Welcome to fall, everyone! One of my summer projects was to establish a thematic organization for the 139 posts I’ve written since this blog debuted in January 2011. This task—a surprisingly difficult one—was a great illustration of both the value and the limitations of blogging. I found lots of things that I was glad I’d written; I’m grateful for a forum that allows me to crystallize what I’m thinking about at any given time. Coming up with a thousand or so words about whatever is on my mind is a manageable challenge, but understanding how those ideas fit into a broader context could easily have derailed me. The format of the blog means that these ideas reach an audience even when I don’t yet see how they might fit together. But the capricious and episodic nature of blogging can mean that thematic coherence is hard to discern.
This inherent limitation of blogging can make it hard to do anything with a new blog except read the current post and wait for subsequent ones; that is certainly what I do when I discover a new blog. However, it seems a shame for the archives as a whole to go unread. People do, of course, read individual posts from the archives, but much of that traffic is the result of particular searches leading to particular posts. Since new people do arrive everyday, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a landing page that could facilitate the process of finding relevant posts. The posts themselves will, of course, retain the somewhat idiosyncratic framing that reflects their original composition, but at least this list will suggest some overall coherence.
In what follows, I will list the posts according to ten themes: Drafting; Revision; Audience; Identity; Writing Challenges; Mechanics; Productivity; Graduate Writing; Blogging and Social Media; and Resources.
Note: This information can also be found under the ‘For New Visitors’ tab. If you wish to link to this material, please use that page rather than this post; the permanent page URL is https://explorationsofstyle.com/for-new-visitors/. I will update that page with new posts as they are published.
I. Drafting: In Using Writing to Clarify Thinking, the first of my key principles, I suggest that writing is a way to develop our thoughts rather than a way to record those thoughts. This central commitment to writing as thinking has informed many subsequent posts on the complicated nature of composition.
- In Can You Write Too Early?, I argue that early writing is the best way to work through the difficult process of figuring out what we need to say.
- In A Cut-and-Paste Job, I consider the pros and cons of reusing our own texts in new ways.
- In The Discomforts of Uncertainty, I address some of the challenges of exploratory writing.
- In Between Drafting and Editing, I outline a strategy for making sure that our early drafts don’t become unmanageable.
- In Is It All Writing?, I wonder whether the nomenclature that we use to define the various stages of writing matters.
- In The Faintest Ink, I discuss the importance of getting things down on paper before we forget them.
- In Writing as Thinking, I reiterate my commitment to exploratory writing in response to an articulation of an opposing view.
II. Revision: In Committing to Extensive Revision, the second key principle, I acknowledge that transforming early drafts into suitable final drafts will require extensive revision. In subsequent posts, I go on to discuss why revising our own work is so hard and how we might do it better.
- In The Craft of Revision, I discuss my approach to the task of revision, from start to finish.
- In Remembering to Edit, I present some strategies for ensuring that we keep our eyes on the task of revision.
- In Bad News, Good News, I describe a common pattern: a lack of overall coherence despite local cohesion. In The Perils of Local Cohesion, I talk about the way that local cohesion can blind us to larger problems in our texts.
- In Best Laid Plans, I encourage writers to think about the ideal relationship between prior planning and actual writing.
- In Letting Go, I acknowledge how hard it can be to let go of hard-won text, even when it may not be serving any purpose.
- In Scaffolding Phrases, I introduce the distinction between writing that may be helpful to us as writers and writing that serves the ultimate goal of satisfying the reader.
- In Problem Sentences, I consider a radical revising solution: starting over.
- Finally, in Reverse Outlines, I discuss the best way to tackle structural problems in our writing. The process of reverse outlining get elaborated in my discussion of Literature Reviews and Reverse Outlines. In Truth in Outlining, I stress the importance of being honest when crafting reverse outlines. In Topic Sentence Paragraphs, I look at a strategy that helps us to see if we have created coherence in a late-stage draft.
III. Audience: In Understanding the Needs of the Reader, the last of my three key principles, I advocate using the needs of the reader as a guide for revision. The various ways in which audience awareness can help and hinder our writing has been a frequent topic in subsequent posts.
- In Audience and Anxiety, I acknowledge that while remembering the needs of the audience can help us with revision decisions, the spectre of being read can be a source of anxiety.
- In Self-Expression or Adherence to Form, I discuss a particular tension for graduate students: how to balance their desire for self-expression through writing with the expectations or predilections of their audience.
- In Understanding Incoherence, I talk about the legitimate conflict between the messiness of our developing ideas and the needs of the reader.
- In One-Way Trip, I consider what the reader is entitled to as they make their way through our texts.
- In Signposting and Metadiscourse, I look at what the reader will need in order to follow our writing. In The Evolution of Signposting, I address a common complaint about metadiscourse. And, in You Know It and I Know It, I own up to overusing one of my favourite bits of metadiscourse.
IV. Identity: These first three sections explored ways to think about drafting, revision, and audience. Our ability to undertake those tasks is, in my view, connected to our willingness to identify ourselves as academic writers.
V. Writing Challenges: Throughout this blog, I have attempted to address the emotional and psychological challenges associated with academic writing.
VI. Mechanics: My treatment of writing mechanics is divided into four categories: punctuation; sentences; structure; usage.
- In Sentences, I talk about three key strategies for crafting strong sentences.
- In A Question of Parallelism, I look at the importance of using parallelism to guide our readers through our sentences.
VII. Productivity: No matter how much we know about all these writing issues, most of us still struggle with productivity. As this blog has developed, I’ve devoted more and more time to reflecting on the tensions surrounding the need to be productive.
- In The Pace of Academic Writing, I express our common frustration with how long writing can take.
- In Writing and Not Writing, I talk about all the things we do under the category of writing. In A Change is as Good as a Rest, I consider the benefits of shifting among tasks as way to maintain productivity.
- In Writing without Inspiration, I reflect on the dangers of waiting until we are inspired to write. And in Inspiring Prose, I wonder about the ways in which excellent prose can spur us on as writers.
- In Silent Sociability, I review my experience offering a boot camp for dissertation writers.
- In Priority and Productivity, I reflect on my own challenges with prioritizing and my ambivalence about the productivity framework.
- In Productivity: An Ethical Approach, I respond to a student’s insightful reflection on the implications of the way we frame our writing obligations.
- In Academic Writing Month, I discuss the inauguration of this annual event in 2012. In AcWriMo Reflections, I look at what I learned from a month spent writing in public. In AcWriMo is at Hand! and AcWriMo is Here Again!, I comment on the arrival of the 2013 and 2014 iterations.
VIII. Graduate Writing: While many of my posts are potentially of interest to a wide range of academic writers, some are explicitly geared towards graduate student writers. In this section, I list posts on topics associated specifically with graduate writing, including thesis writing.
- In Shouldn’t I already know how to write?, I respond to a reader who feels that her writing skills are deficient.
- In Using Resources for Thesis Writing, I talk about the value of broadening the range of resources used to support thesis writing. In The Supervisory Relationship, I emphasize the necessity of developing strategies for managing the supervisory relationship.
- In Thesis Writing Groups, I list some questions to help identify the ideal configuration of writing community.
- In Autonomy and Doctoral Study, I consider the tension between adequate writing and research support and the potential for a loss of autonomy.
- In Writing for a Presentation, I look at strategies for crafting a text that will be used for an oral presentation.
- In Communication and Content, I discuss the hazards for graduate writers of making a distinction between communication skills and the underlying material being communicated.
- In Putting it in Your Own Words, I talk about the challenges of paraphrasing and the value of deepening our understanding of the role of sources in our work.
- Lastly, there are posts that look at genres specific to the thesis:
IX. Blogging and Social Media: Inevitably, the focus of the blog occasionally shifts from academic writing to blogging in particular and social media more generally.
X. Resources: Finally, in Key Sources, I give a list of published resources to support academic writing at the graduate level. An expanded treatment of this topic can be found in “Can you recommend a good book on writing?”.