Sunday, December 05, 2010

Some Woes Concerning the Writing of Papers

  1. Woe to those who use improper footnote form. One benighted (and unnamed) student of mine recently tied the all-time record (at least in my experience) of seven errors in one footnote in the most recent assignment, thus joining "the hall of shame." This is similar to a batter striking out five times in one game.
  2. Woe to those who put periods outside of quotation marks: Then he said, "God is universal energy". The Brits do this; we do not. We should not.
  3. Woe to those who misspell my last (or first) name: Douglas Groothuis.
  4. A double woe on all who forget to put page numbers on their papers. You will necessarily put me in a very rotten mood if you do this, even before I read one word of your paper. This is because I must supply what your computer should do.
  5. Woe to those whose first page of a paper is page two. The title page is not page one. The first page of writing is page one.
  6. Woe to those who commonly omit needed commas or who put them where they do not belong. The comma should not be treated so rudely.
  7. Woe to those who do not experience the exquisite delectation of using semicolons properly. They are not commas; they are not colons; they are not dashes. They are what they are. Find out what they are if you do not know--and enjoy.

7 comments:

swm said...

2. Woe to those who put periods outside of quotation marks: Then he said, "God is universal energy". The Brits do this; we do not. We should not.

Whilst I accept and submit to the illogical doctrines of American English, this is one which should be corrected. Quotations should imply a precise, exact reproduction of a source; embedding our own punctuation inside the quotation effectively changes the original. To wit: if the original punctuation were important, how would you indicate that, without something cumbersome like '[punctuation original]'?

Collins

ChrisB said...

My stance has been to ignore grammatical errors that do not impede the flow of information. I'm not an English teacher.

Ken Abbott said...

Sounds like you would greatly enjoy the book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves."

David Parker said...

The only thing I wouldn't encourage students to do is waste too much time playing with word processors. I'd rather them number the pages with a pencil than spend an hour wrestling with section breaks in MS Word...those things can get pretty nasty.

Sirfab said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Collins. Punctuation should only be used at the end of a quote (before the end quote mark) only if it belongs to the to the quoted text.

Doing otherwise is a disservice to clarity.

Best,

Sirfab

Chris said...

Woe to those like Collins who use "which" when they should use "that."

Chris said...

Woe to those like Collins who use "which" when they should use "that."