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Philosophy Dept. Pet Peeves

Philosophy Paper Pet Peeves

This webpage is brought to you by the letter "D", and the number 65.


Grammar, punctuation, and spelling:

u r not instant messaging

People, "u" is not an English word. "You" is. Instant messaging is one thing, and writing an academic paper is another.

incomplete sentences:

Here, one takes a dependent clause which lacks a main verb, and offers it as a whole sentence, which it is not. These are allowable in speech, and even in fiction, but never in non-fiction.

Ex. Which is a good point. Also, by showing an example.

"it's" vs. "its" confusion:

The possessive "its" doesn't have an apostrophe, just like its relatives, "his" and "hers".
The contraction for "it is", "it's", does need an apostrophe, because it is a contraction.

I didd'nt remeberr to use the spel cheker

Translation: "I'm a careless slob. Give me a lousy grade."

"their" vs. "there" vs. "they're"

These are: possessive adjective, demonstrative adjective, and the contraction for "they are", respectively. If you are a native speaker of English, then once you've advanced beyond the sixth grade, you should have these down!

De Cart, John Stewart Mills, Guanilo, Platoe, etc.

Your reader will not be impressed if you write a paper about a philosopher and misspell his name throughout. How hard can it be to look in the book?

The writers possessives violate our languages rules

If the noun or name ends with "s", you may either add an apostrophe and "s", or just an apostrophe after the existing "s".
If it doesn't end with a "s", add " 's".

Right: Aristotle's beard, Socrates's friend, Descartes' theory

Wrong: Hobbes views, Humes book, Berkeleys idea

Politically correct barbarisms: "s/he", "him/her", "she/he", etc.

If you want to redress gender inequity, then for Pete's sake, just use the feminine throughout, or else alternate between the genders when that isn't confusing.

"God"/"god" chaos

Some students alternate these with no ryhme or reason. "God" is the proper name for the allegedly unique supreme being which religious theists worship. The word "god" is a kind-term like human, cat, or tree.

Ex. "While various philosophers offer arguments for the existence of God, we must remember that different peoples and nations acknowledge many different gods."

"abuse" of quotation "marks"

This problem frequently goes hand in hand with overuse of an ironic or sarcastic tone, where one substitutes attitude for convincing argument. Use them when (1) quoting, (2) mentioning without using a word, (3) citing an article by title, or (4) using a word in a very non-standard, non-literal way. There are probably other good uses as well, but they don't include snotty, pseudo-sophisticated dismissals, at least not in an academic paper.

Ex. Aquinas' "argument" is "convincing" only to the already "persuaded". Some might "say" premise four is "true", but that is so "naive".


The mysterious reference:

Ex. (p. 141) - when the source is unclear. Is it the textbook, or some other source?

(Jones, p. 141) - when neither the footnotes nor the bibliography tells us what on earth "Jones" is. (Article? www? Book? Pamphlet found on your car winshield? etc.)

( - You need to give the entire URL (web address).

The dog-ear "staple":

Really, it is better just to leave the pages loose. But neither loose nor dog-eared pages are designed to impress. If you wouldn't give a paper like this to your boss in the business world, why would you inflict it on your professor?

Blue/purple/pink (etc.) print:

Get out there and buy an new printer cartridge or ribbon!

My ink is going, going, gone....

See above.

Distracting, non-standard fonts:

It's best to stick with Times, Times New Roman, Palatino, Arial, Helvetica, or Courier, or like fonts. Avoid the fancy, the decorative, the informal, those that look like handwriting, etc.. Yes, fonts are fun to play with, but you want to stick with what is readable and unassuming. Don't try to be a graphic artist.

The Luxurious Plastic Cover

Not necessary, and tends to fall apart in the professor's stack of papers and get lost.

Cover Pages or titles in Gigantic, Pretentious, Letters

Tempting, to be sure. But just say "no". Save it for your first best-seller.

Page modified 12/7/15