Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tips

Language/Writing Tip 8

This is less of a tip than food for thought.

Read this sentence aloud (slightly changed from a real, published example):

“And universities have similarly raised intellectual property concerns over ownership of the online courses their professors are now asked to assemble, indicating that ‘the future of their profession’ is at stake.”

The sentence is not gorgeous, which is excusable. It is needlessly difficult to understand, which is not excusable.

In class, I asked students to restore semantic order. The short but simple solution provided? “Add ‘that.'”

“And universities have similarly raised intellectual property concerns over ownership of the online courses THAT their professors are now asked to assemble, indicating that ‘the future of their profession’ is at stake.”

Much clearer and there’s no need to puzzle out the meaning.

NOTE:

This will be the last tip for a few weeks.

All tips for this year, as well as diploma thesis advice, are available at:

http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LW%20tips.pdf

You might also want to ponder:

http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

Tips

Language/Writing Tip 7

This will not be a stellar explanation, but here goes…

Often there is a comma missing before “with” – that is, in qualifying clauses or whatever they’re called.

Example:

“He went to sea with an oar as his sole companion.”

Clearer to my ear/eye:

“He went to sea, with an oar as his sole companion.”

Another, real example:

“It is also unregulated and mostly part of the grey economy with known breaches of worker’s rights.”

No.

“It is also unregulated and mostly part of the grey economy [COMMA] with known breaches of worker’s rights.”

Sometimes the comma-less “with” seems to aim at emphasis, as in:

“This is the total population of the Mediterranean with the Island of Sicily.”

How about?

“This is the total population of the Mediterranean, INCLUDING the Island of Sicily”?

Ask your grammar professors for a better explanation.
In the meantime, be vigilant!

Tips

Language/Writing Tip 6

Language/Writing Tip 6

This funny-sounding combination pops up occasionally:
“As a future author, young Hemingway was an avid reader.”
or
“In her efforts to improve her writing, elderly Munro turned to the spellcheck.”
“young Hemingway” and “elderly Munro” sound dismissive.
More neutral: “the young Hemingway” and “the elderly Munro.”

Note:

All tips for this year, as well as diploma thesis advice, are available at:

http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LW%20tips.pdf

You might also want to ponder:

http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

Tips

Language/Writing Tip 5

I have lately had the un-pleasure of proofreading a number of academic articles.
I have come to hate the phrase “to shed some light on…”

A few examples:

a) “This paper aims to shed some light on immigration.”
b) “This paper strives to shed light on the movie industry.”
c) “This paper has as its purpose the shedding of light on academia.”

Dull, dull, dull. And we have to read on to figure out what the paper is actually about.

Using the replacement-test, we arrive at: “By turning on the lamp, I aim to shed light on the room…” Silly-sounding, but no less circular than the above examples.

There may be arguments for using “shed light on.” Keep in mind, however, that:
1) the phrase is overused to the point of cliché.
2) if the noun after “shed light on” is vague, the sentence is hardly illuminating. a, b, and c, do not provide a thesis.
3) the combination “aims to” or “tries to” or “strives to” with “shed light on” is almost always laughable.
4) What is “some light”?

…if you are specific, the phrase “to shed light on” is tolerable:

“This paper aims to shed light on the use of Form T-29a in regulating immigration.”
“This paper strives to shed light on the use of professional Slovenian soccer players in the movie industry.”

Tips

Language/Writing Tip 4

“Rather” is rather annoying because it looks like it should be a verb:

“I would rather eat snake soup,” she said after he asked her out.

“Rather” is an adverb. It is not a verbal synonym for “to prefer,” which means that this sentence is wrong and torture to the eye or ear:

“I rather run away than fight you.”

“I would rather run away than fight you.”

In lieu of a lengthy explanation, use this rule of thumb:

When qualifying verbs, only use “rather” with “would.”