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Saturated_Brain's avatar

How does one stop being careless (serious question here guys)?

Asked by Saturated_Brain (5231 points ) October 18th, 2009

Okay, I’m not supposed to be on here anyway, but there’s this problem I need to solve. There’s a very close friend of mine. He’s sixteen and schooling.

Now, he’s an incredibly intelligent person, he’s able to think at a very advanced level is able to argue his opinions very well. The problem is that he’s just so extremely careless in his written work. He makes careless mistakes all the time in essays and in mathematical tests and this costs him precious marks.

He’s approached his teachers countless times and all they’ve been able to tell him is to be more careful. I myself have been trying to help him a lot with his work and have been trying to give him my own advice (which runs along the same lines of the teachers, such as checking your work, doing it slower, going over it again etc. etc.). But the problem is that it doesn’t really seem to be helping. This wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t make that many careless mistakes, but from what I’ve gathered, he makes a lot more careless mistakes than the average person. Plus, there are a few grammatical rules he doesn’t quite grasp (such as the difference between ‘would’ and ‘will’), which might just complicate this improvement process.

I’ve been constantly pushing him without much progress. And believe it or not, I’ve actually gotten into pretty bad arguments with him about this. The thing is, he’s extremely frustrated with it all. He tells me that really wants to improve and has been really trying, just that the results don’t show it.

So now I’m asking the collective, how do you stop being careless? I have here my really good friend who has this problem and really needs to solve it. And in my eyes, it takes on an even more desperate aspect when he you take into account the fact that he wants to go into journalism (he’s argued that journalists have editors to help with grammar, but I personally pooh-pooh this argument because in the media competition is stiff and if your grammar is more problematic than average, then you’re pretty much doomed. Am I right in this?).

Side-note: He finds it sad that perfect grammar in this world has in some ways taken precedence over what is written (ie content). And despite all that we’ve argued about, I can actually sympathise with this viewpoint. I might just make this into another Fluther discussion when I have the time.

But for now.. The issue at hand. Can the collective please help? Are there any really good methods to deal with horrible carelessness?

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23 Answers

augustlan's avatar

Is it possible that he has ADD? Is he easily distracted? Does he fidget? Can he not focus on what he’s doing? If so, he may need to address this with his doctor. There are treatments that can help him improve in those areas. If that doesn’t seem to apply, I can’t think of any better advice than what you’ve already given him, but I do have some advice for you. You need to remember that while you’d like to see him succeed, it’s not worth fighting about. He is your friend, he may never get any better at this, and that’s ok. Just support him.

XOIIO's avatar

I’m really not sure, he sounds like he has just… Given up.
Try to show him that there is good in doing his work well, get him interested in it again.

Why aren’t you supposed to be on here?

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Oh and guys, while I’m talking primarily about grammar here, I think it would be good to also give tips on carelessness in general.

@augustlan No I don’t think he has ADD. He doesn’t exhibit any of the symptoms you’ve listed. In fact, he actually gets less easily distracted than I do. And.. It’s not worth fighting for? Really…?

@XOIIO I don’t know.. I certainly hope he hasn’t given up.. And I’m not supposed to be on here because if I continue Fluthering I’m gonna fail at this really important thing I’m supposed to be focusing on.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@shego No. Not that either. He ain’t dyslexic.

Cartman's avatar

Removed by myself. Didn’t read properly.

DarkScribe's avatar

It is easy. “One” just has to really want to. “One” will never do it simply because someone else wants “one” to do so.

Cartman's avatar

I had similar problems when I was around 16, or in fact up until I turned 16, and then one day my brain just caught up with itself and everything was revealed to me (as far as grammar and reading questions etc. goes) and almost all the mistakes not associated within faulty thinking went away. I remember the exact moment during a written test, it felt weird but it felt like my brain suddenly shifted and I saw the light, kinda.

Good luck to the both of you.

P.S. “He finds it sad that perfect grammar in this world has in some ways taken precedence over what is written” – sounds like a potentially good copywriter for an advertising agency in the making.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

It’s difficult to say given the limited description one can give over the internet. But how does he speak? I don’t mean mumbling or anything like that, but rather is he articulate when he speaks? Does he break down his thoughts well or is he perhaps a little all over the place? Often many circumstances individuals imitate the way they speak when they right. Which, sometimes it’s okay, but others it isn’t. Seeing as one always knows the emotion and message one is trying to convey, but others reading what one has written don’t, does he properly understand how to ‘spell things out’ (no pun intended) to his readers?

augustlan's avatar

@Saturated_Brain No, no… I didn’t say it isn’t worth fighting for. Just not worth fighting about. Getting into arguments with your friend over his carelessness isn’t going to help him get over it, and might put undue strain on your relationship. That’s all I meant. :)

markyy's avatar

Does he also have difficulty to read? If so, it’s definitely dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that manifests itself primarily as a difficulty with reading and spelling. It is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or from poor or inadequate reading instruction. It is estimated that dyslexia affects between 5% to 17% of the U.S. population. Although dyslexia is thought to be the result of a neurological difference, it is not an intellectual disability. Dyslexia is diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence: below average, average, above average, and highly gifted. (source: wiki)

I must have missed that post.

jazzjeppe's avatar

I have seen this many times and sometimes there are things to be done and sometimes there aren’t, ulitmately it’s the kid himself who needs to take the big step into changing. Most of the times these kids are kids who find themselves 1) being distracted from something else rather than school work or 2) being bored i.e. unchallenged.

The 1a) are kids who have a messed up social life outside school and very often at home with their families. It could be everything from domestic violence and unsupportive parents. To put a big issue in a little short sentence: Sometimes school isn’t that important when you have tougher things to think about outside school. A good teacher should be able to spot this and approach him to see what’s wrong.

1b) A totally different group of kids that falls under this category, are those who are more or less addicted to video games. This affects school work in many different ways, but the kids I have had in my classes, tend to be very contra-productive (hope this is the right word). They aren’t working on top of themselves, they are stressed and want to finish up work as soon as possible, they don’t care if they hand in texts or work that are full of mistakes – they just want to go home to play.

He has a goal you say, he wants to go into journalism. And I understand that he is fully aware of that a somewhat flawless language is needed in order to even be accepted into the journalism school, right? I think your friend here falls under category 2.

2) Students that aren’t producing their best of work, even if we know they can, tend to be those who are bored with what they have to do. The reasons of this boredom can be either 2a) them being under-stimulated or they simply don’t find any 2b) enjoyment in what they are working with.

2a)
There is a problem in school today, at least here where I live, and that is that teachers feel they have to put so much work on the weak students that the strong ones are falling behind or fall into boredom feeling under-stimulated. Even the strong students need to be challenged and they want to be challenged! It’s up for us teachers to make a way to do that.
2b)
Kids today are extremely hard to work with, I would say. As a teacher I have to find ways to actually compete with all the things that have caught their interest outside school, in order to make them interested. That means most of the time that I have to be innovative, find and explore alternative ways of teaching etc, which I am very happy to do since it’s in the filed of my own interest. But it sure brings more work to a teacher. To put it simple: we can either continue working in those black and white text books from the 90’s with boring illustrations and outdated texts or we can make an effort and find out what’s in our students interest and use it. For me this has resulted in me creating my own teaching material and using the Internet as much as I can.

One could say that kids today are trigged by interest and it is my duty as a teacher to find that trigger. I could tell them billions of times that they have to focus, concentrate, keep up in their books yada yada yada, but they simply wouldn’t care if that spark of interest is lacking.

If I could speculate in this issue, which I find very interesting and I have to give a lot of cred to you for being so concerned about your friend (?), I would say this is a question of lack of challenge and lack of interest. He feels that he can’t see why he needs to do it and perhaps someone either needs to constantly remind him of why, but more likely, give him reasons to produce work that he himself can see why he needs to do it. I think he needs to be challenged and pressured at the same time. Teachers are too afraid of finding new ways of teaching and this limits their students’ school work, I think. As much as this issue is a problem that lies with the student himself, it is at the end of the day, also a teacher and a school problem.

Hope I could bring some thoughts to the discussion, otherwise I would be happy to explain further.

Hope it works out well!

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 Okay… Well, the more details the better eh? Interestingly enough, he is an extremely articulate person. And when he speaks he commits grammatical errors much less than when he writes. And that’s the part which sometimes confounds me.

@augustlan Oh. Phew…. For a moment you shocked me there… I now see that it was my mistake. Thanks. =)

But I do hope he gets better.. Because he wants to get better..

@jazzjeppe Wow… That’s an amazing post (if I could I’d give you lots more GAs). However, upon reading it, it would seem as if my friend falls into none of those categories! I agree that new methods are needed in our educational system, but I think that in his case, the circumstances are pretty unique..

Let me explain why. My friend is interested in his work. He tells me about his essays and what he’s written on them, and speaks with pride when he has written what he believes to be a good work. Then I think that his pride gets deflated a little when the teacher passes him back his essay, telling him that it was a great essay, except for the grammatical mistakes which detracted from the overall quality of the work. Same thing goes for maths, except that his careless mistakes can sometimes really make him lose major marks (but I’m aware that maths might be a totally different debate).

And the thing is, when the teachers pass him back his work with the corrections he’ll go, “What?! How did I get that wrong?! I know this!”, which makes me suspect that something else is the issue here…

Focusing purely on grammar, he tells me that when he’s writing an essay, he thinks in the present tense and hence writes in the present tense even though it may be wrong. Furthermore, he’s grown up watching television, and he tells me that for him, he learned grammar through ear, as opposed to learning through books. Could it be that because he’s learned his language through speaking and listening he isn’t that strong when it comes to the written word? He reads and understands, but could it be that because of the way he learned some rules didn’t lodge into his head? To emphasise how strong the influence of the mass media has been on him, he actually speaks in a different accent from most others here. Furthermore, he tells me that many of his ideas of the world and human relations were very strongly influenced by TV shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I would love to hear what you think of this. Hope that you can help to shed some light on this! =)

P.S. I might just show this thread to him when all’s thrashed out

janbb's avatar

I make a lot of careless errors when I am posting on Fluther and I used to teach writing! Proofreading is my friend. There are several proofreading tricks he can try. One is to read you essay backwards; that is to isolate each sentence from the main flow of the essay so that you don’t miss mistakes. Another is to read it aloud for grammatical errors (since you said he is articulate, this may help him.) For math, I don’t have any aprticular tricks, other than write down all you work and check it over before handing it in.

You are absolutely right, he will not be considered for journalism positions or possibly even journalism schools unless he gets his skills in order. There are two many people out there with them. And an editor will not have the time or interest to correct basic mistakes.

Does your school offer “extra help” in some form of after school tutoring? Ours did; each teacher stayed one afternoon a week to work with self-identified kids who wanted some extra help. This might help him. If they don’t have it, perhaps he could work with a private tutor or go to one of those commercial tutoring firms specifically to work on proofreading skills, basic grammar and math problem checking.

If he is a bright kid, as you say, it’s worth the time it will take to get this in order now so it doesn’t hamper him in uni and beyond.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@janbb Hmm.. That’s an interesting suggestion.. Articulating it out as a form of proof-reading.. I have no idea how his school works or whether the teachers give personalised remedials after school, but it’s pretty much irrelevant by now because the kids in his school are on a study break for the final examinations (these are the exams which pre-college/university institution he’ll be able to go to).

I just hope to help him for later on, and you guys are certainly giving me good ideas. Thanks all. =)

Judi's avatar

Maybe he’s a little bit dyslexic.

jazzjeppe's avatar

@Saturated_Brain Hmmm, then we need to find a third category where students who knows the correct grammar just simply don’t produce it….

The first thing that comes to mind here is that at some point teachers and school should be aware of his difficulties in writing and focus on the content instead. I mean there are natural reasons for why people are good at some things and bad at other things. Some are good at music, others are tone deaf, some are good at soccer, others can’t hit the ball even if it’s huge. These are natural differences and while some can be trained and improved, some we just have to live with.

Your friend’s problem is only in written, I take it? Is English his first language as well? It also seems as if the problem occurs when using different tenses. This is usually something that can be seen with students learning a second or a third language, or not so commonly, students who might lack….how can I see this in English…well, not having the ability to think in different tenses…time… kind of…. I wrote a paper at university on adopted children from mostly Asia. Some of them couldn’t get their tenses right and they lacked the ability to see the differences between for instance “soon” and “later”. Some of them couldn’t grasp something simple as “It takes two hours to drive to grandpa from here”, instead they needed to know the distance, then they could work out how long it would take. This difficulties in seeing, let’s call it “different perspectives of time” (sorry, my English isn’t the best either :)) could be traced back to their childhood. In many countries and cultures time isn’t that important as it is here where we live. If you would from the day you were born, be lying in a bed watching the sun rise and set, being fed now and then, but without knowing the time, this might be a tricky part to learn when you suddenly come to a place where time is important.

What I want to say with this little anecdote here is that there may be reasons why some are struggling with the sense of time. But when it comes to your friend it seems to be only showing in written form, right? There are actually here in Sweden, dialects that uses tenses wrongly in spoken and written.

I think that teachers at your school need to ease up a bit on the grammar part. Bad handwriting, bad spelling and bad grammar can have natural explanations, some as simple as not all are good at it. They should provide training of course, but when it comes to major school work like essays and papers, they should focus on content. At least this what I should do as a teacher. And more importantly, I would let him use a computer with spelling and grammar help. Now, some teachers think that this would be cheating, while others think that it’s a help, an aid, a tool. I am with the latter group of teachers. School can’t be so narrow-minded that we would flunk kids whose only problem is to have a bad grammar. There are more important things to life.

XOIIO's avatar

Sigh I don’t know. I can’t think of anything. I don’t care I give up.

Jeruba's avatar

I have read your question carefully. I’m not so sure I understand why this situation of your friend’s is such a problem for you. Seems like it’s really your friend’s problem to solve. There’s only so much you can do; the solution has to be in his mind and in his behavior, and I doubt that it’s a matter of collecting the right “tips.”

Either the problem is carelessness, for which the antidote is care, or it isn’t. If your friend has some actual difficulty that prevents his writing as well as he knows how, it probably requires the help and advice of some kind of expert in psychology or learning problems.

But possibly it isn’t carelessness, psychology, or a learning problem but simple ignorance. I don’t mean to be harsh, but schooling is meant to teach the very things your friend doesn’t seem to know. Watching TV isn’t the cause of lack of learning. In the absence of disability, it’s failure to read, pay attention, study, and practice. You can do those things at one time and still watch TV at another, but if you watch TV instead of doing them—well, you can’t suddenly know at 18 or 20 things you didn’t bother to learn at 10 or 12. The cure for ignorance is to work at learning and not to blame the grading system.

I must disagree with your notion that there seems to be more emphasis on form than substance. The emphasis has been going the other way for years. We have been losing ground in competent English for so long that I almost think it’s irreversible because there are so few teachers left who know enough to teach properly. The kind of mistakes I see all the time in hundreds of posts on fluther, things that we habitually overlook because they are so common, would not have been permitted in an elementary school classroom 50 years ago. The proper response to poorly educated students is not to lower the standards. It’s to work to the standards we do have and then gradually raise them.

I would tell your friend not to rely on being bailed out by editors in any future career. Many editors these days are apt to be just as ignorant as writers;, editors do expect writers to learn from their corrections; editors need to be able to figure out what something means before they can fix it; and editing work itself seems to be dying, another victim of bottom-line fever. To choose a career in which you lack one of the core competencies seems unwise to me. You might as well take up drumming without a sense of rhythm or study dentistry knowing you had no patience for slow, meticulous manual work.

DarkScribe's avatar

A good response Jeruba – as usual. I have a more simplistic attitude. A person who is “care-less” needs to be more “care-full”. It doesn’t help that their parents, employers, peers etc., wish them to be more careful, nothing will change until they want it to change. It is the same with weight-loss, education – effectively all aspects of life. If you don’t really want it, you aren’t likely to get it.

The problem is what my grandmother used to call “Galloping Laziness”. Wanting something, but not wanting enough to get off their ass and go get it.

zephyr826's avatar

Since you say he speaks much more clearly than he writes, I would suggest dictating his written work (to himself). This may not work, but for things to be prepared ahead of time, he could record himself giving his paper as a speech. Then he could listen to the recording and copy down what he’s said. It’s more time consuming, but may help with the errors. Perhaps this will also help him to learn better grammatical patterns since he would be learning them from himself.

YARNLADY's avatar

Fisrt things first. The person who is wanting to change should be the one asking the question. You cannot change someone else, and it’s not usually your job to try.

Learning to not be careless first takes the will to care, second takes a lot of practice. The very first thing would be to actually stop and think, then proceed.

wundayatta's avatar

If he doesn’t see it as a problem, there’s nothing you can do.

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