Commas (Topic 1)

27 Mar


Commas are the most essential punctuation mark, according to “Handbook of Technical Communication”(p.78). Using commas to separate words and sentences is useful for me for two reasons:

– They help the readers understand the meaning of the sentences.

– They make the meaning of the sentence clear and easier to read.

I cannot imagine how the body of a paper would be read without commas, especially for students who learn a new language. As an international student, using commas to separate words, adjectives and sentences helps me to know and to understand the meaning of the body or the sentences. Commas are also used to divide things in list  and to separate the day of the month from the year.

The most interesting thing that I read in this topic is that my language, which is Arabic, uses commas to separate a substantial number. However, the English language uses periods to separate a substantial number. In my own experience, I struggle when I read a long body without punctuation marks, even in my language.

Proofreading (Topic #1)

27 Mar

The final stage of writing a document is proofreading. This helps in identifying common grammar mistakes to the overall document organization. An assignment free of grammatical errors and format issues is a symbol of professionalism and is always appreciated in an academic or a professional setting.

Most common mistakes such as spellings and capitalization could be proofread by oneself, whereas, when content opinion is needed, proofreading by someone else could make a difference. The book mentions pros and cons of using online grammar checkers which I found to be very useful. I have used them myself and have always been amazed how they fail to find deeper mistakes. I have always found proofreading a printed copy easier as it helps to detect the difference in the font style, size, indentation and organization. The writer’s checklist on proofreading in stages (p.427) shares useful strategy to which I see myself referring to. I publish a survey report around this time of every year and I cannot thank my colleagues enough for proofreading this 45 pages document.

The Comma

27 Mar

The comma has to be one of the most essential, and misused, forms of punctuation in the English language. Some people use it like a garnish and toss it wherever they want a pause in their sentence, and others fear it like the plague and avoid it altogether. But without the comma, you might mislead your audience in the worst way possible.

My favorite way of explaining why using commas are so important is the cooking example. Consider this sentence:

I love to cook my Grandmother and my dog.

Without commas, it sounds like someone likes to make a meal out of their loved ones! But once we put commas in:

I love to cook, my Grandmother, and my dog.

It is now a sentence explaining three things the writer loves. Much better!

On Subordination (Topic #1)

26 Mar

Even when writing a short email, I specifically attend to the flow of sentences. I had not realized, however, that subordination underlies much of what I simply thought of as flow. Similarly, I had not realized that subordination deals with demonstrating “the appropriate relationship between ideas of unequal importance” (Alred p. 532).


When subordination is entirely absent, a paragraph lacks meaningful cohesion and flow. When subordination is used incorrectly, a sentence’s construction can obscure or compete with the author’s intended emphasis. When used correctly, though, subordination allows for ideas of varying importance to be presented in proper relation to each other, while sentences’ variety in length and flow maintain the reader’s attention.


Underuse of subordination leads to short, choppy sentences. Overuse produces long, confusing sentences. The key is to use subordination selectively and intentionally through various clauses and phrases, subordinating and coordinating conjunctions, and relative pronouns. These elements provide a robust set of tools for creating interesting writing, whether in an informal text exchange or a best-selling novel.

Conciseness (topic # 8)

26 Mar

The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. By writing clearly and concisely, you will get straight to your point in a way your audience can easily comprehend. The hand book of technical writing defines “conciseness writing is free of unnecessary words, phrases, clauses, and sentences without sacrificing clarity or appropriate detail” (page 91). I agree with the author because words and phrases should be deliberately chosen for the work they are doing. Like bad employees, words that don’t accomplish enough should be fired. When only the most effective words remain, writing will be far more concise and readable. By learning to write concisely, you will be able to fill your papers with more substantive information. In order to succeed in your communication task, you need to keep your audience’s attention. Writing clearly and concisely is one way to capture and retain their interest. Rambling on, conversely, may lose your audience’s attention.


Proposals are not all about you (Topic #1)

26 Mar

When I was an undergraduate student, I used to write the proposal as an introductory paper. Nothing else but it’s all about a summary of my research paper. After this week’s reading, I have refreshed my mind about the proposal. “A proposal is a document written to persuade readers that what is proposed will benefit them by solving a problem or fulfilling a need.” (Page 429). Whether it’s a business, project, or a different type of proposal, the goal is the same: to convince the reader to make the choice you propose. Therefore, our proposal should be persuasive, but not descriptive.

As a persuasive document, Alred listed the first strategy for proposal is audience and purpose. I have learned that it is important to understand these two things about people who would like to read your proposal:

  • They care first and foremost for their own needs.
  • They will want to spend as little time as possible reading or looking at your proposal.

In the future, I would write about the reader’s needs and how they can benefit from my resources, experience, and approach. Because people these days don’t have the time or interest to read ten pages about yourself.

Importance of proofreading (Topic#2)

22 Mar

Proofreading a text, corrects spelling and syntax errors, remedies confusions and pleonasms, rectifies clumsiness, harmonizes the use of capital letters, etc… Proofreading embellishes texts by straightening out wobbly sentences, applying the rules of punctuation wisely, banning cliches, and removing writing tics. It enhances texts by removing repetitions, and replacing inappropriate words with the right one, preferring rich words to poor words, tapping into the treasures of the language to transform stereotyped writing into beautiful writing. Proofreading is essential for any type of writing (p426).

Sometimes the material we are proofreading is not necessary our own and this can be tricky. Of course, beyond the question of form, the revision or proofreading of a text raises questions of substance in the reviewer. The weakness of a testimony or an argument, may lead the person doing the proofreading or the reviewer to doubt the merit of an analysis or an interpretation. In the end, this situation requires some expertise because proofreading should be conducted with respect of the author’s idea.