owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:35pm on 30/08/2015 under
This article on How the ballpoint pen killed cursive (via [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker) reminds me of something.

I did a single year in London pre-tertiary education, in first year secondary school. One of the many differences between that and my otherwise mostly US-based early formal education was that the school required us to have a fountain pen. My parents bought me a cheap basic school model, refilled with cartridges like everyone else. It was meant for more formal writing situations (with ballpoints allowed in less formal situations), but I found it awkward since I hadn't ever used one before that. As I know from later usage, better-quality fountain pens can be lovely to write with; this one wasn't.

But that's not the point. I haven't heard anyone discuss fountain pens outside the realm of specialist love and practice since then.

Are fountain pens still used in the UK educational system anywhere, or have they fallen by the wayside in the intervening decades?

(My own pen-love has largely settled on superfine felt-tips these days.)
owlfish: (Temperantia)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 01:01pm on 22/07/2009 under
How do you know what size a project should be? Article, short story, poem, book, whatever. Does the idea occupy a clear quantity of words or binding? Do you like writing certain lengths, so everything fits that? Do you commit to lengths, personally or in contract, and add or edit out whatever additional material is needed to fit them?

I'm interested in the question generically, but personally, this is about the Stew Project again. When I proposed the paper, I thought it might be paper-length. I've done the paper, and now I think it might be book length, but I'm not certain I'll know that until I've written it and found out. This may well be a product of my inexperience in writing book-length projects, however, or may reflect how much more work I could yet do on this.
owlfish: (Vanitas desk)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 09:20pm on 10/06/2009 under
Today, after fruitlessly searching the house for half an hour, I gave up and went to W.H. Smith to buy more plain HB pencils. There, I found a well-stocked selection of three different HB pencil multipacks: they came in packs of nine, ten, or twelve.

How dramatically different is the market for nine pencil packs versus the market for ten pencil packs?
owlfish: (Laptop with wireless mouse)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:06pm on 02/07/2008 under
The last few days have had their share of minor hiccups. The phone hardware still isn't functional at the house. I only realized after I'd written the quiz (but with time left to rewrite it) that it covered material I'd forgotten to make available to my students. I've failed to do any packing this week, although I did finish off end-of-semester grading and have written most of a conference paper. In looking for email addresses of people not in my addressbook, I found a misplaced minor editing job in an email which was months overdue.

But that misplaced editing job turned out to also be a thrill: reading through it, I was amazed at how eloquent and articulate I was when I wrote it. Perspective often shows me the weaknesses in my writing; but sometimes, it shows me that work is far better than I'd thought it was. That's encouraging.
owlfish: (Vanitas desk)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:43pm on 19/11/2007 under ,
As a general rule, "throughout history", "throughout time", and other sweeping phrases about the entire course of existence should be banned from history papers. They're nearly always incorrect. In fact, as a history student, you're more likely to be factually correct if you just avoid those phrases altogether.

Thus it is with some chagrin that I find myself unable to tell my current students to avoid "throughout history", because, for once, they're all using it appropriately. I'm proud and relieved - but it's still a dangerous phrase to throw around.
owlfish: (Vanitas desk)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:41pm on 10/09/2007 under
It's commonly said that it takes at least a million words of practice before one's writing starts to become presentable. The quip is most commonly used for fiction writing, but I recently realized how true it is of any writing.

Last week, my father dug up emails we'd exchanged back in '94. I was writing about my time at Smith. There were all sorts of interesting details about my life that I'd forgotten, but what struck me most was how immature my writing was. It was clunky, full of repetitious use of language which added nothing to meaning. In the genre of casual email-writing, at least, I have earned my million words of improvement.

P.S. One of the events I'd managed to forget (how?!) was that Madeleine L'Engle had visited campus that year and given a talk in the chapel, which I attended. (She was a graduate of Smith.) She died on Thursday, as a great many of my f'list have mourned.

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