#763 – Unshelved

I went to college during this weird transition period where it was still uncommon to own your own computer. I had to write a paper for a class and it was required to be 2 typed pages. I hadn’t taken the school’s “intro to computers” class so I was not allowed to use the computer lab yet. My only choice was to rent a typewriter station down at Kinkos to type up my paper. The typewriter had different wheels that could be swapped out to change the font. I selected the largest font available and adjusted the line spacing to one notch below ridiculous. Even with all that I just barely made it to two pages. I don’t even remember what that class was. I went to art school so I didn’t get much practice in paper padding.


33 thoughts on “#763 – Unshelved”

  1. Drakey says:

    I have spent the last few days working on a ten-page research paper, and having trouble getting it to fit within the ten pages.

  2. PsychoDuck says:

    “HA”? Guess it’s a comedy novel.

    The Duck Has Spoken.

  3. Mike Chapman says:

    The key to paper-padding is subtlety. Big print and wider margins and spacing is a dead giveaway. Some more convincing ways are to use as many big words as possible; adopt a colloquial tone, as it both does wonders for readability and provides ample opportunity for lots of adjectives and adverbs and articles and such; my favorite, subtly add a few extra spaces in order to push that big word onto the next line.

  4. Space Butler says:

    @Mike Chapman
    Those techniques (and expanding every contraction) are staples in my essay writing arsenal. Sometimes I worry that they’ll catch on to my needless reiterations, rhetorical questions, and all around FILLER, but it usually dazzles them if I make it shiny enough.

  5. i.half4 says:

    Alice week? “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.”

    To pad papers, buy a copy of Elements of Style, and read it backwards. This will teach you to go from simplified to more complicated sentences.

  6. Crimson1regret says:

    Taller and smaller?

    Hmm, I have to say, your story is foregin to me, chris.

    I have always had a vast word bank, even growing up, and I could always articulate myself in such a way I ussually went above the maximum pages, and had to make my font smaller.

    Infact, I was forced to write up a 1 page paper for an application for a leadership position, and ended up lowering the font, and having to cut my fancy-pants nounage and verbage. =)

  7. Michael says:

    I’m excellent at padding essays. The word “moreover” is a wonderful filler. What goes up must come down, moreover, what is coming down must be said to have gone up prior to this with respect to a gravitational body. This body, however, need not be Earth.

  8. Anji says:

    I hate essays. Why can’t my argument be one or two sentences long? I’ve made my point and I’m either right or wrong. The end.

    I really don’t care to persuade the reader or anything. I think it’d be easier if everything was in Twitter format of 140 characters or less and you’re only allowed a maximum of three ‘tweets’ per page. It’s be genius!

  9. Linzleh says:

    After having written 5 papers in the last two weeks that were four pages or more & one was in french; I am fried on writing…my keyboard is tired too! I crave Biff’s teacup. ?Theme: Supersize or minimize?

  10. The Scarf says:


    I actually do know a few techniques, one of the more subtle ones being to go back through when you’re done and make all of the periods one size bigger. It adds just enough to give you that extra few lines at the end.

  11. Glenn says:

    Ahh, college. Long ago, and in a place about 3 miles from where I am now, I took a General Education class in “The Psychology of Prejudice”. This class was a sick excuse for a joke, as well as an excuse to give a tenured but otherwise worthless professor a job. As a Gen Ed class, we were required to produce 10 pages of writing–the teacher wanted it as one paper, which he TOLD us he would not be reading–just riffling through to make sure it wasn’t an obvious copy or all blank lines. He wouldn’t even be grading the paper, he said, because how could anyone expect him to read all that? It was a 3-day a week class, and one day a week he showed a movie. To get an ‘A’. you were required to go beyond the class requirements and had to give an oral presentation of the paper, to the class, for half the period, so the teacher wouldn’t even have to do his job for that time. Needless to say, I hacked out SOME piece of garbage the night before on my old typewriter, and took a ‘B’ in the class, because I wasn’t about to do his job for him. I think I showed up less than a third of the class, most of that in the beginning of the semester. My one regret is that I missed the day that the college handed out the student review forms for him–obviously I would have given him a good scathing.

  12. i.half4 says:

    Hey! Are those pictographs?

    Did I already mention the friends with the black cat named Rorschach? Well, not lately anyway. And you know how cats never get tired of those same old songs. Blablablabla, blablablabla, blablablablablablablabla…

  13. Amy says:

    I usually end up doing all sorts of crazy tricks to make my paper shorter (wider margins, 11.5 instead of 12 font, periods at size 10, 1.5 spacing, etc.). Unfortunately, an essay I should be writing now but am pushing off in favor of Biff doesn’t have a page limit. It has a word limit. All the stupid formatting tricks in the world won’t help me state my point in 700-800 words. That’s too long for generalizations but too short for thorough detail. GAH!

  14. Beth says:

    Ha! I’m a professor and onto ALL these tricks, folks! 😉

    First off, all papers are submitted electronically (and are returned commented upon in the same way – no trees die for my class!), so the first thing I do is simply SET the file to be the required font, margins and spacing. And I have no problem commenting: “you wrote a lot of words here that don’t actually convey any meaning”.

    However, I set page requirements fairly low because I have a lot of students and can only read so much (unlike Glenn’s prof, I do actually read and thoughtfully comment on every paper). So I get “my paper is too long, is that okay?” far more than short padded papers.

  15. Jonath Nell says:

    Wow… I they made you take a class to use the computer lab. Yet they expected you to be able to type up papers before taking the required class. Clearly something was a bit off there.

  16. Steve says:

    I can’t type an e-mail these days without it being way too long and full of unnecessary information, all thanks to college. Now, I end up trimming instead of padding so that people can read my messages and get distilled raw data (something I used to tout when I bashed long papers). Unfortunately, I mastered the art of paper padding too late for it to actually serve me well for most of college. 😛 And look what I’ve done here — this comment could have been like a single sentence. Is it a curse?

  17. Radical Edward says:

    Writing papers for people is not really that great, especially if I want to have fun with my writing. I have used typewriters and I hate them. I am more use to computers.

  18. DracoZereul says:

    I’ve always had to wonder the logic behind teachers/professors assigning anything above a 5 page requirement for an essay. What’s worse is if/when they assign a 5-page essay that only has about 3 pages of information if you directly plagiarized it. Teachers like that are outright asking for a little BS in their papers, and it drives me nuts.
    Truth be told, I’m on both sides of the fence. In the case of regular assignments – and during quiz/tests Essay questions – my answers will last one, maybe two sentences tops, and that’s with the usual “repeat the question back before you answer” padding every teacher demands. On the other hand, in the case of essays, or with stuff I have a decent level of experience/interest in, I do generally tend to needlessly stretch out my work. Examples can be found in this text right here XP.
    Also, one thing that I’ve seen so many people choke on is the concept of Double Spacing. I’ve met so many people who just have to go “Man, I have to write 5 whole pages on this stupid subject by next week!” to which I’ll respond “Actually, you only have to write 2-and-a-half ‘whole’ pages, then double-space it.”

  19. yoshord says:

    My current english teacher doesn’t have page requirements. The teacher is one of the people who like teaching and reading student essays, though, so quality is still required. If fluff is as common as it has been claimed here, it might be why the teacher doesn’t have such requirements.
    I am one to completely ignore page requirements when they do exist, so I do not have skills in my ability to make complex, unnecessarily-long sentences that serve mostly as fluff. Perhaps the only reason I’ve continued passing written assignments is because teachers know that 2 pages with fluff generally means one-or-less page of content, and I have 1.5 pages but no/limited fluff…

  20. MaskedMan says:

    When padding papers, purple prose is my closest friend and ally, whithout which I’d be far adrift out to sea in an endless ocean of drudger – Lost to all mortalkind…

  21. -2! says:

    I am heading to University in the fall and as of high school I have never padded anything or done anything to make something longer or shorter.

    Some of my friends have though (in incredibly obvious ways).

    I am however going into physics and in science courses there has never been a required size for labs. It has been funny though when my small labs get like 90% compared to other peoples padding.

  22. Chefs Brian says:

    my class is notorious for padding. 9th grade ATM. our english teacher has us do novel studys with big projects that you can do, or an essay option. always the essay. always says briefly describe your novel in 2-3 pages. normally i can hit the goal with slight/no padding, but some of the guys in our class, they don’t even read there chosen book, and hence take the information on the back, and pad it. describe how one person takes a book about the people who worked on nuclear physics and turned it into a book about nuclear warfare on mars. and he got a C for creativity. creative bull, basically.

    wonder whats gonna happen on friday. maybe,, biff gets oversized/shrunk, and finds something stupidly inconvenient

  23. -2! says:

    I know exactly what the novel is saying


  24. Space Butler says:

    Teachers like that are great! I’d be glad to write nothing but succinct and meaningfully dense papers, if they didn’t require them to be unreasonably long! Strikes me as a tad hypocritical.

    Hey, pocket novels are at least about a hundred pages or so. There would at least be a few sentences before ending in a cliffhanger.

  25. i.half4 says:

    Monty Python’s “novel writing” audio track: “Oh, dear. He’s signing his name to it again…”

    I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Perhaps a time travel series, the function of which depends on the direction of decryption. ie: Forward in time: Captain’s bars to Star Fleet Insignia. …D’oh! Scotty! Get me back!

  26. hwertz says:

    Wordperfect was GREAT for this.. it had an option “make this x pages long”. Of course, if you were TOO short it’d get ludicrous… but it’d start subtle, like taking 1/8th” off the margins, and increasing from single spaced to 1.25 spaced lines, increasing from 12 point to 13 point, etc.

    A trick someone just told me last week, they could get several extra lines just by making the periods *only* larger type.

  27. When I was in college, I would occasionally start writing short stories. My “weapons of choice” were a 1977 Smith-Corona Coronamatic 2500 electric typewriter, an Apple //c with a daisy wheel printer, and a Tandy TRS-80 Model 200 laptop… This was in 2001-03… The only reason I purchased a new computer (which I still use to this day) was due to my CAD classes. I probably have about a ream worth of unfinished stories, plus a pile of 5″ floppies….

  28. i.half4 says:

    Hmmmm… That program must apply the same algorithm they use to desimplify their source codes.

    …Well it’s not like I’m the first to say it. Java me, Joe?

  29. i.half4 says:

    BTW, as if there were any doubt, I’m just being a poser when I talk bugintheshop that way. I’ve just got a knack for words, so if I’m slopping about little ich.bots wherever I go, would someone please clue me in? I *will* shut up until time gets us past this rough patch.

  30. i.half4 says:

    Signed… ich.botcane_ra?

  31. elttaes says:

    Heh. I’m a Taekwondo Instructor now, but English (specifically creative writing) is what I got my degree in.

    One of the old requirements (since dropped) for becoming an instructor in my organization was a 10-page essay on some martial-art related topic. My instructor tried hanging that over my head like it was some kind of threat. Pfft. It’s a couple more pages than I’ve written in a while, but if I get to pick the topic and it’s a subject I’m passionate about… yeah, it might take me two days, but probably not.

    Heck, I’ve been running a Warhammer 40k-related website for 7 years now. I’ve put about 3 pages a week on it, every week for that whole time. It’s not padding, either. Funny how easy it is to write when the subject is something you are interested in.

  32. Miles says:

    I remember in elementary school, a paper for a science project had to be typed and double spaced. I had no idea that double spaced referred to the lines between sentences and not hitting the spacebar twice between words. I’d hated that paper.
    Usually I don’t need to expand to bigger fonts, or any other such tactics. When I write papers, I tend to write missives anyway. I find myself doing such things even in instant messaging programs.

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