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« The Winshaw Legacy or What a Carve Up! and Gain | Main | Oh, dear »

May 01, 2005



my students try to pull this crap too! argh.

another thing that bugs me is when they use neutral words like "affected" without elaborating on exactly HOW the thing was affected. (i grudgingly give them props, though, for using the correct spelling).


Regarding your last point: Somewhere I have saved the pamphlet from a municipal park that started with "After the glaciers left...pioneers moved into the region." So true, and yet so irrelevant.


At least you haven't had lots of things impacting on other things in your essay descriptions! That was the phrase that caused me the most grief this term.


Chuckle chuckle ;-) from the lurker

A. Cephalous

I'm here to toot my own horn. I wrote about the very same phenomenon over the weekend, although I identified it with 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can read it here, if you're so inclined.


I work in a writing center - at the end of the semester, it's all I can do to keep it together when paper after paper, no matter what the topic, wants to begin with "throughout human history." When I gently suggest different (more specific!) phrasing, some of them cry. Finals week.

And the semicolon is a sacred thing. I give passionate lectures on how to avoid the abuse of the semicolon at least weekly.

John Thomas McGuire

I had many students (pun intended) tell me on their mid-term essays that there were "many reasons" for the American Revolution. And on their papers, I get comments like "The Red Badge of Courage is brilliant" or "descriptive"--words that signify nothing without explanation.


Has the semicolon gone out of style again? Crap. I love the little bugger.

As for empty words, one teacher of mine used to ban "thing" and "interesting" from both papers and discussions. (With, no doubt, interesting results on the things we said.)

Another Damned Medievalist

First, I will discuss x. I will be using sources y and z. We will also explore the other topics you mentioned in the question. I do not actually have a thesis, but this is what I will discuss...


"These works have many similarities and many differences."

This is usually followed, after 6 flaccid pages of generalization and plot summary, by "And so, in conclusion, I have shown that these works have many similarities and many differences."

It simplifies matters, though: I take one look at the sentence and write down "60".

John Thomas McGuire

I stopped using "compare and contrast" essay questions some time ago, because students just couldn't get the hang of similarities/differences, not to mention stating that "many s/d" thing.


My all-time opening favorite opening sentence for a student essay: "Since the beginning of time, mankind has struggled with the problems of daycare."

Later in the same paper the student declared passionately that children were not "meant" to be "razed in liters." Just so you know.

mr. delagar's favorite opening sentence (for a film lecture class, for a paper on The Godfather): "There is a lot of cinematography in this film."

Old Hag

It's not all students, though -- witness this article in the latest Atlantic, where the author makes the teetering, terribly unconvincing leap from Anna Nicole Smith to the coming death shortage in a scant two paragraphs:


Here's what I learned from my students this school year:

In Les Miserables, Fantine gets fired from her job because she has an insignificant child.

In A Doll’s House, written in the 19th century, one of the characters dies of AIDS.

One of the most famous characters in literature is A Streetcar Named Desire’s Blanche Dubious.

Utopia is a famine-stricken country in Africa.

A Streetcar Named Desire was written in the period immediately following the Civil War, which is why Blanche thinks she’s still a Southern Belle.

Oliver Cromwell is the author of the novel 1984.

Big CDs were once called "records."


I've had MANY English teachers tell me to start off by identifying what exactly it is that I am writing about. The examples almost always start off something like, "The poem, 'My Sister's Sleep,' by Christina Rossetti..." Yes, students feel the need to tell you that it is a poem because they fear that points will be taken off if they don't.

Sergio Flores

Hello. Arrived here via Pejmanesque. Now that you've complained about the students, heads up for the teachers:
Most of the teachers I had absolutely hated the semicolon. I use it. I do not abuse it. But they always opted for the period, anyway.
Many of my teachers graded my papers with generosity and intelligence. But some truly could not tolerate dissent. If I did not think Foucault was a genius (he wasn't. He was a sadomasochistic homosexual who thought the entire world behaved the way he did and those who didn't, were fakes), then I got a B. Ditto if I happened to disagree with another teacher on Antigone, or the Dickensian habit of creating saints and villains in his novels. I graduated with honors, but the nitpicking of teachers who were not critical of my syntax, or style, or grammar, but of my (textually-based and documented) opinions, left me rather disappointed in a career that I wanted to make my own. Finally, it should not be a coincidence that those teachers I had problems with, did not want to be called teachers, but "professors." Go figure.


I learned from a student, a long time ago, that "Divorce in the middle-ages was less common than it is today. That's probably because people died before they got sick of each other." Seems fairly accurate.

Rayne of Terror

Blanche Dubious. Too funny. My guess is that is due to an overzealous auto spellcheck feature. The newest Word drove me nuts when I wrote legal papers for school until I disabled half the auto changes.

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