blog, Books, copyediting, Uncategorized

What’s So Scary about Scare Quotes and Italics

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Welcome to the latest edition of “copyediting adventures!” I had the pleasure of editing a great book with some really interesting content. But there was one tiny flaw. Rather, it was a tiny flaw that turned into a big annoyance: the overuse of emphasis in the manuscript. There were scare quotes and italics everywhere. Multiple words were italicized in a sentence. Some times, one sentence had a combination of italics and quotation marks. There were even words that were italicized, quoted, and underlined simultaneously. This, my friends, is what we call overkill.

As a copyeditor, my job is to make the texts readable while respecting the voice of the writer. But in my experience, some writers don’t understand the power of their own voice. So they try to make the reader see that power. This is a mistake. The fact of your written words is already important enough. To say it another way, if the words are not already important, they should not be in your book.

Sure, writing is a process, and each word should be carefully chosen for clarity, comprehension, and impact. And of course, there are moments when some words need to be emphasized over others. However, if you use too much emphasis, you actually de-emphasize the entire sentence or paragraph.

Everything in the book is already important. But if a reader has to pay attention to every emphasized adverb, preposition, concept, or phrase, then readers will forget to pay attention to the big picture of the book.

So, this is my public service announcement: Too many scare quotes are scary. Excessive use of italics is irrational. Every word in the manuscript should be significant on its own. Just keep writing and let the reader decide their own experience.

—KRW

teaching, Uncategorized

Happy Halloween: It’s Job Market Season

Happy Halloween: It’s time to find that job! Isn’t this just great.

Unfortunately, it’s been some time since I’ve updated this blog. Fortunately, it’s because I have been extraordinarily busy with teaching, researching, writing, and, of course, copyediting!

Now I have entered the time of year where I have to do the job market dance. In academia, the job market is, well, it generally feels like an ongoing hazing ritual that may or may not end with a beneficial outcome (a positive outcome is too much to hope for). So we dance.

We work through the endless personal statements, teaching statements, research statements, curriculum vitae updates, evaluations, interviews, and more. My experience so far, after sending out upwards of 40 applications last year, is that while there are jobs, there is no money. One interviewer for a job I was offered, in a very expensive city, told me that I may have to get a second job to make ends meet. Yeah, I didn’t take that job.

Another job at another university had their funding pulled for new hires after they told me they would like to hire me. Fun times. Most I didn’t hear back from at all. I am not a fan of ghosting, and it is especially frustrating when you have to go through so much to apply and hear nothing back. Application packets in academia can be up to 10-15 pages long or more. It’s frustrating.

So I am, of course, considering the non-academic track because, well, I like to eat. And pay my bills. And save money. And get that oil change I so desperately need.

Witch of All Hallows Eve

Sometimes, I just want to wave a wand, do a little jig around a cauldron, and swoosh: Hello Dreams! I’ve been so eager to meet you! Where have you been? Too bad magic is not real.

But I’ve been thinking of ways to plan my job market strategy because, well, tis the season. In between Halloween candy and teaching statements, I have to find a way to maximize my time so that I can do an effective and efficient job search. Plus there is all the writing that I have to do (and the writing that I want to do, which is probably not appropriate for the academy).

This season I have been thinking about costumes, more specifically, personas. If you are the type do dress out, Halloween is all about trying on something different, exploring a side of yourself. Putting on the costumes and makeup is an aspect of the rigmarole you have to do for the job market, minus the fun. The strategy here is simple: put on the face and hope for a good outcome. Pablo Neruda said it best in his poem, “Parthenogensis”:

Well, I’ll try to change for the better:
greet them all circumspectly,
watch out for appearances, be dedicated, enthusiastic—
till I’m just what they ordered,
being and un-being at will,
till I’m totally otherwise.

And so we dance!

Figuring Things Out

Despite the web of crazy that is the job market, it is an interesting challenge because it really is about deciding not just who you want to be but also how you want to be for a period or maybe even for the rest of your life.

I know for sure what I want to be—a writer and copyeditor—but there is so much more to life than just work. That’s the other thing that Halloween represents—an opportunity to make the day something more than every other day.

Recently, a student came to me to say that his best friend was killed in a tragic auto accident. He said that he just could not bring himself to do any work at all. I understand that. This kid was 19 when he died. My student is also 19, and he said, crying at this point, that he has never had to deal with someone’s death before. He doesn’t know what to do. He kept asking me what is the correct thing to do.

It all got me thinking about Halloween and having fun and living life and personas. And I realized that my job plan has to be a life plan. Yet, life is unpredictable, so the best thing about Halloween is the energy, the spirit of fun that surrounds it. That has to be a part of the job market plan and the life plan too.

Happy Halloween, folks!

Uncategorized

Wrapping up the Spring Semester

It has been an eventful spring semester. I had the privilege of teaching three different writing classes, and they were all rewarding and fun in their own way.

My first class, Writing for Engineers, was the class that I was most familiar with although it did present some challenges. Students learned how to write the following:

  • research reports,
  • proposals
  • failure analysis reports
  • and correspondence writing

For these courses, I really tried to focus on document design for reading efficiency and conciseness in writing. I’m sure my students were tired of me saying, “get to the point,” but to me, science writing should be readable and accessible.

In any case, I believe that students learned a lot here, and their feedback has been very positive.

My other class, Strategic Communications was a blast. Strat Comm is a writing class for students in advertising, marketing, and telecommunications. It focuses on teaching students how to create content for businesses and consumers.

I completed a lot of the work in this course, and students learned how to write,

  1. Placed-based advertising campaigns
  2. Native advertisements,
  3. Long and short form product placements

We even worked on creating a complete content marketing strategy campaigns for local businesses. This class was new to me, but I worked to emphasize reader/consumer-based writing. In the truest sense of the word, this is writing for your audience. Check out our blog.

Finally, I taught a more traditional first-year writing course. These are always a challenge because students, for the most part, would rather be somewhere else. Nevertheless, it worked out great.

Now, the semester is done. I am reflecting on what I did well and what I need to improve. I need to prep more practice activities for the Strat Comms class. Also, I liked that I gave class-time to writing and revising, but I found that students, in some cases, didn’t really write or revise during those periods. I will need to make some adjustments there.

I need to be much tougher on attendance and tardiness, which is a pet-peeve of mine anyway. Finally, I want to be able to help students more with the document design aspect of writing.

However, it’s time for finals, so here is to a great semester, and good luck on finals and the end-of-the-semester scramble.

Uncategorized

Love Series: “On Love”

I’ve been thinking about a way to conceptualize love. It is tricky because it is both something that is and something that you do. It is a culmination of feelings that you have for other people, for yourself, and for some things. We receive it, give it, and are compelled by it.

Alongside this blog, I have a journal that I am using to help keep track of my thoughts about the topic. I am not wrestling with a solution; to come to some kind of fixed definition about love is to tame it in some way, and that does not seem like the right thing to do. I am much more interested in living in it, with it, and through it. To be clear, this is not about loving someone although relationships are often a consequence of love. This is about trying to reach a higher self. For this reason, I have decided to go with Khalil Gibran’s writings on love from his legendary book, The Prophet.

There is not much to be said here, but there is much to think about, so I will let Gibran do the rest of the “talking:”

On Love
Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon
the people, and there fell a stillness upon them
And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you. Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
himself.
He thrashes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a
fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only
love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love’s
threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be
possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say
“God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am
in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course
of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil
itself.
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding
of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love’s ecstasy.
To return home at eventide with gratitiude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

blog, Uncategorized, Writing

It’s A New Semester

…And so far, things are going great. I could not sleep at all, so I am operating on less than 3 hours of sleep. I get to class and realize I have no dry-erase markers (ladies and gentlemen, the professor is unprepared for class!), so I run to the store to get some. Then, I get to class, and bring up my Canvas course page and — dun, dun, dun — it’s empty. I put all of the right content in the wrong class. I spent all week doing the wrong thing.

—sigh—

In any case, I have four classes I am teaching — two writing for engineers courses, one strategic communications (writing in advertising and public relations) course, and one traditional rhetoric, research, and writing course. I am excited about all of these course in their own way, but I am most excited about the strategic communications course because it is new. While I have done a bit of freelance copywriting (not much to write home about), it will be interesting to see what I can bring to this course and what I can learn from teaching it.

Onward and forward,

-K