Ralph’s first essay of the year left something to be desired.
Your sentences are full of comma splices (CS), I wrote. The revision is due next week. Please stop by after school before then so we can work on fixing them.
The class was Honors English. Ralph was a junior, and by that point he really shouldn’t have been mashing sentences together with commas as if the period had never been invented. My remark and the many “CS” circles on his paper should have prompted him to accept my help.
Every day that week I waited for Ralph after school. He never showed.
The next week I collected the essay revisions. Ralph turned in his … without a single correction.
I didn’t bother grading it. Instead I wrote: Customarily I deduct 5 points for every comma splice. Your paper has 23, which makes your top possible grade a -15. I will record this score in the gradebook for you unless you see me after school today to work on fixing comma splices.
As luck would have it, Ralph’s afternoon was free.