Archive for June 2015

Kind Words on Purpose

June 25, 2015

Communicating for everyday life is different from academic writing in several ways. Usually I speak of academic  writing because most of the writing I read or comment on is academic. However, there is a type of communication that we do everyday that I would like to speak of: purposely communicating for clarity and with kind regards.

Here is the key though. If you do this for any selfish reason or any ulterior motive – it will not have the same effect. I am saying the words you speak will surely have an effect on people. Sincerity in speech can either be detected by others immediately or eventually. For instance, some people can sense if you are insincere immediately; others not at first, but eventually any other motive will be found out. You have to actually sow positive words to be kind and caring – not for any other purpose.

What? Use a term like kind regards to people who text ” c u soon?” I want to encourage you, no matter what age to write with that courteous care shining through your writing. This could apply to several types of people.

1. Teachers – For instance let me start with me – a teacher. Rather than simply mark errors on the page a kind comment or a positive comment can make a difference in what the student thinks about his or her writing or even more profoundly himself or herself. Teachers words can give students hope or just the opposite if we do not purposely add some positive.  Good idea, well-developed, excellent essay.

2. Students to friends – This may not seem to be the trend but how about adding some kind words to your friend in your text messages or emails? Even in your chats – they would be a positive element that you give to your friend that could dramatically influence the day.

Often we use social media to chat or communicate but how about adding ” Thanx 4 b’in there” or something similar. I would add “Thanks for being there. You are a good friend”. But you get the idea – plant positive words to show you value your friend – not because you have to, not because it is expected of you or for any other reason than you showing that friend you value him or her. I am asking you to try planting positive words to express your care for others.

3. People at work – This includes the management or the coworkers or those you supervise. How about adding some words like ” That was an excellent report.” or ” You did that so well. Thanks for taking care of that.” or ” I hope you have an awesome day”. These seemingly insignificant words release a positive “vibe” – I literally mean you can speak life into the atmosphere of your work place by adding kind words to your co-workers.

4. Parents – It may not seem like much to thank your parents regularly. Often we take them for granted. Believe me, those words of thanksgiving can truly release joy in your parents. Most parents love their children so much they would lay down their lives for them. In fact most do only we don’t notice it because they do it continuously day after day – one moment after another.

Each time your mum lets you have the last slice of pie or your dad gives you an extra 20 dollars – it is only a token of their love for you. No, I am not trying to be overly mushy or sentimental. A brief email or text to let them know you care,  an extra hug with an “I love you” or a phone call (if you are not near) that says “I wanted to hear your voice – to let you know I am thinking about you.” Kind words such as these make parents beam with joy.

5. Clerks and salespeople – Yes they are hired to do the job they are doing. They get paid for it, but it is important that we remain polite and courteous with all people. Greeting them with a smile and a polite ” please help me” shows that you care about his or her worth. Thanking them for helping you is also important. It isn’t always easy to do when you are in a hurry or if it is really busy, but kind words, even brief can make a difference in how those people view their day. A word of encouragement on purpose can lighten a busy day.

6. Students to Teachers and Professors – This almost never occurs. You know you look forward to that teacher’s class. That person is positive; he or she is teaching you; you are learning; you are gaining skills that will not only help you in school but in life itself. all too often we do not thank these people. I am not just saying it because I am a teacher. The truth is I myself realized value of my teachers – some immediately and I gave them a gift or a card. Others, long after they had taught me. It came to me that if that teacher had not taught me that information, I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing. It is at those moments, you should write a letter – brief or not – it could be a card. Thank the person. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be mushy. It must be sincere.

Kind words spoken to others will always return to you in kindness from others.



Tips for the Creative Writer

June 20, 2015

Some people know they have good ideas, ones that can be made into stories or books. You may get a genuine interesting idea or insight. I often speak with students who mention they have ideas for books but they say it in this way: ” Maybe some day I will write a book.” In their own words it is only a maybe. The word maybe has some good uses, such as maybe we will go or maybe you will excel beating your own record at whatever sport it is you like to play. . Computer gamers are constantly trying to beat their highest score. This is a good word to use in matters of chance But Maybe also has a too frequent use when it is used in conversation instead of words like” I hope to write a book about it.” or ” I would like to do something with my ideas and write them into stories or books.” It should not be used when it is something you want or would hope for.

I want to emphasize the point that maybe might be too frequent in your vocabulary. Are you using it casually? Are you using it the way Canadians say “Eh” at the end of each sentence – mindlessly.

Check out your own language. The best way to do this is to ask your family or close friends to tell you if you are using :”maybe” as an excuse for not doing something. You could be using it to avoid doing it now. You could be using it as a way of stalling and putting it off because you don’t want to do it now. You might be saying it not sure your ideas or good enough. You could be uncertain of how to go about doing the writing so that it sells. I ask you to examine your own words and the motive behind the words. Why did you say it? What do you really mean? What should you have said? I will do it. I want to do it. I am going to do it. Be more positive with your language and see if you don’t accomplish more. Your words about yourself coming out of your own mouth have prfound affect on what you will accomplish.

Now that we have that point settled, I want to talk to those of you that do have some interesting ideas that you would like to make into a book or story.

1. Keep a Journal – professional writers and creative writers always keep a journal. They record their thoughts, the occurences of their lives and their opinions and views of them. Sometimes a creative flow comes and they get ideas for stories or poems or song lyrics etc. If you are not keeping a journal, I highly recommend that you start one. You do not have to write in it everyday. Write in it when one of those fascinating ideas comes to you. Record the idea. Even if it is not fully developed, it is something precious because it is your insight and it should be recorded. An actual physical journal is easy to carry around with you. Examine your pattern. Try to find if there is a pattern for those creative spurts. Do those creative ideas come early in the morning or during coffee or after every one else is gone for the day etc. Carrying a small book with you throughout your day is an easy m to be sure that you do something with those original ideas.

2. Electronic Journal – some of you spend much of your time on the computer or iPad or tablet. It would be most natural for you to use that device to record your journal. It could be long or it could be short. Always put the date on it so you will be able to retrieve it. Give it some type of title besides the date. That will help you capture the essence of what you were thinking on that day.

3. Voice Recorder – If you are usually on your lap top, or phone, you have access to a voice recorder. If the original ideas come when you can’t write them, speak the ideas into the voice recorder. Once more, it is not the length of the phrases or thoughts, but your diligence to record them.

4. Review – routinely and purposely revisit your writing ideas. Examine them and ask yourself if there is anything to add. perhaps further insight will come to you. perhaps, you will see a unity in the different portions of your they fit together like a puzzle.

Creative writers often discipline themselves to write in their journal daily and to write creatively using the thoughts from their journals.

5. Idea starters – there are hundreds of on-line sources for writing prompts for creative writing. You could purposely set aside some of your life for writing. Use the writing prompt as a way to get you writing. Often this type of exercise jump starts your writing so you end up with a really creative piece.

6. Use your creative friends to share your ideas with. Often creative writers form groups to examine each others pieces and make comments. This type of connection is so important. If you do not have a group such as this, it is worth an investment. Find out if there is a creative writing group at your school or in your community. If there isn’t, you may be just the person to start one. Use the school newspaper or other free media to invite creative writers to join you. It is excellent to have face to face conversions about writing. You can understand your writing from a different point of view.

7. If it isn’t possible for you to meet with others physically, there is always social media. Find other creative writers on Facebook or twitter or google etc. You could join someone’s page or start your own group. The point is you want to be talking to creative writers, people who share your passion for writing.

8. English Teacher – You could speak to your English or communications professor to point you in the direction of writing groups or even publishing. Often students have confided in me their love for writing and shared portions of their writing with me, Not all English and Communications teachers will be creative writers but it is worth a try. They might have leads on where you could be published.

9. Start a Blog. You could write about your daily life or your views or you could focus on your hobbies. You could write about the games you love or the field of study. It doesn’t have to be long but it should be regular. This is most certainly the way to connect with others who share your views.


Ways to get the most from your education

June 12, 2015

Of course all students want the best education for their money. Tuition and books are not cheap. Most students who pay for their education want the best possible grades so they can get jobs and careers they desire. There are practical ways students can add value to their education while they are learning and preparing for their careers. I am aiming this blog for College and University students. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your education.

1. Buy the books. It is almost impossible to believe that post secondary students would not buy the books. The teacher uses the books in planning the lessons, assignments and tests or exams. Usually textbooks are much more expensive than most students could imagine. Spending $ 100 dollar for a single book is most normal. Sometimes courses require more than one book. Although books are expensive, there is no reason students can not buy them.

In Ontario, students may apply for student loans that will give them enough money for texts and tuition and sometimes also for humble living expenses.

What is the teacher doesn’t use the book much? The books are not arbitrarily assigned. That is the professors choose the books appropriate for the course. There is a close relationship between the textbook and the material. Buying the textbook gives you information. Often teachers cannot cover all of the textbook in a semester. What does that leave you with? Valuable information that you can use as a resource. Studying the parts not covered in class can give you extra education in the field you have decided to pursue for your career. The more knowledgeable you are in that field makes you more marketable to the future employer. You are only giving yourself more of a chance at attaining your career choice.

2. Stop thinking that getting the job is the end of your learning. Your education is preparing you for your career – that is true. Most fields of study require continuous improvement to keep competitive. The only way to do this is to consider the larger picture. Like a zoom lens on a camera, student focus on getting the job as priority number one. This is essential and wise but also zoom out – consider your school life only as part of your learning. On the job training and experience are also part of the learning. Life experience is also part of your learning.

3. Get involved in school related and community related interests. Your life experiences and skills from your leisure activities also add to your knowledge and skill base. Let me be plain. Sports involvement gives you valuable experience with teams, sportsmanlike values , caring for team mates, caring for your school, caring for your own personal best. These values are transferable to all areas of your life.  Pursuing volunteer activities not only helps you to give to needy members of the community but also teaches you that life is more than caring for only yourself. Learning to care for others who may never be able to repay you develops mercy and compassion for others less fortunate than you. It would also cause you to be more thankful for what you do have.

4. Make a friend in your class. Even if it is only to exchange emails and phone numbers so that you can take notes if one of you misses class. You may make a study partner. You may make a friend for life. Realizing that that their are others who have very different experiences than your own gives you empathy and care for others. You may find a friend with common goals or interests that can become a life long friend.

5. Form a study Group. This is easier if you are an outgoing person because you would literally have to ask the people to join. Don’t just ask anybody – ask the students who participate in class; those you know care about their education. Small study groups are an excellent way to prepare for exams and tests. They are also an excellent way of sharing your educational experience. You are not alone. There are others like you who have similar goals and want the best grades possible.

6. Find out about Scholarship and Bursaries available at your school. The best place to begin is your school website under financial aid. Most students who have less than an A average don’t know they should try anyway. Students with an A average should most definitely apply. Those with high B’s or heavy volunteer experience should also apply. Literally hundreds of thousands of dollars goes unclaimed because no one applies. What if the scholarship (academic excellence) or bursary (usually not only academic but also financial need) paid for only tuition and books? It would be well worth it.

Tips for the English as a Second Language Student Part Two

June 4, 2015

As a continuation to tips for English as a Second Language Student from last week, I am including ideas that would further benefit ESL students studying at College or University in Ontario. Although I am targeting those students, really these tips could apply to all writers.

1. Develop a Strategy for Building Your Vocabulary. A visual dictionary would be extremely helpful to you. This once common item, is not so prominent now because of the Internet and Wikipedia that delivers instant results. You can special order them but they are not inexpensive. Investing in such a dictionary, or at least borrowing one from the library will help you to build vocabulary because it not only gives you items but also fully labelled diagrams with all the parts identified.

2. Buy a Book on Social Taboos. Although this book may seem to be ridiculous, it is essential for those new to our Canadian culture, a book on Taboo words, phrases, gestures etc. is quite important. What is perfectly acceptable in other cultures, it offensive here.  What is normal in Canada may be an insult in a different culture. Your ESL studies have probably covered this in some form. If you feel any cultural isolation, please buy one of these books.

For example, I once congratulated a student (ESL studying in Canada) by firmly shaking his hand to honour him for achieving the highest mark possible. He was totally insulted, said I should never touch him and left the room angry. I was completely stumped. A student ( ESL from the same place) explained to me that a woman was not permitted to shake a man’s hand.

3. I would highly recommend a visit to your school writing department or tutor/learning assistance program. Although you may not require special instruction to do well in your studies, you can get much information from a meeting. Ask for a specialist in English to examine a writing sample that you provide. Get that person to make comments on your writing style. For example, irregular verbs may be one comment, using articles, choosing the correct phrase etc. These errors can provide you with important information you may not already know. That gives you a place to begin your own private studies.

4. Record major errors you make on written papers, and begin a study plan for those items. Although you may find much textbook information on those topics or quick Internet solutions, a quick look at them is not what you need. There are free on line resources such as grammar; Search using your Internet browser for “Free English Grammar exercises”. There are several really good free sources.

5. If you are taking an English or Communications Course, find out if there is a website that is a resource to your textbook. All the major publishers have one. The book (if new) comes with a computer code that can be used once. It usually gives you access for a year. On it, there will be diagnostic tests, that show you which topics you should study (by your results). There are text, audio and video tutorials that explain the rules and show you how to apply them. There are exercises graded by the computer so you will know if you are improving. There is a post diagnostic test to evaluate your learning. But there is usually much more!

6. Computer code Access – Usually the grammar and punctuation sections of your textbook website resource has a special ESL component that you will find especially helpful. Usually there are teachings on The Writing process and APA and MLA style citations. This is important because in Ontario The Writing Process is studied from grades 3 – 12. At College and University we build on these fundamental truths. Some countries do not in any way teach this process. This would be a terrible hindrance to you if you do not have these key aspects of our writing theory. Our repoirt and essay writing is graded with the expectation that students have understanding of pre-writing, drafting, editing and revising and proof reading. Expand your knowledge by studying the writing process. There are usually video tutorials on this subject as well.