Hi James, and everyone else,
I have to admit that your last blog frightened me, just for a moment. You see, I’m a horribly disorganised person, particularly when it comes to remembering birthdays and other important anniversaries. So, when I read your blog, I thought, “Mothers’ Day? Mothers’ Day? AAAARGH! I completely forgot! AGAIN! OK, I’ve got 24 hours, there must be some way I cn get my mother a card…”
Then I paused and thought, “hold on, I’m sure I remember wishing my Mum a happy Mothers’ Day just a few weeks ago.” And then I remembered that in Britain we celebrate Mothers’ Day on a different day from most other countries (typical of the British – we always have to be different). I just did a quick internet search, and I can tell you that British Mothers’ Day is near the end of March – it changes according to the Christian calendar, but this year it was on the 18th of March. I know that now, but I’m sure that by next year I will have forgotten again.
(By the way, look at the verb form in that last sentence again – ‘will have forgotten’. Who can tell me which tense that is?)
Sorry James, I didn’t notice that you had edited your May 9th blog and corrected the mistake. In the corrected version, you used the verb ‘to practice’ very well, with appropriate meaning and correct grammar. However, as usual I’m going to go through your answers in detail and point out a few small but significant mistakes.
1) James are planing to practice writing everyday on May.
I can understand exactly what you mean, of course, but James is only one person, so James is. When a verb ends with a vowel (A, E, I, O, or U) and then a consonant (B, C, D, F, G, etc), we normally double the last consonant before adding –ing (in British English anyway; this rule works differently in American English). So planning should be planning. We have the adjective ‘everyday’ in English (meaning ordinary, normal, something which we see every day) – however, in other situations ‘every’ and ‘day’ are two separate words. Finally, when we use the name of a month, we use the preposition ‘in’ not ‘on’. So the sentence should look like this:
‘James is planning to practice writing every day in May.’
?2) When Luis fist came to Taiwan, he practiced using chopsticks all the time, practice makes perfect, he is proficient in it now.
This sentence is almost perfect – there’s only one mistake, and it’s a mistake which we discussed a few days ago. This sentence has four clauses. The first two clauses are connected by the word ‘when’, but the third and the fourth clauses lack connection. I suggest this:
‘When Luis fist came to Taiwan, he practiced using chopsticks all the time, and practice makes perfect, so he is proficient in it now.’
3) Luis practices using chopsticks to eat rice, and rice is just a kind of food but not the name of the lady.
This is a very good sentence – simply remove the word ‘but’ and add a comma instead, and it’s perfect (obviously the Taiwanese sense of humour is just as strange as the British sense of humour!)
4) James practices cutting down his blog.
In this case, I want to ask, “when?”. I think you probably mean right now, at the moment, and in that case the sentence should be in the present continuous:
‘James practices cutting down his blog.’
In case anyone doesn’t know the phrasal verb ‘to cut down’, it means ‘to reduce’ or ‘to shorten’. I think this is a good thing for you to practice, James, and in order to explain why, I’d like to say a little about writing. Some students of writing think that accuracy is the most important thing. These students take very great care to avoid making any kind of mistakes in their writing work. Of course, it’s good to avoid mistakes, but these students sometimes avoid mistakes by writing very short, simple sentences with very basic grammar and vocabulary. Generally they write only a few sentences in their homework, but they spend a very long time writing and checking these sentences.
On the other hand, there are some students who emphasise complexity rather than accuracy. These students often write many, many pages of homework, using long, complex sentences. It’s good to write complex sentences, of course, but these students sometimes write very inaccurately, and occasionally it’s difficult to understand what they’re trying to express.
In fact, it seems to me that students have to learn to balance accuracy and complexity. When a student is concentrating a little too hard on accuracy, I often tell them to write more, and to experiment with more complex and difficult grammar. I also tell them not to worry if they make mistakes; mistakes are fine, as long as you learn from them.
When a student is concentrating too much on complexity, I normally give them the opposite instructions. I tell them to write less, and to spend more time checking that their grammar is accurate – and if possible to make less mistakes.
Naturally, most students are somewhere between the two extremes. At the moment, James, I think you are paying a lot of attention to complexity. As I said, this is good, increasing complexity is an essential part of learning to write. However, I’d like to encourage you to balance this with a bit more accuracy. For this reason, I think it’s a very good idea for you to cut down the length or the frequency of your blogs a little, and to spend the extra time making sure that you write accurately and use your grammar well.
I remember reading a letter from the Irish writer Oscar Wilde to one of his friends; he wrote something like, “I’m sorry this is such a long letter, but I just don’t have enough time to write a short one.” I’ll copy your style, James, and finish this blog with another quotation, this time from Shakespeare:
Brevity is the soul of wit.
‘To hold on’ is a phrasal verb, meaning ‘to wait’. It’s quite informal, as many phrasal verbs are. In this case, I’m telling myself to wait, to stop and think for a moment.
British people say ‘Mum; Americans say ‘Mom’.
Significant means important or worth noticing.
‘Accuracy’ is the abstract noun related to the adjective ‘accurate’, which means ‘correct’ or ‘without mistakes’.
Similarly, ‘complexity’ is the abstract noun related to the adjective ‘complex’. We use ‘complex’ to describe something which is complicated or has many parts.
One more abstract noun: brevity is related to ‘brief’, meaning ‘short’. In the Shakespeare quotation, soul is used in a poetic way, meaning something like ‘the most important part, and wit means something like intelligence or cleverness. So Shakespeare is saying that short comments are the most intelligent comments.
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