Steam ahead or swing back?

Do you zap out your first draft at the speed of bees, ignoring all faults just to get it down? Or do you move like mud, planning down to every detail and laboring over each word, phrase, and sentence before inching to the next?

Which were you taught was the single, inviolable method? Which makes for more effective writing? Which entices you? [Read more…]

TAA Webinar: Revising Scholarly Manuscripts – Quickly and Well

Join us Thursday, March 12, from 2-3 p.m. ET for a TAA Webinar presented by Tara Gray, author of Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar, entitled Revising Scholarly Manuscripts—Quickly and Well. Learn how to organize paragraphs around key or topic sentences and how to organize manuscripts around an “after-the-fact” or “reverse” outline. You will also learn how to solicit and use informal feedback effectively by asking just the right readers for feedback and by asking specific questions, such as, “What one place in the manuscript is least clear? Least organized? Least persuasive Organization is the skeleton of a manuscript, its very structure. Get it right and the manuscript works. Get it wrong and it doesn’t.

[Read more…]

Finding your writing niche

Writing is like growing up. From babyhood, we learn to crawl (= write junk), wobble half-upright (= write a little less junk), walk in spurts (= write much less junk), run a little (= write more of what really is us), and finally gain balance to walk and run at will (= write in our true voice).

In life, if we could jump into adulthood from childhood or even early adolescence without living through each previous stage, we’d save much time and angst. In writing too, imagine learning enough from watching, reading, and hearing about others’ experiences, mistakes, misguided decisions, and failings so we wouldn’t have to experience them at all. But, unfortunately or fortunately, we have to experience it all. [Read more…]

Take some time away from work to work

Take some time away from work to workWe often think of the December-January holiday break as the midpoint of the academic year. Faculty need recuperative time to gear up for the semester or term, for course planning, fine-tuning, or writing syllabi.

But, what about your own writing projects? In early December, many of my clients need to step away from their daily writing practice to dive into their grading, with final grade deadlines looming. We talk about scheduling for the first week of January, and then we talk about how it will be more likely the second week of January before they sit down to begin writing again. In fact, I start to get a little nervous for them, because I know that come the second week of January, for many of them, the course planning and syllabus fine-tuning will take place that did not happen after the grading in December. And, that is okay. I get it.

However, as you look ahead to classes beginning again in mid-to-late January, what about your own writing? Does it stress you out? If it does, let’s do this instead. [Read more…]

The changing nature of ye olde academic writing

classic booksLikely we all remember Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. It was written in the late 1300’s in Middle English. Here are the first few lines:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,    

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,        

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;          

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

I am sure we are all flashing back to high school and suffering though this classic long work. Most of us read an updated version written in modern English, thankfully. Likely you remember the discussion of the evolution of language. [Read more…]

Choose your best dissertation chair

matchedIt is impossible to overestimate the significance of the student-advisor relationship. . . . This is both a personal and professional relationship that rivals marriage and parenthood in its complexity, variety and ramifications for the rest of one’s life. (Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2007, p. 263)

These wise observations were made by a new “doctor” in the study by Zhao et al. (2007) of how the doctoral students’ choice of chairs and their behavior affect the students’ satisfaction. The candidate quoted above echoes what many doctoral students learn, with ease or agony, during their dissertations. Your relationship with your chair (sometimes called advisor or supervisor) is absolutely the most important in your entire doctoral haul. [Read more…]

11/19 TAA Webinar – “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”

Mark PedrettiWhether submitting journal articles or book manuscripts, academic authors can expect their work to be anonymously reviewed by expert peers. Sometimes helpful, sometimes infuriating, reviewers’ comments can make or break a publication; a negative review can bring your piece to a screeching halt. Join us Tuesday, November 19, from 1-2 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”, where presenter Mark Pedretti, an Assistant Director of English at Providence College, will discuss strategies for engaging with reviewer’s comments — both positive and negative. He will also:

  • Explore ways to figure out the importance placed upon comments in a given publishing context, the relationship between editor and reviewer, and whether comments are in fact “make or break.”
  • Talk about strategies for documenting responses to suggestions, and how to politely decline to make changes that are off base.

The goal: to equip webinar participants with a set of tools for navigating the unspoken rules of the review process.

[Read more…]

AcWriMo starts tomorrow – see what we have planned

AcWriMo 2019Established in 2011, Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) is “a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November”. Here at TAA, we have continued to plan special opportunities for our members to engage in AcWriMo as a group to enhance their individual writing efforts. Some of our members have also created or sponsored additional AcWriMo events throughout the month.

This year, TAA has decided to focus on a theme of “Distinguishing features of academic writing”. Specifically, we have used a list of academic writing features to further focus our weekly TweetChat discussions and shared resources to include: academic precision, complexity, formality, objectivity, and accuracy. Below are several of the planned activities we have scheduled for AcWriMo 2019. [Read more…]

The promise of writing in the disciplines

academic libraryFor many of us who teach writing, we often think about the rhetorical triangle: ethos, pathos, and logos. Although, when speaking to our students, colleagues, or peers, we tend to use the more colloquial terms of speaker/writer, audience/reader, and message/content, and then in terms of genre and purpose. Through these terms, I teach writers what good academic writing is and how it works: about how and why we cite sources, use first- or third-person, active voice, even adverbs.

I first heard of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) years ago in the K12 context of writing to learn and learning to write to be understood across K12 subjects: social studies, English, mathematics, and science. Undergirding WAC is the understanding that good writing in any subject requires writing to be clear and accessible. In math classes, for example, we asked students to write out the process by which they solved a problem. At the time, this allowed us to zero in on where students struggled and allowed us to give partial credit for a math problem almost solved correctly, but it did not yet have to do with writing well academically in the discursive styles of a specific discipline. But students were learning the mode of what we called “process writing.” [Read more…]

Academic Writing Month: Community and progress

AcWriMo is coming soonOne book to complete, another one to start. It must be time for Academic Writing Month! November is almost here, and writers around the world will be looking for tips and encouragement so they can make progress on articles, books, theses, or dissertations. We’ll share strategies, progress, and frustrations using the #AcWriMo hashtag.

Writing is typically a solitary occupation. Even when we are co-authoring, a lot of work is done on our own. And for most of us, the concept of a “book leave” or a sabbatical—undistracted time to focus on our writing—is the stuff of dreams. While we struggle to make sense of our thoughts and interpret research for our readers, life goes on. Dinner needs cooking, partners and kids need attention, and students expect us in class. [Read more…]