Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An Open Letter to College Students

Dear Unnamed College Students,

Hey, how are you? Is the semester going well for you? Have a good spring break? What did you do, go to Mexico? No? How about West Palm Beach? Ah, there we go! What happened? Really? Well, be sure and get a tetanus shot for that. Seriously.

I wanted to write today to make a request. Now, I know y'all are busy with this and that but, honestly, I'd like you to take a little time out of your busy schedules to stop raping the English language. That may sound like a fairly extreme way to put it but, really, I think it's justified. In the beginning I was merely amazed at your impressively incompetent spelling. I know, I know- my spelling isn't perfect either. I accept that. Indeed, I don't really grade any of you that hard on spelling because I know that I have my problems. That said, you do understand that "there," "their" and "they're" aren't the same word, right? You get that one indicates location, one indicates possession, and one is a contraction of "they are"? I'm sorry for asking, I've read your papers, so the answer to my question is clearly no. Sorry to put you on the spot like that. I feel I would be remiss if I did not additionally point out that "it's" is a contraction of "it is" while "its" is a possessive form. So, if you wrote, "The battleship released its shells," you would be indicating that the shells belonged to the battleship. By contrast, writing "The battleship released it's shells," would translate to, "...released it is shells," and would only reveal that you can't write.

Still, these are relatively minor criticisms. I have learned, with some assistance, to ignore your casual mistreatment of our beloved tongue in at least these forms. Certainly, you reveal a sloppiness that frankly concerns me, but I have grown accustomed to it and, so, am no longer as distressed. Recently, however, I'm afraid your violations of linguistic decency have reached new heights. Of late you have begun eschewing any concern for the actual meaning of the words you use. To provide an example, within the last week I corrected a student's answer to a test question indicating that she used the word "assume" when, in fact, she meant "conclude." Her angry retort consisted of, "So I lost points because of some minor phrasing issue?"


Hell no.

Let me explain this, since some of you apparently don't get it. To assume is to take for granted or without proof; suppose; postulate; posit. On the other hand, in this context, to conclude is to determine by reasoning; deduce; infer. So, in other words, when you assume you take something as true without evidence whereas when you conclude you take something as true based on evidence and reasoning. As a result, if you write in your concluding paragraph that you assume your conclusion to be true, then you are admitting failure in your efforts to convince me. If your entire paper doesn't produce enough evidence and/or reasoning to permit a conclusion then you wasted your time writing it and I wasted my time reading it. There is a saying about, "When you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME," but in this case, you're really just making an ass out of yourself.

I don't want to be too mean. Really, I know a lot of you are busy and none of us are perfect. That said, however, there are a lot of words in the English language and many of them have different meanings. There's a reason for this- they convey different concepts. These words are, in fact, used for precisely that purpose since we cannot peer into each other's heads and see what concept is in use. Thus, it is your job as a communicator to employ the proper words to convey your meaning. If you use the wrong words and, as a result, your audience misunderstands you, that is your failure as a writer not someone else's failure as a reader. I don't like to grade very hard on grammar or spelling but, seriously, if I don't grade on whether or not you actually string together the right words to answer a question, what's left? Should I grade on your ability to at least put letters on the damned page?

Please, for my sanity if nothing else, get a bloody dictionary and make use of it. There is a wonderful vocabulary out there for you to discover that goes far beyond the pidgin of "hey r u in cls? LOL!!1!"


Drek the Uninteresting

For any readers who think this is mean and uncalled for, my main response is simply this: I can either be this mean anonymously on my blog, or I can be this mean to the students in question. Personally, I think this is the better of those options.

Additionally, for those who are wondering, the above example of confusion between "assume" and "conclude" was not the sole reason that student lost points. Actually, I didn't even mark off for that particular gem as there was an ample supply of other mistakes to use instead. That confusion is just fixed in my mind, however, as a consequence of my student's reaction to being corrected.

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Blogger Slag said...

The one that I run into quite a bit, even in the professional world, is that people mistake infer for imply.

Infer is an act of hearing, and imply is an act of telling. So, if I say:

I infer that Drek is a pirate

that means that, based on Drek's writings, I have become convinced that he is a pirate, even though I do not have definite knowledge of this fact.

If, however, I imply that Drek is a pirate, that means that I indirectly try to convince someone else that Drek is a pirate.

Thursday, April 05, 2007 9:57:00 AM  

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