Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Make certain your referents are clear. Remember that your reader is not as close to the research or the writing you’ve been doing. When you write “this theory,” “that point” or refer to an “it,” is it clear to which theory, point, or “it” you’re referring? When you use “he,” “she,” or “the critics,” consider whether your reader will have to pause to try to figure out the answer to the question: who are these people?

The infamous “this.” As in: I will elaborate on “this” later. As writers, we often throw the word “this” around when we’re not entirely sure what aspect of our argument we want to draw our readers’ attention to, especially when making a complex argument with multiple elements. Occasionally, vague language can be a symptom of confused thinking. Stop and ask yourself, what does “this” refer to? What words could I replace “this” with that would clarify your intention to the reader? If you can’t answer easily, go back to what you’ve already written and clarify your ideas in that section. Remember, it is impossible for your readers to understand what you mean when you don’t understand yourself.

Never write “that” when referring to a person: As in: “The man that discovered numerous uses for…” or “The author that she referred to first wrote on the subject of bee pollination.” The man and the author referred to are people, not objects, and it’s rather insulting to call them “that,” not to mention completely grammatically wrong. Use who or whom, such as: “The man who discovered numerous uses for…” and “The author to whom she was referring….” Unsure of whether to use who or whom? Read on to the next section.

“Who” is what doing what to “whom?” Ask yourself the previous question when you’re uncertain which word to use. The one that does the action (the subject) is the “who.” The one that receives the action (the object) is the “whom.”

A tip for learning the rules. Although all this grammar stuff may seem challenging and like there’s way too much to learn, learning the rules once and for all will help you write freely and intelligently. To help with this task, try starting a text file in which you list the rules you need help with and refer to it when you write. I have done this numerous times as an editor. The best part is that you can add new information to your file any time you come across it. You can look rules up in numerous style manuals or on various sources available on the Internet. Just be sure your sources are legitimate and actually know what they’re talking about. One way to figure out whether your source is legitimate is to see who published it. Usually anything published by a university or college can be considered pretty reliable. You can also always consult with your friendly neighborhood editor.

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As a professional freelance editor, proofreader, and writer, I believe there is nothing more important than expressing your thoughts clearly. If you’re in need of an editor or writer, you can contact me at expert.editing.service@gmail.com and I’ll happily provide you with the expert editing or writing help you deserve. From MA theses, PhD dissertations, and undergraduate compositions to essays for admittance (college and grad level) and creative or business projects, I have the experience to take it from good to stellar and from not so good to fabulous.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to work for a number of incredible institutions, both freelance and as a full-time staff member. Among them are So To Speak, a small literary journal advocating feminist art and writing; Heldref Publications, a nonprofit publisher of scholarly journals and magazines in Washington, DC; and Sage Publications, one of the largest publishers of scholarly journals. I have a BA in Liberal Arts (Literature) from Penn State University and an MA in Literature from George Mason University. In addition, I’ve studied at Cambridge University, England, as part of my degree from GMU.

Through these opportunities, I’ve had extensive independant research and academic writing and editing experience in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. I have considerable interest and academic work in cultural studies, women’s studies, postcolonial literature, and editing. Outside of my personal interests, I have edited many types of articles, theses, and dissertations (e.g., scientific, humanities, and law) as well as books, Web content, guides, newsletters, catalog copy, advertisements, and more. My writing experience includes guides, Web content (including blog posts, reviews, and travel writing), academic research papers, catalog copy, and more.

If you’re interested in my services and/or would like more infomation about my background, please feel free to email me, Melanie, at expert.editing.service@gmail.com

I offer extremely competitive rates and lightening-fast turnaround (depending on your needs, of course). I also have experience working with particularly sensitive documents, so you can rest assured that your documents will remain completely confidential.

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Always identify abbreviations the first time you use them.

You do not need to identify the abbreviation if you feel confident that your reader is able to identify the acronym, such as when the acronym is more commonly used than the words it abbreviates (for example, it would be unnecessary to write out all the words for CEO, NATO, or AIDS). It’s always good to keep your audience in mind, however; although you may feel that readers who are specialists in the discipline for which you are writing may not want or need to have terms spelled out for them, some style guides require that this be done at the first occurrence of the term.

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I recently stumbled on an article in the Guardian called Ten rules for writing fiction. The article was inspired by Elmore Leonard, an American novelist who writes westerns, crime fiction, and suspense thrillers, and whose work has been acclaimed for its realism and strong dialogue. You can find his complete guide of the same name here.

The Guardian article begins with Leonard’s rules and includes those of many other notable writers, such as Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, P.D. James, and A.L. Kennedy.

I’ve included Margaret Atwood’s contribution in its entirety in the following to give you a little taste of just how great these are:

1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8. You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9. Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10. Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

I highly recommend reading everyone’s lists; they are useful, accurate, and at times, hilarious. You won’t be disappointed.

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An article on The New York Times web site today details the recent uproar over Helene Hegemann’s new best-selling book “Axolotl Roadkill” and whether shouts of plagiarism are warranted or simply overreaction. The book, whose author is a mere 17 years of age, is receiving equal parts vehement support and detraction. As Nicholas Kulish details in the Times article, the book has been nominated as a finalist of the Leipzig Book Fair–no small accomplishment.

However, many others feel that there were simply too many passages lifted, nearly verbatim, from other sources to be considered a legitimately original work. Many of the borrowed passages come from a work called “Strobo” by Airen and from his blog.

PressEurope, makes an interesting observation about what it dubs the “virtual poets society,” in which there is no longer any distinction between fact and fiction. Hegemann maintains that there is in fact, “no such thing as originality anyway, there’s only authenticity.”

Merriam-Webster online defines authenticity as “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” My question is, can one really be true to one’s own character when he or she is slipping into the work of another person like a costume?

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matthew-arnoldIn the past, I’ve written on the importance of good writing skills, as well as posted some tips to improve writing skills. This post is an extension of those previous entries and might act as an example of good writing in action. Because I mentioned Matthew Arnold and his belief in the English language and its literature as the basis of a good education in my post about the importance of good writing skills, I felt it would be appropriate to use him as the example. Thinking about this while tooling around on the Internet, I came across an opinion essay called “Discourse Integration by Manipulation: Matthew Arnold” by Avon Crismore, written for the Center for the Study of Reading in which Crismore examines Arnold’s writing style. The full text of the article is available through ERIC (or Education Resources Information Center) and a summary of the abstract can be found in the following:

In the writing of Matthew Arnold, integration, one great impression rather than many great individual lines, is the most important goal. In his essay, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” the “blocs” of his thoughts occur in sets of two, three, or even four sentences: in effect, he writes much like a poet, in couplets, triplets, and quatrains. He also uses a variety of devices to combine his blocs into larger discourse units. His high level of redundancy helps readers integrate and process his difficult text. He manipulates structure to attain parallelism and characteristically puts the most important information in subordinate clauses and phrases. On the semantic level, he does not use many synonyms, preferring repetition of key words to achieve cohesion. This repetition slows the presentation of new information and leads to greater ease of processing. Arnold’s discourse blocs, surface form manipulations, foregrounding, and redundancy all serve to help him develop his ideas while keeping his sentences intermeshed and his prose coherent.

Although Arnold wrote the text in question in 1895, I feel that a modern reader can still access it today with ease. Thanks to Google Books, a digitized version of Arnold’s complete work (“The Function of Criticism at the Present Time”) is available for your perusal by clicking on the link provided in the previous paragraph. I strongly recommend reading Crismore’s work or at least skimming it (at 29 pages this should not take very long) and then reading a good bit of Arnold’s piece, looking for those devices and techniques that Crismore mentions in her essay.

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When writing a scholarly article in APA style and using Latin abbreviations, there is one rule to be sure to follow and a few exceptions to remember. First, the rule:

Use Latin abbreviations in parenthetical text. In nonparenthetical text, use the English translation of the Latin term. 

Second, the exceptions:

Exception 1: In text citations and in references referring to court cases, always use the abbreviation for versus (v.).

Exception 2: In text and in the reference list, use the abbreviation et al., meaning “and others,” in parenthetical and nonparenthetical text.

If you have questions regarding when to shorten references in text and in the reference list to et al., see this earlier post for details.

Some commonly used Latin abbreviations and their English translations are:

cf. = compare
e.g., = for example,
, etc. = , and so forth
i.e., = that is,
viz., = namely,
vs. = versus, against

This information can be found on page 106, section 3.25 of the APA publication manual.

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