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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

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

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

You have one hour with a college prep specialist who can help make your admissions/scholarship essays award winning.  How can you maximize your time?  Here are five tips to get the most out of your time:   Come Prepared. - Bring the essay prompts from each of your colleges.  Bring a sample personal statement and resume.  Be sure to have any information necessary to complete an admissions essay, to include your GPA, test scores, and any major accomplishments. Know Thyself - Always know your stats.  During this time, knowing your GPA and SAT score is as important as knowing your name and birthdate.  Also, know (and have a list of) your interests, hobbies, favorite subjects, etc.  Have an idea of at least 3 possible majors and careers you would like to explore. Be on Time - There is a lot to cover!  The better prepared and earlier you are, the more likely we are to get a lot done. Also, I tend to take my time... 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!

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

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

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

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

1. Try to use Word. It gives you pointers and lets you know when a word is misspelled. 2. Always get a second set of eyes to read over your paper. They will catch mistakes you won't from looking at it so long. 3. If you aren't sure about something, Google it!

One of the most common grammar and usage questions I receive from students is this: How do I know whether to use "less" or "fewer"? It's an important question; using these words properly can mean the difference between sounding intelligent or seeming uneducated.  No one wants to ruin a good impression with a potential employer, date, or admissions interviewer by making the wrong choice in a matter that is actually quite simple.     Here is a good test to help decide which word is more appropriate:  Will the word be describing a countable noun--or will it be describing a noun that represents a group, collective, or abstract concept? If the noun is countable, then use "fewer". By way of example, it is appropriate to say, "Since I took a cut in pay, there are fewer dollars coming home each week." Another example is to say, "It is amazing that, as I grow older, it seems there are fewer hours in a day."     When... 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

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

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

One of the things I love most about the Latin language is how its writers can massage it to add information and imagery without having to add more words.  I call this, personally, writing in two dimensions.  Here's an example:   At one point in the Aeneid, Aeneas and Dido are having a lovers' tryst in a hidden cave, which was dedicated to a god.  Because Latin is a highly inflected language, word order carries little grammatical information (unlike English), but can add quite a bit of what I call "two-dimensional" information.  So, in English the line might be written:   Aeneas and Dido were in the holy cave.   But Vergilius writes instead (only in Latin):   In the holy Aeneas and Dido were cave.   Thus, even in terms of word order, Aeneas and Dido are INSIDE the cave!  I find things like this absolutely thrilling.  But it's not my favorite half-line in Latin poetry.   That... read more

After spending hours learning about vocabulary, verb tenses, adverbs and adjectives you're probably wondering when you will ever have use for it in the real world. I was always pretty good at grammar and spelling and have found those skills to be invaluable. Something as simple as writing an email requires proper grammar. Have you ever cringed at something written on the internet where someone incorrectly used there, they're or their? Having good writing skills and being knowledgeable about grammatical syntax will set you apart in job applications, reports for your bosses and supervisors, articles about how to perform the latest skateboard tricks, and even speeches and presentations. Incorrect spelling can be very costly for a business. I once went into a bank where they were running a special promotion. I pointed out that they had incorrect spelling on their posters. Posters are not cheap to produce and therefore it probably cost that bank tens of thousands of dollars to correct that... read more

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