Back to basics – week 58

PhD Life

The idea, from the start of this blog, was to get better at writing; In my mind, it was to get better at the technical side of writing – the punctuation and grammar.

I have been somewhat successful in learning the craft, and I make a lower range of mistakes than I used to. However, overall I am still making quite a few mistakes, especially when I am writing fast and not concentrating.

I make a lot of errors with commas, most of the time it is a missing comma after the introductory clause or a missing comma in a compound sentence. Admittedly, the ‘rules’ for commas are the most complicated, even at 100% concentration. I don’t think I could write with flawless grammar and punctuation, mostly because of commas.

Back when I started, I used to practice using this website. It helped me improve, but one of the most significant problems is that the exercises don’t change and, therefore, you can remember what the answers are. I am going to run through it again after I have written this post, but if anyone has any similar resources, please post them below!

Well, I have done it again, wholly gone off-topic for the first portion of the post. Maybe it’s the equivalent of a warm-up? Perhaps I start writing about PhD stuff now and remove all of the prior chat.

I have become a permanent fixture of this desk this week, and the keyboard has become an extension of my arm. I have not been in the lab once as I have been working from home. The reason being is that I am still waiting for filters to arrive. I cannot continue without these, and because my planning is relatively weak, I have come to a situation where these filters are bottlenecking me.

Every once in a while it is nice to have a period of working from home, so my disorganisation is often serendipitous as it allows me to catch up with some writing. Well, I am using the term ‘writing’ very loosely as I was putting together a poster. This involves some writing, but the most significant time sink, for me, comes from making figures (pictures).

One of the reasons as to why it takes me so long to write and produce anything is that I don’t want to do it. As I am progressing through my PhD, I am figuring out what I want to do after it is done. My feeling at the moment is that I like problem-solving and I don’t necessarily care about the result. Most of the successful academics I know are good at publicising their achievements and enjoy talking to people about their work and the importance of it.

I do not feel this way at all and rarely talk to people about the results without someone asking, but I love talking about the process. Maybe this is me being naive, but I don’t think this will change in me. However, as I keep saying, I never even thought I would go to University, so I should never trust my own judgement of how I am going to be in the future.

Maybe in two years, I will be using the blog to tell you how important my work is and how much I enjoy writing about it; I might even be talking about how much I now hate working in the lab.

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

38 thoughts on “Back to basics – week 58”

  1. I think your love of process is just part of your personality. And probably also the reason your planning is more “weak” – if you plan something, the end result is clearly mapped. This makes the outcome basically a conclusion, instead of a process.

    Also, commas are incredibly confusing! I end up putting in too many. Then my writing has a lot of unnecessary pauses. But semicolons? That’s where I almost miss the train entirely. As far as I know, the rules are thus: colons join two independent clauses (or begin a list), semicolons join an independent clause and a dependent clause, and commas join two dependent clauses, or separate items in a list. Speaking of lists – how do you feel about the “Oxford Comma”? (Dare you answer? Hooefully I haven’t started a fight amongst the denizens of this fair comment section!)

    Anyhow, keep up the good work! Life is a process, not a result. Hope you get your filters soon, but not too soon! 😀

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I thought I knew about commas till I edited my writing group’s stories for our anthology. I did a lot of research – including the website you use – and found that UK and US differ in more than just spelling. I started my blog, here on WordPress, to offer a single link to the group to find everything I’d learned. (I’m still correcting the same errors though.)
    I feel the same way about editing as you do about problem solving – I enjoy polishing my writing more than I enjoy composing it. Perhaps we were both born to be technicians rather than inventors.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I admire people, like you, who can confidently say that they cannot write because “they don’t want to”. Oh dear, how I wish I know the reason why at some point, I can’t even move a finger. This is big deal to me as my work as freelance writer and undertaking as a law student depends on this. I was able to “remedy” this writer’s block sort of problem in the past, though it still remains a struggle up to this day.

    Your decision to set up this blog is a brilliant idea though. You are a natural writer; you have a knack for writing. I never thought I’d read interesting pieces here; far from what I thought at first would be some highfalutin and highly technical Ph.D. stuff. Hmmm… Perhaps, I ain’t seen much yet. You have a way to convey your thoughts in an light yet interesting way. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard of writers block, but it hasn’t really happend to me yet. I think it is probably becuase I don’t care as much about the craft. I can imagine it being frustrating when it is your profession!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed reading what you have written here. I will read more.
    I love the way you write. Commas are often a problem to me also; and it looks like to many people. When I read what others have written, at times, I expect to find a comma but do not. Learning is a life-long process.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Keep in mind that we need both problem-solvers and finishers. If those people working toward an end goal hit a snag that they can’t resolve, they’ll never reach the end goal. If they have problem-solvers at hand who can help them work past the roadblock, it may ensure that there is a final result. World-famous surgeons usually don’t do the entire surgery all by themselves. They come in, do the tricky part and then let someone else finish up afterwards. In a sense you are that surgeon.

    In a different context, I tend to raise red flags when people are planning something and I see problems that could hamper them if they don’t resolve the issues. Most of the time they don’t want to hear about problems, but unless they listen and fix those problems, they never get where they want to be.

    Problem-solving is something of an art form – be proud of your ability in that regard.

    The Internet has created whole new problems with grammar and punctuation. When I read someone’s story to help them correct mistakes, I always have to find out if they live outside the US. Rules differ in different countries, so telling them they made a mistake by US standards may not be true by their own standards. About the only advice I can give with regard to commas is to read the sentence and pause slightly at each comma. If that makes the sense read oddly, then likely something needs fixing. Basically, a comma is a ‘pause’ or a ‘breath’. So if I wrote “Go to the store and buy mustard hot dogs and jam” you might rightfully ask me “What are mustard hot dogs?”. Putting a comma there makes it very clear that those two items are separate. Most of the time someone would know that you don’t mean ‘hot dogs and jam’ in the same sense as ‘peanut butter and jam’, but in other cases it might not be so obvious. That is why a comma after hot dogs would make it very clear that the two were separate and not a ‘pair’.

    Maybe this helps a little.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks that does help! I like the hot-dogs example, and I think you may have inspired a new product in the process. Problem-solvers and finishers — writers and editors.

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  6. I love your post about the process. And to my surprise, we both share the love of process as PhD students. Fellow PhD student blogger and lover of the writing process meets fellow PhD student blogger and lover of the writing process. Ah! I’ll say amen to that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always thought writing not only helps with punctuation and grammar but also as a Journey with the self. Post after post, you watch yourself grow.
    You’re totally crushing this, it is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think that comma rules are horribly arbitrary and overrated – don’t sweat them.
    As far as being process oriented, there is nothing wrong with this, and there are jobs where the process IS the job, and not everyone is good at that. Don’t force yourself into other peoples’ ideas of what you should do – you will find your own place.

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  9. 🙂 My doctoral husband sometimes refers to this part of his life as being a gradual student! On the commas, they are in free-for-all territory in the U.S. Every writer now seems to be setting his or her own style rules. It’s maddening.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I like how mistakes in writing can actually make me pay more attention to what is said. I like how human it feels to read something that isn’t perfect. However, I too wish to improve my writing. Really interesting post – thank you for taking the time to read mine ✨

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh the life of a PhD student. Keep at it, you write well. My side projects were definitely responsible for keeping me sane during my own PhD journey. And writing non-academically feels so liberating sometimes, esp. not having to reference your every thought. Good luck!

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      1. Oh I love writing. Unless it’s the writing I have to do, like, say, a phd. Then I begin to hate it and distract myself with another writing project.. such is life 😁

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