Sunday 2 February 2014

'Can you make this into something more academic, please?'

Image Calvin & Hobbes cartoon,
found on
Last week I received an e-mail I can only describe as very vague. The first sentence (of only a handful) was: "I saw your ad." Ah, I thought. Have you, really? Where? (I do have one banner on a website of some friends and ex-collegues, but the writer of this e-mail didn't mention where she'd seen my ad exactly.)

And then she explained, very briefly, (and I'm paraphrasing only slightly): "Look, I got a bad grade for this paper, they said it contained too many grammatical errors and that it wasn't academic enough. I've had some people read it, but was wondering if you can look at it and how much that would cost."

That was pretty much the entire e-mail's worth of information. I quickly saw in the attached document that she was definitely right about both grammar and spelling mistakes. The heading of this so-called 'academic paper' (all of 800 words) seemed only loosely connected to the subject matter or conclusion, if you could even call it that.

It was, indeed, poorly written. It was also on a topic that I know nothing about. So, I decided to go for honestly, as always. I confirmed the presence of several syntactical, grammatical and stylistical errors and said that I would also be very capable of providing her with feedback on different aspects of structure, but that I couldn't possibly comment on the depth (read: lack thereof) of the article itself nor on its contents, as that wasn't my field of expertise. (Although the article didn't exactly suggest that it was her field of expertise either.) Plus, I would need to know more about the demands her school had for texts of an academic nature, of course. (Without spoiling the fact that it looked even worse than a hastily written press release.)

I said that for the amount of XYZ (plus VAT) I could return a document filled with suggestions, feedback and corrections of grammar and spelling errors, but that she would then need to work on that feedback herself.

So, what do you think? Did I ever hear from her again? Of course not. Not sure if my honesty or the price scared her off, or both. Although I'm inclined to think she just wanted someone to rewrite the whole thing so she'd get a passing grade the second time around. In which case: sorry, kid, you got the wrong ad. I don't do other people's homework. Not even if they paid me.

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