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Archive for the ‘Tutoring’ Category

Distinctions: ‘Hear’ and ‘Here’

Posted by CW64 on December 31, 2012

In my education and experience as a writer and editor, I have noticed many misuses of words, especially common words. Such erroneous practices have become prevalent in the writing community and continue to stand out in my mind as something both serious and disturbing. For that reason, I have decided to write an ongoing series of articles, called simply “Distinctions,” which will explain the differences between the featured terms and how they are or should be used in writing. At the end of each article, I will provide either a quiz or set of exercises for readers to test their knowledge and skills. Hopefully, this ongoing effort will allow said readers to gain something to help them be better writers.

In this post, I focus on ‘hear’ and ‘here.’ These two words, though pronounced the same, bear obvious distinctions in meaning; yet many people, including writers, misuse them. .


“Hear” is a verb that refers to the ability to perceive and decipher sounds through the ears. Sometimes it refers to mental comprehension of something relative to sound. In addition, the word denotes giving someone or something due attention as well as approval. (Se here)

Verb (transitive or intransitive)


Danny could hear the battle hymn a mile away.
“I hear you,” Max” told James, reassuringly. “Getting mugged sucks big time.”
Judge Gentry was preparing to hear the case regarding the man who allegedly murdered his wife and child; such a circumstance required due care.
“Hear, hear!” the governor concurred during the meeting. “We need to allot more funding to education. Our children need it.”

The first instance relates to the most common reference for “hear,” and that is the ability to perceive sound, which Danny can do quite well, since he catches the battle hymn from such an extreme distance. The second, though similar, refers more to comprehension, as Max offers sensitivity and support to his friend by acknowledging that he is listening and understands how it feels to get mugged. In the third example, Judge Gentry is about to officiate over a legal case as a judge, so “hear” infers more than merely hearing it; he is also giving the issue his professional attention and will apply his objective assessment in accordance with the law. Similarly, the governor is acknowledging the fact his attention is active during the meeting consisting of his board, but he also contributes his agreeable feedback on the issue regarding funding for education, which is important to him. All relate to perception of sound but in different ways: the first is auditory (physical, through the ear), the second is emotional, the third is professional and the fourth is intellectual.


This term serves in most cases as an adverb and is generally the opposite of “there” (see “Distinctions: ‘There,’ ‘Their’ and ‘They’re’ on this blog) and refers to being situated in or moving towards a present location, as in “this spot, location or place.” It also indicates an achieved stage of a process, as at a particular point in the present time. Finally, ‘here’ is used to apply attention through possession or discovery. (See here)



“We’re here,” Nick pointed at the map. “We need to go another fifty miles before we reach San Francisco. “I’d say that will be about another hour at least.”
Here, Debbie raised her hand to ask a question to the teacher regarding the math lesson written on the chalkboard.
“Here are the documents for the case,” Doug Marville acknowledged, handing the folder to his female colleague. “It’s all-inclusive, so you shouldn’t have any problems.”

Nick informs his fellow travelers were they are situated geographically compared to the location of San Francisco, and then he specifies the distance between these two points by clarifying how much time is remaining in their trip. Debbie’s hand-raising, on the other hand, denotes a particular point within the process of events pertaining to her classroom lessons. Doug, who apparently is in a position of authority and delegating assignments, identifies the contents of the folder he is passing to his colleague who is expected to complete it. In the end, “here” establishes the comparative proximity of someone or something in relation to another. The first is geographical in nature, while the second is temporal and the third is that of ownership or possession.


“Here” is also used as an adjective, denoting emphasis as a means of identifying a noun and its demonstrative adjective. The adjectival role is similar to all three references in adverbial form above, but rather than point out location, it describes or specifies, as in the sentence: “These tickets, here, are for you,” John said to his friend Margaret.


The purpose of “here” as a noun is essentially to identify the place of present location without specifying the name of said place. More universally, however, “here” refers to the world, life and the present and future times.


“We begin from here and proceed forward two hundred yards,” the hiker directed to his charges. “Remember to meet back here in five hours.”
“The here and now,” the orator put forth boldly; “this is where the future begins.”

The hiker, who is supposedly a leader or instructor of some sort, uses “here” twice to indicate the present location of him and his followers; the orator, however, speaks in a philosophical sense, presumably to inspire her or his audience. In the first sentence, “here” is geographical, while the latter is, again, temporal; both usages refer to a place that is in close proximity of the speaker and those to whom she or he is speaking.


As an interjection, this word “here” commands the attention of or to offer comfort to the listener. It is quite often used in casual or colloquial speech, but its inherent reference is approximately the same as before: to denote, albeit indirectly, an issue or concern in the present time or location.


“Here, let me help you,” Dave said, assisting Suzy as she picked up her spilled books.
“Here, now, you don’t mean that,” the senator said, caught off-guard by the lobbyist’s refusal to support the cause without explanation.

The uses of “here” in these two instances are general, but they allude to a present time-place situation with an unspecified or abstract sense of importance. The “here” in the first sentence acknowledges the circumstance of spilled books necessarily taking precedence in that point in time. The second sentence, likewise, does the same regarding the refusal by the listener that stirs apparent concern in the senator who needs the support.


Hear: referring to the act or ability of perceiving sounds (physical) and comprehension (intellectual and emotional)
Here: referring to the present location or time period (geographical/temporal)



1) Choose the right word:

hear, here

Amplify ________________________________________
Binary _________________________________________
Clang __________________________________________
Clock __________________________________________
Current _________________________________________
Eardrum ________________________________________
Earth ___________________________________________
First ___________________________________________
Guitar __________________________________________
Modern _________________________________________
Music __________________________________________
Near ___________________________________________
Observant _______________________________________
Reverberations ___________________________________
Roundabout _____________________________________
Song ___________________________________________
Still ____________________________________________
Twang __________________________________________
Urgency _________________________________________
Vibrations _______________________________________

2) True or False

• Jamie could here the bus approaching four blocks away.
• “Hear, There and Everywhere” is a famous song by The Beatles.
• “Here you go,” mother said as she handed her daughter a napkin. “Don’t make a mess.”
• “Hear me now!” The mayor raised his hand as he spoke directly into the microphone to hush the crowd “I firmly believe in equal pay for men and women!”
• As Michael walked down the deserted hallway of the abandoned hospital, he could here buzzing voices nearby. Damn—the place is haunted! He thought, stunned.
• “This deaf mute, hear, can read sign language,” the policeman explained to his partner. “We need to wait hear for an interpreter.”
• “Donald arrived here this afternoon,” the head mistress said. “He feels so alone now that his parents are gone.”

3) Fill in the Blanks:

hear, here

• “I’m _________ now, so you don’t have to worry,” mother said, embracing her infant. “I could _________ you crying all the way downstairs.”

• “I hope I _________ from you soon,” Jesse said to Maggie before hanging up the phone. “I want to spend more time with you.”

• “The drink was left _________ before I sat down,” Stephen explained to the waiter. “I can _________ the band and I am already thirsty.”

• _________ was Janie, tall and proud, waiting for the bus to take her home. She would _________ no more of Tom’s nonsense regarding how he’s never cheated a day in his life. She knew better.

• ________ or there; it made no difference. Mick knew he’d catch her either way.

• “To ________ me is to understand me,” Rebecca said on stage before singing. Everybody clapped and gathered around the stage. She smiled. “Thanks for being _______ tonight.”

• “Hearing is one of the most important senses,” Alfred said at his podium. “But with the visuals we have _________ this semester will rely on sight more than anything. Your tests will depend on observation.”

• Music is one of the greatest pleasures in life. That’s why it is necessary for us all ______ in the world to listen and enjoy as much as we can before we are gone.

• “’________’ and ‘_________.’ Which one is preferable to a deaf man who doesn’t know where he’s at?” The comedian thought he’d get the audience to think as well as laugh.

• ________, the birds sing all day long, so the place is a pleasant place to relax for those who can _________.


Posted in Editing, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | 3 Comments »

Distinctions: ‘To,’ ‘Too’ and ‘Two’

Posted by CW64 on December 10, 2012

In my education and experience as a writer and editor, I have noticed many misuses of words, especially common words. Such erroneous practices have become prevalent in the writing community and continue to stand out in my mind as something both serious and disturbing. For that reason, I have decided to write an ongoing series of articles, called simply “Distinctions,” which will explain the differences between the featured terms and how they are or should be used in writing. At the end of each article, I will provide either a quiz or set of exercises for readers to test their knowledge and skills. Hopefully, this ongoing effort will allow said readers to gain something to help them be better writers.

In this post, I focus on “to,” “too” and “two,” three words that are spelled in a similar fashion and are pronounced identically, but have different meanings.



This term is a preposition (and adverb) that indicates motion or direction toward something or someone, as well as to show contact applied between two entities. (see here)

Preposition (and Adverb)


Gina went to the store for more milk
Tom applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding.

In the first sense, the preposition “to” identifies Gina’s intended destination, as in the clause “from here to there,” whereas the second denotes the contact between Tom and a wound and the reason behind his action.

Another use of this word points out a limit in or a termination of a certain span of time, as in “the pep rally is scheduled to five-o-clock.”


The “to” form is also an incorporated feature of infinitive phrases. Infinitives are noninflected verbs. Look at the following examples:


To love
To stir
To sing
To dance
To work

All of these are infinitives because they are general references to certain actions. They quite often follow conjugated verbs as in the sentence “Michael wanted to go to the circus this year.”


This adverbial term is synonymous with “also” and “as well,” and refer to an inclusion. The form also infers a degree of excess or shortcoming. (See here)



Jason wound up going to the movies, too
“Too little, too late,” she told her ex-boyfriend and slammed down the receiver.

The first example is straightforward: Jason’s decided attendance adds to the group of those who are already going to the movies. The dismissive “too little” uttered by the upset woman in the second instance, however, alludes to her ex-boyfriend’s lacking as far as his efforts to save their defunct relationship. In short: the former is inclusive, the latter a case of degree.


“Two” is both a noun and an adjective, depending on how it is used. This is indicative of the number and is quantitative in nature and use. (See here)

Noun and Adjective


Two heads are better than one.
Two birds landed on the telephone wire.

The word “two” takes a verb in the first example, asserting that a pair of heads (i.e. brains) serves better than one. The subsequent “two” describes the birds on the wire in terms of quantity.

Food for Thought:

If a writer is having a conundrum and knows that neither “too” nor “two” fits, the solution is “to.” Both “too” and “two” have specific uses; the “to” form is a bit more varied. If in doubt, writers can and should use the process of elimination in this way.



1) Choose the correct word to use: ‘to,’ ‘too,’ ‘two’

• Indicating quantity ________________________________
• Indicating direction ________________________________
• Indicating inclusion ________________________________

2) Which of these three words refers to an excess or lacking in amount? ___________

3) True or False:

• Danny went two see his dying grandmother at the hospital
• “I want too be there when she opens the present,” Cathy said excitedly.
• Jamie grew to a full 5’5 in height by the time she was 13.
• Marty had to go to summer camp last year.

4) Fill in the Blanks:

To, Too, Two

“______ be or not _______be; that is the question” is a famous line from one of Shakespeare’s plays. The significance of that thought has resonated throughout the world for some time and has become a dominant consideration in many forms of philosophy.

Why is this case? The purpose behind existence has both plagued and inspired humanity for centuries, even _________ the extent that many people have striven _________ find an answer ________ what is considered a riddle in the midst of life.

What does it mean ______ or not ________be?

Each person has a different interpretation based on individual life experiences. Therefore, the answer will vary from person ______ person; there is no single answer _______ that question. Then again, maybe there isn’t supposed ______ be. In fact, the chances are likely Shakespeare never intended for and solid or universal solution to the conundrum. That would be _______ difficult _______ achieve with something as complex and diverse as life. The idea of being alive, or existing, refers _________ many different schools of thought: physiological existence, intellectual enlightenment, emotional fulfillment and happiness, career and work success, recognition from other people . . . The possibilities are endless. Whatever idea of existence any one person conceives is, by default, a correct one. _________ many viable possibilities render mute any justifiable debate over the subject because everyone would win.

No ________ people are exactly alike, and, _______ that end, neither are any _______ lives. That serves as a key point _______the entire riddle of life and ______ the question.

“_______ be or not ________ be” is the primary question. If one thinks well enough, one will discover that just might be the answer as well. The riddle solves itself.

Posted in Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | Leave a Comment »

Distinctions: ‘Than’ and ‘Then.’

Posted by CW64 on October 31, 2012

In my education and experience as a writer and editor, I have noticed many misuses of words, especially common words. Such erroneous practices have become prevalent in the writing community and continue to stand out in my mind as something both serious and disturbing. For that reason, I have decided to write an ongoing series of articles, called simply “Distinctions,” which will explain the differences between the featured terms and how they are or should be used in writing. At the end of each article, I will provide either a quiz or set of exercises for readers to test their knowledge and skills. Hopefully, this ongoing effort will allow said readers to gain something to help them be better writers.

In this post, I focus on ‘than’ and ‘then,’ two words of similar (but not exact) spelling but vastly different in application and part of speech.


The word ‘than’ is a conjunction used to: (1) express a choice or preference, (2) show the temporal relationship between two points, and (3) demonstrate unequal alternatives, such as in the diversity between types (i.e. locations, manners, identities, descriptions, etc.). (see here)

Conjunction: Choice and Preference


If you’re afraid of heights, you are better off taking the train than flying.
Mary would rather go to college than work at the store for the rest of her life.

In both examples, the conjunction “than” illustrates a choice based on individual preference, although the reason for the choice in the first reflects a fear of flying, whereas the reason in the second suggests a desire to succeed career-wise.

Note: Readers should keep in mind both alternatives are equal in significance in this instance. This sense of equality denotes the importance of the choice involved.

Conjunction: Point in Time


We had barely arrived than we had to leave again.

This usage reflects the temporal relationship between two actions. The group arrived at the unmentioned location at a point in time when they were forced to leave again.

Conjunction: Unequal Alternative


Patti is larger in size than Debra, although they are both well-proportioned.
Rob had no way to know where Cindy was other than ask her sister.
Jim could not find better quality sushi anywhere than at Y’s restaurant.

This is a comparison of the physical description between two women. Here, ‘than’ sets off the distinction of inequality: Patty is larger than Debra.

As for the second example, “than” relates unequal states: either (1) Rob either knows by means of asking Cindy’s sister or (2) he doesn’t know at all (Conversely, two equal alternatives might be: knowing one way vs. knowing another).

the third line is a comparison regarding the quality of sushi at one restaurant as opposed to another or others. “Than” promotes the distinction.



He is a person than whom I can imagine no one more courteous.

As a preposition, “than” allows the subject-noun to appear as someone with a quality greater or different than other individuals. Here, the distinction is established by describing one person, the one with the uniqueness, instead of comparing two or more.

By the way, as a preposition, “than” always precedes “whom” and “which.”


The word ‘then’ can serve as an adverb, adjective and a noun:

Adverb – a time reference (past or future) and a position in the order of succession.
Adjective – a state of being related to a point in the past.
Noun – a temporal reference taking on the role of main subject.

(See here)

Adverb: Time – Succession


Tom had a better outlook on life then.
Instructions are to be followed in chronological order, such as ‘1,’ ‘2’ and then ‘3,’ if they are to lead to success.

In the first instance, ‘then’ refers to an earlier time point than that suggested in the rest of the sentence. Tom had a better outlook at some time in the past than in the present.

The second usage is the more common—that of succession: first this, THEN that. This is the step-by-strep process required to lead to a state of completion and/or success.

Adjective: State of Being/Existence:


Dan, the then vice president of the council, was a rogue for equality.
The then forest was filled vastly with Redwood trees until it was leveled to make way for a new housing community.

The use of ‘then’ in both cases describes the subject-noun’s state at a certain point in the past. Dan was a rogue when he was the VP of the council, just as the forest was filled with Redwoods prior to the building of the housing community.

Noun: Reference of Time


Till then, farewell

As a noun, ‘then’ places emphasis on the time point itself as a distinct noun-reference, a central point.

The sign-off, “till then,” signifies a particular point in future time when two people are destined to meet again. It serves as the central focus behind the address, so it takes on the role of subject.


Generally speaking, ‘than’ and ‘then’ bear a simple distinction:

Than: comparing alternatives, equal or unequal. (“this rather than that”)
Then: comparing points in time (“not now, but then”) or points of order or succession (“first this, then that”)



1) Which of the two references a position in the order of succession?

• Than
• Then

2) With regard to ‘than,’ which of the three categories above does each of the following fit? Categories: ‘Choices and Preferences,’ ‘Points in Time’ and ‘Unequal Alternative’)

• Actions speak louder than words ___________________________________
• Bark is worse than one’s bite ______________________________________
• Better late than never ____________________________________________
• Better safe than sorry ____________________________________________

3) Use each word in a sentence:

• Than _____________________________________________________________
• Then _____________________________________________________________

4) True or False:

• If Matt wants to get ahead on his daily schedule, than he better get up early.
• Tammy finished her homework and then went with her friends to the movies.
• The than president of the university, George Wilson, felt pressures from all sides of the conflict.
• Rather then taking his vacation during the summer, Mike decided to wait until the winter when he could get away from the cold.
• Mexico is a place than which no person can feel more relaxed while on the beach.

5) Fill in the blank:

Dorothy Whitaker was an extremely organized person; she couldn’t do anything without a sense of order or a plan of action. First she would decide what she wanted to do and why, and _______ she would draft up a plan to carry it out. Without doing this first, she felt confused and lost.

One spring day, Dorothy decided to clean out her garage. The space was cluttered with everything from old magazines, a fleet of bicycles, torn furniture, dented paint cans and an endless array of various other items from years-gone-by. Rather __________ jumping right in, however, she sat down with a notebook and made a list of all the items contained within her garage, and _______ she would decide what she wanted to do with each. She felt more secure doing this ________figuring everything out along the way. The garage was a place ________which required the most care, especially since she had decided to rent out the upper floor, and the stairs were on the inside. Access was imperative!

Dorothy finished her detailed list, and _______ set out to draw up a plan of action for cleaning out the space in question. She’d obviously have to start at the front and _______ work her way to the back. In order to do this with the greatest degree of accuracy, she guided herself through the site, pen and pad in-hand, carefully taking note of everything and exactly where each item was, and ______visualizing the entire organization process. This was better to her _______ working it out along the way. The former wouldn’t take nearly as long; the latter alternative would be messy and confusing. Her first potential renter would be coming the following day, and she needed to get this done quick.

After she completed her plan from beginning to end, to her satisfaction, she got started on her job. Just inside the door was a wall of boxes. This wall was shorter _______ the one on the other side of the garage, but it was deeper. She pulled them out and stacked them in four separate areas according to content: books, old knickknacks, clothes, and music records and tapes. _________, she came to the bicycles, which were in a tangled mess. Only one was usable, so the others went to the garbage rather _______ salvaged or sold. The paint cans came next. They formed a sprawling piled along one wall. She had just picked up her first two cans _______________ the rest came tumbling downward. One can with a jarred lid spilled its contents on the cement. How aggravating that was! Rather _______continue moving cans, however, she took mop in-hand and cleaned the mess so she wouldn’t spread it on her shoes. Luckily, the spill was slighter ________ she would have otherwise feared. When the floor was clean, she resumed her job on the cans, this time being more careful. Fifty cans in all! Of them, she decided to keep only seven or eight, which remained unopened. These would go in the cupboards along the rear wall.

That completed one side of the garage, and it took her only two hours! First she would take a break for lunch, and ________ she would proceed on the other side.

This time, however, instead of tackling the high wall of boxes at the front, she decided to work sideways toward the opposing wall to that which had bore the pile of paint cans. This was strategic; she had a plan in mind for doing this. She pushed the old couch to where the paint had been to create some moving space, and _______ wound up her hoses one at a time. These would eventually hang on the wall, but temporarily rested on the couch. The barbecue grill had wheels, and so she pushed it to the other side of the garage as well. The only thing that remained was the picnic table on which rested a stack of laundry baskets and an old microwave, the latter of which went to the curb. As soon as she moved the picnic table out of the way, allowing her access to her ladder which leant over the side window, she dusted and cleaned the back counter and inside the cupboards. No other part of this job required more time and care _______ this, for silt had collected everywhere. When the entire area was clean, she went into the driveway and brought in the eight paint cans, four at a time, and, using the ladder, slid them inside the shelves of the one cupboard, and ______ locked the door when she was done. The other cupboard had contained old rusted tools, which were discarded, but she filled it with knickknacks. Those boxes were now empty. The boxes of records and tapes went underneath the counter, along with those containing books. The boxes with clothes would go to charity.

Okay, that the garage was nearly clean, except for the large wall of boxes at the front. She shifted her ladder and ________ climbed . . . Those boxes at the top, of course, were light and half-filled with outdated bills and other documents, which went right to the curb with the microwave. Somewhere along the line, she found some Christmas ornaments. A few bulbs were shattered, and a Santa figurine was faded in color, but the rest was in good condition. Of the wall of boxes, half went out to the now-cleared driveway. The boxes at the bottom were larger ______ those at the top, but she managed to sift through them without having to even move them. These items, among them a coffee maker, an old radio that still worked and a tiffany lamp, went to the back counter. She crumpled the cardboard and took it out front, and _______ stacked the remaining few boxes against the wall in a single pile three-high. She _______ draped the hoses on hooks overhead and situated the couch underneath the stairs, which ran up the back wall to the upper level. After she swept out the entire space, she beamed over a job well done.

“I see you keep your garage clean,” the man said, striding through, glancing here and there. He was a bit shorter ______ his host, but his voice boomed. “I like cleanliness.”

Dorothy smile. “Oh yes,” she said. “I liked to keep things organized all the time. So, you’ll take the apartment, _______?”

The man nodded. “Of all the places I’ve looked at over the past two weeks, I’ve found none more spotless ______ this. That’s very important to me.”

“Well ______,” Dorothy finally said after a pause. “Welcome to your new happy home. Come on in. I’ll make us some coffee,” and ______ they turned and headed for the house.


Please let me know if any part of this is not clear enough. Each word takes on a number of roles, so flooding the article with a multitude of different definitions was unavoidable. I tried to simplify each one for the benefit of those readers who seek basic meanings and references, but it still might be too much. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share. Thanks.

Posted in Editing, Personal Experiences, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | 1 Comment »

Distinction: ‘There,’ ‘Their’ and ‘They’re’.

Posted by CW64 on October 14, 2012

In my education and experience as a writer and editor, I have noticed many misuses of words, especially common words. Such erroneous practices have become prevalent in the writing community and continue to stand out in my mind as something both serious and disturbing. For that reason, I have decided to write an ongoing series of articles, called simply “Distinctions,” which will explain the differences between the featured terms and how they are or should be used in writing. At the end of each article, I will provide either a quiz or set of exercises for readers to test their knowledge and skills. Hopefully, this ongoing effort will allow said readers to gain something to help them be better writers.

In this post, I focus on ‘there,’ ‘their’ and ‘they’re,’ three words that are similar in pronunciation but whose respective meanings are quite unrelated.


The most misconstrued of these three is ‘there,’ a term that writers apply generically for in cases requiring any one of the three in question.

This particular form has two viable uses: (1) an adverb indicating general location or calling attention to something or someone, and (2) as a pronoun in a sentence where the verb precedes its subject. (See here)

Adverb: Location Reference


Becky is at Dean’s house; she spends all of her time there.
The book is over there.

The term ‘there’ serves as a means of indicating without stating specification, which is sometimes considered lazy but is acceptable if its reference is clear because it avoids repetition. In the first example above, the term ‘there’ has a particular reference: Dean’s house”; in the second, the location of the book is unknown without further information. Perhaps the object in question is lying on someone’s bed, on a desk or table, on a shelf, in the garbage can or even being used by someone else at the time the speaker points out its location. In any case, ‘there’ serves the same function and purpose in both cases: as an adverb establishing the whereabouts of a noun discussed in the sentence in which it is mentioned. In the first instance, that noun is the object; in the latter it is the subject.

Adverb: Attention-Getter


“I am right, so there!”
“There you go!”

In these instances, ‘there’ serves as a verbal reference that functions as a means of emphasizing a point made by the speaker and/or the end of a discussion.

Pronoun: ‘There’ Sentences

As common as they are, ‘there’ sentences are generally considered weak and inadvisable. Still, ‘there’ can be used to introduce a sentence in which the verb precedes its subject.


There is no hope.

In this case, ‘hope’ is the subject-noun to which the verb ‘is’ refers.

Yes, people DO speak this way, but grammarians and editors alike suggest revising the sentence so that the subject is concrete and the meaning of the sentence goes unaffected and/or unaltered, as in:

[All] hope is lost.

The above revision is clear and concise, and the subject is specific and identifiable.

As a general rule, writers are to employ minimal use of ‘there’ sentences for reasons given above; concrete/active sentences are usually the strongest to use. Readers prefer direct statements with a well-defined subject, as in The picture remains uncolored or The film is black and white as opposed to There is no color in the picture/film.

The exception to the above rule is dialogue. As said, people use ‘there’ sentences (“there is/are/was/were”) quite often in everyday speech, and so dialogue should reflect that. Of course, fiction and creative non-fiction are distinct in style from non-fiction, such as news reporting and research. Still, ‘there’ sentences are usually but not always a big no-no in formal compositions; ‘concrete/active’ form is routinely preferred here as well.


This form is a possessive variation for the plural pronoun “they,” nothing more. (See here)

Possessive Pronoun


Their house
Their yard
Their studies
Their term papers
Their rights as citizens
Their music style

As seen, each of the instances above clarifies ownership of something, usually concrete but always specific. Possessive expressions can serve as either the subject or object of a sentence:

Subject: Their house caught fire last week.
Object: I really love their music style.

In the first example, the possessive expression serves as the subject of the sentence; in the second, the object.

This term (possessive pronoun) is formally referred to as the ‘attributive adjective’ and used to place an entity in a particular context or reference point. Take the following examples:

Their arrival in Paris
Their yard work leaves much to be desired.

This instance (i.e. function) doesn’t sound possessive, but it is in the sense that it refers descriptively to a condition applied to said entity. Hence: the term ‘attributive adjective.’

One application as denoted at the link above serves as a source of contention for me, and that is the use of “their” as a neutral correlative for single references:

The group is in their last phase of study.

The word “group,” though implicitly comprised of several members, is a single body of individuals and is therefore a single noun (others include ‘committee’ and ‘Republican Party’). IT should take a singular pronoun-reference so that number, as the grammar rule (and common sense) dictates, remains consistent. Which singular pronoun-reference should IT take, you might ask? Hmm, let me think a moment. . .

Apparently, however, this form is acceptable now, especially in casual speech and when gender is not specified, as in . . .

That person has stripped all of their clothes in the middle of winter. They must be thick-skinned..

Composing sentences clearly enough will allow writers to avoid this conundrum. For example, all one has to do is simply restate “that person” as “that man,” which in turn changes “their clothes” to “his clothes” and “they” to “him.” The revised sentence would then read:

That man has stripped all of his clothes in the middle of winter. He must be thick-skinned.

Now, the sentences are consistent in number and grammatical in form.


This form is self-explanatory, yet is always botched. Why? I have my theories, but I don’t wish to generalize or offend, so I won’t venture there.

Simply put, ‘they’re’ is the contracted form of “they are” and “they were,” and is the only one of the three that takes on a verb status (i.e. doesn’t require a verb). (See here)



They’re going out tonight.
They’re in the semi-finals this year.
They’re Asian.

Enough said.

Combined Forms

Writers can combine these three forms in single sentences, but the distinctions must be understood before doing so, otherwise sentence(s) will appear and read awkward.

Consider this conundrum:

John and Jenny renovated they’re home this summer, and despite the added expense, they enjoy living their; there pretty much living the dream they always wanted.

Obviously, this is wrong. What is the correct form?

John and Jenny renovated their home this summer, and despite the added expense, they enjoy living there; they’re pretty much living the dream they always wanted.



1) Fill in each of the blanks with the correct form:

• Contraction = __________________________________________
• Location Reference =_____________________________________
• Possessive Pronoun=_____________________________________

2) What form has a verb incorporated into it?

• There
• They’re
• Their

3) True or False:

“They’re wonderful people. I am glad I met them.”

4) Use each form in a sentence:

• There _________________________________________________________
• Their __________________________________________________________
• They’re ________________________________________________________

5) Fill each space with the correct form:

There, They’re, Their

Maggie and Jim were a wonderful couple, despite the fact that each one had a personality totally opposite of the other: she a free spirit with no concerns in life whatsoever; he a well-disciplined and overly protective man with a professional career as a district attorney. __________________ life together was so complete that __________________respective differences didn’t matter.

“_______________ are perfect,” _________________ friend Carny has said. “_______________ so much in love that they focus only on the good things.”

That perspective would prove foolish, however, as ________________ distinctions eventually caught up with them, and _________________ blissful marriage turned into instant turmoil.

One day, Maggie got into an accident with ______________ BMW. No one was hurt, but the car was totaled. She was so much in a daze that she hadn’t noticed the tow truck delivering _________________ automobile to the city impound. ____________ the vehicle sat until the arguing couple decided what to do. Not only were ______________ repair expenses high, but _____________ insurance company refused to pay the entire bill due to the fact that the accident had been Maggie’s fault. On top of that, the impound storage fees accrued daily.

“What’s the matter with you?” Jim exploded in anger. “That car cost plenty, and YOU had to go and wreck it! _______________________ is no excuse for that!”

“Hey, at least I didn’t get hurt,” Maggie came back defensively. “These things happen. ____________ is no need to get so uptight. We can afford the damages.”

Jim’s eye’s glared white. “That’s not the point!” he finally said. “You need to be more responsible. Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Maggie didn’t respond, but she growled under her breath. How dare he show blatant disregard for her well being; he cared more about that stupid car than he did her. He always put money before the value of human life.

______________ attitudes became so divided at that point that they never agreed on anything again—except for one thing. . .

They eventually divorced and wound up living separate lives. She decided to join the Peace Corps and help the poor in a third-word country. He married his high school sweetheart and became an appellate judge for the state.

In the end, they both realized ________________ differences played a direct role in each of them finding ________________ own lives. ________________ far happier than they’ve ever been.

Posted in Editing, Personal Experiences, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | 40 Comments »

Revisions: the Key to Success

Posted by CW64 on April 10, 2011

I recently submitted a short story to a local academic literary journal for publication this year. The editor thought the story was “excellent,” but he insisted that some revisions be conducted. Naturally, I didn’t object.

The most unexpected yet flattering offer he made, however, was that he would be willing to meet me for discussions on how to revise said piece. This is very unusual for an editor to do; especially when it comes to writers editors don’t even know. The story must have left an impression on him.

At any case, we met at a coffee shop and discussed the story backwards and forwards. I agreed with much of what he had said, but disagreed on other minor points. No impasse developed between us; he and I got along great.

“So, this is a matter of when and not if?” I asked, and he concurred. Of course, I knew that, but I wanted to confirm it anyway. He even said that if I refused to make certain changes, he would work with me. That told me he was determined to publish the piece.

The revisions took me a several hours over a week to do, which was expected because conducting revisions is always time-consuming when they involve story changes or rewrites. As aggravating as it was, I enjoyed it, and, I must say, the story turned out better in some ways. That was truly a learning experience for me—in more ways than one.

Revisions for the Academics (and Other Writers)

The above account should serve as reassurance for those submitting works into circulation (and many, many writers now are doing that on a regular basis), but this is also ideal for those in school—middle school, high school and college alike—especially now at a time when the semesters are winding down and final papers are due, whether they be research, essays or simply “what-I-did-last-summer” kind of presentations. All students should never underestimate the importance of revising their work–doing so or not doing so can mean the difference between failure and success.

With that in mind, how about a brief but challenging exercise? Below are a couple of text samples that require proofreading and revisions. This will not only be fun to do, but will also hone editing skills for those final papers due soon. Use not only the knowledge and tools you have acquired in school, but also your instincts. The latter will never fail you; if something doesn’t seem or sound right, chances are, it is not.

Sample 1:

Bagleys trip too the story for some mllk was going to be a simple one. Little did he know that when he left home, that trip would change his entire life.

Little did he no that when he got too the store, he never saw the gun the man had pointing at the clerk. After getting his milk, he walked rite into it. Bagley was quickly taken hostage with the gun pointed at his head. He sweated up a storm as he was forced into the truck waiting outside. Bagly thought he would never sea his family again.

” Whadda ya gonna do with me?” he asked wit a tremor in his voice.

“Shaddup!” the guy snapped, “or I’m gonna end it fer sure.”

Sample 2:

The Titannic sailed on April 11, 1912 from Southampton Engeland wit 2200 people on board. The captain was too retire soon, an he looked forward to his last trip at see. Little did he know upon sailing that it would be his last trip in more ways then one.

At 11 pm Sunday 16th after five days at sea, the titannic colided with an iceburg, puncturing a series of holes and popping rivets from her hull. The forward compartments we’re flooding really very quickly.

The captain went too the wirless room and instructed the operators to send out morse code in an attempt to contact other ships for help. No one was close—the titannic was doomed

In a matter of two an a half hours the titannic gradually sunk. breaking in too an falling to the ocean floor. Fifteen hundred people died that night, many of them children

The world will not forget the loss it was such a tradegy that changed the way men sail. Their are now lifboats for all so that all on board can bee saved.

The two samples above are distinctly different: the first is a piece of fiction, and the second a research account. Because of this, two separate approaches must be made. The obvious grammatical and spelling errors require attention, but both samples have other deeper considerations as well. For the second, a bit of research is warranted.

By the way, what other means can enhance the samples above? Can metaphors or additional foreshadows help? Are there any redundancies of any other nature? Can the text be condensed? In which way can vocabulary be used to enhance color and dynamic of each piece? Are elaborations necessary for either or both pieces? If so, how where and why?

Also, please keep in mind that these pieces, or excerpts, are more in the nature of drafts, so a lot of applied work, both seen and unseen, can improve them.

In any case, have at it. Feel free to share your thoughts on it if you would like. Any and all insight will help others.

NOTE: These samples are not meant to be condescending in the least. Many younger readers will find the grammatical, morphological, lexical and spelling issues a challenge. Please have some understanding and patience. Still, there are deeper issues that will appeal to both high-school students and college students. Thanks.

Posted in Editing, General Commentaries, Personal Experiences, Research, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | 4 Comments »

Writing Review and Quiz #1

Posted by CW64 on July 27, 2010

Whether or not you have been reading the blog thus far, you will find this review and follow-up quiz challenging, as not all the questions pertain to the content of the existing posts here. As fair warning, the questions get gradually more thought-provoking.

Don’t worry – no ‘grades’ will be assigned; this is merely for the sake of knowledge. I will throw in such an exercise every now and then to keep you on your toes.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and share your own knowledge. Everyone should find this as both a learning and a teaching experience.


1) Which of the following is/are (a) subject(s) to a sentence?

a) on the lawn
b) Tommy’s hat
c) Live on the edge
d) The just and the mighty
e) a & b
f) a & d
g) b & d
h) c & d

2) The following is/are (a) complete sentence(s):

a) America’s red, white and blue
b) Lindsey is
c) John plays softball well
d) Lost and bewildered
e) a & b
f) a & d
g) b & c
h) c & d

3) The following is/are (a) predicate(s):

a) over the river and through the woods
b) passed into eternity
c) regarding Billy’s opinion
d) am
e) a & b
f) a & c
g) b & c
h) b & d

4) Which of the following is/are syntactically incorrect?

a) In the light of day, problems seem worst
b) Lost and scared, the deer in the headlights
c) Jimmy, somewhat oafish, has a hard time meeting girls
d) When all is said and done, everyone dies in the end
e) a & b
f) b & c
g) b & d
h) c & d

5) Which of the following is/are (a) dependent clause(s)?

a) of whom I knew well
b) in the closet
c) farther than the eye could see
d) but laughed out loud when she watched the clowns perform
e) a & d
f) c & d
g) all of the above
h) none of the above

6) The subject of a sentence always has an article:


7) Fill in the blank: The four types of sentences are: the simple sentence, the compound sentence, the complex sentence and the ____________________________________ sentence.

a) coordinate
b) extended
c) compound-complex
d) lateral

8 ) Why is the commonly-used combination “would of” incorrect?

a) because a conditional verb and a preposition do not go together
b) because the two words require a hyphenation
c) because conditionals require the auxiliary verb “have” to make sense
d) because the similarity in sound does not equate to similarity in meaning, even if the incorrect form is somehow understood
e) a, b & c
f) a, b & d
g) a, c & d
h) b, c & d

9) (One) example(s) of a modifier would be . . .

a) Stereophonic
b) In light blue
c) Lasting until sunset
d) Janet’s
e) a & b
f) a & d
g) all the above
h) none of the above

10) What is true regarding the following sentence?

“All flared up, the soldiers lay down their weapons.”

a) it is a syntactically ironic statement
b) it is a simple sentence
c) it contains more than one modifier
d) the soldiers are no longer armed
e) a & c
f) b & c
g) all the above
h) none of the above

11) Which of the following is an example of a syllepsis?

a) I came/I saw/I conquered
b) Neither she nor I am in the mood to cook tonight
c) Ted wants his coffee
d) But Janie still went
e) a & b
f) a & c
g) b & d
h) c & d

12) Which of the following illustrates an anadiplosis?

a) She’s not unattractive
b) We follow you, not you follow us
c) Maxine hates John, therefore she loves him
d) All are here/all are waiting/all are ready to go
e) In the end, he was dead, dead and buried, buried and forever gone


13) An exclamation mark denotes:

a) an interrogative
b) a yell
c) a whisper
d) sarcasm in written dialogue
e) a & b
f) a & c
g) c & d
h) none of the above

14) The main use(s) of a semicolon are:

a) to fuse two related clauses or sentences, and to separate elements of a series when one or more elements contains internal punctuation
b) to indicate a pause at the end of a paragraph
c) to indicate thought in description when it is embedded in the narrative
d) to set off a tone of a sentence when the emotions of a speaker are not identified.

15) An ellipsis signifies . . .

a) a trailing of thought
b) an unmentioned or implied continuation of ideas or elements in a series
c) an introductory lead into an additional body of information related to a premise
d) a pause in casual writing
e) a & b
f) a & c
g) all of the above
h) none of the above

16) Why is a comma incorrect between two complete sentences?

a) because complete sentences should be separated by a period
b) because a comma between two complete sentences forms a run-on
c) because commas should be reserved for separating elements in a series
d) because the separation of two independent clauses requires a semicolon when a period isn’t used
e) a, b & d
f) b, c & d
g) all of the above
h) none of the above

17) Which of these is/are not an element of punctuation?

a) an anaphora
b) a semicolon
c) a hyphen
d) a litotes
e) a & c
f) a & d
g) c & d
h) none of the above (meaning: they all are)

18) It’s improper to place a semicolon between two independent clauses, but not between two dependent clauses.


19) A hyphen . . .

a) sets off highlights of a particular term or phrase, such as in emphasis
b) sets off a clause not pertinent to the main meaning of a sentence but adding important information just the same.
c) joins two words to create a term bearing a distinct meaning related to the premise or statement to which it is applied
d) indicates an interruption in written dialogue
e) a & b
f) b & c
g) all of the above
h) none of the above

20) Which of the following hyphen-bearing passages is/are punctually correct?

a) Jan is the middle of three children; she is the second-oldest
b) Clowns are such a joy to watch – their goofy behavior and colorful outfits intend to make everyone laugh and feel good
c) Chances are that –
d) Nancy – who, by the way, had three kids now of adult age – was greatly liked and had many friends
e) a, b & d
f) b, c & d
g) all of the above
h) none of the above


21) Hermeneutic:

a) explanatory
b) diseased
c) stagnant
d) religious

22) Punctilious:

a) messy
b) erroneous
c) observant
d) rebellious

23) Endemic:

a) allergic
b) stigmatic
c) strategic
d) distinctive

24) Efficacious:

a) contagious
b) effective
c) irritating
d) lacking

25) Chromatic

a) pertaining to metal
b) pertaining to color
c) pertaining to detail
d) pertaining to baldness

26) Miscegenation:

a) infection
b) ignorance
c) crossbreeding
d) lacking emotion

27) equable:

a) even
b) fair
c) inflated
d) stable

28) Assiduous:

a) diligent
b) asinine
c) oblivious
d) late

29) Anfractuous:

a) broken
b) ambiguous
c) complicated
d) distant

30) Indolent:

a) rude
b) lazy
c) cold
d) obtuse

Posted in Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues | 4 Comments »

My Thriving Thirties: Rising Parallels . . .

Posted by CW64 on December 3, 2009

My thirties marked the rise of both my social life and my education. Both inspired my writing, and I found myself overwhelmed with very exciting and colorful ideas. This period was the ‘Golden Age’ of my life as a writer, which would carry on into my forties.

These ideas were based on people and experiences I had in East Lansing and faraway places.

In light of my advanced age (I was in my thirties, having transferred with my Associates degree late due to personal obligations in my twenties), I opted to stay in the graduate dorm so I would be closer to people my own age and level of experience. Although I was an upperclassman upon arrival, I wanted to spend time on campus to become familiar with the area before moving off campus. Everything is done in a process, and so it was at that time, when I took baby steps toward a greater end.

The memory and influence of people I met there would stay with me for years to come. Big John, a multilingual graduate student my age who had an affinity with Russia and had a penchant for figuring things out on intuition; Max, a flamboyant homosexual who was a few years older than I was (he was comfortable with himself and didn’t hide his orientation by any means); Will, a black TA of French, who was a year younger, loved his porn, and spent a lot of time on his laptop; Juan, from Spain, who was also a year younger and would be remembered for his hearty laugh; Diane, the bluebird-like 23-year-old girlfriend of a medical student  acquaintance (I knew a few; they’d pop into view once in a great while); Alex, an alcoholic painter with a ‘Jekyll-and-hyde’ disposition; Laura, his sunny-yet-spicy girlfriend, a lover of incense, Bob Dylan, antiques, who wore her heart on her sleeve; Ron, a graduate student in Advertising who bore a striking resemblance to Kenny G. and could smell a band a mile away; and Christine, a young 22-year-old spitfire who worked on the front line in the cafeteria. She was an undergrad and lived in the women’s dorm next door. With her, whether I liked it or not, my interest was more than friendship, although I never shared that with her.

My relationship with this last one is that which inspired The Long Road, a three-part short story about the passage of time and the coming home with a renewed perspective on life. Despite its connections with reality, this piece is not creative non-fiction; the work features fictional characters and events that were based on actual experiences. This recounts the rising parallels of my social development at the time and my increased motivation to/focus on fiction/journal writing.

I felt accepted into some folds and was still disregarded by others. Gossip was never my thing, and for good reason; personal dislikes were not always overt or expressed by every party involved. My apparent acceptance by others, though, kept me strong and solid. 

My life burst open and flourished. Drinking and shooting pool (a carry-over to Ringers), volleyball on the beach, picnics, museums, enjoying the art festival in the streets of East Lansing every summer, going to the movies—all formed particular friendships that added dimension to my life and guided me with insight into the social world.

Island of Fire, one of my first novel attempts, illustrates some of these relationships and how they both benefited me and caused trouble in my life. The story is fictional, analogous to reality in an abstract way, as none of the accounts in the story actually happened, nor were they similar to any real-life experiences. Thirteen college students trapped on a supposedly deserted island might be a common idea, but the unique twist can be seen in that the conflicts of the story lie within the contrast between the characters and the friction inherent in their respective relationships. This is how it was for me at the time.

Gradually, my friends went their separate ways, but they never left me; they are a part of me even today, including Christine.  I graduated in May of 1996, but I stayed in the neighborhood with an older family friend who, to my surprise, had been living nearby. I worked in the University Apartments maintenance over the summer and full-time in a convenience store in Lansing the following fall while living in a flop house among a host of aged derelicts that included a pot-bellied Bible-thumper who always wandered around in his sagging underwear (oh joy!). This was my attempt to gain some independence amidst my financial struggles (one cannot live on one’s own by working retail, unless one shares rent with another). However, even $227 a month was barely making it, and I didn’t last more than four months. Christine was kind enough to give me a ride home, ninety miles to suburban Detroit. We loaded up her brand new car to the brim (it was a miracle, but we did it), and headed out. That was the day I introduced her to my sister and mother.

The unfortunate inevitability came six months later. Her mother told me that Christine wanted me to go away. Indeed, this confused me, but I respected it. Supposedly, according to her mother, Chris had met a state lawyer and felt compelled to move in with him. Whether or not this was actually based on truth, it is another point on which I elaborate in The Long Road.

Any interest I had in women was wiped away, and this is how it remained till the present day.

There I was: back home again, with my college days behind me, and I was looking forward. To what, I didn’t know. I subbed in middle and high schools for a year and a half, along with tutoring English, Algebra and Spanish. Both subbing and tutoring were rewarding, and I knew they would serve well to help me get into graduate school. Their inconsistent nature and low pay forced me to abandon them and seek work elsewhere. I did—back in retail.

My life, at that point, was a tight focus on certain priorities, such as making money, but I never gave up on writing, despite the number of hours I put in at the gas station; writing, as always, was a priority of mine.’

The insight I gained throughout my thirties increased my self-confidence and determination, and I knew that all I needed to do was continue writing, regardless of what else I was doing at the time. As long as I did that, I knew I would eventually find success.

I was in my late-thirties, and I didn’t stop . . .

Next, the final chapter: My Professional Forties . . . .


Posted in Fiction, General Commentaries, Historical Accounts, Novels, Personal Experiences, Short Stories, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues | Leave a Comment »