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Saturday, September 24, 2011

IM Disease

IM Disease, a deadly virus, first surfaced a a decade and a half ago, attacking people of all ages and all walks in life, and has since spread to all parts of the world.  Showing up with the advent of ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, etc., Instant Message Disease causes patients to soon lose the ability to punctuate, capitalize, and spell as they use the computer to communicate.  IM Disease is resistant to many medications, and continues to spread, particularly throughout the teenage population, as they now spend inordinate amounts of time texting on their cell phones.

Treatment involves practice writing papers for classes and conscious thought.  Attention to detail is vital for a full recovery, so following are some grammar rules for capitalization:

1.  Capitalize a title belonging to a particular person if it precedes the person's name.  If a title stands alone or follows a person's name, capitalize it only if it refers to a high official or to someone to whom you wish to show special respect.


Coach Matta; Thad Matta, basketball coach; the coach; a coach

Admiral Watkins; Admiral James D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Operations; an admiral

the Speaker of the House; the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Prince of Wales; the Attorney General; the Mayor of New York

*Some titles are capitalized if they refer to a particular person or are used in place of a person's name.  This if often true when titles are used in sentence of direct address.


The Governor signed the bill.
A governor is an elected official.
Are you retiring at the end of this term, Professor?
A new professor will be appointed in his place.

*The word president is always capitalized when it refers to the head of a nation; the compound word vice-president is capitalized (with two capital letters) when it refers to the Vice-President of a nation.

*Do not capitalize ex -, -elect, former, or late when they are used with a title:  ex-Governor Welsh, the President-elect, former Congressman Hill, the late Senator Humphrey

*The rules governing titles of honor or position also apply, in general, to words indicating family relationships, such as mother, father, grandmother, sister, brother, aunt.  Such words are capitalized whey they precede a name:  Uncle Ed, Cousin Amy.  They may be capitalized when they are used in place of a person's name, especially in direct address:  "Did you play tennis today, Mother?"  When used alone, they are usually not capitalized:  Margo has one sister and two brothers.

*Do not capitalize a word indicating relationship when it follows a possessive noun or pronoun unless it is considered a part of the name:  Mrs. Graham's son, my sister Sally, but my Aunt Catherine.

2.  Capitalize the first word, the last word, and all important words in the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, articles, historical documents, laws, works of art, movies, and television programs.


The Catcher in the Rye
the Tribune
"Interview with the President"
the Declaration of Independence
National War Powers Act
Kennedy-Ives Bill
Twenty-fifth Amendment
Star Wars
"Sesame Street"

Please continue to communicate with your friends and family via an instant messenger, but remember, you need to know the differences in language and when to use which form.  An essay on a college application or a business communication with another company is not the time to flaunt IM Disease and use Non-Standard English that you probably use with instant messages to your bestie. 

Happy Writing!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Road Trip

I posted today's grammar rule in my personal blog which can be viewed here:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Variety Is the Spice of Life!

As the old adage goes, "Variety is the spice of life."  So, need a little oregano or thyme, or maybe cinnamon to spice up your writing?  What about paprika?  The perfect spice to enliven your writing, of course, is to use a variety of sentence structures.

Notice in the following paragraph that the writer has used a variety of sentence structures to add vitality to his writing.

(Reminder:  S =          Simple Sentence (one independent clause)
                    CD =        Compound Sentence (two or more independent clauses)
                    CX =        Complex Sentence (one independent clause + any number of subordinate clauses)
                    CD-CX = Compound-Complex Sentence (two or more independent clauses + any number of subordinate clauses)

George Willard, the Ohio village boy, was fast growing into manhood and new thoughts had been coming into his mind. (CD)  All that day, amid the jam of people at the Fair, he had gone about feeling lonely. (S)  He was about to leave Winesburg to go away to some city where he hoped to get work on a city newspaper and he felt grown-up.  (CD-CX)  The mood that had taken possession of him was a thing known to men and unknown to boys. (CX)  He felt old and a little tired. (S)  Memories awoke in him.  (S)  To his mind his new sense of maturity set him apart, made of him a half-tragic figure.  (S)  He wanted someone to understand the feeling that had taken possession of him after his mother's death.  (CX)

                                                                                                       ~Sherwood Anderson

When we first begin to write, we use simple sentences:  Next week we will stay after school.  The rehearsals for the spring play begin.  Maybe I will have a part in it. 

However, as we grow older and more mature in our thinking, we write more complicated sentences, in order to express our thoughts more effectively.  One sign of maturity in writing is the use of subordination, which will help you to write sentences that have greater clarity, smoothness, and force.

So spice up your writing with more than a dash of sentence variety, and mix together simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences to create the perfect piece.