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English and Grammar

English Review of World Poetry

284 177 Deborah

Overview

Forms of poetry exist all over the world, some predating writing. Poems are written in specific forms from the Far East through Persia and Arabia, using specific features of the culture and language. For example, the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in Sumeria in the third millennium BCE, uses common features of Sumerian language and thought. Hebrew poetry such as the Song of Deborah dates from the 12th century BCE. It is built around a call-and-response style known as parallelism, while poetry from many lands uses acrostics and arrangement of first letters per line.

Poetry in China

There are many different types of poetry in China. The oldest known poem book is called the Shijing (Classic of Poetry), written in many forms until 700 BCE. It contains folk songs, poetry of the Imperial Court, and songs to worship the ancestors. The Chu Ci (Songs of the South) date from 158 CE and include lyric poetry and poems about nature. Modern poetry, rather than follow strict rules of the Chinese language, is written in free verse. Like poetry in English, poetry in Chinese is written and performed in many different styles.

Poetry in Japan

Japanese poetry focuses on the number of sound-units in a line rather than rhyme, using the tonal and internal features of the language. The earliest poetry followed the Chinese form, but by the 680 CE, new forms came into being. Tanka are structured in a 5-7, 5-7-7 pattern and are not usually rhymed. Haiku are shorter, in a 5-7-5 pattern, often about nature or the seasons.

Persian Poetry

The Persian language group includes the areas around Iran, Turkey, the Caucasus, western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and northern India. Some of the most famous poets include Rumi and Omar Khayyam. Rumi lived in the 13th century CE, and wrote poetry in a style called ghazal. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was translated into English in 1859. The ghazal is a type of rhyming poem that has refrains, and the Rubaiyat is arranged in units of four lines.

Arabic Poetry

Arabic poetry has a long oral tradition, and classical poetry is most often rhymed. Narrative poetry, romantic poetry, and odes are common traditional forms. The One Thousand and One Nights of Scheherazade consists of interlocking stories, written in romantic verse. Modern Arabic poetry is written in many different forms and on a wider range of topics.

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English Review of Types of Poetry

381 132 Deborah

Overview

Poetry is based upon aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, and exists across all cultures of the world.  Some say that poems, like music, came before literacy, and poetic tales made important facts easier to remember.  There are hundreds of subtypes of poetry, and some types include narrative poetry, epic poetry, lyric poetry, and free verse.

Rhythm and Meter

Languages, including English, have rhythm.  Poets manipulate the natural timing of their language, as expressed by stressed and unstressed syllables, to emphasize the pattern within a poem.  For example, Shakespeare often wrote in a rhythm called iambic pentameter, which has five metric feet per line.  Think of the rhythm and time signature within a song.  Some music has a ¾ or 6/8 rhythm, while others have a 4/4, 7/12, or even other signatures.  Similarly, poets have used different types of rhythm and meter, and some do not stick to one meter within a poem.

Repetition

Some of the other ways poets use repetitive patterns is by rhyming words, either at the end of the line or in the middle, in predictable locations.  Words may be hard or exact rhymes, such as moon, boon, and noon, or they may be soft, almost-rhyming words, such as wing and caring.  Some rhymes are in the reader’s or listener’s imagination, as “This sugar is neat; it tastes so sour.”  The reader expects to hear the word sweet and rhymes the word sour.  (Perhaps there is lemon juice or vinegar added to the sugar, so it’s a surprise.)  Other forms of repetition include alliteration, assonance, and consonance.  Alliteration is the repetition of sounds at the beginning of words, such as bike and book, assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, such as boat and loan, and consonance is the repetition of consonants such as tell and wall.

Form

Poetry is written in many different forms. Classical sonnets have very specific requirements for rhyme and number of lines.  A sonnet, by definition, has fourteen lines, and those lines rhyme in a specific pattern. Sonnets have been part of poetry from the 13th century, and Shakespeare wrote many of the most famous ones.  A villanelle has nineteen lines that rhyme in a specific pattern and has many refrains.  Many types of free verse do not rhyme at all, and poets experiment with new forms daily.  Some modern poets experiment with the forms of words to create an actual picture.

Genres

Poets have used many different genres throughout the ages.  Narrative poetry passed down stories, sometimes in the form of ballads.  Epic poetry told the adventures of heroes.  These genres were used to pass down knowledge and belief through the generations, and some predated written language, or was a valuable tool when many people could not read.  Lyric poetry, rather than tell a story, depicts inner feelings, moods, and desires.

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English Review of Types of Nonfiction

240 151 Deborah

Overview

There are also a number of types (or genres) of nonfiction, including biography, essays, history, and reports.  Nonfiction differs from fiction in that nonfiction deals with accurate reporting of events, while fiction creates imaginary events.  Much of the writing that students do is nonfiction, whether in essays, reports, or papers.

Biography and Autobiography

A biography is a detailed, factual description of a person’s life, often a famous person.  It might be as short as an article or as long as a book or several volumes. An autobiography is written by the author, sometimes with another writer (especially if the person is a celebrity).  It goes beyond a brief outline to give a portrait of the individual.

History and Science

The stories of famous events and famous places are the basis of articles and books about history.  Some events might be in the ancient past, such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia, or in records left from prehistoric times in South America or in Africa.  Other events might be in more recent times, and include writing about artifacts and written records dating from those times.  Science writing is also in articles and books.  Sometimes scientists explain their findings in books written for people who are not scientists, such as the many books by physicist Stephen Hawking.  Sometimes people who are not scientists describe scientific achievements.

Essays

Essays, like other forms of nonfiction, may be as brief as the answer to an essay question on a test or as long as a focused opinion piece.  There are many different formal structures to essays, including cause and effect, compare and contrast, descriptive essays, and argumentative essays.  They are an important type of writing in many schools and colleges, throughout education.

Reports

Reports can be as short as a blurb in a newspaper or magazine, or as long as a book.  Students write reports during all the school years, from the earliest reports on field trips and books, through year-long reports about field projects or study trips.  In addition, reports are valuable outside school, in the workplace, and about activities in agencies.

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English Review of Types of Fiction

269 187 Deborah

Overview

There are many different types or genres of fiction.  Some of the most common types include adventure fiction, historical fiction, romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror.  Some people love to read only one type of fiction, such as adventure stories, mysteries, or science fiction, and libraries often shelve books in sections, so that borrowers can pick their favorite type of fiction to read.  However, students are often expected to try writing all different types of fiction in school.

Adventure Fiction

Adventure stories feature action as their main conflict, and often involve the main characters in a conflict against nature.  Stories are often set in stark and dangerous places, for example, climbing mountains, being lost at sea, spelunking in caves, plane crashes, and so on.  Some of those stories and novels have been made into movies or TV shows, such as the Bourne series, made from the novels of Robert Ludlum.  Thrillers, such as the spy novels of John Le Carre and Ian Fleming, are another genre of adventure fiction.

Mysteries

Mysteries focus on solving crime, usually murder or a series of murders.  The detective might be a member of the police force, an independent consultant such as Sherlock Holmes or Kinsey Millhone, or an unlikely crime-solver such as Miss Jane Marple or Nero Wolfe.  Readers keep reading to catch the clues and find the murderer.  The story might focus on police procedures and set in a precinct office, or it may focus on the process within the courtroom, such as novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, with Perry Mason, or more recent novels, such as the Inspector Lynley novels of P. D. James, or the courtroom dramas of John Grisham.

Romance/Historical Fiction

Romantic fiction includes many subcategories, such as romantic suspense, romantic Gothic novels, and modern romance.  Stories focus on relationships, and include a lot of unusual settings.  Some popular novelists in this genre include Jude Devereaux, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Nora Roberts.  Historical fiction generally puts characters in historical settings, from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, to the 1800s, and focuses on how people lived, what they did, and what challenges they faced.  Not all historical fiction is romance, but some romances are set in the past.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Science fiction is based on science and often set in the future or on distant planets.   Some writers develop entire galactic empires, such as the Foundation series started by Isaac Asimov.  Some visions of the future are benign, while others are dark and foreboding.   There are many popular authors who write in this category, from Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, to Sheri S. Tepper and Roger Zelazny.  Fantasy uses magical elements, mythological creatures, and arcane settings.  The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, novels and short stories by Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Anne McCaffrey are all examples of this genre.

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English Review of Paragraphs

150 150 Deborah

Overview

Individual sentences express complete thoughts, and individual paragraphs support main ideas.  The development of paragraphs flows naturally to the development of arguments to support a central idea.

Paragraph Length

All the sentences in a paragraph support one main idea.   Suppose a journalist were writing an article about a city meeting.  She may choose to start the article “The City Council held a meeting at City Hall on February 2 at 7 PM to take recommendations for the location of the new building for the Boys and Girls Club.”  The chairman of the local Boys and Girls Club would like it in the same area in Smallville, while the owner of property in Gotham City wants the new building built on their land.   However, a student writing an essay for their government class might use the same meeting information, but slant it in a different way.  “The City Council holds regular meetings every two weeks to ensure public input on issues important to the community.  Last month, they held public meetings to discuss funding for the new library. The most recent meeting was to discuss the location of the new Boys and Girls Club building.   The proposed agenda for their next meeting will continue discussion of its funding.”

Relating Main Ideas to Central Themes

The central theme of an article or a nonfiction essay is often called a “thesis statement.”  The newspaper article has the central theme recommendations for possible locations.  For example, the chairman of the Smallville Boys and Girls Club wants it in the existing location.  The property owner in Gotham City wants it built on their property.  Another sentence might discuss the proposal by the chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce to build the Boys and Girls Club near the ball fields at the edge of town.  In contrast, the government paper has the central theme of different types of City Council meetings in the community.   The City Council held one meeting to discuss public input into library funding, one to discuss the location of the Boys and Girls Club building, and one to discuss how the new building will be funded.  The main idea of each paragraph will relate back to that central theme or argument.

Narration in Paragraphs

Paragraphs can be organized as narration or description. The first paragraph of the newspaper article is an example of narration.  The first sentence tells who had the meeting (the City Council and the public), where and when the meeting took place (City Hall, February 2, at 7 PM), what (the meeting), as well as why (proposals for the location of the new building).  The chairperson of the Smallville Boys and Girls Club spoke first, then the landowner, then the chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce, and so on.  A descriptive paragraph might tell the reasons why the chairperson of the Boys and Girls Club wants the new building at the existing location.  The existing location is in a safe place, with plenty of outdoor lighting.  It is easy to get to by biking, walking, or riding the bus.  It is close to the middle school, but it is away from places where people live, so kids can make noise without a lot of complaints from neighbors.

Process in Paragraphs

Some paragraphs describe a step-by-step process.  For example, when a building is built, first a plan is made, then the location is excavated, then the foundation is poured, and so forth.  Other types of paragraphs describe classifications.  One sentence can describe public meetings, another, the city newsletter, another, televised reports from each city department, and still another, legal notices in the daily paper.

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English Review of Sentences

150 150 Deborah

Overview

A sentence is a group of words that form a complete thought.  There are different types of sentences depending on what they contain.

Complete Sentence

Students are often asked to write answers to essay questions in complete sentences.  A complete sentence has a noun that acts as a subject, and a verb that is either an action or a state of being.  Suppose students are reading a book chapter in chemistry about the periodic table.  They are asked to use complete sentences to describe it.  One student might write “The periodic table contains metals, nonmetals, and transition elements.”  Notice that the sentence has a subject and a verb.

 

Phrases and Clauses

Phrases cannot stand alone, because they do not contain a complete thought.  If the phrase is the yellow cat, what is it doing?  Is it sitting on the step, or is it chasing a squirrel?  Similarly, suppose the phrase is “flying an airplane.”  Who is flying the airplane and where is it going?  The answer might be different if the pilot is flying the airplane along the Polar Route, or the hijacker is flying the airplane into the desert.  If the sentence isn’t complete, there’s not enough information.

Kinds of Sentences

Sentences are classified based on the amount of information they contain.  A simple sentence has only a noun and a verb, with one clause.  “The cat ran across the backyard.”  The phrase “across the backyard” describes one thing, where the cat ran.  A compound sentence has two or more separate clauses, such as “The cat ran across the backyard, and the dog barked. “  Those clauses are joined by a conjunction, such as or, and, or but.  A complex sentence has one relative clause, such as “The cat, which was carrying a squirrel in its mouth, ran across the backyard.”  A complex-compound sentence has at least one relative clause, as well as two separate clauses.  “The dog, which was lying in the sun while gnawing a bone, barked; and the cat streaked across the backyard, when the car revved its engine.”

Purposes of Sentences

Declarative sentences tell a complete thought.  The dog barked.  The sun rose.  The bell tolled.  They end with a period, and are the most common types of sentences.  Interrogative sentences ask questions, and end with question marks.  Why is the sky blue?  What is the weather like?  Where are you going?  Exclamatory sentences show excitement, and end with exclamation points.  That was the best movie of the year!  I hate weeds!  Spring is coming!  Imperative sentences are commands, and usually omit the subject “you.”  Make it so.  Drive on.

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English Review of Basic Writing Structures

150 150 Deborah

Overview

Writers use basic structures to put their ideas in order and present them. Some of those basic structures include chronological, sequential, comparative, causal (or cause-and-effect), categorical, and evaluative.
Chronological and Sequential
The simplest way to order ideas is to present them as they happen in time, with a beginning, middle, and end. Most stories and novels follow this sequence, with early events followed by later events. For example, an essay on the growth of industry may discuss developments in the 1700s, followed by events in the 1800s, and events in the 1900s. Another related structure is sequential, where items are discussed from step to step (or sometimes in reverse). Suppose a writer is discussing how to play Pokemon Go as a beginner to the game. First, he or she might talk about signing up for the game; then, choosing and customizing the avatar; next, entering the animated map; then traveling to stops in the real world in order to capture each Pokemon. Writers will give transition clues in this structure with words such as first, second, third, next, and finally.

Comparative

Comparative structure is used to compare and contrast ideas, and often the most relevant ideas are discussed first, with the others discussed afterwards. This structure may be used when answering a “compare and contrast” essay. Suppose the writer were asked to compare and contrast igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. He or she might discuss the ways they are similar in composition and structure, before describing differences in the way each type of rock is formed. Writers also use comparative structure when comparing and contrasting ideas for a debate, to explain why their side of the argument is stronger than that of the opposing side.

Casual

Writers develop this structure to describe causes and effects. For example, a writer may develop an essay on air pollution by discussing the different chemicals that cause air pollution, as well as how those chemicals are produced, before discussing the health and environmental effects of air pollution. Causes are discussed before effects, and writers may also discuss the solutions to the problem.

Categorical and Evaluative

In categorical writing, the order of ideas is less important than in the other types. For example, a writer is writing about different types of trucks. They may choose to write about GMC trucks, then Ford trucks, or Ford trucks, then GMC trucks. Similarly, in evaluative writing, writers may choose to present arguments for a particular position, against a particular position, and neutral to that position, or in any other order.

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English Review of Transitions

150 150 Deborah

Overview

One of the ways to help the reader understand the points made or the direction the argument is going is by the use of transitions.  Transition words and phrases signal illustration, contrast, continuation, or conclusion.

Illustration

One of the ways to develop an idea is by illustrating examples.  They add more information about a thesis, reinforcing it, agreeing with material that has gone before. For example, many people say that summer is their favorite season.  First, the weather is pleasant, so that people can get outdoors and enjoy favorite activities.  Second, some people have vacations during the summer, so they can travel to other places like the beach.  In addition, people can dress more casually and comfortably. Words and phrases such as first, second, for instance, and for example, signal to the reader that the illustrations continue the previous idea.

Contrast

However, another way to develop an idea is by using contrasting examples.  Contrast shows that there is another way of looking at an idea by pointing out alternatives, changing direction.  On the other hand, other people prefer winter, because they can take part in winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, or ice skating.  In contrast, winter vacations can be less expensive and destinations less crowded.  Unlike the heat of summer, the cool of winter brings the beauty of blanketing snow.  Words and phrases such as on the other hand, in contrast, unlike, otherwise, and however signal contrast to the reader.

Continuation

Writers can also continue with earlier points made in the essay.  Transition words such as especially, furthermore, and moreover allow the reader to stop and consider further points.  Some people especially like summer because of the long, sunny days, allowing them more time to spend outdoors.  The warm weather allows many crops, such as corn, peas, strawberries, and raspberries to grow and ripen.

Conclusion

During the conclusion, the writer summarizes and restates the points made in the essay.  Transition words and phrases such as in conclusion, finally, as a result, and after all signal the reader that the argument is coming to a close.  In conclusion, people prefer a particular season of the year because that season contains their preferred weather and activities.

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English Review of Spelling

150 150 Deborah

Overview

Although sounds many sound the same in English, they may be spelled differently.  Therefore, many words that sound similar may be spelled very differently, and any English spelling rule is likely to have exceptions.

Same Sound, Different Spelling

Many similar sounds are expressed by different combinations of letters.  For example, the long a as in mate is spelled ai in wait, ay in tray, ei in reign, et in bouquet, ey in whey, and é as in cliché.  The broad a in father is spelled as au in pause, al in qualm, o in foster, and ou in bought.  The long e is spelled e in cedar, ee in seek, ea in feat, and ei in ceiling.  The sound of the consonant f is spelled f in flee, but gh in laugh, ff in off, and ph in phone.  The sound of the diphthong sh is spelled sh in shoe, but ch in chute, ci in suspicion, sci in conscience, ssi in mission, and ti in elation.

Final Consonants

Final consonants are doubled if the suffix begins with a vowel when the word has one syllable or if the last syllable is accented.  The root word has a vowel and then a single consonant other than w, x, or y.  For example, bag becomes baggage, begin becomes beginning, sit becomes sitting, equip becomes equipped, wit becomes witty, and plan becomes planned.  While transfer becomes transferred, transfer becomes transferable, an exception to the rule.  If the final consonants are preceded by two vowels, such as boat and boating, the final consonant is not doubled.

Final E

Words that end in silent e omit the e when the suffix begins with a vowel, such as argue becomes arguing, give becomes giving, live becomes living, write becomes writing.  However, notice becomes noticeable and does not drop the e, manage becomes manageable, and change becomes changeable.  Eye becomes eyeing, dye becomes dyeing, and singe becomes singeing.  If a word ends in silent e and the suffix begins with a consonant, the e stays, such as encouragement, extremely, lonely, and useful.  However, there are exceptions, such as truly, argument, acknowledgment, and judgment.

I before E

The spelling rhyme is “I before E except after C, or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh.”  Many words follow this rule, such as ceiling, receive, receipt, believe, grief, sieve, and relieve.  There are many exceptions, such as counterfeit, foreign, height, neither, seize, and weird.

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English Review of Expressing Numbers

150 150 Deborah

Overview

Rules for how numbers are expressed in print depend on the formality of the writing task.  When writing is very formal, such as in a book or essay, numbers are spelled out as words.  In less formal writing or in letters, numbers are often expressed as numerals.  When using a specific style, such as APA or MLA, the rules for numbers are determined by the context and how they are most clear.

Numbers in Formal Writing

In formal writing, numbers are written out as words, such as in the sentence, “The largest Roman amphitheaters had as many as forty thousand seats, but many of them were destroyed in the fifth century.” Similarly, round numbers, numbers from one to ten, and round numbers greater than one thousand are also written in words, such as seven hundred miles, almost a million board feet of lumber, in the eighteen hundreds, one thousand one hundred and ninety-five.

Numbers in Letters and Reports

In letters or reports, the same numbers that were written in words in formal writing are often written in numbers, such as in the sentence, “We visited a Roman amphitheater that had more than 39, 000 seats.”  However, if numbers are used to begin a sentence in either formal or informal writing, the numbers are spelled out in words, as in the sentence, “Four classrooms had a total of 160 students.”  It is better to recast the sentence so that it does not begin with a numerical value, such as “The fire destroyed over 1700 acres” rather than “1700 acres were destroyed by the fire.”

Numbers in APA Style

Numbers from one to ten are expressed in words, but numbers greater than ten are written in numerals, so that “Subjects included 13 girls and seven boys.”  Numerals can also express time, such as 16 seconds, dates such as January 25, 2016, or ages, such as 27.

Numbers in MLA Style

Numbers that can be written in one or two words, such as “from one to ten” or “There were more than five hundred new words introduced” are written out in words.  However, large exact numbers are written as numerals, such as “More than 356 new varieties were named in the catalog.”

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