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English lessons 2

Happy Friday the 13th! Today's English lesson featured me being lazy.

I began by spending 20 minutes showing the mistakes in last week's papers, discussing a few other mistakes that I didn't add deliberately (I mentioned the sigh "mistake" about the multiple holy grails, explained both sides, and let them make up their own minds). I also pointed out that the problems I added deliberately were common ones in their own writing (I'll keep on adding such mistakes), and ended with a few remarks about professors being human, too.

I suppose that last bit deserves some more explanation -- I was suggesting that a few jokes or slightly less formal language could be good. If the paper isn't engaging, you'll lose titles. At a conference, your choice of title alone could double your audience. Remember your readers: they've just been on a plane for 10 hours, they're jetlagged, they meet a lot of old friends and collegues, and they're scanning the paper titles. You're competing against the other presentation(s) that are occurring at the same time, having coffee or beer with collegues from around the world, or simply returning to the hotel to sleep. If you want an audience, you'd better make the title worth it!

Err, I still didn't explain it. Despite the common opinion amongst most undergraduates and first-year graduate students, professors are not mindless automata who do nothing but read papers in stuffy, formal English. Frankly, nobody likes formal English, let alone profesors. Other than possibly my father. If you have sufficient command of the language -- and I must admit that most of them don't -- then spice it up a bit! In a tasteful way, of course.

In the similar vein -- actually, mostly because I didn't start it until 9:30pm on Thurs night and was too tired to pretend I had a pole up... err, I think naughty words might be censored here... *cough* anyway -- my paper for this week is written in a distinctly informal style: Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Unlike the previous (and future) papers, I didn't add any deliberate mistakes. Of course, in this informal style, sentence fragments like "Get real." are perfectly fine. That said, I can't break any rule of grammar I please. So if you see any mistakes in it... mistakes that don't follow the style of that style of writing... please let me know. I'll be putting an updated version of this on their English wiki in a few days.

PS I'm not actually quite as dismissive of position papers and surveys as this paper suggests. The history here is that I've received about ten papers forwarded from people in the group saying "there are some fantastic ideas in this paper!", when upon examination I found nothing that would be at all novel to the UVic MISTIC group. Now, maybe the UVic crowd are all super-smart or something, but I suspect that the problem is simply that these kids don't know the field.