Gobbledygook and Other Sorts of Nonsense

Anything worth saying is worth saying plainly. And doing so is often less trouble. Still, nonsense language persists. In fact, so many communications are nonsensical that the English language has evolved dozens of words to describe the varieties of nonsense you may be unfortunate enough to experience. For all of us who wish to speak […]

Top 10 Grammar Apps

God bless my students! They ask me the best questions. In a recent class, as I was giving my “here are the four indispensible reference works you absolutely, positively must have” spiel, one of them said, “as we move into a digital world and the book begins its long, slow decline, what do you believe […]

The Mighty Semicolon

Few marks of punctuation cause so much angst as the semicolon. Compared to the semicolon, the comma is a mosquito, hovering over the sentence, buzzing, striking occasionally to suck the sanguinary syntax of its vitality and infect it with limpidity. The semicolon, on the other hand, is the object of authorial navel-gazing. It forces us […]

Bread upon the Waters

Overheard – biologists at lunch swapping notes RE office environment: B1: We’ve recently moved to half-cubes. Some of us have started wearing airport-style headphones to drown out the noise. The guy next to me conducts all of his business via speakerphone. I can put white noise on underneath of the ‘phones and still hear him. […]

The Government Shutdown Endangers the Planet

The government shutdown has received plenty of press. We all know the ways in which it’s related to the Affordable Care Act. We all understand the parts played by Republicans and Democrats alike. And we all realize that the longer the government remains shut down, the more vulnerable are the indigent, the very young, and […]

Create an Exclusion Dictionary and Avoid Embarrassing Pubic Errors

The next time you’re feeling a little adolescent, visit a government website and type in the word “public,” minus the “l.”  The IRS, for example, any interaction with whom we all dread, has more than 2 pages of knee-slappers. And the Department of Education, with whom we entrust our nation’s youth, has 167 results. What’s […]

Review: Beyond Instructional Design – Rod Sims

When I first began working as an adjunct English instructor, a very wise colleague gave me this advice. He said, “don’t design a lesson because the technology allows you to do it. Design a lesson because it helps you to accomplish your objectives. Then see how the technology can help.” Unfortunately, we seem to have […]

What about pineapple? Count and Non-Count Nouns

There are some parts of grammar that native speakers just accept and never think about . . . until we start teaching. Today, I’m getting a lesson of my own about nouns that we can count and those that get lumped together—count vs. non-count. The weird thing is that some of them fall into both […]

ESL Corner: Adjectives and Adverbs – What’s the difference?

English language writers use adjectives and adverbs to describe things. Unfortunately, the words are not interchangeable and can pose some problems for ESL writers. Unlike many other languages, English places adjectives before nouns – not after. And ESL writers can struggle with irregular adverbs as well as punctuation with adjectives. So here’s some guidance for […]

Scientists: Twitter is Research Too

A recent Sunday edition of the New York Times featured a word of warning to scientists who aggressively pursue publication in a variety of new venues. The article, “Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too),” outlines a series of practices it describes as predatory, and decries the fate of the unwary scientist who falls into the […]