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I Want To Write, But Where Do I Start?

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Monday, August 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Want To Write But Where Do I Start?Writing is like a muscle. You have to use it, work it, grow it. Like any other skill, it can be learned but it take lots of practice.  Nowadays, anyone can be “published” immediately through any social media, blog, or YouTube.  Maybe you want more than that.  Think and dream about what your purpose in writing could be.  Is it to report events and activities or to educate others in NALS?  Do you dream of writing the great American novel?
 
Where do you start to do this?  Start where you are.  You could start quietly by journaling—just for you—and look at it later with “fresh eyes,” i.e., like you have never seen it before.  Or be brave and join the editorial board of your local, state, or national NALS group.  You will see lots of writing and get the hang of it.  Be braver and consider writing for your local NALS chapter.  Talk about something you know and tell us the story.  You probably have something to teach or are an expert on something that has not been presented before and you could really help a lot of people. 
 
Suddenly, opportunities will appear.  You might notice a topic that has not been covered in your local NALS chapter meetings or the NALS state chapter events.  Maybe you have a different take on a topic or know an easier way to do something.  Maybe there is a subject that you are curious about and want to learn more and would be interested in doing research and interviews to discover the answers to your questions.  Others probably have the same questions and want answers too.
 
Think of it as a puzzle.  Basically, it is taking an idea and expanding it, giving it purpose.  Sometimes purpose comes first or is in the publication’s plans—sometimes it comes after you work on your information for a while.  Think about what you are trying to accomplish with your article. Are you trying to motivate, ask a question and get the audience to think, or are you just reporting?
 
Writing is really about editing.  What happens is that you write a while and let it rest, go back and look at it and edit.  Repeat that process many times until you think it is your best effort and the article is complete.  Your job is to make the words say exactly what you mean for them to say.  That is where the work comes in.  Sometimes the information comes to you fast and sometimes it does not.  Sometimes the editing and rearrangement is clear and sometimes it is not.  That is why deadlines help—whether they are self-imposed or from the editor of the publication.
 
What are you afraid of—that you might be criticized?  Okay.  Think of it as an experiment.  It usually takes many tries to succeed.  Try again.
 
Start simple and look for an opportunity to write a short article, just a paragraph to report about a class or event you attended for your local NALS chapter newsletter.  Remember that those who were not able to go to the event really want to hear what you have to say.  After producing several short reports, you will find that writing gets easier and you will soon begin to write longer pieces.
 
There are so many books and resources to help you with your writing.  Having a good grammar base is very helpful.  Use The Gregg Reference Manual [1] or websites like Proof That Blog, [2] written by NALS' Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS -SC, ACP, or Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Grammar Tips. [3]
 
One of the best books to have readily available is Strunk and White’s The Element of Style, [4] which is simple and beautiful, suggested by many colleges and law schools.
 
But that brings up another good point—how to grow your skill.  Practice.  A lot of practice. This means you will need time, effort, and a recording device like a tape or message recorder, a computer, a journal, a notebook, or whatever works for you.
 
You might need to schedule time to write.  Serious writers write every day. (Can you imagine?)  Some have an idea for an article and schedule 30 minutes a day and work on one section at a time.  Some writers use free-style journaling by just letting the words flow and reviewing later to see what comes out of it.  And there are writers that start with an outline or a question that they would like to answer. 
 
Having someone review and give real feedback (more here, less here, and asking questions like, “What did you mean here?”) is one of the most important parts of writing.  Please understand that the editor’s and proofreader’s jobs are to make you look good.  So you see, advice is always welcome.  Do not take it personally.  Your paper is not about you—it is a thing, a product to be polished enough to shine.
 
It is good to have a filing system to keep your good ideas and build on them, to have a list of article ideas, to keep articles you are working on handy, and to hold your research.  Some writers never throw out any writing that was edited out of an article, but recycle it into something else.  This would be good if all your work is in one highly defined and unique area—like an expert!
 
What are you waiting for?  You can do this and you might surprise yourself and discover that you just need to build that muscle.  I know you have something to say and there are plenty of us who want to hear it.  Go for it!  It is an adventure.  Try it, then wait and see what develops from your effort.


Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, is the Business Administrator for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Office of Educational Development. She has over 15 years’ experience in pre- and post-award research grants administration and in serving as the Senior Grants Administrator for the UAMS Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.  She also served as an IRB Administrator in the Institutional Review Board office for the protection of human subjects in research.  Her current legal experience involves federal and state grants and contracts, employment law, and federal research grants administration. Allison is thrilled to be a member of the NALS Editorial Board and enjoys reading all the articles and writing.


References:

1 Sabin, W. (2010). The Gregg Reference Manual: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting Tribute Edition 11th Edition. New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
2 http://proofthatblog.com/about-proof-that/
3 http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl
4 Strunk, W., & White, E.B. (1999). The Elements of Style. London, United Kingdom: Pearson PLC.


Tags:  career corner  editing legal papers  legal access  legal assistant  legal career  legal education  legal networking  legal professional  nals  paralegal  paralegal career  writing legal documents 

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Grammar Nuggets: Things Are Coming to a Head[ing]

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Grammar NuggetsThere are two types of headings—a run-in heading and a freestanding heading. A run-in heading is one where the substance of the paragraph starts immediately after the heading. Run-in headings are usually set off by bold font and/or underlining. A freestanding heading is one which is on a line by itself, sometimes as part of an outline in a document.

 

run-in heading will always be followed by a form of punctuation depending on the type of heading. If the heading is a question, it will end in a question mark. However, in a freestanding heading, use no punctuation unless you need to use a question mark or an exclamation point because the heading demands it.

 

As for capitalization, under the Gregg Reference Manual rules, you should capitalize all words in the heading over four letters and capitalize all words in the heading under four letters EXCEPT:

a an and  as
at but by for
if in of off
on or out nor
the to up  

Of course, as in all things grammar, there are exceptions to that rule. If a word on the “don’t capitalize” list begins or ends the sentence, it should be capitalized. If a word on that list comes after a dash or a colon, it should be capitalized. Capitalize short prepositions like upinon, and for when they are used with prepositions having four or more letters.

Rafting Up and Down the Colorado River

Driving In and Around the City

New Store Opening On or About March 1

I have printed this list of words that should not be capitalized except in special circumstances and taped it to my work computer so that it is easier for me to remember. I honestly think titles look better with each word capitalized, but who am I to argue with Gregg? If that is the rule and my attorneys do not have a problem with formatting headings “by the book,” then I will adjust. But are there different rules under the BlueBook? Hmmm. We will check that out the next time.


 


Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at
http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at proofthatblog@gmail.com.


Tags:  grammar  grammar nuggets  legal assistant  legal education  legal professional  legal professional training  microsoft word  nals 

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Changing Font and Font Size Globally

Posted By Susan C. King, Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Happening with Fonts

A document has been opened and the fonts are different throughout the document. Why and/or how does this happen? How does one quickly fix the issue?


The problem begins when someone chooses CTRL+A and changes the font and/or font size (a fast and immediate solution, but not for the ongoing editing involved with the document). From this point forward, text pasted into the document reverts to the original normal font and font size format. This is because the Normal Style was not overwritten but manually changed. 


The Normal Style is the base formatting of every editable document. It just starts the process with no indents, bolding or paragraph characteristics. All styles implemented throughout a document start with the characteristics of the Normal Style. 


The following is the process to globally change a Normal Style: 


Insert a RETURN (Provides base—no text paragraph style is applied)

Change the "Normal Style" (CTRL + SHIFT + S)

In the style name box {Type} Normal

CLICK Modify

Change font or font size

 

Style One 

 

Microsoft Word Styles 

 


 

Susan C. King, Legal Word Processor, was hired by Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP as a floater secretary in 1994 and soon thereafter advanced into a legal secretarial position. Three years later, she transferred into the Word Processing Department and is continuing her journey toward becoming a software specialist with strong ties to training and macro development.  If you would like Susan to cover a particular Word topic or have any questions, please email her at Susan.King@wallerlaw.com.


Tags:  administrative  grammar  legal education  legal professional training  microsoft word  nals 

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Word Tips & Tricks: Hard Drive Folder Shortcuts

Posted By Susan C. King, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks Header 

 

Here are two forms of shortcuts to access folders on the hard drive:

 

1. USE FAVORITES

 

CLICK on the folder at the bottom ribbon of the Desktop.  

 

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 

 

Locate a favorite folder.

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks

 

CTRL {Hold} + CLICK on folder.

 Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks

LEFT CLICK {Hold} Mouse and scroll up to hover over Favorites.

Microsoft Word: Tips and TricksRelease  

Folder will be listed under favorites.  

Select “Favorites” and double click your favorite folder.    

Note:  Folder on bottom of ribbon will open to the last folder accessed.    

 

 

 

2. TO ADD A SHORTCUT ON DESKTOP

CLICK on the folder at the bottom ribbon of the Desktop.  

 

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 

 

Microsoft Word Tips & TricksMinimize Window {This will keep your folder window but also give access to the Desktop – you will need to minimize or shut down all other applications.}  

 

On Desktop, scroll to Folder which needs the shortcut.  

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 

 

CTRL {Hold} + LEFT CLICK.

[CTRL {Hold} DRAG Folder to the Desktop + RELEASE.]

Shortcut for folder is now on Desktop.  DOUBLE CLICK on Desktop Folder to access Folder and files.

  


Susan C. King, Legal Word Processor, was hired by Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP as a floater secretary in 1994 and soon thereafter advanced into a legal secretarial position. Three years later, she transferred into the Word Processing Department and is continuing her journey toward becoming a software specialist with strong ties to training and macro development. If you would like Susan to cover a particular Word topic or have any questions, please email her at Susan.King@wallerlaw.com.  

 

 

Tags:  administrative  legal education  legal professional training  microsoft word  technology training 

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