Friday, December 30, 2011

School House Rock: Verbs

Let's get funky with verbs!

Verbs are for when you're feeling active. Verbs express action, being, or a state of being. A verb tells you what's happening!

The University of Ottawa Writing Center asks:

What is a verb?

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and expresses actions, events, or states of being.

In the following sentence, the verb appears highlighted:

     Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb "bites" describes the action Dracula takes.

Verbs in workplace writing and your resume.

According to the OWL at Purdue:
An action verb expresses achievements or something a person does in a concise, persuasive manner.

Why is it Important to Use Action Verbs in Workplace Writing?

You should use action verbs in workplace writing because they make sentences and statements more concise. Since concise writing is easier for readers to understand, it is more reader-centered. Because reader-centered writing is generally more persuasive, action verbs are more convincing than non-action verbs.

The following job description uses a non-action verb:

     Was the boss of a team of six service employees

The job description below uses an action verb:

     Supervised a team of six service employees

The job description using a non-action verb is less concise. It contains ten words, and it focuses action on a form of the verb "to be" (was).

The job description using an action verb is more concise. It contains seven words, and it focuses action on an action verb (supervised). The job description using an action verb is more powerful and is more persuasive.

Use action verbs in resumes to describe all skills, jobs, or accomplishments. Using action verbs will allow you to highlight the tasks you can do. Word choice is critical in order to describe what you have done and to persuade potential employers to give you an interview.

Think you've got it? Great! Try this action verb test and check your skills.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rhetoric: Logos

The rhetoric of logos is based on what it sounds like: logic. According to Aristotle it is supported by "proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech [or text] itself." It is the use of argumentation and rational appeals based on facts, case studies, statistics, anecdotes, experiments, logical reasoning, and analogies. Think of toothpaste commercials that claim "Nine out of ten dentists recommend Crust because studies show it prevents cavities."

Strong arguments should have a balance of ethos (ethical appeals), pathos (emotional appeals), and logos (rational appeals). Logic often seems like the most convincing element of an argument, but many times the listener has to depend on the ethos of the speaker in order to believe the logos of his or her argument. In other words, you have to take the writer's word for it, whatever "it" may be.

McDonald's is not immune to rational appeals. There has to be some logic in our choice to eat there. Watch this commercial and think about how McDonald's uses logos to get customers to buy their product.

How is McDonald's using logos in this commercial? Think about how food advertisers use logos to sell their products. Is the food nutritious, easy to eat, easy to clean up? What is McDonald's saying about their fast food?

If you were an advertising executive, where would you position these commercials? To what demographic would you appeal?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rhetoric: Pathos

Pathos refers to the emotion or passion a writer evokes in a reader. It involves stirring people up enough to get them to do or believe something. Aristotle didn't much like this form of persuasion. "The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the [wo]man who is judging the case." Advertisers and politicians often revert to pathos because it is the only way you will get somebody to put down the remote, get up of the coach, and do something.

Advertisers or writers can appeal to higher emotions like our belief in fairness and justice, love, or pity; or they can appeal to our lower emotions like greed, lust, revenge, avarice, and jealousy.

Even if you're not a politician or advertiser, think about how you might use pathos in your everyday career to persuade your boss or coworkers to believe or do something you think is important. When is it appropriate to use emotion in the workplace?

Watch this McDonald's commercial aimed at children--you really don't need to know Spanish to understand the appeal:

How is McDonald's using pathos in this commercial? Think of the baser emotions. Think about going to the grocery store with your mom as a little kid. What were you searching for in a cereal, great taste, or the prize inside the package?

Do you think this is an effective commercial? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rhetoric: Ethos

"We believe good men more fully and more readily than others," at least that's how Aristotle defined ethos.

Ethos is just one point on the rhetorical triangle and has to do with how people perceive you. As an author, are you competent, fair, and/or an authority on your subject matter? If you want people to believe your premise, or message, you better be.

An August 2011 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education asserts that "ethos is the primary mode of persuasion, and one which we neglect at our peril. Reflect for a moment on how you have been persuaded. When you were a student, which teacher influenced you the most? Probably the one whose character and interaction with students you found most appealing. Which publications do you trust the most? Probably the ones with the best brand (branding being our impoverished substitute for ethos)."

Branding? Yes, branding, as in advertising. And advertisers are experts at manipulating people using ethos, pathos, and logos. They are trying to get you to do something--whether it is believing in a message (think politics) or buying products--you are being manipulated.

So think about ethos or ethical appeals using trustworthiness, credibility, expert testimony, and reliability as you watch these two McDonald's commercials:

Why do you think McDonald's remade this commercial using LeBron James and Dwight Howard?

But it isn't just athletes that give ethos to McDonald's, especially in Japan.

In both sets of McDonald's commercials, the hamburger chain uses ethos in very different ways. How is McDonald's using ethos in each case?

If you were an advertising executive, who would you perceive to be your target market and where would you position these sets of ads?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Trouble with "I"

Students often say their high school teachers told them to never use "I" in their papers. I'm not sure I agree, but the problem for high school teachers may be an annoying inundation of "I" constructions, "I think this" and "I believe that" coupled with the uninformed "I" analysis written by teenagers who have been told that they are "entitled to their own opinion." Well, that's just fine, as long as it is an informed opinion and not just an opinion based on some tingling nerve ending.

But is using "I" really bad?

In the Spring 2011 issue of Inside English Charles Hood of Antelope Valley College asks "Why do Students use "I" Appropriately in Speech and Yet so Badly in Papers?" Here are four kinds of student "I" uses that he found ineffective:

The Invisible Man I. That is, there is no human agency in the paper; instead sentences (often fragments) appear out of the ether, passively imply some situation or potential action, then disappear, never to be owned or directed by any named source of potency.

The inane I. "I think Elvis was a famous singer." You don't think this, everybody thinks this.

The Narcissists' I. "This is my paper. In this paper I will do such and such. I have thought about this a lot and I have a lot of sources. I will then do such and such." As Hood remarks, "Just Do It."

The Shoot Yourself in the Foot I. AKA honesty is not always the best policy. Those I-voice papers that (in essence) reveal that the author hates books, did no homework, and has zero interest in the topic at hand. They often start out: "I don't like English."

So what should a student do?

Hood recommends a "nuanced, logical application of I . . . . It is okay to use [I] if it is a vital part of the thing that is being discussed." Furthermore, he believes students should "step forward and sing," while instructors listen to student voices.

Students need to be able to take a chance with their informed "I" opinions. But something students should keep in mind, is that the overuse of any word or construction is annoying to any reader. Think about it? If you had to read paper after paper where every other sentence began with "I", you'd get annoyed too. So don't weaken your argument by inserting yourself with twenty "I"s on a page. Remember, you are writing college papers to make a point -- your point -- so, use a strong "I" where appropriate.

"The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone." ~Henrik Ibsen

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

School House Rock: Nouns

Here's the next installment of School House Rock--this time in a country western song about nouns. For the rest of the day you'll be singing "Every person, place, or thing that you can know, ya know their nouns."

But there is a lot more to nouns than just concrete people, animals, places, or things. It is also abstract ideas. Here's a larger explanation of nouns from the University of Ottawa.
Proper Nouns
You always write a proper noun with a capital letter, since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organizations, religions, their holy texts and their adherents are proper nouns.
     Last year, Jaime had a Baptist and a Buddhist as roommates.

Common Nouns
A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense -- usually, you should write it with a capital letter only when it begins a sentence. A common noun is the opposite of a proper noun.
     All the gardens in the neighborhood were invaded by beetles this summer.

Concrete Nouns
A concrete noun is a noun which names anything (or anyone) that you can perceive through your physical senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. A concrete noun is the opposite of a abstract noun.
     Whenever they take the dog to the beach, it spends hours chasing waves.

Abstract Nouns
An abstract noun is a noun which names anything which you cannot perceive through your five physical senses, and is the opposite of a concrete noun.
     Justice often seems to slip out of our grasp.

Countable Nouns
A countable noun (or count noun) is a noun with both a singular and a plural form, and it names anything (or anyone) that you can count.
     Miriam found six silver dollars in the toe of a sock.

Non-Countable Nouns
A non-countable noun (or mass noun) is a noun which does not have a plural form, and which refers to something that you could (or would) not usually count.
     The furniture is heaped in the middle of the room.

Collective Nouns
A collective noun is a noun naming a group of things, animals, or persons. You could count the individual members of the group, but you usually think of the group as a whole is generally as one unit.
     The class was startled by the bursting light bulb.

I bet you never knew there were so many kinds of nouns. Think you've go it? How about a quiz? Try this one from Interlink Language Centers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Five Résumé Mistakes

Your résumé is your first impression. It should be tailored to fit every potential employer. It says, "This is my best work," which won't get you far if you make these mistakes.

1. Typos/Grammar mistakes
Many companies cull the résumé herd by round filing those with misspelled words or blatant grammar mistakes. So double check it, better yet, get someone to proofread it.

2. Weird Blog or Social Networking site
For some industries, a blog presence is a must. So if you are listing your blog on your résumé, make sure it isn't called, "". While most people don't list their Facebook page on their résumé, most companies will Google you. It is a cheap way to check on potential employees (and, no, it is not illegal). If you don't want your parents or siblings to see your Facebook page, you need to update it ASAP!

3. Lying
Why isn't this number 1? Because first you'll be Googled, and then it will take some phone calls to verify your employment or educational history, so do NOT embellish job experience or schooling. Do NOT lie about your skills. Do NOT create a fake company with a friend who is your reference (the laughing in the back ground always gives this away).

4. Incorrect/Inappropriate Contact Information
Seriously? Need I explain? Make sure that you check and update your phone and email information. If your email address is "" or "" change it.

5. Weird hobbies
Everyone is entitled to do whatever they want on their free time, but some hobbies are weirder than others. Here's a sampling of weird but true hobbies that you probably shouldn't list on your résumé: playing dead and then photographing it, appearing in the background on live television, collecting ecstasy pills, and suing people/companies.

Every time you send out your résumé, read it for accuracy and then check it against the job qualifications of a potential employer. There may be some things you need to adjust or add.

Happy Job Hunting!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

School House Rock: Subjects and Predicates

As a kid, Saturday morning included not only Scooby Doo cartoons, but also School House Rock, cartoons with catchy phrases to help kids learn grammar, U.S. History, math, and science. What better way to learn grammar than to get some crazy tune stuck in your head?

First, watch The Tale of Mr. Morton. Believe me, you'll be humming this until bedtime.

Next, an explanation of Subjects and Predicates from the University of Ottawa.
"Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. In the following sentences, the predicate is enclosed in brackets { }.

     Judy {runs}.
     Judy and her dog {run on the beach every morning}.

To determine the subject of a sentence, first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing "who?" or "what?" before it -- the answer is the subject.

     The audience littered the theater floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn.

The verb in the above sentence is "littered." Who or what littered? The audience did. "The audience" is the subject of the sentence. The predicate (which always includes the verb) goes on to relate something about the subject: what about the audience? It "littered the theater floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn."
Think you've got it? Great! Click here for an extra credit quiz on subject and verb agreement.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Formatting College Papers

What should your professor notice about your paper format? NOTHING!

The only time your professor will notice something about your paper's format is when you don't bother following standard college level formatting, or you do something creative--teachers interpret this as strange or just plain wrong. This tells the professor you cannot follow instructions and leaves them wondering what other instructions you didn't bother following. The last thing you want to do is get your professor in a bad mood when he or she has a red pen in their hand.

There are two basic styles of papers used in college classrooms; one is the APA style (American Psychological Association), and the other is MLA (Modern Language Association). The APA style is used in science classrooms, so if you're going for a Bachelor of Science degree, you'll most likely being using this format (click here for a sample APA paper). If you plan on receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, you'll most likely be using MLA (click here for a sample MLA paper). Most professors will let you know what style they want you to use, and most think you already know what they are talking about when they refer to MLA or APA style.

Since I teach English composition, my students always use MLA - although I will let science majors use APA, so they can get plenty of practice.

Some general rules of thumb:
* Use plain white paper
* Use 1-inch margins
* Use the normal heading (see sample and note that some teachers modify headings for different assignments)
* Make sure your last name is contained in the page number on EACH page
* Double space
* Typefaces: Ariel is fatter than Times New Roman, so it uses up more page space

Some pet peeves:
* Type up and print (or email) all out-of-class work. Do NOT turn in any handwritten assignments.
* Do NOT use extra spaces between headers and titles, titles and the first paragraph, and between paragraphs
* Do NOT use text messaging language ANYWHERE
* Capitalize "I" (no i - see above about text messaging)
* When you think you are done, go back and read the paper's instructions, then modify or correct any deficiencies or mistakes

Once you start writing college papers, these rules will become second nature. Run off the sample paper(s) and keep them in the front of your notebook so you can refer to them if needed.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

CSEUB - We're Broke, So Let's Keep Hiring

According to a CSUEB December 2011 Communique, the following positions were filled:

July 2011
Student services professional I, Planning and Enrollment Management
Administrative support coordinator, University Advancement
Lieutenant, University Police Department
Interim president, President’s Office
Interim vice president, Administration and Finance

August 2011
Information technology consultant, User Support Services
Head track coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Student services professional III, Student life and Leadership
Student services professional III, Accessibility Services
Interim associate vice president, Human Resources

September 2011
Instructional support tech, Nursing
Assistant water polo coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Interim director, Center for STEM Education
Track coaching assistant, Intercollegiate Athletics
Administrative analyst, Academic Senate
Registered nurse, Student Health Services
Assistant baseball coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Director, Server Operations Services
Assistant softball coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Assistant baseball coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Athletic trainer, Intercollegiate Athletics
Head baseball coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Administrative support coordinator, Continuing and International Education
Student services professional II, Nursing
Associate vice president, Information Technology Applications and Support

October 2011
Interim director of Campus Information Services, Administrative Applications
Administrative support coordinator, College of Education and Allied Studies
Student services professional I, Planning and Enrollment Management

Let's tally up the score:
7 - Administrators
11 - Administrative staff
1 - Medical staff
1 - Police staff
8 - Athletic and coaching staff, and

ZERO - Instructors

While CSUEB has hired 28 new people, it doesn't seem to be educating anybody. It seems to have managed to hire even more administrators to manage their way into, err, I mean out of, the current fiscal mess. Salary information for these positions is unavailable. Plus we must have some great sports teams!

Go Pioneers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Grinch who Sells Christmas

I received the cutest Holiday e-card, reminding me there isn't a child alive (not even a puppy) who can stay awake long enough to greet Santa.

Unfortunately, it reminded me of this year's Best Buy commercials dissing Santa--who it seems is only good enough to leave presents for dogs!?

Today, we can understand Scrooge's "Bah! Humbug!" due to the dread everyone feels by the prospect of being mauled at the mall. We forget Scrooge's visitations by the ghosts of Christmas, ghosts who defrosted his cold heart with visions of those less fortunate.

Christmas is a time of innocent awe - children waking their parents at the crack of dawn to see what presents Santa left. When giving is better than receiving and thoughtful gifts are better than $1000 flat screen TVs. Christmas is about families getting together to make ornaments and cookies or working at the local food bank and being thankful. It is not supposed to be a stress-ridden orgy of shopping where children are disappointed by every present and parents need a vacation, or more likely, have to work overtime to pay off all the credit card debt they racked up.

And now we have devolved to dissing Santa, the very essence of childhood wonder, by making Christmas a full contact sport.

Game on, Santa? No. Game over, Best Buy.