Advice of the Note Card Queen

Earlier today, while reading one of the blogs that I follow, I found a very significant quotation in a “comments” section of one of the blogs.  The phrase…or more appropriately, the paragraph…struck me as being astute and touching.  I read it a couple of times, and then opened my notebook and started to write it down.  As I scrolled down to catch the name of the writer, I was amazed to find that the author was………

Now before all those eyes start rolling, I really would like to know if this is a common Writer phenomenon…”discovering” one’s own passages and not recognizing them.   I have had this experience in the past, and not infrequently find academic papers or research note cards from past years, and not recognize my authorship.

I once held a class title of “The Note-Card Queen.”  I really went for the simple beauty of writing notes on the three by five inch lined cards, especially for citation purposes from reference books, and for individual sources themselves.  In those days “sources” were usually books, newspapers, magazines, personal interviews, possibly a blurb from a radio or television program.  I found the cards very helpful also for prompt cards for speeches or presentations that I was called on to make for classes.

Invariably my stack of note cards would become disordered, or hopelessly mixed-up during my presentation, and I would be on my own without my prompts.  However…all was NOT lost, as in my status as the Note-Card Queen I always had a note card or two with an outline for the speech so I at least had an idea of what I was supposed to be talking about.     My outlines were always complete enough to offer a life-line when the cards themselves became muddled.

I was always picky about attribution, also.  Name, title, page numbers,  in addition to bibliography and (when needed)  index.This system was not anything unique to me, of course, as citation information for the writing of academic papers and books … if not required by the course professor, was at least recommended.

Note-card systems and other types of citation of sources is (or was, at least, back in the day) sometimes a work of art in themselves.  And, although I admit to being rather anal about the whole thing, I still maintain that excellent notes and bibliographies and the like were essential to smooth flow of work on a finished piece of work.

Also, I might add that they didn’t call me the Note Card Queen for nothing…the title was awarded by my main Latin American History professor–who did not take such things lightly.

My three daughters had an excellent Honors English teacher in high school, who while torturing the poor kids, gave them a valuable training in the use of note cards.  Miss Z terrorized the seniors with demands of impeccable notes and completed English Composition papers.  ALL of the girls, at different times in their nursing school courses remarked to me “thank God for Miss Z!”  as the experience that so threatened them in high school survived to become life-savers in college.

Wow!… talk about inspirational!

11 thoughts on “Advice of the Note Card Queen

  1. I love how organised you are. Sometimes accurate, or any referencing, seems a miracle. I remember the odd time loving a quote and on the final check realising that I had no idea where I got it and my notes hid the evidence from me!!!


  2. Yes…..It is rather remarkable how one can make amazing discoveries when we read or re-read some of the ‘stuff’ we write….Some of it can be embarrassing, too. 😉


    1. I have all of notes and notebooks, etc. and have some papers with notes in red like “you can do better than this.” They always give me a chuckle…and invariably those are poor quality.

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  3. What an interesting post! I can’t claim not to have recognised my own stuff, but I am sometimes surprised that it’s better than I remembered! I think attribution etc is vital – but hated doing all that fiddly stuff when I was working on my MPhil. What was your subject?


    1. History. Yes, it is lovely to re-read a very rough draft and find that it is better than expected. Or suddenly the words just click into place where they were not to be had in the original writing. 🙂

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