Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Classic exam bloopers (and a rant)

I'm working my way through grading my PR exams, and one blooper (well, two, actually; but they were actually the same blooper) cracked me up last night (see here).

On a more serious note, although I don't count off for bad writing on exams--and maybe I should, given that my exams are 72-hour take-homes, with plenty of time to proofread the submissions--I'm stunned by the sheer illiteracy of some of these exam answers. Some of the answers are riddled with the sort of mistakes that even fourth-graders shouldn't be making. And Boyd School of Law students are smart.

I refuse to believe that bad writing can go hand-in-hand with clear thinking. How difficult is it, really, to learn when and how to use commas, to maintain a consistent tense within the same sentence, or to understand the difference between "it's" and "its"?

Let's assume that someone managed to get a high school degree without learning any basic rules of writing. Let's also assume that he got a college degree without learning any of those rules. When he goes to law school, knowing that his livelihood will consist of analyzing problems and communicating that analysis, isn't it time for him to take the time to learn the rules that he missed, or at least to develop a checklist to catch his known predilections for errors?

The refusal to learn to write decently while in law school strikes me as unadulterated laziness. In my first year of law school (yes, a long time ago), my Criminal Law professor, who had taught English in his former career, told me that my writing needed improvement. He spent time with me to rid me of passive voice and some funky usage, and I worked hard to fix my bad habits. (And I wasn't a particularly bad writer before he started working with me; Bob Weisberg just wanted to make me a better writer.)

So, Boyd students who don't write well, here's an offer for you: Take our comments about your writing to heart, and offer to work with a professor to improve your writing while you're in school. Your future clients will thank you.


Great Sales Today said...

Im also having the bad writing. Thanks for your advise.

Nancy Rapoport said...

Normally, I don't allow ads on my comments, but yours just cracked me right up.