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Students always write their homework in their school contact books.

In fact, in that part of the world where I am now, students write their homework in their writing books and notebooks. But what they write in their contact books, while still in school, is the numbers of tasks and the numbers of pages (of their textbooks and workbooks), on which those tasks can be found.

So what word or group of words should I substitute for 'homework' in my sentence in order to avoid this ambiguity?

EDIT: If it's impossible to solve this by replacing only 'homework', then it's okay to replace the verb 'write', too.

In fact, having read some of the comments, I came up with this option:

Students always specify their homework assignments in their school contact books.

Do you think it's a good idea?

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  • 'Details of their homework'? Commented May 21, 2021 at 7:46
  • "Contact book" does not sound like what we would call it in English. "Notebook" or "workbook", maybe.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 11:20
  • Rather than focusing on "homework", you might want to consider alternatives to "write". Verbs like "list", "note", "record" or "take down" indicate that it's information about the homework (not the completed homework itself) that is written in the day planner. Commented May 21, 2021 at 12:59
  • @GaryBotnovcan - I think it's a very good suggestion! Can you, please, help me or at least give me some clue on how I could re-write that sentence without using the verb "write"?
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:10
  • @stangdon - Would you use "communication book" for that then? Or any other word? What I mean in my example is a thin copybook, like a very thin day planner, in which students put down some records about the homework that they need to complete at home, and it is also used for written communication between teachers and parents. Parents are also required to put down their signature in that book once a week.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:14

4 Answers 4

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+200

I agree that changing the focus from the word "homework" is a good idea.

Students always make a note of their homework in their school contact books.

I suggest making use of a different noun ("note" in this example) to set a context that will make the distinction clear.

Example of use from Old Buckenham High School:

In addition to all homework being set on Go4Schools. Students are expected to make a note of their homework and the deadline in their planner.

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  • That's exactly what I was looking for! Thank you.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 14:20
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assignments

First, never write "a homework," like you did in your question. "Homework" is a noncount noun. Second, despite the name, "homework" is NOT limited to being done at home but only refers to schoolwork students are given to do outside of class, the opposite of "classwork." Obviously, kids do their homework wherever and whenever, often not at home and often even in class. People understand this, all of us having been students at some point, so there's no ambiguity to avoid with "homework." Unless someone says it was done at home or the context conveys that, there's no basis to assume it was done at home.

That being said, if seeking an alternate word for that sentence, you might try "assignments." Schoolwork, whether classwork or homework, is "assigned" (i.e., A teacher assigns students schoolwork.). So a common, catchall, scholastic phrase free on any mention of location is "assignment," which in your context would be plural, so "assignments."

Example:

This assignment should take an hour or so for each of you to complete. I'll give you the 25 minutes we have left in class to start working on it and to ask any questions you may have about problems or concerns you run into. Please take advantage of this time I'm giving you. This assignment is due tomorrow. Since I gave you until tomorrow to do yesterday's assignment, that means both assignments are due tomorrow, so have them ready and in-hand as I'll be collecting both assignments when class starts.

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  • It looks like the very first sentence in your example, "This assignment should take an hour or so for each of you to complete", flies right in the face of your explanation on the usage of the word "assignments". How long does it usually take students in the end of the class to copy from the blackboard the numbers of pages they need to complete back at home (or elsewhere)? Twenty to thirty seconds at most! How can then assignments take "an hour or so" to complete?! It look like the word "assignments" in your example is still used in the sense of homework.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:03
  • Besides, when teacher says, "I'll be collecting both assignments when class starts" (the last sentence in your example), he, of course, doesn't mean the numbers of pages that gave to the students earlier.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:07
  • @brilliant - There still seems to be an issue regarding the full understanding of a Contact Book. It seems to be integral to what you are describing but I don't believe anyone responding to your question is considering the use of a Contact Book. No one knows what it is. The bit about copying down the number of pages, is confusing to me. I don't think copying down the number of pages is a standard, iterative task in formal western education.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:48
  • @EllieK - It's funny, but they use it in American schools (those full of American teachers) in Asia. So what would you use instead of "contact book"? Would "communication book" be more understandable?
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 13:51
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    @EllieK - "The bit about copying down the number of pages, is confusing to me" - It was "copying the numberS of pages". I meant the ordinal numbers of pages from the book that students were supposed to complete (like "pp. 23-34"). That could also be simply a number of the unit or a part of it to complete (like "Unit 5, chapter 3"). Or it could also be numbers of math problems, for examples, to solve (like "page 3, problems 4 and 9; page 5, problems 12-15")
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 14:35
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A teacher assigns some homework.

Then, students write down the homework assignments in their notebooks.

Then they do their homework.

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  • The problem is, in a separate sentence like "Students write down homework assignments in their notebooks" it will still not be clear whether it is the homework itself or just the homework-locating information.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:32
  • @brilliant - The homework is not generally completed in a notebook. Homework in the U.S. is generally a separate print out with separate pages stapled together and given to the students (at least that's what it was several decades ago). Your notebook is for notes, including what homework is due. The actual homework is distributed in diverse handouts that are then turned in to the instructor. All of your homework at the end of a semester would be a stack of papers, some stapled together, but not in a booklet form.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 13:01
  • The teacher assigns some homework. The students write down what is due (i.e. read The Stranger and write a six page essay on existentialism) in their notebooks. Then, on separate sheets of clean paper, the students complete the homework (write the six page essay) and turn it in the next day.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 13:03
  • @EllieK - Thank you. So, it looks like "what is due" is the answer then. But I am afraid that in a separate sentence like "Students always write what is due in their school contact books" the scope of meaning becomes broader than homework-locating info and even broader than homework.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 1:07
  • @brilliant You're really worrying too much about this. While technically ambiguous, everyone will understand what you mean in context. I can't recall ever having any confusion or miscommunication about homework / assignments. And I had a lot of homework and now have school-age kids ;) Don't overthink it. By turning to less common phrases to try to eliminate ambiguity, you will actuality instead invite more confusion.
    – TypeIA
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 4:56
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Since the question seems to be cropping up, I'll first address the use of "contact book." While I'm not sure precisely what your use entails, context suggests what I'd call a "planner," a sort of calendar with space to write notes for each date. I've had school-issued ones in the past (American schools), which teachers never strictly required but generally expected us to use.

On to the actual question: I'd opt for "write down their assignments". "Write down" is less ambiguous than "write" because it suggests copying or recording something predefined, rather than putting thought into it. While not unambiguous in every way, it sounds natural and would bring the correct idea to most listeners' minds.

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