By Sarah Elizabeth Lahoud, Higher Diploma of Arts in Music, UCC
I am American. I won’t deny it. Though I’ve started saying funny things like “film” instead of “movie” and “give us a ring”, I am not Irish. And as I’ve learned, there’s more to the differences between us than a silly accent. For example, I have been told that I’ve spelled “color” wrong my entire life.
I remember a lecturer telling me a few years ago that Americans in her class should be careful because we would be notoriously poor writers. I was terrified and certain that I was doomed to failure in all of my modules. Maybe the American university standard of scholarship was significantly lower than the Irish!
Fortunately, this was not the case. I did fairly well in my examinations and continuous assignments; but in terms of grades, I did not do as well I had been doing at my American university. I couldn’t figure out why. I had tried to adapt my writing to match that of my Irish classmates. I spelled words funnily; I used fewer commas and many ellipses. So why did my standard of writing still not match that of an Irish standard? What was different?
The spellings, the punctuation, the little ways of referencing don’t matter so much, as long as you remain clear and consistent. These things will not distract from your meaning; they will merely reflect your own culture’s style of scholarship. However, the essential differences between Irish academic writing and other nationalities’ seems to be the way of setting up arguments and defending them. This is only natural: different cultures and even different individual scholars will have different ways of thinking. So while little spelling differences and a surplus of commas may reflect your status as an international scholar, craft your paper’s thesis with care. Consider your new audience. An international scholar must be ready to compromise, to cross boarders with his writing. Read academic papers from Ireland and other countries beyond your own. Find what works and work hard. Your level of scholarship is not lower than the Irish, but your style is different. Prepare for a challenge, and remember. Be consistent.