That was Than…

      So, I realize I’m not teaching a writing class. And I realize that I’m teaching art and animation students.
      But, these college students are horrible writers.
      In order to get a better idea of my students’ specific interests, I assign a one-page essay on the first day of class. Many of the essays were quite good, but a disturbing number of them were so poorly written I was embarrassed. Perhaps I have been spoiled by my many friends who are excellent writers.
      My first warning was a student using the word “than” instead of “then,” as in: “other then that, I was pretty normal.” I assumed it was a typo. I mean, “A” and “E” are only three keys away from each other as the knight moves on a chessboard. A simple slip, right? Then it happened again! “I’d rather animate then do special effects.”
      I understand confusing “weather” and “whether.” I understand mixing up “who” and “whom.” I even understand mis-using apostrophes (although I do not forgive it).
      But, mixing up “then” and “than?”
      And then it happened in another essay…and another…and another! An epidemic!
      I have just gone through the this exercise for the third semester and the “thens” just keep on coming! Didn’t these students even encounter the word “than” in math class? After all, five is greater than three. Isn’t it?
      The only explanation I have is that these students don’t read, and have never seen the word “than” in print. Combined with sloppy American pronunciation, perhaps the seldom-used “than” has been absorbed by the more common “then.”
      Am I over-reacting?
      Am I wrong to be outraged?
      I feel a bit better now having vented a bit.
      No, that’s a lie. It still bothers me.

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One Response to That was Than…

  1. topteddy says:

    wow, that really hit home. for the life of me i seem to never be able to use the two correctly. i understand the difference between “then” and “than”. but when it comes to writing them out and using them correctly i almost always, no matter what reverse them.
    yes, i am embarassed by this… and i try each time to do better than the last.

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