COMMON IDIOMS IN USE 3

English@HighSchool would never be complete without idioms, proverbs, and expressions which are an important part of everyday English. They come up all the time in both written and spoken English.

Good Idea

Because idioms and proverbs don’t always make sense literally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom. That may seem like a lot of work, but learning idioms is fun, especially when you compare and master English idioms.

An idiom is a common expression understood figuratively, as the literal definition makes no sense.

Read the sentence and match its definition on the right:

1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s the reason he didn’t get the job. Died
2. Today’s going so badly. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. Not making a firm decision between different choices
3. I just said it in the heat of the moment. I was angry. I know I shouldn’t have. Say exactly the right thing
4. Keep an eye on him. I think he may cheat in the exam. Watch someone or something carefully
5. Have you heard? John, down the road has kicked the bucket. Saying or doing something suddenly without thinking about it
6. I don’t want to argue with him again. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. When everything seems to be going wrong
7. I told him what gift you have bought him for his birthday. Sorry, I didn’t mean to let the cat out of the bag. Hurt or upset someone who is helping you
8. Don’t tell her what you really think of her if she’s helping you with your English! Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Excessive
9. I’m not sure which party he is going to vote for. He’s sitting on the fence. Avoid a conflict
10. Everything she says is very over the top. She can’t just have a few words – she has to say more than is necessary. Tell someone something that you were not supposed to

So, how did you fair? Look at the answers below for your revision:

1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s the reason he didn’t get the job. Say exactly the right thing
2. Today’s going so badly. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. When everything seems to be going wrong
3. I just said it in the heat of the moment. I was angry. I know I shouldn’t have. Saying or doing something suddenly without thinking about it
4. Keep an eye on him. I think he may cheat in the exam. Watch someone or something carefully
5. Have you heard? John down the road has kicked the bucket. Died
6. I don’t want to argue with him again. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. Avoid a conflict
7. I told him what gift you have bought him for his birthday. Sorry, I didn’t mean to let the cat out of the bag. Tell someone something that you were not supposed to
8. Don’t tell her what you really think of her if she’s helping you with your English! Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Hurt or upset someone who is helping you
9. I’m not sure which party he is going to vote for. He’s sitting on the fence. Not making a firm decision between different choices
10. Everything she says is very over the top. She can’t just have a few words – she has to say more than is necessary. Excessive

writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgHere are some idioms to wet your appetite:

  1. The mystery novelist decided at the last minute to include an ex-convict, who would later prove to be innocent, as a suspect in her story; she was using this new character as a red herring.

A red herring is a distraction or an attempt to misdirect attention to something that is not important.

  1. I don’t like the new font that you used on the website, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater: just change the font back to the original and I’ll approve the design.

To throw the baby out with the bathwater is to discard something valuable or useful along with something disagreeable or unusable.

  1. If Frank hears that Maria is going to the dance with Curt, Frank is going to do something regrettable, so let’s just keep it under wraps for now.

Something that is under wraps is kept a secret or not made public.

  1. Many times the great inventor’s wife would beckon him to return to his room for sleep, but he had a fire in his belly.

To have a fire in one’s belly is to have a strong desire to accomplish difficult or creative tasks.

  1. Even though the advertised prices at Tesco’s were very low, the salesmen will attempt to nickel and dime you as you attempt to checkout.

To nickel and dime someone is to pursue small amounts of money with a fastidiousness that appears petty.

  1. When I become a rich and famous rapper, all of the people who made fun of me and said that I couldn’t rap, dance, or match my clothing are going to eat their hearts out.

To eat one’s heart out is to become very jealous or resentful of another’s success.

  1. Candy really left me holding the bag when she didn’t do her part of the project and was absent on the day of the presentation.

When one is left holding the bag, he or she receives the blame or responsibility for the actions of another.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL

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VOCABULARY WORKSHOP – THE KEY WORDS TO USE IN WRITING OR SPEAKING COMPETENTLY 1

The College Board’s SAT textbook has a 3 500 Basic Word List of which students must master in order to do well in their exams. The list is divided into High Frequency words and Hot Prospects. From this premise, the importance of vocabulary is highly accentuated:

  • “Without grammar very little can be conveyed; without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.” (Wilkins 1972)

  • “When students travel, they don’t carry grammar books, they carry dictionaries.” (Krashen 1993)

The truth is that students need multiple and various exposures to a word before they fully understand that word and can apply it. They need also to learn words in context, not stand alone lists that come and go each week. Of course the way we learn words in context, or implicitly, is by reading, then reading some more.

pexels-photo-256417.jpegCONTEXT CLUES

Context clues are hints that an author gives to help define a difficult or unusual word. The clue may appear within the same sentence as the word to which it refers, or it may follow in a preceding sentence. Because most of one’s vocabulary is gained through reading, it is important that you are able to recognize and take advantage of context clues.

Thus, whether you are someone learning English as a second language or a reader who is trying to build their vocabulary, by knowing the different types of context clues, you may be better able to recognize and understand new words when you are reading.

TYPES OF CONTEXT CLUES

There are at least SIX kinds of context clues that are quite common:

1) RESTATEMENT/SYNONYM CLUES – Here, sometimes a hard word or phrase is said in a simple way. Notice how the meaning of the boldfaced word is arrived at:

  • It was an idyllic day; sunny, warm and perfect for a walk in the park.
  • Her animosity, or hatred, of her sister had divided the family.
  • Bill felt remorse, or shame, for his harsh words.
  • This situation is a conundrum – a puzzle.

So, what is a synonym? It is a word or phrase that has the same meaning as the unknown word and hints at the definition.

2) CONTRAST/ANTONYM CLUES – Sometimes a word or phrase is clarified by the presentation of the opposite meaning somewhere close to its use. Look for signal words when applying context clues. Notice how the meaning of the darkened word is arrived at:

  • Emma had a lot of anxiety about the exam but I had no worries about it.
  • Marty is gregarious, not like his brother who is quiet and shy.
  • Instead of making risky decisions like his brother, George took precautions.

3) DEFINITION/EXPLANATION – Here the meaning of the unknown word is clearly given within the sentence or in the sentence immediately afterwards.

  • There is great prosperity in the country but many citizens are living in poverty.
  • Some celestial bodies, such as the planets and stars, can be seen with the naked eye.
  • There was a lot of tangible evidence, including fingerprints and DNA, to prove them guilty.
  • There is a 30 percent chance of precipitation, such as snow or sleet.

4) INFERENCE/GENERAL CONTEXT CLUES – Sometimes a word or phrase is immediately clarified within the same sentence. Relationships, which are not directly apparent, are inferred or implied. The reader must look for clues within, before, and after the sentence in which the word is used. The meaning can easily be inferred from the general context of the sentence or paragraph. Consider these sentences:

  • The team was elated when they won the trophy.
  • During the demonstration, a skirmish broke out and the police were called to restore order.
  • The cat has a kind disposition and would never bite or claw anyone.

5) EXAMPLE  – This is when specific types of the unknown word are given in the sentence. The unknown word is usually a non-specific noun. What is a beverage as shown in the sentence?

  • What type of beverage would you like? We have soda, water, lemonade, sweet tea and apple juice.

6) PUNCTUATION – Readers can also use clues of punctuation and type style to infer meaning, such as quotation marks (showing the word has a special meaning), dashes , parentheses or brackets (enclosing a definition), and italics (showing the word will be defined). Notice how Punctuation is used in the following sentences to define a word, haberdasher:

  • Tom’s father was a haberdasher, or men’s shop keeper, in the story.
  • Tom’s father was a haberdasher (men’s shop keeper) in the story.
  • In the story, Tom’s father was a haberdasher-or men’s shop keeper.
  • Tom’s father was a “haberdasher”. He had a clothing store for men.

The Library

I have compiled a list of English@High School High Frequency Word List through phrasal sentences in which a highlighted word is used. Your task is two-fold:

  • Firstly, master the context in which the word is used so that when you write you pick the right word and vocabulary.
  • Secondly, I have exercises on vocabulary with answers given at the end. Try the exercises first before getting to the answers.

Again, Dear Reader, this needs practice.

To make it manageable, I have fifteen words for each category.

  1. Forced to abase herself – lower, humiliate
  2. Abashed by her admiration – embarrassed
  3. The storm abated – subsided, decreased
  4. Abdicated the throne – renounced, gave up
  5. Aberrant nature of . . . – abnormal or deviant
  6. Unwilling to abet – aid, usually in doing something wrong, encourage
  7. Abhorred all forms of . . . – detested, hated
  8. Abjured his allegiance – renounced upon oath
  9. Act of abnegation – repudiation, self-sacrifice
  10. Refused to abolish – cancel, put an end to
  11. An abominable act – detestable, extremely unpleasant, very bad
  12. Abortive attempt – unsuccessful, fruitless
  13. Abridge the novel – condense or shorten
  14. Absolved of his sins – pardoned (an offense)
  15. The teller absconded – departed secretly and hide

In the second batch I am working on synonyms.

A SYNONYM is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase.

writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgIn each of the following groups, circle the item that means the same as the boldface word in the introductory phrase:

  1. histrionic behavior : A. theatrical B. proper C. subdued D. strange
  2. abrogate the treaty: A. ratify B. cancel C. enforce   D. sign
  3. Surprised by the perspicacity: A. discernment B. betrayal C. obtuseness  D. foolishness
  4. an incongruous remark: A. courteous B. unsuitable C. lengthy D. scholarly
  5. An ephemeral success: a. enduring b. short-lived c. phenomenal     d. enviable
  6. Exacerbate the problem: a. aggravate b. alleviate c. ignore     d. discuss
  7. Recant her testimony: a. corroborate b. record    c. read back      d. retract
  8. Countermand a directive: a. revoke b. issue c. clarify    d. ignore
  9. Irrefutable evidence: a. tainted b. circumstantial    c. indisputable    d. dubious
  10. Amused by their badinage: a. excuses b. banter c. appearance    d. singing
  11. 11. banal lyrics: A. sentimental common C. humorous   D. effective
  12. tired of their carping: A. nit-picking B. antics C. excuses  D. incompetence
  13. an intransigent opponent: A. weak B. temporary C. versatile  D. unyielding
  14. arrogate a right A. desire B. waive  C. assume  D. defend
  15. a speech filled with encomiums: A. wisdom B. platitudes C. criticisms  D. praise

ANSWERS: 1a  2b  3a  4b  5b  6a  7d  8a  9c  10b 11b 12a  13d  14c  15d

How did you fair? Once again Dear Reader, with practice you will see your vocabulary improving so much: both written and spoken.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

COMMON IDIOMS IN USE 2

English@HighSchool would never be complete without idioms, proverbs, and expressions which are an important part of everyday English. They come up all the time in both written and spoken English.

Never StopBecause idioms and proverbs don’t always make sense literally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom. That may seem like a lot of work, but learning idioms is fun, especially when you compare English idioms to the idioms in other languages.

An idiom is a common expression understood figuratively, as the literal definition makes no sense.

Read the sentence and match its definition on the right

Common Idioms

Definitions

1. I hate my job so much I can’t bare going to work, but if I quit I don’t think I can get another job. I’m really stuck / caught between a rock and a hard place. Believing that every bad situation has a positive side / eventually leads to something good
2. I have to bite my tongue so I don’t say what I really think of him! Leave out all the unnecessary details and just get to the point
3. Come on, cut to the chase. We haven’t got all day! Having two very bad choices
4. Are you putting all of your savings into that company? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. To become comfortable in what you are doing
5. Try not to worry about it. Every cloud has a silver lining. Wanting to say something but stopping yourself.
6. It was difficult when I moved to another country but I eventually found my feet. Putting all of one’s resources into one possibility
7. My parents are very fixed in their ways. They won’t start using the internet. Doing much more than is required when doing something 
8. I think he got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. He is in a terrible mood. To refer to someone who is having a bad day
9. My mother will always go the extra mile to help people. Doing or starting something too early
10. You are taking your IELTS test next week? Aren’t you jumping the gun. You’ve only just started studying. Not wanting to change from the normal ways of doing things

pexels-photo-277124.jpegAre you getting the hang of it? I hope so. The answers are here below for you.

Common Idioms

Definitions

1. I hate my job so much I can’t bear going to work, but if I quit I don’t think I can get another job. I’m really stuck / caught between a rock and a hard place. Having two very bad choices.

 

2. I have to bite my tongue so I don’t say what I really think of him! Wanting to say something but stopping yourself.
3. Come on, cut to the chase. We haven’t got all day! Leave out all the unnecessary details and just get to the point
4. Are you putting all of your savings into that company? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Putting all of one’s resources into one possibility
5. Try not to worry about it. Every cloud has a silver lining. Believing that every bad situation has a positive side / eventually leads to something good
6. It was difficult when I moved to another country but I eventually found my feet. To become comfortable in what you are doing
7. My parents are very fixed in their ways. They won’t start using the internet. Not wanting to change from the normal ways of doing things
8. I think he got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. He is in a terrible mood. To refer to someone who is having a bad day
9. My mother will always go the extra mile to help people. Doing much more than is required when doing something
10. You are taking your IELTS test next week? Aren’t you jumping the gun. You’ve only just started studying. Doing or starting something too early

pexels-photo-515169.jpegHere is another selection of idioms to wet your appetite:

  • When something has no rhyme or reason, there is no understandable meaning and little beauty behind it.
  • To make, build, or do something from scratch means to start at the beginning of a process.
  • Mumbo-jumbo is language that is meaningless or difficult to understand.
  • To wrap one’s head around something is to fully understand and knowledgeably consider something.

Can Of Worms

A can of worms

 

  • Bells and whistles are premium options or features of new technology.
  • To catch someone red-handed is to catch them committing a wrongful act.
  • To draw a line in the sand is to make a rule or set a position and to fight passionately to maintain it.
  • As the crow flies means to get to the point or to travel in a straight direction.
  • Sour grapes is when one criticizes or otherwise disparages something that he or she cannot have.
  • The eleventh hour means the last possible time for something to occur.
  • To follow suit is to do what another has done.
  • When the deck is stacked against someone that person is competing against others who have unfair advantages.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL – 4

pexels-photo.jpgMy posts on the  topic AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL have so far focused on the  . . .

My FOURTH and last post is on the correct use of all forms of PARENTHESES/BRACKETS.

PARENTHESES/BRACKETS

There are four main types of parentheses that can be used in writing. However, not all of them are acceptable for use within all fields of writing. The four main types of brackets are:

  1. Curved Brackets or Parentheses (…) are the most commonly used and are the focus of this article. They are always used in pairs.
  2. Square Brackets […] are most often used to include additional information from an outside source (someone other than the original author).
  3. Curly Brackets {…} are often used in prose to designate a list of equal choices.
  4. Angle Brackets <…> are typically used to enclose and illustrate highlighted information.

PARENTHESES  ( )

  • Curved brackets – ( )

Brackets (parentheses) are punctuation marks used within a sentence to include information that is not essential to the main point. Information within parentheses is usually supplementary; were it removed, the meaning of the sentence would remain unchanged.

Use parentheses [ ( ) ] to include material that you want to de-emphasize or that wouldn’t normally fit into the flow of your text but you want to include nonetheless.

If the material within parentheses appears within a sentence, do not use a capital letter or period to punctuate that material, even if the material is itself a complete sentence. (A question mark or exclamation mark, however, might be appropriate and necessary.)

  • Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost (do you remember him?) remains America’s favorite poet.

If the material within your parentheses is written as a separate sentence (not included within another sentence), punctuate it as if it were a separate sentence.

  • Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost (we remember him at Kennedy’s inauguration) remains America’s favorite poet.

If the material is important enough, use some other means of including it within your text—even if it means writing another sentence.

  • Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost remains America’s favorite poet. (We remember him at Kennedy’s inauguration.)

Informal writingused heavily within stream-of-consciousness writing as a way for the author to show the reader what a character is thinking without having to create dialogue. Be careful though, because the overuse of parentheses can lead to a cluttered and confusing text.

Use curved brackets for your in-text citations These citations usually occur at the end of a sentence and provide the reader with the source of the information that the author used in the sentence, eg:

  •  “It has been said that the origin of the spoon dates back to the Middle Paleolithic, when man began using the hollowed out shells of small turtles to sip water (Ferreira, 1986).”

The information in the parentheses is essential, not to the meaning of the sentence, but to avoid plagiarism.

NOTE that parentheses tend to de-emphasize text whereas dashes tend to make material seem even more important.

Using brackets—whether in a business plan or a short story—can be an effective way to include extra information in a sentence. Although they can be useful, try not to use brackets excessively or the clarity of your writing will suffer.

pexels-photo-261895.jpegTHE BRACKETS [ ]

  • Square brackets – [ ]

Use square brackets [ [ ] ] in the following situations:

You can use them to include explanatory words or phrases within quoted language, eg:

  • Lew Perkins, the Director of Athletic Programs, said that Pumita Espinoza, the new soccer coach [at Notre Dame Academy] is going to be a real winner.

If you are quoting material and you’ve had to change the capitalization of a word or change a pronoun to make the material fit into your sentence, enclose that changed letter or word(s) within brackets, eg:

  • Espinoza charged her former employer with “falsification of [her] coaching record.”

Also within quotations, you could enclose [sic] – (we italicize it)to show that misspelled words or inappropriately used words are not your own typos or blunders but are part of an accurately rendered quotation, eg:

  • Reporters found three mispelings [sic] in the report.

NOTE, also, that the word sic means “thus” or “that’s how it was” and is not an abbreviation; thus, no period. It is bad manners, however, to use this device to show that another writer is a lousy speller or otherwise unlettered. Also, use it only when it is important to maintain the original spelling for some reason.

If you have italicized or underlined words within quoted language that was not italicized or underlined in the original, you can note that change in brackets included within the sentence or paragraph:

It was the atmosphere of the gym that thrilled Jacob, not the eight championship banners hanging from the beams [italics added].

(“Italics mine” or “emphasis added” would be other acceptable phrases.)

You can use brackets to include parenthetical material inside parenthetical material, eg:

  • Chernwell was poet laureate of Bermuda (a largely honorary position [unpaid]) for ten years.

Be kind to your reader, however, and use this device sparingly.

Again, Dear Reader, the use of all forms of parentheses is not an easy concept to master if you don’t practice using them. Use them in your everyday writing so that they become second nature.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL – 3

My FIRST post on the  topic AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL focused on the COLON (:)and SEMI-COLON (;). The SECOND post concentrated on the use and misuse of the HYPHEN (-); and DASHES (-).

pexels-photo-416322.jpegMy THIRD post on this important topic is a short one on the uses of an ELLIPSIS (. . .) .

ELLIPSIS (. . .)

An ellipsis (plural: ellipses) is a punctuation mark consisting of three dots.

Uses of Ellipsis

Use an ellipsis when omitting a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage. Ellipses save space or remove material that is less relevant. They are useful in getting right to the point without delay or distraction:

  • Full quotation: “Today, after hours of careful thought, we vetoed the bill.”
  • With ellipsis: “Today … we vetoed the bill.” Did you notice the use of the quoted material?

Ellipsis can be used whether the omission occurs at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle of a sentence, or between sentences.

A common way to delete the beginning of a sentence is to follow the opening quotation mark with an ellipsis, plus a bracketed capital letter, eg:

  •  “… [A]fter hours of careful thought, we vetoed the bill.”

Other writers omit the ellipsis in such cases, feeling the bracketed capital letter gets the point across.

Informal Writing – Stories and novels use ellipses to a very different effect.

An ellipsis can demonstrate a pause in dialogue, a pause in narrative, or a character or a narrator trailing off.

  • Pause in dialogueHe stammered “I’m not sure what to do . . . .”
  • Pause in narrative or wavering in an otherwise straightforward sentence, eg: He was without hope … desolate, empty … the epitome of a broken heart.
  • Character or narrator expressing hesitation, changes of mood, suspense, or thoughts trailing offWas the challenge too big to handle, or was it just growing into something else like …?

In quoted materialIn almost any essay you write, you will have to incorporate quoted material. There are a lot of rules about using quoted material and punctuating this material correctly. An ellipsis [ … ] proves to be a handy device when you’re quoting material and you want to omit some words.

The MLA Handbook recommends using square brackets on either side of the ellipsis points to distinguish between an ellipsis that you’ve added and the ellipses that might have been in the original text. Such a bracketed ellipsis in a quotation would look like this:

  • “Bohr […] used the analogy of parallel stairways […]” (Smith p55).

Other research manuals — the APA Publication Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style — do not address this use of bracketed ellipses.

pexels-photo-819635.jpegEllipses are most useful when working with quoted material. The ellipsis should be used in your quotations when you leave out some material from the original in your quote.

You will need to use some common sense and discretion in deciding when the omission is sufficient that the use of the ellipsis helps with understanding. It is not necessary to use it when quoting just a single word or phrase, especially in an embedded quote.

There could be other various methods of deploying ellipses; the ones described here are acceptable for most professional and scholarly work.

Good luck in your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL – 2

My FIRST post focused on the COLON and SEMI-COLON. In this SECOND post my concentration is on the use and misuse of the HYPHEN (-) and DASHES (-).

Never Stop

The hyphen ( – ), en dash (is the same width as a letter N)  ( – ), and em dash ( — ) (is the same width as the letter M) look similar but are of different lengths. They also perform different functions.

THE HYPHEN (-)

A short line used to connect the parts of compound words or the parts of a word divided for any purpose.

Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.

For most writers, the hyphen’s primary function is the formation of certain compound terms. The hyphen is also used for word division, which is briefly explained here.

This little piece of punctuation is becoming less and less used. There are, however, occasions where the hyphen in definitely required.

Such instances in which you will need to use a hyphen include . . .

All words consisting of self- combined with a noun, eg:

  • self-expression                      self-confidence            self-consciousness

Avoid Ambiguity: Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted.

  • The president will speak to small-businessmen.

(Businessmen normally is one word, but without the hyphen we might infer that he was speaking to businessmen who are small.)

In adjectives that have been formed by combining two words, eg:

  • nineteenth-century history         self-paced learning exercises
  • off-the-peg suits                             old-furniture salesman

Take care to use the hyphen only in situations where the hyphenated word is used as an adjective as in the above examples. Contrast these two examples:

  • He was an old-furniture salesman. (The furniture is old)
  • He was an old furniture salesman. (The salesman is old)

We have several verbs in English that consist of a verb and a preposition where a hyphen is used. Have a look at these verbs and the nouns that can be formed as a result:

  • to hold up …     This is a hold-up.
  • to wash up …   Go and do the washing-up.
  • to tell off …       The tutor gave him a good telling-off.

Compound Modifiers: When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “ly” eg:

  • A first-quarter touchdown.                       A last-minute reprieve.
  • A bluish-green dress.                                A full-time job.
  • A well-known man                                    An easily-remembered rule.
  • A know-it-all attitude                               A very good time.

Good IdeaTHE DASHES (-)

The dash is a handy device, informal and essentially playful, telling you that you’re about to take off on a different tack but still in some way connected with the present course — only you have to remember that the dash is there, and either put a second dash at the end of the notion to let the reader know that he’s back on course, or else end the sentence, as here, with a period. __ Lewis Thomas

The dash is longer than a hyphen. There are in fact two different dashes: the en-dash is the same width as a letter N, while the em-dash is the same width as the letter M.

The dash can be used to set off parenthetical elements, when those elements themselves contain internal forms of punctuation. Use the em-dash in these situations.

  • All four of them—Bob, Jeffrey, Jason, and Brett—did well in college.

The dash should not be used to set off parenthetical elements when a comma would do just as well. There needs to be a good reason to use the dash.

The em-dash can also be used in direct speech to signal a break in thought or a shift in tone.

  • ‘What on earth can I do -,’ Alan jumped up and ran to the door.
  • ‘I’ve just asked you to – oh what was I telling you?’

The en-dash is used for indicating the space between dates in a chronological range.

  • The Second World War (1939-1945) was one of mankind’s darkest hours.

The dash is used when we’re showing that someone’s name or a word has been omitted, perhaps for legal reasons or issues of taste, eg:

  • Professors ______ and ______ were suspended without pay for their refusal to grade papers.

The dash can also be used to join compound modifiers made up of elements that are themselves either open compounds (frequently two-word proper nouns) or already hyphenated compounds, eg:

  • The Puerto Rican–United States collaboration
  • post-Darwinian–pre-Freudian theorems

Again, Dear Reader, the use of the hyphen and the dashes is not an easy concept to master if you don’t practice using them. Use them in your everyday writing so that they become second nature. When you get to the exam season, it will just be a walk in the park!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!


 

AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL – 1

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Well, the exam season is just upon us and Dear Candidate I felt you should know that . . .

There are some unusual punctuation marks which students avoid YET could be the trick to an excellent grade.

This is a FOUR part series of excellent tips on the brilliant subject: AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH@ HIGH SCHOOL.

So Dear Folks, bless yourselves for some good ideas on the subject that really matters to students and parents, as well as English Teachers at High School.

“The problem with poor punctuation is that it makes life difficult for the reader who needs to read and understand what you have written” – The Penguin Guide To Punctuation

By the time students enter High School, they will have conquered and mastered the uses of a period/full stop, the comma, various uses of the capital letters, the question mark and the apostrophe.

Many, and I mean the majority of students, would know what a colon or semi-colon looks like; ellipsis; brackets and dashes; but wouldn’t know when or how to use them. This is what I want to share with you here: where, how and when to use these punctuation marks.

The colon and semi-colon; ellipsis, brackets and dashes are important in raising a student’s grade.

Throughout my teaching career as well as being a GCSE/IGCSE and GCE Examiner, I have noticed that these unusual punctuation marks are rarely used. Yet by using

  • colons (:) and semi-colons (;)
  • the hyphen, dashes (-)
  • parenthesis/brackets ( ), [ ]
  • ellipsis (. . .)
  • using numbers in writing

enhances a student’s writing repertoire.

WHY IS PUNCTUATION IMPORTANT?

Punctuation is one of the most important aspects of written English desired by English Teachers. It is indeed, the feature of writing that gives meaning to the written word.

GOOD PUNCTUATION shows a lot about any particular student as it portrays the student’s good knowledge about grammatical structures. It can radically change the meaning of a text and helping readers understand what writers are trying to say. Ultimately, punctuation assist any writer in achieving clarity towards what they are trying to communicate or convey to their audience.

Thus, through GOOD PUNCTUATION, the meaning of any piece of written work, whether a sentence or a passage, becomes more clearly and easily understood. Similarly, any omission, using a different sign or failing to punctuate correctly can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Around half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants, says the Recruitment and Employment Commission (REC), contain spelling or grammatical errors, and these are most likely to be made by those aged between 21 and 25. In this age group, graduates are twice as likely to make mistakes as those who did not go on to university.

pexels-photo-279470.jpegDon’t be confused by these terms which you shall be meeting quite often:

Clause –  a group of related words that contain a subject and a verb. It is a sentence!

Independent clause  – a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. It has both a subject and a verb and forms a complete thought.

Dependent clausea group of words with a subject and a verb. It does not express a complete thought so it is not a sentence and can’t stand alone. These clauses include adverb clauses, adjective clauses and noun clauses.

Transitional phrases – phrases or words that create better flow in your writing to form strong, logical connections, eg: In addition, for example, Although, etc.

Coordinating conjunctionthey make things go together by joining together words, phrases and independent clauses. They are seven of them – and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet. You can remember them by the acronym FANBOYS, where F= For, A=And, N=Nor, B=But, O=Or, Y=Yet and S=So.

THE COLON (:)

The colon is a widely misused but very useful piece of punctuation. By using it correctly, it can add precision to your written work as well as impressing your tutors and future employers. There are not many people around who are able to use colons correctly.

The colon has a number of functions:

To introduce an idea between two independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first – It is used to introduce an idea that is an explanation or continuation of the one that comes before the colon. The colon can be considered as a gateway inviting the reader to go on. Have a look at these examples:

  • You are left with only one option: Press on until you have mastered it.
  • There is one thing you need to know about coleslaw: it looks and tastes like slurry.

In the above examples you have some idea of what will come after the colon. It is important to note that the clause that comes before the colon can stand alone and makes complete sense on its own.

If the initial clause cannot stand alone and makes complete sense, you should not use a colon.

To introduce a list – The second main use of the colon is to introduce a list. You need to take care that many people assume that a colon always precedes a list. This is not the case. Again it is important to remember that the clause that precedes the colon must make complete sense on its own.

  • The bookstore specializes in three subjects: art, architecture and graphic design.
  • The potion contained some exotic ingredients: snails’ eyes, bats’ tongues and garlic.

In the above sentences, the clause preceding the colon has a subject and a predicate and makes complete sense on its own.

Do not, however, use a colon when the listed items are incorporated into the flow of the sentence, eg:

  • The bookstore specializes in art, architecture, and graphic design.
  • The magic potion contained sesame seeds, bran flakes and coleslaw.

In the sentences above a colon should not be used, as the clause that would precede it would not make sense alone.

To isolate a point for emphasis –  The colon can be used to emphasize a phrase or single word at the end of a sentence, eg:

  • There’s only one word I can use to describe that: fabulous.

To introduce quoted material – It can also be used after a clause introducing quoted material. Have a look at this example.

  • The teacher often used her favourite quotation from Monty Python: ‘I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.’

If the colon precedes a quotation, you should begin the language of that quote with a capital letter.

Non-Grammatical Uses of The Colon

Time – The colon is used to separate hours from minutes, with no space before or after the colon, eg; 11:35 a.m.

Ratio – The colon is used to express a ratio of two numbers, with no space before or after the colon, eg: 1:3

Biblical references – The colon is used in biblical references to separate chapter from verse, with no space before or after the colon, eg: Genesis 1:31.

Correspondence – The colon is frequently used in business and personal correspondence, eg: cc: Tom Smith; Attention: Accounts Payable; PS: Don’t forget your swimsuit.

Other references – The colon is used to separate the volume from page numbers of a cited work, with no space before or after the colon. Punctuation Quarterly 4:86–89 (reads as “pages 86 through 89 of volume four”)

Style

Having mastered the correct use of the colon, it is useful to make it work for you in your writing. Using a colon can add emphasis to an idea. For example, consider the following two sentences:

  • The one thing mankind cannot live without is hope.
  • There is one thing that mankind cannot live without: hope.

Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the second makes the point a little more forcefully. Now we are in the realms of style, it is important to emphasise that you, as the writer, have to decide how to make your newfound expertise with punctuation work for you. Do not be tempted to overuse colons. They are powerful but should be used with precision and care.

The most important thing to remember about colons is that you only use them after statements that are complete sentences.

THE SEMI-COLON (;)

The semi-colon is a hugely powerful punctuation mark. Getting it right will not only impress your teachers and future employers, it will allow you to express your ideas and opinions with more subtlety and precision than ever before.

The good news is that it is simple and easy to use and should take you no more than a few minutes to master.

A semi-colon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two  independent clauses that are closely related in thought.

When a semi-colon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.

  • Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.
  • Terry always slept with the light on; he was afraid of the dark.

The two clauses here are closely connected but the link has not been made explicit. They could have been separated by a full stop, eg:

  • Some people write with a word processor. Others write with a pen or pencil.
  • Terry always slept with the light on. He was afraid of the dark.

They could have been connected by a conjunction too.

  • Terry always slept with the light on because he was afraid of the dark.
  • Terry always slept with the light on, as he was afraid of the dark.

In this instance we have changed the second clause into a dependent clause; it is directly dependent on the first clause.

Use a semicolon between two independent clauses which have closely related ideas by employing conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

  • But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.

Use a semicolon between items in a list or series if any of the items contain commas to avoid confusion between listed items. In most lists a comma is enough to separate the items. In a complicated list, it is perfectly acceptable to use the semicolon to make the list more understandable.

  • There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which is more expensive but quick and neat.

Use a semicolon between independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction if the clauses are already punctuated with commas or if the clauses are lengthy.

  • Some people write with a word processor, typewriter, or a computer; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a pen or pencil.

If you are going to use a semicolon to connect two clauses, it is very important that the two clauses are both independent. That means that each clause has to be able to stand alone and make complete sense without the other. If either one cannot stand alone, a semi-colon cannot be used.

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Avoid using a comma when a semicolon is needed

  • Incorrect: The cow is brown, it is also old.
  • Correct: The cow is brown; it is also old.

What’s going on here?  Both parts of the sentence are independent clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no coordinating conjunction. This mistake is known as a comma splice. 

  • Incorrect: I like cows, however, I hate the way they smell.
  • Correct: I like cows; however, I hate the way they smell.

What’s going on here?  The conjunctive adverb however signals a connection between two independent clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no coordinating conjunction.

  • Incorrect: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good, they give us beef, which also tastes good, and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.

What’s going on here?  It’s unclear what the three listed items are, since the items are separated by commas. Now look at these corrected sentences:

  • Correct: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good; they give us beef, which also tastes good; and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.
  • Correct: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane in recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this planet; domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we humans pass tumultuously by.

Avoid using a semicolon when a comma is needed:

  •  Incorrect: Because cows smell; they offend me.
  • Correct: Because cows smell, they offend me.

What’s going on here? The first part is not an  independent clause, so no semicolon is required.

Semicolons help you connect closely related ideas when a style mark stronger than a comma is needed. By using semicolons effectively, you can make your writing sound more sophisticated.

Again, Dear Reader, the use of the colon and semi-colon is not an easy concept to master if you don’t practice using them. Use them in your everyday writing so that they become second nature. When you get to the exam season, it will just be a walk in the park!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!