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Thoughts of a grumpy examiner

May 29, 2019

I am marking a load of exam scripts right now. As always, I am struck by how the same expressions, errors, solecisms, clichés and tropes crop up again and again, from students all over the country. It is as if they have conferred with each other and agreed on a stock vocabulary. Here are a few:

the word assert used in place of claim, maintain or argue (particularly common, and particularly annoying, in philosophy essays);

bias used as an adjective (instead of biased);

however used as a conjunction (instead of but);

within used instead of in;

this consistently used in place of which in non-defining relative causes (in fact this use of which seems to be going extinct)

therefor instead of therefore;

and, in creative writing assignments, a widespread inability to punctuate dialogue correctly.

Do I sound grumpy? Very well then, I sound grumpy, I am large, I contain grumpiness.

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3 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    There is probably another post in explaining the difference between therefore and therefor.
    My guess at the current usage is that “therefor” simply looks more modern..

  2. Ross Foley permalink

    Sloppy thinking brings sloppy writing. I would guess. As well, could this sort of thing be coming from all those young people we see plodding the pavements, ignoring everything but their wretched smartphones in order to assuage their fear of missing out? So much screen time, so little reading of examples of good writing in, say, books.
    May I add to the stock of grumpiness with the example of the increasing use of “add in”? Presenters and commentators on radio and television, and scriptwriters, drive me to distraction with it, small annoyance though it is.

  3. John Dunn permalink

    In the days when I used to mark essays and translations the solecism that annoyed me the most was the use of ‘due to’ in the place of ‘owing to’. But that, I suspect, is niche pedantry.

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