Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grammar section of Course Links grows

Thanks to tips from a number of students who took part in Mr. W's class last year, the grammar section of the Course Links link list in the sidebar of the Writing Studio Blog has doubled in length. I've added a link to the home page (index) of the Grammar-Quizzes site, along with a deep link to a FANBOYS page there.

I found those pages after reading students' raves about learning to write paragraphs and theme posts using the connecting words (coordinators) from which the mnemonic FANBOYS comes:
    Screenshot only (no active links)
  • For,
  • And,
  • Nor,
  • But,
  • Or, 
  • Yet, and 
  • So.
If you know of any other useful websites for learning how to use grammar in writing, please feel free to point them out in comments on this post.

[127 words]

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"If You Don't Try, You Never Know" (Ding Ding).

Talk about inspiration for additional language learners: "Growing up in China, all I did was study, study, study. I'd never done anything so outrageous, yet so rewarding" (TEDxTalks, If You Don't Try..., published Mar 5, 2013; 5:14+). Look at her now!

[48 words]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Did you ever wonder about ...

... the difference between Holland and the Netherlands? Well, this high-paced geography lesson covers not only differences between ... [two] Hollands [N. & S.] and the Netherlands, but also similarities among them ana other far-flung reaches of the world.

[38 words]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Text Correction in Google Docs

The five-minute video that I've embedded below shows how to use text correction tools in Google Docs. As I mentioned in a previous post, auto-correction functions can help you tidy up texts that you've typed quickly, as you do for typing homework assignments (Using Correction Tools after Typing Trials, March 7, 2013).

Instead of a typed text, for this demonstration, I've started correcting a short passage generated from a graphic by Google's optical character reading (OCR) technology. Yet, as the screenshot below the video indicates, the correction tools don't work perfectly.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Even after five minutes treatment with Google correction tools, a number of errors remained, some still marked by Google (dotted red underscores), but without suitable suggestions for auto-correction. There were others not spotted by Google at all. The latter I highlighted by hand either during the demonstration (yellow backgrounds) or afterwards (blue backgrounds). Those still needed hands-on checking and correction.

To make a long story short, after complete correction, and prettied up a bit for a block quotation, it looks like this:
... A fault line runs through the disciplines concerning culture. On one side are disciplines like history or cultural anthropology, rooted in a historicist logic of seeking local regularities within a bounded milieu. On the other are disciplines like economics, driven by a functionalist logic of seeking transhistorical generalizations. Organizational behavior involves both of these logics.... Yet, the emic and etic perspectives each provide only half of the story. ... / ... [A] richer account of culture can result when an integrative explanatory framework arises. 
(Morris, Leung, Ames, & Lickel, 1999, p. 790)

In retrospect, there seem to have been a number of OCR-generated errors in the passage, for example the two "cx" strings remaining in the second to last line of the first paragraph (one stand alone, and the other in the middle of an underscored word). I had corrected another instance of "cx" to "a" while making the video. If I had used the "Select all matching text" option the first time, I might have been able to correct all three at once.

The string "ol" appears to be another such OCR error, a misreading the word "of", as do the "lo" string, a misreading the word "to", and OCR-generated periods instead of commas (¶1, lines 2 and 7; and ¶2, line 1). For that particular typeface and layout (serif, with full-justification, in the original), Google seemed to have had trouble with commas, and with the letters a, f, and t.

Once you begin to recognize recurring errors, in your typing as well as in optical character read texts, it is possible to use the Find and replace function (Edit menu) to correct numerous errors at once.

For instance, the search shown above would:
  • Seek " ol " – with single spaces before and after the letters, to find only stand-alone instances of "ol" – not words like alcohol, oligarchy, or polyphenol; and 
  • Replace " ol " with " of " – similarly spaced.
If there are any hits on those search term[s], the buttons across the bottom of the dialog box will become active, and have dark lettered labels.

That fine-tuned search might be a safe bet for the Replace all function (circled in orange, but still grayed out, above). However, if you're not absolutely certain that your search and replacement terms are exact, it will be better to review and replace search strings one at a time using the Next, or Previous, and Replace buttons.


Morris, Michael W.; Leung, Kwok; Ames, Daniel; & Lickel, Brian. (1999). Views from inside and outside: Integrating emic and etic insights about culture and justice judgement. The Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 781-796. Retrieved November 15, 2012, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/259354

[609 words]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Using Correction Tools after Typing Trials

In the screenshot below, Mr. T. captured a stop-action view of Yukie's first typing trial, on the topic Self introduction. He was viewing a word-processing document with the grammar- and spell-checking tools on (activated). You can tell that the checking tools are on because there are squiggly green and red underlines visible under a number of words. Those are words that the word-processing program either: a) didn't recognize as correctly spelled words (generally red), or b) thought – if a program can think – were inaccurate (generally green).

Let me pause here for a moment to explain, and emphasize, that all of those underlined words appearing in a timed (five minute) typing trial are not a major concern, especially now, at the beginning of this writing course. This is simply a point of departure. Not only can you well expect to type more words in five minutes as the year progresses, but you also may find that you mistype fewer words, too, as you learn to both spell and type in English.

Even if you notice capitalization, punctuation, or spelling mistakes while typing, it's better not to go back and make corrections during timed trials. You should do that when you've finished each trial, both with computerized tools and without.

However, after churning out a certain number of words, it is important to clear up as many of those underlined passages as possible, before transferring them to new posts on your blogs. Mr. T. took the screenshot below to show Yukie how the checking tools work in a word-processing program, when they are turned on. This post explains a bit about how they work.

Mr. T. had just clicked on the word "my" that I've circled in red on the screenshot below, and emphasized with a pointing finger like one he may have seen just before clicking on that word ("my", line 4). Clicking on that word had opened a short, pop-open menu offering three basic choices for a point the program thinks of as a grammatical problem (capitalization):

  1. Change it to "My;"
  2. Ignore it (from now on); or
  3. Correct it yourself, which opens a dialog box for retyping.

In this case, the first choice is the best one. Capitalizing the first letters of words at the beginning of sentences in the passage that Yukie typed will clear up most, if not all, of the squiggly green markings, and some of the red ones as well, for example: "I'm . . . " (line 3).

Peoples names, like Yukie, and place names, like Kumamoto, also call for capitalization, but even if you capitalize those names, the word-processing program still may not recognize them. So, once you're certain that you've capitalized and spelled such names correctly, you may need to select Ignore from the menu of choices that the word-processor checking tools propose.

Let me draw to a close here with a couple of reminders regarding both word-processor and web-based grammar- and spell-checking tools, including those built into your blogs:

  1. You shouldn't count on those tools to catch every error or inaccuracy in your work; and
  2. They may flag words or passages that the programs don't recognize, but aren't necessarily incorrect.

Nevertheless, timely and regular use of those tools can help you improve your English, and should make your blog posts easier to read and understand. Finally, if in doubt about a particular point that may need correction, ask about it!


It is a pleasure to acknowledge contributions to this post from:

  • Yukie, who graciously agreed to let me share a representation of her early work in this writing course on the Writing Studio Blog;
  • Mr. T., who quickly captured an image of that typing sample before corrections occurred, and passed it along to me (personal correspondence, March 4, 2013 7:02:36 PM GMT+09:00), and who also provided additional suggestions on a draft for this post; and, last but not least,
  • gkrock, who shared the pointing finger graphic on the piq pixel art site, under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

[669 words]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bruno's Little Dancers

Check 'em out!

TED Talks are among my favorites sources of inspiration. Not that this particular video has much of a transcript, but if you watch other videos on the TED website, you can read along, jump ahead, and review, all with the help of complete and interactive transcripts in various languages there.

[55  words]

Friday, March 1, 2013

Examples of Quotations and Ellipses

In this post, there are examples of quotations from an article on a website, and from a report published online in portable document format (PDF). Some longer examples include ellipses, or removals of words. There are short references in parentheses in the body of this post, and complete references at the end to point out the sources of the quotations.

Quotation within a quotation

In the passage below that I've quoted from the article on a website, Clark (2012) had quoted parts of the report (EF English First [EF], 2012). I've highlighted in yellow the parts of the report that Clark had quoted, both in my quotation from the website (below) and in another quotation from the original report (farther below).

". . . English will maintain and grow its dominance, moving from 'a marker of the elite' in years past to 'a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, in the same way that literacy has been transformed in the last two centuries from an elite privilege into a basic requirement for informed citizenship'" (Clark, 2012, ¶1, after EF, 2012).

Please note that Clark had combined phrases from two sentences in the original report into a single sentence structure of her own. The ellipsis, three spaced periods (". . . "), at the beginning of my quotation from the website (above) shows where I've shortened Clark's sentence.

However, I have replaced double quotation marks that were in the passage from Clark's article above with single quotations to show the beginnings and ends of Clark's quotations within my quotation (above). Replacing double quotation marks with single quotation marks indicates quotations within quotations.

  • Double quotation marks show the beginnings and ends of my quotations from the webiste (above) and from the report itself (below).
  • Single quotation marks within the double quotation marks above show the beginnings and ends of the parts of the original report that Clark had quoted.

Long quotation of the original

In the following quotation of the original passage from the EF report, and in the quotations with ellipses below that, please note that there are only double quotation marks.

"Today English proficiency can hardly be thought of as an economic advantage at all. It is certainly no longer a marker of the elite. Instead it is increasingly becoming a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, in the same way that literacy has been transformed in the last two centuries from an elite privilege into a basic requirement for informed citizenship" (EF, 2012, p. 12).

Original with ellipses

In both of the shortened quotations below, please note that ellipsis still shows where I've cut words out, and that I've shortened the quotations in ways that preserve grammatical units. Please also note that square brackets show where I've added words for clarification.

"Today English proficiency . . . is certainly no longer a marker of the elite. Instead it is increasingly becoming a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, . . . [and] a basic requirement for informed citizenship" (EF, 2012, p. 12).

"Today English proficiency . . . is increasingly becoming a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, . . . [and] a basic requirement for informed citizenship" (EF, 2012, p. 12).

Bits of the original recontextualized

In a message for prospective students that I prepared yesterday, I shared EF's assertions that English is not only "a basic skill needed for the entire workforce," but also "a basic requirement for informed citizenship" (EF, 2012, p. 12).


Clark, Dorie. (2012). English - The Language of Global Business? Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2012/10/26/english-the-language-of-global-business/

EF Education First [EF]. (2012). EF English Proficiency Index 2012 [PDF]. [n.p.]: EF Education First. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from http://www.ef.com/__/~/media/efcom/epi/2012/full_reports/ef-epi-2012-report-master-lr-2

[625 words]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...