Issue For June 27, 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!
I have returned to collage after retirement. I have been out of school for 46 years. I have always had trouble with writing. This next term I will be in wr115. My problem is the 45 minute in-class writing, and no time to edit or rewrite. Any help or suggestions would be great.
Congratulations on your return to school! The first suggestion I have is to discuss with your instructor the expectations of the in-class writing. Most instructors will not expect you to produce a polished piece of work in 45 minutes. Normally what they are looking for includes things like a clear thesis and clear organization. While your inclination might be to start writing sentences as soon as time begins, it is often helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about the topic, writing a clear thesis, and making a brief outline of your main points before beginning.
While not specific to in-class writing, our "Writing Process" handouts may help you be more confident about creating a thesis and basic outline. Look to the left side of this page for the "Writing Process" link: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
The outline handout here will be too specific for your needs. Instead, just jot down two or three points you want to make. You may even practice just writing thesis statements and points for some possible topics (any topics) this summer. For instance, if you see a news article that catches your attention, pretend that your assignment is to read and respond to that article. You can practice making a thesis statement that agrees or disagrees with the article or takes another position on the topic. Then jot down a few points you'd like to make. If you really want to practice, turn on the kitchen timer and see how far you get on an essay! This will help you manage your time effectively when you get to the actual assignment.
Hope that helps!
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.
When describing multiple proposals or project alternatives for consideration, what is the proper tense? Example: "The X machine (will or would?) process 5,000 lbs per day, and the Z Machine (will or would?) process 6,500 lbs per day." --Patricia Palumbo
Proposals and projects are in the realm of technical writing, so I'll respond from that perspective.
The word "would" is often used with conditional statements or clauses while the word "will" is used with non-conditional statements.
If the team making the proposal or suggesting alternatives is unsure that machines X and Y are capable of producing a certain output, then "would" is the appropriate word to use. For example, the machines could be theoretical, and the mathematics behind their suggested output questionable. Or perhaps the machines require a fuel that is difficult to obtain. These are all conditionals, and "would produce" is appropriate. It would feel natural to say "If our mathematics are correct, the X machine would produce 5,000 pounds per day."
If the team making the proposal or suggesting alternatives is sure that machines X and Y are capable of producing a certain output, then "will" is the appropriate word to use. For example, the machines could be already in production and the suggested output already measured repeatedly. This represents non-conditional information, and "will produce" is appropriate. Because the proposal can back up its production claims, it feels natural to say "The X machine will produce 5,000 pounds per day."
I hope this information helps you.
--Shawn Douglas, St Louis, MO
I read this in the Internet news. 'The Senior European official said Mr. Wolfowitz's credibility was now "beyond repair.” 'Why ' was now' is used instead of 'is now'? --JPS, Malaysia
The official said that …: This is a sentence in reported speech. On principal, you use three tenses in reported speech: past tense for actions that happened at the same time the speaker was talking, past perfect (had + past participle) for actions that happened in the past and “would + base form/infinitive for future actions.
--Angelika Weichhart, Austria
I realize that "an" is used as an article before a word with a vowel sound, but this sounds awkward before words that begin with u, e.g., "university", "united", etc. I've seen both "an" and "a" used. Which is correct? --Judy Cole, Ontario, Canada
Use "a" before words beginning with the long "u" sound (yoo) since the initial sound is that of the consonant "y" rather than the vowel "u". You wouldn't say "an yellow daisy," so you don't say "an university." However, use "an" before words beginning with the short "u" sound: an umbrella, an undertaker, an uppity socialite.
--Jennifer S. Hughes, Glendale, AZ
Judy, you're mostly right. 'An' is used before any noun beginning with a vowel ... sound. That's the important part. It's the sound that matters more than the actual letter. In your examples, the 'u' actually has a 'y' sound, thereby calling for the use of 'a' instead of 'an'. The same is true with 'h', which can sometimes have a vowel sound to it. For this reason, you would say 'a hotel', as well as 'an honest man'. Or 'a useful tool', as well as 'an unbelievable book'. It all depends on the sound preceding the indefinite article.
--Roy Greene, Massachusetts, U.S.
The reason is the misconception of the rule. The correct way top remember is that you use 'an' before a vowel SOUND, not necessarily a vowel. If you listen to the initial sound when you say 'university' and 'united' it is actually a 'y' which starts the word. By the same token, 'hour' doesn't begin with a vowel but we say 'an' hour. So you see it's the SOUND with which the word begins, not the actual letter. The rule should be that we use 'an' before a word that begins with a vowel sound.
--Moya Daly, West London
Which is correct? "I am interesting in sports" or "I am interested in sports?" What is the difference between them? --Zoh, Canada
The second example is correct. Use the "-ing" form to describe what kind of person you are (i.e. I am an interesting person...or...I am interesting). Use the "-ed" form to describe how you feel about a situation (i.e. I am interested in going there.).
--Kathryn, South Carolina
Zoh, the correct use would be the second: "I am interested in sports." The difference is that 'interesting'--when used as an adjective--means 'holding the attention or curiosity' or 'arousing an interest'. 'Interested' means 'having attention for' or 'characterized by interest in something'. Therefore, you would say, "Football is an interesting sport," meaning that it holds your attention. In your example, "I am interested in sports" means you have an interest in or attention for sports. To say "I am interesting in sports" would convey the meaning that you are a curiosity while playing sports and often hold the spectators' attentions--though not necessarily in a flattering manner.
--Roy Greene, Massachusetts, U.S
Next Week's Questions
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This Week's Feature Story:
A Message from the New OWL Coordinator and New OWL Webmaster
From Allen: Welcome to the Purdue OWL. My name is Allen Brizee, and I am the new OWL Coordinator. I am honored to serve in this position, and I look forward to continuing the exceptional services provided by so many skilled OWL contributors: tutors, graduate students, staff, and faculty. I would like to thank Dr. Karl Stolley, Dr. Linda Bergmann, Tammy Conard-Salvo, and Dana Driscoll for their hard work. Their efforts ensured that I now inherit one of the finest OWLs in the world. I will strive to maintain this excellence.
During the next year, I look forward to collaborating with OWL contributors and users to uphold and refine the writing assistance that has made the OWL so helpful over the past eleven years. To accomplish this, I plan to integrate three areas of work into our efforts: 1) applicable theory; 2) empirical research; 3) practice/civic engagement. I hope these three areas will form a praxis of dynamic interaction that creates exciting possibilities for everyone involved with the OWL.
From Dana: The Purdue OWL is constantly growing and changing, and so it is an exciting time to be moving into the Webmaster position. In the last year, as OWL Coordinator, I helped transfer the bulk of the Purdue OWL into our new design, worked on our OWL usability team to test the OWL, developed the remote testing survey, and oversaw development of new content for the OWL in exciting areas—teaching writing, tutoring writing, and writing in the disciplines. We also have planned our new online tutoring system for Purdue students, which we will be pilot testing in the next academic year. This year will bring more great changes to the OWL.
Our Plans: Building on the areas of applicable theory, empirical research, and practice/civic engagements, we plan to accomplish the following:
- Continue content changes and further integrate rhetorical theory
- Continue site design and information design changes that reflect user-centered and participatory design theory to both the front end and back end of the site
- Continue remote survey usability testing
- Conduct usability testing with blind and low-vision participants
- Begin online civic engagement through the Community Writing and Education STation (CWEST, pronounced “quest”) and foster relationships with other literacy institutions.
- Pilot test and refine our online tutoring system for Purdue Students
To help continue our tradition of service, and to address unique challenges facing a 21st century OWL, we plan to integrate three areas of work into our efforts this year—applicable theory, empirical research, and practice/civic engagement.
Applicable Theory: Primarily, two areas of theory inform the work we will accomplish: rhetorical theory (link to the PW section: Rhetorical Awareness and User-Centered Design) and user-centered (link to the PW section: Rhetorical Awareness and User-Centered Design) /participatory design theory.
The rhetorical approach to writing emphasizes the rhetorical nature of composition and focuses on audience analysis and invention. The writing process and discursive strategies, such as Aristotle’s proofs (ethos, pathos, and logos), are also important to the rhetorical approach. Current writing pedagogy has re-embraced these ancient rhetorical theories, as well as integrating contemporary approaches. The OWL will reflect this scholarship. For example, we have used the rhetorical approach to change materials during the OWL design transition.
User-centered and participatory design theories are examples of contemporary rhetorical approaches, but they are also production strategies that focus on and work with users to build knowledge and organize content. These approaches guide our usability testing, help us develop the site design, and they help with content changes. User-centered and participatory design will also guide our empirical research surrounding the Purdue OWL.
Empirical Research: Empirical research on OWL activities will help us better understand our users and measure project outcomes so that we may develop beneficial, data-driven material. Importantly, we strive to build cooperative relationships with users and research participants. This approach is reflected in the ongoing Purdue OWL Usability Project, which contributed to the current site design. The remote testing survey ( http://owl.english.purdue.edu/survey/) and testing with blind and low-vision participants continue our dedication to fulfilling users’ needs and integrating users’ ideas. Research data and findings from our research are available in the new open-source Research (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/research/) area of the OWL. Other projects, such as the Community Writing and Education STation (CWEST), will also use participatory empirical research to inform site design and content and to measure outcomes.
Practice/Civic Engagement: A major project we will begin this summer is the OWL’s first efforts towards online civic engagement—the Community Writing and Education STation, or CWEST. We will develop the first area of the CWEST in cooperation with the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (link to the LARA site: http://www.lsc.k12.in.us/laraweb/). The CWEST will be a sustainable online literacy resource that addresses the needs of Lafayette’s adult basic education population. Future cooperation with other organizations, such as local K-12 schoools, will fill a gap we perceive between Purdue University, a land grant institution, and the people of Lafayette. This civic outreach is an exciting part of the OWL’s future in the 21st century. This outreach forms the third area of the theory-research-practice praxis, and we hope the CWEST will begin a tradition of OWL-community interaction.
A host of other projects (podcasts, interactive tours, online tutoring pilot, new materials development, design revisionsetc.) will be completed in the next year, and we are excited about what we have planned. We hope this work will help serve your literacy needs and extend the OWL’s resources well into the 21st century. Stop by often to see what we are up to and please let us know how we are doing (link to the feedback page: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/feedback_form.php.
H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator
Dana Driscoll, OWL Webmaster
What's Happening on the OWL at Purdue
- OWL Eye On...Invention Handouts. We have invention/prewriting handouts transferred to the new OWL: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/673/01/.
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye On...Summer Schedule. Summer tutoring hours run from May 14th to August 3rd. Tutoring hours for the summer will be Mon-Thurs 9-4; Friday 9-1..
This week's OWL News was edited by Dana Lynn Driscoll, OWL Webmaster and H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator.