Give editing the attention it deserves

I decided to strike while the iron was hot and wrote a post based on my student’s guest post. In my post, I am talking about the editing part of writing.

Give editing the attention it deserves or the joy of collaborating with Nadya Borisova

This post is inspired by the guest post Nadya Borisova wrote for me “Academic IELTS without a degree in linguistics” (Part 1 and Part 2). She wrote the whole thing, while I got to comment and edit. Editing is a critical, yet underestimated part of writing. In this post, I want to give this part the attention it deserves and talk about how Nadya and I collaborated on editing her post.

The guest post idea.

Being a teacher, I write about exams and language learning from a teacher perspective (naturally). I claim to know the right thing to do and demand that my students do what I say. But my students don’t always do what I demand or recommend. One reason could be that, as a teacher, I am not always able to put myself in my students’ shoes and adequately assess their needs. Additionally, to be brutally honest, IELTS 9 (my score) is out of reach for most students, so my success story might not be particularly inspiring. At the same time, most test takers or potential test takers will relate to my students’ success stories. So I thought, “Why don’t I share them on my blog?” and offered my IELTS 8 student to describe her success story (in English, naturally).

She did!

The mere fact of a student writing 5(!) pages of original and meaningful material in English was already enough to make me go ecstatic. But I actually derived even more pleasure out of it – the pleasure of editing.

The editing procedure.

Stage 1. 

I read the whole piece to get the main idea. As I was reading it, I paid attention to the title, the sections, the way the informations was organized, and the length. I commented on those aspects and Nadezhda replied.

Stage 2.

I gave the piece a second read, paying attention to the content this time. I wanted to cut the piece by about 1 page and looked for things that could be sacrificed or expressed more concisely. I also tried to figure out whether the information was clear to the potential reader (people who have never taken IELTS or those who have but didn’t get the required score). I made some suggestions, which we discussed.

Stage 3.

When I was completely satisfied with the content and the organization, I turned my attention to the language. I tried to keep Nadya’’s piece as “hers” as possible and did not correct all of the mistakes or inappropriacies. In terms of grammar, I mostly corrected articles, prepositions, and tense use a couple of times. We fixed some sentence structures. The vocabulary is mostly untouched, I didn’t want to mess it up. Here are some examples of Nadya’s vocabulary use that I liked:

  • You have to keep in mind that you cannot achieve overnight success in learning a language.
  • But hey, IELTS is a language test after all!
  • Remember, you’re on a tight schedule.
  • All teachers always say: planning is a must.

By the way, these examples show that Nadya learned English from authentic resources and didn’t use a Russian-English dictionary when writing her post. How? Well, this fascinating topic actually deserves a post of its own. Let’s continue with our story now.

Stage 4.

Nadya and I each gave the document a final read, resolving any final comments and edits.

The time it all took.

The work was thorough on both sides and therefore time-consuming. I first messaged Nadezhda on 28 December, I received the first draft on 9 January and we finished editing on 22 January. Choosing the title took the longest and looked like this:

The title that we decided to stick to with was the version that Nadezhda came up with 1 day before we published the post, completely out of the blue.

The joy and power of collaboration.

Here is why I enjoyed working with Nadya immensely.

First and foremost, she met the challenge fearlessly and responsibly.

Additionally, Nadya was open to my suggestions and didn’t take offence at my edits. Nor she didn’t expect me to just correct or rewrite her sentences (which many students do, but no, I don’t rewrite students’ works). I actually wrote all of my suggestions in the comment boxes and she corrected everything herself.

Finally, we were both invested in this post and both worked consistently to improve it. The end result is more concise, understandable, and relatable.

The takeaway.

I know there are a lot of you out there who face writing university or grant applications every once in a while. My advice to you is:

If you write something long and important, give it a month, have somebody else read it, take their suggestions into account and be ready to rewrite your piece multiple times. Give editing the attention it deserves!

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All my applications or the value of failure

In this post, I am looking at my successes and failures. The failures have taught me valuable lessons though, which I am also sharing.

If you are one of my students, you probably have heard me say, “There are lot of grants and competitions out there. Apply for everything you see. Apply, apply, apply.”  Well, do I practice what I preach?

In this post, I want you to take a look at my applications/ submissions / competitions and analyze the success to failure ratio. I also want to tell you what I learned from my failures. I certainly hope that my story serves as an inspiration to persist and try, try, try again.

Here is my application history over the last years:

2013 IELTS Morgan Terry Memorial Scholarship – failed

2014 Communicative Assessment course by British Council – failed

2014 Russian Language Assistant program in the UK – failed

2014 Cambridge English Teacher Scholarship – failed

2014 IELTS Morgan Terry Memorial Scholarship – failed

2014 Essay Contest “Inspiring Teachers” – partly succeeded (Didn’t win, but was shortlisted as a finalist, got a certificate, a book, and my essay was published in a serous journal.)

2015 Guest blog post submission on OUP ELT Global Blog – succeeded (My post was published.)

2015 Essay Contest “My Inspiring Summer” – failed

2014-2015 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program – succeeded!

Here is what learned from my failures:

Lesson 1: Creating a relevant, powerful, and unique piece of writing takes me 2-4 weeks. The next time I decide to apply for something important, I will start well in advance.

Lesson 2: Producing a linguistically excellent, but purely informational 500-word essay takes me 1-2 hours. I can write fast in order to meet a deadline. What I write fast might have little value. 

Lesson 3: The more applications I write, the easier it is for me to write them. Having written a lot of applications in the sphere of teaching, I have a lot of ready-to-use ideas, which makes writing each new application easier. (That said, I don’t write the same thing in all my applications. But before I write each new one, I do a lot of brainstorming, which is where I have all my ideas from.)

Lesson 4: Failing at one thing doesn’t mean failing at all things. Failing one time doesn’t mean failing all the time. Having failed so often, I am not discouraged by the possibility of failure. In the end, I have not only failed, I have succeeded as well.

Lesson 5: Failure is a sign that I didn’t do my utmost or my utmost is not what the world needs. So I learned and am still learning not to focus on myself and the way I see the world. I learned and am still learning to be open to new ideas, to explore, to move forward, to look at other people’s points of view, to look at my points of views from a different angle. I learned and am still learning to think outside the box.

 

When I won the Fulbright grant, my friends and students supported me, saying “This is a remarkable achievement! You have been selected out of hundreds of participants!” It’s true. Participating in Fulbright FLTA program really is a remarkable achievement and my proudest success story. But behind this success story, there are numerous failures that people don’t know about. What these failures have taught me is not to give up, but to try, try, try again.

I am going to persist and keep applying, submitting, competing. So should you. Don’t give up, but apply, apply, apply!

P.S. Here is a quote about success and failure I like by Michael Jordan. I have no connection to basketball whatsoever, by the way, I just like the quote =).

FailureQuoteMJordan

http://quotesgram.com/img/michael-jordan-famous-failure-quotes/9437344/ 

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My Fulbright application or a teachable moment on essay writing

In this post, I want to share two excerpts from my Fulbright application essay and give you some tips on essay writing.

I did it on 30 May 2014. I submitted my Fulbright application. Now, 1 year and 2 months later I am going to the USA as a proud Fulbrighter! Yay!

The program I am participating in is called Foreign Language Teaching Assistant or FLTA for short. As a participant of this program I will be teaching Russian and studying at an American university for an academic year.

When my students heard the news, they asked, “What did it take to get this grant?” And I replied, “Well, there were several stages. First, I had to write a lot of text. Then, I …” And one student said, “I am curious to read what you wrote.” I suppose many are, so I am going to let you in on one of my application essays.

One of the essays I wrote is called “Objectives and motivations”. What I wrote is too long to upload here (1274 words, no less!), so I am only going to show you my introduction and conclusion. Oh, and I see a teachable moment here, which I just can’t help using. Ok, let’s get cracking!

Here is my introduction:

lutsenko_fulbright_intro

Let’s have a look at how I choose to structure my introduction:

1. I start with a quote. (Admittedly, starting an essay with a quote is a bit of a cliché. But it’s still not a bad way to start. To avoid sounding too clichéd, I expand the quote and add a personal touch.)

2. I explain what my job is and what I am like.

3. I speak about my main objective.

Here is my conclusion:

Lutsenko_fulbright_conclusion

Let’s have a look at how I choose to structure my conclusion:

1. I repeat what my job is and what I am like (point 2 from the introduction).

2. I repeat my main objective (point 3 from the introduction).

3. I connect all the information to the quote and my addition to it (point 1 from the introduction).

And here is the teachable moment:

– Make your essay personal and unique.

– Address the topic directly and clearly.

– Organize your ideas logically.

– Be consistent.

– Unite the ideas.

Essay writing aside, I want to emphasize that everything I wrote is absolutely true. They are not beautiful words I wanted to impress the readers with. I do want to keep moving, but stay focused.

So, students, don’t be sad I’m going away for so long. You now know why I’m doing it. I’ll return.

I’ll return and do what I do at a new level and with a new mind. See you in a year!

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