Being neat (Take advice from me. I’m a slob)

Our first and second installments on how to market yourself to your teachers covered e-mail etiquette and looking busy. Now it’s time for me to be a total hypocrite. I’m going to tell you how neatness can help you make a good impression.

Which is rich, since I’m a total slob. Just come to my home and see.

Or don’t. ‘Cause it’s a mess.

But don’t follow my example. If I jumped off a cliff, would you too? No, I think not.

So first, a little preamble. How am I defining “neat”? Neatness doesn’t just mean your homework will be free of chocolate and Cheetos smudges, although that’s part of it. It also means your homework will be easy for your teacher to read. More about that later.

Some of you may be thinking neatness is the least important factor. After all, isn’t your deep, incisive, ground-breaking analysis so much more important? Isn’t it trite to take off points for formatting errors when you’ve handed in what could very well revolutionize the world of science/literature/history/phys. ed.?

Perhaps. Or perhaps neatness shows you care, and caring makes a good impression on your teacher. Think of it like this. If you’ve got a Monet, you’re not going to put it in a frame made of 7-day-old rancid bacon and used kitty litter, are you? No one wants to hang around a painting like that, no matter how non-smelly the non-frame part is. And so it is with your schoolwork.

Some of the tips below may seem like no-brainers, but they’re not as obvious as one might assume. So I will take the risk of sounding stupid for the benefit of those students who still make the following mistakes.

  1. Your work should be free of chocolate and Cheetos stains. ‘Nuff said.
  2. If you handwrite your work, don’t use pencil. It smudges. Write in pen, and if your teacher allows you to use white-out, don’t use the liquid kind. Use correction tape instead.
  3. Again, this is going to sound really obvious, but it bears mentioning. For the love of all things holy, invest in a folder that keeps your papers from wrinkling and bending and looking like used spitballs before you even hand them in.
  4. Do you type your papers? If you are a real slob, print two copies in case one gets messed up. Just in case. And don’t talk to me about saving trees. You can use the extra copy as scratch paper later on.
  5. Don’t talk to me about saving trees. This isn’t a neatness tip. I just don’t want to hear it.
  6. Don’t use elegant, fancy font and pink (etc.) paper. It may look “perty” to you, but your teacher will pull his hair out trying to figure out what you wrote. That doesn’t predispose him to giving you top marks. Use white paper and boring, clear font.
  7. Follow your teacher’s formatting rules, even if they seem random. I will heartily admit that some teachers’ formatting guidelines are so ridiculously anal that you have to wonder if they aren’t nitpicking on format so they don’t have to think too much about how to grade content. This royally sucks, and it’s unfair. But such teachers are in the minority. Most of them have guidelines that, in part, let them grade homework more efficiently. The easier your homework is to read because of its formatting, the more time the teacher can spend on other useful things, like appreciating your neatness.

So there you go! From one slob to another, six easy tips to hand in snazzy-looking homework that will impress your teachers and get you higher marks. Neat, easy-to-read work says, “I care.” Teachers like that.



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About the Author

Elise Loyacano Perl
Elise Loyacano Perl is the Puerto Rican author of The Little Guide to not Being Dumb: How to Stop Making Excuses and Actually Learn. Click here to see her funny YouTube show called The Brain Drain. Elise holds a joint BA/MA in French literature from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

1 Comment on "Being neat (Take advice from me. I’m a slob)"

  1. It is important to note that Elise’s OFFICE is a mess. Not her home. That is clean and neat and smells always like cinnamon AirWick spray. Signed, her loving husband.

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