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Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) > Author Archives: pwebber

It’s Important to Breathe

This is the toughest time of year for undergraduate college students.  Research papers and projects are due, final exams are coming up, and stress levels are skyrocketing.  We all know it; we’re all going through it together, one way and another.

How do you deal with the pressure and the stress of this period?  Do you have techniques or strategies for coping successfully?  Or do you simply slog along, head down, one hour at a time, pulling all-nighters, not eating right, but determined somehow to make it through, although you’re not sure how?

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.  There is in fact a technique for making it through the last couple of weeks of college—especially those weeks just before summer, when three months of (relative) freedom await you and you can’t imagine being able to spend another minute in school.

This technique is meditation.  Forget anything negative you may have heard about this ancient practice—it works; it works well; and it’s been used by people worldwide for thousands of years.  The easiest way to become involved in meditation is to visit our campus meditation group, which meets every Tuesday from 4:30-5:30 in the basement of Norton Chapel.  This group—led by an experienced teacher, Nicole Hunt—discusses topics related to stress relief and relaxation, and then practices brief breathing meditation sessions.

But what if you don’t have an hour to spare?  In that case, you can try meditating right in the privacy of your own room or apartment.  Just find a comfortable, quiet place to sit (no need to sit in full lotus position on the floor), close your eyes, and focus on your breath—breathe in and out, deeply and slowly.

And as the inevitable millions of thoughts race through your head, don’t try to stop them, just refocus on your breath.  The idea here is not to eliminate all your frantically whirling thoughts (you can’t do that anyway—nobody can); the idea is to concentrate, gently, on your breathing rather than on those thoughts.  When they come back, just focus on the breath again.  Try this for five minutes: breathing in, breathing out; you’ll be astonished at how good it’ll make you feel.

You can work on this meditative technique any time you need it—for five minutes in your home space; for three minutes between classes; for one minute before you start taking that final exam.  Give it a try—or come to the formal meditation session at the Chapel; either way you’ll find a lot of your stress evaporating

Good luck with finals!

Submitted by, Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

 

MLA Style for in-text citations & Works Cited page

 

References pages and in-text citations—MLA style

 

Once you’ve located your research sources, you need to fit them into your paper and place them on your References page.  These can be tricky to do, so we’ll spend a little time explaining them.

 

MLA Style for in-text citations & Works Cited page

In-Text Citations

There are two ways to use a source in the body of your research paper: as a direct quote or as a paraphrase

A direct quote is just what it sounds like—a direct, careful copying of the exact words of your source.  A direct quote will always be in quotation marks, with the exception of a block quote, which we’ll explain in a moment.  Direct quotes should be used sparingly—generally speaking no more than 10% of your paper should be direct quotes.  At the end of a direct quote, you place parenthetical documentation, also referred to as an in-text citation, that includes the author(s) last name and the page number.  An example of a direct quote follows:

At least one author maintains that “[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity” (Smith 231).

 

A block quote is a direct quote of more than 40 words.  It is indented five spaces from the left margin of the paper, as shown below:

Many people believe that flightless birds have no real method of evading predators, but one author notes that

[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity.  They are able, for example, to simply hide in the brush around them, which requires that they be masked with the proper camouflage, and they can certainly run away, sometimes at great speed.  In short, flightless birds are not the helpless prey they might seem to be at first glance.  (Smith 231)

  Note that a block quote does not use quotation marks—its indentation from the left margin indicates that it is a quote without the need for quotation marks.

 

A paraphrase is putting the source’s ideas into your own words—but note that because they are still the source’s ideas, you must cite them in text as such:

One author says that flightless birds can use camouflage or simple speed to evade predators; they are not as helpless as they appear (Smith 231).

 

The Works Cited page

At the end of your research paper you will have a Works Cited page to list all the research sources you’ve used in the paper.  These sources are listed on the Works Cited page alphabetically by author’s last name or, if there is no author, by the first major word in the title of the source.

It is very important that you use the author’s last name and page number in your in-text citations for this reason: the in-text citation should clearly and accurately direct your reader to the source on the Works Cited page—that way your reader can easily find and read the source document if it’s of further interest.  So, for example, if you use (Smith 231) as your in-text citation but then use the title of the source as the leading line on the Works Cited page, your reader could become confused about which article is referred to.

Note also that you must use every source listed on your Works Cited page in the body of your paper, and they must all be cited using correct in-text citations.  In short, if a source is not used in the body of the paper it should not be on the Works Cited page.

 

Your Troyka handbook, or the OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue (Google ‘owl at purdue’), has extensive material on how to document your sources and how to set up your Works Cited page.  In fact, chapter 25g of your Troyka handbook contains a full MLA-style sample paper; if you follow the model of that paper (or the sample MLA paper on the OWL) you will have little difficulty using and citing your sources, and then placing them correctly on your Works Cited page.

 

Still somewhat confused by MLA style?  Just need a hand getting started?  Want someone to review what you’ve written so far?  Or maybe you’ve got an MLA-style paper to write?  We can help!

These and many other services are offered at ASK—just stop by our office at 401 Hegeman Hall or call 315-279-5636 to set up an appointment with one of our professional counselors or a peer tutor.  You’ll be glad you did.

Submitted by, Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

APA Style for in-text citations & References page

 

References pages and in-text citations—APA style

 

Once you’ve located your research sources, you need to fit them into your paper and place them on your References page.  These can be tricky to do, so we’ll spend a little time explaining them.

 

APA Style for in-text citations & References page

In-Text Citations

There are two ways to use a source in the body of your research paper: as a direct quote or as a paraphrase

A direct quote is just what it sounds like—a direct, careful copying of the exact words of your source.  A direct quote will always be in quotation marks, with the exception of a block quote, which we’ll explain in a moment.  Direct quotes should be used sparingly—generally speaking no more than 10% of your paper should be direct quotes.  At the end of a direct quote, you place parenthetical documentation, also referred to as an in-text citation, that includes the author(s) last name, the date of publication and, in direct quotes only, the page(s) from which the quote was extracted.  An example of a direct quote follows:

At least one author maintains that “[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity” (Smith, 2009, p.231).

 

A block quote is a direct quote of more than 40 words.  It is indented five spaces from the left margin of the paper, as shown below:

Many people believe that flightless birds have no real method of evading predators, but one author notes that

[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity.  They are able, for example, to simply hide in the brush around them, which requires that they be masked with the proper camouflage, and they can certainly run away, sometimes at great speed.  In short, flightless birds are not the helpless prey they might seem to be at first glance.  (Smith, 2009, p.231)

  Note that a block quote does not use quotation marks—its indentation from the left margin indicates that it is a quote without the need for quotation marks.

 

A paraphrase is putting the source’s ideas into your own words—but note that because they are still the source’s ideas, you must cite them in text as such:

One author says that flightless birds can use camouflage or simple speed to evade predators; they are not as helpless as they appear (Smith, 2009).

 

The References page

At the end of your research paper you will have a References page to list all the research sources you’ve used in the paper.  These sources are listed on the References page alphabetically by author’s last name or, if there is no author, by the first major word in the title of the source.

It is very important that you use the author’s last name and year in your in-text citations for this reason: the in-text citation should clearly and accurately direct your reader to the source on the References page—that way your reader can easily find and read the source document if it’s of further interest.  So, for example, if you use (Smith, 2009) as your in-text citation but then use the title of the source as the leading line on the References page, your reader could become confused about which article is referred to.

Note also that you must use every source listed on your References page in the body of your paper, and they must all be cited using correct in-text citations.  In short, if a source is not used in the body of the paper it should not be on the References page.

 

Your Troyka handbook, or the OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue (Google ‘owl at purdue’), has extensive material on how to document your sources and how to set up your References page.  In fact, chapter 26i of your Troyka handbook contains a full APA-style sample paper; if you follow the model of that paper (or the sample APA paper on the OWL) you will have little difficulty using and citing your sources, and then placing them correctly on your References page.

 

Still somewhat confused by APA style?  Just need a hand getting started?  Want someone to review what you’ve written so far?  Or maybe you’ve got an MLA-style paper to write?  We can help!

These and many other services are offered at the ASK office—call 315-279-5636 to set up an appointment with one of our professional counselors or a peer tutor.  You’ll be glad you did.

Submitted by, Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

 

Myths That College Students Should Stop Believing—from Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil is better known for his TV show than for offering advice to college students, but he’s got something to say here that every student could pay attention to and learn from.  The following is excerpts from his comments to students, compiled and commented upon by Elizabeth C. Hamblet.

Myth: I am the only one who needs help—I’m not smart enough to be here.

Every college offers academic support of some sort, and many have additional resources for more specialized help.  These places exist because colleges expect their students to need help along the way.  And all colleges know that their students—with and without differing abilities—are going to need assistance at least with classes outside of their areas of academic strength.  So students should stop feeling alone in needing help—they should not assume that they are the only ones seeking help.

At Keuka College, we have the Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) office, that offers professional academic counseling, content-area peer tutoring, and assistance for those students with differing abilities.

Myth: Getting help with learning strategies takes up time I don’t have.

Many students arrive at college lacking or having little understanding of basic college success tools: strong reading comprehension skills, the ability to analyze material critically, time management capabilities, and general study skills.  Without these tools students generally cannot succeed—they find themselves disorganized and overwhelmed with the work they have to do.  Often, too, students don’t know how they learn or study best, or they don’t know that learning and study skills exist.  But students must take the small amount of time it takes to develop these skills, or they will flounder about, not understanding why they are not succeeding at school.

Our professional staff at ASK will help students to discover their best methods for learning and study skills—we can also advise students on time management (a crucial skill), test-taking, and general study skills.  Our peer tutors can likewise help students to arrange and organize their material for maximum success in content-specific classes.  And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time; often just a few half-hour sessions are enough.

Myth: it is impossible to do all of the reading, and no one does it all anyway.

Maybe some students can get by in their classes without reading all the assigned material, but they are by far the exceptions to the rule.  Maybe, too, other students say they don’t do the reading just to sound cool, but chances are they actually do read all or at least most of the material.  In short, students should be wary of taking their peers too literally—it’s a high-stakes gamble not to do the reading, and when it catches up with a student it can really harm his/her grade.

It is possible to get through all the readings in all of the classes—it just takes organization and, again, knowing how the student learns best.  At ASK we counsel students in time management and in reading comprehension, a technique that increases understanding of what is read, which vastly reduces necessary reading time.

Myth: I don’t belong here, and eventually people will figure that out.

It’s tough to make the adjustment to college life; inevitably people feel somewhat lost, being away from home and all the safety and security that home represents.  Students should realize that every one of their peers feels that way too, to one degree or another.  Students are in this thing together, and they can solve their problems—academic and otherwise—together, if they communicate with one another honestly.

If, however, a student finds that problems are interfering with his/her daily functioning, he/she is encouraged to visit the Health and Counseling center at Keuka College, where trained counselors are waiting to help.  Or students should consider talking with one of the professionals at the Student Affairs office.  If problems are mostly academic, then we recommend the ASK office again.

These are some of the myths that plague college students, particularly first-year students.  It’s very important to remember that, one way or another, all students are feeling pretty much the same way.  You are not alone in your feelings, in your lack of self-confidence, in your concern about academic performance.  Talk to fellow students.  Get involved with ASK for writing and academic counseling.  And remember that the Health and Counseling center is here for you too.  Keuka College wants you to succeed—to that end it has put together a staff of professionals to help you succeed.  But you have to take the first step—asking for help.  It’s not that hard, and it’ll reap many rewards.

Submitted by, Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

Critical Reading

Critical reading means that a reader applies certain processes, models, questions, and theories that result in enhanced clarity and comprehension.  There is more involved, both in effort and understanding, in a critical reading than in a mere ‘skimming’ of the text.  What is the difference?  If a reader ‘skims’ the text, superficial characteristics and information are as far as the reader goes.  A critical reading gets at the ‘deep structure’ of the text, that is, logical consistency, tone, organization, structure, and more.

What does it take to be a critical reader?  Here are some suggested steps:

1. Prepare to become a part of the writer’s audience

Authors design texts for specific audiences, and becoming a member of the target audience makes it easier to discover the author’s purpose.  Learn about the author, the history of the author and the text, and the author’s anticipated audience; read introductions and notes.

2. Prepare to read with an open mind

Critical readers seek knowledge; they do not ‘rewrite’ a work to suit their own personalities.  Your task as an enlightened critical reader is to read what the author has written, giving him/her a fair chance to develop ideas and then reflecting thoughtfully and objectively about the text.

3. Consider the title

This may seem obvious, but the title may provide clues to the writer’s attitude, goals, personal viewpoint, or approach to the topic.

4. Read slowly (perhaps even read out loud)

This is an important factor in a ‘close reading’ of a text.  By slowing down you will make more meaningful connections with the text.

5. Use a dictionary or other reference works

If there is a word in the text that is not clear or is difficult to define in context, look it up.  Every word in a text is important, and failing to understand a word may change the meaning of what you’re reading.

6. Make notes

Jot down marginal notes, underline and/or highlight, write down ideas in a notebook, or do whatever works for you.  Note for yourself the main ideas, the thesis, and the author’s main points that support the thesis.  Writing while reading aids your memory in many ways, especially by making a link that is unclear in the text concrete in your own writing.

 

Critical reading involves using logical and rhetorical skills.  Identifying the author’s thesis is a good place to start, but it can sometimes be difficult to grasp how the author supports the thesis.  Most often an author will make a claim (most commonly in the form of a thesis) and support it in the body of the text.  The support for the author’s claim is in the evidence provided to prove that the author’s intended argument is reasonably acceptable.  The author creates a series of logical links that convince the reader of the coherence of his/her argument—this is the warrant.  If the author’s premise (or thesis) is not logically supportable, a critical reading will uncover the lapses in the text that show it to be unsound.

Do you want to learn how to be a more effective critical thinker and reader?  Then come visit us at ASK, where we can work with you to enhance your reading skills.  Just call us at 315-279-5636 or stop by our office in 301 Hegeman Hall to set up an appointment with one of our professional counselors.

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

 

How to Succeed in English 110

So you’re in college now, and it’s probably a somewhat strange experience for you, at least at first.  So much to do, to learn about, to get to know—new people, a new environment, and new classes.

One commonality for the vast majority of students, though, is taking English 110—our basic first-semester, first-year writing course.  This is a foundational course, not the least because it trains you—along with its companion course, English 112—how to write academic prose at a college level, and also because it begins to show you how to conduct academic research.  Being able to engage in research, and then to write effective, collegiate-level research papers, is a skill that you will absolutely need to succeed in college.

So how do you maximize your learning potential in this seminal course?  What tips and tricks will help you to do well in this class?  Here are some ideas:

 

 

Many of these tips will work just as well with your other courses as they do in English 110—that’s because most are essential for all classes, not just English.  Remember that English 110 is all about training you to be able to write effective, clear, concise, and correct college-level papers—so pay attention, be willing to incorporate new styles into your writing, and succeed in this course!

 

 

Do you want to become a better, more skilled writer?  Could you use a little help reviewing or editing that English paper (or a paper from another class)?  Then come see us at ASK, either by dropping in to 301 Hegeman Hall to set up an appointment or by calling 279-5636 to do so.  We have several professional academic skills counselors and a number of content-area peer tutors to serve you, at no cost.  And remember: the smart people are already using ASK—why not join them?

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, ASK Office

 

Writer’s Block

Your friendly blogmeister has been troubled lately with a serious case of writer’s block.  If you aren’t familiar with this problem, it is when you just can’t seem to find anything to put down on paper (or onscreen) even though you may need to write up an assignment.  It feels awful, and it’s easy to imagine that it’ll go on forever—but it won’t, and here are some steps that can help you overcome writer’s block if it ever happens to you.

 

1. Brainstorm

            Take some time to think about all the things you could be writing about (or how many different ways you could approach a specific topic if one has been assigned).  Jot all your thoughts down on paper—don’t bother about grammar, spelling, or any of the other conventions of standard English writing.  Just let your ideas flow freely.  Brainstorming, by the way, is a good way for several people to begin working on a group project.

2. Freewrite

            This means sitting down and writing—but as with brainstorming, don’t pay attention to spelling, grammar, or other elements of English.  You don’t even need to write complete sentences, as long as you get something down on paper.  It’s a beginning, and as you begin to actually write something you’ll find that the words start to come more easily.

3. Do some research

            Many of the writing assignments in college require some research, and starting to do this research (finding and reading the material) can provide some direction and ideas for your writing.

4. Relax.

            Before you begin to panic about not being able to write, take a few minutes to engage in some meditative deep breathing—close your eyes, let your body relax, and focus on your breath.  This is a calming activity, and it’s important because writer’s block can cause us to become anxious and afraid.  First get calm, then re-approach the writing assignment.

5. Visit the ASK office

            ASK counselors and tutors are trained to help you write effectively, and they are happy to do so.  Don’t hesitate to come in to ASK without anything written: sometimes you just need a little assistance and guidance from an academic counselor to get going.

 

There are other ways to help unblock our writing, but these are some of the best—and best of all, they actually work!  Give them a try the next time you feel blocked and see if one or all of them work for you.  They should assist you in getting started with your writing.

The ASK office provides counseling and help for students with all stages of writing, from brainstorming for ideas to reviewing a final draft of a paper.  Come see us and see why they say, “the smart people are already going to ASK.”

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, Writing Tutor, ASK Office

Commonly Misused Words in Writing

There are certain words (known technically as homonyms) that sound the same although they have different meanings (and often different spellings).  These homonyms can cause fledgling writers all sorts of troubles until they learn to distinguish among them.  Here’s a short list of common homonyms for everyone’s edification:

 

It’s (contraction for it is)

Its (possessive form of the pronoun it)

 

Who’s (contraction of who is)

Whose (possessive form of who)

 

They’re (contraction of they are)

There (in that place)

Their (possessive form of they)

 

Than (in comparison with; besides)

Then (at that time; next; therefore)

 

Lay (place or put something somewhere; needs a direct object)

Lie (recline; does not need a direct object)

Lie (to tell an untruth)

 

Affect (influence; a verb)

Effect (result; a noun)

 

Principal (foremost; head of school)

Principle (moral conviction; basic truth)

 

You’re (contraction of you are)

Your (possessive form of you)

 

Cite (point out; document)

Sight (vision)

Site (a place)

 

Accept (receive)

Except (with the exclusion of)

 

All ready (fully prepared)

Already (by this time)

 

Learning the difference among these homonyms will improve any student’s writing.

Do you want to learn about how to use words correctly?  Could you use some assistance with your writing generally?  Then come see us at ASK, where we can help with writing, time management, and general study skills.  Call us at 279-5636 or just drop by Hegeman 301 to schedule an appointment.  We can’t wait to see you!

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, Writing Tutor, ASK Office

 

Spelling and a Brief History of English

We all have our difficulties with spelling, one way and another.  Many of these difficulties occur because we are not exposed to enough words through reading—this is why reading extensively is often noted as an indispensible practice for learning the language.  Spelling issues can often be alleviated through a more strenuous reading schedule.  But some spelling problems exist for other reasons: two of these are the polyglot nature of English and the development of printing.  Let’s examine these two reasons more closely.

British English really began as a mixed-tongue language, being gradually built up from Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Norman French, Latin, and native British languages.  We can see this combination through, for example, the word beef (boeuf) from the Norman and the word cattle from the British/Germanic—the animal itself was known by its British/Germanic name; when it appeared at the Norman nobles’ table it changed to the Norman French word.  Thus the British peasants raised cattle; the Norman aristocrats ate beef.

Likewise, the British empire was known for exploring and colonizing throughout the world from the 15th century on.  Along the way, the British appropriated not only raw materials and natural resources but also words from the areas they visited or conquered.  Many of these words were incorporated into British English and then into American English.  Boomerang and succotash are two such words, taken from Australian aborigines and Native Americans, respectively.  There are thousands of other ‘borrowed’ words in English: an Internet search can easily find great multitudes of them.

Printing, too, had a tremendous impact on English spelling.  Until the advent of the printing press, writers spelled words as they chose, since there was no written guide for how to spell.  But once books and, later, dictionaries began to be printed, there was a model for how to spell words—and their various spellings gradually became ‘fixed’ or standardized.  However, a dissonance began to occur as spoken pronunciation of words changed while spelling of them did not: so that, for instance, the word knight (originally pronounced like it was spelled—knickt, pronouncing both hard k’s) came to be pronounced nite, even though the original spelling remained the same.  Many of our spelling difficulties today result from archaic spellings of words being vastly different from how we currently pronounce them—and we also tend to spell words the way they sound when spoken: hence the mistaken spelling could of instead of the correct could have.

Does all this mean that we should just throw up our hands and give up on ever hoping to spell words correctly?  Of course not.  What it means is that there is generally a (fairly) good reason why many English words are spelled oddly—and that we really, truly need to read a lot and learn to use a dictionary efficiently if we want to be good spellers.

But wait!  What about that all-purpose rescuer, the automatic spellchecker built into our word-processing programs?  Isn’t that enough to insure that we are not misspelling words? 

Well, the short answer is ‘no’.  Spellchecker is fine for some uses, and it generally has a vocabulary large enough to encompass most words we regularly use, even in college writing.  There are two significant problems with spellchecker, however.  First, it doesn’t recognize a good many words, especially specialized vernacular, leaving us to either take our best guess or turn to a specialized dictionary.  Second, spellchecker doesn’t consider the context in which a word is used—all it cares about is that the word is in its dictionary.   So, for example, if we meant to write ‘the knight rode off to battle’ but actually wrote ‘the night road off to battle’, spellchecker won’t find anything wrong with the second sentence; the words are spelled correctly, even though they are not the words we meant to use.  This alone should be sufficient reason not to place all our faith in a spellchecker.

In the end, we could expend lots of time writing about spelling, but we seem to have made our point already: we need to read as much as possible and use a dictionary to become good spellers.  And we need to remember, too, that spelling errors are among the most-noticed mistakes made in writing—most people will recognize a misspelled word, and will interpret it as a lack of competence or interest in the writer.  We certainly don’t want our writing dismissed as thoughtless, do we?  So learning to spell correctly becomes one of the most important aspects of learning to write effectively, despite its occasional troublesome difficulty.

And with that, to all our readers, a good knight!

 

Do you want to learn to spell better?  Are you finding writing for your college courses to be a greater challenge than you expected?  Then come make an appointment at the Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) office with either a professional counselor or a peer tutor.  You can make an appointment by calling 279-5636 or by dropping by the office at 301 Hegeman Hall.  We look forward to working with you!

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, Writing Tutor, ASK Office

Evolution of Language

Although we’re often not aware of it, our language changes constantly—otherwise we’d be speaking and writing as people did in Shakespeare’s time, or in Chaucer’s.

Always, spoken language leads the way in change; written words, because they’re written, put down into dictionaries, and regarded as “formal language” tend to change much more slowly than “street language,” which is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its users.  We need only consider the abbreviations commonly used in texting today to see that this is true.

We can see some of the changes that occur in language, however, if we pay attention to how words, grammar, and even punctuation are used.  For example, when this writer was growing up in the 1960s, we were taught to use far more commas than students are told to use today—this difference over time often results in confusion or even red-pencil marks on student papers.  A good grammar manual can help with this, but we need to be careful about when its last edition was published—if it’s more than 30 years old it may not indicate contemporary usage.

It’s also possible, by visiting several grammar sites online or by perusing various dictionaries, to find somewhat contradictory rules for some grammar and word usage: for example, if we look up the difference between farther and further in a few reference works we’ll find that some indicate discrete differences between the two (one is used for physical distance, the other for metaphorical distance); some use them interchangeably; and British usage barely even mentions farther, preferring further for almost all purposes. 

And we were probably all taught not to end a sentence with a preposition; however, because common usage changes even the venerable Oxford English Dictionary grudgingly permits this in its current edition.  So, do we blithely go forth and ask “where’s the library at?”  Probably not, if we want to be known as educated people, but even in 1940s England Winston Churchill could mock this dictum by commenting that it was something “up with which we will not put”—just to show how silly an inflexible language rule could be.

Does this mean that we can ignore the rules of language usage completely?  Not a bit of it!  This is likewise no excuse for our not learning and using the rules of standard English in our writing and (when appropriate and necessary) our speaking.  It means only that it’s sometimes difficult to find exact agreement as to what correct usage is (it also means that effective language use is still in large part an art form, not an exact science).  When that happens, we can only do our best to choose our words wisely, based on the most reliable and up-to-date information we can discover—and maybe bring the word or words in question to our English class for what will doubtless be a lively language discussion.

 

Do you want to use words, grammar, and punctuation more correctly?  Are you passionate about making your writing (and speaking) as effective as possible?  Then come visit us at ASK, the Academic Success at Keuka office, where we delight in working with the language to make it work well for you.  Call us at 279-5636 or stop by our office at 301 Hegeman Hall to make an appointment with a professional counselor or peer tutor.

Submitted by: Jeffrey Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, Writing Tutor, ASK Office