Language Note of the Week 39

This is a follow-up to last week’s Note.

If you are talking about the European Union, say, “European Union.”

“Slovenia is in Europe” is obvious.

“Switzerland is not in Europe” is a bizarre statement.

“Croatia is going to Europe” is cryptic if you mean “is about to enter the European Union.”

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

A new application for 101 English Tips:

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Language Note of the Week 38

As I have already mentioned in many of my classes and in Writing Short Literature Essays, you want each paragraph of your essay to look forward.

Let’s try that again.

As mentioned in Writing Short Literature Essays, you want…

When referring to earlier points in your essay, you can almost always chop “I have already.” That saves three words and takes the focus away from the self, repetition and the gloomy past.

Another tip: move “I have already mentioned” or “As mentioned” to the second sentence position.

Compare:

“As I have already mentioned in this essay, Slovenia is in Europe.” (Yawn.)

“Slovenia, as mentioned, is in Europe.”

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Language Note of the Week 37

Colons cause problems. In 101 English Tips, I wrote:
a) a colon “shouts out that an example or summary is about to follow.”

b) “Another colon tip: when continuing to write after a colon in your sentence, it is often a reasonable and admirable idea to make it snappy and not produce a sentence that looks like a little poodle with a long, long tail. Oops.”

The only punctuation following a colon will generally be a period or question mark or exclamation mark (and commas, of course). Do not start a new clause.

This is bizarre:

Ogden Nash writes of a hunter: ‘This grown up man with pluck and luck / Is trying to outwit a Duck,’ AND THIS shows…

Write this instead:

Ogden Nash writes of a hunter: ‘This grown up man with pluck and luck / Is trying to outwit a Duck.’ THIS SHOWS…

Also, never, ever use two colons in a single sentence. A colon and dash in a single sentence? Nope.

A final point: one-third of the mistakes students make are explicitly covered in 101 English Tips, however, they persist (this sentence- five or six).

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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Language Note of the Week 36

Two short and simple ones this week:

1) 1970s. Not:

a) 1970ies (wrong)
b) 1970’s (wrong; what can a decade own?)
c) in the 70s of the previous decade (too long)
d) 70s (fine if the WHEN is clear. In formal writing, you’ll often want to stretch this out to 1970s)

You can do similar things with other decades.

2) “to crush” vs. “to crash”

“crushed” is good for cans, bugs, and emotional hardship.

a) “Kunigunda crushed the beer can with his foot.”
b) “He was crushed by a Japanese monster.”
c) “I was crushed when my crush on John…”

Unless the car/bicycle/skateboard is totalled from above (falling rocks? UFOs?), write: “crashed the car…”

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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Language Note of the Week 35

Four little tips this week (skip to number four if you’re in a hurry and about to write a test):

1) Changing the tried-and-true word order adds life to your prose.

If you (as many students do) write “however” several times in your essays, switch it occasionally to the second position:

“However, I do not use the word too often.”
“My brother, however, has serious issues with ‘however.'”

Similarly, instead of writing “such as” all the time, try something like this:

“In my spare time I watch such cartoons as ‘Tom and Jerry,’ ‘The Smurfs,’ and ‘South Park.'”

2) Here’s one that you all know but that native speakers are forgetting. (Taken from a Toronto Star article.)

“The Canadians sleepwalked through the first period and trailed by two goals against the Slovenians who came ready to compete.”

Hmmm. Was the Canadian hockey team somehow leading against a second Slovenian team that did not come “ready to compete”? Were there two Slovenian teams on the ice?

3) Put your name on your essays. Half – got that? HALF!!! – of the essays I have received as e-mail attachments over the past two weeks had no name.

4) If you have the option of choosing questions on a test (e.g. “Answer four of the following five questions.”), do not answer more than you have to. If I ask for seven answers, I grade the first seven given. Not more.

A good test-taker might write answers for nine (instead of seven), then cross out the ones that sound weakest.

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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Language Note of the Week 34

“Just” is a useful and slippery term.
It can be an intensifier (“Just stop it!”) or a synonym for “fair-minded” (“He’s a just man, but a pain to deal with”).

“Just” can often sound dismissive – as in “It was just one of those things.”

Consider this example:

“Adjudicators are just people and they mark candidates accordingly.”

Two problems:
1) does “just” mean “righteous” or “equitable”?
2) if “just” is an intensifier – which is the more likely possibility here – is there a suggestion that “adjudicators” should be MORE than “people”?
3) (but who’s counting?) …perhaps this is a transfer error from Slovenian.

Clearer:

“Adjudicators are ONLY HUMAN and they mark candidates accordingly.”

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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Language Note of the Week 33

The first sentence is crucial for setting the tone (see “Reminder” at http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf).

Consider the tone set by these first sentences from real (but slightly changed) motivation letters:

1) “I would like take a chance and participate in study program called Zembla Study Tour – „Thinking Zambla“ in September 2013.”
(TONE: What the heck, why not give it a whirl.)

2) “I wish to apply for the participation in the Zembla Study Tour, because when I noticed advertisement for this tour on my university’s website I already knew this is the program I would like to be part of.”
(NOTE: Know that the adjudicator cares not one whit how you found out about Erasmus, etc. Don’t mention it.)

3) “I, Randy Raoul, currently in my second year of bachelor studies of English Language and Literature at Philosophical Faculty at Trondheim University, and in my first year of diploma studies of English Language and Geography at Pedagogical Faculty at Honolulu University, would like to apply for a spot on the one-month Zembla Study Tour – “Thinking Zembla”.
(COMMENT: Too much information. It also sounds like a legal document.)

4) “Being to the point, what my biggest motivation is, I would use Lawrence Martin’s words: ,,He pondered and suffered a good deal but he lacked the courage to dare – the first requisite of a practitioner.””
(QUESTION: Is this “To the point”?)

5) “You should provide a convincing explanation as to why you wish to participate in the study tour, what particular contribution you feel you might make to the success of the tour, and what you anticipate will be the benefit of taking part in the tour.”
(CLICHE: Little things matter. This candidate clearly uploaded the wrong file.)

6) “I found this quote which maybe show my vision. „The best way to predict the future is to form it.” Pavel Smythe.”
(SPOTLIGHT: This “Pavel Smythe” sounds fascinating – oh, he’s not the candidate! In other words, avoid starting with a quotation. You want the spotlight on yourself.)

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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Language Note of the Week 32

Two short ones:

1) “This is because the 13th-century Italy was unusual.”
Nope.
“This is because 13th-century Italy was unusual.”

Drop the definite article when you use AS A NOUN PHRASE “13th-century Italy” or “19th-century France” or “x-th-century whatever.”

2) “In the 13th century…” – no hyphen.
“In 13th-century Italy…” – hyphen.

In other words, hyphenate “13th-century” if you use it adjectivally (admittedly, not all editors follow this rule. In any case, be consistent. If you hyphenate on page four, also hyphenate on page 31 of your essay).

DO NOT hyphenate “In the 13th century…”

All Language Notes of the Week are available at:
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/LNW.pdf

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

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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.

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