Students have asked the following
questions thousands of times, so, it seems prudent to post
the answers here. You can download these PDF files to your
computer and then print them out or read them using the
free program Adobe Acrobat. If you don't have a copy of
Adobe Acrobat, you can download
it here, for free.
I contact the teacher?
firstname.lastname@example.org is the best route if I'm not in my office.
Other contact information can be found on the homepage.
is the breaking point between an "B-/C+" and a
"C+"? How many points is that?
If you are in a 100 or
200 level course, click here for a chart.
If you are in a 300 or
400 level course, click here for a chart.
What qualities separate an "A"
from a "B," "C," or "D"?
Here are two general guidelines. Be sure to pick the right
one for your class!
Division English Courses (100 & 200 level)
English Courses (300 & 400 level)
Do you have any weird pet peeves
as a teacher?
I am on a personal crusade to eliminate passive voice.
You can learn more about what it is and how to avoid it
here. Another quick
way to annoy your teacher is to turn in essays that have
not been stapled or paper-clipped together or to turn
in an essay lacking the proper header and pagination.
Finally, if I return a paper to you, after having spent
half an hour writing comments on it, you will displease
me if you throw it away before my eyes after only glancing
at the grade. For a general discussion of academic
etiquette, click here.
plagiarism and what happens if I plagiarize?
Click here to download
information about plagiarism, or read about it at
What are these grammatical abbreviations
and proofreading marks in the margins of this paper you
returned to me? What do they mean?
Click here to download a PDF
file that provides a key to these abbreviations. It
will not be very legible on a computer screen, but if
you print it out, it will be quite legible. If you cannot
read my handwriting, ask me to translate it for you.
Can I turn in my assignment to
Pretty please? I have a really
Okay. Can I turn the assignment
Yes. I will personally kiss and bless early papers.
I need to know if I have scheduled an appointment with the
Click here to download a conference
guide. It explains how to make the most of an appointment.
What advice or survival tips would
you give your students so that they will do well in your
Click here for survival tips.
What's that faint accent you sometimes
What kind of a name is Kip?
Welsh (from Middle Welsh "Kipp").
Are you willing to write letters
of recommendation for students?
A: If time is
available, I am often willing to write letters of recommendation
for students. Two warnings! First, I will write
what I honestly think are the strengths and weaknesses
of the students, which means lackluster students may get
lackluster reviews, while excellent students garner higher
accolades. Second, you must allow me sufficient warning.
The more time I have to write, the more thoughtful and
specific your letter of recommendation will be. I will
not write a letter of recommendation for a scholarship
or program of study if it must be rushed to the mail within
a couple of days. Finally, if you want me to write a letter
for you, you should read this
material on the PDF file first.
I am thinking about going to graduate
school, or maybe even becoming a college professor of English.
Do you have any advice about this?
find it here.
Why do you teach writing classes?
Writing is the path to critical thinking, imagination,
and intellect. After reading, writing is the most important
skill for any student. Excellent readers and writers are
more likely to be excellent thinkers. They are more likely
as citizens and voters to "read between the lines"
and make careful decisions. They are less likely to be
tricked by illogical arguments and sophistry. On a social
level, I want to be surrounded by such citizens. They
make it less likely our democratic government will blunder
in its collective judgment.
In the same way, intelligent
citizens with writing skills are more likely to reproduce
their beliefs in a persuasive and convincing manner. Their
superior vocabulary and rhetorical skills ensure that,
if they have a good idea, they can disseminate it widely
in speech or print. Even if they have beliefs that I don't
share, I can at least be confident that they have written
about their beliefs and argued about them with readers.
Thus, their ideas have at least been challenged and enriched
in the intellectual arena of debate. This exchange means
that obvious logical fallacies and stupidities will be
weeded out. I feel much more confident about my retirement
(and the fate of western democracy) knowing that the next
generation has gone through this process. Such an education
lets people pilot their lives and their country well.
Teaching writing (which includes teaching rhetoric, logic,
critical thinking, close reading, and debate) is the best
way I can think of to ensure that outcome. Teaching writing,
for me, is an antidote to barbarism and totalitarianism.
We transmit culture in the act of writing.
Why do you teach medieval literature?
Medieval literature is the most diverse, exciting, passionate,
spiritual, violent, beautiful, horrifying, uplifting,
thought-provoking, and astonishing art I have ever encountered.
The medieval world offers us a window into a place alien
and familiar, and it resonates to the heartbeat of history.
It is the seed of the modern world, and the splendid stone
marker outlining the classical world's boundaries. By
reading ancient writings, we hear the voice of the dead
and nourish our appetite for the eternal. By understanding
the medieval, we better understand the modern. Finally,
it has the most decapitations per page of any literature
I have ever read. It's Quentin Tarentino cross-bred with
Saint Augustine. What more could one desire for intellectual
satisfaction and visceral entertainment?