Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 3

On Racist, Ableist, and Sexist Language

This post builds on Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing (Part 2)

For this series of posts, I’m going to focus on words, phrases, and other writing habits that students should avoid. Fifty-seven college teachers across multiple disciplines shared the things that they commonly see in college papers that drive them crazy, make them worry about their students’ skills, and just in general signal that the student doesn’t yet have a good handle on how to write well in a college setting.

You know that old adage: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? The implication is not just that we should keep our mouths shut if we don’t have something nice to say. What’s implied here is that we should do better, and not be the types of people who go around being rude, mean, and in general embarrassing to the people that raised us.

Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 3

Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 2

On Dictionary Definitions and High-Falutin’ Words

This post builds on Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing (Part 1).

For this series of posts, I’m going to focus on words, phrases, and other writing habits that students should avoid. Fifty-seven college teachers across multiple disciplines shared the things that they commonly see in college papers that drive them crazy, make them worry about their students’ skills, and just in general signal that the student doesn’t yet have a good handle on how to write well in a college setting.

Students often perceive academic writing to have a sort of stilted, high-falutin’ tone that they then try to emulate in an effort to “sound smart.” It’s true that some academic writing has a tone that can charitably be called “dense,” but it’s also true that (1) tone varies by discipline and (2) over time and (3) most teachers don’t expect students to be able to fluently use that type of academic tone in their first years of college, even when it is appropriate for the discipline.

Part 2 focuses on mistakes that I suspect are artifacts of students trying to “sound smart,” but that that end up negatively affecting their grades.

Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 2

Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 1

On Being Vague

I really struggled with the title of this post, because I don’t want students who already feel insecure about their writing to feel worse. But as I’ll discuss in a later blog post, there is a difference in the type of writing expected of most high school students, and the type of writing expected in college. Those expectations are often left unspoken, which means that students are often left wondering what went wrong.

For this series of posts, I’m going to focus on words, phrases, and other writing habits that students should avoid. I asked other college teachers, online, for things they commonly see in college papers that drive them crazy, make them worry about their students’ skills, and just in general signal that the student doesn’t yet have a good handle on how to write well in a college setting. Fifty-seven college teachers across multiple disciplines responded, and when I wrote up the original blog post as a Word doc, I had five pages of material.

But wait! Don’t freak out. The reason I have five pages is because in addition to telling you what students often get wrong, I’m also going to tell you why those things aren’t appropriate, and how to do better. My goal is to help you develop a writing style that conveys “young professional” and not “high school holdover.”

Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 1

How long does my paper have to be?

Hand to heart, the honest answer to this question is “as long as it needs to be.”

I know that isn’t the answer that you wanted. But it’s the truth. If you’ve been given a page length or word count, that’s because, in your teacher’s experience, that’s how much space it takes to make a decent response to the writing prompt they’re giving you. It’s never a magic number, let alone a guaranteed grade.

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about what your teacher hears when students ask that perennial question: “how long does it have to be.”

Continue reading How long does my paper have to be?