Yesterday, I started doing timed essay practice for the GRE. ETS, the monkeys who write and administer the GRE, has a bunch of sample issue and argument essay questions on their website. Yesterday, I did an argument essay and today I did an issue essay. I practiced writing the essays in notepad so I would not have the spell check or grammar check options running just like what happens on the GRE.
I actually love writing in notepad. I do most of my first drafts in notepad so I don’t get hung up on formatting or hung up when word starts judging me. The reason to go this way is simple: the GRE makes most of the test takers type out their essays in a neutered program that tries to take away as many word-processing functions as possible because it would not otherwise be fair to the other test takers who have to hand write out their essays. Personally? I say screw ’em, but that’s only because I am the worst speller I know.
In high-school, I was the kid failing English because every other word on a test, paper, story, poem, or journal entry was misspelled. Sure, I’ve gotten better, but even in this blog entry, I’ve spelled a number of things wrong and I am going to have to go through and correct my punctuation. The only English class I passed in high school was with a teacher who actually read what I was writing and didn’t get pissed off at my spelling handicap. I got a ‘B.’ He said I was the best writer in class and that if I went into writing for a living, an editor would help clean up all my horrible screw ups.
So, yeah. When I went back and pasted my essays in word, I noticed I only spelled a few words incorrectly and that each essay was a little over 600 words. I’m not going to get too worked up over the spelling. The words I am misspelling are still recognizable. What I am going to work on is writing faster. I want to be able to submit a 750 word essay.
The other thing I need to work on is writing in a less personable style. I know in English as an industry, we don’t mind first person personal in academic writing, but I am not completely convinced other academic fields feel the same way (boy, what would they think of first person unreliable?). My philosophy teachers complain about it and also are constantly complaining that humor in a philosophy paper is inappropriate, but then they keep giving me ‘As.’ Maybe knowing they are wasting their breath on me, since I’m an English major, they’ve given up as a collective. I am just not sure about the essay test graders.
I have a friend who was one for a long time. Maybe he still is. We never talk about work, just basketball. He has pretty severe OCDs and I bet he would be pretty unforgiving. I don’t even think he uses first person in conversation. I’ll let you know what he says.