Online with
Louise Ripley

Teaching Policies
For all courses taught by M Louise Ripley

Teaching Policies

Ground Rules







Just as when you are applying for a job or working for a promotion where not everyone can get hired or gets to be Vice President, not everyone gets an A in a York course. If you want to do well, decide what you want to accomplish, check out the competition, consider the amount and quality of work needed, and work to achieve your goal. 

The Senate Policy on Grading Schemes defines an A as "Excellent; thorough knowledge of concepts and/or techniques with a high degree of skill and/or some elements of originality in satisfying the requirements of an assignment or course." In a class in the North American education system where you are graded in comparison with your peers, not everyone can be "excellent" so it's just not enough to submit a paper you "put your heart into" and assume you will earn an A. At York, a C+ is considered average work, and a mark of B is not a "bad" grade; it is above average.  

YOU Earn the Grade
You earn the mark; I record it. Don't write to tell me what grade you need, not at any time before, during, or after the course. It conjures up a terrible image of me sitting at a table with piles of your papers divided into who has to have an A, who needs a B, who can get by with a C, and to which poor sucker just because he didn't write me I can give the only D.  

A note about rounding marks and how it may affect your posted mark. I enter grades as I report them on your papers. Thus, if you receive a paper back from me with a mark of 6.25/15, your mark is recorded as 6.25 in the Excel worksheet and I round off as I go. I do not waste time disputing marks in tenths of a percent in courses that are much more qualitative than quantitative. Realize too that I round in accordance with mathematical rules. A student wrote recently that he deserved a B because he had a mark of 73.48 which would round to a 74 and therefore to a 75. Not so. 

Recognize as you start a class with me that as a Marketing professor I do not subscribe to the currently popular view of student as customer. Don’t come to me insisting that as a customer you paid your tuition money and expect your “A” because it doesn’t work that way. I am not selling a product and you are not my customers. I don’t even care for the term client, although some aspects of it fit. 

In his article in Journal of Management Education, Jeffrey J. Bailey makes an argument for students being more like clients than customers, stating that students can no more argue to have a grade changed because they are unhappy with it than we can argue to pay less in taxes because we are unhappy with the results given us by our accountant. He says, “In [the client] relationship we see clearly the obligation to a set of standards quite outside the concerns of the individual client.” (p. 354). Webster’s definitions, however, do not support the use of either term in a Canadian university classroom. Webster defines customer as "a person who buys." It defines buy as "to acquire the ownership, right, or title to (anything) by paying or agreeing to pay money," and it defines client as a person or company in its relationship to a [professional] engaged to act in its behalf."

By these definitions, a student is neither customer nor client. You do not acquire ownership of the body of knowledge taught to you by the professors of a university. You earn a degree - a title of Bachelor of Arts or Administrative Studies that says you have studied such a number of things and passed such number of tests of that knowledge. You earn certain rights such as to call yourself an educated person, and privileges such as better access to jobs, but you cannot buy that knowledge or own it. By these definitions you are not a client either, in that I am not engaged to act in your behalf. I act on behalf of the society that deems it worthwhile enough for people to be educated that it provides the funding to do so (we could use more but that's another argument).

Buying a tube of toothpaste in a drugstore, you as the customer hand over more money than it costs to make that tube of toothpaste; that's how the manufacturer makes a profit. If you don't like how a toothpaste tastes, the manufacturer will change it so you do. If you don't like the package, they will change it to suit you. Even if you don't like the price, they will do something about it. This is the power of the customer. If you (and enough other customers) don't like the product, the manufacturer will do everything possible to ensure you do so you will buy it.

In a university, you do not have the control that a customer has in a drugstore, first because you are not buying a product, and second because you are not paying anywhere near the cost of your education. Your tuition contributes something, and in increasing amounts recently, but it is still the government that supplies the majority of the funding for university education. As professors we are accountable to the taxpayers of Canada. If the entirety of a class decided they did not want to take a test or write a paper, as professionals charged with maintaining the standards of academic pursuit, professors cannot just say, “Oh, okay; you don't like tests and papers so we won’t assign any.” Nor can we support the claim of students who insist that because they paid their money they deserve the grade they want. 

Like a customer in a drugstore who refuses to buy a tube of toothpaste if it does not suit, you have the right to refuse to attend a particular class or university or to go elsewhere. But I have that right with my doctor, my hospital, the Scarborough Passport Office. I can refuse treatment or I can find a different doctor or go to another hospital or obtain service at a different Passport office or decide I don't want to travel. The ability to refuse to attend or buy does not make one a customer.

If pushed to classify a student in one of the terms of Marketing, I guess I would have to say “product.” I am the employee of a large organization whose product is an educated public. When we speak of a woman who graduated from a university and did well for herself, we don’t say, “She was a customer of York,” we say, “She’s the product of a great interdisciplinary education.”

Pre-Grading Work
Don't ask me to look over your paper before it's due and "be sure it's okay." Your mark will tell you if it's "okay." With the number of students in our classes, there is no way I can mark twice. And it would be highly unfair for me to do this for one student and not another. All papers must be marked together, especially if I employ a marker.  

Reappraisals and Rewrites
Do not ask me to give you more marks on an assignment or in a course or to let you rewrite an assignment because I will not do it. By the time you see posted marks, either for an assignment or for the course, I already will have thoroughly gone over every mark given, including those done for me by a marker, and there will be no point in my doing it again. If you are not happy with the mark I have given you, you are entitled to ask formally through the Petitions process for a formal reappraisal; do this either through the School of Administrative Studies or through your home faculty. 

Be aware that reappraised marks can go down as well as up and that this reappraisal will be done by another faculty member, not by me as the original marker (just as a judge in the Canadian court system does not hear the appeal on a case in which she presided). With our huge class sizes, there is no possible way that I can arrange marking schemes that also include student approval of my evaluation of their work, nor can I sit with you individually and review your paper. I provide feedback on returned work and/or on the website where marks are posted, and you should be able to use this to figure out where you can do better next time. Most final exams have very few comments on them as they are not returned to students. 

Contact me about marks ONLY if there is a clear outright clerical, mathematical, or transposition error in your mark and do this immediately (not later than one week after the return of the test) by email at Other than this, my response to all requests to review marks will be a short note that says, "Read your course kit on reappraisals" which will refer you to this page. 

With respect to issues of whether you received a mark that you believe is fair given any personal difficulties you feel may have affected your performance during the term, this I am not qualified to judge. If you feel you have a reason for thinking you should be given special consideration, you may petition for this through the formal petition process, but I am not qualified to make these judgments so please do not ask me to do so. If you need more marks to graduate and are an ADMS student, you may talk to the Associate Chair of the School of Administrative Studies who as an administrator may have some discretionary power in this matter which I as a professor do not possess. 

If you don't believe me yet and are still thinking you will ask me to raise YOUR mark because you are special, read on:

You also must consider the absurdity of my assigning marks and then arbitrarily raising them as students write to request that I do so; this is a discretionary power that I choose not to assume.

I'm Special
I get far too many requests the basis of which is, "I'm special and I need a better grade than the one I earned and I'd like to write an additional assignment or rewrite this one to raise my mark" so let me try to explain something about this process. In an ideal philosophical world, it sounds like a grand idea to have each student rewrite each paper continually until it is perfect and have everyone finish each course with a mark of A. But that's not how the marking system in North American educational institutions works. You are graded in comparison with your peers in a highly competitive course within a highly competitive Business programme. Let's say the class average on a piece of work was 68%; you made a 68% but you need a 75%. You write an extra paper (or rewrite the original) on which you do very well and your mark moves up to a 75%. However, in order to maintain a level playing field, I have to offer to let everyone else write that extra assignment too. About two thirds of the class also writes a very good additional assignment, and the class average is now 75%. York, like most universities, oversees grade distributions so our grades won't become meaningless laughingstock to graduate schools and employers. Since I cannot meet grade distribution requirements with a class average of 75%, I have to bell the marks down to an average of 68% where it's supposed to be, and you're back where you started. 

Why we can't arbitrarily raise marks

A reputation for high but meaningless grades spreads faster than wildfire. Picture it - You are applying to the coveted MBA programme, they have decided to take you, and just as they are about to stamp "Accepted" on your application, some sharp-eyed bureaucrat says, "Whoa, this one's from York, hand me that Reject stamp!" and you're not accepted into graduate school because they will have adjusted their scales to account for the fact that they know our grades to be artificially high. 

I don't want to see York get to that point and neither should you. 

A York class of more than 30 students must meet certain standards

mean not higher than between 65% and 69%
median not higher than 74%
not more than 65% of grades higher than C+
usually not more than 10% A's

I know that many of you have tales of woe of why you haven't produced a piece of work worthy of you, but you need to understand that most students are working under difficult combinations of work and family life. I cannot fairly give only you a second chance and not everyone else.

If you have an immediate and clear case for needing consideration such as a death in the immediate family, do contact me. But if you have other non-academic reasons for not having done well in a course, there are avenues of appeal with committees specially qualified to hear petitions and to judge where special consideration may be merited on compassionate grounds. I am not qualified to judge this, and especially not after the fact. If you contact me early in the course, I can sometimes do something to ease immediate problems, but I cannot start handing out extensions in the last week of class or changing final marks for those who think they can convince me that they are "worthy" where others are not. 

Late Work and Posted Grades
I rarely accept late work, but if I do the general policy is that, in fairness to those who submitted work on time, you cannot earn on a late paper a mark higher than the lowest mark earned by those who handed it in on time. This applies even for valid medical/work excuses if results and analysis of the papers/tests have already been posted on the web or the papers returned and you are submitting the same assignment. 

Posting Grades

I try to post an unofficial list of grades by the last six digits of your student number, on the web, within 2 weeks of when we last meet. Look for a clearly marked link on my Home Page, Teaching Page, or your course syllabus; if it's not there, hit "refresh." If it's not there yet, don't write to ask me when grades will be posted; my answer is always, "When they're done." 

All posted marks are UNOFFICIAL until approved by Faculty Council, are posted solely as a courtesy to you, and are not open for debate. With the sole exception of clerical errors in which case you should contact me immediately by email at do NOT ask me for more marks. There are committees you may petition after you receive your official marks on the transcript to reappraise your work or consider giving you special consideration if you have been through a difficult time, and there are places like the Counselling Centre that you can contact if you are in distress. 

As is the practice in the School of Administrative Studies, I post your marks by the last six digits of your student number. You should therefore NOT put your student number on any group work. If for any reason you do not wish your marks posted, tell me so in an email by the end of the second week of classes and I will remove you from my posting list. You then will have to wait to receive your mark in the official transcripts as I cannot give out marks individually. 

No Grades by email or Telephone
We are not allowed to respond to email or telephone requests for grades. I post them on the website.  

Writing Well for a Better Grade
Students often ask at the END of a course, or AFTER receiving a paper back, "What can I do to raise my mark?" The answer is that what you can do is to have worked harder or better earlier. Start with realizing that two of the most important things you can do in any assignment are to include the right content in the right structure and write it well. 

Follow Assignment Instructions on Content
If the Course Assignments page tells you to emphasize theory, do it. If it asks you to include material from a particular source, do it. If it tells you to include a formal outline and you don't know what one is, find out and do one. If it tells you to do research and report on it, do it and do it well enough that the professor can tell that you have done it. If it tells you to write a maximum of 3 pages, do it. Don't write 5 pages, don't write 3 1/4 pages, don't write 3 pages plus one line on an additional 4th page, write 3. (Note that it will usually say, "not more than 3 pages," which means you may write less than 3 pages; some of us are more concise than others in our writing and this is a good thing). Regardless of whether it says it or not, use and apply concepts and specific terminology and theory from the course. Do not regurgitate texts or lectures but show in your assignment that you understand and can use facts and theory. 

Write Well
A course that comes highly recommended by students for learning how to write in a business context is AK/WRIT 3989 Writing in the Workplace. Also taking Humanities courses which require essay writing will help.

General Comments on Writing:

Write clearly and concisely on exactly the topic you were asked to write about, and make the topic interesting and attractive to the reader.

Remember Proper Structure in Essay Writing
You can improve your essay writing by writing more essays, by reading good essays, by paying attention to the details involved in writing good essays, and by attending workshops given by the The Writing Workshop offering help with essay writing. A good essay must have a good structure. The most basic rule of writing, especially for an essay, is: tell your readers what you're going to say, tell them, then tell them what you said (introduction/body/conclusion). 

Give your essay a title. An essay then introduces the topic (Introduction: here's what I am writing about, my position on it [Thesis Statement], and a brief mention of the sources I will use to back up my position, and relates to the subject material of the course). The essay then presents Evidence (Body: here's why my thesis statement is true and here's what backs up my position, in detail, both in terms of what I have read in the course and what I myself belief from my own experience). Finally, the essay then sums it all up (Conclusion: here's what I've said and how it links back to my thesis statement and the sources mentioned in the introduction). Ideally, each paragraph in an essay should follow this same structure, but that is an ideal to be strived for, not a course requirement.  

Note that contrary to more old fashioned rules, the Thesis Statement may be more than one sentence, and may occur early or late in the Introduction (I personally prefer it earlier although the Old School used to require it as the last sentence).

A student who recently handed in a beautifully written essay offers this suggestion: write the body of your essay first; only after it is finished should you write your introduction and conclusion. If the introduction must tell your reader what you are going to say and the conclusion must tell your reader what you have said, if you don't write them until AFTER you have written the body of the paper, it will more likely follow that your introduction and conclusion will link directly to the paper.

Another student in Gender Issues in Management provided this as learned from high school:

In highschool I learned the basic paragraph writing template of : Point, Proof, Comment (and always in that order).
Point: the topic you're talking about and what exactly you're trying to say in this paragraph
Proof :examples/references
Comment: tying together your point and proof.. basically your conclusion of the paragraph
I used that concept for my essay outline. For Assignment #1, my "comment" section was where I tied in the examples from the TV show with how it related to management.

A hint I can offer from grading lots of essays and reading a number of good ones. Don't write your essay about writing the essay.

Don't say, "Our group chose the Russian Revolution as a topic of research because we believe the Russian Revolution was an important period of history due to the final outcome that saw the destruction of the Tsars as the ruling class." Just say, "The Russian Revolution was an important period of history due to the final outcome that saw the destruction of the Tsars as the ruling class."

In the same vein, don't write an essay by writing about your experiences in class (or outside class) writing it.

Don't write, "In the beginning, after gathering our media together, it was evident that similarities existed; however, bringing them together was a challenge.

Say instead, "Similarities exist among the media researched."

The one exception here is when you say, "I (or we) will demonstrate support for this argument using sources X, Y, and Z."

Remember too to match singular and plural with authorship. If you are writing an essay on your own, use "I." If you are writing it as a group, use "We." Do not, however, just start a paper with "WE" expecting your audience to know who is talking.

Writing Style
Realize that there are different writing styles appropriate to different tasks and adjust your writing style for different courses and professors and topics. As I sit here writing this, I am writing as I would speak to you in a classroom, and although I strive for good English that you will understand, I am not writing in the finely tuned and more formal English that I use when submitting a paper to an academic journal or even in the more formal language I would use in a memo or letter. When writing  assignments for Marketing courses I teach, imagine you are writing for a busy bank manager or boss. If you are not told what voice to write in, it often works well to assume you are a consultant called in to help a company. When writing assignments for Gender Issues in Management, which is a writing intensive course, take more care with the requirements of formal essays and with the inclusion of your own voice.  

Good Writing Has Two Sides: dian marino on "i" Statements and the Epistemological Showdown
An aspect of good writing that you will find in most courses I teach is the inclusion of your own voice in the work. One of my mentors at York was dian marino, a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies who so detested hierarchies that she refused to capitalize her own name. dian died in 1992 of breast cancer and I miss her teaching very much. dian insisted that although we still need to read and include in our work what experts have written, our own experience and what we feel and believe are just as important and as educational. The academic tradition in which most of us (dian's and my age) were raised in which we prove our point by lining up behind us all the published, (usually) dead, (usually) white (usually) male authors who wrote what we want to say, dian referred to as "the epistemological showdown." The statement of our own beliefs and feelings dian called "i statements". 

The epistemological showdown should not be a difficult concept for anyone who has taken a university course, or even for anyone who wrote a good research paper in high school. It is the important part of academic work where you give recognition to and analyze the effect and importance of the work of others who wrote before you. The "i" statement is often more difficult, particularly for business majors into whose heads it seems to have been drilled that they must always write in the so-called "objective" third person (there is no such thing as pure "objectivity" in any study but that is a matter for a higher level of philosophical discussion). An "i" statement says how you feel about something, why it is important to you, why it matters to you, how it makes you feel and react. The "i" statement is about what you think and what you feel. It may help you to first consider what an "i" statement is NOT. You cannot call something an "i" statement simply because it has the word "I" in it.

This is NOT an epistemological showdown statement:

This is NOT an epistemological showdown statement:
The Russian Revolution started in 1917.

This is a simple statement of fact, not something that you would need to quote someone as saying.

The Epistemological Showdown occurs when you cite actual words or ideas put forth by other scholars to support your viewpoint. You use it to support something which seems to be generally agreed is true but which may not seem immediately obvious, or to support one particular view which is not held by all scholars. An epistemological showdown statement may be in quotation marks as a word-for-word citation or it may be a paraphrase of an author's words with the author cited. 

These are epistemological showdown statements:

This is an epistemological showdown statement:
Although the Russian Revolution started in 1917,  James Reed, like most authors who write about this subject, believes that it is too difficult to pinpoint one year in which the war actually ended. In 1917, there were still roving bands of troops from both sides everywhere throughout the countryside (Reed 1922).
[in References: Reed, John (1922) Ten Days That Shook The World. New York: Penguin Twentieth Century Classics.]

This is using James Reed to back up your point, but without quoting him specifically, and referring the reader to his book.   

This is an epistemological showdown statement:
"Lenin’s action meant the end of the Russian revolution as a positive factor in the world proletarian revolution" (Pannekoek, 1952: 1)
[in References: Pannekoek, Anton (1952) "The Politics of Gorter."
First Published in French in La Révolution Prolétarienne. August-September.]

This is a much more complex statement about the end of the Russian revolution and how it affected the entire world proletarian revolution. You cannot just state it without saying who, in fact, said it before you, because not everyone would agree with this statement. 

These are NOT "i" statements: 

This is NOT an "i" statement:
I believe that the Russian Revolution started in 1917.

This is a fact, not a feeling or belief. 

This is NOT an "i" statement:
I think it is important to cover the six steps that led to the start of the Russian Revolution.

This is laying out the structure of your essay, not telling how you feel about the subject.

This is NOT an "i" statement:
I feel that James Reed was saying that the Russian Revolution took a terrible toll on the working class Russian.

This is your interpretation of what someone else said, even though you are not using their exact words in quotation marks.

The "i" statement is about what you think and what you feel. These ARE "i" statements. 

This is an "i" statement:
I feel that the goals of the Russian revolution, although admirable, became lost in the violence that overwhelmed the whole of their society.

Others may have expressed this view, but as long as you believe it and are not copying out someone else's belief and just putting your name to it, this is an "i" statement, because it tells how you personally feel about an issue of importance in that revolution.

This is an "i" statement:
I believe the Czar should have been forced to abdicate, because he had been a cruel tyrant as a ruler of his people.

Again, as long as you are speaking of what you personally believe, and not what others have documented, it is an "i" statement. 

This is an "i" statement:
I get angry when I read about the senseless and indiscriminant slaughter of villages by the battling Red and White troops; it is one of the great cruelties of war that innocent people are killed for no reason other than the fact that they were there.

This is an even better "i" statement; it tells your reader explicitly how you feel about something that happened during the Russian revolution. 

This inclusion of your own voice in your writing may be very new to you in university work, especially if you are Business major, but once you try it, you may like it. I look for both the epistemological showdown and "i statements" in any and all work you write in most classes I teach (although there's not a lot of room for "i" statements in the Introductory Marketing Plan). 

In grading essays, I look at four main elements, not necessarily in equal weights or this order

Content - How much and how accurately did you write about what you're supposed to be writing about? 
Relevance to course material - How much were you able to relate what you wrote to the materials assigned for the course?
Style - How good is your writing in the formal essay? How well did you express yourself? Is it easy to read, original, interesting?
Structure - Does your essay have the three required parts (Introduction, Body, Conclusion) and the proper structures within each of those? 

Students often ask which of these is most important, and my answer is "all of them." Structure your essay correctly as if it were worth 100% of your grade so that your reader knows exactly what you are doing and where you're going. Write properly and and in a manner that is interesting for the reader and which implies you have something worthwhile to say as if your writing Style were 100% of your mark. Pull together succinctly how all of this has Relevance to course material; if your mark were based 100% on relevance, you would want to be sure to include as much as possible in a way that was meaningful, not just a quick listing of books and articles and not just a rambling rant. And finally, include Content that is relevant and significant, thinking that if you were graded 100% on content you would not wish to waste precious space (remember you are limited to a certain number of pages) on unimportant drivel, or long passages quoted (or worse - stolen) from other sources. Follow the rules. Note the required maximum length of the essay and do not write more than is allowed. you may of course write less if you express yourself succinctly. If you are asked to double-space, then do so. Do not write in any font smaller than 11-point and do not use naturally small fonts like Arial Narrow. Remember also that you are graded in comparison with your peers; if you do what is asked, you earn an average mark of C or C+; you have to do it better than most to earn a B and you have to do it exceptionally well to earn an A. 

Some General Hints On Good Writing

One of the more nebulous qualities about good writing, something which students often fail to put into a paper, something I find myself trying to explain when they ask why they got a B+ instead of an A, is passion. Write anything you write as if it matters more to you than anything in the world. Best, of course, is to write about what you love, which is why I write fiction and have moved my academic research into the field of advertising ethics -- it's where my passions lie.

A less nebulous quality of good writing is clarity. I am deeply impressed by writing that conveys in a few words what it might take someone else three pages to say. Here are some good, if slightly tongue-in-cheek hints for good writing. They are not my own, but I do not have a source to quote.

The passive voice is to be avoided. The best business writing is written by people whose words are portrayed in a straightforward manner that is viewed as action-oriented. 
Be sure you are not repeating yourself. Read over a paper to be sure you don't say the same thing in two different ways or twice in the same manner. Read sentences over, review them, and check them as to how they read in order to ensure and guarantee that you are not just saying the same thing six times or seven times. It can be very annoying to read sentences that just repeat themselves and say the same thing again and again and over and over, and it dilutes your argument as well as the point you are trying to make. 
Watch out for simple fifth grade grammar items such as run-on sentences it greatly hinders your reader's ability to understand you when you do not put in punctuation a boss would not wish to read such rambling prose.
And incomplete sentences. Writing that does not speak firmly. Because it does not speak definitively and fully. 
Avoid using particular words in two particular places close together in the paper unless doing it for particular emphasis. If the particularity of the word makes its particular appearance particularly necessary, find a particular word that will do that particular job and find other particular words to substitute for it in other particular sentences. 
Be sure you write clearly what you or perhaps your group, family, fellow workers want you, or perhaps them, maybe even us, to say. If you don't write clearly, even if you write somewhat as if things were ultimately what we did want to do, and when you get there, it can be hard to do or to follow. Write what you mean to say

Use the elephant you mean to use. If you write the wrong elephant in a sentence, people won't know what you're talking about. 

Rules Of Grammar (from an article on the Internet in a similar vein)

 1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
 2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
 3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
 4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
 5. Avoid clichés like the plague; they're old hat.
 6. Always aim at avoiding annoying alliteration.
 7. Be more or less specific.
 8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
 9. Also, too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't helpful and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should never generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Avoid ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are often like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Kill all exclamation points!!!!
23. Use words incorrectly, irregardless of how often others misuse them.
24. Understatement is probably not the best way to propose earth-shattering ideas.
25. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
26. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
27. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
28. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
29. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
30. Who needs rhetorical questions?
31. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement.
32. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
33. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
     Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
34. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: resist hyperbole; 
     not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

Using Good Grammar
You can improve your grade on an essay by ensuring that you follow the basic rules of good writing. Grammatical errors can lower your mark. Watch out for these common mistakes in this collection of writing errors from a grading of papers in Gender Issues in Management where students were asked to write about how certain terms from their text were illustrated in the film, Erin Brockovich.

Match Verb Tense in Sentences and in the Paper as a Whole

Instead of  "Erin was bright, but she also has a tendency to be confrontational."
Write  "Erin was bright, but she also had a tendency to be confrontational." 

Use Plural Verbs with Plural Nouns and Singular Verbs with Singular Nouns

Instead of  "The new lawyers regards Erin as incapable." 
Write  "The new lawyers regard Erin as incapable." 
or, "The new lawyer regards Erin as incapable." 

Use the Right Word

Instead of  "Erin is from a Western culture where she is submitted to gender schema." 
Write  "Erin is from a Western Culture where she is subjected to gender schema.

Use De-Gendered Language

Instead of  "George was responsible for maintaining the household and providing the nurturing a child usually seeks from his mother." 
Write  "George was responsible for maintaining the household and providing the nurturing children usually seek from their mother." 

Use de-genderized language without getting silly about it

Instead of  "Erin figured that each person could bring his complaint to the meeting." 
and instead of replacing it with: 
& Instead of  the awkward phrase: "Erin figured that each person could bring his or her complaint to the meeting." 
Write "Erin figured that everyone could bring their complaints to the meeting."  

Use Slang and Colloquial Phrases Only in Dialogue, Not in Formal Writing

Instead of  "Erin was able to grab a hold of the legal documentation needed."
Write  "Erin was able to obtain the legal documentation needed." 

Use Contractions Only in Dialogue, Not in Formal Writing 

Instead of  "isn't, doesn't, can't, won't" 
Write  "is not, does not, cannot, will not" 
Punctuate Properly to Avoid Run-On Sentences
Instead of  "The traditional woman's role is housewife, George does not like this role." 
Write  "The traditional woman's role is housewife. George does not like  this role."
or "The traditional woman's role is housewife; George does not like this role."
or "The traditional woman's role is housewife and George does not like this role."

Use the Active Voice Rather Than the Passive

Instead of  "These assumptions of hers were reassessed." 
Write  "She reassessed her assumptions." 

Start Sentences With Direct Words

Instead of  "And she never did get to go." 
or "But she never did get to go." 
Write  "She never did get to go." 

Start Sentences Without Apology

Instead of  "Anyway, she never did get to go." 
Write  "She never did get to go." 

Use they're their and there Properly

"Her involvement in their lives seemed a second priority in her life." 
"Erin is there at the door when the woman finally appears."  
"She realizes they're going to have to interview more people." 
But in formal writing use instead: "She realizes they are going to have to interview more people."
Even better: "She realizes they will need to interview more people."
Instead of  "As one of Mr. Massey's employees, other co-workers were quick in criticizing Erin's capabilities."
Write  "As one of Mr. Massey's employees, Erin found the other employees quick to criticize her capabilities." 
The "dangling participle here is "as one of Mr. Massey's employees". It refers to Erin, but if you read the first sentence carefully, you will see that it is erroneously linked there to "other co-workers" rather than to "Erin." 

Avoid Losing Your Reader

Avoid saying the same thing three different ways in three different places and then writing, "As stated above...". Put everything that relates to one topic in one place; say it once, clearly and concisely, and be sure that your paper makes it clear exactly where the reader can find each component: if the assignment asks you to discuss something in each of five chapters, make it clear where each of those chapters is covered in the paper. 

Less Than C+ in Intro Marketing? You Can Still Do Honours Marketing Courses

Students who have earned a grade lower than C+ in Introductory Marketing sometimes worry that they will not be able to get into the Marketing Honours Option or take Marketing Honours level courses. This is a misconception arising from alternative ways of getting into Honours courses. To take a Marketing Honours course, you need to be or qualify as an Honours student, regardless of the mark you made in Introductory Marketing, OR you can be unqualified for Honours (by choice or by sad circumstances) or have no desire ever to be an Honours student, and still take Marketing Honours courses by passing Introductory Marketing with a grade of C+ or better. If you made less than a C+ in Introductory Marketing you can still qualify for the Marketing Honours option provided your overall grade average is at the required level for Honours standing as described in the Calendar. If you are in doubt about this, consult the Calendar in the course description for any ADMS4000 course in Marketing.

I Did My Very Best - Did You?
Students who do poorly in courses frequently write to professors saying they are shocked at their low mark and wondering how it could possibly have happened. I reproduce below part of an email I wrote recently to just such a student. The complaint was, "I was  disappointed in what I got... I don't know how I ended up with that mark... I did my very best."

Dear Student, 
I am sure you are "disappointed," but as to not knowing how you "ended up with that mark" you will have to look to your own performance during the course. You say you did your very best, but did you? 

Did you follow the recommendations in the course kit about preparing for tests? You got only half the multiple choice questions correct; did you read about doing well on multiple choice questions? I checked my records for the Discussion Group and you only posted ONCE about the Waving Hand Exercises although there were 120 of them and you were told they would form the basis for test questions. Did you at least work through them and read the postings of other students? 

You did not even try to answer Peter Drucker's first question; did you do the assignment in the second Learning Unit where you're asked to go visit a coffee shop and write these answers out? You totally missed the question on Hunt's Three Dichotomies Model, yet I took it directly from an example of a test question provided in the course kit; some people missed whether it was micro or macro, or positive or normative, but you wrote "Geographic, Politics, and Ethics." Did you do these practice questions?

Look back through the work you did to prepare for the test. Re-read the notes you made while reading your textbook and working through the website units and the Waving Hand and other exercises. Look at what you missed on the test and ask yourself if you understood it before the test and if not, what you did to ensure you understood it, knowing it would be on the test. 


York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.