Signposting Rachel Toor’s “Think of Yourself as a Writer”

On March 7, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an advice piece by Rachel Toor, assistant professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University. In “Think of Yourself as a Writer,” Toor draws from her experience in scholarly publishing to urge that academics consider their readers. Imagine that! The first part of the article sets the stage of her time at Oxford University Press, populated by professionals with various, and often competing, concerns: for ideas, for style, for basic readability. Toward the end of the piece, Toor has delivered several concrete and powerful tips for writers. At the risk of compromising the integrity the article as a whole, I’m pulling out the action items that she shares. To co-opt her term, I’m signposting them for you. These points are too important, too insightful to miss. Avoid: many and long quotations, which are easy to spot because they’re usually extracted (blocked) lots of obscure words, especially at the very beginning of a manuscript or section extra-long sentences overuse of semicolons glib discussion of sophisticated ideas Do: Get an aerial view of your document by scrolling through it at a view setting of 50 percent. Do you have a good mix of short, medium, and long paragraphs? Are you quoting too many sources at length? Make your argument clear as close to the beginning of the manuscript as possible. Editors focus on the first 50 pages—at most. Plant sentences and paragraphs encapsulating your ideas so that editors can extract them for use in presenting your work to the press. Push your ideas past the obvious. Notice your attempts at being snappy,...

New Service: The CV Diagnostic

Today I’m announcing a new service because I want to give academics the tools to make winning first impressions. The CV Diagnostic provides a detailed snapshot of your most important document, one that deserves to be looked over by a pair of trained eyes before you next send it out into the world. If finely tuned, your curriculum vitae communicates who you are as a scholar and reflects the priorities of your audience. Whether you need to present yourself to a search committee at a teaching-focused liberal arts college or to a selection panel for a research fellowship, you want a robust CV that showcases your academic priorities and is free of missteps. Or maybe you just need a solid CV framework so that, as your career progresses, you can easily add new accomplishments. The CV Diagnostic will help you organize information in a way that can grow and evolve as your career does. Here’s what the CV Diagnostic gives you: feedback on the crucial dimensions of your CV—organization, phrasing, consistency, clarity, coverage, and style section-by-section constructive critique concrete steps to make your presentation more successful principles of effective CV construction My aim is to make this service affordable and something that scholars at all stages can take advantage of. (Yes, it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition, especially on a blog!) For a low flat fee, I spend hours looking over your CV, deciphering its logic, assessing its ability to convey your academic life—that’s what curriculum vitae means, after all—and putting together a detailed report for you. You receive a packet with several pages of succinct,...