Read out loud: another old standby. Reading out loud can reveal your clunky sentences, your unclear ideas, and your weak transitions. Reading out loud can also reveal a beautiful turn of phrase, a just-right articulation, and a resonant idea. A few variations on the theme may be useful as well: have someone else read your work out loud so you can hear a different articulation of your writing. Or, by recording yourself reading, you can listen to what you have written and be able to make notes and edits at the same time.
Print out a hard copy. An old standby, but a good one. When you need another perspective on your writing, print out a hard copy and read off of the page instead of the screen. A hard copy is helpful for both proofreading and editing, and can also be a useful way to get at seeing significant changes you might want to make to the piece you’re writing. Bring scissors, tape, highlighters, colored pens, and whatever tools might be helpful to the table.
Keep a recycling file. Whether in the process of moving material from an outline to the document you’re writing or editing a piece toward completion, it’s likely that you’ll be deleting some significant chunks of text. Instead of trashing them, put those sentences and paragraphs in a recycling file. “Unused” or “save for later” work just as well. Later in the revision process, you may find a place for that concept or quote. Or, it may spark a new project or be just the idea you need for the next essay you’re writing.
EDIT. Remember that good writing is about what you take out, not what you leave in.
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RELEASE YOUR INNER CRITIC. If you’ve got a lot of writing done, preferably without over-thinking it, it is now time to usefully deploy the critic inside to marshal it into something good. Let your critical side be a bit brutal, chopping irrelevant parts, making substitutions and forming better alliances between sections. It is also important to Hack your time too!
The latest Twitter chat was chaired by Jeremy and was all about editing and revising academic writing. This followed the first #acwri live chat held in Australia/South Pacific time as well, chaired by Studious Jenn. You can find out about the live chats as well the new one at our About page. Editing and revising was voted as the preferred topic by the #acwri community on Twitter. The summary and key points form the UK time chat are documented below:
EDITING YOUR OWN MATERIAL. As you write your dissertation or a paper it is natural to make changes and major revisions. You are, in effect, editing your own material. That’s good and bad. It is good because you add intellectual capital, you clarify, and you consider the knowledge (or lack thereof) of your readers. It is bad if, like most of us, you become infatuated with the sound of your own words. It is difficult, if not impossible; to change language or ideas you labored over long and hard. Just like job application letters, have at least one (preferably more) people read what you wrote and suggest improvements. If a word, a paragraph, or a section is unclear to them it is likely to be unclear to others. Better to receive critiques and suggested improvements from your peers than from referees or decision makers.
This week’s guest post comes from Liz Gloyn, who has just completed her PhD in classics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She blogs on her research, teaching and classical receptions in popular culture. You can follow her on Twitter here. In this post, Liz talks about turning a section of your Ph.D. into a talk.
At some stage in your academic career, you are likely to need to turn a thesis chapter into a talk. You may be speaking at an academic conference in order to put your research into a wider public arena, or you may have been asked to prepare a presentation on your dissertation for a job interview. Putting aside the general issues of constructing an oral presentation, like keeping to the time limit, changing a chapter into a talk poses a number of special challenges. PhD2Published normally talks about how to take things the other way, how to get research into a publishable form from a conference paper, but there are a number of reasons you might decide to road-test an idea from your thesis in a public forum before preparing it for publication. You might want to check out how a particular argument fares in front of a jury of your peers before committing yourself to standing behind it in print. You might want to get some general feedback about your work, especially if you’re revising your thesis for publication and want some ideas about how you might broaden its appeal. Whatever you reason for talking about your thesis research, here are some things to bear in mind as you prepare your talk. Read more
This is a guest post from Tim Rutherford-Johnson, a freelance academic copy-editor who has seen it all and has the scars to prove it.
If you’ve not published before – or even if you have, but only in smaller magazines and journals – then you won’t have been copy-edited before. That will change when your first book is accepted for publication.
To the unsuspecting author, copy-editing can appear both frustratingly hands-off (so, there are no changes for pages – what are you doing after all?) and surprisingly invasive (you’ve re-written my entire bibliography – what’s up with that?). The truth is, copy-editing occupies a pretty undefined, liminal space between writing and mechanical proofreading. It’s less than one and more than the other, but beyond that there are no hard boundaries. Copy-editing is, however, an absolutely essential step between getting your book off your laptop and onto the shelves in Blackwell’s. Read more