Sunday, November 07, 2010

a new dastardly student trick revealed!

I've been teaching for a while, and I used to think I'd seen everything, in terms of papers. No, I'm not talking about stupid subjects or thesis statements (although, after "The Catholic church is the mother of homosexuality and should be banned," not much surprises me there either) but in terms of length stretching.

While I can't talk for all teachers, I personally am not really so anal that I desperately need a certain number of words or pieces of paper to sleep at night. When I set a length requirement, I'm mostly thinking about an appropriate level of focus and critical engagement, because writers think much differently about a topic in three pages than in six. So when a student tries to slip past inadequate thought, it kind of gets me steamed.

I have, like most teachers, seen students try a ton of different tricks, such as:

  • the use of Courier New, which stretches out a short paper
  • the use of Courier New on a Mac, which adds more space than on a pc
  • a slightly larger font, ranging from 13 pts. up to the fairly obvious 16
  • increasing margin size, up to an unsubtle 2"
  • increasing spacing, from the sneaky 2.25 spacing to the ridiculous triple spacing
  • adding extra spacing between paragraphs, up to 16pts. worth

By this point in my career, these are all relatively easy to spot...and when I do see them, I get angry that the student in question thinks I'm dumb enough not to be able to immediately spot their lazy attempts to stretch out a short paper.

Today, though, I discovered a new one. My spousal unit brought me a page which I was sure was triple spaced. When we opened the file, however, it was in double spacing. I opened it up in both Word and OpenOffice without difference. After puzzling over it for a while, I discovered the student trick: only the periods were in 18 pt....which stretched out the spacing while keeping it officially double spacing.

Pretty clever on the student's part. I still think, however, that it wouldn't cost too much more effort to just do the damn assignment. I am, however, pretty happy to learn another student trick. I have another bit of evil I can now effectively thwart!

1 comment:

MikeP said...

Thanks for the heads up. I agree that it wouldn't take them any longer to just do the assignment than it does to fool around with these tricks.