quick thought writing

Comma Chameleon

I can’t spot my grammar mistakes until long after I’ve made them. Despite taking time and not just dashing out 500 words and hitting publish, I often find bad grammar in what I have created. Or, more typically, my wife spots it. The post that I did yesterday for Viva Survivors went live and I got it sent to me by email (I signed up for my own subscriber list; it helps me remember what’s going on when I’m busy). I scanned it quickly, thinking Yes, another post out there, another connection with- Wait what’s that comma doing there?

They blend in. The commas and the semi-colons lurk in among the words. They make sense in my head. I use them to create pauses or to moderate how I speak – which is how I write to an extent, sort of conversational-like. But it does mean that I risk creating confusion. I want my writing to be conversational, fun, informative, challenging – but not challenging because people are really working to parse things. I think my biggest problem with writing is my own self-belief in what I am doing, a kind of sabotaging impostor syndrome. Not too far behind that is missing the commas, the parentheses and the exclamation marks that just creep in the background.

I wonder what I can do about that. I want to read something about good grammar – which I think I know on some level, but don’t apply consistently – but maybe reading and trying to apply something isn’t enough. Does anyone out there have any suggestions for me? Have you built up good written grammar, and if so, how did you do it?

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Why Did I Do A PhD?

I was looking through a folder of writing projects recently, and came across 80,000+ words of things which have not seen the light of day. I originally wrote this piece as the first chapter of a book that had a working title of “Stories from my PhD”. I’ve tweaked it a little to share it here, and I hope you find it interesting!

Why Did I Do A PhD?

I love interesting challenges. For a long time I thought that I just loved the challenge of maths, and maths research in particular. Not knowing something, and not having a handy three-times-a-week class to tell you forced me to accept the realities of research. It’s all up to you. If you don’t know something, it’s your responsibility to find it out. That’s fine. It might be difficult, but if you’re going to do research in any area, that’s what you sign up for.

I kept flirting with the idea of a PhD during my Masters. I couldn’t decide on what area I wanted to do research in though. I ended up doing my final dissertation in knot theory. This seemed like a challenging area. There was just one problem: by the end of my Masters I felt totally burned out by the thought of more maths. I was typesetting and bug hunting day after day and it was driving me crazy.

The PhD was moved to the back burner – I wanted to do it, but maybe I needed to take some time in between. This then posed a second problem: what was I going to do instead?