Tag Archives: writing

Comma-dy, Tragedy: Small Writing Improvements in Academia

Writers of academic research need to adhere to a standard of language to improve the readability of their content and ensure the readers’ understanding of the author’s intent. The importance cannot be understated. As some constructs may be useful in the writing of a novel or screenplay, the same constructs can be detracting in the professional and academic domains.

Through primary and secondary school, I have always been a creative writer, and I have always been confident in my creative writing skills. My academic writing skills, I found, are not as effective. Recently, I had to take a college-level course concentrating on scholarly writing. Two things bothered me: the 16 years it has been since high school and the 13 years that I have been relegated to writing medical reports with no hint of grammar in sight. Though I have written some technical documents during this time, academic writing has never been a focus. I will describe my challenges in style and grammar as it pertains to scholarly writing.

Grammatic Fanatic

Comma Chameleon

Readers of my previous works may find the comma to be quite an elusive device. I have always tried to use clauses that relate in both meaning and flow, and this had allowed me to make stylistic considerations in the use of the comma. Even now, after having this shortcoming identified, I find difficulty in full and proper use of the comma.

Aaron (2007) describes strict comma usage with clauses such as dates and time, insignificant or nonessential phrases, and lists of three or more items, but she admits that stylistic considerations can be made for readability, especially in the case of brief but equally important phrases. It is apparent that I have taken this as license to defer appropriate comma usage, but I now have the tools and motivation to pay close attention to the punctuation in my future writing. I do need to ensure that I do not overcompensate for this shortcoming by including unwarranted punctuation.

Colloquialism Speaks Volumes

Converse to my lack of comma usage, I have realized that I rely heavily on colloquial speech, perhaps, as a means of presenting a contemporary, pertinent, and assured demeanor. Though the use of colloquial speech can add flair to an otherwise lifeless discourse, continual use should be avoided. Standard American English is the accepted standard language used in academic writing, following standard conventions and vocabulary and allowing “distance between writer and reader” with an “authoritative and neutral” voice (Aaron, 2007, p. 73). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) addresses this by wholly restricting “expressions… which diffuse meaning” (p. 68).

More importantly, I have recognized the need to avoid anthropomorphisms and the use of the passive voice, specifically. Though these constructs are prolific in colloquial speech, their use can impact the readability of the work and can negatively influence the readers’ perceptions of the author.


Applying the writing skills that I have learned previously, I feel that I now have a fairly good understanding of the concepts in academic, scholarly writing. As I progress in my academic career, I will have frequent opportunities to improve my writing and explore more useful stylistic methods. I want to have a near-perfect use of the grammar before expanding my writings to more poignant subjects. Upon matriculation into a graduate program, my writing ability will prove pivotal to my success in academia. My writing skill must be of the same quality as my peers; therefore, my skills must improve as I proceed in my studies.


Aaron, J. E. (2007). The little, brown compact handbook (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Communicate Clearly – Streamlining the Communication Process

In my current profession, I am tasked with responding to disaster areas and treating the afflicted and displaced. I must communicate my intent and direction clearly and with a presence of authority. Understanding the various communication modes and methods that different people utilize and respond to, perhaps across cultures or socio-economic backgrounds, will allow me to streamline my communication processes to directly impact the most people in the most efficient manner possible.

Previously, I stated that I only have one long-term personal goal: leave a positive mark on the society in which I live. My attention to this goal is unwavering and will never change. Technology being what it is today, effortless communications across lines previously drawn is paramount in improving society. I value improving the lives of others: individuals and society as a whole. I feel I have already met the outcome objective of Walden University which is one of the reasons why I chose to enroll here. Apparently, others share many of the same goals.

In college, I have found a chance to interact with a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds without ever really knowing who they are. Not unlike a double-blind study, the results of the discourse are authentic to the environment. I found this to be quite interesting and attempted to hone my communication skills in such ways as to be a benefit for as many of my classmates as possible. I will never know if I have succeeded in this, but I feel the intent and the experience will stay with me far longer than the results. Being able to communicate clearly with yourself, however simple a task that may seem at first, allows one a clearer understanding of one’s needs and allows for the development of a plan for attaining those goals that meet these needs. That is being true to one’s self!

A Reflection of Writing

Words are limited by grammar, vocabulary and definition. If words alone were capable of capturing the essence of communication, poets would be rock stars. This is certainly not the case. Many people suffer in cogently stating their views in writing. I have never had this problem. I have always appreciated the art of writing. Too often, I rely on my creative writing skills.

On the other end of the spectrum lies technical writing. In this style, there is no room for opinion, save clearly defined professional insight. I also have no trouble writing in this style.

College-level writing lies somewhere in the middle of creative and technical and is best accomplished by brevity in an incisive and specific manner. Embellishment and ostentation tend to obscure the primary intended message, and though fact-based opinion is readily acceptable, one must be sure to limit personal opinion, typically outside the scope of a college-level assignment, to topical discussions on the writing. This is where my weakness becomes quite apparent. My goal in writing is to cogently state my message, but again, I feel as if words fail in describing the intended affect.

Another area in which I could use improvement is the analysis of fact referenced in my writing. Without a statistical background, I tend to lack the expertise to evaluate the statistical significance of professional studies and articles.

As of late, I have been altering my verbal communication methods to better reflect my writing style. My hope is that in speaking as I would write, I can create better habits which will, in turn, be reflected in my writing. Additionally, I hope to learn more about statistical analysis to better support my views when expressed to others. To this end, I will peruse interesting research to increase my exposure to statistics and take a class to increase my understanding of the various statistical models. My goal is to excel at all forms of writing.

Communications Violations

I have been involved in the internet community for many years, starting pre-internet with running a bulletin board system. Throughout this time, I have always tried to encourage the use of proper “netiquette”. Though I am mindful that not everyone understands the concept initially, those that choose to continuously utilize networks for communication should strive for proper, clear and concise methods.

One of the biggest violations of “netiquette” that I see frequently is the use of all capitalized letters. THIS IS THE ELECTRONIC EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING. Though useful at times, it is very difficult to read and adds a confusing tone to the message. As I have stated before, it is so difficult to transmit emotion via electronic means, the assumption of stress placed on messages such as these only complicates the matter.

That being said, the single worst violation in communication is the sending of messages that the recipient has no desire for. We have all dealt with the person who feels it their place to tell about their woes to anyone who will listen (or, better stated, to anyone who will stand there and pretend to listen). Most of us have received “cold calls” from marketing firms. And, those with email accounts are very familiar with SPAM, or unsolicited email messages. These messages are disruptive to the audience and to society as a whole, costing time, money, and causing frustration.

There are many instances of good and bad netiquette occurring daily, and though I have only mentioned two bad examples, I find the various modes of network communication to be positive, helpful and efficient means when used appropriately. In this age of technology, many of us are forced to communicate at a distance which makes network communications essential. Users of this technology should have an idea of the appropriate use of each, and each puts unique responsibilities on the user.

Cell phones are a great example of this. A cell phone should be used at any time synchronous communication is preferred or if the message is large and requires immediate feedback. Using a cell phone, though, places responsibility on the caller to ensure that they are free from distraction and will continue to have proper battery and signal strength during the entirety of the call.

Instant messaging and text messaging are by far the least formal modes of communication and should be used when the message units are small and the overall message is easy to comprehend. Instant messaging and text messaging are interchangeable, though with text messaging, the users tend to be more mobile which creates a social responsibility to be mindful of safety. Text messaging should never be done while driving or operating other machinery.

Email is the new postal service. Many of the formal requirements of email are being shed for ease of communication. In times past, a person would write a letter, but now, they write an email. Email is the chameleon of network communications. One may send simple one-line notes to friends and family and use the same mode to send a very formal budget proposal to their Chief Financial Officer. The use of email demands that the user takes responsibility for ensuring that the message is formed in such a way as to be appropriate to not only the intended recipient but the information enclosed in the message. Email should never be used when the delivery of the message needs to be guaranteed or is so time-sensitive that its immediate delivery is paramount.

Most importantly, keep the recipient’s needs in mind when choosing a mode of communication. The recipient will usually make clear the modes of communication that they prefer.

Communication styles – In-person vs. online

Each and every day I am faced with having to effectively communicate with a variety of people, and a communication error on my part can lead to the death or a significant disability of a patient in my care. Complicating the matter, not only do I have to communicate with a variety of people, but I have to communicate with a variety of types of people. This variety creates circumstances where I must alter my communication methods frequently.

As Kathleen Daily Mock, BSN, JD, writes, “By incorporating effective communication techniques into daily patient interactions, clinicians can decrease their malpractice risk. More importantly, clinicians can positively and effectively impact patient health outcomes without increasing the length of visit….” (Physician’s News Digest, Feb. 2001)

To add to that, I must also interact with my co-workers in such ways as to direct the specific care of my patients and maintain a positive and professional working environment. To these ends, I actively look for verbal and non-verbal cues to seek out truth, meaning and understanding. Most perform this skill automatically, or passively, and do not realize it. (“Emotions in Man and Animals”, Darwin, C., 1872)

The use of online communication limits the perception of affect which creates a challenge to both the author and reader. Contemporary convention seems to have changed recently making the use of “emoticons”, or emoting icons, commonly accepted. Though I do not utilize emoticons too often, I do see the validity of their use in attempting to convey the lacking non-verbal cues that we are, perhaps, longing for in daily online communication.

As I have been an active participant in the online community for many years, I feel very confident in my familiarity with “netiquette”, or network etiquette. I am, unfortunately, at a disadvantage in conveying my thoughts to those not as familiar with the use of non-descriptive textual communications. To help counter this, I will assume that all communication directed to me is crafted of the best intention and positive nature.

Veni, Vidi, Posti!! – An introduction to blogging

An introduction to blogging…. Welcome to the new blog.

Okay, so my Latin is a bit rough, but you get the point.   This particular blog is not going to last for too long as I am just using it to become familiar with WordPress, but who knows… other temporary projects have grown to make people $$$ BILLIONS $$$!!!  (Yeah, not me so much).  If I can change one paradigm, I think I’ll be happy… is that too lofty a goal???