Sometimes when grading papers, I marvel that students seem to lack knowledge of the basic mechanics of citation — for instance, that parenthetical references do not belong within the quotation marks, or that no documentation style calls for things such as “Inc.” or copyright dates (labeled as such). Problems with punctuation are also troublesome, such as some students’ apparent belief that literally every quotation, even one that comes mid-sentence and is thoroughly integrated into the sentence grammatically, must be introduced by a comma (as in “Kant argues that there is a, ‘transcendental unity of apperception’….”). To me, these types of things are second nature, and my first impulse is that they should be second nature to anyone with a college degree.
Then I reflect that not everyone spent three years in college as a TA in the English department with the primary duty of correcting documentation style and punctuation, as I in fact did. Through that process, I thoroughly internalized all the rules and witnessed every possible deviation from them. What’s more, I was actually paid to attain such fine-tuned knowledge. So perhaps I’m being too demanding when I want all students to be at a similar level.
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