A beautiful long sentence about long sentences – Long Sentence #2

Pico Iyer wrote a playful and eloquent article for the Los Angeles Times about his decision to write long sentences as a form of protest against our world’s obsession with speed. He explained that as a young journalist he had succumbed to the need for speed and crunched his writing into short soundbites, but as he matured in his writing and probably in life too, he discovered the glory of, and more importantly (to me), a powerful rationale for writing longer sentences. I’ve always wanted to find a solid defense for the long sentence, so that I could write on without inpunity, but had never come up with anything clever, and so it was a real pleasure for me to find this article.

Follows is the most beautiful, and one of the longest sentences in his article that gives a colourful, heartfelt explanation of his decision to write long sentences. Prepare to be amazed.

Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or.

To learn more about Pico Iyer, see his website.

Fear: a Curse Upon Me

Rutger at the Ready by Barry Shaffer on Flickr

Facing the Worst Possible Outcome (WPO)

We spend a lot of our time and energy doing whatever we can to avoid the worst possible outcome, but what if we embraced it instead? What if, instead of running, we turned around and looked it in the eye? What would happen if we embraced the fact that we’re going to die, and it might be cancer, it might be a heart attack and it might be a big accident? What if we make peace with the possibility that our husband or wife could very well leave us one day (yikes!), or maybe we forgot to lock the door, or here’s a big one: we could lose everything we own–to a stock market crash, a fire, or we could get fired from our job.

I don’t mean some kind of positive thinking campaign where you try to force yourself to look forward to these tragic experiences, and I don’t mean a passive acceptance of things that might cause you or your relationships harm. Rather, by embracing the WPO, I mean exploring these dark, scary places and asking, “then what?” If the worst happens, then what happens after that? Can I cope? Can I see any goodness in it, no matter how small? I have a little exercise for you: take a moment to look at one of your fears, big or small, and if you’re brave, take a trip to the WPO. Just for a second, look inside and make a note of what thoughts or feelings come up. Read more of this post

Create your own personal writing style guide

'Writing' by jjpacres on Flickr

Does your writing have style? 'Writing' by jjpacres on Flickr

In this post I’ll give you a free style guide template to work with, and I’ll cover the following:

  • What is a style guide?
  • Why create a personal style guide?
  • How to create a style guide.

In university we learn about style guides such as MLA and APA, which are so confusing that you practically need a guide to use them–especially if you take a psychology and a history class at the same time!  But style guides don’t have to be complicated or long–they can be as short as one page!

My first run-in with a simple, personalized style guide really delighted me, so I thought I would share this simple tool with you. Read more of this post

7 Types of Sentence Fragments and How to Use Them

This article is for beginner to advanced native and second-language English speakers and teachers. There are lessons to download, free of copyright.

The Importance of Grammar

Run! by Glenn~ on flickr

As an ESL teacher, I found that my own writing drastically improved once I started teaching grammar to my students–especially the 7 different types of sentence fragments. I had learned English grammar in high-school, but those classes were boring; I had more important things to concentrate on, such as the outfit I was wearing, or how dreamy Cory Haim was in License to Drive. When I started teaching grammar as an ESL teacher, I was actually re-teaching myself, and the most valuable aspect of grammar that I re-learned was the 7 sentence fragments.

Understanding how to use these fragments properly will help you:

  • Write sentences that are grammatically correct, because you will finally understand grammar
  • Write longer sentences
  • Write sentences that have different structures, which is important for rhythm and flow (the musical aspects of language)
  • Use commas properly, because you will finally know where to put them!

I am convinced that most writers–beginner and advanced–need more practice in understanding and using sentence fragments properly, and I hope this lesson will help you learn to write more eloquent and grammatically correct sentences.

Read more of this post

It’s Time for Accountable Content on Blogs

Frustration, by Sybren Stuvel on Flickr

Information Overload

We live in what is called the ‘information age’ and the world has been called the ‘Content Nation‘; people are now able to create content at rates that were truly unreachable even 20 years ago, and share that with people on the other side of the world.  It’s amazing–and very overwhelming.  Pete Cashmore (of Mashable) predicted that ‘content curation’–organization and sharing of the ‘best’ content online–would be one of the biggest web trends of 2010. Read more of this post

It's Time for Accountable Content on Blogs

Frustration, by Sybren Stuvel on Flickr

Information Overload

We live in what is called the ‘information age’ and the world has been called the ‘Content Nation‘; people are now able to create content at rates that were truly unreachable even 20 years ago, and share that with people on the other side of the world.  It’s amazing–and very overwhelming.  Pete Cashmore (of Mashable) predicted that ‘content curation’–organization and sharing of the ‘best’ content online–would be one of the biggest web trends of 2010. Read more of this post

The single biggest predictor of obesity is low income

This evening I watched the documentary, Food, Inc., which exposes huge flaws in our food system and explains why unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food (see this in-depth post).

Fast Food for Fast Living, by Imaging Dissent, on flickr

Somewhere near the middle of the documentary, they flashed the statement, “the largest predictor of obesity is low income” and it made a lightbulb go on in my head.   Was it true?   I immediately logged onto my university library website and did some research, to confirm if there was actual evidence to support this theory.  There is, and, in fact, there is so much and it is so conclusive that it is disturbing I hadn’t heard of it before (see here for lots of links). Read more of this post

Most frequently used words in English

Did you know that the average person uses only 2000-5000 words on a daily basis?  One of the most important tools I use as an English, ESL & Literacy teacher is a most frequently-used-words list.

It is possible to make countless vocabulary exercises & games from the crucial 2000 most frequently used words, and they are also the key words for learning the long and short vowels & spelling rules, for children grades 2-6, but also for adult English speakers that suffer from lower levels of literacy (80% of Canadians score 3 or lower out of 5 on the literacy scale, see here). Read more of this post

Xmind: a Free Self-Exploration Tool

mindmap using xmind

my mindmap using xmind

Xmind is a great–free–mind-mapping tool that you can use to explore yourself! Read more of this post

Quantum Connections: Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku

"Sierpinsky Galaxy" by ChrisDlugosz on Flickr

Michio Kaku’s book, Physics of the Impossible, has helped me to understand a subject that I thought I never would: quantum physics.  Ever since my first year of college in 1997, when my philosophy of religion instructor, Dr.Katz, talked about atoms being mysteriously connected, I wanted to understand this process and became curious about quantum mechanics.

Like many, I had avoided physics and chemistry because I found the technical aspects boring. Read more of this post

Quantum Connections: Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku

"Sierpinsky Galaxy" by ChrisDlugosz on Flickr

Michio Kaku’s book, Physics of the Impossible, has helped me to understand a subject that I thought I never would: quantum physics.  Ever since my first year of college in 1997, when my philosophy of religion instructor, Dr.Katz, talked about atoms being mysteriously connected, I wanted to understand this process and became curious about quantum mechanics.

Like many, I had avoided physics and chemistry because I found the technical aspects boring. Read more of this post

Getting Involved in the Writing Community

Cold Outside by the Italian Voice, Flickr

Cold Outside by Italian Voice on Flickr

In October of this year (2010), I volunteered at two writing and reading festivals, the ViWF and the SiWC and they were very valuable and enjoyable experiences for me.   I met a lot of writers, local and international, and I even had the chance to have conversations and learn from several successful authors. Read more of this post

Cool Twitter Resources

Twitter Tips for Twitter Chicks

This list of twitter resources and secondary applications will help you run your twitter effectively and with less effort:
(Updated June 2011) Read more of this post

What is grammar?

So, what is grammar?  One of the best definitions of grammar that I have heard comes from a book called The Practice of English Language Teaching (link opens the entire book on Scribd), which defines grammar as

the description of the ways in which words can change their forms and be combined to form sentences.

For example, “I pie eated” is not grammatically correct, because the word “To eat” has not been formed ‘correctly’, and the order of the words is ‘incorrect’.  The grammatically correct form is “I ate pie.”

Grammar has two aspects:

  1. Morphology : the forms a word can take (how words change: eat/eats/ate/eaten or city/cities/city’s/cities’ or do/doable/done/undone/did/redo).
  2. Syntax : the order that words go in (how words are ordered in a sentence: I ate pie–subject/verb/object).  See Wikipedia or the Practice of English Language Teaching, for more info. Read more of this post

25 Reasons to Read William Gibson's Neuromancer

For the writers (and readers) out there who have not read (or who have not finished reading) William Gibson’s Neuromancer

NEUROMANCER!   Well, I don’t want to come across as a book snob, but I will say: How can you call yourself a well-read fictionado without having read Neuromancer?  (In classic Lily-style) I can give you at least 25 reasons why Neuromancer is an amazing book, and a must read for anyone delving into the finer points of fiction-writing. Read more of this post