Friday, December 18, 2009

Devious praise

Here’s a comment that would cheer any blogger. I’m sharing it verbatim:

“Your blog is really excellent. It inspires the readers who has that great desire to lead a better and happier life. Thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you.”

Ignoring its ragged prose, I read it with appreciation because it was sent as a “comment” about this very blog.

Then, partly because I screen comments, I read on.

As it turns out the comment is as far-fetched as cheery horoscopes (“Great wealth will come your way!”) or cloying fortune cookie messages. (“You are greatly admired for your wisdom and perseverance.”)

The fulsome praise for The Red Electric comes from “Custom Term Papers” and was generated in response to a post tagged “University of Oregon” and “Oregon State University.” See: "Enjoy the game but not the war.”

Clever, huh?

A search robot seeks posts with academic-related tags, lays on kudos to ensure acceptance from praise-hungry bloggers, and then lures in plagiarism-susceptable undergraduates. Those would be students with the “great desire to lead a better and happier life” … but without the will do the work required to achieve it.

“Custom Term Papers” is here to help.

It gets worse. The phrase “really excellent” isn’t something I’d want to see in any of my students’ written work. Grammarians call words like “really” (and “very”) “intensifiers.” "Excellent" is excellent. It doesn’t (really) need “really.”


Also, there’s the serious subject-verb agreement problem with “readers who has.”

It’s scary how so many human foibles (pride, greed, ambition, deceit, sloth, error) are exploited by one little encomium.

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