Writing Off-Key

When a person has a poor ear for music he will flat and sharp right along without knowing it. He keeps near the tune, but is not the tune. When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he does not say it.

Mark Twain, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses

The online magazine writing students’ first full-length articles came in yesterday.

Lovely. Like listening to a ten-year-old fiddling on an out-of-tune violin. For obvious reasons, I can’t quote these things, but trust me: “literary flatting and sharping” is an understatement.

In the first place, several people evidently did not or could not read the syllabus, despite my inflicting a quiz over the thing. To pass the online quiz, they simply found the relevant passages, copied, them, and pasted them into the document without bothering to read said passages.

If you can’t read, what on earth makes you think you can write?

Then we get…

redundancy on redundancy
600-word documents with no discernible point
the trite piled upon the obvious piled upon the trite
ludicrous word choices
Latinate diction
Ebonic diction
bottomless wells of verbosity
hilarious dangling modifiers
a paper written on an iPhone, sans formatting, paragraphing, or punctuation

And so far I’ve read only one article and three late queries.

Really. If you can’t write on key, what makes you think you can write for publication?

Four more weeks of online interaction to go.

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