Links: Editing, Clunkiness, Fonts

Each week in this blog, I plan to provide links to articles that I find relevant to academic writing and academic life more generally.

First up, here is something on revision strategies. In my last post, I promised that actual revision strategies would be forthcoming in future posts. And they will, but, in the meantime, here is a helpful article on the importance of editing from Inside Higher Ed.

Here is a recent piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education on the clunkiness of contemporary student writing. In this article, Ben Yagoda argues that students are not, as some fear, engaging in sprightly and efficient–albeit informal–writing of the sort prized in social media. Instead, they are going in the opposite direction and offering laboured and awkward prose that is clearly designed to be formal. Undergraduates are particularly susceptible to this problem, but it is a worthwhile reminder for everyone: the formality required by academic writing will not be achieved through verbosity.

Finally, on a lighter note, here is a Salon article about the possibility that there is a beneficial effect of hideous fonts. A provocative claim, but fonts are not actually my interest. I was struck by the following sentence: “A surprising number of older authors name Courier as the font they prefer to write in because it resembles the characters of a typewriter and therefore kindly suggests that the current draft is still available for improvement.” This observation jumped out at me because it acknowledges the importance of how we format our drafts. It is important that a draft look as though it is “available for improvement”. Students often give me drafts that are single spaced or, worse still, single spaced and set in columns. This practice may seem environmentally friendly, but it is working against good editorial practice. Make sure that a draft looks like a draft; it should be easy to comment on (room between lines; room in the margins) and it should look different (to your own eyes) than a finished text.

4 responses to “Links: Editing, Clunkiness, Fonts

  1. Hi,

    I just wanted to thank you for putting the effort into writing these posts… very useful. A friend of a friend sent me a link to your page, hopefully your writing resource will continue to grow and teach!

  2. Thanks for those links. I found this article in Wired Magazine about a study in Science. The study indicates that students who write brief essays about what they’ve just learned do much better on tests than students who merely study the material or who make ‘concept maps’ of it.

    • Thanks, Paul. How interesting that writing is an effective studying tool but that it doesn’t feel like studying to the students themselves. I wonder if that is because we tend to think of writing more as product than as process.

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