Monthly Archives: April 2013


Language Note of the Week 31

1) You may blithely pile up adverbs when describing an action:

“My sister scampered slowly, clumsily, hungrily, ridiculously towards the cookie jar.”

That example is clear, fine and mean.

Here, the two -ly adverbs are dissonant and mildly confusing:

“Hemingway’s works function realistically primarily when they are autobiographical.”

Because “primarily” and “realistically” are not parallel (i.e. you can’t write “realistically, primarily when…”), there is a fight for the sentence-scope spotlight. That was an awful explanation.

Just look at this example. Its meaning is clear:

“For the most part, Hemingway’s works function realistically when they are autobiographical.”

2) Like flossing, cleaning our bicycle and backing up our system, naming data files is something we know should do… but don’t.

Name your files clearly. It will help you greatly when revising work, finding the file, or even reminding yourself where you’re at.

It need not be pretty – “MUSIC ARTICLE – NOT DONE YET FOR THE TUESDAY CANADIAN CULTURE GROUP” is an ugly but effective title.

Most importantly: if you have second thoughts about an essay and you submit an updated version, label your e-mail as if you’re a drama queen, and your file as if you’re an accountant.

E-mail subject line: “STOP! PLEASE GRADE this VERSION”

Title: “Essay Two Canadian Literature – Version Two – Ahačič.” [N.b. do not label your essay: “Essay – Blake.” I KNOW the essay is for me.]

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:


Calls for papers for forthcoming issues of EJES

The call for papers for volume 19 is available:

– Mendacity in Early Modern Literature and Culture
– Modern Creatures
– Poetics and Partition

Please note that the deadline for proposals for all of the issues is 31 October 2013, with delivery of completed essays by 31 March 2014.

Volume 19 will appear in 2015.

Please consult the journal’s Aims and Scope and Editorial Policy for general guidelines on proposing a special theme and/or contact the General Editors for specific advice on formulating a CFP.


Language Note of the Week 30

Take three seconds and shorten this sentence:

“What Ralph evokes in Randy is something new.”

“_______ evokes in Randy __ something new.”


“Ralph evokes something new in Randy.”

Unless you need time to think, or unless you want to up the anticipation, chop the needless “what” and “is.”

Time to think:
“May I take your order?”
“Well, what I would really like to order from the menu is…” (vs. “I’ll have a beer.”)

Upping the anticipation:
“What really, truly annoys me about this menu is…”

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Language Note of the Week 29

Some sneaky adjectives look like they should be adverbs because they end in -ly.

“We piled our dishes DISORDERLY” is wrong.
“She passed him a cup of tea MOTHERLY” is equally wrong.

There are a few solutions here:
1) opt for ugly and clumsy phrases like:
“in a disorderly/motherly manner” or a “disorderly/motherly way”

2) search for a synonym, or paraphrase:

“We piled our dishes chaotically.”
“She passed him a cup of tea, as if she were his mother.”

3) Avoid -ly adjectives like the plague – which is of course a repetition of 2 (and impossible to do on a daily basis).

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Language Note of the Week 28

How’s this for a non-informative (and real!) newspaper headline?

“Billionaire investor was keen on investing, fraud trial told”

No kidding. And avid dancers like to dance.

Avoid such repetition in your writing. Admittedly, I have never received such a banal title from a student.

This, however, is common:

“Last week I came across a thrilling new Swedish mystery novel. The novel’s story is well-written and packed with suspense. The novel’s story is not a typical mystery because there is no obvious culprit.”

Never start two sentences in a row with the same word or phrase. (Parallel structures are another matter, of course.)

Figura etymologica – i.e. when you use derivations of the same root – is also common:

“The questioning of the suspect included questions like, ‘Where were you last night?'”

This is plain ugly. This, however, is lovely and intentional: “Sing a Song of Sixpence”

My battery is dying… Time to post!

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Calls Events

ESSE 2014 KOSICE Conference

Dear Colleagues, The 1 May 2013 deadline for Seminars and Round Tables (proposals from prospective convenors) for ESSE 2014 KOSICE Conference is approaching fast. You are invited to submit proposals for seminars and round tables on topics related to our fields of study: English Language, Literatures in English, and Cultural Studies (broadly defined). Proposals for seminars and round tables should be submitted directly to the Academic Programme Committee (APC) at The details are described below and at


Proposals for seminars on specialised topics within our field should be submitted jointly by two ESSE members, preferably from two different National Associations. The degree of international appeal will be one of the selection criteria used by the APC. Proposals will not be entertained if they come from two people in the same institution. In exceptional cases the APC may permit one of the two convenors not to be an ESSE member (e.g. because they come from outside Europe), if it is argued that their presence is especially important for the seminar. Seminar proposals must include the names, affiliations and e-mail addresses of the convenors and a 100-word description of the topic. Unlike round tables, seminars are not pre-constituted events and will therefore be included within the APC’s future call for papers, although convenors may take an active role in approaching potential participants. The seminar format is intended to encourage lively participation on the part both of speakers and of members of the audience. For this reason, papers will be orally presented in no longer than 15 minutes rather than read. Reduced versions of the papers will be circulated beforehand among participants. Further directions will follow in the call for papers. NB: proposals for individual papers should NOT be submitted at this stage. The deadline for individual papers will be the 31 January 2014.


The aim of round tables is to present topics and problems currently seen as shaping the nature of the discipline. At a round table a pre-constituted panel discusses issues of fairly general scholarly or professional interest in front of (and subsequently with) an audience. In other words, round tables are not sequences of papers but debate sessions. Proposals should include a 100-word description of the topic and the names and affiliations of at least three participants (including the convenor), who must be drawn from more than one national association. The maximum number of speakers will be five.