Scrupulous Meanness

While reviewing our department’s new guidelines for writing portfolios—which I had reviewed previously during a meeting—I noticed that we ask the students to proofread with “scrupulous meanness.”

Though I had to look up that sophisticated phrase, I now assume that the department desires malicious proofreading with its Joycean sense of lacking generosity. The more commonplace definitions for meanness include inferior quality or commonness and selfishness. Synonyms for meanness include pettiness, baseness, and low-mindedness.

If a student who is ignorant of the Joycean allusion proofreads in petty and low-minded fashion—but really works at it—could the student mount a serviceable defense on the basis of our policy document?

Procedural documents were not so entertaining when I worked in the corporate world.

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