I’ve been having this question a lot lately. But what is it with a big 0 on a paper? (and while we’re at it, let’s add red marking, sinister face, and evil laughter)

Here’s what I believe about writing: It should be original. It should be your own thought, or academically clever. It should be elegantly presented.
…and before I sound like a hateful lecturer, I should probably tell you that most of my (current) students claim that they have good English. And so far I am not impressed. 😦

What is original? Are you original? With everyone created with their own individuality, it’s supposed to be impossible to be unoriginal. Yours and mine should be of different beliefs, different views, different ideas, different thoughts, and it goes on. But we don’t like to stand out. Or we like it too much. Besides, with some billion souls crying originality out loud, most of us probably will think, “What’s in a meaning with one un-originality?”

So original is overrated. With the easy access to information (such as Wiki, which I will probably ban anyway), easy search for unbelievable ideas (never trust your prediction to match Google‘s), and lack of time, we just go ahead and take whatever out there.

What’s the problem in that? See here: in a uniformed environment, un-originality makes everything boring. A free-writing assignment, while it practically screams a big trouble for the teacher, is more fun to read.

And that lack of time comment? Seriously, the one making time is ourselves. I too often complain that 24 hours is not enough for a day. But instead of complaining, why don’t we all jump into the business and get it done?

Now, moving on without being completely off-topic, being academically clever is probably a virtue that every academic should pursue. An academic should be critical and honest; every academic -while I don’t expect everyone to be a scholar- should at least know how to get information, know how to use the information, and know how to acknowledge anyone giving the information.

So being original is difficult. And we all can’t help but look through whatever this Internet has, can’t help but feel impressed with other’s originality, can’t help but want to say whatever clever thing that other has said.

While being original is important, it’s still okay to mention something that you learnt from the outside world. However, saying that it’s your own thought (the make-believes), or worse, placing it directly in your work (the copy-paste offender) is not. Yes, you can reuse information from any source that we want to refer… and there is a proper way to do so! But a copy-paste is a big NO that deserves a zero. (and a sad face inside the big red circle)

(more on Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism)

Last but not least of my rambling today: elegant presentation. And don’t get me start on bad grammar. Or Google translated work. That has cost me a bleeding forehead every week. Just don’t. I don’t expect a 100% correct, accurate writing. In fact that will invite more suspicion than excellent mark, seriously… unless thirteen revisions have been done, one way or another.

Yes, a writing has to be readable, intelligible, and presented with minimal errors. Presentation, I am afraid to admit, does affect whatever intelligent writing you have. Being a student, I have to share the sentiment where content or meaning is more crucial. But being someone in an academic environment, I am afraid to say that meaning is not everything.

Many more can be said about poor writing. But this is random. This is unedited. And this is what I need to vent. You don’t have to agree with me, but this is what I will have to hold for the next year (or more). Good luck, me!

ETA: this being a little more than 600 words, which is about one-and-a-half pages in double spacing as well as the requirement of students’ writing, can you believe that someone convinced me that a ten page short story is exactly what I ask? DDD: