Why Do I Even Bother

The title of this blog comes from the comment I”m most likely to put on a student paper:

Wrong font!

I don’t know why I care. I’ve just come to associate academic writing with serifed fonts, especially Times New Roman 12. I’m also waging a war against Calibri, which, according to Wikipedia, “replaced Times New Roman as the default typeface in Word and replaced Arial as the default in PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and WordPad” in Office 2007. Maybe the real thing that bugs me about Calibri is that it’s the default, and it’s not Microsoft’s job to tell my students what font to use—it’s mine. Other than that, though, there’s no real reason that I can think of that it shouldn’t be used in papers, all other things being equal.

There are a few other things I tell students not to do, such as:

  • Don’t generalize.
  • Don’t say, “In today’s society.”
  • Don’t just drop a quote into a paper without an introductory phrase.
  • Don’t use semicolons just because they’re cute. Like a lot of cute things, they can be dangerous when mishandled.

One of my new pet peeves is, “All through history…” To quote a real example,

All through history, people having been arguing about the drinking age.

Or here’s another one:

People have been listening to music since the beginning of time.

And it’s even worse when such grandiose pronouncements come in the first sentence. I’m not sure why so many students feel comfortable making huge–and incorrect–observations, while, at same time, failing to notice small, shining details that show up in a piece of writing, or some other text. Maybe it’s an age thing. I did once receive a paper focusing solely on the opening chord to “It’s a Hard Day’s Night,” and another one analyzing the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman.  But these were from returning students, well over the age of 25.

Qualifying one’s statements is a sign of maturity, really, not to mention maintaining a certain amount of ethos. So, I harp on that particular string all through the semester.

But now, when reading The New York Times interview with Donald Trump over the weekend, I see this quote:

President Xi. He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.

The President of the United States. I mean, why do I even bother? Looks like I’ll be seeing a lot of Calibri in the near future. Fine.

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