Archive for February 2013

Punctuation: Tips on Using the Colon

February 25, 2013

Using the COLON

1. The colon is used like an equal sign: that is, information on both sides of it are equally important.  This use (introducing an appositive independent clause) is mostly utilized in creative literature to emphasize a point but can also be used in essays and academic writing.  An example  of it would be this:  Barney won the race: he was ecstatic.

WHY use the colon instead of a period or a semicolon? The use of the colon shows that the two sentences are equally important. A period would not have given the same effect. The semicolon would have only hinted that they were highly related.

2. The most common use of the colon is that it acts as an introducer to lists and also long quotes.

Example: I will take the following children: Mary, Sally and Steven. Note, the colon comes before the list.

RULE TO REMEMBER: The statement to the LEFT of the colon MUST be a complete thought. WARNING: A colon can NEVER come after words like is or are.

The following sentence is NOT correct:

i) The things I am bringing with me to Australia are: khaki shorts, a pith helmet, hiking boots and camping gear.

You can not put the colon after “are” because it is not an independent clause.

One way to correct the sentence is to change it so it reads this way:

i) These are the things I am bringing with me to Australia: khaki shorts, a pith helmet, hiking boots and camping gear.

Another very common error is as follows:

ii) At the end of the day I will go to:  the cleaners, the grocery store and the bank.

You can NOT have the colon after the word “to” because it is not an independent clause.

You could change the sentence this way:

ii) At the end of the day I will go to these places: the cleaners, the grocery store and the bank.

Of course there are several ways you can correct the sentence. What I am showing are common errors and how to correct them.

Practice:  Put in punctuation where necessary.

  1. I’ll take the following people: Tammy Nick and Amanda.
  2. Everyone wants to invest in the company for two good reasons a proven sales record and a growing product demand.
  3. Chris is the one who always rises to the top Ali said the following that kid has several career choices she always manages to rise to the top of whatever she does.

Mid Semester: Are You on Track?

February 19, 2013

At colleges and universities it is the 2nd semester and we are right in the middle of it. I make it a habit to meet with students to discuss their writing but also their goals for the course and their other courses. The first day of school, you heard your professors outline the subjects and explain briefly what you would be studying. For the past 7 weeks we have been following that outline and you have not only witnessed this but taken part in it. You have been doing readings, attending lectures, taking notes, studying and hopefully passing tests and assignments. If I were able to meet with right now I would ask you some of these questions – not so much for my own information but rather to get you to examine your own process. You are the one that determines what grades you will achieve and what you will and won’t do during your education experience.

1. Are you on track with your schedule? Are you balancing the amazing juggling act that most students must perform between school, work and family not to mention social life? Are you able to do this? You can not say yes if you are not passing. What could you change? I understand that you can not probably just quit your job – but maybe could you ask for less hours when you know you have exams or tests that week? It doesn’t seem wise financially – but wouldn’t it be awesome if you could obtain grades that would put you in scholarship position? Then your tuition and books would be paid for.

2. Are your grades in the high B’s or A’s? I ask you this because you may not even be aware that you are eligible for a scholarship. The due dates are probably right about now( for next year) so go to your school website and search for “Financial Aid”. Usually, you can fill out one application, right there on line and – what if you get it? Tuition and Books and maybe more….It is certainly worth your efforts.

3. Are you in the right career path? Most of my students are only in their second semester of school and they have some idea as to whether or not they like their current field of study. Are you in the right place? Is there some other area of interest you would rather pursue? I highly recommend you speak to your coordinator or department head. That person would be more than happy to speak with you. Prepare several questions to ask that would help give you information you want to know such as ” What types of jobs are available to graduates? What transfer agreements do we have with other colleges or universities? ” Of course if it is a matter of “will next year’s courses just be more in depth of what we are studying this semester?” You could ask those types of questions as well. Before you guve up or quit or transfer – make an informed decision. Get some information from your department and from any department you may want to study.  A career counsellor at Student Services would also be happy to go over information with you should you not know what field you should go into or what your aptitudes are.

4. Are you giving your subjects your best effort? Considering I have already spoken about other time commitments – I do not mean that. I mean – when you are studying, are you doing your best? Are you applying yourself? Let’s put it this way: If you were running a race would you be pressing towards the finish line or jogging or walking at the back of the line? Are you really trying? If you are trying your best and not making grades that show it – either you are not studying well enough or not the right material. Let’s narrow that down. Is  either true for you?

5. If you are not studying the right material – you may get a complete BLANK when you see the question. That is an indication you should ask your professor for some chapters of the book to study – try to get pages numbers and possible topics or questions. If you are studying the right material but do not have complete information, it may mean you have to integrate new ways of  studying: writing out notes – my own fail-proof method is to write one definition per file card so that you have about 200 or more file cards to study. This is good for memorization of facts, data, specifics etc. I would also recommend a variety of modalities – that is write it, read it, say it – sometimes sing it – use a variety of ways to help you learn the material. If you have not already done so, get yourself into a study group. How? Ask 2-3 (or more) people in the class if they want to get together to study for the test. Each of you compose some sample questions that cover the readings. This is an excellent way to help you be accountable to others – to motivate you to do your best. It’s also a pretty good way to make studying more fun.

6.  If you are concerned that your mark is low – let me encourage you that it is not too late to succeed. I would recommend that you meet with your professor during his/her office hours to ask specific feedback of how you can improve (assuming you do not know after my list of other suggestions). Professors do their job because they love teaching their students; if you show you are interested in improving, most professors would be glad to spend some time helping you – giving you specific tips to improve.

It is mid semester. It is rather cold and windy; it is winter. It is a time for inventory. I would ask you to take inventory of your current studies. Are you on track with where you want to be? What adjustments do you need to make to make this a successful academic year?

All the best to you.

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

February 11, 2013

Some of you are applying for summer jobs already. You may be interested in positions related to your career path – this would usually require a cover letter. I want to emphasize the importance of a strong cover letter. First of all, it should be on top of your resume – kept to one page maximum. It is generally paper clipped to the top of the resume- not stapled.

Some tips as regards to the writing are as follows: Keep it brief but give specifics. Keep it positive – The key is showcase your skills and experience but not brag.

The magic formula for winning cover letters. Here is a cover letter template for an effective cover letter: I have made comments in bold capitals for special attention – This is full block style.



Monday March 18, 2013

Mr. Robert Smyth                                      STATE THE PERSON’S NAME AND ADDRESS
Director of Human Resources
1234 Getalong Littledoggie Rd.
Windsor, ON
N83 4P4

Dear Mr. Smyth,

I am writing to apply for the position of NAME IT HERE as advertised in the Windsor Star on Saturday March 16th, 2013. My experience and education qualify me for the position.  STATE WHY YOU ARE WRITING

I am currently a student in NAME IT HERE program at Name your college or university here. My expected graduation date is NAME IT HERE (month and year).
Now discuss 3 school related skills or three most important aspects of your education.
Now discuss 1-3 jobs you have had with the dates in brackets. Be sure to name 3 work related skills that make you a good candidate.
In my recent studies at St. Clair College (Networking Diploma, 2013), we focused on…
During my employment at NAME IT and WHEN, I acquired, developed, mastered, displayed (SEE VERBS LIST)…. OR Key aspects of my education include…
Among the experience and qualities, competencies, skills, I bring to your company are…

Hint: buzzwords are multitasking, time management, the ability to work independently or with a group
Leadership Interpersonal skills Problem-solving Motivation Efficiency Attention to Detail
Ability to Prioritize Teamwork Reliability Ability to multitask Time management Passion Listening skills Outgoingness Honesty
Thank you for considering my application. More details of my work experience and education are included in the attached résumé. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the position. You may contact me by email at or 519-123-4567.  ALWAYS GIVE THANKS FOR CONSIDERATION AND OFFER YOUR CONTACTINFORMATION RIGHT HERE. MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM TO CONTACT YOU.




Tips for Creating Effective Memos

February 6, 2013

Memos are documents used within a company to communicate information. They are most commonly sent by email. These documents usually give information, request information or make announcements. They are less formal than letters but they still have important aspects of structure that should be followed. For instance, it is important to have the following information (see sample template below) such as To, From, Date, Subject. They can be short or long – but generally they should be kept brief and concise. Often a paragraph is just one sentence. The standard structure to follow is  a maximum of 3 paragraphs (this can vary – I am just giving you a rule of thumb). I am using FULL BLOCK STYLE – the easiest style. There are several that can be used. The best is to use the one your professor or your company commonly uses.

1st paragraph – state the reason for writing. Be brief and concise.

Middle paragraph – give your information or make your request. be direct.

Although a goodwill close is not required in memos, I teach it as good business practice. This makes it easy for the person to contact you immediately and shows some act of genuine good will on your part. The good will message consists of at least two parts: thanks for any help received or thanks for their consideration of your request; Your contact information email and phone number.

Your reference initials go down at the left bottom of the page.

If you are including any enclosures (attachments) this should be indicated at the bottom left (see template below). You count the attachment not the pages. You can list the items you are attaching if you wish or only indicate the number of items.

A copy notation indicates to whom you are copying on the message.





TO:             Type the Person’s name Here


FROM:          Your name and Department


DATE:         Business Formal requires day, date month example: Wednesday February 6, 2013


SUBJECT:   State the subject here: ours is Sample Memo




Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diem nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut lacreet dolore magna aliguam erat volutpat. Ut wisis enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tution ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis te feugifacilisi. This is place holder text to show you where you would type your information – the reason why you are writing.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diem nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut lacreet dolore magna aliguam erat volutpat. Ut wisis enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tution ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis te feugifacilisi. This is place holder text to show you where you would put the information , announcement or request.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diem nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut lacreet dolore magna aliguam erat volutpat. Ut wisis enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tution. This is place holder text to show you where you would put the Goodwill close. An example of a good will close would be something like this: Th\nk you for your cooperation with this new procedure. If you have any questions, please contact me at emailaddress or Phone number and extension. Put the specific information in.Make it easy for them to contact you.











Reference initials  – My initials are CL  – You put your first and last initial here.

An enclosure notation An enclosure notation looks like this: Enclosure: 1

A copy notation A copy notation looks like this: Copy: John Doe

So – done properly this information would look like this on the page:


Enclosure: 1 (only if I am attaching something)

Copy: Joe Doe