Things I hate in essays
Thursday, November 22, 2018 at 6:55PM
Dave Brodbeck in Rant, work, writing

It is essay writing season again and I'm marking papers.  There are many things I dislike and well, I complain a lot.  So a former student asked if I could make a Top 10 list.  So here is the list, mostly copied and pasted from a facebook post I made.

1. 'In today's society' and variations thereof. It is pretty much useless. Also, in most of the stuff I deal with it is almost a non sequitur. 'In today's society the hippocampus is important in spatial memory' makes little sense.

2. The word 'interesting'. Prove to me something is interesting, I'm the reader, I'll decide if it is. Don't tell me something is interesting.

3. 'The results showed'. 

4. The passive voice.

5. Quoting. It is almost never useful in scientific writing. What quotes tell me is that you don't know what the thing you're quoting means, so instead you decided to use someone else's words.

6. Cliches. (Though I suppose one could argue a top 10 list is a cliche.....)

7. 'In my opinion'. I don't give a shit about your opinion. I want evidence, synthesis and analysis. 

8. Useless detail. Look, I don't need to know the light dark cycle the rats were kept on, of course unless it is say a circadian rhythm experiment or something.

9. 'Since the dawn of time' and variations thereof. First off, it's a fucking cliche, secondly, look, the dawn of time includes more time when there wasn't even an Earth than when there was one. So it is unlikely that the effects of stimulus intensity on learning has been wondered about since the dawn of time. 

10. 'In another study' as a way to start a paragraph. Lazy writing, useless words.

11. '' or 'Websters' or 'The OED' or whatever 'defines x as....' Oh man that one bugs me. (Thanks for the to my podcasting buddy Anthony Marco for mentioning that in the commets of the facebook post).

12. Telling me what university the researchers are affiliated with who you are citing. This is almost always useless information. I usually circle that and write 'don't care' in the margin.

13. Utilize rather than use. Use is a perfectly good word. When in doubt, use the shorter word.

14. Apostrophes don't pluralize nouns.  

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