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What u guys do with "undecipherable" writing?


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I was an undergrad TA before....sometimes I encountered a homework written in "non-english" writing (English but look more like wingdings letter).

The first week of work, I was trying to be as professional as possible, spending almost 1/2 hour for a single work of that kind....but as the semester progress (more works + homework for myself), I usually cross the entire problem and left a big side note....asking them politely to fix their writing next time (or sometimes sarcasm if it's the same guy over and over again)

what u guys usually do?

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I would do the same as you. I have no patience for completely unreadable writing. If it was a bit messy I would try my best, but if I had to spend a significant amount of extra time on it in comparison to the other assignments I would not mark it. I would probably ask my prof what I should do about it as well.

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When I start a new class, I always let the students know that I have to understand what they are writing in order to grade it. I explain that it has to be legible but if they are solving equations or something, there has to be a logical flow. A bunch of symbols and numbers scratched onto a page isn't helpful.

When it is the case, I explain that I am not just grading for the right answer, but I expect students to show understanding of the concepts/problems as well. If I can't read it, I won't mark it. Sometimes it helps to explain that I am only assigned a limited number of hours to mark their assignments -- most of them either are working or have had jobs at some point and will understand that it's no fun to have your time wasted!

But I am usually lenient on the first poorly written assignment -- I will try to mark it as best I can but give it back to the student and tell them in person (if possible, or write a note on the page otherwise) that I won't be spending that much effort into reading something that messy again!

Edit: For something like lab notebooks, where students under a time crunch may be really messy in a place where neat and legible notes are very important, I actually put "notebook neatness" worth about 10% of the mark or something.

Edited by TakeruK
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If deciphering the writing only requires more time spent on a homework, I grudgingly spend it. However, this year I had a student whose writing I really couldn't understand. All the characters he wrote looked pretty close to tiny (TINY) vertical lines, he wasn't leaving any spaces between words and between text and equations, and to top it off, his English was poor (he was an international student). It was an astrophysics course, and fortunately I could kind of guess some of the equations he wrote and a few final answers, but I wasn't comfortable grading by my guesses. So on the first homework he sumbitted, I wrote a comment asking him to either try to write nicer or type his homework, because I couldn't understand his writing. His second homework looked just the same, so I only gave him points on what I was sure I had deciphered correctly, and told him that he can stop by my office and explain what he wrote if he wants a higher grade. He never did... not for the 2nd homework, nor for the rest. I realized after the 3rd homework that he was actually copying his homework from another student.

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If deciphering the writing only requires more time spent on a homework, I grudgingly spend it. However, this year I had a student whose writing I really couldn't understand. All the characters he wrote looked pretty close to tiny (TINY) vertical lines, he wasn't leaving any spaces between words and between text and equations, and to top it off, his English was poor (he was an international student). It was an astrophysics course, and fortunately I could kind of guess some of the equations he wrote and a few final answers, but I wasn't comfortable grading by my guesses. So on the first homework he sumbitted, I wrote a comment asking him to either try to write nicer or type his homework, because I couldn't understand his writing. His second homework looked just the same, so I only gave him points on what I was sure I had deciphered correctly, and told him that he can stop by my office and explain what he wrote if he wants a higher grade. He never did... not for the 2nd homework, nor for the rest. I realized after the 3rd homework that he was actually copying his homework from another student.

If deciphering the writing only requires more time spent on a homework, I grudgingly spend it. However, this year I had a student whose writing I really couldn't understand. All the characters he wrote looked pretty close to tiny (TINY) vertical lines, he wasn't leaving any spaces between words and between text and equations, and to top it off, his English was poor (he was an international student). It was an astrophysics course, and fortunately I could kind of guess some of the equations he wrote and a few final answers, but I wasn't comfortable grading by my guesses. So on the first homework he sumbitted, I wrote a comment asking him to either try to write nicer or type his homework, because I couldn't understand his writing. His second homework looked just the same, so I only gave him points on what I was sure I had deciphered correctly, and told him that he can stop by my office and explain what he wrote if he wants a higher grade. He never did... not for the 2nd homework, nor for the rest. I realized after the 3rd homework that he was actually copying his homework from another student.

lol! that's what exactly i did once! ...tooo messy to read, give'em zero point and side note..."can't read ur writing...u can send me ur sober writing if u want ur grade back!"

just give'em a hard time!

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lol! that's what exactly i did once! ...tooo messy to read, give'em zero point and side note..."can't read ur writing...u can send me ur sober writing if u want ur grade back!"

just give'em a hard time!

If you read my post more carefully, you will see that what you wrote above is not "exactly" what I did. I didn't give them zero points on the homework, and certainly didn't write that they can send me their "sober writing" if they wanted a higher grade. I try to be polite and professional with the students, and not act like a smartass.

My intention isn't to give students a hard time, but a fair grade; that's why I need to understand their writing.

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I always tell my students at the beginning of the semester (and before any written assignment) that they need to make sure their handwriting is clear. I always remind them that, while they only have to write one composition I have to grade 40+ (depending on how many sections I'm teaching) and that if I don't understand the handwriting I'll just cross it out and put a big fat question mark. The problem is that I teach Spanish, so adding to the handwriting problem it's the grammar and vocab problem, so I tend to be less tolerant with the handwriting. If I have the time, though, I usually try to make an effort and try to decipher what the student has written, but I always warn my students beforehand, to avoid nasty surprises.

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  • 11 months later...

The irony of that string of uncapitalized text speak in a thread about grading writing assignments just strikes me as hilarious.

This is exactly the same thing that I was thinking when I was reading his comments.  I was kind of baffled by the improper use of the English language on a thread ABOUT proper writing.  :)  We are grown-ups now, time to start writing in proper English, or whatever your native language is.  Thank you for saying it before me.  :))

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I do my absolute best to read it and if needed struggle over it.

 

I myself have terrible writing and was very appreciative when someone took the time to try and decipher my own writing.

 

 

 

I recall taking biology courses where on the exams, as soon as my paper was handed in the professor would say "95% would still be a good mark"

 

This was a joke he had with me, as having messy writing resulted in a -5% deduction in your mark for the exam.

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This is exactly the same thing that I was thinking when I was reading his comments.  I was kind of baffled by the improper use of the English language on a thread ABOUT proper writing.   :)  We are grown-ups now, time to start writing in proper English, or whatever your native language is.  Thank you for saying it before me.   :))

 

meh. i rarely capitalize when typing informally, especially to my friends or a forum like this. what can i say? i just prefer the aesthetics of uncapitalized letters :-). i know many people who do the same, and frankly, you can still understand what i'm typing- it works just fine for the purposes of informal communication.

 

but i would never, ever turn in an assignment typed up improperly.

 

that's the difference.

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I teach comp and literature. I start the semester by telling them flat out that if I can't read it, it's wrong. If a name isn't on it, it's not turned in. No latesies. The university isn't high school. People go to college for career prep. If they filled out a job app illegibly, it's hitting the trash. If they write phone messages, memos, any written whatsawhoosies illegibly, they can count on getting canned. If they don't put their name on their own work, they won't credit for what they do, nor the raises and promotions that come with such work. I am not an employer, but it is my duty to assign grades to work turned in by adults. If an adult is irresponsible enough to turn in work that is illegible or without a name on it, then the adult ought to be prepared to face the consequences. It is not my duty to support the failure of a basic skill that should have been learned in elementary school. Of course, I do reiterate the can't-read-it-it's-wrong policy every time I assign something to be handwritten and I do give ample time for people who have developed a habit of writing illegibly to write more slowly. There is no excuse for illegible handwriting. I don't mean bad handwriting (hate it, but if I can read it, whatevs); I mean illegible. Illegible handwriting is a choice, not something people are stuck with. If a person has trouble with legibility, they should set aside some time to practice. If it's a learning disability issue, that's a completely different story and requires the use of the student disability office (whatever name it has on whatever campus).

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In the beginning of the semester, I lay out the statement that if I can't read it, I won't grade it.  This helps head problems off at the pass.

 

The first time, I give it back saying that I can't read it and ask them to fix it.

 

Any subsequent time, they get a 0 for the problem.  I take arguments on a case-by-case basis.

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