While I do not find “Walden” particularly interesting to read, I did find Voyant Tools both an intriguing and enlightening way to look at “Walden.” I found that it offered insight into Thoreau’s writing that would be both difficult and time-consuming for a reader to do by hand. While Voyant Tools displays many different components of “Walden’s” text, I found both the summary and links sections particularly helpful.
The summary section shows several things, but I found the average words per sentence and the most frequent words to be the most useful. The average words per sentence are 28.9, which shows that while Thoreau may have tried to live simply, nothing he wrote was said simply. In my opinion, the most frequent words seem to point out the main subjects and views of Thoreau’s writing, especially the frequent use of the word “man.” Thoreau uses a lot of his word count to talk about mankind and the way men live.
The most frequent words section ties into the links section. The most frequent words show up and link to other words that are commonly associated with the most frequent words. For example, I can see that when Thoreau mentions “man,” he is doing so in reference to “life,” or “day,” or perhaps “old,” among other words.
I found that both of these resources helped to cue in on the main topics and their subparts that may not have been so obvious just by reading “Walden” through.
Time and time again, I have learned the lesson that I really should revise everything I write, whether it be this blogpost, an intense research paper, an email, or even a simple text. Obviously, I do not need to revise a text anywhere near the extensive revisions I use for a research paper. I use different revision techniques depending on what I am writing. With texts, I simply read them once over, edit the parts that sound unclear, check to make sure the recipient is correct, and send it on its way. The horror of sending a text that comes across as distasteful is only second to sending a text meant for my friend, to my unsuspecting mother! Sadly, Apple hasn’t created an un-send button yet. For emails and blogposts such as this one, I type them up in a Microsoft Word document first. I then make grammatical corrections and reread it to make sure there are no mistakes in the content of my email. A copy and paste later, and it’s good to go. Unfortunately, I failed to revise an email once, and instead of addressing a college coach who was recruiting me with the title “Coach,” followed by his last name, I instead sent “Coach” followed up by the name of the college. Needless to say, “Coach Vassar” did not reply to my email. When it comes to longer pieces such as essays and research papers, my revision process is a lot more intense. I always create a rough draft first, with a piece of paper and a pencil. Once the entire rough draft is complete, I normally have a peer or my mother read it over to check for grammatical errors and phrasing that doesn’t flow. After that, I type up my piece, editing and rephrasing sentences as I go. I read this draft aloud to myself to make sure I like how my ideas come across. It also helps me to notice if I used an incorrect homonym or left out a word. If you hear me talking to myself in the library, I promise I’m not crazy! Once I’m done reading it on my screen, I print it out, reread it one last time, and if it is to my satisfaction, I consider it my final copy. While revision can be very time consuming for me, I have only ever regretted not revising my writing.
Growing up, you could always find me with my nose in a book. Yet, it never occurred to me to write in those books; I never had a reason to use the margins to annotate and analyze anything I was reading, and quite frankly I didn’t want to. As someone who constantly overanalyzes everything, I enjoyed the fact that books were the one thing I didn’t feel I had to analyze. This began to change in middle school, when analyzing books so unfortunately became part of my grade.
From middle school onward, most of my English classes seemed to revolve around annotating different works of literature, whether it be a poem, a piece of fiction, a nonfiction article, or in one somewhat odd case, a nutrition facts label. When my teacher taught my class about annotating, we learned the GRAM method. With the GRAM method, I also learned a strong dislike for marginalia. For each new page of writing, I was taught to “Give a statement,” “Restate an idea,” “Ask a question,” and “Make a connection.” All this mundane annotating took place on photocopied pieces of each work, in pencil, and was always turned in for a grade.
Now that I am no longer “forced” to annotate what I read, I realize that all that practice writing marginalia was not for nothing. While I do not annotate works of fiction any longer, I do dog ear pages throughout the books I read that contain information I may want to refer to later in the book. In regard to readings for class, I do my fair share of marking up the text. I’ll print myself a copy of the text and proceed to highlight key themes, draw arrows connecting ideas to supporting evidence, and ironically, I still use the GRAM method in the margins, although they now go much more in depth than the superficial GRAMS I use to do for a grade. These annotations I keep solely for myself, mainly to keep up the façade that I still strongly dislike annotating (not really). In reality, I think everyone should have their own annotations because each work can be interpreted differently by different people.