How to use your MAPH Writing Advisor

This is great advice from our Writing Advisor, Jeff McMahon, and since anything sent to email is bound to disappear—either into the trash bin, or buried beneath the never ending flow of electronic missives I’m sure you’re all receiving—so here it is in a more readily recoverable format.

Why does MAPH have a writing advisor?

Professional academics do their thing in writing, scholarship marches along in writing, and writing is the primary means through which your work will be evaluated here, so MAPH has a writing advisor to help you adapt to the particular forms of writing in play in the Humanities Division.

What kind of advice do you offer?

I will offer you advice about writing itself – the structure of sentences, paragraphs, arguments – but in most cases I will not offer you advice about content. Your preceptor and professors will advise you about content. I’ll help you with how you say things rather than with what you say. I can also advise you about research, reading academic texts, grammar, english as a second language, journalism, creative writing, writing education, the writing life in Chicago, coffee, baseball, transit, and faculty expertise (I don’t know them all, but over the years I’ve gathered a little information about who does what around here).

Do you read drafts?

No. I can’t vet a draft before you turn it in, but we can look together at parts of a draft in response to specific trouble you’re having. You just have to point to the trouble. I can often help you more effectively with papers that have already been graded. I can help you interpret your professors’ comments and develop strategies for responding to them.

Should I submit a paper ahead of time?

You may, but you don’t have to. You can bring a paper to an appointment and we can look at it together. If you do submit it ahead of time, I’ll probably need it a few days in advance, longer for a seminar paper or a thesis. You can always contact me to ask how much time I need. It always depends upon the number of students ahead of you. If business is slow, I might be able to get to your paper right away.

How do I make an appointment?

During the colloquium, you can send me an email to schedule an appointment.

During the regular academic year, there will be a signup sheet in the MAPH office for my office hours. You can sign it yourself, or you can contact Braden Grams by phone or email to make an appointment, and he’ll sign you up. If none of the office hours work for you, please send me an email and let me know. We’ll find a better time. My Office is Classics 114, the mysterious room under the stairs on the first floor of Classics.

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