Blue Writing Paper

Speakers of English have been defined by the World Englishes scholar Braj Kachru as falling into three circles: the inner circle consists of native speakers from countries such as the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada; the outer circle contains those whose official languages include English, such as India and Singapore, and the expanding circle comprises everyone else speaking English as a foreign language.Obviously, those English speakers in the two outer circles far outnumber those in the centre, yet it is the centre that dictates the written norms of formal English, and imposes them on everyone else.

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I suspect it might be slightly easier to read, if you have to read a lot of pages, simply because the contrast (white/blue) is slightly less intense than white/black.

“Always do what scares you” has been my mantra for most of my adult life, although to be honest I do have some exemption clauses relating to not wanting to break bones, die, or go anywhere near a snake.

"Starting Star" holds a pencil at the beginning of each writing space to give the visual cue of where to start.

Kindergarten Story Paper is portrait orientation with 13 lines per page.

There are a lot of books out there on the subject (the one I used most was Mimi Zeiger’s, and for general advice on style, Strunk and White is unbeatable as well as entertaining), but one definitely needs a guide to navigate them; one of the most common pieces of advice about writing is to emphasise what’s important, but ironically, it’s hard to get a feel for that by reading a big textbook about writing style.

I hope that my two days of haranguing my long-suffering students gave them some helpful tips (more of that below), but teaching is a two-way street, and the course has certainly given me some food for thought, principally about the role of formal written English.It’s always better to write too much and then cut back. Your writing should never come between you and your reader.Don’t make the reader stop in their tracks because you’ve lost them half way through a ridiculously long sentence, or made a grammatical howler (see 1 and 5). “The”, “a” and prepositions are the trickiest places where usage changes between languages. Beware of vague introductory sentences – they often say the same thing as the next sentence, just in fluffier terms.In others, you have to sign your passport in blue pens, because it won’t reproduce. I think in a professional setting, black often looks crisp and clear, but blue also is acceptable as a personal choice.Blue is great as a way to edit a document that comes off a printer (which is always in black).What people use and when, depends a lot on who they are, where they live and what they do.In some countries, you can only use black ballpoint for your schoolwork or official forms. Red ink also exists, but of course is used primarily in accounting, for noting numbers that are “in the red” (or negative…) There are other colors, too, but they don’t stand out as clearly against the white, cream or ivory papers that are our standard background to write on.I don’t think there’s a single answer as to why blue or black, back in the mists of time.So now I’m climbing down from my soapbox (which Wikipedia pleasingly remarks is exemplified in the modern day by a blog) and treating you to my top tips for good science writing.Of course, nothing beats someone teaching you this in person, so if Vivian Siegel isn’t available, get in touch! If you can’t read it out loud without sounding pompous or getting hypoxia, don’t write it. If you think you’ve written something insightful and elegant, you’ll probably have to delete it. The passive voice is actually OK; just don’t overuse it. The harder the concept, the more simple the words should be, but be aware you may have to write quite a lot till it’s all explained.


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