Issue For October 18, 2007
The Purdue OWL News will be moving from a weekly email newsletter to a bi-weekly newsletter. We are doing this to allow for more diverse content in the Purdue OWL News. Also, moving to a bi-weekly format allows us to devote additional time to moving old OWL resources over to the new site. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.
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!
Dear OWL Tutor,
I am a college student in Taiwan, and I am excited to find this website that I can learn some skills in English writing. May I ask you some questions about English writing?
In the English compositions, the main idea is always written in the first paragraph. But in Chinese compositions, there are many writing manners. For example, the Chinese composition sometimes doesn’t write the main idea in the first paragraph. They write in the proper sequence and the main idea shows up in the third or fourth paragraphs.
Could English compositions write in other manners that don’t write the main idea in the first paragraph?
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I think that you may be confusing main ideas of paragraphs and thesis statements (main idea of the paper). Any paragraph has a main idea. For example, the prominent mood or idea of a paragraph is its main idea.
A thesis, however, tells what the paper is going to do and how it's going to do it. In elementary English writing the thesis does often appear in the first paragraph. You’ll see this in the traditional five paragraph essay, often taught in high school English classes. However, more advanced academic writing, depending on the style of paper, it may not appear for 2-4 paragraphs, depending on the amount of background required to establish grounds for the thesis.
In fact, in some persuasive writing when you are writing to an audience that doesn’t agree with you, you may withhold your thesis or main point until after you present the evidence.
In the end, the choice of where to put your thesis is strongly dependent on your audience and your purpose.
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.
I'm in an English class at college and my professor keeps talking about "genres" of writing. What does she mean? --Barry, Kansas
"Genre" is a word borrowed from French and means "kind" or "style." Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines it as "a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content."
The easiest illustration can be found in television and film listings, where a program or movie is characterized as reality, action, suspense, family, comedy, horror, etc. Each of these is a “genre.” In music, pop, hip-hop, country, and rock are examples of different genres. In literature, genres include poetry, drama, and prose.
Where it can get complicated is when a particular work "crosses" genres (has the characteristics of, or borrows from, more than one form), and in the many subcategories of subcategories of genres -- a "drama" can be comedy or tragedy; comedy might be a farce, a satire, or any of a number of other comedic forms.
This whole subgenre thing might sound confusing unless you know the literary terms and what they mean, and are familiar with a representative sample of each — the difference between farce and satire, for example, and how to recognize each form. You might want to Google "genre," consult a Dictionary of Literary Terms, or, better yet, ask your instructor to define each genre and its characteristics, and provide the title of an example work. I suspect that many others in your class would welcome the information as well as you. Good luck!
Your teacher means fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, novel-length, short story, epic, Renaissance, Victorian, Modern, Post-Modern... any kind of literature you can think up is a genre. It is all the different types of literature.
--Maegan, Sam Houston State University
"Genre" is a French word which means "type" - types or genres of writing include persuasive (in which you need to convince the reader), argumentative (in which you argue a point), and narrative (in which you relate a story) - and these are just a few of the genres of writing. By the way, Barry, have you thought of asking your professor to define the term?
--Judy Henn, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
I'm interested in becoming an English Tutor. I have some background in English, but I don't know if it is enough. I'd like to hear from tutors and English instructors out there on their experiences and suggestions about tutoring. Thanks for your help. --Stu, Los Angeles
I am tutoring neighborhood children. I rely on a course book to manage my daily sessions. One benefit of tutoring is the ability to spend 100% of the teaching time with a single student. Tutoring needs be as structured as classroom practice!
--George Steed, Poland
Tutoring English students, especially in a supportive work environment like a writing center, is definitely a learn-as-you-go process. Your background should help you secure a tutoring position at a writing center or tutoring service, and then that employer should train you.
If you'd like to get an idea of what is involved with tutoring writing, then I recommend checking out a copy of The Bedford-St. Martin's Guide for Writing Tutors. The ISBN is 0-312-44068-5 and it is a good starter text to see what writing tutoring involves.
--Molly Kay Wright, University of Alabama
Knowledge for teaching English varies differently according to the level area of the students being taught. As a native English speaker, you hold the most important key, that is ability to produce the right pronunciation of the English words . This is important to teach English for Asian students. Now that you are interested in teaching English you already have the key to being a great teacher.
--Suryani, Director of Studies Ignatius Layola , Surabaya- Indonesia
Is it grammatically correct to say 'We should be more sensible than she'? Or should we say 'We should be more sensible than her'? Why is this so?
The correct answer is: "We should be more sensible than she." Let me explain. This sentence contains an example of an elliptical clause. That means that some of the words are omitted. What your sentence really means to say is, "We should be more sensible than she is sensible," rather than, “We should be more sensible than her is sensible." The "than" begins a clause that is suggested; some words are omitted because they are understood.
On the other hand, some elliptical clauses can have dual meanings. Here's an example. He likes football better than (I, or me). Either can be correct. In the first example, He likes football better than I, you are saying that he enjoys the sport more than you do... i.e. more than I do. In the second sentence, you are an unfortunate friend because "He like football more than "me" or (than he likes me.) I hope I have explained that clearly to you.
Our English language is just too complex sometimes.
--Steve Tornes, Pikes Peak Community College
I am confused about the use of a comma before the word because when used in a clause. I know that a comma would be used before a nonrestrictive/nonessential clause, but I feel that a because clause gives essential information and therefore no comma would be used. What is correct, please? --L. E. Keene
First, allow me to suggest a clearer way to phrase your first sentence. I had to read it numerous times to grasp its meaning.
"I am confused about the use of commas. Ones that precede the word "because" are especially confusing for me..."
The answer: if there is a natural pause in the cadence of a sentence (as there is here), use a comma. If a comma is required, a clause exists. Commas can help you identify clauses.
Examples: "I went to see the movie because I heard good things about it. I left early because I didn't like it. I really need to stop paying attention to movie reviews, because they're not very reliable."
You can see that the last "because" was preceded by a comma because it's a clause.
--Jim A., Steilacoom, WA
Next Week's Questions
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This Week's Feature Story:
Poetry and the Environment: What’s the Connection?
In Lafayette, Indiana, Words on the Go, a local not for profit organization, is exploring the connection between poetry and the environment. Words on the Go publishes local poets on the public transportation systems in both Lafayette and West Lafayette. These poems are displayed in place of advertisements. The founders of the organization, Sean Conrey and Pam Judd, began talking over two years ago about the intersection between the literacy of the community and a sense of stewardship for the local environment. By placing poetry on local buses, Words on the Go strives to create a stronger sense of place and make a more pleasant ride on local transportation.
Poetry in Motion, an established national organization, conducts similar activities. However, Poetry in Motion does not publish local writers, nor does it work with the visual aspects of the poem. Lafayette’s Words on the Go publishes local writers and works with the visual elements of poems. Another unique aspects of Words on the Go is that the publications act to create a stronger and more literate community. Publications also serve to beautify public transportation.
Words on the Go works with designers from Purdue University to create both visual and literary pieces of art. The poems published by Words on the Go have evolved from block text on a colored background to complex compositions that interact with the meaning of the poem. The visual component of the poem draws the eye and often highlights meaning, which creates a more dynamic message than the poem alone could convey.
On October 17, Words on the Go held a reading for its current poets and designers. A dialogue emerged about how the visual elements of a poem evolve and how the visuals impact the meaning of the poem. Look for more information regarding Words on the Go on the Purdue OWL. If you are interested in finding out more about this program, submitting poetry, or getting involved as a volunteer, please contact Words on the Go:
Email: wordsonthego (at) gmail.com
Via the Website: http://www.gocitybus.com/wordsonthego/index.htm
Or, if you are a Purdue student contact: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~fowotg/editions.html
What's Happening on the OWL at Purdue
- OWL Eye On...Updates, Redirects, and New Resources
In the past three weeks, you may have noticed some changes on the Purdue OWL. OWL staff and content developers have worked hard to update resources from the old OWL for use in the new format. Specifically, we have integrated rhetorical theory and user-centered principles where applicable in a wide range of writing resources and PowerPoint presentations. We have also redirected a large number of pages from the old site to the new OWL. Given the amount of pages we have redirected, there may be some errors and crossed wires, so please let us know if you see any mistakes or if you can’t find a resource you need. Here is a list of recently updated and new resources on the new OWL:
- Writing in Psychology: Experimental Report Writing: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/670/01/
- Active and Passive Voice http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/01/
- Designing an Effective PowerPoint Presentation (four presentations) http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/686/01/
- Resume Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/699/01/
- Cover Letter Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/698/01/
- Email Etiquette for Students Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/694/01/
- Writing Process Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/701/01/
- Invention Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/695/01/
- Organizing Your Argument Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/693/01/
- Effective Persuasion Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/696/01/
- Literary Analysis Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/697/01/
- Conquering the Comma Presentation http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/692/01/
- ESL Orientation for Writing Lab Tutorials http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/702/01/
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye On...Previous Writing Lab Tutors and Personell. We are trying to compile a complete list of alumni who worked in the Writing Lab while at Purdue. If you have not been getting our Alumni Annotations newsletter, please contact Misty at farrarm (at) purdue (dot) edu.
This week's OWL News was edited by Dana Lynn Driscoll, OWL Webmaster and H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator.