Thursday, August 11, 2016

Comprise vs. Compose

These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language.Comprise means to include; compose means to make up. It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: “A soccer game comprises (includes) two halves.” When you use compose, you put the pieces first: “Fifty states compose (make up) the United States of America.”

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Rules of Writing

The quality of scientific writing would be enhanced enormously if only scientists would learn to adhere more carefully to seven easy rules. These rules can be illustrated by applying them to a simple declarative sentence such as:    Modern Minnesota barns have roofs.
  1. Every sentence should begin with a passive verb:
    There are modern Minnesota barns which have roofs.

  2. The verb "to have" should always be replaced by the verb "to be characterized by":
    There are modern Minnesota barns which are characterized by roofs.

  3. Every sentence should begin with a conjunction; "and", "but", and "yet" are quite acceptable, but "however" is preferred:
    However, there are modern Minnesota barns which are characterized by roofs.

  4. Terms such as "occur in", "are located", and "presence of" should be used as often as possible:
    However, there are modern barns located in the state of Minnesota which are characterized by the presence of roofs.

  5. The noun "time" should never be used without the prefix, "period of":
    However, there are barns located in the state of Minnesota in the modern period of time which are characterized by the presence of roofs.

  6. Important points should always be emphasized:
    However, the attention of the reader is called to the fact that it is important to note that there are barns located in the state of Minnesota in the modern period of time which are characterized by the presence of roofs.

  7. Every scientist should use such terms as "spatial", "factors", and "environment" as often as possible, to demonstrate that he really is a scientist, and he should also use such terms as "socioeconomic" and "perception" to show quite clearly that he is a behavioral and social scientist, but such old-fashioned terms as "parameter" should be avoided like the plague:
    However, the attention of the reader is called to the fact that it is important to note that there are barns spatially located in the socioeconomic environment of the state of Minnesota in the modern period of time which are perceived to be characterized by the spatial presence of roofs.

The improvement is obvious. A serious scientist, of course, would replace such ridiculously simple and patently unscientific terms as "barn" and "roof" by a vastly more impressive and scientific terminology.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Placement of Punctuation

There are two schools of thought concerning the placement of a comma or a period when writing a quotation: American and British.

For Americans, who like to do things the easy way, the rule for placement is that periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation mark.

Some writers in the US follow the British style, which places the period on the outside of the closing quotation mark when it finishes a sentence and inside when it punctuates only the quoted material. The British always place commas outside of the quotation mark.

Adopting the American style allows less room for error — always place commas and periods on the inside of the closing quotation mark. Just remember not to mix the two styles in your writing.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


A paragraph is a basic unit of writing that unites sentences into meaningful groups. Contrary to what many of us were taught in school about the five-sentence paragraphs, a paragraph can be anywhere from one sentence to half a page long as long as it presents ideas in a unified manner. A strong paragraph should be unified around a central or main idea.

A new paragraph can begin:

  • when the topic or one aspect of the topic has been fully discussed; or
  • when the focus shifts to a new or different thought (as well as new time or location).

For example, if you are discussing business meetings scheduled for Monday, start a new paragraph when you switch to the discussion of the Tuesday’s meetings.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Vocabulary - 'normal' and its synonyms

normal, natural, ordinary, regular, typical

All of these words are applied to that which is usual or expected because it conforms to a standard or rule.
Normal implies that a particular person or thing does not exceed certain limits, or does not deviate far from an average or a standard established for a group, class, or species. [Normal body temperature ranges between 96.80 and 98.60 Fahrenheit; normal temperature in New York City for June is around 70o.

Regular implies accordance with some rule, plan, or method: to follow regular army procedures.

Typical indicates possession of those properties or characteristics that represent a particular class of things and differentiate it from all other classes of things: the typical clubbed antennae of the butterfly.

Ordinary, as an equivalent for normal or regular, emphasizes commonness or usualness and often stresses the absence of superior qualities. [An ordinary man is no genius;ordinary ways of doing things keep within the rules but do not initiate improvements.]

Natural emphasizes the agreement between an action and the innate character of the agent involved. Thus, it is natural for man to seek happiness, for birds to migrate, for the sun to set.

Antonyms: abnormal, atypical, irregular, queer, unnatural, unusual.

Ref: Hayakawa, S. I. (1982). Use the Right Word: Modern Guide to Synonyms and Related Words. Reader's Digest. 726 pp.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Essay Formatting - Headings

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Adding emphasis

Emphasis in text can be added through underlining, italicizing, or using quotation marks. Italics are preferred unless their use would not be sufficiently noticeable.

Emphasis is typically added in the following cases:

  • When identifying special words. The identified word is introduced with the phrase "the term" or "the word." Ex: The term "cougar" refers to older women dating younger men.
  • When using foreign expressions that are not part of the English language. Ex: Pardone moi, I was not familiar with the rules.
  • When identifying a word or phrase that would have been stressed in speech. Ex: The timesheets must be submitted before five o’clock.
  • When writing titles of books, magazines, journals, or newspapers. Ex: Have you read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?

Add emphasis where needed:
1. The article in the New York Times focused on the state of the current economy.
2. Safety rules absolutely have to be enforced.
3. The word bloke is used in Britain to refer to a man.
4. Dios mio! That was awful.

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