Conventions of (American) English (Conventions of Language, Thinking and Writing Book 1)

Language Rules and Conventions

Need more help understanding conventions? We've got you covered with our online study tools. After you see the film Memoirs of a Geisha, please respond to the questions below in an essay format. Please, describe specifically the characters and how do you view them. In addition, try and find out the symbolism Review Part 1 Review: Three Basic Techniques of Quotation Integration: An assertion of your own and a colon followed by a quotation in a complete sentence 2.

convention | Definition of convention in English by Oxford Dictionaries

An introductory or closing phrase or dependent clause p An introductory or closing phrase or dependent clause plus a quotatio Which of the following is NOT a component of the self-serving bias? Top Literature solution manuals Get step-by-step solutions. The author's time and effort spent on writing will be repaid with the time and effort saved by the many readers. Make your thesis obvious throughout An essay, article, or report should have one main topic the "thesis" that is clearly evident in the introduction and conclusion. Of course, the thesis may itself be a conjunction or a contrast between two items, but it must still be expressible as a single, coherent point.

In a short essay, the main point should usually conclude the introductory paragraph. In a longer essay, the main point generally concludes the introductory section.

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The reader should never be in any doubt about what your thesis is; whenever you think it might not be absolutely obvious, remind the reader again. When in doubt, use the recipe: At each level, you need to tell the reader what you will be trying to say in this paragraph, section, etc. Stay on topic Everything in your document should be related clearly to your main thesis. You can write other papers later for anything else you might want to say.

The reason your reader is reading this particular paper of yours is that he or she wants to know about your main topic, not simply about everything you might want to say unless for some narcissistic reason "everything you might want to say" is your clearly stated main topic. Conversely, there is no need to bring up items simply because they relate to your main topic, if you do not have anything to say about them. If you do bring something up, say something important about it! Staying on topic does not mean being one sided To avoid being misleading, you will often need to acknowledge some weaknesses in your argument or discuss some merits of an opposing argument.

It is quite appropriate to discuss such opposing views when they are relevant, i. For instance, if you are reviewing a paper and arguing that it was not written well overall, it is usually a good idea to point out the few things that were done well, e. Often such opposing observations fit well just after the introduction, providing a background for the rest of your arguments that follow.

Whenever you do include such material, i. Jumping back and forth will confuse the reader unnecessarily. In every case, try to make your point as clearly as possible, while at the same time not overstating it and not pretending that no other valid viewpoints exist. Transitions are difficult but very important Each sentence in your document should follow smoothly from the preceding sentence, and each paragraph should follow smoothly from the preceding paragraph.

The world is arguably an unstructured jumble of ideas, but anything that you expect the reader to read from start to finish needs to be a linear progression along one single path. Transition words and phrases are what make it possible for a reader to follow you easily as you explore the various ideas in your paper. Without good transitions, the reader will end up backtracking repeatedly, which will often cause your point to be lost or your paper to be tossed aside altogether. One clue that your writing needs better transitions is if you find that you can cut and paste paragraphs from one section to another without doing substantial rewriting of how the paragraph begins and ends.

If making such rearrangements is easy, then you have not been linking your paragraphs into a coherent narrative that reads well from start to finish. In practice, making smooth transitions is very difficult. Learning to do it takes a lot of practice at first, and actually making the transitions smooth takes a lot of effort every time you write or revise something. One rule of thumb is that whenever you switch topics, you should try to provide a verbal clue that you are doing so, using transitions like "However, If you notice that you have to add these words between most of your sentences, not just the paragraphs, then you are bouncing around too much.

In that case you need to reorganize your document to group related thoughts together, switching topics only when necessary. Once the organization is good, all you can do is read and reread what you write, rewording it until each new item follows easily from those before it. Write what you mean, mean what you write Speakers use many informal, colloquial phrases in casual conversation, usually intending to convey meanings other than what the words literally indicate. For instance, we often speak informally of "going the extra mile", "at the end of the day", "hard facts", things being "crystal clear" or "pretty" convincing, someone "sticking to" a topic, readers being "turned off", something "really" being the case, etc.

Form, structure and language

Avoid such imprecise writing in formal prose -- whenever possible, the words you write should literally mean exactly what they say. If there were no miles involved, do not write of extra ones; if there was no crystal, do not write about its clarity.

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Among other benefits, avoiding such informal language will ensure that your meaning is obvious even to those who have not learned the currently popular idioms, such as those for whom English is a second language and those who might read your writing years from now or in another part of the world. Formal writing should be clear to as many people as possible, and its meaning should not depend on the whims of your local dialect of English.

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It is a permanent and public record of your ideas, and should mean precisely what you have written. Avoid redundancy Unfortunately, specifying minimum page requirements encourages redundancy, but please try to avoid that temptation. When two words will do, there is no need to use twenty. Whenever you finish a sentence or paragraph, read over it to see if any words or sentences can be eliminated -- often your point will get much stronger when you do so.

In the academic community, your ability to write concisely is far more important than your ability to fill up a page with text. Academic courses specify page minimums to ensure that you write an essay of the appropriate depth, not to test whether you can say the same thing a dozen different ways just to fill up space. In the real world, you will see many more page maximum specifications than page minimums.

Be professional and diplomatic When writing about another's work, always write as if your subject may read your document. Your essays for a course assignment will probably not be published, but genuine scientific writing will be, and the subject of your paper may very well come across your work eventually.

Thus it is crucial to avoid pejorative, insulting, and offensive terms like "attempt to", "a waste of time", "pointless", etc. If some of the essays I have seen were read out loud to the author under discussion, a fistfight would probably result. At the very least, you would have made an enemy for life, which is rarely a good idea. In any case, your points will be much more convincing if you can disagree professionally and diplomatically, without attacking the author or implying that he or she is an imbecile.

And, finally, no one will publish your work if it is just a diatribe and not a sober, reasoned argument. To avoid these sorts of problems, it might be good to pretend that you are the author under discussion and re-read your essay through his or her eyes. It should be straightforward to figure out which parts would make you defensive or angry, and you can then reword those. Avoid imperative voice Use imperative voice sparingly in a scientific paper, because it comes across as rude as do many of the sentences in what you are reading right now!

Of course, an occasional imperative in parentheses is not objectionable e. Document organization A formal document needs to be structured at all levels, whether or not the structure is made explicit using section labels or other visible clues. Overall structure The standard format for an effective essay or article is to: Using any other format for a formal article is almost invariably a bad idea. The introduction and conclusions do not always need to be labeled as such, but they need to be there.

Note that an abstract is no substitute for an introduction; abstracts act as an independent miniature version of the article, not part of the introduction. Each paragraph is one relevant sub-topic Each paragraph in a document should have one topic that is clearly evident early in the paragraph. Every paragraph should have a clear relationship to the main topic of your document; if not, either the paragraph should be eliminated, or the main topic should be revised. Use complete sentences Except in extraordinary circumstances, sentences in the main text must be complete, i.

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Note that most "-ing" words are not verbs. To be a sentence that you could use on its own followed by a period, it would have to be "The light turned green", which has both a subject and a verb. Put appropriate punctuation between sentences Two complete sentences can be divided with a period, question mark, or exclamation point, or they can be weakly connected as clauses with a semicolon. However, they can never be connected with a comma in formal writing! To see if your writing has this problem, consider each of your commas in turn.

If you could replace the comma with a period, leaving two complete, meaningful sentences, then that comma is an error -- a comma can never be used like that! Instead, replace the comma with a semicolon, in case you have two sentences that need to be linked in some generic way, or make the linkage explicit with a conjunction, or simply use a period, to leave two complete and independent sentences.

Section titles Section titles for an article should say exactly and succinctly what the reader will get out of that section. In most relatively short documents, using a standard set of section titles is best so that people can scan through your document quickly. Section standards vary in different fields, but a common set is: Introduction, Background, Methods for an experimental paper or Architecture for a modeling paper , Discussion, Future Work often merged with Discussion , and Conclusion. If you do not use the standard titles, e.

Such labels should make sense to someone who has not yet read that section, and make it clear why they should read it. For instance, a section about adding a second eye to a simulation of single-eye vision could truthfully be called "Multiple eyes", but that title is meaningless to someone scanning the document. Instead, it should be something like "Extending the model to explain stereo vision" whose meaning will be clear to the type of person likely to be reading the paper. Everything important goes in your introduction and conclusion Everyone who looks at your paper will at least skim the introduction and conclusion, and those who read it in depth will remember those two sections the best.

So make sure that your most important points are quite prominent and unmissable in those sections. Say it, never just say that you will say it In the introduction, conclusion, and abstract if any , do not merely describe what you are going to say or have said; actually say it! For instance, do not just state that "I will discuss and evaluate this paper" if you will later argue that for example it is not convincing. Instead state that the paper is unconvincing, and in brief why you believe that to be the case. Then you can elaborate on that point in subsequent paragraphs.

Subsections If you have sections 1, 1.

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The focus of this chapter is on Standard English Conventions, one of the two broad . Finally, while you may be used to thinking of language conventions as absolute . the writer mean that Michael gave Steven one of Michael's own books. You must not use: None of the books have been returned. The last example assumes that "none" equals "no one", even though it can be argued that none of the books has a plural meaning: The conventions of written English include such aspects as punctuation, the Think of the tools in the toolbox [.

If you have 1. Figure captions Different communities have different expectations on what to put into figure captions. Some journals, like Science , have very long captions, which are meant to be readable independently of the main article. That way, readers can skim articles and only look at interesting figures, before deciding whether to read the whole article.

In such cases, you must ensure that all of the main points of the figure are also mentioned in the text of the article, so that someone reading the article straight through will not miss them. Other journals and other publications like books, theses, and proposals tend to have very little in the caption, with the figures being understandable only when reading the main text. Even in such cases, I myself prefer to put all the graphical details like "the dotted line represents" in the caption, plus enough context so that the import of the figure is clear.

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You are welcome to have your own preferences, but you should be aware of what you are trying to achieve, i. Word-level issues Try hard to avoid ambiguous references Conversation is replete with ambiguous words like "this", "these", "his", "it", "they", etc. These words have no meaning in themselves, but in conversation the meaning is usually clear from the context. In written text, however, the intended meaning is quite often not evident to the reader, because there are e.

It is a good idea to read over anything you write, searching for this sort of word. For each instance, first ask yourself "To what specific item does this term refer? For such a reference to make sense, the object, person, or concept must have been explicitly mentioned just prior to your reference. Often you will find that "it" or "they" refers to something vague that was not even discussed explicitly in your paper, in which case you should reword your text entirely. Even if the item to which you refer is explicitly mentioned in your paper, ask yourself whether there is any chance that the reader might not know to which of several items you might be referring.

If so then state the actual name of each; "he" would be ambiguous. Often an ambiguous "this" or "these" can be disambiguated by adding a noun that specifies precisely the type of object or concept to which you are referring. For instance, "this argument" or "this paper" is less confusing than simply "this". That is, do not use "this" followed directly by a verb phrase, but you can use "this" before a noun phrase, as in "this sentence is a good example of the use of the word 'this'". Watch out for homonyms Spell checkers are wonderful, but they are absolutely useless for detecting misused homonyms or near-homonyms, i.

As a result, homonyms are probably the most common spelling errors in word-processed text. Even if you are lazy and let the spell checker fix all of your other words, make certain that you know the differences between words like: Yet because the spell checker takes care of all the other words you may misspell, learning to use these few words correctly is surely not much of a burden, and is crucial for convincing your readers that you are competent and trustworthy. Avoid "comprise" Apparently the word " comprise " has now been used incorrectly so many times to mean " compose " that this usage is now becoming acceptable.

But it is much safer simply to avoid "comprise" altogether, as anyone who does know what it started out meaning will be annoyed when you use it to mean "compose". If you take a grammatically correct sentence containing "but" and replace it with "however", or vice versa, the result will almost always be incorrect, mainly because of comma punctuation. However, I do not like tangerines. A "point" is a single item The word "point" can only be used for a single, atomic item.

Thus it is not appropriate to discuss a "sub-point", "part of a point", the "first half" of a point, etc. Instead use "topic" or "section", etc.

Lesson on Conventions

That is, they act like the parentheses in a mathematical expression. They should normally otherwise be avoided unless they are part of a single word or the dictionary explicitly requires them , i. Publications Office of the European Union 24 July Retrieved 17 January It is usually best to have only a single level of parentheses, because multiple parentheses start to distract from the main text. Subsections If you have sections 1, 1. Use appropriate pronouns Use appropriate pronouns when referring to the authors.

Use "a study" or just "research", never "a research". Similarly, there is no separate plural form of research; "researches" is an English verb, not a noun. Avoid capitalization When in doubt, use lower case.

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Capitalization is appropriate only for specific, named, individual items or people. For example, capitalize school subjects only when you are referring to a specific course at a specific school: Department of Computer Sciences vs. When in doubt, use lower case. Avoid contractions Contractions are appropriate only for conversational use and for informal writing, never for technical or formal writing. Hyphenate phrases only when otherwise ambiguous In English phrases groups of several words forming a unit , hyphens are used to group pairs of words when the meaning might otherwise be ambiguous.

That is, they act like the parentheses in a mathematical expression.

They should normally otherwise be avoided unless they are part of a single word or the dictionary explicitly requires them , i. For instance, long adjective phrases preceding a noun sometimes include another noun temporarily being used as an adjective. Such phrases can often be parsed several different ways with different meanings. For example, the phrase "English language learners" as written means "language learners from England", because, by default, "language" modifies "learners", and "English" modifies "language learners".