Writing-editing project prepares students for international collaboration
Published June 25, 2015
NDSU accounting major Karen Bauer was one of 11 freshmen who participated in an overseas writing-editing project that paired NDSU writers with graduate student editors at universities in Italy. The project introduced the Americans to the importance of precision in writing English for international audiences while giving the Italians an opportunity to work with English that didn’t come out of a textbook.
The experience could provide Bauer and her classmates a leg up when it’s time to go after their first jobs.
Massimo Verzella is the NDSU doctoral student and native of Italy who spearheaded the project on the U.S. side. He said with a growing number of American companies doing business around the world, it’s important for future employees to be able to make clear choices when writing.
“More than a billion people in the world use English, but it is not the same everywhere,” he said. “It’s valuable for students to begin thinking about audience in their writing so readers in other countries will understand exactly what is meant.”
Verzella organized the collaboration under the umbrella of the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Project, a network of universities in 12 countries that encourages cross-cultural, international projects in writing, editing and translation. He has participated in several overseas projects as a student and an instructor, and said the experience can give students an advantage when they’re ready to start careers in technology, business and many other fields.
NDSU freshmen learn to make precise word choices when writing English for international audiences, a valuable skill in today’s global marketplace.
But first, he said, they need to understand that what makes perfect sense to someone who uses American English every day might be incomprehensible to a foreign reader.
The revelation hit Bauer when she saw the edits to her essay about the first female doctor in the Netherlands. Alessia D’Ignazio, her editor at the University of Chieti-Pescara, highlighted the phrase “ahead of her time” in bright yellow.
“I suggest a more specific term, such as ‘innovative’ or ‘modern’ for her time/age,” D’Ignazio wrote in the margin. Of course, Bauer realized. Literally speaking – or reading – it’s impossible for anyone to get ahead of time.
Bauer, who will be a senior this fall, said what she learned from Verzella and D’Ignazio has been valuable in her upper-level business writing courses. “We don’t really know what others might find confusing, so it was great to be able to talk to Alessia and get her input,” Bauer said. “It definitely provided lessons for my future writing.”
D’Ignazio found it equally valuable. “The way American students write is very different from the highly prescriptive way we’ve learned English from textbooks,” she said. “It was a chance for me to see how Americans use their language in real life.”