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A few weeks ago, I wondered about the background of our newest First Lady. In my online research, I discovered that Dr. Jill Biden is quite an impressive individual. Personally, I felt the most inspired by the fact that she pursued her doctorate while just a few years older than me. I’m now in the midst of this grueling yet deeply rewarding experience myself. So I know the rigor and intense commitment necessary to reach that ultimate objective.

To complicate these challenges further, I intimately understand that it’s not easy to return to the academic world at middle age. Though the learning process is undeniably worthwhile, a certain self-consciousness remains when surrounded by more youthful students with longer career tracks ahead of them. Questions of belonging, of being able to keep up mentally, of not looking foolish before accomplished, significantly younger professors are all factors to contend with throughout the degree program. …


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Over the past horrifically tumultuous four years, I’ve joined millions of others to watch the evolution of Trump’s cruel regime, always feeling helpless and apprehensive. Throughout this entire period, I devoured information about our now lame-duck president. With uneasy eagerness, I absorbed every meanngful nugget, primarily to face my own fears about what damage he could do to our demoncracy, how he might destroy multiple freedoms to cement his power.

In each article, each study, each Facebook post from the numerous political groups I now follow, one startling consistency has remained within plain view. This president’s white maleness gives him unlimited, unrestrained influence in almost every area of his existence. Up until now, his exclusive membership in this elite club of patriarchal authority offered him legal exemption, enabling him to commit unthinkable wrongs without any repercussions. …


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In this intensive, often troubling journey to Election Day, I’ve closely watched Donald Trump’s vicious rhetoric on the subject of women. To be blunt, the entire experience fills me with horror and dread due to his slew of disturbing contradictions and obvious misrepresentations. From loud moans of victimhood against Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” to declarations of heroism for fixing suburban housewives’ dishwashers, the paradoxes are almost comical. If this man weren’t such a threat to women’s autonomy, I’d almost be amused by the evident conflicts.

But none of his ferocious deviations, where he seamlessly moves from demanding praise for getting husbands back into the workforce to disrespecting Vice Presidential-hopeful Kamala Harris for possibly becoming a “female socialist president,” are the least bit funny. In fact, they’re quite alarming. That’s because every scenario, no matter the circumstance or where it lands on the spectrum of the absurd, always paints women as villainous ingrates who fail to recognize this president’s value to our lives. Within the deepest corners of his narcissistic mind, we’re just ornaments to enhance his ego, not separate individuals with the right to breathe the same air as him, to expect fair treatment and equal opportunities. …


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https://unsplash.com/@mkrisanova

Perhaps it’s the stress of living at a time when the federal government openly demonstrates a callous disregard for the American public’s health. Or maybe it’s the constant anxiety of knowing an invisible, quite lethal virus looms in the air without any mitigation efforts whatsoever from those who hold positions of national leadership. But over these last torturous months, I’ve become exceedingly aware of the ways in which women’s voices, often advocates of moral avenues out of this nightmare, must navigate around systemic attempts to silence them. This misogynistic endeavor has always existed in our society. …


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On March 19th, I learned something about the online world that I’d never heard put into concrete terms before. There is a dark world online that’s always looking for ways to silence the voices of women and minorities. Dr. Jessica Reyman and Dr. Erika Sparby offered an enlightening presentation on this very subject as part of the STEMCafé’s series of lectures. Their discussion made me aware of an issue I’ve thought about while scanning Facebook. Until they shared their research, though, I had no idea the threat was so pervasive.

The most disturbing part of this factual information is that a communication tool, which offers promising possibilities of community and connection, can be incredibly detrimental. Nameless figures who think they have the right to intimidate diverse perspectives are determined to stamp out social media’s amazing potential. Even worse, there’s very little an individual can do to combat this pervasive phenomenon. Because platforms are owned and operated by large, profit-driven corporations that want posts to gain traction at any cost, protection against deliberate, heartless bullying is weak at best. This means the companies that operate these platforms don’t have an incentive to make changes which could realistically diminish traffic. …


One of the things I enjoy most about the Technical Editing textbook is that it offers clear definitions of key terms. As I have mentioned in past blogs, much of my editing knowledge has been instinctual, developing from interactions and directions given by clients. To see detailed explanations of editing practices has really helped me better understand the actual theories well beyond the loose instructions I’ve absorbed over the years. The explanation of proofreading in chapter thirteen is no exception.

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Proofreading’s Value
It’s very easy to confuse proofreading with copyediting as this chapter indicates. But proofreading is actually the final step in any document production. Without this essential part of the process, a work may contain needlessly sloppy errors or continuity problems that proofreading could have resolved. Even after the copyediting stage has been completed, other hands may get into the mix and create changes that need to be smoothed over prior to publication. …


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One of the things I enjoy most about the Technical Editing textbook is that it offers clear definitions of key terms. As I have mentioned in past blogs, much of my editing knowledge has been instinctual, developing from interactions and directions given by clients. To see detailed explanations of editing practices has really helped me better understand the actual theories well beyond the loose instructions I’ve absorbed over the years. The explanation of proofreading in chapter thirteen is no exception.

Proofreading’s Value
It’s very easy to confuse proofreading with copyediting as this chapter indicates. But proofreading is actually the final step in any document production. Without this essential part of the process, a work may contain needlessly sloppy errors or continuity problems that proofreading could have resolved. Even after the copyediting stage has been completed, other hands may get into the mix and create changes that need to be smoothed over prior to publication. …


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In reading David Dayton’s article “Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: A Survey of Practices and Attitudes,” I am surprised by some of the findings. But I also think his explanation of today’s editing landscape is quite informative. He offers a global view of how editing has evolved and adjusted to changing times. Furthermore, his findings show that despite technological developments, the art of editing remains largely the same. As a writer-editor, I think his conclusions are extremely helpful. They provide important information about current trends in the field.

Examining the Survey Results

Based on the survey Drayton presents, editing appears to be a secondary function, not work that’s performed on a primary level. Additionally, both hard copy and digital texts are routinely used to perform editing needs, even though there’s so much technology in place of paper. I think that is a startling nugget. But in further reading of the results, he states: “writer-editors had the highest proportion using electronic methods as their primary edit mode.” This finding makes sense to me because I identify in that group and electronic tools are my preference over resources in paper form. …


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In “How to Do Things with Incoherence,” recently published by Peter Wayne Moe and Kyle Winkler, the authors offer a remarkable argument for embracing an often discouraged outgrowth of writing. They view incoherence as a positive attribute that deserves recognition and more uplifting attention. I think these scholars’ claims are quite inspiring because they show the complexity of communicating effectively and how well-intentioned instruction can stifle creativity.

As a composition instructor at NIU, I frequently see my students struggle to explain their ideas in ways that make sense. When concepts are especially complex, they tend to write longer sentences that show their struggle to process multiple layers of meaning. I work hard to help them streamline what appears to be convoluted descriptions to get to the heart of their arguments. But after reading Moe and Winkler, I wonder if there’s a better way to approach these written expressions. Because I’m focused on training my students to write according to an academic format, I question whether I’m overlooking innovative ideas in favor of an accepted style that can be restrictive.

Yet at the other end of the spectrum, by ignoring prevalent writing standards, students are not fully prepared for their future teachers’ expectations. Indeed, notions of exceptional writing are much bigger than any one instructor. Therefore, each educator must balance entrenched writing practices with a recognition of out-of-the-box techniques by their students. On an abstract level, this method sounds feasible. But I’m not sure how it would be put into practice, particularly if this process translates as more intuitive and lacks any concrete structure. It means each writing teacher would have to figure out a design for addressing clarity while encouraging innovation all at once. I think that’s a difficult objective to fulfill.

But by maintaining a regulated course of action that doesn’t value creativity, writing’s inherent magic is inevitably stifled. After reading this article, I believe there should be room for new angles to peek through and blossom. Otherwise, the joy of writing can’t help but be flattened for the new author in particular. And I would never want a budding artist to be unnecessarily constrained. Without sounding melodramatic, I feel that the construction of such a wall could devastate a writer who shows promise and ability. So instead of crossing out words, leaving abbreviated comments in the margins about awkward phrasing, I believe we as teachers should take the time to consider potential nuggets with greater care. This is not to say that editing must be cast aside in our students’ writing. But I think it’s in the student’s best interest for us to recognize the gems beneath the textual surface instead of closing ourselves off because of a paper’s lack of standardization.

In short, Moe and Winkler have made me more sensitive to the integrity of my students’ ideas. I think their guidance allows me to see what my students are trying to convey, however seemingly incoherent, and help them achieve greater clarity. Through this process, I’ll understand that what may appear chaotic could actually be innovation that warrants attention. This reframing can assist my students in developing their written voices without a constant concern about systemization. As a result, the methodology will certainly open my mind as well. I’m glad to have read this article. …


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Unfortunately in today’s world, there is a growing push to discourage critical thought and intellectual independence. With the United States’ current administration that’s in power, hateful labels and superiority based on position, not thoughtful insights, are the norm. This constant need to denigrate logical thinking that questions authoritarianism systematically fractures a respect for anything academic. I believe the art of editing written works to ensure clear communication cannot help but be affected by this regrettable attitude.

Just recently, according to CNN, the White House’s spokeswoman claimed that Congress is “not smart enough” to understand Donald Trump’s tax returns. Such a statement shows the twisted nature of attacking intellectualism. While this administration urges Americans not to question the president, taking his documented lies at face value, it simultaneously claims a legislative body lacks the intelligence to examine a report that this country has the right to view. In other words, the government wants to make thinking skills exclusive to its deceptive leaders while deterring constituents from engaging in any substantial thought at the same time. If tax files are too complicated for Congressional lawmakers to view, it’s certainly implied that regular Americans are even less skilled in understanding this kind of information. To take this line of reasoning even further, this must mean that any type of written piece, whether numbers-related or otherwise, should be out of reach except to those powerful few in this most punishing administration.

Such a dark outlook demonstrates that the freedom to access ideas, to explore writers’ works without any limits, is in terrible danger. By extension, the editor’s role in clarifying authors’ pieces for a richer reading experience is also at risk. Therefore, if this government is allowed to deny information, even just one set of documents, the door is then opened to confiscate other materials from an electorate that has every right to pursue knowledge of any kind.

Another key example of such withholding involves the Mueller report, which is scheduled to be released with redactions on Thursday. Once again, the government makes the argument that the full work should not be available to Congress and to the public. Naturally, this move is more about protecting a criminal president than making an intellectual statement about the American people. But the result is virtually the same. The figures in charge choose to keep voters in an ignorant state, hoping we will simply accept the distorted, deliberately misinformed conclusions in the blacked out report without question. Indeed, those who believe in Trump with a passion don’t care about challenging any of the lies he routinely spouts on Twitter and during his rallies. It’s the evident hope of this administration that more Americans will adopt such blind faith and not doubt the rosy-colored marketing that attempts to cover horrendous policies.

If such actions are allowed to take place without a fight, intellectual thought is doomed. Writing that asserts the truth in any manner whichthreatens this regime will be silenced. And editors will be tasked with heightening propaganda rather than refining works that offer multiple angles on a given subject. I worry about the future of writing and editing under this administration. …

About

Alisa Burris

A teacher who’s always learning while writing a dissertation about the cultural alienation of Jewish women writers

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