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I specialize in teaching essay structure and style. When I began tutoring, I had a vague idea that I'd work with college students like the friends for whom I'd proofread during university: young Americans who've grown up in a public school system which emphasized group work over individual learning, and who therefore never got a chance to develop their writing skills. I've certainly worked with students from a background very much like this. However, I've also had the pleasure of building a strong ESL clientele. At this point, I've spent enough time with ESL students to have made some observations about the nature of ESL learning and the way it is discussed. I'm certainly no expert, but by now I am a reliable dilettante. I speak with the authority of firsthand experience. From that vantage, I'd like to address one mistake which is frequently made in conversations about ESL learning. It is a very serious mistake and I have to believe that it muddles teachers' thinking considerably... read more

  I used to teach engineers how to write. I loved it, but it was challenge; engineers are infamous for arguing a point into the ground. Whenever I taught them Plain Language and urged them to use it, the hair would bristle on the backs of their necks. Generally, the course of events to follow went something like this. They say: • Using Plain Language would be writing down to their readers • Making their writing understandable wasn’t necessary, because their audiences already understood the subject matter • Writing technical documents has always been done this way • This wasn’t the way they were taught to write After which, I stand in front of them. I look at them. I finally speak. I say, “Your teachers were wrong.” And, just short of rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, all hell breaks loose. (Did I mention that engineers love to argue?) Nevertheless, I continue. “It’s all because of a bunch of ancient Roman rhetoricians... read more

It seems to me that even most adults have an issue with grammar. I fairly often see the same mistakes repeated in essays and normal everyday chat. This isn't just an issue associated with younger children with little or no grasp on grammar, it's a common issue that I see even with graduate students. I. First, is the "Their, They're, There" mistake. Their implies ownership. They left with their jackets on. They're implies an action. Today, they're going to the mall. There implies a place. Please place that book over there. II. Second is the "You're and Your" mistake. You're implies that you are going to do something. Today you're going to take the dog for a walk after school. Your implies ownership You left your pencils on the floor. III. Third is the "It's and Its" mistake It's means it is or it has. It's going to be hot outside today! Its shows possession. The cat needs... read more

At a conference in town earlier this year, I presented several panel discussions centering around the difficulty of defining and quantifying art. Our discussions in these panels got me thinking about literature, and how one of my main points could apply equally easily to much of the literature that students read in high school. The point in question is this: one of the defining characteristics of art, in my view, is that it is something that creates an emotional response in the viewer. Experiencing it changes you in some way. This is easy to see when the emotions are ones we generally see as 'positive;' if a play makes your heart swell with hope for the future, or a ballet duet makes you flush with the excitement of new love, or an epic novel makes your heart race with anxiety over the safety of the main characters, it's easy to argue that those works are art and have changed you. But what if the emotions you experience are more negative – what if a novel bores you, frustrates... read more

Years ago, there was never any dispute: when you listed a bunch of things in a sentence and finished with the word 'and ________.', there should always have been a comma before the 'and', i.e. "I have lived in France, Germany, Italy, and China." The modern grammarians (is that even a word, haha) seem to think that the final comma should be omitted because they claim it is redundant. They claim that without the comma, everything should be adequately clear, for example: "I have lived in France, Germany, Italy and China." Is that really clear? I beg to differ, and for two reasons. First, the comma's use is not just as a separator of things; it is also used as a pause device. Without the last comma, that sentence reads: "I have lived in France (pause) Germany (pause) Italy and China (said quickly together)." That's not correct at all and we all know it. It should read: "I have lived in France (pause) Germany (pause) Italy (pause)... read more

Description The introductory paragraph of a paper or writing should capture the reader’s attention and engage their mind. You should always approach your papers expecting a reluctant or busy reader. Your job is to relate to them, give them useful information, and intrigue them to capture their interest. The first sentence of an introduction can be thought of as “the hook:” The sentence that grabs the mind of your reader. Approach Ask yourself: Who is reading this paper (your audience)? Is my reader sympathetic or opposed to my view? What personal experiences or interests will my reader have? How can I relate to the topics or things that my reader would care about? What was the most interesting or unexpected fact that I learned? Tone of Paper The tone of your paper should determine the hook sentence that you use For creative writing, you have more flexibility For informative writings, the tone may limit the options you have   Devices Creative... read more

For most fluent readers, it can be hard to imagine how the sight word "have" can be tricky for emerging readers. Yet many parents drilling the Dolch sight words find "have" is misread over and over again, made to rhyme with "gave" and "behave". The child is likely making this mistake because he or she is diligently applying the guidance that a silent final E makes the preceding vowel say its name. And for many English speakers, that's the only purpose known for a silent final E. But, that only explains half of the words with a silent final E and has nothing to do with why there is a silent final E in "have". So, why is there a silent final E in "have"? Check out rule #3 in the list posted here: https://www.logicofenglish.com/resources/spelling-rules. Rule 3 states that English words do not end in I, U, V, or J. The silent final E in "have" is there to prevent the word from ending in V, just as... read more

While I, as a writer, very much enjoy the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, more likely), I understand not everyone is as inclined. In fact, writing can be a very tedious task if you're not invested in your writing, whether an inbox full of emails that need responses or a 10-page paper. But I have a few quick tips that will hopefully make writing more fun for everyone! Write to a soundtrack. Now, this tip may not be for everyone, as some people find it very hard to focus with any kind of distraction. But I find that music playing softly in the background while I type away takes some of the pressure of what I'm doing, as I'm less likely to track the minutes I spend staring at the same sentence if I have a song giving my work flow and momentum. Pick whatever music you like, but I suggest nothing too catchy that you'll be tempted to stop writing and have a karaoke break. I have a playlist of music without words, which doesn't have to be all classical... read more

Many people, myself included, feel that for all its advantages, the internet has precipitated a steady decline in the quality of writing. Anyone can write anything anywhere, and while that gives a voice to many who otherwise might not have a public forum to share what they have to say, it also makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to uphold any sort of standards.   That said, the internet also offers plenty of resources for improving your writing. Here are a few of my favorites:   Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com Here you'll also find a thesaurus and several other reference tools. It may not be the Oxford English Dictionary, but it gives you plenty of good definitions and sometimes includes usage notes with practical implications for your writing, like differences in how similar words are typically used.   Difference Between http://www.differencebetween.com Speaking of differences, this is a really cool site... read more

Every one of us was taught grammar in grade school. We learned the rules of writing, how to construct sentences properly, when to use commas, how to avoid run-on sentences, proper diction and word choice and tons of other rules regarding how the English language "properly" works. But there's one thing we weren't really taught. In fact, most of us unquestioningly accepted these rules, rules like you should use "fewer" for countable items and "less" for things you can't count. We know how to use these rules, and by virtue of being able to speak the language, we also know how to use the grammar. But these two concepts of grammar are not the same. This raises so many questions. Where did these rules come from? What is grammar, really, and how do we define it from a linguistic point of view? Is there some kind of supreme authority on the English language that imposes these rules on all its speakers?    In a Tarantino-esque fashion, we'll... read more

Have you ever wondered what spelling bee champs know about spelling? I have, and my research led me straight to the 31 spelling rules as taught in the Logic of English method. These simple yet powerful rules explain 98% of English words when coupled with 74 phonograms. While that may not be enough to win an elite spelling bee, its a huge step forward for everyday literacy. The 31 rules are posted here: https://www.logicofenglish.com/resources/spelling-rules. While most are remarkably simple, they are quite powerful. Consider how the very first rule explains the answers to these tricky word equations: picnic + ing = picnicking notice + able = noticeable Rule 1 states that "C always softens to /s/ when followed by E, I, or Y. Otherwise, C says /k/." Thus, picnicking gets its K because without it, the word would say /picnising/. Likewise, noticeable retains its E because without it, the word would say /notikable/. I'd love... read more

English is widely regarded as being full of exceptions, and often logical/literal learners struggle with the ways in which it is commonly taught. Fortunately, though, there is logic to our language, and methods have been developed that carefully distill it into a limited number of spelling rules and phonograms. These concepts are quite simple to learn but very powerful in application, transforming English from a confusing jumble of exceptions to a deliciously rich and robust code. An introduction to these concepts is posted at https://youtu.be/4ilthoEG39M?t=19m59s. The entire video is informative and inspirational, but if you’re pressed for time and want to sample some of the real meat of the content, jump ahead to the 20 minute mark and watch for about 8 minutes. I'd love to hear what you think. Is this content helpful? Did you learn anything new? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

This afternoon, I found myself writing to one of my ESL students: ______________________ Hello, XXXXXX--- I am imagining you and your dog having a fine time at the cabin as I write this. I bet you are in the cabin as well. In the first sentence at the cabin is correct, just as you would say "I am at home" rather than in home. It would also be correct to say "I'm in the house" rather than outside in the yard. When you are at home, the yard is included. When you are in the house, the yard is excluded. With cabin, the same word is used both ways. When you are at the cabin, the exterior property is included, but when you are in the cabin, it is excluded. By the way, while you might be in your yard, you would be on your property. ______________________ Preposition problems are common to all but the most advanced English language learners, including many native speakers. After sending my student this email, I realized the word office... read more

  Hi everybody,   I know a lot of you hate hearing your mom or dad tell you that you'll need a tutor because in your mind this means extra work. I mean, come on!  You spend 7 hours in school only to be told you need to extend your "classroom time" for another hour or two after school. Not fair! And yet, deep inside you know that putting in the extra time to make your grades even better is worth it, although you probably won't admit it.   I understand since I've been on both sides of the fence.  I've been tutored (math and english) and have tutored (math and english), so I know what it's like to be both the recipient and administrator of tutoring services.  My teachers always told me that I was smart but easily bored in class. The reason? Classes were dull. My teachers rarely made their classes interesting or engaging, so it was easy for me to "check out" and get distracted. This is why when I tutor I try to make... read more

Here is information on what I do, how I bill, and what I need from you. Feel free to read the entire blog, or just skim the bold headings until you see the type of proofreading you need. I look forward to working with you! For $5 per unit, I will do the following: Proofread your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. ($5 per 1200 words)  Provide notes explaining the changes I suggest. Make these changes (tentatively) in your paper and mark them in red print. I am: Certified in Teaching English as a Second Language Experienced in proofreading college-level academic writing, having done so as an employee of a nearby college and as a professional tutor Ethical and attentive to detail How it works: Message me and let me know what you are looking for in a proofreader. See the “extras” below for more options, and let me know if you need a service that is not listed. Charges: o $5 per 1200 words for basic... read more

I know how they told you to write it. Now let me tell you how it's really done. Popular misconception is that because you read a paper from start to finish, that the best way to write it is from start to finish. This is, of course, nonsense. The best way to write a thesis paper is as follows.   Write your conclusion first. That's right... the easiest way to write a 5-paragraph thesis paper is to start with your conclusions first. This is how we think, anyway. When we read about a subject,  we are thinking while we read, so that by the time we've finished reading, we already know what we think about it. Those are our conclusions about what we just read/watched/experienced. We're already there, so why not start there? When you start the conclusion you should say something specific about your topic. By then end of your conclusion, you should show how the specific nature of your topic says something large, say, about the nature of life itself. Write... read more

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby presents the dark side of the American Dream and does so with unusual panache. The shimmering surface of Fitzgerald's prose style mirrors the daylight optimism of the dream, reflecting the ideal of a society wherein talent and hard work routinely get rewarded and upward mobility is based at least as much on merit as on luck or charm or who you know. Ruthlessness or deceit … but who could need such things? The narrator, Nick Carraway, likewise begins this adventure with a fair measure of this robust American optimism. He envies the high society spoons in his new top drawer of polished acquaintances, interpreting their frivolity and hedonism as an abundance of life. Yet as the narrative progresses, this bright-eyed optimism dims. Nick sees, on the one hand, heirs to inherited wealth who are arrogant, bigoted, selfish, and only superficially cultured – Tom Buchanan and his ilk. On the other hand, he sees those who are... read more

Practicing for the speaking part of the IELTS English proficiency exam is daunting, to say the least. There are so many elements of a good speech that you have to remember to score the necessary band to get into your English-speaking university of choice. If you are not sure where to start, take a look at these tips: 1.) Don’t worry so much about your speed. More important are your abilities to speak without grammatical mistakes and to have few pauses or hesitancies in your speaking. Pronunciation is also negatively affected by speaking too quickly. So slow down, and concentrate on making yourself understood. 2.) Choose your higher-level vocabulary carefully. Many students end up sounding like they are living 150 years ago because their vocabularies are so formal. Choose a few (about three or four) words that are higher-level in your interview to use. Don’t overdo it. 3.) Use transitions. The flow of ideas from one part of the speaking prompt to another is important... read more

Many students have a fear of learning a foreign language.  Instead of approaching acquiring a new tongue as an exciting challenge, many approach it with the question "Why do we have to learn this?"  Learning a foreign language can be a wonderful experience.  Here a few of my "Dos and Don'ts" when approaching foreign language learning.   DO keep an open mind and be positive about learning something new. DO recognize the similarities of your native language and the new language that you are learning. DO review your notes from class everyday and practice at home. DO find a language/study buddy in your language class. DO think about your future and how a new language is going to benefit you with your future goals. DON'T be negative. DON'T be prejudice about a foreign language and its culture based on stereotypes. DON'T stop trying even when there are words that you do not understand or there is a chapter that is not... read more

I was asked once by a Japanese ELL (English Language Learner) how she could improve her speaking.  I told her that if you want to improve then you need to speak!  Talk to everyone.  Don't worry if you screw up or if your pronunciation isn't perfect.  The only way to become better at speaking a language, and to gain confidence, is to practice.   How does an ELL improve their speaking when they are living in a peripherary country?  A country where the language is not spoken as an official language?   That can be a bit more tricky, but immersion is not a guarantee that an ELL will gain proficiency in a language either.  I recommend finding an app or make an online friend that will give you opportunities to practice speaking.   I myself am a language learner.  I would like to go back to Japan and teach, but I would like to improve my speaking skills before I go.  I like using an app called Mango Languages. ... read more

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