Word Nerd Wednesdays

by Kristi R. Johnson

Flow:

verb

  1. (of a fluid, gas, or electricity) move along or out steadily and continuously in a current or stream.
  2. go from one place to another in a steady stream, typically in large numbers.

noun

  1. the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream.
  2. a steady, continuous stream of something.

Something the writing consultants often get asked to check for is if a student’s paper “flows.” For whatever reason, the use of this word for that meaning bothers me. I am honestly not sure why. I have no issue if a student comes in asking to go over organization, or to look at transitions, or to address any choppy sentences or clunky phrases. But hearing the sentence “I just want to make sure my paper flows” makes me cringe, and then my eye goes all twitchy a la an enraged Moe from The Simpsons.

https://frinkiac.com/img/S07E04/963211.jpg
From the episode “Bart Sells His Soul.”

Maybe it is the vagueness of the request that gets me. It is somewhat similar to being asked to “edit” someone’s paper (although that does not bother me nearly as much). There is a lot that goes into editing, and there is a lot that goes into making a paper flow. A similar request we often hear is “I want to make sure that the paper makes sense.” Again, incredibly vague, and does not give us anything specific to look for.

This is not to say that I won’t work with a student who makes such a request. Most of the time, I will even hold back on the cringing and twitchy eyes…most of the time. But the more specific a student’s requests or questions, the better.

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