The Never List


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Some guidelines for formal writing, and for writing in general in my class.

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  • Slides 4 and 24 are particularly helpful because they address the issue of clarity. Much of the writing my AP World History students scribble on the page is too vague and fails to substantiate their response to a question. Joseph M. Williams wrote a few good resources on style. ;)
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  • This is terrible! I'm a college-composition professor, and this slideshow reveals to me why I have to 'un-teach' so much of what my freshman students come in with. Please, please, please--go to a credible, reliable, accurate source when learning about academic writing--or just read some actual academic/scholarly essays to see what those writers do (such as use 'I' or 'we,' or use contractions). And note that the problem with intensifiers isn't vagueness; at least be accurate when explaining these arbitrary and ridiculous 'rules'!
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The Never List

  1. 1. Formal language There are some words that are not used in formal writing or speaking
  2. 2. The words that may not be used in formal pieces are known as informal. Notice the prefix in , meaning not when used here.
  3. 3. There are MANY words that are considered informal and therefore inappropriate for academic writing. <ul><li>The words that teens use that are popular for a specific generation are too informal. </li></ul><ul><li>The words that are non-specific are too informal </li></ul><ul><li>Words with similar meanings put together are too informal </li></ul><ul><li>There are more, but we’ll move on. . . </li></ul>
  4. 4. These words are too vague <ul><li>a lot (notice this is two words – it is always two words) </li></ul><ul><li>many </li></ul><ul><li>really </li></ul><ul><li>good </li></ul><ul><li>stuff </li></ul><ul><li>lots </li></ul><ul><li>nice </li></ul><ul><li>thing </li></ul><ul><li>very </li></ul>
  5. 5. Teen-speak is another informal, therefore, inappropriate way of expressing meaning. It is slang. Regardless of the receiver's ability to understand, slang is not appropriate in academic work.
  6. 6. For example <ul><li>peeps, dawgs, homies – use friends </li></ul><ul><li>rents -use parents </li></ul><ul><li>kicks, rides - use shoes </li></ul><ul><li>hella -use really </li></ul><ul><li>sick, wicked, tope -use the most specific word to relay your intended meaning of “cool” </li></ul>
  7. 7. DO NOT USE THESE WORDS IN YOUR ESSAYS! <ul><li>I, me, my, mine </li></ul><ul><li>Our, ours </li></ul><ul><li>We, us </li></ul><ul><li>You, your, yours </li></ul>
  8. 8. “ But why?” you ask, “they are fine words and I’ve been using them since I could write.” <ul><li>Oh, let me tell you a true story about why those pronouns don’t work in formal writing. . . </li></ul>
  9. 9. You may not use contractions either, NOT AT ALL! <ul><li>WHATEVER WILL YOU DO? </li></ul>
  10. 10. You’ll learn to proofread You will learn to proofread <ul><li>You really will. The penalties are too severe for you to ignore this rule! Each use of the informal words in this slide show will reduce your score by 3%. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Sentence Starters Pre AP students will NEVER use: <ul><li>Well, </li></ul><ul><li>So, </li></ul><ul><li>First, </li></ul><ul><li>Second, </li></ul><ul><li>Third, </li></ul><ul><li>Also, </li></ul><ul><li>And also (this is redundant) </li></ul><ul><li>Lastly, </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, </li></ul><ul><li>In conclusion </li></ul>
  12. 12. About “In conclusion. . .” <ul><li>This is ridiculous in writing because the reader can see the white space at the end. For a writer to report this to his reader, with any phrase of this type, is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. </li></ul><ul><li>These phrases should be saved for speech making. The audience may want to know when the speaker is finally going to stop talking! </li></ul>
  13. 13. Not one English teacher in this building allows use of “in conclusion” in formal essays. ‘ nuff said about that!
  14. 14. Phrases Pre AP students will NEVER use: <ul><li>The author uses ____________ to draw the reader in. </li></ul><ul><li>The author uses ______________to catch the reader’s attention. </li></ul><ul><li>The author uses __________ to show…. </li></ul><ul><li>The author ____________ to prove a point. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Any phrase that refers to the paper itself or the reader is one Pre AP students will NEVER use: <ul><li>As was previously mentioned. . . . </li></ul><ul><li>As you can see, by my astute analysis. . . </li></ul>
  16. 16. Author or Piece Commentary Phrases Pre AP students will NEVER use: <ul><li>The author is a good writer. </li></ul><ul><li>This is a well-written piece. </li></ul>
  17. 17. NEVER use slang, or cliché, or informal words in any piece that is not a narrative. We have not talked about cliché yet, so let’s make sure you know what it is so you don’t use it.
  18. 18. Cliché <ul><li>n. </li></ul><ul><li>1. A trite or overused expression or idea: &quot;Even while the phrase was degenerating to cliché in ordinary public use . . . scholars were giving it increasing attention&quot; (Anthony Brandt). </li></ul><ul><li>2. A person or character whose behavior is predictable or superficial: &quot;There is a young explorer . . . who turns out not to be quite the cliche expected&quot; (John Crowley). </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  19. 19. Another definition: <ul><li>What is a cliché? A cliché is an expression (such as a metaphor) that has been used so often it loses its freshness and meaning. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  20. 20. So, how do you know if what you wrote is a cliché? <ul><li>There are two ways that I know of, to determine this: </li></ul>
  21. 21. Method One: <ul><li>Just ask yourself, have I heard this before? The chances are, if you’ve written an expression that you’ve heard before then it’s probably a cliché </li></ul>
  22. 22. Method two: <ul><li>You can research a list of clichés at the following site: The site provides an enormous list of clichés that you can reference if you aren’t sure about the expression you are using. Take a visit if you’re curious. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Some examples of cliché: <ul><li>“ It’s bone-chilling cold” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sleeping like the dead” </li></ul><ul><li>“ At the end of my rope” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nip it in the bud” </li></ul>
  24. 24. Always use the most specific word or words you can, as you must be concise, as well as clear.
  25. 25. Do not use a thesaurus to drop words into your writing. Often, the connotation is incorrect, resulting in your seeming ignorant of the language and less scholarly.
  26. 26. The expectations are high because you are capable of great things! I believe it. Do you?