Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An irrational pet peeve

You know what I find unreasonably infuriating? Hypercorrection. For example, when students (or non-students) write "The introduction of this paper was well," when they mean it was good. Or "Mrs. Harris, whom was my high-school English teacher..." or "Give the forms to Mary and I."

For some reason, these constructions make me want to stab somebody, although other types of grammatical error do not. (I think this might have something to do with the fact that it drives me nuts when people try to be sticklers about rules without understanding the principles behind the rules.)

What are your irrational writing peeves?


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Well, in my Humanities class, it's all lecture, right? So the students' great opportunity to engage with the work themselves is in the papers. When they repeat the lectures, that makes me bat-shit crazy. I know what I said. Now, I want to know what they think. This is incredibly hard for students, but when I push them to engage, they usually do a good job. At least they have something to say, rather than just telling me what I said.

But perhaps you were asking about grammar/mechanics. Actually, what makes me crazy is Rhet/Comp profs who think I'm an idiot for correcting basic grammar/mechanics problems. The minimal marking concept doesn't make sense to me. Now, don't get me wrong -- I tend to focus on basic stuff like run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments (all related things), as well as really basic grammar errors. Some things I just give up on -- dangling modifiers, for instance. But if you can't write a sentence, you haven't learned a goddamn thing in my class. That makes me insane. I will mark the shit out of papers until the day I die, and I honestly don't care if it doesn't do any good. I'm not going to have students say, "I have no idea what I'm doing wrong" in my class. I don't care if it's bad pedagogy. I think that part of my duty in responding to student writing is building a case for the grade I give them, and part of that case is always grammar/mechanics. (Like 10%, but still -- an A should not be an option for a grammatically fucked up paper.)

Bev said...

Ooh ooh pick me pick me! All of the above, plus students who think "in which" is a more formal way to say "which" and so stick the "in" in there even when it's totally unnecessary.

Bardiac said...

I have weird ones, along with the overcorrection ones. For example, my students seem to think "on" topic X, rather than about topic X, and that just feels wrong to me. I think it's a regional variation, though, so I don't mark it.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Bardiac and Bev -- Ohh, yes, the preposition that isn't quite right for the idiom. I see a lot of that, and I guess it's understandable, since English has an incredibly complicated and arbitrary system of prepositions -- but until I started teaching comp, it would never have occurred to me that this was something that tripped up native speakers.

Fie -- Yeah, I think that's one of those comp orthodoxies that sounds great until you have to deal with actual students. (Along with the one where you're only supposed to comment on drafts, not on the final copy of the paper -- never mind that [60 gen ed students x 5 papers] + [15 Shakespeare students x 3 papers] makes reading every paper twice pretty much impossible, and that "justifying the grade" is a perfectly valid reason for commenting, and one that students expect.)

I do tend to mark up only a page or two in detail, in order to save my own sanity, but I don't see how students can be expected to correct their own work if we don't show them how.