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Friday, February 20, 2009

Interjections: The Nitty Gritty

Believe it or not, there are words that we use everyday that have no grammatical significance whatsoever. Syntactically, they do not exist. These marvels of communication are called interjections.

Interjections Defined

Interjections are words or short phrases used to show emotion and have no grammatical connection to the rest of the sentence.

Don't let the formal definition throw you off; we use these words all the time in casual conversation.  In fact, most people can't go a single day without uttering an interjection!  The following are a few examples:
  • Darn
  • Eh
  • Hey
  • Oh
  • Oops
  • Ta da
  • Well
  • Wow
  • Yay

Punctuating Interjections

What you might not have known (or perhaps have forgotten) is that interjections should always be set off by commas. They are, after all, non-essential to the sentence.*

Let's look at how the aforementioned interjections would be punctuated as part of a complete sentence:

Darn! I left the milk out on the counter again!
I'd like some rice and, oh, some broccoli too.
That Sharon is somethin' else, eh?

Notice in the preceding examples that interjections can occur anywhere in a sentence, not only in the beginning. Also note that they can be followed by a variety of punctuation marks. When being used as an exclamation of excitement (!) or as an interrogative word (?), it's not difficult to figure out which punctuation mark to follow the interjection with. The tricky part is remembering to set them off with commas when they occur inside a sentence.

The key to remembering to put those commas before and after interjections is to think about how interjections are actually spoken. Almost every time you use an interjection, you pause for a fraction of a moment before and after uttering it.

If I've helped even just one person understand what interjections are and how to punctuate them, this post will have been well worth it.

*Stay tuned for a post explaining non-essential sentence clauses!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Clichés Should Be Avoided

One of the hardest tasks any writer faces is coming up with the right words to accurately and completely describe a situation, person, or thing. Sometimes it may feel like no amount of time searching the recesses of your mind for obscure word pairings will result in finding just the right combination to fit your need.

Whatever you do, do NOT resort to using a cliché.

It may seem like an easy solution to the problem at hand, but using clichés in your writing is actually one of the worst things you can do. Here's why:

Clichés imply you lack the creativity to come up with something original.

Even using a bland combination of words to get your point across is better than giving a teacher, college/scholarship acceptance committee, or potential employer the impression that you are too unimaginative (or even lazy!) to come up with an original description.

The successful avoidance of clichés is a topic that cannot be contained within a single blog post.  Definitely expect to see more about how to navigate your way through (and find alternatives for) the old, worn-out phrases of the English language.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting in Touch With Me

Comments (both good and bad), suggestions, and questions are always welcome.  Feel free to e-mail me anytime at:

Monday, February 2, 2009

7 Great Citation Resources

Properly citing a source of information is something that seems to exist only in academia.  It doesn't have to (and shouldn't!) be that way. There are resources online that will create a perfectly formatted citation for you in considerably less time than it takes to look it up the old fashioned way.  If that's not appealing, I don't know what is!

These magical time-saving tools are called citation generators.

Why is a writing instructor endorsing the use of these tools? Because I don't care HOW you get the citations, just as long as you HAVE  them. The easier attributing a source becomes, the more people will start citing their references.

The following is a list (in no particular order) of web pages and applications that will help you cite sources in a variety of citation styles.

This online tool will let you cite in MLA, APA, CSE, and Chicago style. The variety of sources (e.g. cartoon, e-mail, MUD posting, musical composition, etc.) that you can choose from is almost too good to be true!
This automated citation generator is a little less intuitive than the others on this list. It offers MLA, APA, and Turabian styles.
Citation Maker Simple and easy to use, this tool will create MLA and APA style citations. Don't forget to save your work!
EasyBib This webpage will create an MLA style bibliography for you that you can then export to Word.
KnightCite Available only for MLA style citations, this tool covers almost every kind of source possible. Click on the resource options down the left-hand side column.
NoodleBib Express The Express version of NoodleBib is free to use to generate MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian citations. Not being able to save your work isn't a problem; just copy and paste the citations you generate into your document.
Zotero A behemoth of a research tool, this Firefox extension allows you to store, manage, and cite your sources.