Tuesday, December 27, 2011 Expert Advice
Where I grew up, in East Tennessee, most people I knew spoke indirectly. If they wanted something, they’d say “Do you mind to hand me that pen?” They apologized for everything (“I’m sorry; do you mind to repeat that?”). I learned to read between the lines, easily translating “Well, isn’t that different?” to “That dress is horrifying” or “Can I get you anything else?” to “Please leave now.”
After moving to a different region, I learned that this language of roundabout cordiality is not universal. I blushed with embarrassment when a friend ordered her (unsweet) tea by simply asking (no “when you have a minute” or “could I please have a?”). I wore myself out trying to read between lines that contained no subtexts and breaking the long-held habits of apologetic communication. I had to learn the dialect of straightforward.
Monday, December 19, 2011 APA
APA loves it when writers use citations. As other Writing Center bloggers have noted, all statements based on another author’s information, even if paraphrased, should include a citation to tell your reader the source. That usually means you will be citing a lot. In abstracts, though, APA has a few different requirements than the citation usage and formatting in the body of your paper.
Monday, December 12, 2011 Tech Tips
I bet an instructor or tutor has told you at some point to read your writing aloud. It’s true that this is a good practice during revision. By reading aloud, you can hear the rhythm and flow of the language and determine if the narrative progresses logically. I am taking this advice one step further, though: Have someone else read your paper to you. By becoming the audience instead of the writer, you can assess your writing—its strengths and weaknesses—more objectively. The words might still be your own, but they are now in someone else’s voice. This process allows you to step back and remove your emotional ownership of the material. Therefore, you should be able to listen for wordy phrases, awkward syntax, and repetitive ideas—things you don’t normally spot when you are in the groove of writing at your desk.
In the Writing Center, one of an editor’s primary responsibilities is reviewing dissertations and doctoral studies for form and style. This review is more than just a last stop for students on their way to earning a doctoral degree; it is also a prepublication review, meaning that one of our tasks as editors is to guide students toward creating a final document ready for publication. Let me pause here for a moment while we consider, again, the conclusion of that last sentence. A final document ready for publication. Dear reader, do those words give you a bit of a shiver? I hope they do, because they do me.