Paper Writing: A Love/Hate Story

In the process of college, our minds are molded, we learn things a little higher up on Blooms Taxonomy, and we write papers. And more importantly, we become pretty good at paper writing.  Or, at the very least, we become pretty good at producing a hefty word count about whatever topic the professor has decided to assign for that particular week.  But it was not always so –  I remember quite vividly being filled with a certain degree of dread when asked in my first year at the fine institution of Hesston College to write a three page response paper for Marketing Concepts – something that’s just asking for a thick coating of … creative liberties.  Here are two perspectives offering advice to those on either side of the divide that happens between having too much to say and having too little.

Jonathan Hershberger:

The first step to writing a moderate to lengthy paper is what I would like to call “the build-up.” The build-up consists of convincing yourself that the lofty requirements for the paper are simply too much. Now that you’ve convinced yourself of this, you must make sure everyone around you knows that the task of writing this paper is severely lowering the quality of your life. I like to do this by using phrases such as, “Man, this 3-8 page paper is taking over my life!” or, “I would love to go bowling with you but I have a huge paper to write, OMG.” Now that everyone knows how much this paper is “cramping your style” it’s time to move on to the next step.

This step consists of asking your professor for an extension. When asking for an extension it is vital to not mention the amount of time that was originally given to complete the task. Many people may want to say something like, “I know we knew about this paper 2 months ago, but…” STOP! Remember, YOU are the innocent victim of this paper and you should feel entitled to an extra week to complete a paper that should realistically take about three hours to write.

Once you have received an extension it is time to actually write the paper. After checking Facebook, gather all the information you will need to complete the assignment; this is called “researching.” Once you have completed the “research,” it is important to once again check Facebook just to make sure you aren’t missing out on anything. Now it is time to write the paper, always make sure to be half a page short of the required paper length, this is crucial.

Also, creative formatting is something you can really benefit from. Try not only double-spacing your paper, but to increase the space between each line to 2.5. Although slightly more obvious, the risk may be worth the reward. Another way of increasing the length of your paper is to double-space before the start of each new sentence, this method is known as the “double-space paper lengthener technique.” The final technique of making your paper longer is to change the font to Courier New. Although very suspect, the minimum length requirement will definitely be met. Now that you know how to write a mediocre paper, I wish each of you the best of luck as you try to maintain a passing grade.

Benjamin Baumgartner:

This is mainly directed to humanities students, but you science majors may have to write a paper in one of your gen eds.

Have a quick basics introduction: use actual numbers instead of writing them out, even if below 10. Forget gender inclusive language. Write your entire paper using only masculine or feminine pronouns, but don’t waste space saying “him or her.” Intentionally misspell words, to instead of too, no instead of know, so on blah blah blah. Only do this in classes larger than 30 though, and make sure to take off your auto-correct. Don’t create separate paragraphs. This can leave almost an entire line empty, plus you lose the space used to indent the next paragraph. One trick for those of you who still feel the need to use paragraphs is to hit the space bar 5 times instead of using the indent button. That extra space will add up.

– Don’t provide evidence for claims. Stories take up too much time, if you can throw in a quick statistic do so, put don’t get bogged down in providing context about what the numbers mean.

– Always use contractions. Although you have probably been told not to in papers, it saves space.

– Decrease margin width, you can usually get away up to 3/4” inch instead of an inch. Proceed beyond that at your own risk. Or, better yet, if all upperclassmen agree to use 1/2” margins in every paper from here on out, we can fool professors, as a random 1/2” margin won’t stick out as odd. Let’s also agree to do this with font size. Naturally, I always write in 11 pt. Font size, as syllabi usually allow you to use 11-12. I’ve tried ten, but didn’t get away with it. If we all do it together though, we’ll be fine.

– Cut out examples. You’ve proved your point already, no need to give us all these stories.

– Provide monocausal explanations in your arguments. Avoid complex arguments that take time to explain.

– Don’t bother with counterarguments. You’re an upperclassmen, you’re right and the professors know it too. They only told you to use them when you were a first-year because they knew you needed something to take up space and were only being merciful.

– Use paranthetical citation instead of footnotes. You science majors are lucky, because this is standard fare for you already, but I would recommend it for humanities students too if you’re using Chicago/Turabian. Even better, use MLA if you can, paranthetical citations are acceptable without question. Avoid the temptation to use discursive footnotes, it may seem like it saves you space since it’s not in the main text, but this is a lie they’d like you to believe.

– Use as many abbreviations as possible, and don’t both introducing the organization. It takes way too much space to go General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), just use that abbr. And call it good, plus it makes you look a bit smarter, as if of course I know what GATT is. Going along with this, don’t bother providing dates if you an introduce event, or take time introducing sources you quote. it’s demeaning to the professor to do otherwise. If they don’t know it, make them go look it up, don’t let their ignorance impinge on your precious space.  If you do end up introducing a book, give the briefest title possible, don’t include that nonsense after the colon, it’s only there to make the author look smart and to mislead students who don’t know better.

– I had many more great examples but I was unable to use them because of a limited amount of space. (Remind professors of this at the end, maybe next time you’ll get an extention)

– Strive for simplicity in language. Simplicity is a traditional Mennonite value that carries very well into paper writing. If you want tips on this art, please see George Orwell’s helpful essay on “The Principles of Newspeak,” located in the appendix of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Written by Daniel Penner

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