Category Archives: bad grammar

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten things my students chose to write about for their position papers:

1.  Puppy mills.  This student went ahead with this despite my recommendations that she choose another topic.  The standard for a topic was that reasonable people could disagree about the issue, and she admitted that reasonable people could not defend the heinous practices of puppy mills and yet, there it was, a paper arguing against the heinous practices of puppy mills.  Sigh.

2.  Electric Vehicles.  This one wasn’t so bad, though it was boring to read.

3.  Abortion.  Natch.  This paper was horrendous; it was all I could do to figure out what the student was trying to say.

4.  Electroshock therapy.  While this student started off strong, the paper fell apart about a quarter of the way in; he focused more on the history of the practice than on arguing that the way it’s currently being applied should be reconsidered.

5.  Animal testing.  This paper was completely incomprehensible.  Observe, a cut-and-pasted paragraph from the essay:

Martasian (student’s beliefs about animal research) found that students have more negative attitudes towards animals testing than undergraduates involved in animal research. The study also shows pervious work by examining feeling towards two nations. Some previous studies of this kind were characterized by a single nation. The same study that involves the two nations, those nations were among the British and Americans. Newkirk (wrote the book Free the animals: the story of the Animal Liberation Front) found animal welfare is more highly developed in North American than in Britain. Two groups were recruited from Britain and the United States.

Really; I have no idea what to do with that.

6.  Gay rights.  This one appeared in a couple of my classes.  One student did okay with it; the other tried to argue that gay marriage should be banned because it does not provide a good environment for children.  Needless to say, I eviscerated that paper, pointed the kid in another direction (reasonable people can argue for the separation of civil and religious marriage, so I encouraged him to take that angle) and sent the paper back for revision.

7.  Obamacare.  I told the students that they were welcomed to write about what they thought was an important issue and that, even if I staunchly disagreed with their position, they’d get the grade if they did good work with it.  This kid got all of his information from well known right-wing propaganda machines and forwarded claims that I could debunk on Google.  I sent the paper back and told him to try again.

8.  Whaling.  This was another paper that started out with a good premise but fell apart before we got to page two.

9.  NASA funding.  I haven’t read this paper yet, but the kid who wrote it wrote a surprisingly effective (and entertaining) analysis about calcium, so I have high hopes.

10.  Funding for the arts in schools.  This paper is another I haven’t read yet and, to be honest, I’m kind of dreading it; the student who’s writing it hasn’t produced anything of any kind of quality all semester (AND he admitted that he started the paper the night before it was due, despite my trying to get them to run through a drafting and revision process for weeks).  Oy.




Filed under bad grammar, composition, concerns, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I've got this kid...., Logical Fallacies, really?!, Teaching, writing, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

English is MESSED. UP!

This reminded me of Adam.  I wonder how he’s doing now…..



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I… I Just… I Have No Words

I received this email from a student in the class I’m taking.  I present it to you completely unedited:

yeahh i can deff meet up this thursday after 6 if that works for everyone else so we can just get it done?? and lets come prepared with facts and current events. I have already started doing some thing but not a whole lot. Also i do not have the current version of ferg so i only have stuff from ore on our topic so bring that book if any of you guys have it!!

Please bear in mind when reading this that this young woman is a SENIOR IN COLLEGE.  Let that sink in for a second; she’s a SENIOR.  It kind of makes one wonder how she managed to get that far, doesn’t it?  It also makes me wonder where she expects to go from here.

I am both sorry for the professor (who’s going to have to read this girl’s paper and many, many like it) and SO glad that I’m taking the class as an independent study.


Filed under about writing, bad grammar, concerns, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., Local U., Mrs. Chili as Student, really?!, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Grammar Wednesday

The “by” construction.

I have no idea when kids started picking this up, but I remember jumping up and down on my freshman LU kids about it four or so years ago.  That was about when I started noticing that the students LOVED to write sentences like these,

By writing the Emancipation Proclamation, it shows that Lincoln was concerned that slavery was bad for the country.

By quoting from numerous reputable sources, it shows that Jeffers was careful in his research.

My LU kids write shit like this all the timeALL the time!  Finally, last week, I’d had it, so I did a whole lesson on why the “by” construction is terrible.

I wrote a ‘by’ sentence on the board and asked the kids what they thought of it.  No one had any objections to it at all (why would they?  they write it all the time).  Then I asked them to find the subject of the sentence.  It took them a while (which freaked me out – really?  You can’t find the subject of a sentence?!), but someone finally came up with “it.”

“YES!  IT is the subject of that sentence.  What’s the verb?”

In this case, I think it was “shows” – that’s usually the verb in “by” constructions – and they were able to find the verb much more quickly than they could discern the subject, which was at least a little gratifying.

“Cool – so we’ve got a subject and a verb.”  Now, I move in for the kill.  “What, exactly, is ‘IT’?”


“….Yeah.  That’s why this is a terrible structure.  STOP WRITING SENTENCES LIKE THIS!!”

The payoff came at the end of the class.  I had them doing scrum workshops (where they throw their essays onto a table, grab one, read it, and write the author notes and suggestions.  When they’re done, they bring that paper back, put it on the table, and grab another one.  It’s not a very neat way to workshop, but it’s effective; in a half hour or 45 minutes, one student can go through 4 or 5 papers, so it’s a great way to get a paper in front of a lot of different pairs of eyes).  One student, exhausted from the effort, came to me and said “Mrs. Chili, I have NO IDEA how you do this job.  I was ready to kill myself after about the third paper.  Oh, and I noticed that EVERY PAPER I READ had at least three or four “by” sentences in it” (emphasis mine).

Yeah, kid; I know.

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Grammar Wednesday

Mrs. Chili is kind of reveling in the fact that she’s gotten to the bottom of ALL her grading piles. Of course, all that grading left me with PILES of Grammar Wednesday topics – pointing out the difference between then and than, getting the kids to write people who instead of people that, and beating into them that while it may be considered standard English to say different than, when they’re writing for me, they need to use the different from construction.


Anyway, I’m eager to step back from my role as a teacher and get into full-on vacation mode, so I’m leaving you with this. I found it on Pinterest a while back, and it cracked me right up.

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Filed under bad grammar, General Griping, Grammar

Grammar Wednesday

I’m recycling topics, you guys.  If there’s an issue you want me to address, fire off an email, please.  Otherwise, you’re going to keep getting retreads:

Less vs. fewer

image credit

This is really a question about whether one understands the difference between a count and a non-count noun; which one we have will determine the adjective we use.

A count noun is… duh… something you can count.  Remember that it’s not something you WOULD count, necessarily – snowflakes and stars are both count nouns – but they’re things you COULD count.  When you’ve got a countable noun, you would use fewer:

There were fewer fans at the football stadium once the team started their spectacular losing streak.

The new brand of oil means your car requires fewer oil changes in an average year.

A non-count noun is… duh… something you can’t count, even if you wanted to.  They’re words like money (but not dollars), rain, (but not raindrops), and furniture (but not chairs or couches; see the difference?):

The area had significantly less rain this summer than last, which means fewer trees will reach their full autumn color.

Joni makes less money than Jack, even though she does twice the work and makes fewer mistakes.

All those signs in grocery stores that direct you to the “ten items or less” registers are wrong because items is a count noun (as are groceries, and pretty much anything that you can put on a conveyor belt).  Tell them so for me.



Filed under bad grammar, Grammar

A General Announcement

When writing a note, email, or letter to an English teacher, it’s probably best not to use words like “gonna,” “wanna,” or “hafta.”

I added to it to expand my point, i had an incomplete for my grade, I’m guessing that meant i could re-work it. If you wanna look at it that would be great. thanks.

Also, “I” as a personal pronoun is always capitalized.

That is all…


Filed under bad grammar, dumbassery, frustrations, little bits of nothingness, really?!