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Bye, design

I’ve been firmly planted on the editorial side of publishing since my early days as a volunteer writer and proofreader at my student newspaper in undergrad, but my first paid gig in publishing was in production and design: after I moved cities for my MSc, I got a job laying out the student newspaper once a week at my new school.

I absolutely loved it. Continue reading “Bye, design”

The plagiarist

Four-frame cartoon. Frame 1: An editor sits at a desk and an author is in a chair facing the editor. The editor says, "“…and you’ll probably want to make some changes to this section here, or you might face accusations of plagiarism.” Frame 2: The author, panicked, says, “Oh my god. You’re telling me I committed plagiarism?! Are you… are you going to report me to the authorities?” The editor is confused, saying “What? No, I’m—” Frame 3: The author says, “I swear I didn’t do it on purpose!” The author says, “I believe you! Unintentional plagiarism happens a lot. We just have to fix—” Frame 4: The author says, “I CAN’T GO TO JAIL! MY FAMILY NEEDS ME!” And the editor, flabbergasted, says, “I… I just think you need to add some quotation marks and citations.”Last spring Mark Allen asked those of us who’d been guests on That Word Chat to contribute door prizes for the annual Freelancers Happy Hour in conjunction with the ACES: The Society for Editing national conference.

My contributions were:

  • an ebook copy of Midlife (there’s still time to get your hardcover before they’re gone forever!) and
  • a bespoke four-panel cartoon.

The winner of the cartoon was Vee White, and when I contacted them to discuss ideas, they told me about an international plagiarism survey they and Andrea Klingler conducted on a sample of editors, writers, and publishers who work with English-language content.

They’re working on compiling the results, but attitudes toward plagiarism apparently span a spectrum from believing plagiarism is no big deal to, well, the (over)reaction you see here.

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Bad breath

Two-frame cartoon. Frame 1 shows bespectacled editor and curly-haired editor sitting at a table with their laptops open. Bespectacled editor says, “What’s your approach to ‘breathe’ commas?” Curly-haired editor says, “If I see them, I’ll abide.” Frame 2: Bespectacled editor says, “Oh, really?” Curly-haired editor says, “I mean, sighing is a KIND of breathing.”

Frances Peck said it best in Peck’s English Pointers:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary commas for the same reason that a symphony should have no unnecessary pauses. True, commas add rhythm, and more importantly clarity, to our writing. But, if we use too many, of them, our writing becomes difficult, for people, to read, and our ideas end up fragmented, instead of connected.

For years participants in my grammar and writing workshops have magnanimously imparted their golden rule for commas: use a comma whenever you would take a breath. And for years I have regretfully but pointedly burst their bubble. That simple rule, which so many have clung to since their tender years, works occasionally (even often, if you’re a speechwriter or playwright), but it also gives rise to the superfluous commas that pollute our prose, bobbing up disconcertingly like plastic bottles in the ocean.

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Publish and perish

This post is part rumination and part self-indulgent whining, but it’s just enough about publishing that I can barely justify putting it on this blog.

When I started my PhD, I never intended to pursue an academic position. What I’d hoped for was some dedicated time to learn more about plain language and knowledge translation so that when I returned to my editing and communication consultancy after graduating, I’d be equipped with research evidence and, frankly, the credential to be taken seriously by the academics I was hoping to work with to make their findings more accessible.

I still don’t want an academic position. But my transition back to freelancing has been much bumpier and more tortuous than I’d expected—in fact, I still haven’t completely gotten there. I was naive to have believed that I’d simply submit my dissertation to the library and dust off my hands, neatly closing that chapter of my life. As it turns out, I still care a great deal about my research topic and the people who could be affected by it, and in trying to make my own findings more accessible, I’ve spent the past two years in a kind of para-academic purgatory I haven’t managed to escape.

So here’s the convoluted story of my attempts to get my research published. Whether you learn from my mistakes, laugh at my misfortunes, find a cause to advocate for, or simply feel less alone, I hope you get something out of this brain vomit of a blog post. (For readers who aren’t in the academic world, I’ll be explaining some concepts that many academic publishing folks will already be familiar with.)

I’m deliberately avoiding naming specific people, publications, and institutions, but if you recognize yourself and want to be explicitly credited, please let me know. 

WARNING: Writing this post was necessary and therapeutic for me, but reading it will probably be incredibly boring for you. If the topic doesn’t interest you, I dunno, click on one of my cartoons or something.

TL;DR: The academic publishing system is bollocks, especially for unaffiliated para-academics. Continue reading “Publish and perish”