As I’ve mentioned before, I use the site Elance for finding work sometimes. It’s been going through some corporate-side changes lately, including merging with Odesk, out of which they have formed a company called Upwork. Elance still exists, but they’re aggressively trying to get Elancers to set up their profiles on the new Upwork platform, as well.
Amid all this restructuring, they’ve sent surveys out to Elance users asking for opinions about potential changes to the way they take service fees out of the amount of money clients pay freelancers for work done through the site. Currently, this service fee is 8.75% for every single job on the site, large or small. Freelancers choose how to factor the service fee into their bids (that is, swallow it, charge it to the client, or split it).
The survey proposed a new fee service plan in which the amount charged would depend on how much work you’ve done with a specific client. Different survey takers received slightly different numbers in the proposed pricing plan they were shown,* but this was mine:
I'm a reference list fiend. I love citations. I enjoy working with bibliographies. You won’t hear someone say that very often. But as true as it is, there are a few things that would make my job a lot easier if they’re done at the client’s end. As luck would have it, they would also make your life easier so I have folded my “wish list” into this much more general overview on reference maintenance and how to save yourself work—and money, if you're hiring an editor to work on your references—down the road.
1. Your master list
Keep a central database of all the sources you’ve ever used in any type of written material you produce. Just create a new file in Word, Excel, or any other application you like, name it anything you please (perhaps "Master Source List," if you’re reaching for a suggestion), and keep a running list. This will save you the work of having to look the reference info up in the future if you use the same source again.
There is reference manager software that already does this sort of thing, and I will discuss briefly below. For now, I'm assuming most people will be starting with a DIY version of this practice.
I know, I know, the new OMG Shakespeare series from Penguin Random House symbolizes the “nadir of Western civilization” in its translation of several works of the Bard into an exchange of text messages, complete with abrvtd txt spk and emoji. It’s an “absolute atrocity to written literature” and “the most disgusting thing [one has] ever seen.”
Or at least the 1-star reviews on Amazon (from reviewers who don’t actually provide any evidence of having read the books) suggest it is. And no, I haven't read them yet either. That's why I'm discussing them in a blog post and not leaving an Amazon review. I'm also not pretending to be talking about the execution; it's the concept this post is about, as most of the online discussion I've seen has been.
I’m not on the cutting edge of internet slang myself. I’m such a nerd, I even text with full words and complete sentences. Whenever I use a hashtag, I feel like a poser, and I don’t mean during my Barney Stinson impression—I mean when I’m actually sending a tweet.
And yet I love the entire idea of this series, which includes srsly Hamlet, YOLO Juliet, A Midsummer Night #nofilter, and (my favorite title) Macbeth #killingit. While most of my friends’ reactions have ranged from confusion to despair, with a few giggles here and there, a couple of the dissenters and I have been ROFLMAO, as we quaintly used to say in 1994.
One of the easiest ways to begin streamlining your writing and preventing your research from getting weighed down is to recognize some of the most common (and most commonly overused) fluff words that find their way into academic work.
There’s an interesting thing about the metaphors that characterize these words. I’m only a title and a sentence into this post and already I’ve referred to them as “inflated” and as “fluff” but also as “weighing down” one’s writing. These metaphors connote both unnecessary heaviness and unnecessary lightness, which might seem contradictory, but what both types of metaphors share is the impression of taking up space without offering substance.
It may be that you include these words not because you are consciously trying to “sound smart” but only because they have seeped into your academic vocabulary from others using them to that end before. That doesn’t make them useful, though, and rather than making you sound smart, they are more likely to make you “sound like you’re trying to sound smart.” You probably don’t want that.
So let’s look at some of the worst offenders, most of which have appropriate uses along with their inappropriate overuses.
Dissertation-writing graduate students’ favorite word is “state.” Or at least that’s what seems to be the case every second time I read a chapter discussing interview data. It’s a popular word for lit reviews, as well, but interviewees in particular sure do like to “state” things.
What I’m referring to is the speech tag the author introduces quotations with. It’s this:
The participant stated, “. . .”
And although I might be a little wry about that one particular word, it’s just as likely that you (if you’re writing anything that involves a series of quotations) fixate on a different one. It’s understandable, actually. By the time you reach the interview chapter, you’re probably very weary of the whole dissertation thing, and creativity in speech tag choice is way down on the brainpower priority list.
Admittedly, it is a little thing, and your committee probably won’t notice it as much as your editor does. But they might, and so here are a few words you can use to diversify your speech tag arsenal, as well as when to use them most effectively.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.