So you've found our blog. As you can see, it's still in its infancy, but we'll continue to add those topics that often come up when we are coaching or editing.
We welcome your suggestions and feedback.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
If in doubt, leave it out. This mantra of the newspaper world was hammered into us during journalism studies. The idea probably dates to the days of manual typesetting where unnecessary words really were a waste of some poor soul’s time, putting individual letters into place. Today it may be easier to get your words out to the public – but with ease, comes excess. And our adage becomes more important than ever. We are constantly staring at screens, bombarded by the written word. Under pressure, we skim. Mails become meaningless, messages get lost in a deluge of communication. The more we read, the less we take in.
That, to me, is reason enough to keep things concise. Sadly, we are not brought up to see the beauty of brevity. From an early age, academic goals are defined by number of words. We’ve all tackled tedious essays, constantly checking the word count, adding in an adjective or ten to pad things out. As if long words and lengthy sentences were a mark of success.
In the media, however, the opposite is true. The holy grail of effective writing is tabloid journalism. It takes a lot more skill to get the key stuff over in 100 words than it does to devote half a broadsheet page to it.
You wouldn’t believe how often I edit sentences where the meaning is repeated within the space of a few words. Try looking at your own work. Next time you write a long passage that feels like it’s losing its way in the fog, examine every word. Does it really add to what you’re trying to say? Take it out. The cloud will lift and, sure enough, your work will start to sparkle.
COMMON MISTAKES IN ACADEMIC WRITING
In this series of blog posts, Anne reflects on the common mistakes she reads in academic texts.
The trials of translating - französischsprachig
As you can see from the title here, this post isn't about proofreading; its about translating. To be more precise, it's about translating a literary analysis. Don't get me wrong, I don't often translate and am thus not good at it, but a friend asked me, so I did. My friend had written in the German text französischsprachige Literaturen. I started by pondering whether one could write literatures in English, i.e., in the plural (and, yes, you can if you are a literary analyst). I then jumped back a step and wondered whether I could translate französischsprachig by using French-speaking , the obvious translation. My problem wasn't the adjective itself, it was whether literature, in English, could speak. Luckily my friend had the answer. Nowadays, referring to French-speaking isn't considered correct because so many people in so many countries speak (and write) in their own national language, which in this instance just happens to derive from the French language. The correct phrase here would be Francophone literatures. For English-speaking, it would be Anglophone, and, to my surprise, for Portuguese, it would be Lusophone. Now I've solved that problem, I can move on to pondering on where Lusophone originates and what words you use to translate the x-speaking of all the other languages in the world.
The verb "to allow"
My proofreader job often finds me sitting in front of texts that contain a mistake I've seen before, multiple times. One of the mistakes that continues to confuse me, because I don't know where it is coming from, is having a verb directly after the verb allow, e.g., "The longitudinal nature of the GIP allows tracing changes in political preferences over time". This should be written as "The longitudinal nature of the GIP allows changes in political preferences to be traced over time", i.e. ,it is not possible to put a verb directly after the verb allow (and many other similar verbs, e.g., permit).
However, the phrasal verb to allow for can be followed by a verb as it means something slightly different. The phrase to allow for means to think about or plan for something that will happen in the future, e.g., "When thinking about how much money you need when you retire, you should allow for increasing living costs". And, of course, if you are writing to be allowed to, then you can use an infinitive verb directly afterwards, e.g., "You are not allowed to make the same mistake again".
Commas and "such as"
I'll keep my punctuation blogs, such as this one, as short as possible. The question is, should there be a comma before the phrase "such as" ?
The answer is, it depends. If the phrase is restricting what you are referring to, then don't write a comma before it, e.g., " Authors such as Smith (2018) were not writing about narrative". I'm not writing here about all authors, only about Smith and those like Smith. If the phrase isn't restricting what you are referring to but is simply adding a bit of information, then insert a comma, e.g., "Authors on the topic, such as Smith (2018), were not writing about narrative." I am referring here to all authors on that particular topic and am using Smith as an example.
Beside means physically next to, e.g., "Anne was sitting beside Jill".
Besides means in addition to, e.g., "Besides Anne and Jill, Roger was also present".
We'll be posting more common mistakes soon.
By Anne Wegner
THE UGLY FIRST DRAFT
Something I’ve noticed during my writing sessions with students is the expectation of producing good writing in the first draft. If only things were that simple. Even literary geniuses admit penning perfect prose the first time around is not going to happen.
Best-selling author Anne Handly talks about the TUFD, or The Ugly First Draft. A wonderful, accurate description of roughly sketching out on paper what you want to say: It’s messy, it’s not beautiful, and its definitely not something you want someone else to see. This first draft is when you transform your ideas into words, sentences, and paragraphs. There will be spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and probably way too many words. But that’s ok. It’s all part of the writing process. Even professional writers go through this stage.
Research suggests that different parts of the brain are active during the distinct parts of the writing process. First draft writing is more of a creative process while editing and proofreading tasks, which typically come later, use a different part of the brain. And as anyone who has attended my writing workshops will know, my mantra is "writing is rewriting". This maim is not intended to make the writing process appear more onerous. Quite the opposite. I think there is freedom in understanding that writing is a process and that no matter how ugly your text is, you can always improve it.
So be proud of your Ugly First Draft. It‘s better than no draft at all.
By Lesley-Anne Weiling