Learning more: Writing, editing and formatting

You can never stop learning and polishing the way you communicate.  This is especially true with your writing skills.  In this age of “do it fast,” it is sometimes easy to forget to put your best words forward.  In our virtual world, everyone can check out your skills and level of expertise in an instant.

So for those of us that are established firmly in our world of writing, editing and blogging, how do we improve?  I think a good way is to learn something from every new project that we do.  I was reminded of this last week when reviewing a Master thesis for a student/client of mine, I ran across the word posttest, which looked really weird to me.  I thought, it has to be post-test or post test.  Got the old Merriam  Webster’s out and learned that posttest is the correct spelling for this term.

By the way, the definition is:  A test given to students after completion of an instructional program or segment and often used in conjunction with a pretest to measure their achievement and the effectiveness of the program.

Throughout this editing project, I was reminded of much more than the proper way to use “posttest” in a sentence or how to spell it.  Editing for grammar, spelling and sentence structure is only one part of being a good writer or editor.  When working with college students, being up to speed on APA and MLA styles, is essential.  So I use each student project as an opportunity to learn and reinforce my skillset.

Often a student writes well, but is at a total loss as to how to format their thesis paper. Although every university issues a set of guidelines to to follow for thesis and/or graduate research projects, it is the rare student that fully understands the ins and outs of formatting their paper correctly.  But that’s okay because it gives me an opportunity to help them and to relearn these things myself. It’s kind of like using some software programs.  If you don’t use them every day, it’s hard to remember exactly how to do things. (Think about Excel – unless you use this every day, it is easy to forget how to do certain things).

Some of the things that I most frequently have to adjust in a graduate thesis project are:

  • Heading levels
  • Seriation
  • Display results (graphs, figures, charts)
  • Reference lists

Click the image to zoom in on APA format for referencing a blog post or comment

Since I do this type of editing work frequently, I keep a current hardcopy on hand of the most current MLA and APA manuals and , require each student to provide me as much as information as possible about their degree program and always ask for a copy of the Guidelines issues by their thesis committee.  I also stress to the student that their job is to do their research and develop their project, while mine is to guide them and make suggestions to them so that they meet the standard set by their university.  I NEVER write any part of their paper for them.  I only give them guidance and suggestions.   I also create a binder of those “most used” examples for my future use.  And last, but not least, I continue to develop my list of online resources, like the Purdue  University OWL — in my opinion one of the best!

Working on these types of projects allows me to create a great portfolio of experience in thesis editing and allows me some of  the finest job satisfaction.  There is nothing quite like helping a student achieve their goal of education.  Having worked in higher education for a small private university, I had first-hand exposure to this type of job satisfaction.  It is exciting to surround yourself with those that are enthusiastic about learning and their futures.

And we can learn so much from students……



Filed under writing

14 responses to “Learning more: Writing, editing and formatting

  1. I found your post very educational and useful. I am even checking my grammar while writing this comment. This may be very useful especially for people like me whose English is not the first language. I sometimes send e-mails in rush and later on when I read them again in my clients’ replies, I just think to myself ” did I really write it”

  2. Kasia
    Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments. I have helped many ESL students with their writing projects. I always find that these students want to learn to write better — sometimes more than native English-speaking students. . The English language is challenging to learn. We have so many rules that don’t always make sense.

    I think all of us have reread emails we have sent and wonder how we sent those messages! It is easy to move too quickly, especially when writing emails. Our brains work faster than our fingers!!

    Best wishes and I hope you will visit again…

  3. I found this post quite helpful. Every time I write, I always check for grammatical errors but after publishing, I still see some. No one is perfect. I guess the key to personal development is learning from situations and mistakes. Nice post.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for visiting. And yes, I agree, we can all continue to learn each day from every experience. Hope you will visit again. I will visit your blog today!


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  5. You’re so right that if we don’t use something every day we can forget a lot. I was working on a query yesterday and totally forgot how to remove the header from the title page of my ms. Fortunately, we have the Internet and I found a page with graphics which showed me exactly how to do it. I still find myself using my Roget’s Thesaurus while I’m writing and, like you, some words just don’t look right and I have to look them up in Webster’s just to be sure. Thanks for a great blog and I’ll be back!

  6. What did we do before search engines when we got stuck on something! But, like you, I still like my trustee references that I can hold in my hand. Some of my favorites are:

    Style,Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph R. Williams
    Index to English by Ebbitt & Ebbitt
    Health Writer’s Handbook by Barbara Gastel, M.D. (useful for more than medical writing – great suggestions and exercises)
    The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman

    Check them out! C//

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  8. I wish I had this “quick start guide” available to me when I was writing my thesis 14 years ago. It sounds unbelievable, but I had never been educated on how to write and structure a thesis at grammar school. Later, when I finished my university course, it became apparent that I was lacking a major skill. As a result I was down marked, despite really good content.

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  10. I am a member of the Blog Zone on Linked In. I would like to invite you to write a guest post for my author website about writing. I am going to have articles on there about social media, writing, publishing, and marketing books. If you would like to do so please contact me.

    • I will let you know when i get caught up. I have been out of town and have some projects with deadlines in the next 10 days. I’ll be in touch. C//

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