Letter from a Semicolon

Dear Students,

Salutations. My name is Sam Ike Olan, but my closest companions refer to me as “Sam the Semicolon.” I am writing this letter because my relevance in writing appears to be rather confusing to some of you. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Some writers may even misuse me, believing that I serve a similar purpose to that of Connie the Comma. Today, I hope to provide some clarification on my significance and show you how to properly utilize me in order to add some semicolon spice to your papers.

First and foremost, if you forget everything I say in this letter, remember this: I unite independent thoughts. This may seem vague and confusing at the moment, but just keep that sentiment in the back of your mind as we walk through this letter.

My main purpose in writing is to function as a bridge between coherent ideas (or independent clauses) that could otherwise stand alone as complete sentences. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a sentence from earlier in this letter:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

You may have noticed that Connie the Comma is shouldering quite a heavy load in the middle of this sentence. Let’s try to alleviate her workload. Looking at this sentence, you’ll see that there are two ideas being expressed here that could stand as their own sentences. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence. As a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Instead of Connie the Comma having to be used repeatedly, I could function as a bridge between these two thoughts and keep them together as one sentence.

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Notice how my presence hasn’t changed the meaning of these sentences all that much. As I stated earlier, I merely connect two coherent ideas and make them one whole sentence.

Another thing to note regarding my use is that I generally connect two independent thoughts that build off of one another or are closely related. Technically speaking, you could use me to unite two ideas that aren’t correlated, but it is recommended to make sure the two thoughts have some relation to one another. Let’s look back at our example:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Not only do both of these independent ideas discuss my usage, but the second thought builds upon the original thought. The first thought is based around the lack of knowledge regarding me, while the second thought lays out the effect such uncertainty can have. This is exactly what I meant when I stated that I unite independent thoughts. My usage has connected these two related concepts and allowed the overall idea to flow much better (not to toot my own horn here).

A common misconception people have about my usage is that Connie the Comma and I are interchangeable. Although we may look similar in certain aspects, we most definitely are not indistinguishable. Let’s take one final look at our example sentence:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Some individuals who are unfamiliar with me may think that it is appropriate to simply place Connie the Comma where I am in this example sentence. The truth is Connie the Comma is not strong enough to connect these two independent thoughts by herself. She would need a conjunction, or one of the FANBOYS[1], to help carry the two ideas. However, I can carry these thoughts with no additional help.

I shall end this letter with the sentiment I expressed near the beginning of this letter: I unite independent thoughts. If nothing else in this letter made sense to you, just remember that I am used to connect two ideas that could otherwise stand on their own.

I hope this letter gave some clarification on my usage and that you will continue to utilize me properly in your writing going forward.

Sincerely,

Sam “The Semicolon” Ike Olan

[1] This acronym describes the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Mind Crumbs

Perhaps the most basic definition of a metaphor is a figure of speech that equates two things for the sake of comparison and symbolism. It is a unique tool that helps people describe their feelings and emotions toward a certain person or thing as accurately as possible.

I loved reading and writing poetry growing up, and metaphors were one of my absolute favorite devices. Metaphors are splashes of color that beautify and give life to the words on the page. They cover the nakedness of dull expression with the elegant texture of a silky garment. See what I did there? Metaphors open doors to endless possibilities and invite the creators to explore their imagination freely.

I not only enjoy but have delight in creative writing through metaphors because it allows me to express my thoughts and ideas so clearly and precisely. Here are some of my absolute favorite ones:

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

Picasso is an incredible artist who needs no introduction, and I love this metaphor because it tells us that art offers new and exciting experiences and helps us get through the darker moments of our lives.

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

Khalil Gibran

This metaphor reminds me of another metaphor that illustrates the depth of the mind according to Sigmund Freud, who made the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind. This idea is illustrated by an iceberg. The top (a small surface of ice) is the conscious mind while the bottom (a vast surface of ice under water) is the unconscious mind, also known as the subconscious mind. There is so much that we do not say, yet those thoughts affect our actions and feelings every single day, it is a rather scary thought.

“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

Benjamin Franklin

I love this one because it is such a cheerful yet chastening metaphor. When I do not have a lot on my mind or have rectified all my wrongs, I am a happier and a more colorful person—just like Christmas! In other words, the metaphor is telling us, “whatever you have not made right, do so if you want to be happy.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.”

John 6:35

The Bible itself is essentially a poem. There are countless, beautiful examples of metaphors, especially in the Wisdom Books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). However, I found this metaphor to be one of the most beautiful. Though Jesus compares himself to bread and water, it is clear to see that He is much more than that. Bread makes us full and water quenches our thirst, but we get thirsty and hungry yet again. Jesus, on the other hand, offers nourishment that lasts forever because it is for the soul.

I might not be as brilliant as Picasso or as elegant as Franklin, but I have found that using metaphors to express myself has led to the exploration and discovery of a new writer in myself. It has allowed me to learn from others and develop my own style. It has been a heavenly journey!

Written by Kenean (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

 

Letter from a Quotation Mark

Dear Students,

My name is Quinn, and I would like to take a moment to share a little bit about myself. The first thing you should know about me is that I am a twin. My sister, who is only a few minutes younger than me and always follows behind me where ever we go, is named Qiana. Together, we are quotation marks, me being the opening quote and Qiana being the closing quote. We are completely inseparable!

Qiana and I are both suckers for a quality quote, and you can always find us hanging around them. In fact, we get quite frustrated when someone quotes without inviting us to join the party. Our favorite kind of quotes are ones where three or more words are copied directly from either a primary or secondary source. If a quote is paraphrased, Qiana and I don’t bother showing up. With all this in mind, if you can remember just a few simple things about us, we should be able to get along just fine.

Firstly, whenever Qiana and I go to a quoting party, we usually invite our friends, Connie Comma and Petunia Period. Now, Connie, she’s not always the biggest fan of quotes, so I take it upon myself to stand between her and the quoted words. On the other hand, Petunia loves a good quote, and Qiana is nice enough to let her stand next to the quoted words. When we’re at a quoting party, we stand like this:

According to Collins Dictionary, “quotation marks are punctuation marks that are used in writing to show where speech or a quotation begins and ends.”

Sometimes Connie Comma and Petunia Period are in different positions. For example, Connie isn’t always free to join us at the party. Also, Petunia has a close friend named Cynthia Citation, and when she joins the party, Petunia prefers to stand behind her. When this happens, we stand like this:

The Visual Communication Guy reminds all his readers that Quoting doesn’t mean summarizing or paraphrasing; it means repeating exactly what someone said (par. 2).

Another reason that Petunia Period might not stand right next to the last word of the quote is when the author’s thoughts continue on after the quoted words. Here is an example of how we stand in this instance:

Quotation marks are used to enclose article titles or parts of a document but not larger works, such as an entire novel or encyclopedia.

Something else you should know about me and Qiana is that we are huggers! Whether we’re hugging the first letter of the quote or the ending punctuation, we’ve got to be hugging someone. We wouldn’t be caught dead at a quoting party standing like this:

The grammar website, English Sentences, states that   We use quotation marks for all kinds of things in writing and literature, like sharing quotations, adding emphasis, expressing dialogue, and identifying titles. 

Oh! I completely forgot to tell you that twins run in our family. Qiana and I have two baby brothers who are also twins named Quashawn and Quentin. They are a little bit smaller than we are but no less important. They accompany us to our quoting parties when we know that there’s going to be a quote inside a quote. At these kinds of quoting parties, we stand like this:

Matthew 4:19 states, And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (English Standard Version).

The last thing you need to know about me and my sister is that we sometimes get intimidated by long quotes. For example, in certain writing formats, block quotes are used for longer quotations. Block quotes are set apart from the author’s text and sometimes formatted differently. This is a lot of information, but the most important thing to remember is that Qiana and I never go to block quoting parties; they’re just not our thing!

Well, I hope that this letter has helped you to get a better idea of how to more effectively invite me, my siblings, and my friends to your quoting parties. Just remember, the most important rule is that you always invite us!

Sincerely,

Quinn Quotation Mark

Who’s who?

Quinn – opening quotation

Qiana – closing quotation

Quashawn – opening apostrophe quotation

Quentin – closing apostrophe quotation

Connie – comma

Petunia – period

Cynthia – citation

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Letter from a Colon

Dear Students,

My name is Collin Colon. Not the biological organ, also known as the large intestine, nor the Costa Rican currency known as the colón, but the famed punctuation mark that makes the writing world go round. My use in writing is gravely important. I even consider myself as valuable as the period and the comma in the exciting realm of punctuation. Unfortunately, some of you do not quite understand my primary purpose, which is greatly upsetting to me. I’m often included in sentences where I have no business being. Other times, I’m even neglected altogether, creating a colon catastrophe. I’m nearly as misused as my poor comrade, Sam Semicolon. Instead of sulking about your horrendous misuse and atrocious avoidance of me, I’ve decided to enlighten you with ways to utilize me in your writing endeavors. Then, all of you will be able to fill your papers with captivating colons.

By definition, a colon is meant to tell readers the information which follows is closely related to the preceding clause. I am the go-to player for this move. So, when you plan to relate two similar clauses, choose me as the playmaker, and I will not disappoint. In fact, I am more effective at this skill than any other punctuation teammate of mine. Also, I typically follow an independent clause (or complete idea) and should not separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its objective.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to use me: Living in apartments, I eat: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

While I agree that this person’s diet is rather strange, the real horror here is the way I am used. I am inserted in between the verb (eat) and its complement (sandwiches, etc.). It is unnecessary to the flow of the sentence and just downright offensive to my kind.

Here’s the proper way to write this sentence: Living in apartments, I eat the following: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

Both clauses are closely related. One addresses the concept of eating in an apartment while the other lists specific foods consumed in this space. In this particular sentence, my primary purpose is to list the specific dietary choices made in apartment-living. Although there are methods to specify these food choices without me, adding my punctuation talents throws in some punctuation pizzazz.

I can also be used in an appositive sentence like this one: There is one food I refuse to eat: olives.

In this circumstance, I am an indicator of what food the writer is referencing. Once again, you could write a sentence about your least favorite foods and avoid using me altogether, but you would lose the dramatic effect that I provide. I serve as a suspenseful pause that instills tension within all readers before dropping the name of the food that is your biggest nemesis: olives (dun dun dun dun). In this way, I enhance sentences, making them belong on a Broadway stage and exciting college professors lucky enough to read your skilled prose.

Additionally, I can amplify or interpret clauses in order to draw out more meaning from them. For instance, desserts can add to a healthy diet: fresh fruits, yogurt, and nuts have nutritional qualities. This sentence needs interpretation; otherwise, readers would get an entirely false idea. Without the second clause added after me, people might think that any dessert can add to a healthy diet. They might even begin eating heavy portions of cake, pie, and other unhealthy desserts thinking that they are partaking in a beneficial diet. By utilizing me, I interpret this clause to mean a specific food that some might not even consider to be a dessert at all.

I serve many other purposes in writing, all of which are valuable to know. I introduce illustrative quotes that are taken from other sources. For example, In the words of Dwight K. Shrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager: “Bears, beets, Battle Star Galactica.” Also, I am used for formal letter salutations (To Whom It May Concern: ). I am used to separate the hour from minutes in a time notation (12:30). Also, I separate a title from a subtitle and separating (Collin Colon: A Punctuation Memoir). Finally, I separate a Bible chapter from its verse (Job 12:3).

I hope that I no longer see calamitous colon creations in sentences where I do not belong. However, I do hope that you will use me more for your benefit in writing. I am a convivial punctuation mark, and I will surely jazz up your writing.

Sincerely,

Collin Colon

Written by Jack

For more information on how to properly use colons and other punctuation marks, check out our Colons handout and the Quick Reference Flyer page of our website!

 

What’s the Big Idea?

In the classic slapstick comedy, The Three Stooges, the characters ask each other an important question: what’s the big idea? They ask this question after engaging in goofy and clumsy behavior that causes them to accidentally harm one another. However, there isn’t a more accurate and simple summation of what a topic sentence is—a big idea.

Topic sentences are big ideas in the beginning of a paragraph that serve to affirm and ratify the thesis statement of an essay, blog, research paper or any other written work. In a single sentence, it creates a platform on which the main idea can be further elaborated in the body of the paragraph. Topic sentences also allow the writer to control the flow, organization, and direction of the text by encompassing the big idea the writer wants to convey.

Topic sentences obviously have several uses and purposes in a written work; unfortunately, people often struggle to write a coherent one. However, it is possible to write a strong, concise topic sentence in only three easy steps. The first step is asking the question a stooge would ask, “what’s the big idea?” Contrary to popular belief, brainstorming is not something that happens only once at the beginning of the writing process. Each paragraph needs a topic sentence; therefore, though the writer doesn’t have to come up with a brand new idea, condensing a big idea into a single sentence requires quite a bit of creativity. Once the question kick-starts the writing process, it is important to jot down the ideas and major subjects that come to mind.

The second step is organization. Transition sentences are just as important as topic sentence. Without them, ideas would be convoluted and incomplete. Instead of starting a new paragraph with a topic sentence, it is better to start with a transition sentence. It authenticates the idea discussed in the previous paragraph and introduces a new one. Once the transition is complete, it can be used as a springboard to develop the rest of the paragraph.

The third step is writing the topic sentence itself. Bringing together the words and ideas from the first step and linking them with the transition sentence results in a topic sentence. For example, Sonia has to write an essay on the historical background of The Three Stooges comedy and its characters. In the previous paragraph, she wrote about the creators, production, and a major historical development that existed at the time—the third Reich of Hitler’s regime. She could start the next paragraph with a transition sentence that reads, “Even though the show was an important source of comic relief in such a dark time, it is probably more appreciated now than it was in its time.” This sentence further elaborates on the shows setting but also presents a new angle: its relevance to the culture and time in which it was created. A topic sentence can then follow like this: “Columbia Pictures was audacious enough to create a piece that satirized Hitler while the United States took the isolationist position and was neutral on World War II.” The rest of the body of the paragraph can then introduce the piece of work, its content and effect on the public audience.

Incorporating other writing devices and techniques can help with not only topic sentences, but with the entire writing process as well. In the spirit and attitude of the gloriously goofy stooges, it is possible to capture the big idea in a powerful and engaging way. Moreover, following a clear organizational path, as illustrated above, makes writing topic sentences both easy and fun.

Written by Kenean

For more information on writing topic sentences and other writing subjects, check out our Topic Sentences handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

Sources

“You Nazty Spy.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/YouNaztySpy.

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The Fulcrum of Academic Writing

There is one aspect of academic writing that has confused writers for centuries. One sentence has initiated the rise and fall of papers, caused worried high school and college scholars to lose sleep at night, and affected the comprehension of papers everywhere the English language is written. As authors near the end of their introduction paragraph, they are faced with the daunting task of writing the sentence that, in many ways, determines the success of their paper: the thesis sentence.

As a writing consultant, the most common question I receive is “what is a thesis?” Second to this one is the question, “Why does my thesis matter?” If a student writes a paper with a good introduction, body, and conclusion, can one sentence really be that important?

The answer to those last two questions is a most definite YES! Think about it this way: Have you ever been listening to a friend ramble on and on about some subject, but you have no idea what his or her point is? This has happened to me, and sometimes, after a few minutes, I want to say, “Just get to the point!” And I’m sure others around me often feel the same urge! Or, have you ever read a paper or book, but, at the end, been unaware of what the author want to you learn from it? Well, the purpose of the thesis is to clarify said point. Papers are similar to such long verbal explanations. The thesis allows the main idea, the attitude regarding this idea, and the main sub-points that are going to be discussed to be introduced early in the writing.  This sentence allows the reader to know what he or she is getting into, so to speak, when this person begins to read your paper.

In order to avoid such ramblings, you may ask how to compose a thesis, which is such a necessary aspect of your written masterpiece. There are three important components of a strong thesis: the main idea, the attitude or indication of the writer’s position on said idea, and the reasoning (2-3 main points) that support said attitude.

Let’s look at an example: “Cats are amazing because they have an independent disposition, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, we have our topic (cats), our attitude (that they are amazing), and our three points (disposition, tendencies, and behaviors), and it would be my job as the author to prove this point to you in the rest of my paper. A strong thesis statement will not only excite our readers about what is to come but also help us, as writers, to follow a logical order in our writing process.

Of course, there are many ways to write theses; the one above is just the simplest way to do so: subject first, followed by the attitude then the main points. We could also flip that sentence around to say, “Due to their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors, cats are clearly the most amazing pet to own” OR “Their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors cause cats to be the best all-around pet.” These theses communicate the same message but emphasize the topic and sub-points in different ways. Each style is used to stress a particular part of a thesis or to relate parts of the thesis to each other in a unique way. However, the order of the components of the thesis pales in comparison to the importance of actually including these three parts, arranged in a logical manner.

In scientific terms, the thesis is the hypothesis attempting to be proved by the experiment of your paper. It is the position of your debate, the climax of your story, and the blueprints to your building. It is the fulcrum of academic writing, and you must learn the importance and “how-to’s” of thesis writing, as it will determine the comprehension, flow, and success of every paper you write for the rest of your life.

Written by Michelle

For more information on thesis statements and other writing subjects, check out our Writing a Thesis handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

 

How to Make a Poppin’ Personality Quiz

quizThe internet dwellers of today’s society (which includes pretty much every person in the country) can’t resist a good ole’ personality quiz. Yes, even the ones from Buzzfeed. For some of us, it’s especially the Buzzfeed quizzes lurking in the sidebar of our computer or our cellphone which are so irresistible. Others insist that Buzzfeed is a dumping ground of IQ-killing content whilst they sip on their Chem-Ex made coffee from a clay mug crafted in someone’s garage. Neither of these views are necessarily wrong or right, unless, of course, you act as if you don’t like personality quizzes. In that case, you sit on a throne of lies. I’ll admit, I’ve disparaged Buzzfeed in the past, but my eyes have since been opened to its wonderful world of unpaid content creation.

Did you know that literally anyone can publish on Buzzfeed? Yeah, that includes you, you coffee snob. I myself discovered this last summer when I walked into work and said to my coworkers, “If your hair was pasta, what type of pasta do you think it would be?”

  1. Your Weirdest Ideas Can Be Your Best Ideas

After asking that question aloud, my thoughts somehow traipsed to, “Hm, that would be a funny Buzzfeed quiz.” It was that very afternoon when I made the discovery that, with a quick resignation of my email privacy (creating an account) I could make this odd idea come to fruition. It didn’t take long to create, and I had a blast learning how to navigate the user-friendly platform. I created the quiz and delighted in watching my coworkers discover the no-longer-hazy-pasta status of their hair. To this day, that quiz remains my most popular one, and it was featured on the Buzzfeed home page, garnering almost 500,000 views in just one week. I think there are a few reasons for that, and I continue to stick by them when creating content.

  1. Unique Identity Quizzes Really Sell

As mentioned, it’s no secret that everyone likes personality quizzes, because, well, for most people, their favorite subject is themselves! It may or may not be a bad thing, but it’s the truth. At the same time, so many personality quizzes and in-depth tests have been made and taken that at this point, people are hard-pressed to find one that they haven’t taken yet. Two years ago, it was all the rage to find out “What Type of Disney Princess You Are,” but in today’s personality quiz market (a phrase that I never thought would be relevant) it takes something more unique to stand out. Although my idea came out of nowhere, it had the essential element of incorporating a personal feature. There’s honestly a formula to the successful personality quiz, and the first variable is to include a human attribute into the title, whether that’s hair, eye color, pet peeve, etc.

  1. Marry the Trait with Something That Fits

There’s honestly a formula to the successful personality quiz, and the first half of the equation is in my previous point. The next variable is that the other part of the quiz must pertain to a familiar object, obsession, fandom, TV show, or celebrity. For example, some of my other quizzes that trended are titled, “Make the Perfect Krabby Patty and We’ll Reveal Which Spongebob Character You’re Destined To Marry,” as well as, “Tell Us How You Drink Your Coffee and We’ll Reveal Which Profession Is Perfect For You.” With these quizzes, the second variable was met by relating the quizzes to coffee and Spongebob, two widely-known and supremely-beloved things. (I’m destined to marry Sqiudward; who knew?)

And there you have it! The secret formula for inciting Millennial procrastination and distraction from whatever it is they should be doing. Folks will say what they will about our generation, but there are none better than us at making stellar Buzzfeed content. Plus, if you’re looking into a field which involves content creation, it can actually impress some employers that you’re able to come up with creative ideas and garner significant views with it. So go forth, my well-equipped quiz creators, and make something that would be too tantalizing not to take. Also follow my account hee hee.

Written by Karoline

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