Editing Writing for History Assignments

Readers of this blog should, at the very least, understand that effective writing in the history classroom requires work.  Writing has many formal and informal rules that undergraduates are expected to have learned and mastered by the time they reach history courses.  When students are not proficient in these rules, they are expected to learn throughout the course.  However, this is not the only work that instructors require of students.  Undergraduate writers of all levels will need to put work into the revision process before they submit final drafts of their work.

Proofreading, editing, and revision are essential steps in all forms of writing, whether it is a fifteen page research paper or a short identification on a test.  All writers should understand that “writing is a process.”  While different sources discordantly define the writing process, they all suggest that writing is more than the production of a written document.  In the writing process, students must carve out time for proofreading, editing and revision.  This time will inevitably vary depending on the project.  In your in-class writing assignments, spending an extra five minutes looking over and revising your work will go a long way.  In larger projects (essays, research papers, or reading responses), there are several strategies for improving your final project.  As the blog post  Early and Often suggests, starting projects early is key to finely polished writing.  “Early and Often” allows students to explore a wide variety of proofreading, editing, and revision options, including the use of FIU’s History Department Writing in History tutors.  Beyond the tutors, as the blog post How Historical Writing is Graded suggested, there are two important steps in revision.  First, all writers should take the time to read through their own work.  Spending the time to read each word, sentence, and paragraph aloud will force the writer to catch mistakes they sometimes miss when looking over the work.  Second, all writers should reverse outline their work.  In the process of developing an idea into a written document, ideas and arguments can often shift.  Reverse outlining asks writers to try to summarize their own sentences and paragraphs to see how they fit into the larger argument within an essay.  By working with these strategies, undergraduate writers will see improvement in the overall quality of their writing.

Thanks, Dr. Weimer

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Writing in History Fall 2015 Motto: “Early and Often”

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The Fall 2015 motto for the Writing in History program is “early and often.”  Dr. Weimer and I picked this phrase because it serves as a shorthand reminder that writing is a process that takes both time and revision.  We have all pulled that allnighter where we write a paper just before the deadline, perhaps even scraping by with a good grade.  To reach your full writing potential, however, you need to move beyond procrastination and start practicing “early and often.”

Start writing early.  Whether it is a small weekly assignment or a term paper, get words on the page as soon as possible.  Ideas take time to form, and the clear articulation of those thoughts takes even longer.  A good cup of coffee takes time to percolate, and so does your brain.  Once you have something down, you must then edit it frequently.  This is where often comes in.  Well-written paragraphs do not flow straight out of the brain to the page, they need revision.  You should read and edit your work.  Reading it out loud, for example, can help you find wording that just does not sound right.  You can also exchange papers with a friend and ask them to assess your work honestly.  To have time for various types of revision, you need to start early.  “Early and often” are linked.

For the Writing in History program, “early and often” also takes on a second meaning.  Our history writing tutors are available to assist students taking history classes at FIU.  To make the most of this resource, it is vital to be “early and often.”  Make your first appointment early, soon after the assignment is announced.  This action will give you the motivation to prepare something for the tutoring meeting.  Remember, the more complete your thoughts and writings, the greater the feedback and help you will get from the tutors.  You can also meet with the tutors several times, often if you will.  A couple of meetings with the writing tutors will help you with revise as you move through the stages of paper writing.

To set up an appointment to see one of the history writing tutors please visit our website.

Best, Dr. Ferdinando