Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Some Classroom Errors

One thing I’ve done for my writing class this year is give them specific examples of common errors made by students who’ve taken the class in the past. Of course, I don’t include the names of the students whose works/mistakes I feature. I thought it might be interesting to show you some of these examples. All of the examples below were turned in for my Writing in Psychology class. I've indicated the primary issue in bold print. These are not terribly extreme, but if there is interest, at some point I’ll publish some of the more egregious errors I’ve seen. All with names left out, to be sure.

FAT:
1. It is believed that the easier and more quickly we can bring an example of something to mind, the more frequently we believe it occurs.

2. Therefore, it is apparent that we must rely heavily on our skills and abilities of social perception and attribution to correlate behavior with its causal source.

COMMA SPLICE:
1. Due to the recession a lot of businesses are going bankrupt, one of the most publicized is that of GMC.

VAGUE TIME REFERENCE:
1. At one point in time you could not watch television without seeing a commercial about the virus.

AGREEMENT IN NUMBER (Plural vs Singular problem):
1. The Psychoanalytic Theory attempts to look at the person’s family life as an explanation of their homosexuality.

SENTENCE FRAGMENT:
1. Many question if the reason why serial killers exists.

WORD CHOICE ERROR:
1. Skin color differences have transcended throughout history.

REPETITION:
1. If peer pressure influences adolescents’ decision making, then adolescents who are influence by their peers tend to let their peers influence their sexual attitude.

STATEMENT OF THE OBVIOUS:
1. People usually go through a lot during a normal daily routine.
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36 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

Oh, yes, I'm familiar with these types . . . Always interesting, though.

My favorites are malapropisms, though. They are usually clever and inventive, while sometimes revealing more of a good listener than an avid reader.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I bet I've made some of those mistakes...

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for commenting at Under the Tiki Hut for Alex's post.

Tom Doolan said...

Honestly, these seem pretty tame compared to some of the writing I have seen in some classes. Although I go to school online, and I think there is some kind of mental block that prevents people from posting proper English in a "forum" even if that forum is for a college course.

Steve Malley said...

That singular/plural one was actually the 'gender neutral plural'.

Not sure how I feel about this use of 'their'. It's certainly tidier than 'his or her' and all the other, odder tapdances we do to get away from the 'patriarchally oppressive' rule of unknown gender being masculine. But it does create clunkers, like the one you pointed out.

Not that how I feel matters: the concepts taken root in our language like dandelions in a lawn!

Merisi said...

Better not say anything. ;-)

Merisi said...

I meant "I better not say anything"! ;-)

oceangirl said...

You are the Professor!

The Golden Eagle said...

Oops. I know I've made those mistakes . . .

Charles Gramlich said...
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Charles Gramlich said...
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Charles Gramlich said...
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Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I will have to post some of my more interesting turns of phrase at some point.

Alex, I have indeed myself.

Carol, no problem. Alex deserves support.

Tom, absolutely. These were fairly minor. I have some that are much worse for this, but so bad they wouldn't have made good examples for the students. I will post some of the worst ones later.

Steve Malley, I encourage the students not to use this format in formal writing, as for these kinds of papers. I’d rather them either construct using all plurals, or simply rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem, such as: “The Psychoanalytic Theory attempts to look at family life as an explanation for homosexuality.”

Merisi, lol!

Oceangirl, I've made most of these as well.

Golden Eagle, most of us probably have. These are not overly bad mistakes, for sure.

Cloudia said...

that's a good idea. wonder if they appreciate the resource you can be to them?


Aloha from Waikiki
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Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for bringing back my day and obliterating the effects of two dark beers and a couple shots of spiced rum. If I can get students past the idea that argument is not shouting louder, they fall into old grooves that have served them from K-12.

There's the paper that begins "From the beginning of time..." Then there's the confusion about affect/effect, lead/led, and the reliance on spell check that OKs posses and asses, when they mean possess and assess. Subject/verb agreement is an ambivalent concept.

This past week, I was talking about topic sentences in a paper, and a student asked me, where I was getting these topics I kept talking about.

If it were only that, there is the whining about grades. Retirement is looking awfully appealing about this time of the semester...Ha.

Travis Cody said...

One of the tools I use during a rewrite is to read sections aloud. Some of the errors my eye may have skimmed over and missed immediately become apparent when I hear them spoken.

I got a kick out of the ones you shared here.

Jess said...

These errors look very familiar to me. :) I'm reading a book right now that is heavy, heavy, heavy on repetition--one of my pet peeves.

David J. West said...

But I love. Fragments.

Ty Johnston said...

Ah, takes me back to my newspaper days and dealing with the younger reporters.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I am sure I have been making these errors too. I'll have to be more careful. Recently, two boys were playing under my building when I heard one say to the other: "So much fun we are having, no!" A literal translation from Hindi, the national language. Now most Indians speak fairly good English but every so often you'll hear this self-introduction: "Myself is..."

SzélsőFa said...

sometimes i, too make some mistakes. i tend to overexplain things and get really, really complicated, while
at other times i prefer writing in fragments.
just because.
;)
so anything may come - it will come handy.:)

Deka Black said...

My eyes bleed. uggg

BernardL said...

Those appear to be common errors made in an attempt to write a paper on subjects lacking the ability to stir passion within the soul of the author. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, I wonder sometimes how good a resource I am.

Ron, to you and me both. I can't believe I'm so far away from retirement.

Travis Cody, I've been telling my students all year to read their stuff out loud. I know it helps but not all are doing it.

Jess, a little repetition in nonfiction is not always a bad thing but man it can get old.

David J., me too. But only in fiction. Not in nonfiction, at least not in journal articles or scientific stuff.

Ty, lol. SOrry about that.

Prashant, interesting to hear that kind of thing, and you can understand it. A lot of my students grow up using very colloquial language so that is part of their issue.

Szelsofa, I made a grammar mistake in the stuff I sent them about grammar mistakes, so it certainly happens :)

Bernard, I don't see a lot of passion from the students for these topics. That is for sure.

laughingwolf said...

tame, compared to what i put up with writing/editing for a major multinational...

won't say a word about the crap i see daily, in news articles online!

G said...

Thanks for sharing those -- got a good laugh. I especially like the use of "transcended."

Oscar said...

If you keep collecting these, you'll have a multi-volume edition like the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, I sometimes see much worse. This was pretty simple stuff. But I bet you see some crap.

G, yep, that one got me.

Oscar, I have considered it!

sage said...

Charles, just warn us before you start mining our blogs for such examples, okay? Remember, "many people question why serial killers exist!" Or should that be cereal killers?

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, so are you saying I should get rid of the examples from your blog that I've already started collecting? ;) I'd have to start with my blog first.

ivan said...

Sage,

I kind of like "cereal killers."

Actually, with all deference, this whole thread has me asking, in my non-sequitur way, "I like Corn Flakes.
Can you swim?"

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I like corn flakes. No swimming.

Heff said...

Wouldn't the serial killer deal be ok if they just took out the word "if" ?

I think a student's brain waves went weak momentarily on that one....

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, indeed so. It could be this was just a proofreading error. So how have you been, man?

Donnetta said...

Charles: Getting a good laugh out of these. I am. D

Charles Gramlich said...

Donetta, glad you enjoyed!