Here I was, planning a post where I whine about my inability to abstain from more MOOCs, and then Debra from C-Dog & Company comes along and nominates me for this: The Lovely Blog Award.
First of all: thank you so much, Debra! And, friendly reader, go to her blog immediately and check it out if you haven’t yet, it is lovely, informative, moving, funny — everything a good blog should be.
Second of all: Wha? I mean… I’m so new to this blog thing here on WordPress, that I just don’t know my way around yet. I mean, saying thank you can never be wrong, but the rest of the bloggiquette still escapes me. I shall follow Debra’s example and post the rules and my own nominees a month from now.
In the meantime, I signed up for Blogging 101 on The Daily Post. This will hopefully teach me Netiquette and the ins and outs of the blogosphere, it looks very promising to a Newbie like me who just started a blog, wrote along naïvely, thinking to be on my own mostly, and was amazed at the interesting people who already found me — I don’t know how — and are already introducing me to a completely unexpected experience. And this to me, who doesn’t really have much to say (that’s why the posts are so long).
It’s odd to call myself a Newbie, I’ve been on the interwebs since 1995 and done a lot of things. I even had a fandom related place you could call a blog. This here, however, is more personal and hence all new, and will hopefully be less stressful since I’ll not commit to anything that forces me to post more than once a week. I set this as a minimum for myself. I aim at three posts per week, I think that much I can manage.
So, back to the MOOCs. I’ve just signed up to SciWrite — Writing in the Sciences on Stanford Online. It is very interesting. Eons ago, I was doing biological research and writing papers. This was the time before Google, Pubmed, Endnote or Reference Manager. In fact, I wrote my first thesis on a typewriter and when personal computers appeared on the scene, the world suddenly became so much brighter. You could actually delete all the mistakes. You could format and reformat to your heart’s content without having to use scissors and glue — nope, I’m not nostalgic at all. From the moment I learned that I’m not too stupid to use computers, I loved them with a passion, and still do. They even pay my bills now.
But anyway, back in those days, not being a native English writer, the peers and I followed a certain pattern when writing a paper: Using the passive voice and blowing every sentence up with a lot of hot air and important sounding words, like all the ‘important people’ did. Writing these papers was no fun (seeing your name as an author was, though). Reading this kind of papers was even less fun. But this is how it has to be, I always thought.
Imagine my surprise when the lady, who gives the course, said things like: Don’t make spunky verbs into boring nouns, cut the repetitions, leave out the empty words, don’t fill the text with meaningless phrases. She presents examples and cuts a five-line paragraph into two lines, and they say everything much clearer and more enjoyable than the original did. Writing for the enjoyment of the reader: that’s revolutionary!
I don’t plan to write science papers any more; I’m not doing research any longer. But the advice given here, I think, can benefit anyone who wants to improve his or her writing. When participating in courses, I often find word limits for the essays quit strict, and learning how to cut the clutter and exchanging “boring nouns” with “spunky verbs” and all the other tricks she talks about, is certainly a very useful skill to have. It’s also the first course I’m participating in that’s not on coursera. So far, it looks well organized and nice. I’ll write more about it as we move along.