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Tag Archive | English language

How to write much better

write well, how to write, ielts, toefl, English exam, language, learn

or not.

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Prepositions are not to end sentence with. 

3. Avoid clichès like the plague (They’re old hat.).

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. One should never generalize.

6. Comparisons are as bad as clichès. 

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Sentence fragments. Eliminate.

9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

11. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Lost in Long Sentences?

confused
Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

When reading essays, books, and novels, many people enjoy traveling through long, complex sentences with twists and turns that lead to a satisfying end. But in business writing, readers want a short, clear path to understanding. Follow the four tips below to edit long sentences.

1. Include just one idea per sentence. When sentences have several ideas, readers need to figure out the relationship between the ideas. They need to suspend their understanding until they get to the period (full stop). In contrast, readers can quickly grasp each one-idea sentence and move on to the next.

The sentence below packs in three ideas. The punctuation makes is easy to recognize them.

I hope you will be able to attend, and if you need more information, please call or email me, and I will be glad to help you.
This revision shows that each idea can be a crisp sentence: I hope you will be able to attend. If you need more information, please call or email me. I will be glad to help you.

Test Yourself Number 1: Revise this three-idea sentence, whose length makes readers move slowly:

Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document and that you fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Revise the sentence to communicate just one idea per sentence. After you have tried, you can check my revision. It appears at the end of this article.
2. Begin with the subject, not the windup. 
In baseball, the windup is the pitcher’s actions before releasing the ball. Although important to the pitcher, the windup can distract the batter. The same is true of readers: If you begin a sentence with a fancy windup, you may lose your readers before releasing your main idea. Instead, start with your subject.This sentence has a dizzying windup, which makes it too long and complicated:

With over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security, Lance James provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
If the sentence began with the subject, Lance James, rather than the long windup, it would be two clearer sentences:
Lance James has over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security. He provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
Test Yourself Number 2: Start with the subject rather than the long windup in this sentence, so readers do not struggle to understand its meaning:
By keeping the three critical success factors in mind and talking with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue, you should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor.

My revision appears at the end of the article.

3. When a sentence is too long or has more than one idea, try inserting a period (full stop) in place of the word andSometimes your sentences will ramble on because you have forgotten to take a breath and give your reader one. Replacing and with a period may help, as it would in this sentence:
Thanks for your cooperation on this project and we look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.
This revision communicates in two powerful sentences: Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.Sometimes replacing and with a period requires the addition of a word. In the sentence below, which word would you use to replace and? 

The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors and helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Your revision might look like mine: The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors. It helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Test Yourself Number 3: Break up this long sentence by inserting a period and replacing and. Then compare your revision with mine, which appears at the end of the article.

Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007 and are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.

4. Do not let a long list transform your sentence into a solid wall of text. Often you need to include a list in your writing. But a sentence burdened with a long list can become a blur to your reader. If that happens, your reader will not see any of the important information in your list. The solution is to break up the long, heavy sentence into bullet points or short sentences that keep your reader’s attention.

How would you revise this list-heavy sentence?

Your daily work will include counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations, representing the company with various groups, supporting the needs of individual plants, managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications, placing community advertising, and publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
This revision helps each point stand out for the reader:
Your daily work will include:
  • Counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations.
  • Representing the company with various groups.
  • Supporting the needs of individual plants.
  • Managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications.
  • Placing community advertising.
  • Publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
Test Yourself Number 4: Restructure this long sentence so that each part stands out:
If new information concerning the case should come to your attention, if you should leave the area for more than a few days, or if you should change your address or telephone number, please advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent immediately.
How long is too long? Sometimes long sentences are not difficult to understand. But a document filled with long, complex sentences will slow down readers and could lose them. Strive for an average of no more than 20 words per sentence–15 is better. Also, do not allow yourself to include sentences of more than 35 words in your final draft. If a sentence gets that long, break it in two (or three) or cut words.
Solution to Number 1:
Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. Also, please fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. This step is just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Solution to Number 2:  
You should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor if you do these two things: Keep the three critical success factors in mind. Talk with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue.
Solution to Number 3:
Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007. They are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.
Solution to Number 4: 
Please immediately advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent if any of these occurs:
  • New information concerning the case comes to your attention.

  • You leave the area for more than a few days.

  • You change your address or telephone number.

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10 Things Only Interpreters Would Understand

Interpreting is a most unusual, important, and misunderstood career. Providing a bridge for the language barriers that people find themselves at in our highly connected world is an important and valuable position, not to mention a job that requires hard work and years of training and practice.

In honour of the hard-working language translators and linguistic delegates of the world, here are ten things, situations, and problems that only interpreters would understand.

True1. Speaking The Wrong Language At The Wrong Time

It happens all the time when you’re an interpreter — you’re in the middle of speaking to someone in one language, when you suddenly blurt out the right word, but in the wrong language, leading to confusion on all fronts. The problem with being such a major or minor polyglot, even if you only interpret one language, is that your brain is full of the same item or adjective, but with several different meanings attached to them, making it difficult at times, not to say the wrong one at the wrong time.

Translate2. Having To Deal With Multiple Accents and Dialects At The Same Time

The job of an interpreter seems like an easy one — just listen to the language in which you happen to be versed and immediately translate into the other language. However, many people tend to forget about accents and dialects. There isn’t just a single way of speaking for every language, or even from every country. Everything varies from location to location, so it can be a supreme struggle to deal with people who are speaking in unusual dialects and accents, even if you’re fluent in the actual language that they are speaking in. There are a million different regional accents and dialects to deal with at any given time — so save a prayer for your poor, potentially frazzled interpreter.

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3. Having To Translate ‘Everything’ Your Client Says

One of the least pleasant things an interpreter has to do, is translate everything that their clients are saying, and we’re not just talking about the nice stuff. You might find yourself scrambling to find a much nicer way of saying that pointed insult, or smoothing away additional barbs, all at the drop of a hat. You’re not just an interpreter — you’re a peacekeeper, too.

Party

4. You Have A Go-To Party Trick

Admittedly, one of the highlights of being an interpreter is that you get to impress virtually everyone at party tricks. The vast majority of people (in the Western world) only know one language and the fact that you can speak another, maybe even more than two or three languages fluently, and get paid for it, is mind-blowing to many. Admittedly, this can also lead to some jealousy amongs party guests, but the joy is that you can say what you like, and chances are they won’t understand what you just called them.

cinema

5. Sitting Through World Cinema With Friends

World cinema can be a wonderful experience, but sitting through it with someone when you’re an interpreter can be an extremely tiresome exercise, not because you don’t like the film: inaccurate subtitles can cause you to comment and disrupt the film for those around you, or the person you’re with might comment on some un-translated moment and badger you into translating it for him or her at the moment when you’re trying to get lost in the movie.

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6. Forgetting The Right Word At The Wrong Time

When your entire career centres around getting the right words out at the exact right time, you are often scrambling to accurately translate the right words, phrases, and idioms in order to keep up with the fast pace of everyone else in the room. However, there are times when you’re at work at eight o’clock, and your brain is still in bed at ten; times when you simply forget the word, or the sentence, or even the language that you’re speaking. Luckily, you normally pick it up moments later, but the look of wide-eyed panic is something you can see in everyone’s reflection, and something you endeavour not to see again anytime soon.

Englsih words

7. Keeping Your Accents Correct Is A Struggle

When you’re busy juggling a ton of different languages, keeping the right accents for the right tongues, can be a struggle for even the most seasoned interpreter. Sometimes the two languages are diverse and distinct, allowing for a minimal amount of crossover; however, when you have two very similar languages, keeping the accents appropriate and separate, so as to sidestep any accidental mocking, can be a hard task indeed.

Joke

8. Telling Jokes In A Different Language Is Awful

When it comes to telling jokes, apart from having a great ending to one, the key rule is to tell it in the language it was originally told in. Jokes and humour vary from country to country, region to region, and even village to village. Very few jokes are universal, and so, as interpreters will no doubt be aware, telling one country’s joke to someone who doesn’t speak the language can be a bit of a damp squib. You’re left with blank expressions, and the joke falls flat, which is never any fun.

Idiom

9. Idioms Do Not Work In Other Languages

Here’s the thing about idioms — they’re fantastic, but only when they’re spoken in their native language to another person who speaks that language. When an interpreter has to translate them, this isn’t just a simple comparison job where you instinctually discover the corresponding idiom, nor is it appropriate to literally describe the idiom word-for-word which can lead to confusion and possible insults. Please, if you need a translator, try to veer away from the idioms.

10. Easy

10. People Think Your Job Is ‘Easy’

When you tell people that you’re an interpreter, they might actually consider that you’ve worked relentlessly hard to get where you’ve had to be. You’ve had to spend years learning a language, maybe two at the same time if you’ve really got the ability and time to; you might have visited the language’s country of origin a dozen or so times, or lived there. But people forget that their own language is honed after decades of daily, frequent use and practice. They might think it’s oh-so-easy to become an interpreter, but it’s not; and you should never let anyone disrespect or belittle your career because they think that you’re walking a Google Translate.

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That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is

grammar english

That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is is an English word sequence demonstrating syntactic ambiguity. It is used as an example illustrating the importance of proper punctuation.

The sequence can be understood as either of two sequences, each with four discrete sentences, by adding punctuation:

That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is.

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100+ Video Sites Every Educator Should Bookmark

By: Alvina Lopez

Bringing multimedia into the classroom is a great way to engage students in learning. Supplementing lessons, opening up new interests, and offering inspiration, online videos make for an incredible teaching tool.

Educational Video Collections

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Specifically designed for education, these collections make it easy to find video learning resources.

  1. TeacherTube: This YouTube for teachers is an amazing resource for finding educationally-focused videos to share with your classroom. You can find videos uploaded by other teachers or share your own.
  2. Edutopia: An awesome place to find learning ideas and resources, Edutopia has videos, blogs, and more, all sorted into grade levels.
  3. YouTube EDU: A YouTube channel just for education, you can find primary and secondary education, university-level videos, and even lifelong learning.
  4. Classroom Clips: Classroom Clips offers media for educators and students alike, including video and audio in a browseable format.
  5. neoK12: Find science videos and more for school kids in K-12 on neoK12.
  6. OV Guide: Find education videos on this site, featuring author readings and instructional videos.
  7. CosmoLearning: This free educational website has videos in 36 different academic subjects.
  8. Google Educational Videos: Cool Cat Teacher offers this excellent tutorial for finding the best of Google’s educational videos.
  9. Brightstorm: On Brightstorm, students can find homework help in math and science, even test prep, too.
  10. Explore.org: Explore.org shares live animal cams, films, educational channels, and more for your classroom to explore.
  11. UWTV: Offered by the University of Washington in Seattle, UWTV has videos in the arts, K-12, social sciences, health, and more.
  12. Videolectures.net: With Videolectures.net, you’ll get access to browseable lectures designed for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, offering videos in architecture, business, technology, and many more categories.
  13. TED-Ed: From a site that’s long been known for big ideas, you’ll find TED-Ed, videos specifically designed to act as highly engaging and fun lessons.
  14. Zane Education: Zane Education offers resources for visual learning, including the very popular on demand subtitled videos.
  15. Backpack TV: In this educational video library, you’ll find a special interest in math, science, and other academic subjects.
  16. MentorMob: Featuring learning playlists, MentorMob is a great place to find lessons you want to teach.
  17. Disney Educational Productions: This resource from Disney is a great place to find videos for students at the K-12 level.

General Video Collections

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Network TV, inspiring talks, and more are all available in these collections. Check out special categories and searches to find videos that will work in your classroom.

  1. Hulu: A great place to find the latest TV shows, Hulu is also a source of educational videos. Documentaries, PBS, even Discovery videos are all available on the site.
  2. Internet Archive: Find so much more than videos in the Internet Archive. Images, live music, audio, texts, and yes, historical and educational videos are all available on Archive.org.
  3. TED: Share seemingly endless inspiration with your students through TED, a fountain of talks based on compelling ideas.
  4. MIT Video: Online education giant MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts has an incredible video collection, offering more than 10,000 videos for science, technology, and more.
  5. TVO: TVO is a really fun and useful online TV station, with great ways for kids, parents, and educators to learn about the world.
  6. Big Think: Much like TED, Big Think offers videos (and more) from some of the world’s top thinkers and learners.
  7. @Google Talks: On this YouTube channel, you’ll find talks from creators: authors, musicians, innovators, and speakers, all discussing their latest creations.
  8. Metacafe: Find free video clips from just about anywhere, offering educational videos, documentaries, and more.
  9. Link TV: On Link TV, you’ll find videos and broadcasts meant to connect you and your students to the greater world through documentaries and cultural programs.

Teacher Education

school-class

Featuring higher-level learning, these video sites are great resources for finding education that’s fit for teachers.

  1. Academic Earth: Learn about science, justice, economics, and more from some of the world’s great universities. You can even earn a degree from this site!
  2. Teacher Training Videos: Specifically created to teach educators, Teacher Training Videos is a great place to find online tutorials for technology in education.
  3. Classroom 2.0: Check out Classroom 2.0′s videos to learn about Web 2.0, social media, and more.
  4. Atomic Learning: Visit Atomic Learning to find resources for K-12 professional development.
  5. iTunesU: Find university-level learning and more from iTunesU.
  6. Videos for Professional Development: An excellent collection of professional development videos, Wesley Fryer’s post shares some of the best teacher videos available.
  7. Learner.org: Annenberg Learner offers excellent teacher professional development and classroom resources for just about every curriculum available.
  8. MIT Open CourseWare: The leader in Open CourseWare, MIT has free lectures and videos in 2,100 courses.

Lesson Planning

lesson planning

Put together your lesson plans with the help of these useful video sites.

  1. Teachers’ Domain: Join the Teachers’ Domain, and you’ll get access to educational media from public broadcasting and its partners, featuring media from the arts, math, science, and more.
  2. Meet Me at the Corner: A great place for younger kids to visit, Meet Me At the Corner has educational videos, and kid-friendly episodes, including virtual field trips and video book reviews by kids, for kids.
  3. WatchKnowLearn: WatchKnowLearn is an incredible resource for finding educational videos in an organized repository. Sorted by age and category, it’s always easy to find what you’re looking for.
  4. BrainPOP: On this education site for kids, you’ll find animated educational videos, graphics, and more, plus a special section for BrainPOP educators.
  5. The KidsKnowIt Network: Education is fun and free on this children’s learning network full of free educational movies and video podcasts.
  6. Khan Academy: With more than 3,200 videos, Khan Academy is the place to learn almost anything. Whether you’re seeking physics, finance, or history, you’ll find a lesson on it through Khan Academy.
  7. Awesome Stories: Students can learn the stories of the world on this site, with videos explaining what it was like to break ranks within the Women’s Movement, the life of emperor penguins, and even Martin Luther King, Jr’s “We Shall Overcome” speech.
  8. Nobelprize: Cap off lessons about Nobel Prize winners with videos explaining their work and life, direct from the source on Nobelprize.org.
  9. JohnLocker: JohnLocker is full of educational videos and free documentaries, including Yogis of Tibet and Understanding the Universe.

Science, Math, and Technology

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You’ll find special attention for STEM subjects on these video sites.

  1. Green Energy TV: On Green Energy TV, you’ll find learning resources and videos for the green movement, including a video version of the children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet.
  2. BioInteractive: Find free videos and other resources for teaching “ahead of the textbook” from BioInteractive, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland.
  3. ARKive: Share images and videos of the world’s most endangered species with your students, thanks to ARKive. These wildlife films and photos are from some of the world’s best filmmakers and photographers, sharing stunning images that everyone can appreciate.
  4. MathTV: Students who need extra help with math can find support on MathTV. This site offers videos explaining everything from basic mathematics all the way to trigonometry and calculus.
  5. The Vega Science Trust: A project of Florida State University, FL, The Vega Science Trust shares lectures, documentaries, interviews, and more for students to enjoy and learn from.
  6. The Science Network: Check out The Science Network, where you’ll find the world’s leading scientists explaining concepts including viruses and the birth of neurons.
  7. PopTech: Bringing together a global community of innovators, PopTech has videos explaining economics, water, and plant-based fuels.
  8. PsychCentral: Students can learn about what makes people tick through PsychCentral’s brain and behavior videos.
  9. How Stuff Works: The video channel from How Stuff Works offers an in-depth look at adventure, animals, food, science, and much more.
  10. Science Stage: Find science videos, tutorials, courses, and more streaming knowledge on Science Stage.
  11. Exploratorium TV: Allow students to explore science and beyond with Exploratorium TV’s videos, webcasts, podcasts, and slideshows.
  12. SciVee: SciVee makes science visible, allowing searchable video content on health, biology, and more.
  13. The Futures Channel: Visit the Futures Channel to find educational videos and activities for hands-on, real world math and science in the classroom.
  14. All Things Science: For just about any science video you can imagine, All Things Science has it, whether it’s about life after death or space elevators.
  15. ATETV: Check out Advanced Technological Education Television (ATETV) to find videos exploring careers in the field of technology.

History, Arts, and Social Sciences

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Explore history and more in these interesting video collections.

  1. The Kennedy Center: Find beautiful performances from The Kennedy Center’s Performance Archive.
  2. The Archaeology Channel: Students can explore human cultural heritage through streaming media on The Archaeology Channel.
  3. Web of Stories: On Web of Stories, people share their life stories, including Stan Lee, writer, Mike Bayon, WWII veteran, and Donald Knuth, computer scientist.
  4. Stephen Spielberg Film and Video Archive: In this archive, you’ll find films and videos relating to the Holocaust, including the Nuremberg Trials and Hitler speeches.
  5. Culture Catch: Students can tune into culture with Dusty Wright’s Culture Catch.
  6. Folkstreams: On Folkstream.net, a national preserve of documentary films about American roots cultures, you’ll find the best of American folklore films.
  7. Digital History: A project of the University of Houston, Digital History uses new technology, including video, to enhance teaching and research in history.
  8. History Matters: Another university project, this one is from George Mason University. Sharing primary documents, images, audio, and more, there’s plenty of historic multimedia to go around on this site.
  9. Social Studies Video Dictionary: Make definitions visual with this video dictionary for social studies.
  10. The Living Room Candidate: From the Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate features presidential campaign commercials from 1952 to 2008.
  11. Video Active: Find Europe’s TV heritage through Video Active, a collection of TV programs and stills from European audiovisual archives.
  12. Media Education Foundation: The Media Education Foundation offers documentary films and other challenging media for teaching media literacy and media studies.

Video Tools

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Make it easy to find, share, and view videos with these tools.

  1. DropShots: On DropShots, you’ll find free, private, and secure storage and sharing for video and photos.
  2. Muvee: Using Muvee, you can create your own photo and video “muvees” to share privately with your class.
  3. Tonido: Tonido makes it possible to run your own personal cloud, accessing video files on your computer from anywhere, even your phone.
  4. Vidique: On Vidique, you’ll find a video syndication system where you can create your own channel of curated content for the classroom.
  5. SchoolTube: On SchoolTube, you’ll find video sharing for both students and teachers, highlighting the best videos from schools everywhere.

Network and Program Videos

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Check out these sites to find public broadcasting and other educational programs.

  1. PBS Video: Watch and share PBS videos online with this site.
  2. National Geographic: Find some of the world’s most amazing videos of natural life on National Geographic’s online video home.
  3. NOVA Teachers: NOVA shares highly organized videos for teachers, with 1-3 hour programs divided into chapters, plus short 5-15 minute segments from NOVA scienceNOW.
  4. Discovery Education: Use Discovery Education’s videos to inspire curiosity, bringing the Discovery channel into your classroom.
  5. C-SPAN Video Library: Find Congressional and other political programs and clips in this digital archive from C-SPAN.
  6. NBC Learn: Check out NBC Learn to find excellent resources for learning from NBC, including the science behind just about everything from the summer Olympics to hockey.
  7. History.com: Watch full episodes, clips, and videos from the History channel.
  8. Biography: Get the true story behind peoples’ lives from these videos from the Biography channel.
  9. BBC Learning: BBC offers an excellent learning site, including learning resources for schools, parents, and teachers. One of BBC’s most impressive resources is a live volcano conversation discussing the world’s most active volcano in Hawaii.

Free Movies and Clips

free movies

Documentaries and other educational movies and clips are available on these sites.

  1. Free Documentaries: On Free Documentaries, “the truth is free,” with a variety of documentary films available for streaming.
  2. SnagFilms: On SnagFilms, you can watch free movies and documentaries online, with more than 3,000 available right now.
  3. Top Documentary Films: Watch free documentaries online in this great collection of documentary movies.
  4. TV Documentaries: This Australian site has excellent documentaries about child growth, historic events, and even animations about classical Greek mythology.

How-Tos

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Satisfy students’ desire for knowledge and hands-on learning by sharing how-to videos from these sites.

  1. 5min: If you’ve got five minutes, you can learn how to do something on this site. Check it out to find instructional videos and DIY projects.
  2. Wonder How To: Learn everything about anything from Wonder How To’s show and tell videos.
  3. Instructables: This community of doers shares instructions (often, video) for doing just about anything, from making secret doors to tiny origami.
  4. Howcast: Find some of the best how-to videos online with Howcast.
  5. MindBites: Check out MindBites to find thousands of video lessons, how-tos, and tutorials.
  6. W3Schools: Through W3Schools’ web tutorials (video and otherwise), you can learn how to create your own websites.
  7. Videojug: Videojug encourages users to “get good at life” by watching more than 60,000 available how-to videos and guides.

Government and Organizations

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Offered as a service from government organizations and other groups, these are great places to find top-notch educational videos and often, historical treasures.

  1. US National Archives: Explore US history in this YouTube channel from the US National Archives.
  2. National Science Foundation: From the National Science Foundation, you’ll find a wealth of multimedia, including instructional and educational videos.
  3. NASA eClips: NASA offers a great way for students and educators to learn about space exploration, with clips divided by grade level.
  4. NASA TV: Tune in to NASA TV to watch launches, talks, even space station viewing.
  5. Library of Congress: Through the Library of Congress, you can find videos and other classroom materials for learning about American history.
  6. American Memory Collections: Search America’s collective memory to find videos and other multimedia from the American past, including film and sound recordings from the Edison Companies and 50 years of Coca-Cola TV ads.
  7. Canadian National Film Bureau: Check out the Canadian National Film bureau to find hundreds of documentaries and animated films available online.

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18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing

just english

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.

Good

High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”

New

Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.

Long

Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.

Old

“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?

Right

“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.

Different

Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”

Small

“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.

Large

Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?

Next

Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”

Young

Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”

Never

“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.

Things

“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”

All

Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.

Feel

“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.

Seem

“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.

Almost

Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.

Just

“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.

Went

Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

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C’mon, Get Happy: 7 Happy Expressions Defined


Happy as a clam

happy-as-a-clamCute as they are, clams are not the most emotive creatures in the animal kingdom, so why do we say happy as a clam? Some have speculated it’s because a partially opened clam shell resembles a smile. But the expression is a shortening of the longer happy as a clam in mud at high tide or happy as a clam at high water, both of which were in usage by the mid-1800s and serve to mean “happy as a critter that’s safe from being dug up and eaten.” The longer expressions evoke a sense of relief more than the shorter happy as a clam, which is widely used to mean “extremely happy.”

Happy hour

happy-hourPeople were using the word happy to mean “intoxicated” as early as the mid-1600s, alluding to the merrymaking effect of alcohol. But the phrase happy hour didn’t catch on until the early 1900s. This expression originally referred to a time on board a ship allotted for recreation and entertainment for a ship’s crew. Nowadays the expression refers to cocktail hour at a bar, when drinks are served at reduced prices. This definition caught on around the era depicted in the well-lubricated offices of TV’s Mad Men.

Slaphappy

 

slaphappyAround the time of World War II, the word happy began appearing in words to convey temporary overexcitement. Slaphappy is one of these constructions, suggesting a dazed or “happy” state from repeated blows or slaps, literal or figurative. Slaphappy can mean “severely befuddled” or “agreeably giddy or foolish” or “cheerfully irresponsible.”

Trigger-happy

 

trigger-happyMuch like slaphappy, the happy in trigger-happy indicates a kind of temporary mental overstimulation. But in this construction, happy means “behaving in an irresponsible or obsessive manner.” The term trigger-happy entered English in the 1940s with the definition “ready to fire a gun at the least provocation.” Over time, it has taken on figurative senses including “eager to point out the mistakes or shortcomings of others” and “heedless and foolhardy in matters of great importance.”

Happy-go-lucky

 

happy-go-luckyThe word happy comes from the Old Norse happ meaning “chance” or “luck.” The wildcard nature of chance is reflected in the wide range of words that share this root. While the adjective happy-go-lucky, meaning “trusting cheerfully to luck” or “happily unconcerned or worried,” is widely used in positive contexts, its etymological cousin haphazard, carries a more negative connotation. The expression happy-be-lucky entered English slightly earlier than happy-go-lucky, but fell out of use in the mid-1800s.

Happy medium

happy-mediumThe phrase happy medium refers to a satisfactory compromise between two opposed things, or a course of action that is between two extremes. The notion of the happy medium is descended from an ancient mathematical concept called the golden section, or golden mean, in which the ratios of the different parts of a divided line are the same. This term dates from the 1600s, though is still widely used today.

Happy camper

happy-camperA happy camper is a person who is cheerful and satisfied, although the expression is frequently used in negative constructions, as in “I’m not a happy camper.” The word camper was widely used to refer to a soldier or military man when it entered English in the 1600s. It took on a more generic sense of one who camps recreationally in the mid-1800s, paving the way for the expression happy camper to emerge in the 1930s. Interestingly, use of the phrase happy camper skyrocketed in the 1980s.

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Avoid Gender-Based Language Traps

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Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Discussions of gender-based language can become heated and frustrating. Some people want to preserve language they consider traditional and appropriate. Others want to adjust language to fit our current world of work. I fall into that second category, preferring inclusive language and words that do not focus unnecessarily on a person’s gender. I recommend avoiding the language traps below. 



1. Avoid “man” words unless you are specifically referring to an adult male. Avoid expressions such as manpower, man hours, and chairman, which focus on men. Instead, use words that include both genders. For example, for manpower, use crew, staff, labor, or personnel. For man hours, use time or work hours. For chairman, choose a word that works for your group, such as chair, chairperson, leader, or convener. Do not be concerned about a word such as manager, which derives from the Latin word for “hand,”  or mandate, whose root means “entrust.”  


 2. Avoid words that communicate a “women-only” category. Use housekeeper rather than chambermaid, and ballet dancer rather than ballerina. Choose server rather than waitress, tailor rather than seamstress, and host or attendant rather than hostess. Baby boomers recall the challenge of remembering to use flight attendant in place of stewardess many years ago, but flight attendant comes to mind instantly now. Actor is appropriate for both genders despite the Academy Award categories of Best Actor and Best Actress. I bet we will soon see Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor Oscar winners.

3. Avoid “Dear Sir” or “Dear Sirs” as a greeting. It excludes the possibility of a woman as your reader. Instead, whenever possible, learn the reader’s name and use it. If you cannot discover your reader’s name, use a generic term such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Credit Representative,” or use “Dear Sir or Madam.” 


4. Think twice before referring to women as girls or ladiesGirls may suggest that women are not grown up or are immature, and ladies hints at delicacy that may not be appropriate in the workplace. I understand that this issue is controversial, and I encourage you to use terms that fit your industry and company. If you use girls, do you call men boys? If ladies is common usage at your company, do you also use gentlemen? For more on this topic, read my blog post “Women, Ladies, and Girls at Work.”  


5. Avoid using the pronouns he and his when you mean anyonenot just a man. For instance, do not write, “A manager should give feedback to his employees.” “His or her” is cumbersome, but the plural form often works well: “Managers should give feedback to their employees.” Read more about this topic in the blog post “His, Hers, Theirs, Yours–Gender-Neutral Language.”


6. Avoid using terms that focus on gender unnecessarily. For example, avoid “male nurse” or “lady animal trainer.” Do not single out a woman employee as a grandmother or a man as a stay-at-home dad. Do not refer to a transgendered individual as “formerly a man” or “used to be female.”


If you feel resistant to the suggestions above, talk with your male and female coworkers about them. Decide whether inclusive rather than gender-based language might work well for your company, your industry, your community, and your customers. Don’t be trapped in gender-based language habits. 
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