Many students are required to purchase—and perhaps even read—an invaluable writer’s tool known as Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.” Possibly the most important of the 22 rules that make up the first half of this wonderful guide is number 17, which simply states, “Omit needless words.”
I think there are two primary reasons why so many students tend to go overboard with unnecessary words in their papers: They haven’t done the research and are trying to hide the fact by over-writing; or they think that the paper will sound more scholarly if it is filled with obscure, big, or a high volume of words. To the former group, a tip: Your professor is reading for content and will notice if you don’t know the material. To the latter group: If you know your topic, you’ll sound far more scholarly by discussing it simply and accurately—don’t force your reader to dig out a dictionary.
My favorite piece of writing advice is this:
When my creative writing professor first recommended it to our class, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my chest. I had been in the habit of listening in on other people for years, and always felt pretty guilty about it. As he spoke, I suddenly realized that there was nothing to feel guilty about. It wasn’t eavesdropping, after all. It was research!
So, why spy?
Listening in on other people’s conversations can give you inspirations for new stories and new characters, for one thing. More importantly, it gives you a better understanding of natural speech cadences and dialog progression. There is nothing like listening to two people having a real conversation to make you realize three key elements of writing interesting dialog:
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about disintermediation. Mostly, I suppose, because it’s such an excellent word. (If I ever manage to spell it out in a Scrabble tournament I think I’ll retire and ride the wave of renown all the way to the bank.)
If you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you’ve been thinking about it also, and just didn’t realize. It came up for me, as I’ve recently been asked to fill in as a tutor for a university course on publishing. One of the key concepts in the course so far has been the recent change in media distribution. Today, of course, it’s possible to write a book and use online platforms to print and distribute it to any manner of public. That’s disintermediation: you could call it cutting out the middleman (or middlewoman) if you didn’t care about winning at word games.
Some universities have a requirement that their doctoral candidates must have their dissertation proofread and edited before final approval is granted. Whether you are considering dissertation proofreading because you have to or because you want to make sure your dissertation is compliant with both citation style rules and your university’s requirements, having your dissertation proofread and edited will result in a final product that reflects the huge effort you have already put into it.
Think of it this way: You’ve been looking at this paper for so long that even obvious mistakes might not be so obvious to you anymore. If your Chair and committee members have also been reading your various renditions, they might not be seeing errors in sentence-structure, spelling, and grammar, in addition to citation or university style requirements. A fresh set of eyes—in the form of an editor who is seeing your paper for the first time—will pick up issues that have become invisible to you.
WordsRU is not only a proofreading service! We also help writers to develop their narrative, and can even write documents from scratch. We can work with all the stages of a document, from the very beginning to the final step before publication.
Welcome to the WordsRU blog! We’ll be sharing some of our experience and tips to help you improve your writing, and keep you informed of WordsRU news. We hope you will respond and share your thoughts and ideas, as well!
I have been an editor for students for over 16 years. Along the way, I’ve noticed some mistakes that students from every level tend to make. One of the biggest—and easiest to correct—is not reading the directions for the assignment. So many students come to WordsRU for proofreading or editing of a paper, theses, or dissertation because they have received negative feedback from a professor, supervisor, or Chair that their paper has not met the requirements of the assignment. In almost every instance, the problem is that he or she has not followed the directions. Take the time to read—really read!—the assignment requirements or the theses/dissertation guide!