Just in case you were wondering

To: Several of The Students Whose Essays I Am Currently Grading
CC: Anyone Who Might Ever Have Plans To Turn In an Essay to a University Campus Sometime Soon

I know that you’re a special unique snowflake and you probably tried so very hard on this essay, and that this is a summer course anyway and this assignment probably interrupted your patio time in the sun for at least a few hours the day before it was due.

However, since grading your assignment is taking time that I could be using to knit more cables or screw up some sock pattern, allow me to clarify one or two things.

1. When you adjust the margins from a standard 1-1.5 inches to 2.5 inches to boost your page count, I can tell. This will not make me think more charitably about the quality of your work.

2. When you list 10 sources in your bibliography and only refer to 5 of them in your essay, I can tell that, too. This makes me think even less charitably about your work than I did back in #1.

3. Proofreading. It’s not just for glamorous editorial assistants anymore. Just sayin’ you might want to try it once or twice.

4. If the assignment guidelines tell you about how you should not rely on internet websites, this is not, actually, an invitation for you to turn in a paper which uses ONLY internet sources and relies only on Wikipedia citations for two pages worth of text. O HAI, last-minute research.

5. Paragraph breaks. I hear a lot of people are using them these days. It’s not that I don’t find your 3-page run-on paragraph really impressive and entertaining, it’s just that sometimes I like to be able to follow some sort of, oh, organized train of thought when I’m handing out grades. I’m just putting that out there.

Thanks ever so much,

P.S. To the students who have so far violated none of these rules, please accept my undying affection and the hand-knitted sock of your choice. (You can have the 2nd sock if you repeat this virtue on the next assignment).

P.P.S. Double hand-knitted socks to the students who actually breathed air inside the library. I love you.


  1. LOVE this…. I have felt this pain.

  2. jessmary · ·

    This is fantastic! Truer words never spoken. 🙂

  3. And I was wondering why I didn’t take any courses this summer or anything… Trying to do well? In the summer? Insane much?

    Good luck getting through the essays!

  4. I used to grade for a university professor when I was in high school (long story) and my favorite confrontation was calling in two students who had written the same paper, word for word.

    They claimed to have just been really inspired.

  5. Hee hee, reminds me of a class where the prof posted a message after every assignment saying something like “Please don’t copy and paste from a website, rearrange the order, and call it your essay. This is plagiarism.” (it was a masters level library sciences class….)

  6. Um, GUILTY. I’m the worst writer in the world. I’m even guilty of Adrienne’s comment 😦 I’m not proud LOL I need help!

  7. Would this be a good time to tell you about a neuropsychology professor friend of mine, who once showed me a stack of essays – all with bibliographies consisted of a list of weblinks? No, not webSITES…that would have made SOME sense…webLINKS…kinda like this:

    http://78.987.78.000/gp/product/B0000VMCEQ/ref=amb_link_5497392_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1AP0QGXNKPDVF0SYQNJC&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=397881801&pf_rd_i=507846 (which isn’t an actual weblink…don’t try it)

    …on paper. The “there’s no clicking ability on paper” irony…apparently completely lost on them.

    Oh…and he wasn’t allowed to fail anyone.

    (my comments these days need to come with some kind of “run-on, garbled sentence ahead!” warning sign…ugh…)

  8. OMG you made me laugh so hard with this one! Having been both the grader and the gradee I can appreciate your pain.

  9. Poor Glenna! Perhaps next time they could turn in audio essays. That way they won’t have to worry about paragraph breaks and you can knit while listening.

  10. Classic! Poor you. Hope there are some gems in there to ease your pain

  11. Very good! A copy should accompany the next assignment. LOL!

  12. Twig,

    Can’t you just hear the audio essay?

    On Vanity Fair by Thackery….
    “So, like Becky finally had to go to the Crawley’s house cuz she was, um, gonna be like their governess you know for the kids and it showed like this bad situation she was in and, um, like she knew she, um, needed to get out of it cuz Sir Pit was crazy. And then later she hooked up with his cousin or nephew or something and his name was Rawdon and….”

    A friend of mine is a high school teacher. Occasionally I am over while she’s grading AP Psychology papers. Now that what I call entertainment!

  13. Good lard. I hear your pain. *shakes fist at students*

  14. I will take note of those snippets from you!! 😉 I hope you finish the grading soon, sounds bad!

  15. Hilarious! oh, and twig and meg…LOL!

  16. Oooh…I think I might deserve double hand knit socks!

  17. This is so funny. I am TAing in the fall and am dreading these kinds of experiences, especially since it will be freshmen in the rudimentary class BELOW English 101.

  18. YES. By your completely reasonable standards, I would deserve double knit socks. Sexy.

    You are so calm and humorous about it. I would be taping these to kids’ foreheads. This is why I do not believe I could ever be a teacher.

  19. My daughter starts University in the fall – I can’t wait until she wakes up this morning so I can show her this post!

  20. Heehee. My husband taught at a seminary for a while and grading papers was his least favorite activity. The grumbling and growling about grammar and complete sentences, not to mention the content, was a neverending source of entertainment for me. He’ll love your recommendations.

  21. Bwahahahaha! I nearly snorted tea out my nose while reading this. There is no higher compliment, in my books!

    I do something similar at work- doesn’t exactly leave me with the greatest impression of our youth today, I tells ya.

  22. I’m editing a master’s thesis for a comp.sci. friend og mine and have started writing a list of instructions on his titlepage, they go something like this:

    – you can’t start a sentence with “So, For, or Therefore”, strike out the word entirely and your sentence is fine 9 of 10 times.

    – Abreviations must be explained the first time they are used. I don’t know what a PEFP is and will assume it’s a honeybee unless you tell me otherwise

    – If you’re going to stick pictures and math into the middle of your text you have to tab in the titles like they were a block quote so you don’t throw me right out of the sentence I thought I was reading and muddle my poor non-comp.sci. mind.

    – For the love of God, there is not a coma shortage in this country you can use them where they belong.

    – oh for Pete’s sake, did you even CONSIDER re-reading this before you gave it to me? It’s “cue” not “queue” and “due” not “do”… sigh

    ya, he’s gonna love me…

  23. Oh, I feel your pain. I work for a company editing student essays, and sometimes I want to roll on the floor screaming. I did catch someone once plagiarize word for word from wikipedia. Wikipedia didn’t exist when I was in college, and while I appreciate it myself now as a person interested in knowing things, it’s an evil curse on college professors. (And TAs, etc.)

    Oh, and there should be some sort of public service notice about the correct usage of “which” and “that” !

  24. Wow, I’m sure I have that same blog post somewhere. They all make the same mistakes. And it pains me every time I mark something.

    If you can edit this into something that won’t bruise the students’ frail egos, put it in your syllabus or supplementary Essay Information sheet. It won’t eliminate the problem, but they can’t say you never told them your expectations at the outset.

    Another good one to do (which I never did) is to take them all to the library for a little “how to use the library” course. I bet some of them never go into their library.

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