Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: My professor keeps finding mistakes in my papers, such as typos and mistakenly used words, as well as other things I won’t mention. I proof my papers like crazy and still can’t seem to eliminate all the errors. Any suggestions?

I am curious about the unmentionables, the “other things” wrong with your papers. I presume they fall into the category of silly mistakes, which we all make but usually not in graded or published work. You may be suffering from a lack of commitment to your craft. If you intend to stay in the academic realm, you had better become more prideful in your researched and written finished product. You probably don’t leave your room without double-checking that your pants are on and your socks match. Showing as much concern about your papers is advisable.

Proofing is not rocket science. It is more like custodial work. You are cleaning up after someone—yourself—with the goal of having a thoroughly clean and ordered piece of writing when you finish. Proofing and double-checking your paper is not a creative work. It is purely a functional labor designed to enhance what you have created by eliminating deficiencies and smudgy mistakes. As in room-cleaning, paper-proofing should be systematic, thorough, and methodical. You should look at every word and paragraph as if seeing them for the first time.

Finally, it is not a one-person task. You might be a meticulous editor, but proofing your own work is likely to fail. Why? False assumptions you made while writing the piece still are assumed. A re-reading of a sentence is not as revealing as a first reading. Poor sentence structure you worked out in your mind still seems to work when your mind encounters it again; familiarity breeds sloppiness. The way around these problems is to have another set of eyes, another brain, another writer proof your paper. You will be surprised what he finds and what you missed.


Posted at 2012-09-21 10:50:57

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