The season of long(ish) essays is upon us, and tutors perusing and commenting on drafts are resisiting, over and over, student attempts to get them to write the essay on their behalf. The usual ploy is for the student to request feedback on each paragraph, or even each sentence, before embarking on the next. This is not on. If at this stage they are still assembling the damned essays sentence by sentence instead of in a fair degree of conformity to an overall plan, things do not bode well for the finished products. However, it is gratifying to be able to report that not everyone is approaching the task as if essay-writing were something like filling a skip. A colleague showed me a plan in which the writer had separated his points under headings, demonstrating an understanding that an essay requires an introduction and a conclusion and between them, a 'main paddy'. Well done, that boy.
Over-reliance on bilingual dictionaries and reluctance to explore the collocations and connotations of vocabulary items in a monolingual dictionary make some students' essays almost impenetrable, but it's the near-misses that stick in the mind rather than the total pile-ups. From colleagues today I heard the following:
'Marriage is a social bondage to organise societies.' OK - you might just be able to get away with that one, I suppose, even if you don't quite get the flavour. It's only the hypersensitive British antennae for double-entendre that make it sound a bit mucky. However, 'it's my job to pleasure the customers' gives entirely the wrong impression if your position is actually that of sales assistant. And though I have never been to Saudi Arabia and know nothing of marriage ceremonies there, I do know that concerning morality, they famously have strict statutes and most biting laws, so it's my gut feeling that the lady who wrote 'the bride should service the father-in-law and the brother-in-law' did not actually mean that.