Always Learning

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Learn“But I graduated years ago.”

We may think our education has come to an end when we graduate from high school or college. However, that’s not the case.

Ongoing—if not formal—learning is an important part of life.

When asked to edit the prospectus for a friend’s proposed Ph.D. thesis, I had to purchase the newest edition of Kate Turabian’s classic reference book. (I owned a copy 30 or so years ago and that was probably the last time I’d looked at it.)

Even today, I have almost a dozen reference books close at hand. When editing, I often come across something I think I know. If I’m not certain, it’s best to grab one of my resources and double check. It solidifies the information in my mind and makes me a better editor—and writer.

So, how can you continue to learn on your writing journey?

1. The most obvious way is to take an online course or see what your local night school has to offer. (This is, of course, if you aren’t already in school.)

2. Your local bookstore likely has shelves and shelves of reference works. Why not treat yourself to a new one and work your way through it? You may prefer to do so a little at a time. I wouldn’t suggest curling up with a cup of tea and settling in to read The Chicago Manual of Style for the evening—unless, of course, that’s something you would enjoy. (You may be surprised at what I find good reading.)

3. When you come across something in a published article or book that you think is incorrect, do some research. The rules do change from time to time, but don’t assume you’re wrong (or right) without doing the legwork. (I remember reading The Berenstain Bears to my three when they were young. It took me a long time to accept that one could begin a sentence with and and but. It’s still something I’m aware of—and avoid unless there’s a very good reason not to.)

4. Visit skills development websites and peruse the information you find there. Be aware that the rules are slightly different from one country to the next. American grammar rules differ from British rules. Canadian rules seem to be a combination of the two. You may be tempted to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

5. As I mentioned earlier, the English language is in a constant state of flux. According to Ammon Shea, author of Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation (a book I very much want to read), “A language that does not change is a dead language.”

And lastly . . .

6. Write. Write. And write some more. All the while, seek to incorporate the new things you’re learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make better—much better.

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