Content alone won’t earn grade; accurate grammar, spelling needed

Few things sting more than getting back a paper mercilessly marked in red ink. All those lines and squiggles are enough to destroy the morale of the most resolute slacker. Tantrums and tears follow when those mistakes result in a significant plunge in your grade.

Students complain about their professors being too hard on their papers when it comes to grammar and spelling. But can you blame them? Professors have to grade papers from star pupils at the “Derek Zoolander Center for Children Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too.”

Spelling and grammatical rules might seem like a waste of brain space in the face of more pressing concerns, such as trying to come up with a decent argument for a paper on the impact Saturn’s rings have on 19th century German philosophy. But content alone won’t guarantee you an “A.”

Eric Cox, a political science professor, said that students who turn in papers with good content but poor grammar and spelling show they have ability but are careless in presenting their argument. He said typos and errors imply that the paper was written in haste.

“A paper with multiple mistakes, particularly if they are egregious, may even be difficult to read or fail to convey the content,” Cox said.

Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. Check your paper before turning it in. Spell-checks in most computer software will make your life easier, but they won’t catch all of the mistakes.

If you are unsure about the spelling of a word, look it up in the dictionary right away, lest you forget to do it later. You don’t have to flip through the musty, yellow pages of a thesaurus. Instead, make it a habit to keep a tab open for Merriam-Webster Online. Search results will surface in milliseconds.

After working for hours on a paper, you will be so attached to it that obvious mistakes will miss your radar. Besides, it’s hard to care about subject-verb agreement at 2 a.m. But make some time for peer-editing. Have a grammar-savvy friend read your paper or take it to the Writing Center for a fresh perspective.

Even though your grade is a noble reason to concern yourself with the proper usage of the English language, think beyond school. People who blatantly disregard grammar and spelling usually make bad impressions, especially on potential employers. Unless you’re considering a career in the hip-hop industry, language skills will be an asset wherever you go, so cultivate them.

Julieta Chiquillo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from San Salvador, El Salvador. Her column appears Tuesdays.