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Back in October, I mined my notes of items my students have written over the years that made me chuckle. I think I already have enough for another column.

Last weekend, I sat down to read and correct my 7th graders’ essays on drugs and alcohol. I’ve had my students write an essay on this topic for many years. For one, it’s a viable topic, and the more students know about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the better off they are. Another reason to write on this topic is it is a good opportunity to work on research and mixing facts with opinions in a persuasive essay.

My head starts to hurt sometimes when reading essays. My dad once told me, “Measure twice, cut once.” In other words, spend a little extra time on a project and you won’t have to do it all over again. As part of my refined grading program this year, any assignment that doesn’t meet a standard needs to be redone, and many of my students are having to redo assignments, including this one.

And here’s one of the fiends that leads to bad proofreading: auto-correct.

I advised my students at the start of the year to go on their iPads and shut the auto-correct off. It’s not only a sign of laziness by letting your device finish your word for you, but it’s also quite often wrong. All you have to do is Google “auto-correct failures” and you’ll be laughing for hours at the horribly embarrassing texts that people have sent to each other.

I now (not so proudly) present to you auto-correct (and other basic) failures, as seen on 7th grade essays.

“Tabasco is a natural substance, just like marijuana.” If I knew I could grow tabasco on my own, I’d never have to get it in the store!

“Pear pressure leads to more drug use.” Those darn fruits are always putting pressure on me too!

“I wouldn’t take heroin or drink too munch alcohol.” If you’re munching your alcohol, it’s either been out in the cold too long or there’s something seriously wrong with it.

“People that smoke regally are most likely to die.” I guess if you smoke without the throne or crown, it’s not as bad for you.

“Marijuana also can be helpful for people that have enthusiasm.” I’m still trying to figure out which word the student meant to use instead of enthusiasm, but I suppose it’s a factual statement since marijuana does tend to help people relax.

“People can relax by getting a message.” I’m not sure; I’ve gotten many messages that didn’t help me relax.

“People who participate in heroine abuse can get in trouble.” I would say so; if you’re abusing Wonder Woman or other female heroes, that will lead to trouble.

“122.1% of teenagers use drugs.” If I have to explain the impossibility of that statement, you may want to revisit your math class.

“47 billion Americans have tried drugs.” If we have that many people in America, how many is China up to now?

And now my favorite: “Drinking can do a lot of bad things, so use it!”

That last one isn’t an auto-correct failure, but it helps to emphasize what I try to tell my students. After you’re finished typing, you’re not really finished. Read your essay or story again. Read it out loud. That’s the best way to catch those silly mistakes and to avoid sending the wrong message.

We’re always in such a hurry that many people rarely check over an email or a text before sending it; I’m guilty at times too. However, I’m discovering more and more that if I take just a moment to look things over, I keep from sending something that could be taken the wrong way.

Live your writing life in the slow lane. If you move too fast, you may find yourself in a future column!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is skulduggery, which means trickery, as in, “The teacher wondered if there was skullduggery afoot when he read an essay that couldn’t possibly have been written by the student in question.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!


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