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A character is given a line to write over and over and over again as punishment. In the classic version, the character is a child in school, and the line is of the form "I will/must not (do X) in class."

Coming up with methods to evade, enliven or simplify this punishment is commonly attempted. These include getting a computer program or magical spell (in Wizarding School) to write the lines automatically, taping multiple pens together so you can write multiple lines at a time (which does not work in Real Life), drawing a vertical line down the page to reduce each sentence by one word (by creating a non-serif 'I' for the phrase 'I must'), farming the lines out to underlings or altering your handwriting so that 'I must not' starts to look like 'I must'. These may be used successfully by a High School Hustler. Other characters trying this will most likely be caught out and have to redo the work properly.

A variation on this trope is occasionally seen, in which the repeated line is to be spoken (in a deadpan mutter) instead of written.

Examples of Writing Lines include:


Film

  • Monty Python's Life of Brian features a scene where Brian is caught by a Roman centurion while he's writing "Romans go home!" on the wall of the amphitheatre. The centurion couldn't care less what the actual message is, he's just pissed at Brian's poor Latin grammar and promptly delivers a Latin lesson. Brian is then told to write the message in proper Latin 100 times on the wall before sunrise.
    • He completes it barely in time, with a worn-out brush and empty paint tin. The guards that have stayed behind to be sure that Brian completes his task then leave, and the second they disappear behind the corner, another Roman patrol shows up - and these guards actually notice what he has written, whereupon the chase begins...
  • The Shining: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", formatted like it was actual text for extra creepiness points.
  • The entire Ducks team is detained for quacking at the principal.

Literature

  • Harry Potter:
    • The infamous detentions with Professor Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix. Harry is forced to write with a quill that doesn't use ink, but as you write, the words are etched onto your hand, and the writing appears on the paper in your own blood. He still has the "I must not tell lies" scar in the last two books. And the wound proper doesn't appear the first time: for Harry to receive the scars, he had to write the line several times, every night of the week, on several occasions.
    • More benignly and amusingly, one of Harry's classmates is set conventional lines. After screwing up a spell he must write out "I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick."
  • In Gordon Korman's book The War With Mr. Wizzle, the new Pointy-Haired Boss of an assistant principal introduces lines as a standardized universal punishment. The students retaliate by picking a handful to write everybody's lines for them, giving the other students time to sabotage Wizzle's computer, make an Invented Individual, and so on. (The kids who get picked to do lines soon begin to resent the ones who got assigned to the fun stuff, but they prevail anyway.) By contrast, the Headmaster, Mr. Sturgeon, whose power the students respect, disapproves of lines and prefers to impose lengthy essays as punishment.
  • One of the protagonists of Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones is assigned lines. He tries to invent a spell that will animate a pen to write them for him; it works, sort of, but the pen doesn't remember which order the words are supposed to go in, so he has to rewrite them by hand.
  • Sethra Lavode punishes one of her followers this way in the Dragaera book Yendi. The character had been involved in some really evil plotting, but was too valuable to The Empire to kill. Sethra exiles her to a timeless desert "pocket dimension", and has her write "I will not interfere with the Dragon Council" 17 x 17 x 17 x 17 times in the sand. (17 is a sacred number in their culture.)
  • In Frindle, to make the students stop referring to pens as "frindles", the teacher makes them stay after school and write "I am writing this with a pen" one hundred times. The students make a game of seeing how many times they can get away with changing the sentence to "I am writing this with a frindle."
  • George and Harold from the Captain Underpants series have been punished this way so many times that they keep a set of poles in their backpacks they put several chalksticks into to write multiple lines at once.
  • In the autobiographical Homesick: My Own Story, Jean Fritz says she would write fifty "I"'s, fifty "will"'s, etc so she wouldn't have to think about what she was writing, because she wasn't really promising not to talk in class.
  • Parodied (unsuprisingly) in the Discworld book The Last Continent. The Bursar recalls a fellow student wizard who invented a machine to write lines for him, however preparing the machine and winding it up took far longer than it would to write the lines. Nevertheless, other students would queue up and pay to use it.
  • Harry and the Wrinklies, about a boy adopted by a retirement home full of well-meaning ex-cons, has an amusing occurrence: Harry is unfairly given lines as a punishment, so the resident forger tells him to just do half a dozen and he'll print off the rest.
  • In Naamah's Curse, Moirin's penance, set for her by the Patriarch of Riva who is holding her prisoner, is that she must scrub the floor of the cathedral, on her hands and knees, with a very small scrub brush and a bucket of lye. For each floor tile, she must recite the line "Yeshua the Anointed, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It's a very large cathedral.
  • In the 1956 young-adult novel Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams, Danny's teacher, in an effort to get him to stop daydreaming about space travel, makes him write "Space flight is a hundred years away" over and over. Before he can begin the assignment, the spaceship his friend Professor Bullfinch has secretly invented is accidentally lauched, with Danny and friends aboard. They make it back to Earth and Danny presents the assignment to his teacher, having finished it during the voyage. She humbly says she'll keep it as a souvenir.

Live Action TV

  • Italian Comedic Sociopathy series Camera Cafe has Paolo ending up this way because he screwed with the girls in the office.The result is this trope, but on a paper sheet lying on the floor. An enormous one, at that. It covers the whole corridor.
  • In Warehouse 13, Artie makes Claudia fill a blackboard with "I will not disobey Artie" after she almost destroys the Warehouse by using a magnetic coat to change a lightbulb.
  • In one episode of So Weird, Annie and Jack get trapped in a magical version of detention by an artifact until they can learn to get along with each other. One of the assignments is to fill a blackboard with lines. A blackboard that covers every inch of the courtroom. They're understandably sore after it's over.
  • Tootie is given this assignment in an episode of The Facts of Life. She tries to get away with writing the sentence only once and putting ditto marks (") under each word for the rest of them. Needless to say, it doesn't fly.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze has the students in Sunday Detention writing the kanji "reflection" a thousand times. Gentaro, on the other hand, needs to do his with a calligraphy brush.

Music

Newspaper Comics

  • Happens constantly to Jason in FoxTrot. He tried to automate it with a C+ programming script twice; once by printing out the lines with the computer to tape it to the blackboard, and once by writing the script directly in chalk. Miss O'Malley didn't accept either attempt.
    • Jason has even written lines in advance, such as "I will not throw paper airplanes during assembly" the day before the actual assembly, explaining he had a doctor's appointment after school and couldn't stay late.
  • The Far Side had a caveman writing "I will not act primitive in class."
    • Also, a young Doctor Frankenstein writing "I will not play in God's domain."

Theater

  • In Damn Yankees, Applegate punishes Lola for her conscientious failure to seduce Joe by asking her to repeat the line, "Never feel sorry for anybody."
  • At the end of the second act of Mary, Mary, after one of Mary's stupid remarks drives her ex-husband out of his own apartment into the winter night, Mary starts repeating "I must keep my big mouth shut" to herself "mechanically, like a child writing 'lines' as a punishment" (as the stage directions put it).

Western Animation

  • Bart writing lines on the blackboard in the OP of The Simpsons. The actual lines differ from episode to episode. Including the movie in which the line to write is "I will not illegally download this movie".
    • In the episode "Lisa's Date with Density," when the music teacher, Mr. Largo, makes Lisa write lines after class, Nelson suggests saving time by using the music staff chalk holder to write five lines at once.
    • In "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie", Mrs. Krabappel makes Marge write "I will try to raise a better child". When Marge questions the value in doing this, Mrs. Krabappel simply tells her, "Just do it!"
    • At one point, Bart writes "Nobody reads these anymore" and later "Does any kid still do this anymore?" as a reference to the increasing rarity of these as the show progresses, as well as becoming a Discredited Trope in general.
    • Bart even gooses Principal Skinner into doing this, who then complains about how it's making his hand lock up. Bart then replies that he's been doing that so long the bones in his hand and wrist "sound like a cement mixer" (complete with unnerving sound effects).
  • A parody of The Simpsons intro on Histeria! has Loud Kiddington writing "I do not need a megaphone!"
  • Ms. Barch of Daria will often assign lines to male students because, well, they're male.
  • Doug imagines doing this until he's an old man, then his teacher orders him to do it again.
  • The pilot episode of Invader Zim has Miss Bitters ordering Dib to write that Zim is not an alien.
  • The first Chalk Zone episode has Rudy writing "Cartoons are not funny" over and over on the blackboard, until his piece of chalk breaks. The next stick he grabs is the magic chalk, and you know the rest.
  • The Fairly Oddparents special Channel Chasers has the inevitable Simpsons parody in which Timmy writes on the blackboard, "This is the sincerest form of flattery."

Real Life

  • Adam Clarkson was told to write a hundred lines. If he didn't finish by the end of the day, that number would double. After over half a year, it had reached 10^19 lines, and he was told that if he didn't finish them that day, it would be squared. That was in 1998. It's now much, much more than a googolplex.
    • By October 16, 2007 the number became larger than 10^10^1000. (The next major checkpoint, 10^10^10000, will only be achieved on August 24, 2089.)
  • Cadets at the United States Military Academy (and several other military schools in the US) perform a variation of the trope when they get in trouble. Instead of writing lines, they march back and forth in a courtyard on the campus. Presumably part of the deal is they have to maintain proper marching form while doing so, which can be exhausting.
    • Presumption about other military schools is correct: this troper attended Massanutten Military Academy (military high school) and will attend New Mexico Military Institute (junior college and high school) as preparation for Virginia Military Institute (Senior Military College). All three of those institutions include punishment tours as a form of discipline. The Citadel does it as well.
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