Some Students Actually Want to Write Better

It is no secret that a college degree does not certify good writing skills. Recently in the Chronicle, Mark Bauerlein explored some reasons why this is the case.

After reading hundreds upon hundreds of college-student essays, I’ve become a connoisseur of poor writing. Consider this gem of a sentence that I had the luxury of reading:

This is were Taylor developed a thing called soldiering and there was two types “Natural soldiering” which meant proceed from the natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy and “systematic soldiering” came from worker more intricate second thought and reasoning caused by their relations with other men, this all is according to our text also.

Aside from not knowing how to properly develop a point for more than a sentence or two, other common errors that repeatedly appear each semester include:

  • An aversion to using commas for anything other than separating elements in a series

  • Ending sentences in prepositions

  • A failure to believe that compound words exist (some of my favorites — over whelming, news paper, and room mates)

  • Poor word choices (e.g. in sight/incite, manger/manager, moral/morale, then/than)

  • “Writing like they talk” (I’ve seen “you know what I’m saying” more times that I want to see it in papers)

  • Placing semicolons in spots more random than tattoos on professional athletes

  • Mismatching pronouns and nouns (e.g. As a student passes from one grade level to the next, they are expected . . . )

I wonder if I am leaving something out?

I am not describing a few typos; I’ve made my fair share of typos on pieces that I have posted on the Web. A certain portion of students really don’t know what they are doing wrong. What really bothers me is that many students actually do want to write better, but they do not consistently get the proper feedback over the course of their studies.

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More