consist of as many rules or is as structured as formal writing, it is still equally important.

Now, onto the debate of writing as we speak. Most people, including myself, often speak informally, so if people were to truly write how they speak, there would be very few works of formal writing. Although people may write informally, which can be similar to how they speak, very rarely do people actually write exactly how they speak. If you were to close your eyes and only listen to a person speak, it would likely be confusing since people often mess up, backtrack, or do not always clearly convey what they mean. This means, if it were written it would be very confusing to readers due to the common mistakes people make when speaking. Two reasons that it’s not confusing when people speak directly to us is because we can ask questions and we are also able to read their facial features and body gestures to get a better understanding as to what the speaker is trying to portray; two things we are not able to do when we read a piece of work (Cline). As I have discussed throughout the entirety of this blog, there are times to write informally and there are times to write formally. To excel academically or professionally, it is necessary for people to be knowledgeable of standard English and to have the ability to write well formally. Being able to portray oneself as being intelligent is very important for advancing one’s ideas in the workplace, but the same intelligence cannot always be portrayed through informal writing. However, as I also discussed previously, there are times where informal writing is beneficial and appeals more to popularity. With informal writing, the author has more freedom to write how they would speak by using slang and other unique stylistic choices. This illustrates that while some people may argue that people should write how they speak, the true answer is that while it is important to be comfortable writing how we speak, informally, we must also have the ability to shift to formal writing when it is called for.

Formal writing is an important skill all students should be taught to help them in their future academic and professional careers; however, it is equally important that students are taught to be comfortable writing informally. Being able to switch between writing as we speak, informally, and writing in a way that appears more well thought out and intelligent, formally, can help people become more successful in every aspect of their lives.


Works Cited

Cline, Casey. “Do You Write the Way You Speak? Here’s Why Most Good Writers Don’t.” Verblio, 17 May 2017, Accessed 8 Nov. 2021.

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach Part 3.”  New York Times, 7 Sep. 2009, Accessed 8 Nov. 2021

Love2Edit. “The Importance of Formal Writing.” Servicescape, 17 Dec. 2010, Accessed 8 Nov. 2021.

“Students May be Intimidated by Writing and Lack Confidence in Their Abilities.” Carnegie Mellon University, Eberly Center, Accessed 8 Nov. 2021.

Language, Power, and Rhetorical Choice in Education

by Sydney Hook

Through reading the articles by Stanley Fish and Vershawn Ashanti Young, it becomes obvious that there has been an argument on writing and expression of dialect in writing. Fish is on the side of standard English and that writing should be formal in all cases. Especially in the classroom, he believes that teachers should stay away from teaching other varieties of English in writing and focus on only standard English elements (Fish). In writing, he feels that students should leave out dialects and use only formal sentence structure and grammar. On the other hand, Young feels that dialect in writing is crucial and it is wrong to only teach standard English. He believes that students should be able to “understand, listen, and write in multiple dialects simultaneously” (Young). I think that these two opposite viewpoints both have valid ideas within them and there is a middle ground that fits an academic setting best. It is crucial to be able to write in standard English, but also very important to be able to recognize other dialects that may come up in understanding other’s writing and speaking.

There is definitely importance for students to learn standard English and be able to write in standard ways, but there also is importance for being able to write in your own dialect and show yourself through your writing. I think it all depends on what the piece someone is writing is. For example, a scientific paper has a specific way to be written; there is a formal way to write a scientific paper and without writing it this specific way, it loses its professionalism. While there are specific conventions and styles for a scientific paper, having the concept of standard English down would make it much easier to work with these specific conventions. Dialect wouldn’t fit into a scientific paper, so learning how to write standard English for something like this is important. However, putting your dialect into a narrative story can make it so much better than trying to stick to standard English. Dialect in a narrative can help it sound like the story is being told by the author, making it more effective for its purpose. So in this case, writing in standard English might not be necessary. It is a case by case issue, so having the knowledge of writing in standard English and knowing the grammar and sentence rules is necessary, but being able to write with dialect can also be helpful in other writing situations.

It is also important to be aware of other dialects, so in schools, showing videos and examples of other dialects being used in speech or writing can be beneficial as well. Young makes a good point as he explains that understanding and listening to many dialects is helpful, so learning this in school can be valuable. This could be as simple as having students read papers and articles that use dialect and code meshing or playing videos of speeches that allow them to hear dialect in use. Incorporating both standard English and some use of dialect in writing would be most beneficial for students, as they are able to write in whatever case comes up.

In their article “Code-Meshing and Writing Instruction in Multilingual Classrooms,” Lee and Handsfield explain “that language is socially acquired, which allowed her to see that correcting students’ language would not help them acquire DAE” (Lee and Handsfield). This goes into teacher’s grading methods and allowing students to write in their dialects, rather than correcting to Standard English. This article gives the example of a teacher who writes down her student’s exact words on a Mother’s Day card and then reads it back to them to see if they like how it sounds. The example in the article focuses on a 4-year old black student who spoke AAL and DAE. The teacher copied his exact words, although not following rules of standard English, and left the card as it is, but used the card as a lesson of grammar and the correct way to write sentences in standard English. The students enjoyed hearing the card read back exactly as they had wanted it to be written, but she took the opportunity to teach conventions and punctuation for cases when it would be necessary. This method of teaching allows teachers to, “sustain their own students’ community languages through code-meshing while also growing students’ competencies in DAE” (Lee and Handsfield). Standard English is still being taught so that students can use it in the cases which it is needed, but the use of dialect and their own community language is also incorporated in the classroom. Pointing out changes that can be made but not taking off points is a possible grading method that allows students to work and understand standard English, but not be punished for their dialects that they possibly write in.

Keeping standard English in the academic setting is important, but incorporating dialect and other language varieties can also be very beneficial to students. In his article, “Translingualism revisited: Language difference and hybridity in L2 writing,” Jeroen Gevers explains the importance of exposing students to different language varieties (Gevers). This article agrees a lot with Young’s ideas of acceptance of code meshing and steering away from standard English in schools, but it also points out that if standard English isn’t taught, then students might struggle when it comes to the case they have to write formally. A lot of this article also focuses on multilingual students and allowing them to embrace their background in their writing and class. There are cases where this can be helpful and students can express themselves in this way, but once again, there are cases where if students aren’t aware of the standard rules, they will struggle to write. The article proposes different ways to change the academic atmosphere, including a recommendation “that teachers actively try to understand and negotiate their students’ nonstandard language use, thus treating “errors” as always potentially meaningful” (Gevers). Having teachers more trained on the use of language through speaking and writing and how they can incorporate this in their classrooms can help a lot of translingual students learn. Having understanding with students of different dialects and those who speak different languages can help teachers to find a middle ground with standard English and code-meshing. This issue goes beyond classes in high school and college, but also in a professional standpoint. Writing essays in school is definitely something that standard English may be needed for, but then in future jobs, being able to write reports, emails, etc. often should be standard. Without the ability to write in standard English, being able to do these things and seem professional would be a struggle.

On a case by case basis, using code meshing and dialect in writing can be great. However, there are definitely many cases where students need to be comfortable with standard English and writing formally. Getting rid of requirements for standard English can be more hurtful towards students in their education, so adding more to the academic setting that extends dialect into standard English is the best way to go.

Exposure is Important

by Eva Neufeld

As students we should be able to mix our unique dialects and find out what variety of English we are most comfortable using. As Young states, “everybody mix the dialect they learn at home with whateva other dialect or language they learn afterwards.” I am going to discuss that if teachers dock off points for not using Standard English it could be seen as prejudice. The school system preaches diversity and inclusivity until some kids want to write the way they speak and then they get a big, fat F on a normal paper.

There are so many dialects and varieties of English used within schools today. One of the most popular is AAVE, African American Vernacular English, or Black English. In many schools, mine included, a popular novel that students read is “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. This novel is written in AAVE and is a good way for students to be exposed to different dialects through literature. Teachers test students on this serious piece of literature, but then dock off points when black students use AAVE in a paper responding to the novel.  

I would have to agree with both Young and Fish and say there should be a good balance within the school system regarding instructing varieties of English. Students should be exposed to literature in a different dialect, but there most definitely should be a limit to the exposure. White students should not be allowed to appropriate different varieties of English such as AAVE. They should be exposed to them though. Reading literature with different dialects and learning the backgrounds and culture tied to each dialect should be implemented in the basic school curriculum. Then students that actively use these dialects should be able to use the way they speak to help their writing. That is not to say that standard English grammar should not be taught, but it should not be established as the only acceptable way to write and speak.

Everyone’s dialect is their own and teaching students to display their point most effectively while using their own dialect to achieve it should be every teacher’s priority. Who gets to decide what is academic in the school system? Since every dialect follows its own set of rules, every dialect should be seen as legitimate and should be graded by teachers as equal. The only exception to this would be if the student used a dialect opposite to the one specifically asked to be used or the one being instructed in class. 

Going back to every dialect being legitimate, Merriam Webster recently added AAVE terms “finna” and “chile” to the dictionary (Caldwell). For a teacher to take off points because a student used these words would be considered prejudice. On the other hand, if the student is taking a specific standard English grammar course, the teacher would have to dock the student if standard English was not used. There is a fine line between what could be seen as prejudice and what is not, since there isn’t any legislature in the school system that talks about the use of different dialects, such as AAVE, in assignments. Such legislation needs to be implemented.

In his article Fish states that “you’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition. You don’t strike a blow against a power structure by making yourself vulnerable to its prejudice.” I can see why he would say this, but I disagree. If this statement were completely true it would mean that anyone that didn’t speak standard English couldn’t change the world and historically nothing would change. President Obama code-meshed quite often during his time as president. An article written by the Harvard Business Review mentions how even though code-switching was “crucial for his [Obama’s] professional advancement, code-switching often comes at a great psychological cost” (McCluney). Relating this to the school system, students could have a hard time switching between their dialects and standard English, which could create a strain on their learning and grades.

The school system needs to be more inclusive of dialects such as AAVE, since “like most language varieties, African American English exhibits inherent variability, encompassing a range from standard to vernacular (cf. Arthur Spears 2001), but stylizations most often make use of features associated with African American Vernacular English, filtered through hip hop and pop cultural representations of Blackness” (Smokoski). AAVE is used widely outside of the school setting by black individuals and even white individuals who appropriate and mock it. Therefore it is extremely important for school systems to properly educate and expose students on how to use whatever variety of English they are most comfortable with. 

 You might be asking yourself, “well why does this affect me?” or you might not even directly realize that you most likely code-mesh everyday. Regardless if you are consciously deciding too, code-switching is often present when you go from a professional to comfortable setting, school to home, or even just speaking with two different people. So why shouldn’t students be able to code-mesh in their writing? 

The article “And Still the Children Suffer: The Dilemma of Standard English, Social Justice, and Social Access” states that the main dilemma surrounding code-switching or code-meshing is how “the educational establishment including teachers, administrators, reading specialists, textbook manufacturers, and standards and test creators respond to vernacular speakers through a deficit lens, marking vernacular grammatical traits as errors” (Wheeler). This “deficit lens” creates a tense atmosphere where teachers are repressing their students’ creativity and freedom to write how they want. Being able to write how you speak, without fearing a lower grade, is vital to figuring out exactly what dialect you are most comfortable using. 


Works Cited


Caldwell, Brandon. “‘Finna,’ ‘Chile,’ & Other AAVE Terms Are Officially Words According To Webster’s Dictionary.” 97.9 The Box, 12 Mar. 2021,


Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, New York Times, 2009,


McCluney, Courtney. “The Costs of Code-Switching.” Harvard Business Review, 28 Jan. 2021,


Smokoski, Hanna L., “Voicing the Other: Mock AAVE on Social Media” (2016). CUNY Academic Works.


Wheeler, Rebecca. “And Still the Children Suffer: The Dilemma of Standard English, Social Justice, and Social Access.” College of Charleston Libraries Off-Campus Access, Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.


Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010. JSTOR,