This week’s reading is something that I always struggle with when teaching new students how to write better. With so much to cover in class, it is hard to focus on sentence level issues sometimes, so like my colleague Phillip, I also have to ask “what is an important mistake?”

I try to impress on my students that good sentences have their strength in active verbs, and I also try to tell them that most times the less words a sentence uses the better, and then I show them a list of redundant redundancies and we go over my pet peeves, for example: “Due to the fact that” which can be replaced, simply with “because”– some other ones, just to give an example are: • (absolutely) necessary • connect (together) • during (the course of) • separated (apart from each other) • (unexpected) surprise • write (down)

Basically, I don’t know how to teach my students to be better writers, and sometimes I feel that ideology gets in the way of true pedagogy, so I try to mix in all the different methods I can.

I found the Lundsford article on errors very interesting. It is interesting to note that essays have grown in length. In our composition world where we ask students to write 3,000 words is this because a study has shown that writing more improves writing? Are we sacrificing quality for quantity? Would it be easier to grade 3 page papers (rather than 5 page papers?), but take a closer, more involved look at the shorter paper? Maybe this way we could avoid reading the redundant redundancies?

I wonder how much “computer speak” is influencing student writing on a basic sentence level, which makes me wonder if maybe we shouldn’t go back to teaching basic sentence structure, and while the errors have changed, I wonder just how much the writing itself has changed? Where do we see if the actual writing, in terms of quality, has changed over time? And if so what has changed, how has it changed, and what methods were used to teach the better essays? I constantly hear that student’s today aren’t as smart as students of the past, but I wonder how much of that is true? Is it that technology has made students lazy?

While I couldn’t find the original article, here are some possible reasons why students are studying less:

Also, as the Lundsford article mentions, the mistakes have changed, and while there are less “spelling” mistakes, there are more wrong word mistakes, so I always show my students this fun reminder of the importance of proofreading: