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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

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

I know this can be confusing for more advanced students, here is a simple tip to differentiate both:   We say : -"se rappeler quelque chose" and - "se souvenir DE quelque chose ou DE quelqu'un".   There is no such thing as "se rappeler de" in French...   Examples:  - je me rappelle mon voyage en France - je me souviens de ce village   I hope this can be useful to some of you in their practice!

1. Student engagement.  I always make sure that each student gets individual attention by engaging with him or her verbally, making sure they know that they are important to me and that I am monitoring them. 2. Asking students to restate what I have taught - in small amonts of information.  I often know that a student is listening, but restating what I have taught invites them to state it in their own words, thus solidifying their knowledge. 3.  Asking students to tell a personal story about themselves.  This is essential for second language learners speakers.  They are practicing speaking English about something they are intimately familiar with - themselves.   4. Using students errors in speaking to form my next grammar lesson.  Speaking is very informative for me as a teacher to know where to go next to help students to communicate clearly.  Often they can understand grammar that they cannot replicate in speech. 5. Humor is... 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

As you probably know, the same sorts of errors appear year after year in the Improving Sentences and Identifying Sentence Errors sub-sections of the SAT Writing Test.  Some might say ETS is striving for reliability, but the beret-wearing inner writer in me says they just lack imagination.   Many of these errors, unfortunately, require students to read and carefully consider all options before identifying the error and selecting the right answer, but at least one sort of commonly (not to say "universally," in test after test after test) appearing error is easy to spot and correct; I have trained even the most grammatically / stylistically challenged students to correctly answer such questions in 5 seconds at most, freeing up precious time to spend on the more nuanced items.   The error is the dangling modifier.   In case you're a little rusty, or have sensibly been spending your time thinking about almost anything other than esoteric... read more

1. Repeating themselves.    In high school (and sometime beyond) there are unhelpful rules from teachers relating to number of paragraphs, minimum lines per paragraph, and number of quotes per paragraph. Page length, word count, and more fit under this heading as well. Too many times I've seen students try to say the same thing in a different way in order to puff up their writing to hit a word count. It's easier to just think some more about the subject matter!   2. Trying to sound academic (or something).    Many a time I'll talk to a student and ask their opinion about some topic or relevant subject. They'll explain themselves clearly and concisely, and sometimes even with some with and humor. Then, when it's time to write, they start saying things like: "This subject is truly fascinating, as I believe that it is truly relevant for children in our society to become educated about many of these diverse and sundry topics".... read more

Hello everyone! Hola a todos!   Learning a second language like  Spanish or ESOL can be boring and frustrating sometimes. You just get sick of reading your textbook or completing worksheets that your teacher gives you. But believe it or not...there are several ways to make learning a second language fun no matter what age you are! You're probably thinking right now..."how?" I'll tell you how. First, think of something that you like to do in your free time like listening to music, watching a movie or reading. Say if you really enjoy listening to music...look up one of your favorite genres and see what pops up for Spanish or English music in that genre. For example, Spanish pop/rock - the Colombian artist Juanes will pop up. Check out some of his songs on youtube. Once you find a song that you like, look up the Spanish lyrics online, print them out and then try your best at translating them into English. See if you can figure out what the song means because... read more

Today, I overheard a little boy tell his mother, " I be going to play with my friends," and I almost jumped out of my skin. Over and over again, I have heard small children speak grammatically incorrect and their parents do nothing to correct them. The adage, "The children are our future", is more important than many know. The next generation that is being raised and groomed will be the future leaders of the world, the ones who will decide the important moves that the world will make, and by speaking grammatically incorrect, they are being hindered from reaching their full potential. What is worse, I have heard other children on several occasions completely eradicate the verb (as well as other important parts of speech) from their sentences, or completely destroy the entire structure: "She ready...He finna go...I be at my daddy house...Him tired." All of these instances are from not only the lack of not being properly taught, but picking up on the parent(s),... read more

This piece was originally written for a composition teaching journal in April 2015.    Considerable hullabaloo accompanies what some deem incorrect usage of language. Seriously, did he just write hullaballoo in an academic piece? Hopefully you see what I mean. Seriously, did he just use second person? Is he engaging in meta-discourse? Composition instructors, some of whom might have throated some deep consternation in the opening lines of this discussion, tend to face the expectation that they erect themselves on mountains among a network of so-called authorities on the English language, and from such heights, prescribe, as a doctor would medication, remedies for the “diseases” of the English language. For these administrators and “language mavens” alike, one of the principle concerns of the 21st century—the age of text messages and tweets—is the shortage of correct grammar, correct, of course, in terms of standards often set by the same group of people. This, I posit,... read more

A great new grammar book, "The Essentials of English Grammar in 90 Minutes" by Prof. Robert Hollander [Dover, $4.95] bridges the gap between basic grammar books (for both children and adults) and higher-level books such as the recommended "Essential English Grammar" by Philip Gucker, also from Dover Publications. This grammar book has almost no quizzes or charts, etc. but will give you an over-all picture of not only basic, but higher level grammar. Please see my Amazon Review of this nice little addition to the grammar teacher's and learner's bookshelf.

Wow! I can't believe I'm opening a tutoring business. Well, it's to serve the community but it's also to empower me as an independent contractor. Hopefully I'll be working from home, but if there's a need out there, requiring my assistance, I'll be on my way to enlighten people at whatever the outpost it is - within 15 mile radius, though (let's not get carried away here) :)

I have a love-hate relationship with grammar.  The only reason I have a degree in History instead of English is due to my distaste for grammar... and yet, in my free time, I giggle over grammar and spelling blogs on tumblr.     Exhibit A: This blog takes everything from the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and deconstructs it into sense (and nonsense).    Reasoning With Vampires   While I appreciate the humor, it is a bit awkward to consider the things people use to fill their time.  I digress.   I suppose the disgruntlement with grammar could be due to the cut-and-dry aspect of it- either you are grammatically correct or incorrect.  Much like numbers in math, commas cannot be thrown about willy-nilly.  Unless you are e. e. cummings, punctuation and capitalization is integral to deciphering meaning.     In the end, writing is much like any other hobby or activity: after mastering the... read more

My emerging tutoring passion is assisting ESL college students with their coursework. Most of them must also hold full-time jobs to support themselves and often their families as well. Many require online courses to get college educations. They could not earn a college degree any other way. Do textbook publishing companies realize how much cultural bias is written into their online ancillary (supplemental) materials? Do teachers of online college courses realize how hopeless these students feel about merely passing a class when their grades depend on online multiple-choice exams consisting of 60 items to be completed in 60 minutes (60 in 60), for example? This may be a subtle form of cultural bias, but bias it is. Frankly, as a native speaker of American English with a master’s degree in journalism from University of Wisconsin—Madison, I’m not sure I could pass a 60 in 60 exam. I would like to challenge the instructors who teach these online courses and college administrators... read more

Computerized spell-check can be a handy time-saver when writing papers, and many students swear by it. However amazing it may be, though, spell-check is still just a computer program, and as such should not be considered a substitute for proofreading with human eyes. As evidence, here are three common mistakes that spell-check won't catch. Proper Nouns Spell-check uses a dictionary to compare the words you type to existing words. Proper nouns, like names of people or places, usually won't be in the computer's dictionary, and so the spell-check will flag them as misspelled. This means that when you proofread, you'll have to ignore the wavy underline under those names. But this can also backfire – what if you happened to misspell that name? The computer will underline it same as before, but your brain is already prepared to ignore underlining on that name so you run the risk of not catching it yourself. This is one reason I advocate actually printing out a hard copy of your... read more

Statisticians say that the average person writes about 55,000 words per year. That's enough to fill a novel. This statistic measures everything from thank you notes to work emails. However, I'm sure the average college student far exceeds this number. Therefore, it's no wonder that most students I work with are seeking help with their writing. Needless to say, with such a word filled future on these students' horizon, I take this responsibility seriously.  Most students think they need to start with grammar in order to improve their writing. They are baffled by the pesky rules that spell check doesn't catch but that their teachers always find. They think that the key to their writing is unlocking the comma, semicolon, and split infinitive. However, I'd argue that unless you have the time and patience, and the student has the dedication, to teach him or her Latin (where many of these rules have been super imposed from), it will be hard for them to master grammar at this... read more

In common conversation "se rappeler" and "se souvenir" are most of the time used with "de" after, and most of French people use undistinctly one for the other. So most of the people won't even notice if you do the same. That been said, you can stop your reading now.   Or if you want to look at it through a microscope, let's have fun!   "Se rappeler de" is mostly used for action you have to do( or you'll have to do), and for relatively short term and factual memories: "Rappelle-toi de jeter la poubelle demain matin!" (Don't forget to take the trash out tomorrow morning) To a policeman who shows you a picture: "Je me rappelle de ce type. Il est passé hier à la boutique." (I remember that guy. I went to the shop yesterday.)   "Se souvenir de" is more charged with feelings, is about something you keep from a past time and/or you'll keep for ever (think "souvenir... read more

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