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Everything You Wanted to Know About English but Were Afraid to Ask. Amy Kubista, Writing Specialist Laurel Walsh, Writing Faculty. The Basics. Writing is about getting your point across. Writing is about sharing your knowledge.

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everything you wanted to know about english but were afraid to ask

Everything You Wanted to Know About English but Were Afraid to Ask

Amy Kubista, Writing Specialist

Laurel Walsh, Writing Faculty

the basics
The Basics
  • Writing is about getting your point across.
  • Writing is about sharing your knowledge.
  • If your writing isn’t clear, you’re not getting your point across or demonstrating expertise.
the bad news
The Bad News

Theorists don’t have a model or theory to show teachers how students learn to write in English (Cumming, 1998), or even what such a theory would look like (Carson, 2001).

the good news what we do know
The Good News: What We Do Know

What makes a successful learner

YOU

What makes a successful lesson

US

common problems
Common Problems

Sentence-level issues—

  • Comma usage
  • Possessive Errors
  • Semicolon errors
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Which vs. that
  • Excessive prepositional phrases
  • Parallel construction
  • Passive construction
  • Sentence fragments
  • Unnecessary words

Local Issues

sentence level issues slow composition
Sentence-Level Issues Slow Composition

When you worry about your commas, semicolons, integrating quotation, and grammar issues, it is hard to write an essay.

We want you to be able to ruminate about your field of inquiry and not spend time fretting about punctuation.

slide9

The Rules Exist:

Let’s Learn them

get rid of extra words
Get Rid of Extra Words

According to a series of one-on-one qualitative interviews, it has been determined without a doubt that when it comes to daily behavior and grammar instruction, Laurel Walsh is insane.

use parallel construction
Use Parallel Construction

Wrong:

Artists love painting, drawing and to see the world in a fresh way.

Right:

Artists love painting, drawing, and seeing the world in a fresh way.

know comma rules
Know Comma Rules

Commas cordon off material that doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.

Example:

Sheila, with her five-inch stilettos and huge beehive hairdo, asked my boyfriend on a date.

Commas do not cordon off material that changes the sentence meaning.

Example:

The man with too many ties has too few necks.

more rules yes
More Rules? Yes!
  • Semi-colons are your friend.
  • An independent clause is a sentence; it has a subject and a verb and can stand alone.
  • There are three ways to marry two independent phrases: semicolon alone, semicolon with a sentence modifier, and a comma with a conjunction.
our pal the semicolon
Our Pal the Semicolon

Joining two independent phrases with a semicolon insinuates that there is a relationship between the two sentences.

Jon is ugly; Jon is single.

You can also slip a sentence modifier in to explain the relationship.

Jon is ugly; however, Sheila loves ugly men.

avoid passive construction
Avoid Passive Construction

Wrong:

The lingerie was given to her by her best friend’s husband.

Right:

Her best friend’s husband gave her lingerie.

Better:

The soon-to-be divorced man gave her ugly underwear.

possessives are easy
Possessives are Easy

Owning things is fun! We like to obtain things. Possessive errors turn an owner into a plural noun.

Common noun becomes a possessive by adding an apostrophe and an “s”.

The cat’s tail was short and stubby.

Proper nouns also become possessive form by adding an apostrophe and an “s”.

Sarah’s fingers are short and stubby.

What if the proper noun ends in “s”—do we add an “s” or no?

more possessives
More Possessives

YES! Thank you, Ms. Britney Spears for your antics. You allow us to know that:

Britney Spears’s nervous breakdown was dramatic.

Also remember that applies to first names also:

You are invited to Seamus’s party!

integrating quotations
Integrating Quotations

To integrate a quote into a paragraph, check the verb. If the verb indicates expression (thinks, says, yodels) then you use a comma.

Charlie says, “I love ice cream.”

If the sentence is complete, use a colon.

The problem is that Charlie cannot stop eating ice cream: “I love the stuff.”

slide21

WHAT?

“References to external sources of knowledge represent a requisite means of supporting one’s position in rhetorical argumentation” (Hinkel, 2004, p. 187).

slide22

Talking about what other scholars wrote and researched is a huge, necessary part of any paper; it is the main way writers back up their ideas (Hinkel, 2004).

apply a formula
Apply a Formula
  • According to Patterson (2007), …
  • Patterson (2007) stated…
  • Paraphrasing is important (Patterson, 2007).
slide24

“In real terms, however, few students may need a supply larger than five or six citational expressions” (Hinkel, 2004, p. 189).

Only six?? I can handle learning six phrases!

slide26

Subject / Verb /

Tense Agreement

it s not easy but
It’s Not Easy, But…
  • Read it out loud.
  • Get a peer editor (even a friend).
  • Send it to the specialists!
  • Write in the past tense.
slide28
I look. You look. We look.

They look. Teachers look.

The results look ___.

But….

He / She / It / The author / Frank (2003) looks.

slide30

It's not that you don't know it;

it's simply that it's not automatic.

slide31

“Use the past tense to express an action or a condition that occurred at a specific, definite time in the past, as when discussing another researcher's work and when reporting your results” (APA 2.06, p. 42).

slide33

I lookedYou lookedShe lookedThe researchers lookedThe author lookedBush (2004) lookedThe children lookedThe patient looked

slide34

Academic Language

vs.

BAD WRITING

slide35

But it is acceptable to write in simple sentences. In fact, it is advisable. Students can write research papers in the same way that they write reflection papers; with short sentences, basic vocabulary, and a straightforward tone.

Just like this!

don t believe me
Don’t Believe Me?

“Keep the writing simple and interesting.

While scholarly writing has style conventions, it does not have to be wordy, stuffy, or dispassionate. You should avoid colloquialisms and slang, but do not strive to sound academic. Sentences should not be long and complex” (Yob, 2007, p. 36).

KAM GUIDEBOOK!

slide38
How?
  • Avoid contractions. You weren’t meant to do this; don’t try it unless it can’t be avoided.
  • BETTER : Writers were not meant to write in contractions; do not do it unless it cannot be avoided.
slide39
Then…
  • Do not use the personal pronouns we and you.You should be more specific. Otherwise, we get off track.
  • Better :Writers should be more specific. Otherwise, their readers may get off track.
slide40
And…
  • Spell out Latin abbreviations, etc. It is informal to use them (i.e., something like this).
  • Better : Use and so on instead of etc. That isis a good substitute for i.e.
slide41

Revise informal phrases and tired words. Writers should keep an eye out for phrases that are really informal or just plain unnecessary.

  • Better : Writers should revise phrases that are informal or unnecessary.