There are many ways for students to annoy their professors: “Did I miss anything important?” (No, nothing like that happens in our class.) “Will this test affect my grade?” (No, not at all.) “What are your office hours?” (They’re the first thing on the syllabus.) Most professors understand that such questions are harmless; few, if any, would give the responses I’ve imagined here.
An annoyance that’s less understandable is the absence of a staple to hold together pages of written work. No matter how good an essay or report might be, a missing staple says a lot. Unstapled work says that the writer either doesn’t know what finished work looks like or isn’t willing to take the care necessary to produce it. Unstapled work says that the writer couldn’t be bothered to use a stapler in a library or residence hall or ask a friend. (My son tells me of a table in his undergraduate library with ten staplers available for students’ use). Unstapled work might also indicate a failure to follow directions, as many course assignments carry a reminder to staple. Worse perhaps than the absence of a staple are turned-down upper-left corners, which seem to acknowledge that there’s something wrong, but that the writer can’t be bothered to fix the problem properly. And worse still is the question that comes up in class when written work is due: “Do you have a stapler?”
In such circumstances, some professors become codependent, so to speak, bringing a stapler to class when writing is due. To my mind, such professors are giving their students a false picture of the workings of the larger (so-called real) world. Can you imagine submitting a report or proposal as a sheaf of loose pages? Or asking your boss for a stapler before handing over that work? If not, start now, and staple! Unless, of course, your professors prefer paper clips.