Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A swing and a miss...

or rather a Ms., from Ms. Mentor. (Sorry, that was weak, I know.) I've sometimes encouraged grad students to follow the advice of the Chronicle's Ms. Mentor, but not this time. A correspondent asks her "what counts as forthcoming?" and she responds with some wise and some less-wise words about the tenure process-- fine as far as they go. But this:
And yet, Ms. Mentor knows that the issue isn't really whether a book is a zygote, or gestating, or incubating. "Forthcoming" can mean "at the idea stage" or "inchoate." It can be a mote in the mind, a song on the wind, a glimpse of the ineffable not yet reduced to the dry mundanity of words.

is just not on, as they say, and would be highly hazardous advice to follow. Those might be 'work in progress' or 'future projects.' "Forthcoming" means has been accepted by a publisher, press, or editor in its final form. There are many gradations of other status: accepted pending final revisions, under contract, under review, in submission, in revision for resubmission, etc., etc. But "forthcoming" means something much more specific, and using it in other ways risks serious trouble or at least reputational harms.

The correct use of "forthcoming" might not be the issue she wanted to talk about, but that doesn't mean "isn't really the issue."

As far as I'm concerned, "in progress" means "I can show you a draft of this if you ask," but some people use "in progress" for their motes in the mind. That's OK, I guess. "Under review" and "in submission" are factual claims, though, not to be misrepresented. And "forthcoming" is an even stronger factual claim. Use it judiciously and accurately.

On another grad student note, see this instantly-classic statement of a core graduate student ambivalence...

updateSee a similar view expressed here.

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