KISS: The Origin to My English Journey | Teen Ink

KISS: The Origin to My English Journey

September 25, 2018
By gyuh7979 BRONZE, Wellesley, Massachusetts
gyuh7979 BRONZE, Wellesley, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

During my seventh grade year, I received a KISS from my English teacher.

Mr. Bernazzani, a muscular and bear-like man who would later become a police officer, called me up to his desk during a working class period to hand me back the draft of a short story that I had submitted along with his comments. On it, he had written several comments, but the most noticeable were big four letters: KISS.

I, of course, asked him what he meant by KISS, and he responded, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” He said that he had received the same comment from his English teacher when he was a student, and now, he was giving me the KISS.

Until then, I had focused on reading and trying to understand English ever since I had moved to America for my education in the second grade. I began my journey with Magic Tree House , re-reading the same book and learning the vocabularies again and again until I understood the book inside out. Once I “graduated” from Magic Tree House , I moved on to the Boxcar Children. And so on.

But seventh grade hit, and along with it came the bombardment of essays, which was not my forte at the time. I knew that I had to change. 

That was why, for the assignment on which I received the comment KISS, I mimicked the writing style of Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol . For his writing, ever so elegant and refined—or so it seemed in my youth—had ensnared my mind as I fell into the abyss of the depths of his writing; the more I looked at his writing, the more I wanted my writing to be as elegant as his. I had always despised the papers of some of my peers who merely wrote down simple sentences to complete their English assignment without any effort to enhance their writing styles. Therefore, I had mimicked Charles Dicken’s style due to the complexity of his writing.

Thus, when Mr. Bernazanni gave me a KISS, I was confused and felt rebellious because “keeping things simple” was the exact thing I had avoided. I wanted my writing to be elegant and refined, not simple like my peers’. I was then yet to realize that what Mr. Bernazzani meant by “keep it simple” was to keep things concise .

In eighth grade, I was told the same thing. This time, I mimicked the writing style of Homer of The Odyssey , because I felt personally connected to Homer due to my passion for the ancient Greco-Roman worlds. Although, I never really succeeded in “mimicking” the writing style of Homer, I had thought I was able to convey my thoughts in an elegant and complex manner in my writing just like him. And oh so I had hoped, focusing on making my writing more complex and praying that the gods of writing themselves would guide me into their domain.

Yet everyone seemed to disagree. Starting from Mr. Bernazzani, but now, even my eighth-grade teacher was on board of trying to make my writing “simpler.” I could not understand it.

That was when I searched for a paper that I knew was excellent. In my Google Drive, there was a Model UN paper that I had worked on with my friend the previous year. The credit for writing the paper mainly goes to my friend, who was one grade above me, since she was the one who edited, polished, and refined the paper for hours and hours until perfection. For me, that was the best work that I have seen anyone do in my life. But when I went to take a look at it, it wasn’t anything like I had remembered it to be. When I was writing this MUN paper with my friend, I thought her writing was more sophisticated and more complex. However, the sentences weren’t long and complicated; every word, every sentence was in place, and refined to the highest quality. It was, in other words, concise. Each sentence conveyed so much information in half the length than if I would have written it. I realized then that by “simple,” my teachers meant concise and refined.

I knew that this time, I needed to change if I was going to excel in the subject that I was beginning to love—the more I learned about it, especially about writing, the more I was able to express myself with a series of writings of the highest quality. I therefore thought that perhaps, instead of just reading, I needed to try out other methods to keep my writing concise. I started by searching online for practice exercises that required me to turn complex sentences into concise ones. I tried to keep my writing “simpler” by editing of my own papers and making each sentences concise. I continued this until I was able to do so regularly, improving my grades and my writing simultaneously.

And now, as a sophomore, I am currently doing journalism outside school. I was able to apply my new skills and hone them, since one of the fundamental rules of journalism requires conciseness in order to convey information efficiently. Following other rules and structure of journalism such as having a nut or a feature lead, I have been able to hone my English skills further.

Reflecting back on my journey as an English student, the origin of my change is the KISS that I had received from my seventh-grade English teacher. It was what sent me off on my journey to become a better writer, which I am still not finished with. Although I never understood Mr. Bernazzani’s words until a solid year after he had left the school to become a police officer, his comments are still alive in me and my memories.


The author's comments:

Personal reflective writing


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