What marking essays does to you

I’m halfway through an excruciating pile of undergraduate essays on the topic of neoclassicism. Housemate Chris Law just dropped by and commented on them.

“Are these the essays you’ve got to mark?” he asked. “That’s a big pile”.

“Yes,” I said irritably, “and if I was marking that comment I would cross it out and write in red ink ‘don’t state the obvious, get to the point’.”

“Yes,” argued Chris, trying to be clever, “but you’ve missed a key point in the question I asked, which was that in the pile on your desk there’s more than just essays, there’s composition that you’re doing and two copies of Carols For Choirs, so your answer was wrong because those aren’t all essays you have to write.”

“Not at all,” I countered, “I was questioning the parameters of your question, which is an entirely valid way of attacking it since it was vague and ambiguous and therefore best answered by pointing out its weaknesses. The failure to specify what you were actually talking about lies in the question and not my answer, and in any case these are not essays I have to write they’re essays I have to mark.”

“Yes, but…but…” Chris attempted, then gave up, saying “I can’t win arguments with you James, you know more words than me,” and left the room.

…when a simple “yes” would have sufficed.

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