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Laura W.'s Resources

Blogs

I frequently see students confuse these two words in their writing.  Many people do not even know that there are two separate spellings.    "To compliment" is to offer someone praise.  As in: "Karen's boyfriend complimented her new haircut."   "To complement" is to make something more complete or perfect.  As in: "Karen... read more

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One of my personal pet peeves in both written and spoken English is the confusion of the words "less" and "fewer."  These words are not interchangeable.  While they have the same essential meaning, one must use them in different contexts.   "Less" applies to quantities that cannot be counted.  Less sugar, less air, less dirt, less dust,... read more

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My students at the University of Wisconsin told me that they found the acronym MEAL to be helpful to them when they were writing in-class essays.  MEAL is a way to remember how to structure your paragraphs if you are stuck or if the writing process does not happen organically for you.   M - Main Idea - Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence introducing what the... read more

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One of the most common grammatical errors I see in the writing of students of all levels is the lack of agreement of adjectives and verbs when "each" is the subject of the sentence.   For example: "Each of the cats are calico."   This sentence is incorrect because the subject is "each," not "the cats."   Therefore,... read more

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One of the most common problems I see in my students' writing is their use of evidence.  What constitutes good evidence?  What is a good source?    The first thing I tell all of my students is that Wikipedia is never an acceptable source.  Why not?  Wikipedia is written and edited by a variety of people who may or may not have expertise in the topic about... read more

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Your writing should be internally consistent in the way in which it refers to people.    For example: "One should never leave your door unlocked when you're not at home."   This sentence is awkward to read because the pronouns are inconsistent: the author uses "one" and "you" to refer to the same abstract person.    This... read more

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While it is occasionally acceptable to use the passive voice for rhetorical purposes, in general grammar experts frown upon this style as being inappropriate in formal essays.    How do you know if you are using the passive voice?    Here's a simple example:   "The road was crossed by the chicken."  This construction uses the... read more