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  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

Last week in my Literature Spotlight, I discussed the idea of science-fiction as a reflection of the time period in which it was written. For this week's Writing Rundown, let's take a look at my brainstorming process. As I mentioned in this blog post, there are many ways to brainstorm for a project. For this one, I decided to use a technique I hardly ever use myself: free-writing. Free-writing is a great tool for projects for which you have the beginnings of a lot of ideas bouncing around in your head, but none are quite fleshed out enough for you to contemplate their connections. It generally requires another form of prewriting such as a word cloud or outline to get it into a state that helps you write the essay, but it's a great place to start. So, as a brief recap: in freewriting, sometimes called “stream-of-consciousness” writing, you put your pen down on a blank piece of paper and just start writing – and you don't stop writing for at least ten or fifteen... read more

Prompt: Explain the popularity of Science Fiction. Use at least one work from this genre to explain its appeal. Science fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love it (and I suspect many of its readers love it) because despite its trappings of the future, good science fiction is very much a reflection of the time period in which it is written. One of Sci-Fi's major draws for me is that it can highlight and discuss social issues that might be touchy to talk about in the present day. Through the skillful use of spaceships, aliens, utopian planet colonies, and other 'flight-of-fancy' scenarios, a science fiction author can hold a mirror up to the way our current society deals with an issue by showing how their fictional society does. By reading sci-fi from previous eras, then, we can catch a glimpse of what people of that era were thinking about – and what was considered an acceptable 'flight of fancy.' The Skylark of Space, written by E. E. 'Doc' Smith in the... read more

Here is a sample proofreading checklist which I created for one of my English Language Learner (ELL) students. It is not an exhaustive list, because it is targeted to her most frequent errors.    Proofreading Checklist Did I check… 1. Spelling ?  Microsoft Office Spelling and Grammar check? ? Spelling of proper nouns (specific people, places, things?) ? Example: President Barack Obama 2. Grammar ? Circle all the verbs? ? Check subject/verb agreement? ? Check the verb: o Tense o Spelling 3. Sentence Structure   ? Correct any sentences that are too long? o Add a good variety of short and long sentences? 4. Punctuation ? Put a box around each punctuation mark? ? Check apostrophes? o They should be for possessives (show ownership) or in place of a letter ? Example?: That is Joe's essay. ? Example2 : It’s (It is) a nice day. ? Commas... read more

The topic bridging sentence provides a smooth topical transition from one idea to another for the reader. It is a segue of ideas and allows for a logically relevant transition. The topic bridge sentence also challenges you as a writer to relate and connect your ideas between paragraphs in order to have a cohesive paper.Topic bridging sentences are the first sentence in body paragraphs of an essay. Approach Ask yourself: What is the main idea of the preceding body paragraph? What is the main idea of the following body paragraph? How are they related? Similar pattern/trend Share a feature Chronologically related Devices Basic Topic Bridge Sentence “In addition to <main idea from paragraph one>, such and such also was influenced/affected by <main idea from paragraph two>.” Complex Topic Bridge Sentences Connect the ideas from the two paragraphs in a more global fashion. Explain how... read more

Writing is a skill.  Just like with any other talents--being musical, athletic, artistic, some people are just better at writing than others.  That doesn't mean you can't develop writing skills.  It just takes more practice!   Many of my weak writers are excellent at math.  I create formulas for a thesis, topic sentence, and each paragraph.  If you can remember a formula, you can write an essay.  I encourage daily reading.  The more we read, the more vocabulary and sentence structure we are exposed to.  This works its way into the brain, and enables recall when it comes time to write.   I also encourage my students to write about what they read.  We do simple things like summarizing, list questions they may have, draw or describe the setting, predict what happens next, or even come up with an alternate title for the book.  All of these things help people to become better readers, and that makes us good writers... 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

Last week in my Literature Spotlight, I explored the connections between humanity, free will and morality in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. For this week's Writing Rundown, I thought I'd share with you my brainstorming process. As I mentioned in this blog post, there are many different ways to brainstorm for a project. For this one, I chose to use a Word Cloud. I chose the Word Cloud because it's a much more flexible and organic method than going straight for an outline, and I was anticipating this particular topic being tricky to organize. All of the ideas bouncing around in my head were interconnected, and I felt a Word Cloud would help me sort them out and figure out the best way to structure my essay. In the center of the page, I began with the phrase “Loss of Free Will.” I knew that was the central key to my current thought process – that the loss of free will was what actually affected the main character's humanity, far more than any other... read more

Meta-cognition is thinking about thinking, and higher levels tend to be associated with intelligence and - in the parlance of the times - high income and job satisfaction. So, to keep things simple: if you think that you might struggle with learning concepts in statistics or research methods, then get in touch with a tutor early. It's important to establish some type of relationship so you can evaluate their style, methods, and how likely it is that you'll be successful within their approach. If you wait too long, or right before an assignment is upon you, you may be stuck with a limited number of tutors that you are forced to work with.    Prevention through establishing early contact will help you iron out details, assess a match in learning and tutoring styles, and prepare for mastering any difficult concept.   Don't wait - contact tutors before it's too late!

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

As a tutor, I enjoy helping students understand their assignments, improve their academic performance, or prepare for standardized tests, but I'd be hesitant to say I actually like standardized tests.   But I've tempered my perspective concerning standardized tests because of the revised Advanced Placement U.S. History exam.  It does have a multiple choice "just the facts" section, but now half of one's grade is based on the ability to demonstrate critical thinking, and applying one's knowledge and thinking creatively.   For example, the Document-Based Question essay provides five to seven primary sources: these could be Executive (Presidential) Orders, speeches, laws, political cartoons, photographs, propaganda posters, and images of historical artifacts. One sample question, which required that students develop an interpretation of the perceptual and cognitive mindset of American culture during the Cold War, had a reproduction of an advertisement... 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

Looking for a second pair of eyes to review your final research papers for this semester? Please review my profile and contact me. I have extensive experience working with ESL writers and I specialize in nursing school (through graduate level) research paper review. My schedule is flexible and I can coach any writer online as well as via email and in person.   With South University and UCF's nursing programs in Orlando, I have worked with many nurses in Central Florida who are struggling to attain a master's degree while working full-time in the nursing profession. Hats off to all health care professionals, but especially these dedicated men and women, who want to achieve higher education.  I also provide academic support online and via email for all writers for any writing project, creative and technical topics. Please review my profile for more details.    Contact me today to see how I can provide academic support during your graduate nursing career...

Want to be published? I am the editor of three on-line science journals, published through the CK-12 Foundation (www.ck12.org). These journals, Understanding Biodiversity, Profiles in Science (early 2016), and Current Trends in the Biomedical Sciences (late 2016) are opportunities for students to become published.  I am available to assist students nationwide through the research, writing and publishing process - just sent me an email to find out more.    

We've all had those days when the sun is shining beautifully, and we're stuck inside at a desk. Wouldn’t it be great to find places to write, or study, that actually capitalized on all that vitamin D and felt inspiring and comfortable enough for effective work?   Heck, yes!   Here are four outdoor venues that can help aid in creativity and success:   1. Coffee shops. Coffee and tea shops are great choices if you’re communal and don’t get too easily distracted by the hubbub. One suggestion is to claim a table outside—in the sunshine if you’re writing or in the shade if you’re on a laptop. This way, you get some fresh air and a taste of what’s going on in the world, yet there are less distractions.   2. Parks. Picnic blankets are your best friend when it comes to park writing time, as are big beach towels and camp chairs. Personally, with chronic back pain, I’ve laid out on a blanket in the sun for a good hour or two before rotating... read more

I’m not prone to exaggeration, but when it comes to the words moreover and furthermore, I can safely say that I would rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick if it meant that never again would I have to hear them misused in everyday English conversations with Russian speakers. I see why they come up so often. They both appear, on the surface, to be sweetly analogous to the often-used term ????? ???? and, to Russian speakers of English, it probably feels like it is a suitable upgrade from plain old ‘and’. The problem is that using them in everyday conversations can make you sound, at best, overblown or pretentious and, at worst, vaguely threatening. That said, as with everything, there is a time and a place for introducing these words. They carry with them, a level of accuracy in meaning which other ‘plainer terms, may not have. We just need to make sure that we understand exactly when and where to use the word; and that the right time and place is... read more

I recently reviewed a question someone had about strong verbs: is arranged a strong verb?   My answer was thus:    This is probably the wrong question to ask and strong is really a vague term in which to describe a verb - by strong, I assume you mean active. Typically we use active and passive to describe transitive and intransitive verbs. That is, verbs existing in a typical subject-verb-object relationship and that don't use auxiliary verbs as crutches. A transitive verb is one which is active. (Keep in mind, I'm simplifying that definition. There's more to a transitive verb than that). These are often stronger verbs. Many times they are violent. Active voice  has an agent, which is typically a subject, it has a "strong" verb, and it typically has an object. Here's a few sample sentences where active (transitive) verbs are used:   1. Sally hit Tom. 2. Bill shot the dog. 3. I sent a message to my grandmother. Those... read more

1) THE BASE: Ask yourself where you want to start. A building is strongest and most stable at the base. So that being said, you want to build a strong and stable foundation on the subject you want to learn. Concepts, rules, understanding play a big role when learning a subject. Grasping the fundamental ideology of a subject is the beginning of formulating the bases of understanding the core concepts. So in other words get a general picture of the subject and read the history behind it.   2) START SMALL BUT BROAD: Every subject has a broad category and a specific category. The more in-depth you go, the more confusing it can become if you don't have the general knowledge or a broad understanding of that subject. For example, you're not going to understand Calculus 2 without learning Calculus. Or understand how your brain creates memories or thoughts without understanding neurons. So by researching, reading, and analyzing the broad categories of the subject you can learn... read more

1) THE BASE: Ask yourself where you want to start. A building is strongest and most stable at the base. So that being said, you want to build a strong and stable foundation on the subject you want to learn. Concepts, rules, understanding play a big role when learning a subject. Grasping the fundamental ideology of a subject is the beginning of formulating the bases of understanding the core concepts. So in other words get a general picture of the subject and read the history behind it.   2) START SMALL BUT BROAD: Every subject has a broad category and a specific category. The more in-depth you go, the more confusing it can become if you don't have the general knowledge or a broad understanding of that subject. For example, you're not going to understand Calculus 2 without learning Calculus. Or understand how your brain creates memories or thoughts without understanding neurons. So by researching, reading, and analyzing the broad categories of the subject you can learn... read more

One of the difficulties with the English language is that there are often multiple ways to represent the same sound. For example the long a sound can be seen as <ai> as in rain or <ay> as in play. It can also be spelled as just an <a> or in the combination of <a> consonant <e>, such as lane. Then there is the allusive <eigh> as in neighbor or weigh. The process of spelling is hearing a sound, then making a choice on what graphic representation (letter, or letters) will spell that word correctly. Sometimes we choose incorrectly.    There are two methods I use that help with spelling. One is the Orton-Gillingham method. This looks at syllables to determine pronunciation. They are rules, such as <ay> is used at the end of a word, like play, way, say. The other method focuses on looking at the meaning of a word and determining the pronunciation after the meaning is gathered. This method addresses all the words we can "weird"... read more

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