Help with Latin texts: Introduction to scansion

Although we now approach ancient texts primarily through the written word, they were originally meant for performance. Poetry in particular was probably chanted or sung, as we know from the use of words relating to music in the opening lines of poems and poetic collections. Nowhere is this performance context more clear than in the use of meter in ancient poetry. Although the untrained viewer can’t see this meter in an ancient text (unlike, for example, the musical notation on modern sheet music), once you know how to scan well, you can quickly begin to recite texts as they were meant to be heard.

The nice thing about scansion is that it’s in many ways easier than other tasks beginning language students have to perform. In this first post, I’ll introduce the two major Latin meters: dactylic hexameter and pentameter.  Continue reading


Help with Writing: Advanced Word, Part 2b

As I mentioned last time, Track Changes is the most useful tool in Word — and definitely one of the most important to master. I was surprised by how much I had to say about effectively using this tool. In this second post, I explain how to use your newfound Track Changes skills for collaborative writing.

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Help with Writing: Word Advanced, Part 2a

This post is dedicated to Track Changes. I mean dedicated in both senses — it’s the only thing I talk about in this post, and also Track Changes deserves special recognition as possibly the most useful tool in the MS Word arsenal. Are you working with a colleague on a document? You’ll need Track Changes (it’s more functional than Google docs for academic collaboration). Are you working with a publisher to get your article out? Most, although not all, of them use Track Changes for copyediting. Are you trying to save the environment by grading paper-free? One of the easiest ways to do that is (you guessed it) Track Changes. If you, like me, are already a heavy user, this post is probably not for you. And I’m sorry: it took me so long to explain how wonderful Track Changes is that it will be next week’s post, too.

On the other hand, if you are new to the world of Track Changes or really need a refresher, read on!

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Forgotten Skills: Formatting a Paper

It’s that time of year again: midterm papers are starting to come due! This short post covers the basics of formatting your paper, from fonts to bibliography. I’m starting with one caveat: students in archaeology, you’re going to want to check with your professors. Archaeology papers are often formatted more like science papers, with separate sections on the materials being examined, the methods used, and the interpretation. If an archaeologist would like to chime in with advice for writing that sort of paper, please do! This piece is intended for papers in history and literature. We also have lots of advice for researching and writing your papers. If you’re at a loss for where to start, check them first or click on the “Undergraduates” link at the bottom of the page! Continue reading

Help with Undergraduate Writing: Word Intermediate

People who have known me for a while know that I have two much younger sisters. They are much more interested in their phones and social media than I am; in fact, I might be the only one of the three of us who actually had a personal (as opposed to work) land line. If this were a story in the newspaper, it would be about the generational divide and the digital native. For what it’s worth, I don’t like this term, which has multiple definitions — and, as usual, the scholarly definition (which centers around multitasking) doesn’t match the common definition (which centers around technology usage). But more importantly, the idea that current students who are more comfortable with technology are also magically better at technology is really dangerous, mainly because it means that technological skills are no longer taught.

As I said in my last post, this is most visible in students who never learned how to use Word. The last post was aimed at true beginners; in this post, we tackle three new topics for the more advanced user.  Continue reading

Help with Undergraduate Writing: Word Basics

As the Chromebook overtakes the K-12 market, I’ve begun to see something strange happen in my classroom: students who don’t know how to use the most basic features of word-processing software such as Microsoft Word. Since Chromebooks use Google Docs for word processing, this is perhaps unsurprising. But, for better or worse, Microsoft is still the industry standard for writing, both in academia and elsewhere. It’s good to know how the software works.

Since the Word Help files are often less-than-helpful, this post will walk through the three most important features a student should know about word: how to change fonts, check your word count, and double-space. Later posts will include more advanced features, such as word and image wrapping, adding pagination, tables, and hyperlinks, as well as book-length tools that will be useful to graduate students: how to set up chapters and an index, and when to use the advanced find/replace.

Are there other things you’d like to know how to do in Word? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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Help with Latin and Greek: Gobbets

If you are not Canadian (or maybe not Commonwealth? Let us know!), you are probably wondering what is a gobbet and why do I need help with it? Readers, I know, because once I had the exact same question. I had just begun graduate school and I was taking a class on Euripidean drama. When it came time for the midterm, the professor said, oh-so-casually, “it will be a translation plus gobbets.”

To my American ears, this sounded roughly like the world’s worst Thanksgiving dinner. I was soon to learn otherwise. Continue reading