Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 5

The Odds and Ends

This is the last post in the series, and I’ll be honest – this one is the odds and ends that didn’t fit elsewhere 🙂

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Citing Sources: Why Do We Do It?

There are few things in academic writing that frustrate (or even terrify) students more than (1) citing sources and (2) avoiding plagiarism. The two are closely related. I will discuss plagiarism in detail in later posts devoted to paraphrase, summary, and quotations. In this post, we’re going to explore the rationale behind citing sources: why do we do it?

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Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 4

On Using Your Words the Wrong Way

You may have seen, or even been given, lists of words and phrases that students commonly misuse. Common example include to/too/two and there/their/they’re. Well, you will see these listed in the first section, below, but the professors that responded to my call for errors gave me so much more . . .

Homophones and homonyms, misuse, and misspellings

The example in the opening paragraph refers to misuse that occurs because words sound alike. Often, these are homophones or homonyms. Homophones are words that sound the same by have different meanings, and homonyms are words with the same spelling or sound, but not the same meaning. (Don’t worry: there won’t be a quiz.) Here’s a list of words that students have been getting wrong for decades:

Continue reading Cringeworthy: Bad Writing Habits that Hurt your College Writing, Part 4

How is College Writing Different?

In one of my earliest blog posts, Learning to Write Well: Why Bother?, I wrote that you will likely need to be able to write effectively throughout your life, whether that’s for professional or personal reasons. Writing for college classes, however, is a very specific type of writing that requires a specific skill set. A lot of students come into college missing at least some of these skills. In a later post, I will talk about imposter syndrome and why students enter college with varying levels of preparation, but for now, just know that a lot of students enter college these days without the skills they need to write a successful college paper. That’s literally the reason this blog exists.

Not knowing what’s expected of your academic writing in college is not a measure of intelligence; it is a measure of preparedness and understanding.

So let’s get started.

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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.

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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.

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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