Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Not to Write a Paper (Tales from the Writing Center)

I took my very last final exam this morning. I am now officially not a student anymore, but a mere unemployed American. Wait, tell me again why people actually celebrate graduations?? All that stands between me and graduation is my last shift at the Writing Center and a week of salacious debauchery, aka Senior Week. I was reflecting on my job as a writing tutor, trying to come up with things not to miss about it (that’s the best way to avoid crying, just keep telling yourself that college really wasn’t all that and a bag of chips—maybe Fritos, but not chips). Because we all had to write papers at some point, and some of us will continue to write them for years to come, I am going to share some of my writing center wisdom with you all. Hopefully it will help you avoid those terrible red-penned insults disguised as “constructive criticism” that teachers love to dole out, such as “I don’t know what you’re trying to say here,” “awk,” and my absolute favorite, “?”


I got “see me” once too. Not a great day for me.


1. Do not begin your paper with “The issue of sexual inequality has been debated since the dawn of man,” or “Religion and science have been at odds for thousands of years,” or “Since the beginning of time, men have been asking themselves the same question: boxers or briefs.” You were not around at the beginning/dawn of time, nor have you been around for thousands, hundreds, or even dozens of years. Ditto for eons, generations, and forever. Plus, if your paper topic is so trite that its been debated/discussed/argued/asserted/propagated/chewed up and spit out since the dinosaurs walked, what new insight could you, a measly undergrad, possibly add to the discussion?


Now he can actually write about something that’s been debated since the beginning of time.


2. Do not use the quote “with great power comes great responsibility.” I don’t care if you cite Uncle Ben from Spiderman or not, just don’t use it. It’s surprisingly overused, rarely cited correctly, and often misquoted. If you’re writing a paper about Spiderman, or the power/responsibility dichotomy, or hackneyed quotes, then by all means use it. Otherwise, as Uncle Joey would say, “Cut it out!”


Pedo-buckteeth: the pedosmile of the 90s.


3. Do not say “In this paper I would first like to talk about boxers. Then in paragraph 2 I will be moving on to briefs. In the conclusion I will move the discussion forward to man thongs and possibly the Borat swimsuit.” Just talk about the damn undapants, don’t tell us ahead of time what’s gonna happen! If you’re gonna do that you really should have first said “In this paper I will first tell you what I’m going to talk about in this paper, then I will talk about boxers…” But really you’d have to first say “In this paper I’m first going to talk about the fact that I’m going to tell you what I’m going to talk about in this paper, then I will talk about boxers…” And then your paper is infinitely recursive. Congratulations, your 15-pager wasn’t so hard after all.


When is enough gonna be enough for you?


4. Do not ask if the paper “flows.” What, exactly, does this mean, anyway? I know what flow is with regard to rivers, menstruation, floating ice, in opposition to ebb, and Progressive spokespeople, but when it comes to papers, I’m not so sure. If you’re asking if the paper is well-organized, then the answer is no, the organization sucks.


My bf loves her. Perhaps now he will associate her with PERIODS.


5. Do not verbally abuse your teacher to anyone who will listen when you get a bad grade on your crappy paper rife with plagiarism. And if you do insist on complaining to me for the entire session instead of getting some work done, then for Flo’s sake, do not admit to me at the end that you actually tried to get by with only writing one paper for two different classes. I can respect lazy, but I cannot respect stupid.


If you have to ask…



Do you guys still have to write papers? Have you ever committed any of these offenses? I admit I quoted Spiderman once in junior high!


22 comments:

  1. You're hilarious Karisa! I write papers ALL the time, as a history major. I got in trouble once for using jargon...how dumb? I wrote something like..."that was a tall order." Well...I guess it was kind of stupid, haha.

    I can't wait til I am a teacher so I can read papers and grade them!

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  2. AND, CONGRATULATIONS ON GRADUATING!! :)

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  3. Congratulations! I graduated in 2004, but I wrote press releases all the time until I recently changed jobs. Press releases and news articles were more exciting to me than research papers! :-) Happy graduation! Hope to see pictures of you in that cap and gown!

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  4. Oops, I meant I graduated from college in 2008. I graduated from high school in 2004. Haha. Yeah, I've only been out of college for two years!

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  5. you make me laugh... once again!!! : ) congrats on graduation!!! woo hoo! i was always confused about the whole "done with college yet with no job" thing... i wish you all the best in your new chapter!

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  6. So funny! Congrats on graduation. You will find a job soon. :)

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  7. hahaha Seriously dying laughing. I freaking love your posts... and congrats on your grad-eee-ation!!!

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  8. well well... thankfully.... i just finished with my papers.... i have used sms grammar pnce or twice and it didn't come out well as was the Since forever point.... I shud see that dinosaur man!!!! and congrats on graduating...:-)

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  9. Bahahaaaa
    I am about to start my last semester & the way you look at graduation seriously just made my day:)
    THANKS!!
    but youre exactly right about.
    I mean for weeks I've been like..."Okay, what am i supposed to do now??"

    It's rather scary!

    xoxo
    bB

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  10. So, so true. And I LOVE your last point--I can respect lazy, but not stupid.
    Also, if you mention to me that the paper is due in two hours and you haven't started doing research, do not be surprised when I point out gesu and tell you to go over there and start praying.

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  11. just wanted to let you know I tagged you in one of latest blogs, so Make sure you check it out!

    :)
    xoxo
    bB

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  12. i do NOT miss writing papers at all! (although your blog did make me giggle! :) )

    i graduated in 2006, and still have yet to work in my field of study. it's frustrating, but i know i should be thankful to have a job (actually, two...) right now.

    happy graduation!

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  13. Congrats on the graduation, get shit faced for me ok? (:

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  14. Karisa, you never fail to amuse me. You pass my likability-cum-humour exam no probs....(and no paper!). Well done, young lady!

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  15. I'm in grad school, and writing up a storm. I'm the queen of BS, and I'm also really good at procrastination. Everything always turns out well, and I get a good grade, but I'm never really sure if they're actually reading it, or just assuming that I know what I'm taking about. (Again with the BS crown that I've given myself)

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  16. I passed an award onto YOU from my blog!
    CHECK it out

    xoxo
    bB

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  17. SEE ME is the worst!!!! or in the business world, LET'S DISCUSS makes me want to blow my brains out before screaming WHAT DO YOU WANT. JUST TELL ME WHAT DO YOU WANT. ARGH!!!

    p.s. congrats on graduating!

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  18. "I know what flow is with regard to rivers, menstruation, floating ice, in opposition to ebb, and Progressive spokespeople" HAHAHA...I'm a blog editor and I get this kind of question all the time.

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  19. Oh, I'm so glad I found your blog! I was an English major, Writing minor, and now I'm a teacher (yes, I fell into that) and I've wanted to scream these sorts of tips at bad essay writers since high school.
    Congratulations on your graduation!

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  20. LOL That holocaust paper. I'd give that guy a D for "dumbass."

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