Note: This Blather, like so many others, was actually
written last fall, but SOME WEB DESIGNERS never posted
it in time. Basta!
So I'm in the throes of paper-grading. Can you blame me for
Yeah, I teach English at a couple fairly lame local colleges.
My expectations are already pretty low. But really
graders could write almost as well as some of my students!
Sometimes it seems like if I have to read one more essay titled
"My Essay About _____," if I have to correct yet
another run-of-the-mill phrase like "
but I never
thought that ____ would happen to me" or "___ means
many different things to me," I might go ape-shit. And
if that essay-by-number crap isn't bad enough, in every class
I have at least one student who thinks s/he is being original
and funny turning in an essay on, say, imagery in "Dulce
Et Decorum Est" or "The Story of an Hour" that
begins: "Personally, I don't think that students should
have to analyze literature, because a poem or story will mean
different things to different people." First of all,
like I've never ever EVER heard that one before!? And second,
of COURSE it means different things to different people
that's why I assigned an essay about it; I want to know what
it means to you. So WRITE THE DAMNED ESSAY, already!
Grading papers can be a soul-sucking exercise in futility.
I see the same mistakes, the same filler phrases, the same
wishy-washy half-assed attempts at getting out of the assignments
by barely managing to vomit up a couple clichés strung
together with meaningless drivel and overly-fatty prose. Don't
believe me? Well then, I give you
Particularly Lame Student Phraseology and -isms that bug
the crap out of me, taken from the essays of Professor Dwanollah's
- Hello, my name is ___! And I'd like to talk about ____.
Well, hello! I'm Professor Totally Exasperated! And I'd like
to talk about the stupidest introductory sentence of all time!
- This essay is about ____.
Okay, so there's more than one stupidest introductory sentence
of all time. Please, please, please don't refer TO the essay
IN the essay! Don't ever say "In this essay I will attempt
to ____" or "As this essay will show, ____"
I've even seen this in graduate-level publications, even in
articles from the PMLA, and it still sounds like 6th grade
twaddle. Ditto saying "I" or "you" in
- By comparing the two poems, we can see a lot of similarities
and a lot of differences.
Welcome to the Stupidest Introductory Sentence of All Time:
The Compare-Contrast Essay Version. A reader's reaction to
your thesis shouldn't be "Um, no shit!" Of COURSE
there are a lot of similarities and differences
why I gave you an assignment to write a compare-contrast essay!
- This is a really good/bad/boring/interesting poem/book/essay.
Don't just tell me it was, show me why! Cut
to the chase. Quit using filler. Don't think I don't notice!
This hellacious fragment phrase really only works for a spoken
confession. And if you're twelve years old at the time of
the aforementioned spoken confession. An essay - particularly
at the college level - should never "go."
- I have always thought/wanted/believed/felt
No, you haven't. No. You haven't. Trust me. Not ALWAYS. No.
What, you want to argue with me? Okay, fine
you have "always thought/wanted/believed/felt
Really? Can you prove it? That's right. I thought so. Come
up with a stronger way of saying it. Your reader's reactions
shouldn't be "Bullshit!"
Well, don't TELL me you're going to say it! Just SAY it!
- So having someone act like that.......was like a screeching
fingernail across a chalkboard.........
I love ellipses. I use ellipses frequently. I BEG YOU, LEARN
HOW TO USE THEM PROPERLY!
Ellipses indicate either the omission of material (for example,
in the quotations I'm citing here in this Blather), or a pause
in thought (most commonly used in dialogue), sort of heavier
than a comma. Moreover, ellipses are a sequence of three (THREE!
ONLY THREE) consecutive dots/periods, with a space after them
(or both before and after, but decide which you are going
to use, and be consistent!). If the ellipses are used in the
middle of a sentence
say, like right now
are ONLY THREE dots/periods. But what if the ellipses are
at the end of a sentence
? Still only three, followed
by the appropriate concluding punctuation mark. And, I implore,
only use ellipses where it makes sense within a sentence (namely,
where a natural pause occurs when reading the sentence out
loud) for emphasis or slight dramatic build-up. There is no
reason to have a random string of ten million periods in the
middle of a sentence!
No. One. Two words. No one. Otherwise, as Diana from the
Bad Baby Names site pointed
out, you sound like you're talking about the dude from
so I put on my shoe's/listened to some CD's/went
to buy grocery's at the Smith's store
Plural. Possessive. They are two different things. Please
learn. I realize that some rules with apostrophes are tricky,
because they've changed over the years. For example, it used
to be correct to refer to getting A's on a paper or growing
up in the 80's. Now it isn't. Deal. However, there is no excuse
for most of the plural v. possessive v. plural possessive
stupidness that my students come up with. Like the one who
wrote about "my daughters' boyfriend." Haw!
For the love of all that is holy! It's ORIENT. THERE IS NO
SUCH WORD AS ORIENTATE, AND I DON'T CARE IF IT'S EVEN IN THE
FREAKIN' DICTIONARY RIGHT NOW! Ditto "irregardless."
Sam and I. Sam and I had! The sentence has
two subjects (Sam and I/myself), which will both need to agree
with the sentence's verb (had). Check it by using each of
the subjects alone with the verb. Sam had. Yes. That works.
Myself had. No. No. NO! I HAD! I!
because I put Jesus first in my life.
Okay. How nice for you. But! Religious rhetoric has no place
in an essay, unless it's an essay specifically about your
which I can assure you, in my class,
it's not. I'd really like to hear something a little more
original than the Christian Stock Phrases. Great, you have
Jesus in your heart. How does that affect you? Make
you feel? Make you act/react in relation to
___? For the love of the very God you mention, please offer
me some specifics! (And, in every class, without fail, at
least two students will insist on relating EVERYTHING they
write in EVERY SINGLE ESSAY to their personal religious beliefs.
Richard Cory? Should've had Jesus in his life. That Lorrie
Moore essay? No good, because in it she talks about having
premarital sex, and that is against God's law. And when told
that such an approach is illogical and fallacious, then they
argue, "What, are you saying Jesus ISN'T the Savior?!"
No, dear, what I'm saying is that your personal religious
beliefs have no place in an essay about, say, Hemingway's
short piece about Sam Cardinella.) Just because you are, in
your words, a good Christian doesn't mean I'm going to automatically
give you a good grade.
I'm guessing you could say quite a lot
if you HAD ANY
WRITING SKILLS AT ALL. Rhetorical questions do little to make
your point or conclude an essay with strength and conviction.
Don't you agree?
No shit, jackass. This is the last paragraph of your essay;
of COURSE it's "in conclusion"!
- That's about it! I can't think of any more to write!
How scholarly and professional a conclusion like that sounds!
I can't think of any other grade to give you but an F! That's
about it! KThanxBye!