When it comes to homework assignments or work projects, there’s one thing that many people dread: deadlines. Why do we have them? And why are they called deadlines? That sounds so ominous, doesn’t it?

Deadlines are time limits that are set so that a particular task or goal is completed or achieved no later than a certain point in time. They have many purposes and, even if we don’t like them sometimes, they are important.

Try to imagine what school would be like if there were no deadlines associated with homework. Homework is often given to help you master things you’ve learned about in class. If you didn’t do your homework on a timely basis, it would be nearly impossible for your teacher to move your entire class forward to build upon what you’ve already learned.

The same holds true at work. If you have a job to do, it’s usually because someone is depending upon you to complete a task. If your job is to change the oil in a car, the people who own the cars need that job done in a reasonable time frame, so that their car will run smoothly and they can get where they need to be.

The term “deadline” has uncertain origins. The earliest uses of the word appear to have referred simply to lines that did not move. This usage may have developed into “deadline” being used around the time of the Civil War as a term related to prisons, meaning a line that could not be crossed by prisoners.

Eventually, the term began to be used by journalists in the sense we know today. This was most likely the result of the design of early printing presses that featured a guideline on the printing plate. Any text inside the line would be printed. Any text outside the line — the “deadline” — would not be printed and would “die.”

So, today, if you miss your deadline for homework, it’s not accepted or graded. Homework submitted on time will be accepted and graded. Your ultimate grade may depend upon whether you do your homework and keep it “alive” or miss the deadline and let it “die”!

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    • Hi, Justin! Thanks so much for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and letting us know what you’d like to learn about in a future Wonder! Did you know there are already some AWESOME Wonders about different religions that Wonder Friends practice around the world? Check them out: http://wonderopolis.org/category/religion/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  1. No! :( I was wrong. Today’s wonder of the day is not about homework. However, I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is the following:

    Baseball
    Basketball
    Football
    Soccer
    and Golf.

    I won’t be leaving another comment on Wonderopolis until Saturday, April 21, 2012 because I have school again.

    Goodbye, Wonderopolis until Saturday, April 21, 2012! :)

    TJ

    • We’re so happy to hear from you today, TJ! We think your ideas for what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about are AWESOME! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis on the weekend…we hope you have a SUPER week at school! :-)

    • It does sound a little weird, we agree, Rahul! We hope you learned some cool new facts about deadlines today. We know we sure did! :-)

  2. That video was weird. We don’t like deadlines at all, because Becca had this big huge project due a couple days ago on history. Do you like deadlines? Was the video post it notes?

    • Hello, Becca and Ally! Yes! The video was full of sticky notes! We think it was really clever and creative and must have taken a LONG time to make! We like deadlines sometimes, because they help keep us on track! We even set deadlines for ourselves once in a while so we can complete steps and achieve our goals! :-)

    • We’re glad you are excited to explore tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, Becca! We are, too! We WONDER what it will be about? :-)

  3. Cool wonder today!
    Maybe tomorrow’s wonder is about some sport girl (or guy) birthday or record breaking.
    That was kinda a lame guess, but whatever.
    Love all the wonders because they are about things I never thought about before!

    • It makes us smile that you thought today’s Wonder was cool and that you love learning new things in Wonderopolis, Cassidy! We NEVER think any guess about any next Wonder is lame…we love ALL the guesses our creative Wonder Friends like YOU leave for us! It makes us WONDER even more about what we will all learn about tomorrow! :-)

  4. I didn’t expect this wonder. Still, it’s cool. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about space.

    What a WONDERful wonder!

    • Well, we think you are a WONDERful Wonder Friend for leaving us this comment today, Annie! Thank you! We’re glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  5. This wonder made no sense. It doesn’t explain what a deadline is.
    He is loosing in tile games. This wonder was not good in my opinion.
    Next wonder should be about Michael Jordan.

    • Thanks so much for letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder, Brockrock$101! Deadlines are “time limits that are set so that a particular task or goal is completed or achieved no later than a certain point in time.” That means deadlines help us achieve our goals! The man in the video set a time limit to achieve his goal, but he is procrastinating, or finding other things to do, because he doesn’t want to work. He is daydreaming about fun things instead of focusing on his deadline! :-)

    • Hi there, Saad! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about deadlines today! We really appreciate your comment and hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  6. This one’s cool! I have to say I DID NOT KNOW. Now I think you should do a WONDER on Harry Potter! Or Greek myths! Go wonders!

    • We’re glad you liked today’s Wonder, Maxini! Thank for letting us know! Thanks, also, for sharing some of your ideas for future Wonders…we appreciate them! :-)

    • We’re super glad you like the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Caelah! Thanks so much for letting us know and THANK YOU for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Monnie! We try to pick the very best videos to accompany each Wonder of the Day®. Sometimes those videos explain the Wonder in a different way, and sometimes they are meant to encourage further thinking and Wondering beyond the story of each Wonder! We’re glad you liked the video we picked to go along with this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  7. You forgot to put a ? at the end of the sentence, “and why are they called deadlines.”
    Instead you put a period.

    • Thanks for sharing your favorite parts of the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Chesleigh! We think your comment ROCKS! :-)

  8. Wow, I never thought about deadlines before. You really bring the wonder material out of me. :). I WONDERed about things in the past, but this really takes the cake (#474)! I never knew any of the origins of the deadline! My favorite one is the journalist one. I wonder if there are any more origins for the deadlines? I wonder what everybody’s most common deadline is? I guess I have to find out myself. Thank you for being a source of knowledge for me. Keep WONDERing!!!! XD

    • Hello, Team McNeil 22! It makes us EXTREMELY happy to hear that you consider Wonderopolis to be a source of knowledge and that learning here brings out the WONDERer in you! We LOVE how you related past Wonder #474, too (that ROCKED!)!

      We think if you asked 100 different people, you might find that there are 100 different types of deadlines that are most important! We know LOTS of grown-up Wonder Friends who think the tax deadline in April is pretty important, but there are also deadlines to pay bills or apply to participate in events. We like to think of the “expiration date” on certain foods as a deadline, too! We know we have to eat that certain food before the deadline, or it might not be so great to eat! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this Wonder of the Day®, Reilly! We appreciate your comment and your opinion! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Tyler J! We hope you learned something new from our Wonder! Even though it may seem simple, there’s always something new to Wonder about! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why are they called deadlines?
  • Are deadlines necessary?
  • How can you make sure you meet your deadlines?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

What deadlines do you face on a weekly basis? Homework probably springs to mind quickly. You may also have deadlines for projects for extracurricular activities you participate in or responsibilities at home.

How can you deal with deadlines? The one tried and true approach to successfully meeting deadlines is…planning! That’s right. Just a little planning is all you need — as long as you follow you plan.

So give it a try right now. Pick out something you need to do that currently has a deadline. If you can’t think of anything, then think of something you want to do and assign a deadline to it.

Once you have something in mind, grab a pencil and paper and do some planning. Break the task down into all its parts. Estimate how much time each part will take. Take a look at how much time you have left before your deadline, and decide how much work you will need to do each day until the deadline arrives.

Be sure to include some time for last-minute changes and revisions. You will probably find that approaching deadlines this way helps give you peace of mind. When you can work steadily toward a goal with a plan, you’ll learn that you don’t have to worry or be anxious. Your plan will get you to your goal by your deadline!

Still Wondering

Explore ReadWriteThink’s Creating a Classroom Newspaper lesson to write authentic newspaper stories, including learning about various aspects of newspapers.

Wonder Categories/Tags

Wonder What’s Next?

Join us in Wonderopolis tomorrow for a look at a time-honored sports celebration.

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