Monday, December 21, 2009

Educational Wordiness

Is it ironic education programs throughout the country try to teach kids from the earliest age how to be effective writers. Then education destroys what they teach by assigning a page requirement for papers. Yes, I understand if it wasn’t for the page requirement some kids would only write half a page. It does serve a purpose, but it pollutes the greater purpose—better writing.

The more I read, the more I realize people learn bad writing skills working to meet page length requirements. You can have a brilliant paper written in seven pages that meets are requirements of the assignment except that it is three pages short. The paper soon collects filler as writers begin looking for ways to add three pages to the paper. Words like ‘during’ become ‘throughout the time period.’ The content begins to suffer thanks to wordiness.

The problem is, writers become so conditioned to writing for length that it carries over to their professional writing. I look over many reports every week, and I see three and four word phrases for what could simply be replaced with a single word. I have to think the education system is partially to blame. Perhaps educators should focus on content and not length by enforcing expectations and creating goals for the paper that go beyond it needs to be ten pages.


  1. Hmm, well, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about page requirements, but I always have them on assignments. The one thing that good teachers (like me, :D) always do is ensure that the scope of the assignment can be met and sufficiently addressed in X number of pages. In basic writing classes, for instance, you assign (say) five (5) pages on whatever. If the student writes a typical (basic) five-paragraph essay, they have the five pages right there (assuming they are constructing full paragraphs and using quotes, citations, etc. properly).

    I don't think that the page requirement is the problem; I think that the assignment often might be, but mostly, I see students who think they've "covered it all" but they have no transitions, no analysis of quotes, no discussion of quotes or points made. That's not good writing, unless you're writing bumper stickers. :D

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