- "You know; that's kind of a cliche. You probably want to think of a more original opener that will draw the interest of your particular audience." [Most of them know about cliches, and that cliches are bad. Of course they can't spell, or at least conjugate the various forms of, "cliche," but they get the basic concept, and we're talking, so spelling/conjugation isn't a problem]
- "The opening perspective of the paper is a bit too broad. You want to start at the wide-angle level and zoom in, not start at the satellite level and try to work all the way down from there. Remember you're writing for a specialist audience." [camera metaphors seem to work pretty well -- in fact they have since well before everyone was carrying a camera all the time. Hey, even I am part of the post-Sputnik generation, and my students grew up in a world where we've always had views of the earth from space]
- "You know; that's really not a good way to begin a paper. In fact, when teachers joke about the prototypical bad paper opening, that's the one they use." [I only say this occasionally, usually after saying one of the above. Obviously, it's chancy -- saying it's a really bad opening; referring to the fact that teachers joke about bad student writing. There are lots of pitfalls here. At the same time, I wonder whether I should say it more often. After all, they're halfway through college, and don't I owe them the information that this is a really, really bad way to begin a paper, so bad that it makes readers laugh or groan?]
If so, can we please call Strelnikov out of retirement (or detention, or the locked ward, or wherever he's gotten to) to deal with them?
And if not, where do students get the idea to begin papers this way? Do they hear the jokes and not realize they're jokes? Is there some gene or synapse or whatever that spontaneously recreates this monstrosity in each generation?
*Yes, I'm trying to annoy Cal, even though I suspect he's too mellow these days, with the golf and the music and all, to be bothered. This is also, of course, sort of a rant. It's a dog days of summer, CM-genre-bending, probably way too long, cry of despair which incorporates some not-only-rhetorical questions. And now I'm going back to grading.