Here is some advice from a professional editor about the types of editing we should be doing for ourselves. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s new writing blog, Lingua Franca, Carol Saller offers some tips for self-editing (my approach to this topic can be found here). I particularly liked her reminder that we do a lot of damage through editing itself. Not that we shouldn’t edit—obviously!—but we should be aware that we create a different class of errors through editing than we do through writing. We need to know what our typical writing errors are, but we also need to be aware of the sort of problems we may be inadvertently creating when ostensibly improving our writing through editing. Saller mentions the various ‘cut and paste’ errors that result from moving text around (for instance, repetition and non sequiturs). I would add two more. At the sentence level, be very careful with forms of agreement—for instance, subject and verb or noun and pronoun—when making changes. At a broader level, make sure that all changes are reflected in the language that we use to refer to our own text; for instance, if we decide to reorder a set of points, we must be sure to go back and change the sentence where those points were first introduced. In general, we need to think—especially in late-stage editing—about all the connections that exist in our text. Some sentences stand alone and can be changed solely according to their own demands. But many more sentences stand in relation to others; in those cases, we must be cognizant of how local changes can have a broader impact.
Writing in The University of Venus blog, Lee Skallerup Bessette recently offered her thoughts on the formal demands of a blog post. She offers an interesting breakdown of the general types of academic blog posts and then defends the value of posts that are reflective rather than definitive.
The fourth annual Dance Your PhD contest is coming to a close. I believe the winner will be announced today! If you have never watched these wonderful (and wonderfully odd) videos, you are in for a treat. I’m amazed every year at how they manage to illustrate complex scientific concepts in manner both effervescent and earnest.
Finally, we have reached another day of note. A few weeks ago, you may recall, I looked into the phenomenon of national days of any-old-thing. But today is different: it is the official National Day on Writing. It’s official because the United States Senate passed Resolution S.298 saying so. I hope you won’t let this special day go by without some quiet time alone with your thoughts and a writing instrument of some kind!
Interesting warning on editing. Now that I think about it, I really have done some terrible things to my writing in the interest of bettering. Usually I’m pretty careful about agreement, but I’m very bad about remembering if I’ve said something or not.
Happy Day of writing!