Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

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Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Writing and editing and grey literature

But really, there hasn't been much exciting archaeological stuff going on in my life. I've been spending much of my time editing our huge Oklahoma survey report. Basically, this entailed addressing the comments that the client's lead archaeologists made, and accepting or rejecting their changes. It actually took a really long time, because the readers had a lot of comments and changes. Among other things, some of the actual project terminology changed after the draft report was written, and so every instance of that was changed. Apparently, "corridor" is a big no-no in the world of pipelines. There is also the matter of one of the readers basically rewriting huge sections of the results chapter and getting the information wrong. She also isn't the strongest writer in the world, and she uses some archaic grammatical rules as well.
I've actually been asked to edit reports a lot recently. I was editor for the entertainment section of the UT newspaper years ago, and I guess I still have some of that in me. I hate run-on sentences (well, at least in professional reports). I don't like when sentences are split. In some of our reports, this happens frequently (note: that was an example). I'm also not a big fan of starting sentences with "Also", "In addition", or "However".
During my time at TxDOT, I got to read a ton of reports, from small surveys to large, multi-volume excavation reports. It's amazing how many of them are poorly written and edited, particularly since many of them are authored by people with graduate degrees. My company's reports are better than most, although we've had some people (who are no longer with us) who made me cringe.
I think it's important for the grey literature of archaeology to be more widely read and distributed. At the same time, I'm not sure that much of it is ready for widespread scrutiny.

On a tangentially related note, I've received my diploma. My thesis is also listed in the UT Library Online Catalog.

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Blogger Colleen said...

It's not just the gray literature--I'm re-reading all of the McDonald Series Catal books and there are some pretty entertaining mistakes in there. Some of them could be attributed to ESL, but some are most indubitably not.

PS: I could use an editor for this last paper I'm churnin' out, do you want to read some crazy, jargonized, visualization garbage?

5:59 AM  
Blogger St. Murse said...

I feel your pain. It bugs me mightily that college-educated people cannot write. In addition (hee), that last paragraph contains exciting news. "Excavations of two small depressions" sounds like a great Lambchop song.

8:17 AM  
Blogger jlowe said...

Colleen: I'd be happy to edit your paper!

St Murse: There were a lot of depression jokes in Belize, but none like that!
I was going to have my paper be subtitled: How to tell Mayas from a hole in the ground.

4:48 PM  

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