OK groupies, we need to start posting on a regular basis. I’ve been ill this past while; otherwise I would have started hounding you guys much earlier. Need I remind everyone that our little blog will be evaluated—for 20% of our marks—this very week? So find something to say, even if what you have to say is more criticism than compliment (to employ Kevin Sharpe’s famous division to describe the rhetorical binaries of early 17th-century masques).
Here’s who I am: http://alturl.com/4vw3z.
Here’s some other great advice that I can impart. This advice will carry you through your MA / PhD far better than Luker’s. This advice comes in a series of useful exercises.
(1) Play cards with your essay / chapter to proof it—by this I mean shuffle your pages and read them out of order.
(2) Read books on usage. Here’s a list of the ones you want: Bill Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words; http://www.apstylebook.com/; Chicago Manual of Style, usage section (memorize it); and, Bill Walsh’s The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English (an update to the celebrated Strunk and White).
(3) Think about pedagogy and approach. A friend of mine told me just yesterday how he taught reading methods and analysis. He’d ask each student to bring in a personally annotated copy of the weekly readings.
(4) Over edit and return. Sure, you may be that lucky lad or lass with an eager supervisor willing to edit repeatedly most parts of your thesis / dissertation in draft form. But chances are very slim that this is the case. What you want to do is draft an essay / chapter and—immediately—save a copy. Put that copy aside with a special title (e.g., “chap1_draft1_done.doc”). Then, edit, edit, edit—and, when you think that you’ve turned a beautiful piece of prose into incoherent rubbish, return to the copy of that first draft and only insert the emendations which really improve it.
(5) Use the full capabilities of your word processor. Write your essay / chapter / article in single line spacing. Proof it at triple—not double—line spacing. And, when you are proofing, you should keep beside you copies of well-written books (non-fiction).
(6) Don’t be culturally ignorant or clichéd. And here are two books to help you avoid being so, both from Oxford University Press: Orin Hargrave’s Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions (the most comprehensive study on ‘translating’ transatlantic English); and Rosemarie Ostler’s Dewdroppers, Waldos, and Slackers (a history of dated expressions, progressing decade by decade throughout the 20th century). Oh, and you might want to look into Noah Webster’s writings on the America language as a political instrument. Here are some major ‘tells’ of a British writer, like Knight: “towards / afterwards / etc … ” (Brit.), no s= Amer.; “ … or” vs “ … our”; dipthongs in words deriving from Greek but adopted into Latin=British (Americans revise them); zs—Brit. and CDN., s = Amer. To Webster, silent letters represented unnecessary ties between America and British cultural hegemony.
(7) Bring a dictionary with you—everywhere you go. Use the Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE), which you can buy as an ipod app. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) simply has too much content, and often not the right content for you, unless you need to cite the word in your paper, in which case you should probably considering using instead http://leme.library.utoronto.ca/. The ODE has built-in tutorials on both usage and etymology—which the Webster lacks, or offers in abbreviated form.
(8) Work, work, work. As a graduate student you should be working 80% of your time. Holidays provide occasion for either reading or writing articles. Only three reasons justify an unproductive night / morning: (1) illness; (2) social networking; and (3) serious depression. Sure, you will have colleagues who will talk, ad nauseum, about their balanced lives. Believe me, they don’t speak the truth.
(9) Be fearless. Most likely the best ‘nodal point’ isn’t in your department. So, write e-mails to the scholars you respect. And, just maybe, if you’re lucky, one will respond. If you’re really lucky you might even be able to persuade him / her to read some of your work.
(10) Learn how to speak English in a socially acceptable way. This includes avoiding errors in usage (see note 2), correct pronunciation (see American Heritage Dictionary, 100 Words Almost Everyone Mispronounces), and—probably most important of all—speak in complete sentences. Try to avoid misplaced modifiers, errors of is / are and of the subjunctive (was / were).