“Mention,” a Favorite Verb of Student Writers

I’d just like to mention that student writers love to use the verb “mention.” This writer mentions this and that writer mentions that.

But Herman Melville did not mention a white whale in his novel; he wrote a 704 page book about it. William Shakespeare did not mention the prince of Denmark; he wrote his longest play about this conflicted gentleman. Homer did not mention the Trojan war; he wrote a 15,693 line poem exploring only the later part of the conflict. Edward Gibbon did not mention the fall of the Roman Empire; he penned a six volume work on the subject. Obviously, these are extreme examples, but students do tend to use the verb a lot!

Let’s ask ourselves why it is such a popular verb. Students use it for a good reason; they actually recognize that they should try for variety in the wording, rather than always writing “says,” “says,” “says.” In other words, the drive behind the word is a good one.

The problem, then, is not the reason they use the verb; it’s because they don’t know that it means “to discuss something briefly and casually.” Teachers should let them know what the verb means in mini lessons after an essay.

And, most importantly, teachers should elicit other possibilities from students, verbs like “writes,” “argues,” “claims,” “insists,” and “suggests.” I have sometimes overwhelmed my students with a long list of possibilities, but this is counterproductive as none tend to stick. Better to offer five or six possibilities.

Just wanted to mention this little pet peeve of mine. Now I feel much better.

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