Friday, August 6, 2010

The art of professional writing...

**Friendly warning: Only read on if mild swear words amuse but do not offend** :)

I've always loved to write. Hence this blog. Creative writing in particular. This was one of my favorite school-related tasks as early as elementary school.

As an attorney, I still loved to turn my messy brainstorms into coherent arguments. Granted, the content wasn't all that exciting, but still, that was my main talent as an attorney. Forming an oral argument? Only at gunpoint. But I was a good brief writer.

As an academic librarian on the tenure track, I'm expected to publish in the professional literature. This is daunting, and puts many librarians off pursuing an academic position. And I will grant, I was a bit intimidated at first, before I tried to publish anything. But I've grown into it. Because after all, I love to write. And writing about librarianship, while not always scintillating, is still pretty interesting to me. Because I love what I do.

I've been writing an article all summer. I've edited and re-edited. Had Mike read it ("what's with all these commas?" Apparently I'm a comma lover) and a respected colleague read it. I've re-edited again. And again. I've checked my endnotes and bibliography, anally conformed to the requested Chicago Humanities Notes Style. Which leads me on a tangent... All evil-doers should be tied to a chair in an empty room with nothing but the Chicago Manual of Style, and forced to figure out how to cite an electronic correspondence from an anonymous author that was included in an exhibit of unknown duration. How about a conference proceeding from fifty years ago that is now part of a digital archive? These need to be included as both a note and an entry in the bibliography. They'll break down and beg for mercy.

Anyway, I digress. I've done all of this. And finally! I think I can stick a fork in it, because baby, it's done. I'm going to submit it to the journal that I selected first thing Monday morning. Please God, let them want to publish it.

So, this got me to thinking about the fine art of professional writing. Let's be frank. Professional writing involves a certain amount of, shall we say, bullshit. I'm sorry, but it does. Now, I will grant, nothing disturbs me more than reading professional literature and having the following reaction:

"*blank* What? Wait? Did I miss something? I just read that whole page, but...Let me read it again. *brain processes all cease* Wait? WHAT? Did that even say anything? I don't think so. It can't just be me, right? I don't think that even SAID anything!"

This my friends is what I call high-level bullshit. It inevitably starts something like "Our vision for the twenty first century workplace is a place where all feel welcome and wanted, and can foresee..." or some such flowery nothingness. I refuse to stoop to this level.

I like to think that I have honed my lower-level bullshit skills, and this talent is needed to be a successful writer. I'm all about simplicity in my writing, but one must learn how to properly incorporate the professional buzz words that will capture the attention of ones intended audience.

For instance, at the same time as my article, I've been working on my required annual report. This requires us all to channel the bullshit king:

"Students progressed with the material as we hoped they would."

Yeah. Can't say that. This can be magically transformed to:

"Students did achieve the measured learning outcomes and proficiences as set forth in the project goals."

How about:

"Students could enroll in the course anytime they wanted, making it a heck of a lot less work for us."

The *angels sing* version is:

"Since this course is not affiliated with the university's credit-bearing course registration system, students must self-enroll, empowering them to initiate completion of this requirement at their convenience."

I know, right? What can I say? It's a gift.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting! I read and appreciate every single one, and I will respond to each one personally!