Best Editing Apps, the Seinfeld Strategy, Career Design, and Becoming "Educated" | Issue 256

Estimated reading time: Six minutes. (Recoup them quickly with heightened efficiency and inspiration). Need more? Apply for your own coach. Finish faster with more grit. 

In this issue: 

1. Avoid Needless Rewrites: Let Apps Fix Your Prose and Grammar Issues
2. The Seinfeld Success Strategy: Don't Break the Chain
3. How to Design a Meaningful Career and Life
4. Summer Reading: What Does It Mean to Be Educated?

 

By Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C.

1. Avoid Needless Rewrites: Let Apps Fix Your Prose and Grammar

Does your writing need an upgrade? 

Start relying on free and nearly free writing apps to eliminate errors before submitting your work. Online editors make it easier than ever to improve your grammar and style. 

When you need to write like Hemingway

Is your writing too wordy? Too complex? Too boring?

The Hemingway App editor promises to tighten up and simplify your prose. 

Using rainbow-colored highlighting (see image), the Hemingway Editor spots typical weaknesses. It excels at identifying passive voice, adverb overuse, and hard-to-read sentences. 

Given the app's name, I decided to test it by entering the first chapter of Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms. To its credit, the app gave it a readability of "Grade 2."

Unsurprisingly, it could not find a single overly complex sentence. Hemingway's writing also earned superlative scores for avoiding adverbs and passive voice. 

hemingway.JPG

It also caught several "very hard to read" sentences in an earlier draft of this article. (As a former academic, I still fall into that trap!) 

 

ProWritingAid: Your Digital Coach

ProWritingAid gets the top spot from blogger Derek Haines. Its integration with Scrivener and Google Docs offers an advantage for serious writers. 

Its grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor work like an online writing coach, he says. 

How did it do with my "Farewell to Arms" test? The ProWritingAid editor identified four grammar issues (missing commas) and seven style issues (mostly the use of "very"). 

I'm sure Hemingway would claim artistic license. 

On the other hand, I put an earlier draft of this article through the editor and agreed with 90% of its suggestions for simplifying and clarifying. 

What about Grammarly?

 

For basic grammar and spelling fixes, the popular free desktop version of Grammarly gets high reviews. If you add the Grammarly tool directly to your browser, you get immediate feedback when writing online, e.g., for emails, social media, Google docs, etc. 

On the other hand, Grammarly's high rate of false positives irritates me. In my Farewell to Armstest, Grammarly faulted Hemingway for forgetting seven commas and misspelling seven words. 

In comparison, Word's built-in spell and grammar check was kinder to Hemingway, suggesting deleting one hyphen and adding one comma. 

 
Recommendations

After these tests, I recommend that you first run your text through Word's spell and grammar checks. Then follow it up with either the ProWritingAid or Hemingway app. Carefully evaluate recommendations rather than blindly making changes. 

Before you buy any pro versions, save money by entering the app name and "promo" or "coupon" in the search bar for discounts of up to 40 percent. 

No matter what you choose, one thing is certain: Turning in polished manuscripts will keep you in good standing with your advisor. It will also spare you the aggravation of needless revisions. 

"To write is human, to edit is divine." ~ Stephen King

2. The Seinfeld Success Strategy: Don't Break the Chain

 
seinfeld.JPG

Jerry Seinfeld—one of the most celebrated comics of all time—invented a serious success strategy, as Atomic Habits author James Clear relates. Seinfeld figured out that you become a better comic by creating better jokes—and you create better jokes by writing every day. 

As a prompt, he prominently posted a one-page yearly calendar, inking a big red "X" for each date he completed his writing task. Watching the chain of X's get longer energized him. "Your only job is not to break the chain," he explained to others. 

 

This approach focuses on the process rather than the outcome, Clear emphasizes. In the long haul, that results in better performance.

Naturally you will have to engage in associated tasks. However, the aim is to start intensifying your efforts on the activity that produces the deliverable. 

Reading fitness books every day won't substitute for regular exercise, he observes. 

How does this apply to your dissertation? To get your doctorate, you must write a dissertation. To improve at dissertation writing, you need to practice it daily.

Here's how to implement the Seinfeld Strategy: 

1. Print and post your own calendar for 2019. 
2. Get a big bold marker in your favorite color. 
3. Inscribe a big "X" on each day you do some dissertation writing. 
4. Enjoy watching the chain of X's grow— and don't break the chain!

calendar.JPG

While you may read books, code data, etc., only mark an "X" on days you write. Writing is the most critical task for finishing—and the one many doctoral students put off. 

You might finish ten pages, or maybe just one paragraph. No matter. Keep focusing on the process, not the daily outcome. 

Ultimately, writing regularly will carry you to the finish line. You will graduate and move forward—your own success routine well established. 

"Thankfully persistence is a great substitute for talent." ~ Steve Martin 

  

3. How to Design a Meaningful Career and Life

New doctorates vastly outnumber available academic positions, a fact that evokes anxiety among grad students. 

Institutional responses have been weak. However, a class in Stanford's Life Design Studio offers a promising model that I hope goes viral. 

"Now that I have a degree, how do I get a life?" reads the description for Designing the Professional. The goal of the 10-week graduate-level class is straightforward: Weave together something fitting, doable, and meaningful for vocation and life beyond the university. 

It applies innovation principles of design thinking to "the 'wicked problem' of designing your life and vocation." A highly experiential class, it features discussions, guest speakers, personal written reflections, guest speakers, and individual mentoring and coaching.

designing.JPG
 

The course culminates in a capstone project—a plan for life and work for the first few years after graduation. What grad student wouldn't benefit from investing serious thought into clarifying dreams and opportunities? 

Not at Stanford? You can start applying design thinking to your career and life by reading the related book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. Find like-minded peers or a coach and seize the initiative in building a future worth living. 

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." ~ Maya Angelou 

  

4. Summer Reading: What Does It Mean to Be Educated?

 

The meaning of becoming educated threads its way throughout the blockbuster memoir, Educated, by Tara Westover, Ph.D. 

Raised in a survivalist Mormon family in rural Idaho, Tara first stepped into a formal classroom when she started college at 17. Until then, she had never heard of the Holocaust. She had no idea that Europe was a continent. 

After a difficult first year at Brigham Young, Westover persisted, graduating with honors. Encouraged by mentors, she continued her education. As a Gates Scholar, she earned a doctorate in intellectual history from Cambridge.

It would be a mistake to imagine that her journey was a simple straight line, though. At every turn she was challenged to question her world and herself, essentially reinventing herself along the way. For those of us who took our education for granted, her sojourn seems nothing short of incredible. 

Westover was shocked when her memoir showed up on Barack Obama's summer reading list. It also made Bill Gate's list of "Books I loved in 2018." It will likely resonate with our many readers who have also invested years into becoming highly educated. Her grit might also inspire a weary scholar to keep writing when the going gets tough. 

In her book and media interviews, Westover invites us to question our assumptions about education. Most notably, how does becoming educated create divisions in families and societies? "Become educated," she has said. "But do not let your education putrify into arrogance." 

"An education is not so much about making a living as making a person." ~ Tara Westover 

Want someone in your corner? Apply for a positive psychology dissertation coach. Enjoy the journey and finish sooner.

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GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG. 
An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at gayle@essencecoaching.com for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources www.essencecoaching.com

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.

 

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