With the end of the semester approaching, your professors will soon be returning your essays and term papers—graded, with copious comments. Because we know it can be really difficult to translate your instructors’ oft-cryptic, hastily scribbled gibberish into plain ol’ English, we’d like to provide some helpful translations of their comments:
Comment: “First of all… “ Translation: “First” implies second, third, fourteenth, etc., which means you’re in for a loooong haul of a comment here. So you might want to settle in with a glass of warm milk, your favorite stuffed animal, and/or whatever else might comfort you in this time of need, as I rattle off a dozen or so problems with your essay, crushing your intellectual spirit. But only after I come up with something—anything—positive to say first…
Comment: “It looks like you might have some good ideas here.” Translation: OK, I tried to say something positive, and this is what I came up with. It’s going to have to do. Yes, “you might have some good ideas,” if I could wade through all of the B.S., or if you had coined this particular cliché in the first place… or, I don’t know, if you got smarter or something?
Comment: “It looks like you put a lot of work into this.” Translation: I felt like I should come up with some other nice things to say. But, in this case, what I mean is that this essay is very long but not very good.
Comment: “I really like your topic.” Translation: I wrote the topic. You didn’t treat it well or do much with it, but the topic itself? Full of potential. Yay for my topic!
Comment: “In general, your ideas are fairly clear.” Translation: Basically, “fairly” means that your ideas are really not all that clear. What the hell does “fairly clear” mean, anyway? Beats me (which is kind of ironic, no?). When you think about it, there’s pretty much clear OR unclear. So, yeah—I basically just said your essay is unclear.
Comment: “Your essay is very ambitious.” Translation: It makes absolutely no sense. Seriously, none whatsoever.
Comment: “This is relatively solid, overall.” Translation: Umm, actually, no it’s not.
Comment: “This is a bit difficult to comment on.” Translation: Although I’ve read this twice now, it’s so utterly mediocre—nothing to praise, nothing concrete to critique—that I can’t even imagine what I could say about it. I’m at a loss. Completely.
Comment: “Your essay demonstrates a good understanding of the story’s main events.” Translation: Plot summary. I could’ve just re-read the story, which would’ve been more enjoyable.
Comment: “Your essay makes some compelling claims, and you take some interesting steps to try to support them.” Translation: When I say “compelling,” I really mean “weird.” In other words, your main argument—i.e., the whole point of your essay, basically—is just weird. And by that, I mean you’re weird. Which, when I think about it, is kind of cool in theory, but in this case not so much. And the “interesting steps” you take to support your weird claims? Well, that means your supporting evidence has no actual connection to your main point, which also means that you’re not weird in a smart, creative way—more like in a not-such-a-good-writer kinda way. I’m just saying.
Comment: “It’s clear that you’ve acquainted yourself with most of the available criticism on the topic.” Translation: This is plagiarized. (Wait, why am I even trying to be nice here?)
Comment: “You make some interesting points about this difficult, complex, and compelling story.” Translation: I can’t really dig up anything positive to say about your writing, so I’ll praise the text you were analyzing.
Comment: “See me. We really need to discuss this.” Translation: Sometimes, I hate my life.