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
- Display results (graphs, figures, charts)
- Reference lists
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……