Issue For February 12, 2007
Writing Question of the Week
This is usually a question submitted by an OWL user to the OWL Tutors. If you have a question you need answered quickly, ask one of our OWL Tutors or call the Writing Lab's Grammar Hotline at 765-494-3723. And remember, both services are free for everyone!
Hi. I am taking an introduction English class at a local community college. I have been out of school for about 16 years and hated English way back then. A recent assignment has us writing an essay about something based on my memories of it. Below our generic questions I have after that assignment.
1. How do I establish time in what I'm writing? (In this piece I identified myself as a teenager.)
2. How do I know whether to use 1st person or 3rd person narrative? And is it appropriate to use something other than the first person when it is based on my own history?
3. I don't have a good vocabulary. Should I be doing something to increase the variety of words I'm using (like writing with a thesaurus next to me).
4. Is there a trick to including details without sounding over the top? My essay was related to winter events and each time I thought about adding details to drive home the point of the wind/cold/snow, etc. I felt like they were obvious so I didn't add any. I think my instructor will see this draft as being lacking in details.
Thank you for whatever help you can provide. Thanks, Scott.
Thank you for your inquiry. Here are some suggestions:
1. You can establish a setting by using date cues (in the 1980's, when George Bush, Sr. was president, etc.), by giving specific details (tie-dyed shirts, disco music), by stating the time distance between you now and you then, or even by stating your own age (now and then).
2. If this is a personal narrative, you should always use first person.
3. Using a thesaurus will definitely help you build your vocabulary. Remember that Microsoft Word also has a built-in thesaurus that can serve as a good starting point.
4. You should always include details. If they seem "over the top," try toning them down a bit (i.e., use simple descriptors). And you are right: without details, your reader will think something is missing.
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The OWL Help Nest
Each week we publish Purdue OWL News readers' requests for advice or information and the responses from other Purdue OWL News readers.
What is the difference between the words DREAMT/DREAMED LEARNT/LEARNED? When should you use one over the other and why? Thank you, --Cheryl Bucci, UK
Britain and British colonies use both form of past tense to mean the same thing. Most English dictionaries in Europe put a slash to indicate they are similar. But in American English, this does not apply. They recognize one form i.e dream -- dreamed and not dreamt though you may find it in Canadian based dictionaries to mean the same.
As I understand it, "dreamt" and "learnt" are strictly used in Great Britain (Australia, Canada, etc.) and NOT in the USA, where the -ED ending is the norm for the Past Participle.
--Judy Henn, PhD, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
When listing the names of a married couple owning a salon, would you put "Owners: Hannah, Charles Brown" or is this incorrect? --Cheryl Maganti, GA Secretary of State
How you list the names of a married couple depends on the context in which you are listing them. Many lists have a standard format that is used consistently throughout; this format should be applied throughout the list. Alternatively, it is often appropriate to ask the salon owners how they would prefer to have their names listed.
I would probably write "Hannah and Charles Brown," "Charles and Hannah Brown," "The Browns," "Mr. & Mrs. Brown," or any number of other variations. If you write "Hannah, Charles Brown," I might assume that the owner's surname is Hannah and that you are listing the last name first.
--Rachel, Houston, TX
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What's Happening on the OWL at Purdue
- OWL Eye On...Revised Resumes! We are continuing to post our revised user-centered professional writing materials. See our revised resume handouts this week!
- OWL Eye On...Revised HOC and LOC for Business Writing We have a revised handout of our Higher-order and Lower-order concerns for business writing up this past week: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/548/01/
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye On...ESL Conversation Groups. If English is not your native language and you need listening and speaking practice in English in an informal atmosphere, you are welcome to join an ESL conversation group in the Writing Lab at any or all of the scheduled times listed. There is no need to apply or register--just drop in! Conversation groups run: Monday 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.; Tuesday 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.; Wednesday 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Thursday 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; and Friday 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m
- OWL Eye On...Writing Lab Spring 2007 Schedule The Writing Lab is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. During this time, students are invited to use our computers, ask for a handout, read or study in the lab, or use any self-instruction materials that are available. Tutors are available for appointments during the following times: Monday - Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For most (but not all) of the times listed for tutorial appointment, there is also drop-in tutorial help available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To make an appointment or to see whether there is a wait for drop-ins, call us at 494-3723.
This week's OWL News was edited by Dana Lynn Driscoll.