Sunday, 20 March 2011

It has been a long, hard slog ... and I have still not finished!

I have spent most of yesterday and today trying to make sense of some of the work my students have given me before it goes of to the internal verifier for checking. It has been a very long and very hard slog ... and I still have another one to do.

It will not get done today.

I am now physically and mentally exhausted, and my eyes are aching from staring at scripts, spreadsheets, and presentations, some of them are quite good, but many of them need more work before they are of an acceptable standard. I have annotated suggested improvements and changes, and hopefully the students will act on what I have written before presenting their work for final assessment ... but I doubt it. For them, working for more than thirty minutes without a break for a drink, a text message, a phone call on their mobile, or a computer game is not just unthinkable, it is unimaginable. They will think that what I have done this weekend is totally mad ... and I am beginning to think that they are probably right!

I am also very fed up reading what young people think passes for written English. Sentences without any form of punctuation seem to be the norm, as does a total reliance on predictive spell-checkers. The latter has led to some interesting mistakes which can make the meaning of a whole sentence the exact opposite of what the writer intended. My biggest bugbear is, however, the transposition of ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’, which when you are writing about banks financing a business can lead to some odd results. Examples include ‘The bank can borrow the business money’ (i.e. ‘The bank can lend the business money’) and ‘The business can lend off the payment from their investors’ (i.e. ‘The business can borrow the money for the payment from their investors’).

I am now going off for a drink and a well-earned rest. I need to be properly rested before I go back to work tomorrow ... but I doubt if I will be!

12 comments:

  1. Hi Bob
    I'm afraid it gets worse outside of the academic world. I manage 30 retail store managers for a high street retail business. I cannot begin to tell you about the email traffic I am forced to endure in the name of communication! My favourite to date went like this: " Hi Ken, on count of the snow my customers have been efected as has traid. I also need to speak to you about the incompitince on one of my lads today - can you call me urgent like fella" I could actually prepare a book filled with such entries - but I'd die of depression long before it could be completed! Ah well - back to the painting desk - the seven years war is about to affect North America in my war room!! kind regards Ken

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  2. Ken H,

    I have a friend who used to be a commissioning editor for a large publisher who tells stories about the number of manuscripts he used to get that were to all intents and purpose illiterate. They were always rejected.

    I suspect that this is the way the world is going, and that in only a few years books will - if they still exist in printed form - be written in text-speak.

    The book is dead ... Long live the book!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Bob, I share your pain. The sad thing is the decline of competent use of English appears to be pandemic across the whole spectrum of society. The number of supposedly technical and business documents I've come across with junior school levels of spelling and grammar, it would make your toes curl.
    I recently proof read a short story for a friend who recently completed an Arts degree with a Creative Writing component. About two thirds of the way through when I realised there wasn't a single correctly used apostrophe in the whole draft, I kinda snapped and instead of giving her proof notes like 'punctuation should be "Lord Hazeltine's daughter" not "Lord Hazeltines daughter"', it became 'Apostrophe, b**ch!'. She later sheepishly admitted that she'd "never got the hang of" apostrophes, and so didn't bother with them, relying on other people to correct them for her.

    Which is why I couldn't do what you do, Bob. Somehow I don't think my marking would be quite up to Ofsted standards. After about the third paper it'd be mostly profanities, albeit impeccably puncuated ones.

    I thank the stars that my poor working class parents somehow found the money to send me to a private school which prided itself on giving a proper, old fashioned education. And I thank the stars that one of the English teachers I had was a real old-school grammarian type who really hammered home the rules of English like wot she is wrote proper.
    My text messages are all fully punctuated, my predictive text is always turned off, and when I run my wordprocessor's spellchecker, more often than not I'm correcting its mistakes.
    (Sorry for the rant. Bit of a personal bugbear, that.)

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  4. Perhaps we are living in an equivalent of the great vowel shift - the Great Punctuation Extinction perhaps?

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  5. Dr Vesuvious,

    My secondary education was typical of the post-war selective system; a Grammar School where hard work and merit were valued, and traditional values were inculcated ... along with a respect for the English language.

    The apostrophe! What a minefield that is. My particular object of 'hate' is the use of the apostrophe in things like 'the 1930's'.

    Like you I try to make sure all my emails, texts, and blog entries are grammatically correct. Some would say I was obsessive about it; I would say that I am just trying to maintain basic standards of English in what I write.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Conrad Kinch,

    Are you are suggesting that this is going to be another vowel movement?

    Thank God that the predictive text didn't make a mess of that sentence.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. A combination of faltering eyes, inept fingers on small keys and and an impulsive and casual nature, all too often leads me to hit seconds before noticing some embarrassing mistake.

    Why it seems easier to spot errors after posting or sending as opposed to during proofreading, is an annoying mystery to me.

    Still, it would be interesting to see how the language fares over the next 100 years. I suspect it would sound as foreign to us as the Bard's English does now.

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  8. Hope all goes well at work today Bob!
    best wishes
    Alan

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  9. Ross Mac,

    I could almost have written that comment myself ... especially yesterday when I seemed to spend all day looking at a computer screen.

    Having recently listened to some newsreels of George VI making a speech, it made me realise how much the language we use has changed over the space of two generations.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Tradgardmastare,

    Many thanks. I suspect that things will be a bit hectic and confused ... and not a little dispiriting.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. From life, a few weeks ago.

    Investigating officer: So you're alleging that Mr Smith stole your wallet?
    Witness: Yup, that's me. I'm the alligator.

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  12. Conrad Kinch,

    It sounds unbelievable ... so it must be true!

    You have brought a smile to my tired old face!

    All the best,

    Bob

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