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Library Lady Jane: the Grammar Guru Grants an Interview!

Library Lady JaneIf you write anything at all and you haven’t heard of or followed Library Lady Jane (aka, Jane the Librarian), start getting to know and follow her now. She’s a guru of grammar and a darn nice lady too! We’ve admired her work for quite some time, so we decided to connect with her and see if she’d grant us an interview. To our great delight, she did!

Edit911: Where did you get your love of grammar?

Jane: I got my love of language from my Mom, and from constant reading, another love that was bequeathed by her and pretty much every member of my extended family.  Mom demanded perfect grammar and regular precision of vocabulary, and I loved being able to get it right.  When she saw that, she had me read books on language really early; I remember reading The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way, by Bill Bryson, some time around fifth grade.

 

Edit911: Why do you think so many people have so much trouble with grammar?

Jane: People have difficulty with grammar because they hear it spoken and see it written imperfectly far too often, and they don’t have good models to imitate.  Grammar is taught in very dry ways, and grammar in school would never have interested me in the slightest if it hadn’t been a key to decoding formulas I already knew from reading great books from a young age.

 

Edit911: What advice would you give people who want to improve their grammar?

Jane: If you want to improve your grammar, read your own writing aloud.  Yes, it can be painful, but you will surprise yourself with what you catch if you add the sound of your own voice to the process of revision.  Also, read more.  Read good, well-written, entertaining books when you have the chance.

 

Edit911: Do you have a favorite grammar book and grammar website?

Jane: My favorite grammar book is The Elements of Style, affectionately referred to as “the Strunk and White.”  It’s the only physical book I find myself reaching for for reference purposes on a semi-regular basis.  I don’t have a particular favorite website, but I find myself agreeing with Grammar Girl a great deal of the time. I very rarely use only one resource for grammar or language questions, though, because when such questions arise they are often points that language experts have some disagreement on, or they’re points of definition of use and grammar terminology, so it is necessary to compare several resources.  Google is my best friend for that kind of inquiry; it definitely helps to have mastered some advanced searching techniques.

 

Edit911: What else would you like our clients and visitors to know about you and your work?

Jane: I’m just a librarian with a passion for language!  I got started working with Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) because I sent him a fan email about four years ago and offered to help him with proofreading, and that led to the creation of the semicolon comic (“How to Use a Semicolon“).  We’ve never met in real life.  He sends me comics, and I proofread them to the best of my ability and aim for a fast turnaround, because he often wants to publish as quickly as possible.  Sometimes we collaborate a bit more closely on the text, especially when he is focusing on points of grammar, but we’re not perfect. I’ve overlooked some mistakes that make me cringe now, and wow, the internet is an unforgiving audience for that kind of thing.

How To Use A Semicolon The Oatmeal

Jane has some additional advice: if you want to improve your own writing, or if you have a document that needs another set of eyes, I would encourage you to seek out resources that you might have at your disposal that you may not have considered.  Are you in college or graduate school?  Utilize the writing center on campus. I worked at Auburn University’s writing center for almost three years while I was in school there.  Out of school?  Try the public library. As a public reference librarian, I helped people with papers, resumes, even contracts occasionally, for free.

And, if you have a longer document that absolutely has to be right, it is worth it to pay for professional editing and proofreading services.  I have seen important documents that were poorly edited because someone didn’t want to pay an experienced professional for their time and expertise, and that only reflects poorly on you, the initial author.  Don’t skimp for this kind of service!

Thanks for your wise words and friendly exchange, Jane! You can follow Jane on Twitter @libraryladyjane

Featured Client: Jeff Bacot

On The Hole Jeff BacotDo you like novels and golf? On the Hole is an award-winning novel about golf—and so much more—by Jeff Bacot. On the Hole won the prestigious 2013 EVVY Merit Award for fiction in May, and just won the 2013 GOLD MEDAL Award for sports fiction, with a 5 star rating from the judges of the “Readers Favorite” group.

Regarding Edit911’s editing, Jeff has this to say: “Winning these awards was in no small part because of the brilliant editing help I had from you, Dr. Robert, and Dr. Dan. Edit911 was instrumental in helping me get my novel done. In fact, I literally couldn’t have ended up with my novel nearly as well-written as it is without having had your fantastic editing suggestions and guidance.”

On the Hole is a terrific story! Thanks for entrusting it to us, Jeff!

To learn more about Jeff and his award winning novel check out these resources:

Jeff Bacot

1.  Author:  http://jeffbacot.com/

2.  Book:  http://www.outskirtspress.com/onthehole/

3.  Blog:  http://www.tumblr.com/blog/jeffbacot

4.  Interview w/ Washington Times:  http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/written-word/2013/may/9/interview-hole-author-jeff-bacot/

5.  Press Release:  https://www.prbuzz.com/books-publishing-literature/127267-jeff-bacotss-humorous-and-menacing-on-the-hole-receives-evvy-award-and-washington-times-recognition.html

6.  Twitter: @jeffbacot

7.  Clarion ForeWord:  https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/on-the-hole/

Top 9 Books Aspiring Writers Should Read

As I look back over the list I compiled, I can’t help but think, this is an odd list! But these writers inspired me through their books in many different ways to bring me along as a writer.

1. Dune by Frank Herbert

I learned a few lessons about the type of writer I did not want to be by reading Dune. It was much too complicated and verbose for me at that stage of life.

Dune

2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Some readers equally find Faulkner’s Fury complicated in another way: the stream of consciousness of the “idiot” family member. But I found it fascinating, more like a puzzle needing to be solved. Faulkner had me reeled in to figure this out.

The Sound and the Fury

3. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

This is the only book on this list that I have read several times for the pure joy of it. O’Connor had my emotions at her disposal. I laughed, ridiculed, laughed some more, and then was shocked. In the end I identify too much with the words of the Misfit, “She would have been a good woman had someone been there to shoot her every day of her life.” I too lament those moments of clarity that only occur when bad things happen. Oh for those moments of clarity all the time!

a-good-man-is-hard-to-find1

4. All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

Never have I been so drawn in by introspection over identity, but I read Warren’s words as I searched for my own identity and realized how fractured I really am. I especially identified with Jack’s musings about the picnic where he invites all the different versions of himself together at the same time. Would my different identities even recognize each other? he muses. That quote hangs with me to this day.

all-the-kings-men1

5. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

My 12th grade English teacher pulled me aside and told me, “I want you to read these books.” And they consumed me. I could not put them down. I lived and breathed them and wondered how I could have lived 17 years on planet Earth without reading them. They were adventure to me as I lived through Frodo and Bilbo.

The Lord of the Rings

6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

If The Hobbit was an inspiration of adventure, Narnia’s tales were pure magic. I used to dream of being taken away to Narnia. I used to remember stepping between floor-to-ceiling supports in our basement and imagined them as a gateway to Narnia. No, imagined is not strong enough. I longed to go to Narnia like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

chronicles-of-narnia-boxed-set

7. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Heinlein was not just adventure; it was danger. I had a fascination with science fiction and the young hero in Heinlein’s story.

Starship Troopers

8. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Never have I read so much with such anticipation and still wanted to read more when all seven volumes were complete. I longed to write my own imaginative story that created a world not too distant from our own.

jk rowling harry potter

9. The Firm by John Grisham

Never have I read a book so quickly. I still think of it as the page turner that I truly picked up and didn’t put down until I was finished.

john grisham the firm

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3 Tips for Success in Graduate School

DR. WILLIAM SAYS: Expect lots of reading and writing

You may read a book per week per class, and have to discuss it in depth, or even turn in a paper each week.

Learn the basics of how to dissect a book’s content and get a quick overview of its thesis.

My history professor wheeled a cart full of books into class one day, a different book for each student in class. He handed out the books and announced, “At the end of this hour, I want you to turn in a one page book report on this book!”

Talk about a crash course in how to get into the content of a book without actually reading it.

This is what I learned from that experience:

  • Read the basics first
  • Start with the summary on the back cover
  • Peruse the table of contents and chapter titles
  • Scan chapter titles and subheads
  • Read the forward and introduction
  • Then move into reading chapter one or the first page of each chapter.

You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about a book and its thesis from these basics.

……………………..

DR. DAN SAYS:  There’s a veritable litany of suggestions people will give:

  • Work hard
  • Make good use of your time
  • Socialize
  • Find a balance
  • Find a really good coffee shop/Indian restaurant that delivers, etc. etc. etc.

These are all excellent pieces of advice, and I encourage you to take them all to heart.

That said, though, I would recommend treating grad school like college (unless you had one of those “Four-year-house-party-with-a-$50,000-cover-charge” kind of experiences) in that you should get involved.

It can be tempting to see grad school as your first entry into the ivory tower, calling you to countless hours in the library/lab, but your experience will be richer if you embrace the fullness of where you study.

Depending on your role, you will be a teacher, a student, and a researcher. In this trinity, recognize that your identity and the expectations leveled at you will be fragmented.

Sequestering yourself in one role alone can result in a soul-sucking experience.

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DR. SANDY SAYS: Just Do It!

I have yet to meet any person thrilled with the dissertation process. It is one of the most frustrating endeavors we go through to earn our credentials. And to some extent, it is designed that way! The best way to handle it is to just do it!

My dissertation topic was on professional development for educators, a relatively new specialization at that time. I was the coordinator for such programs in my school district and hoped to use my dissertation to help my colleagues throughout the state benefit more from the new state requirements for professional development.

As with many new things in one’s field, most of my professors, including my advisor, didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. The old notions of what constituted professional development were too embedded.  No matter how much research I presented on the various theories and principles that formed the basis for effective professional development, that old concept of the speaker on the first day of school and workshops on nothing particularly related to the classroom needs of teachers colored his understanding of my design.

I had reached the point of deciding to be an ABD when my superintendent came to my office for a chat. “It’s an exercise,” he reminded me. “Forget trying to break new ground. Forget everything except meeting the expectations of your advisor and committee and just do it!”

I ruminated on that for a few days before acknowledging the truth of his statements.  Then I resubmitted my original proposal, tweaked the way my advisor wanted it, and within two weeks it was approved and I was on my way.  Six months later, I received that coveted letter from the dean’s office acknowledging that I had fulfilled all requirements for my doctorate.

So when you’re frustrated with rewriting your proposal for the umpteenth time, when you can’t make your advisor understand what you’re trying to do, when your desire to make breakthrough contributions to your field get the better of you, remember that this is all an academic exercise. It is your admission ticket so that you can do what you really want to do in your chosen field. It is the beginning of the next phase of your career, not your ultimate contribution.

If you decide to seek help, find a good dissertation editing service to advise you.

Then, take a deep breath, refocus on the goal—earning your doctorate—and JUST DO IT!

 

APA Editing Tips

 

To borrow a trite analogy, learning to use APA [or any documentation style, for that matter] is like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you understand the mechanics, including how to shift, balance, and stop, the rest is easy. The first step is to purchase, and actually read, an APA manual, either APA5 or APA6, depending on your university’s requirements. Granted, it is not a riveting work but essential. If the thought of reading a reference book causes chills to dance down your spine, it is likely time to seek professional dissertation editing help … not for your phobia but for editing your work.

Based on many years of editing dissertations, I can offer a few essential points that candidates frequently overlook. The top fifteen below may be helpful:

References

  • All references in the text must have a comparable listing on the reference pages and vice versa. Each mention of an author’s name must have an identical spelling for each use.
  • Et al. is Latin for ‘and others’; thus, it applies only to three or more authors of the same work. All authors [unless a number in excess of six] should be listed for the first in text citation; if the citation is for two or three authors, all names should appear in each citation.
  • All direct quotes in text must have a page number (p.). Page numbers are not required on paraphrased material.
  • If referring to the same author in closely connected sentences, it is not necessary to use the author’s date in subsequent citations.
  • If websites have no author, begin the reference with the title of the material you retrieved and use that information as the in text citation.
  • Listing databases [Ebsco, LexusNexus, etc.] as a source of retrieval is not required on the reference page. The website address is required.
  • If you are using APA6, it is not necessary to use a retrieval date on websites.[Retrieved from http://xxxxxx]
  • If you are using APA6, locate the doi number, if available, on periodicals. Add it at the end of the citation without a period. [doi: xxxxx]

Writing Style

  • Eschew passive language but tread lightly. It is not enough to employ an active verb if the subject of the sentence is incapable of the implied action [anthropomorphism].
  • If you are creating a proposal, refer to your work in future tense; if you are writing a completed dissertation, refer to your work in past tense.
  • Normally, all references to previous studies are in past tense.
  • In qualitative dissertations, you should avoid personal pronouns. Although it is sometimes necessary, to employ the rather stilted phrase, ‘the researcher,’ it is preferable to using I. Qualitative dissertations offer more leeway on author referents but ‘playing’ with sentence construction can help you avoid using either I or ‘the researcher’.

Mechanics

  • Double check your Table of Contents not only to check correct page numbers but also to confirm identical wording as your text headings.
  • Tables have labels at the top; figures have labels at the bottom.
  • Let the computer work for you. If you are using Word, you can go to file and page setup to indicate consistent margins throughout your document. The paragraph tab under format can produce clean margin indentations and create a hanging indent for those pesky references. Under the insert tab, you can indicate page breaks, which rid your work of widowed headings and subheadings.

To keep your bicycle and your dissertation editing running smoothly may require additional maintenance. In the case of your dissertation, this means discovering whether your university committee or graduate school has exceptions to APA and tweaking your work accordingly. Normally, the exceptions relate to spacing and specific required headings within each chapter but, occasionally, there are exceptions to tense selection or other peculiarities. If need be, seek the help of a dissertation editing service.

This should provide a starting checklist for your work. But it’s no substitute for the manual. So if you’re a grad student or scholar, pick one up and enjoy it! Joke. It can be pretty dense reading, but that’s the name of the academic game.