Sunday, June 26, 2016

All Muddled Up

There are those times when you're trying to dash something off on a social media site and in the back of your mind you sense that the word you're using isn't the right one. In the alternative, something tells you it isn't spelled properly - you're using the homonym for what you really want to say. But there you are trying to dash off a quick response to something. You ignore that instinct that I affectionately call "My Muse" and click Post. No going to to check the spelling. No tolling the benefits of spell check. Auto-correct! Isn't that a four-letter word!?

So eight different instances of using the term in different posts (and a couple of other terms) that My Muse started nagging you about that are also generously sprinkled about your social media home (still without checking the spelling or usage of the terms), and

lo and behold!

You come upon all of them in a news headline - spelled correctly. And you've been telling people you have perfect spelling and are a quality proofreader. Would you like this plain paper bag to cover your head - and embarrassment?

In the alternative, you wrote it one way. Then you reasoned through whether that was the correct version of what you wanted to say. Let's say the word was about courage and fortitude. You know that sword metal needs to be tempered and tested. Does that, therefore, mean that the character's "metal" is being tested or is the character's "mettle" the subject of the passage. You go with "metal" because the result will be the strongest possible. It would be so much wiser to double check which spelling (thus, which word) is the one that should be used. Two days later you decide to double check. That's when you're reminded about the other homonyms, "medal", "metal", "mettle", and (just for good measure, "meddle"). Are you slapping your forehead with the palm of your hand? Here's an ice pack. Your face has a few blue marks and I don't think they're from an editor's - or copyeditor's, for that matter - pencil.

Maybe you can make an argument about the location of Briton and how it's related to Britain. (And we won't even get into whether either one is spelled with one "t" or two.) Of course, the person listening to the rationale won't tell you that one is a person from the region whereas the other is the region. They'll simply hand you a mental shovel as they walk away with that strange smirk on their face.

Their loss. They don't know about your sharp wit and mounds of awards for public speaking and debate.

Besides, there are all of those new words that are becoming part of our lexicon these days because of global language blending, colloquialisms, and idioms that allow all (global all) of us to speak in emoji and Twitter-speak. Remember those good old days? You know, the ones where we were scrambling to keep up with computerese? That time from the 1980s when computers were becoming every person's language as we evolved from "every man's" language.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Importance of Bibliographies

Many bloggers do not use bibliographic notes appended to their posts. Perhaps that's because most blog posts are simply thoughts of the writer rather than researched articles. Perhaps the bibliographic notes are missing because the writer doesn't realize the "why" of creating that reference point. Either way, the bibliography (sometimes called a resources list) serves a very meaningful purpose. It isn't a bunch of cross links to other sites in order to promote a friend's or colleague's website or blog.

For a lab report, a research paper, or an article, the standard is universal. A reference list or bibliography is used in order to show that there was research done to support the thoughts being put forth in the writing. The facts can be proved; anyone who wants to check them has a list of the resources relied upon to develop and support the ideas.

There are those who attempt to detract from the writer's credibility. Some criticisms amount to saying that the list is nothing more than a bunch of links that were thrown in as an afterthought. Chances are, those critics aren't even aware of the resource list and have not visited any of the references in order to learn more, much less verify that they support the theory being proposed.

No, the reference list is not a gimmick to make the article appear long or increase the word count or make it impressive because of mass. Its purpose is to provide substantiation of what is contained; the author's words provide the substance of the proposition based on how well the arguments are formed. The reference list shows what was examined. Because the list is held up to scrutiny,

it is wise to actually read the source in order be conversant about what it contains. It's also important to read the entire source (unless, of course, it's a very lengthy book or treatise that requires an inordinate amount of time to consume) in order to be certain that it doesn't start by making one proposition that will be disputed and proved wrong or different at the end. Know the content. If the original proposition is different from what is being argued, find one that supports the proposition that is being made. In the case of the treatise, it's better to examine the chapter or section that directly deals with the subject of the writing. There is the matter of overkill when researching a subject.

It's also useful to double check resources to be certain the theory or principle is still the same. In law, some principle will be cited in the pleading (or brief). Woe to the lawyer who doesn't Shepardize their case law or legislation to be certain it is being maintained in their jurisdiction and that it is still good law. Even if it isn't law that's being discussed in the paper, make certain the propositions are supported by evidence or facts (or both) in order to make certain the arguments are as strong as possible.

Citation Styles

There are a number of citation styles. The more standard are Chicago, Associated Press (AP), and Modern Language Association (MLA). The style that is used is primarily based on where the writing is going to be published and its purpose. If it is for journalism, it's wise to determine whether the publisher prefers (or defaults to) the Chicago style or AP. There are differences between the two. Better to have your writing submitted under the correct style rather than have the writer's credibility questioned because the wrong style was used without regard to the quality of the content. It means the publisher will have to be doubly careful about scrutinizing the content because there's first impression evidence that the writer doesn't pay close attention to details.

But there's no wiggle room for legal writing. The rule of thumb is to follow the Harvard Blue Book of Citation.

No Matter What

Suffice it to say, it's wise to create and list the sources used to support the proposition being discussed in the paper. If nothing else, the reference list provides evidence of having looked into the matter rather than just blowing off a bunch of gibberish intended to flimflam the unsuspecting reader. It's also wise to use a reference list to help keep track of what was used as the paper is being developed. Most importantly, the reference list is not the paper; it supports the paper's proposition.

The next time you're discussing something more than the latest reality show and there's a difference of opinion, an assertion that the current topic is flawed, ask for what shows otherwise.

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