Editing and Revision, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Welcome to a Joyful Latin Learning “first” – our first story that was actually contributed by a community member! We also want to celebrate our first Free Trial subscriber, Claire S, who will probably be introducing herself on the website in a bit. If you’ve been following developments at the website (www.TresColumnae.com/wiki), you know that our faithful readers Laura G and Ann M have made internal blogs at the site, and you also probably know that several of those blog posts have been in Latin. For example, here are Ann’s posts, and here is a great fable adapted by Laura. But David H, who is not a professional Classicist, is our first subscriber to submit a full-scale story; in fact, he’s submitted two to date and has graciously agreed to allow us to use them to show you a model of the Tres Columnae editing and revision process.

We think that editing and revision are very important for several reasons.

  • First (as you know if you’ve ever read any writing by young people), it’s a much-needed and seldom-practiced skill, whether in your own language or in a language you’re learning.
  • Second, it can help to build Ownership of your writing (and of the thoughts in your writing) … especially if the editor engages in a dialogue with you rather than simply “fixing it for you.”
  • Third, and perhaps most important, the possibility of editing and revising (which makes it clear that the current version doesn’t have to be the final, perfect version) makes it safe and acceptable to take risks, to make mistakes, and to learn and grow from those mistakes. Too often, in the “school world,” mistakes are seen as the enemy rather than a critical part of learning!

In any case, David H’s stories are quite good, but (like any early draft) they’re not perfect yet. So, in the mature Tres Columnae project, they would not yet be linked to the “major” or “existing” stories – not until one of our editors had the chance to look at them, engage in a dialogue with him, and ultimately approve them. Eventually, we hope that a lot of participants will become interested in editing … and proficient enough with reading and writing Latin to become good editors. Of course, they’ll receive a discount on their subscriptions if they do! At the moment, though, there’s only one available editor, also serving as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. 🙂

Today we’ll preview David H’s two stories, and tomorrow we’ll begin to look at the editing and revision process. With thanks again to our faithful reader, here is the story exactly as David H submitted it. You should be able to see it at this link as well if you’re interested.

Casa mea pura est, nec sordida nec mucida. In una situla scopae et peniculus sunt. Cotidie pavimentum lavo. Itaque neque muscas neque formicas in casa mea vivunt. Vespas et arenas non amo, et eas quoque in casa mea non vivunt.

Ego quoque matellam habeo. Non barbarus sum! Hahahae! Iocum facio.

And here is David H’s second story, available at this link:

Quid agis? Si vales, deinde valeō sum. Quid nomen tibi est? Ortellium mē vocant. Unde venitis? Ubi habitas? Quam patriam habēs? Hibernicus sum. In Hiberniā habitō. Hibernia insula parva ac pulchra est, prope Britanniam. Dē vitā meā tibi narrare volō.

Rusticus summissus sum, atque senex macilentus et stomachosus. Nec fratres nec sorores habeō. Uxorem quoque nōn habeō. Baccalaureus sum. Quamquam multos amicos et multas amicas habeō, solitarius homo sum, et vītam quiētam ac simplicem vīvō. Hoc mihi placet.

Senex invenustus sum, nōn pulcher. Barbam longam et horridam habeō, sed caput meus calvus est. Ego quoque caecus in unō oculō sum. Genūs meae nōn bonae, sed malae sunt. Genūs meae semper tumident ac dolent. Praeterea claudus sum, ergō agilis non sum. Multis abhinc annis in lutō lapsavi et ad terram cēcidi, atque coxam meam frēgī. Paulisper ambulare nōn poteram. Iampridem iuvenis validus eram, atque currere celeriter poteram. Hodiē currere nōn possum. Difficilis est mihi ambulare, ergō baculō lentē ambulō. Claudicare mihi nōn placet.

Ō mē miserum! Tempus fugit atque senescere mihi quoque nōn placet. Quam molestus est! Interdum melancholicus et morosus sum. Quamquam senex sum et sine dubiō vita dura et onerosa est, nihilominus nōn desperō. Magnam pecuniam et dives nōn habeō, sed pauper non sum. Ut dixi, ego multos amicos et multas amicas habeō.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re an editor for the Tres Columnae project. Your goals are

  • to make sure that finalized versions of stories are “high quality” (I think that means they have good grammar, idiomatic vocabulary, and inherent interest that makes you, the reader, want to keep reading … and what other criteria would you employ?);
  • to help contributors improve their stories – and their command of the language;
  • to guide them to improve their stories, but not “do it for them” (especially in terms of grammatical or lexical problems); and
  • to avoid getting bogged down in endless “red pen” type comments, especially as the project grows and the number of submissions increases.

You may recall this post from early February, in which I shared a draft of the rather simple rubric we’re planning to use when editing stories. If you don’t, I’ll repeat the essence of the rubric here:

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used or, if they are, they’re clear from context. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

So how would you rate David H’s stories in regard to each of these elements? And what advice would you give him (keeping in mind that he’s an adult re-learner of Latin, not a professional Latinist) to improve any elements of either story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin with the first story; then, on Friday, we’ll look at the second. Next week we’ll return to our theme of infinitives, with some more stories about the destruction of Herculaneum and its sister cities. And then we’ll look at some stories with participles. In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! 🙂

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hi Justin, as always I am so short on time for keeping up with these blog posts, but I wanted to comment quickly here on the composition topic since that is something I really care about, and esp. the issue of vocbulary lists. What we need is a vocabulary list that is really designed for composition use, which is quite different from a dictionary – if you look in the old “thesauruses” for use by Latin composition students back in the 19th-century, they have lovely books that are really attentive to grouping words by how they are used and by their grammatical (and prosodic) forms, rather than the brute-list alphabetical approach which works so well for dictionaries.

    So, in order to save people from the temptation to use a dictionary, it will be really important to prepare a Composition Word list which has really rich lists of adjectives grouped by use (adjectives for describing physical objects, adjectives for describing people, adjectives traditionally associated with characters in the stories, almost like epithets), along with rich lists of verbs organized by type of activity (verbs for physical movement in space, verbs for emotions, verbs for eating and drinking, verbs for school and education, verbs for business, verbs for personal relationships), and so on. Unlike a dictionary, where words are just listed once alphabetically, we need a functional word list that attends to the needs of people doing composition.

    In my experience, this is the only way to break people from the habit of composing in English in their heads and then translating that English composition into Latin. They need a rich and user-friendly array of words organized thematically and by function so that they can look over that list of Latin words (no English translations with the words – just lists of the Latin words; if they need to look them up, let them look them up!), and get ideas from the Latin words themselves, looking at words that are likely to be relevant to their chosen composition topic.

    It’s not hard to do something like that – in fact, you’ve probably got a mental list like that in your own mind as you write these stories – the trick is then just to get it down on (virtual) paper for less advanced writers to use, too! 🙂

    • Laura,
      What a wonderful idea! As I think about it, I wonder if the creation of such a list should also be a community project. We might, perhaps, start with one of those 19th-century thesauri (especially if any are freely available in digital form) and then update and expand it together. Or we could use Diederich’s word list as a starting point; it’s already classified pretty nicely, and we’d just have to expand on what’s already there. What do you think?

      • The community approach would work perfectly here, I think – if you encourage people to adopt a word group (for example, “dico” and its derivatives) or a larger word group (words having to do with weather, with food, with transportation, etc.) that would be a good way for people to start to experience ownerships at TC in ways other than writing stories. In some ways, “owning” a vocabulary group and helping people with that vocabulary is probably more useful than writing stories – by taking good care of a vocabulary group, you can be helping others in their learning in a very dramatic way, which is a great community-builder. My students love the way that their research projects because a source for future students, for example – it inspires them to be part of that larger learning process.

        Ideally, of course, each learner would be building such word groups on their own as part of their own learning process – so the idea is to find ways to encourage them to do that AND to share the results with others.

        I’ll take on the animal vocabulary. I had mentioned earlier building a zoo, so I will do that! I’ll set up a PBWorks wiki to do that since I really need to able to work in an HTML environment for efficient cutting-and-pasting of my existing material, but I’ll create a page at the wiki listing the animals as I do them one by one – for each animal I’ll have the kinds of adjectives and verbs frequently associated with that animal (that’s the vocabulary part), and I’ll also have proverbs about that animal (for my own purposes), links to fables, etc.

        That way, it will serve both TC-purposes and my own purposes. I’ll see if I can get that set up this weekend; I’ll be traveling for most of spring break, unfortunately, and offline for most of that but I’ll get at least something going this weekend in the way of an “Word Zoo” 🙂

  2. Laura,
    That’s absolutely brilliant! You’re right, by “adopting” a word group and creating the resource, even “non-creative” participants could have real ownership in a significant part of the project. I love the idea of the Word Zoo, too, and will look forward to seeing it. Hope you have a good break, and safe travels too.

    • I put some animals in the “zoo” tonight! I’m also using Delicious to tag my fables in a new way I have not tried before – I am really excited about that! Anyway, here’s the zoo so far!

      • Laura, I love the “zoo” even in its early state … especially the boar and the weasel 🙂

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