Writing, and the (necessary) evil that is the APA manual

I’m supposed to give a talk this October. I was invited (sometimes I feel like, why on earth did you invite ME? You will most likely regret it). But, at the same thing, I really like the idea of presenting, and meeting up with other researchers again.

BUT, I am having the hardest time writing my proceedings report. Even with the deadline now extended (phew). Overall, I find writing very hard and aversive. Which in some ways is strange, because I used to like to write. I wrote stories, then short stories and poetry. The essay exams I had in high-school were fun and effortless affairs for me. Paper, topics, 4 hours to write, GO! And always a 5 (the equivalent of an A). I wrote at home, I wrote in choir, I wrote in class. I wanted to be a writer.

I’m not going to go into what changed. Self doubt, depression, feelings that all had been said better before, not being able to surprise myself, having my mind occupied with other shit. I still kinda liked to write. I wrote users manuals for my job. I liked thinking about how to best convey information on how to use stuff to people who do not know (yet). As exhibit A (what not to do) and exhibit B (what to emulate) I had users manuals for electronic music equipment (Synthesizers, equalizers, mixing boards, what have you). A was stilted, dry manuals written in an English that was probably direct-translated from a language that is not even remotely related (most likely Japanese-manufactured equipment – beautiful stuff, but crappy manuals). B was fun, humorous and clear manuals. Equiment from the US (Still beautiful, and obviously they could afford decent manual writers). Of course, I did not get to write it in that fun style, my job being a subsidiare to a Large Us Airline. But I emulated it as far as I could. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to communicate clearly.

Which made me hate my APA class something fierce. I’m not detail oriented. I like big pictures, not pedantic little things. I want to communicate, not conform to trivialities. Plus, something says ‘grammar’ and I freeze up for some reason (and I was good at it – when I treated it like math).

I would get dinged for wrong margins, and not hyphenating things, and using bullets, and generally using what I had figured was necessary to communicate clearly.

I think that made me loathe writing. At least this style of writing. Mind you, I did well enough on all my essays that I ended up in graduate school. But, it really chapped me. I don’t WANT to conform to an anal retentive set of rules (and mind you, we used APA 3 – not the bloated pedants wet dream APA 4). I want to think about communicating.

I have spent years now trying to justify the value of APA style formatting. Because I know I have to communicate that to my students. Mainly so I won’t traumatize myself again (ooooh, looking at my navel). Forgetting, of course, that there is a whole slew of them that are happy about having anal retentive rules, that will then freak out when I ding them because they don’t communicate….

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About asehelene

... because if I'm in a room with a second person, I want to be reasonably sure I'm the crazier one.
This entry was posted in Psychology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Writing, and the (necessary) evil that is the APA manual

  1. Paul Bullen says:

    Yes, the APA style is evil. And it’s not necessary, except in a limited sense.

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