Since then, I try to say something "nice," but more and more it's becoming hard to do that and remain authentic. So my comments are starting to fade back into "This is wrong. Fix it this way. Rewrite this by moving it here or there. Split this paragraph where you change topics." Blunt, brief criticism with very little sugar coating, in other words.
I'm kind of afraid those "nice" comments might end up making their writing worse. I strongly suspect some well-meaning teacher said "I like this rhetorical question" at some point, so they make every third sentence into one. So, I thirst:
Q: Do you try to find something positive to say about every paper, or do you just give direct, blunt suggestions for improvement (or mean, cruel sarcastic comments)? How do you go about finding nice things to say when it's clear that the student started writing the paper ten minutes before the due date? Do you think there's any real value in "nice" comments if they're not authentic? Am I just being a jerk by being business-like in commenting on papers? Are these too many questions for a thirsty?