Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Words and short phrases students love . . . and professors loathe

Those of us who grade essays see similar words and phrases repeated in many of our students' papers.  We have grown to groan when we see these phrases littering our students' essays.  I will begin the list below, but please add a comment with your least favorite phrases!

"Nowadays" - it might not be so bad if they spelled the word right -- actually, it would still be bad.  It adds no meaning to a sentence.  I've seen such creative spellings nowadays as "now in days," "now and days," and "now a days."

"In which" - another often unnecessary short phrase.  Often it makes no sense in the context of the sentence in which it is written.

"That" - this is just one of my pet peeves.  I tell my students half the time they use it incorrectly, to refer to a person, and the other half of the time it's unnecessary.  This is only a slight exaggeration.  I encourage them to avoid using 'that' in their writing.

"Back in the day(s)" - wow, this is pretty useless.  One of my colleagues, who teaches history, tells his students to avoid "Star Wars" phrases like "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

"Being that" - another phrase I dislike.  I cross it out and write 'as.'

Please add a comment and add your least favorite student-favored words!


  1. Some of us are not students, and we still see crappy writing everywhere. My favorite is meaningless jargon. But sometimes, references like the "Star Wars" phrases can make the content connect with the audience. If it's used properly, it can add humor or make the subject more relatable. Of course, it has to be in the right context. Here's an example where Phil used a reference to "Buckaroo Banzai" to drive home a point: http://www.propelgrowth.com/2011/02/25/discussion-what-discussion/#.UnAoBfnq9QA

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    2. I just read that comment about 10 times looking for grammatical errors, knowing an English professor is about to read it. LOL!