Television: the great destroyer of young minds?

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A reader offers this paragraph for free proofreading:

As a result of technological development, television has a crucial role to play in spiritual values in daily life of human being, especially in term of entertainment. However, there are two sides to everything. The limited time to commune to others is attributable to watch TV too much. Personally, I firmly believe communication has been damaged by TV.

One argument is that television is invented to serve the need to entertainment in order to render people relax after working hard all day, helping the atmosphere of their family become comfortable. Nonetheless, a couch potato who is addicted by watching TV too much does not care of problems of other members of family. For instance, He spends very less time on doing households for his wife or teaching his children how to resolve homework. So, will his family be happy while most of members cannot finish their tasks? It is high time for him to reduce television-watching time.

Another objection may be that watching diverse channel on TV can help people gain knowledge and news. After that, they have a discussion about what they have learned with others, promoting their communication. However, if they do not go out and get involved in some activities, how can they make friends to discuss with them? Take a couch potato as an example , again. Absolutely, he has no any close relationships, even he may be isolated from society. Poor social life will be able to make him depressed about life. Moreover, when his health is ruined, what does he gain knowledge for? According to the survey conducted by University of Washington via physical check-up of couch potatoes, more than two third of couch potatoes are related to obesity and other serious diseases. Doing daily exercise must be made to decrease the risk of being infecting these diseases.

The response:

Suggested changes are below in red. Although your first two points are right on the topic, at the end you drift off by talking about physical condition of couch potatoes. You could also talk about what kind of shows people choose to watch. Do they watch documentaries, political discussions or other informative shows? Or do they watch situation comedies and reality TV which do not provide information about the world?

As a result of technological development, television has a crucial role to play in the spiritual values in the daily lives of human beings, especially in terms of entertainment. However, there are two sides to everything. The limited time to commune with others is attributable to watching TV too much. Personally, I firmly believe communication has been damaged by TV.

One argument is that television was invented to serve the need for entertainment in order to render people relaxed after working hard all day, helping the atmosphere of their family become comfortable. Nonetheless, a couch potato who is addicted by watching TV too much does not care about the problems of other family members. For instance, he spends very little time doing household chores for his wife or teaching his children how to do their homework. So, will his family be happy while most of members cannot finish their tasks? It is high time for him to reduce television-watching time.

Another objection may be that watching diverse channels on TV can help people gain knowledge and learn about the news. After that, they could have a discussion about what they have learned with others, promoting their communication. However, if they do not go out and get involved in some activities, how can they make friends to discuss with them? Take a couch potato as an example, again. Probably he has no any close relationships, he may even be isolated from society. His poor social life may make him depressed about life. Moreover, when his health is ruined, what does he gain knowledge for? According to a survey conducted by the University of Washington on the physical condition of couch potatoes, more than two third of couch potatoes are suffering from obesity and other serious diseases. Doing daily exercise must be made to decrease the risk of being infecting these diseases.

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Your parenting is praiseworthy; you praise your children

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A reader offers this paragraph for free proofreading:

The reasons that I am a good mother are I put my needs second when my children are concerned. Being a mother has its challenges at times, especially when there is a teenager involved. I have learned to handle life’s challenges and do it with a smile. In my experience, I have learned to be patient and keep my cool.  I try this approach with every situation that comes my way. I explain the practical reasoning not to do something, and then why I do not want them to do it. I am a parent not a friend or a buddy. Of course I am their friend, but ultimately I am the parent. Children need praiseworthy and honest guidance and instruction. They do not need to figure things out alone. That would result in catastrophe. I encourage my children when they are doing well. Often, as parents we see the negative; therefore, we must also make sure to praise them when they are doing well. I take an interest in their interests. For example, with my son he loves music so I bought him a guitar, and I watch him play. I even ask questions like what is your favorite type of music. Another, is I am able to admit when I have done something wrong, and I apologize for it. This helps them to learn that we all make mistakes and we all can learn from them. Being a good mother is about being there for them and listening.

The response:

Being a parent is harder than writing (I have 4 children and one grandchild), and you do that well. I did suggest a few changes. I changed praiseworthy to praise, because the sentence begins is talking about what the children need: they need praise, not “praiseworthy”. If we left it as praiseworthy, then you’d be writing that your guidance is praiseworthy, which I’m sure it is, but I think you are not saying that you deserve praise for your great guidance. Later I made two changes because of faulty references. When we see the negative, we praise them…I had to ask “who?” The sentence doesn’t tell us, although our logic tells us that it’s our children who we praise. In the next sentence, if we left the pronoun them in there, it would refer to “our children” because that ‘s what was in the preceding sentence. But the subject here is “I”, so I changed “them” to “our children.”

One reason that I am a good mother is I put my needs second when my children are concerned. Being a mother has its challenges at times, especially when there is a teenager involved. I have learned to handle life’s challenges and do it with a smile. In my experience, I have learned to be patient and keep my cool. I try this approach with every situation that comes my way. I explain the practical reasoning not to do something, and then why I do not want them to do it. I am a parent, not a friend or a buddy. Of course I am their friend, but ultimately I am the parent. Children need praise and honest guidance and instruction. They do not need to figure things out alone. That would result in catastrophe. I encourage my children when they are doing well. Often, as parents we see the negative; therefore, we must also make sure to praise our children when they are doing well. I take an interest in my children’s interests. For example, my son loves music so I bought him a guitar, and I watch him play. I even ask questions like what is your favorite type of music?” Another reason I am good mother, is I am able to admit when I have done something wrong, and I apologize for it. This helps them to learn that we all make mistakes and we all can learn from them. Being a good mother is about being there for them and listening to them.

Using an object complement and gaining respect from the nation of Iran

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A reader in Brooklyn New York asks:

Please tell me which is correct: “Iran should show more respect to us Americans,” or “Iran should show more respect to we Americans”.

The short answer is: “…us Americans.”   Now for the explanation. The word “Americans” is an adjective describing the pronoun “us.” It defines which group of people “us” refers to. You might not wonder about the grammar of the sentence “Iran should show more respect to us,” but you might wonder about which group of people “us” refers to. Should they show respect to Americans? Or just people from New York? Or self-proclaimed grammar gurus? The adjective clarifies.   As always, we use “we” as a subject, and “us” as an object. The phrase “us Americans” is an object complement to the verb “respect.”

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How to Write an Outline

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An outline is the best tool you can create for yourself for writing a good essay. An outline is like a road map: it tell you where you are going and where you have been. It’s easy to tell an essay which has been written without an outline. It tends to be unfocused and full of either repetitive or irrelevant details. Following an outline as you write makes your essay organized and logical.

The first step to writing an outline is to state your thesis. Since the thesis is the idea you are trying to prove in your essay, every sentence should relate to the thesis. The thesis is the biggest idea; each paragraph after the introduction supports the thesis. Therefore the second step to writing an outline is to write the topic sentence for each paragraph that will support your thesis.

So, if your thesis is that To Kill A Mockingbird is a novel which is symbolic of America coming  to terms with its racist past, you’d write that as the first poing in your outline. Your body paragraphs would prove each of these points: it’s about growing up; it’s about racism; the point of view of racism changes during the novel.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird is a novel which is symbolic of America coming to terms with its racist past.
    1. The narrator is a young girl who is growing up.
    2. The key plot element is racism of the society.
    3. The narrator’s point of view shifts during the course of the novel.

With this outline, you could easily write a 5 paragraph essay. In your introductory paragraph, you would write some general statements about racism in the past in America. You could use any number of observations, historical facts or general plot summaries from the novel to introduce the thesis. In the next paragraph you would introduce the narrator, Scout, establish her age and cite details from the novel which establish her naive point of view. The third paragraph would summarize the events leading to Tom Robinson’s charge of rape including how black people are generally treated in Maycomb. If you were writing a longer essay, there are many plot elements to discuss such that you could write several paragraphs, or even pages about the way racism is depicted in the novel.

For the final body paragraph, you would cite evidence from the later pages about how Scout comes to see the truth about how people treat black people. The derogatory statements said about Tom when he is killed on a desperate attempt to escape custody are one example of the town’s racist beliefs. That black people have ordinary lives and families is revealed in the chapter where Scout and Jem visit Calpurnia’s church. To show how this is revealed symbolically, you could show the parallel of how Scout discovers that Boo Radley is not the evil monster everyone had believed. As Scout’s point of view toward Boo changes, so does the understanding that black people are not different from white people. There is a lot of material here, as well, and this could be several paragraphs or pages.

Finally, following the outline, you could write a concluding paragraph that sums up the evidence presented and presents the conclusion.

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Rhetorical questions in persuasive essays

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Can I ask rhetorical questions in persuasive essays?

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Can I ask rhetorical questions in persuasive essays? How will the reader answer the question?

Rhetorical questions in persuasive essays are a great idea.

A question which is posed without the expectation of an answer is called a “rhetorical question.” Obviously, readers can’t answer the question to you, but they might answer the question to themselves. That’s the purpose of a rhetorical question. The root of this meaning is from the word “rhetoric” which is the art of making arguments. Rhetoric used to be one of the main areas of study before the modern school was invented. If you were in school in England in 1850, it would have been an important subject. In those days it was believed that the ability to discuss ideas was the most important thing for students to learn since education wasn’t valued for its practical aspects. It was for gentlemen who didn’t sully themselves with practical matters left to the lower classes. But I digress.

Dropping a rhetorical question into a persuasive argument is often a powerful form of persuasion. You present several facts and build up to a conclusion, drawing the conclusion out of the reader. For example, if you were trying to persuade the reader to support universal health care, you might ask “What kind of a country doesn’t ensure its citizens have access to health care?” For a reader to disagree with you, they would have to do some mental gymnastics in order to identify the underlying assumptions of the question–that universal health care is the only way to ensure all citizens have access to health care, or that if you disagree with the premise, you support an inferior version of the country.

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Rhetorical questions in persuasive essays as an introduction

Rhetorical questions can be one of the great ways to write an essay introduction. In my Essay Writing blog, I have a very popular article on 5 Great Essay Introduction Ideas. For example, in a persuasive essay on gun control, you might start by asking “Are homes with guns safer than those without guns?” In a persuasive essay on abortion, you could ask “What would you do if you were poor, single, and suddenly found yourself pregnant?”

Beginning a persuasive essay with a rhetorical question allows you to provide the answer. You can answer the question with a fact and citation. This gives your argument some weight. Later, you will need to provide a counter argument. Even that part can be improved with the use of a rhetorical question. “Why would someone believe XXX?” Then you provide some information and show that it’s not as reliable or valid as the argument you are putting forward.

You wouldn’t want to fill up your persuasive essay with rhetorical questions. It is one technique, to be used sparingly. But it can be very effective, and who wouldn’t want that?

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Men, women and conflict

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Here’s a nice little paragraph:

Also psychologically different, men and women typically respond in differ ways to emotion. While men tend to react violently, women react by communicating in a friendly way because women are believed to naturally be more in tuned to others emotions and feelings than men. According to Sigmund Freud, “women show less sense of justice than men, that they are less ready to submit to the great exigencies of life, that they are more often influenced in their judgments by feelings of affection or hostility” (Gilligan, 802). Freud is stating his belief that women show less sense of justice than men because they are more emotionally driven and less rational. Communication also seems to vary by gender, since it has been observed that men and women react differently to conflict. Woman shall more likely attempt to discuss the conflict, while men are more introverted in resolving the problem.

In the first sentence, we must change the word “differ,” which is a verb, to “differing,” which looks more like a verb, but acts like an adjective. The next sentence has an error of logic. Do women react in a friendly way because we believe they are more in tune with others’ emotions, or do we believe that because of our observations on how women react? Next comes a quote embedded into the sentence with APA Style used correctly. Beautiful! But there are a couple of grammatical errors within the quote, so the writer should be checking their source very carefully to make sure the quote was transcribed correctly. The word “tuned” is used where “tune” should be and there’s a lost apostrophe on “others'” The following sentence gets the logic right. Finally we have a verb error in the last sentence. All together we have:

Also psychologically different, men and women typically respond in differing ways to emotion. While men tend to react violently, women react by communicating in a friendly way. Therefore women are believed to naturally be more in tune to others’ emotions and feelings than men. According to Sigmund Freud, “women show less sense of justice than men, that they are less ready to submit to the great exigencies of life, that they are more often influenced in their judgments by feelings of affection or hostility” (Gilligan, 802). Freud is stating his belief that women show less sense of justice than men because they are more emotionally driven and less rational. Communication also seems to vary by gender, since it has been observed that men and women react differently to conflict. Woman are more likely attempt to discuss the conflict, while men are more introverted in resolving the problem.

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Is livestock a plural noun? Another blog post on grammar bulls–t

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Plural nouns can be confusing. Is livestock a plural noun? No bull, it can go either way. Read the following. A reader asks:

Is livestock a plural noun, as in: “Livestock [has/have] been important in serving humankind.”?

Livestock is a type of plural noun known as a collective noun. It represents a number of individuals. Collective nouns include such words as a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, an eloquence of lawyers, an army of soldiers, a troupe of baboons, and a gaggle of geese. Some of these are quite metaphorical, and others are simply descriptive. In most cases, collective nouns (groups of people and things) take a singular verb, but sometimes the take a plural verb if the individuals are to be emphasized.

Is livestock a plural noun?

The answer is…it depends.

  • Livestock has been important in serving humankind. (singular)
  • Livestock were trampling my vegetable garden so I chased them away. (plural) Even though my grammar algorithm flags “were” as incorrect, it makes no sense to write “Livestock was trampling my vegetable garden, so I chased them away.” This form mixes the singular “livestock” and the plural pronoun “them.” Even worse would be “Livestock was trampling my vegetable garden, so I chased it away.”

Other collective noun dilemmas: How many are enough?

We have a similar problem with collective nouns that represent quantities. Notice below, that when we name the type of item, the number becomes an adjective. The verb agrees with the noun.

  • Four is enough. (Is agrees with four, which is treated as a singular quantity.)
  • Four eggs are enough. (Are agrees with eggs, which is clearly plural.)
  • A dozen is enough. (Is agrees with dozen, which is treated as a singular quantity.()

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Prove it!

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Which is correct, “proved” or “proven”?

According to my sources “proved” is more often correct especially in the US, however “proven” is indicated as in use in scientific and literary texts. I prefer proven myself. I guess this is another case of British vs. American usage. Being Canadian,we go both ways.

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Hyphen mania or hyphen-mania?

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Hyphen usage questions

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hyphen is used to join words, so hyphen usage is a common question. For example, I’m often asked, “Which is correct, pre-approval or pre approval?”

Another common question is “country wide or country-wide?” or “nationwide or nation-wide?” Read on to get the answers to these questions.

First, some vocabulary. A prefix is part of a word that’s attached to a word root to change the meaning. It comes before (pre) and it’s attached (fix). Notice that there is no hyphen. That’s your first rule.

Use a hyphen for the prefixes ex-, self-, and all-

Certain prefixes use a hyphen: self-, as in self-regulation, self-contained, self-esteem, etc. We also use a hyphen with ex- when it indicates a former condition: ex-army, ex-wife, ex-student. Do not use a hyphen when “ex” is an intrinsic part of the word: external, extreme, exude. Use a hyphen for all- to indicate a condition that is widespread: all-encompassing, all-girl, all-senior. This is actually more like the compound adjective case discussed below.

But for most prefixes, do not use a hyphen. This is the case for preapproval.

First: “pre” cannot stand on its own. It is not a word. It must be attached to a root word. So we can have pre-approval or preapproval, but not pre approval. So which is it?

pre-approval or preapproval?

pre-approval or preapproval?

Here’s a Google n-gram for both preapproval and pre-approval. You can see that preapproval is almost twice as common as pre-approval. Similarly, a hyphen is unnecessary in unnecessary.

Sometimes a hyphen is necessary with a prefix. For example, to differentiate re-create (build again) from recreate (enjoy a leisure activity).

Use hyphens with compound adjectives

The most common time you need a hyphen is when you have two adjectives that work together to modify a noun. When the two adjectives are independent you simply use a comma. For example, I live in a large, brick house. The house is large. The house is made of bricks. On the other hand, if I lived in a yellow-brick house, the house would be made of yellow bricks. The first adjective modifies the second adjective, not the noun.

My Fowler’s Standard English Usage goes on for four pages about hyphenation. Fowler places clarity of meaning above all. The example he gives is “The Russians could be well content if they could get all-German talks started on something like their terms.” You can see that elimination of the hyphen would make the sentence more confusing. Certain words like happy-go-lucky need to have hyphens. We often use hyphens for words that are compounded and then they evolve into single words such as crossword or bookbinder.

Hyphen questions and answers

Which is the proper form: “half a dozen” or “half-a-dozen”?

Because the article “a” comes between the two adjectives, the need for a hyphen is reduced. For “half-dozen” I’d say “yes.”

  • The recipe calls for half a dozen eggs.
  • The recipe calls for a half-dozen eggs.

In using the phrase “country wide consolidated report”, would you use a hyphen as in “country-wide”?

This is similar to the prefix situation. I’d actually write it as a single word: countrywide. This is consistent with the Google n-gram viewer, which shows the use of country-wide peaking in about 1960, and countrywide becoming much more popular since.

Is it proper to use “half price drinks” or “half-price drinks” or “half-priced drinks” or some other variation of this term?

Who’s going to complain about half-price drinks, no matter how you spell them? (Just don’t spill them!) For clarity, I’d write “half-price” drinks. The addition of the “d” to make it past tense is not necessary.

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Affect or Effect

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Which is the correct usage of the word “effect” (or “Affect”): the paperwork necessary to EFFECT the assignment or AFFECT the assignment.

To “effect” means to “bring about or accomplish.” It has a sense of completion. This would be the usage if the paperwork was necessary to complete the assignment. This is probably the correct usage in your case. This is when we use “effect” as a verb. But “effect” is usually used as a noun.

To “affect” means to influence or change. This would be the usage if the paperwork had influence on the outcome or course of the assignment but was not a requirement for completion of the assignment. We normally use “affect” as a verb, but it can be also used as a noun.

I like to advise people to keep it simple: use “effect” as a noun. Use “affect” as a verb. But life is not always simple.

One can “effect” change, which means to accomplish something, as above. But normally we write about the “effect” of something. That’s the noun form.

And “affect” is usually a verb, but when it means a feeling or emotional state, it is a noun. He has an affect of boredom. (He acts bored.)

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