It's half past north
I feel so mellow after reading your last posting I'm not sure I can make myself meet my deadline of writing back to you by the close of play today!
The vision you conjured up of staring up into the vast night sky, drinking camel's milk and composing romantic verses has unsettled me entirely. You've made me realise I don't need a watch or clock, it's a compass that's missing in my life!
I'm looking out the window at the dull, grey London skies and the rain falling down in sheets against the anonymous, brick city offices and thinking thoughts that have nothing to do with work. You've inspired and corrupted me too. I need to get back to nature. Here's what I should be doing right now:
Ah, I feel better already!
Reluctantly, I turn back to work…. Today, I thought we'd look at some rules about punctuation, as well as some rules about articles.
Throughout your last post you used brackets (...) when you should have used quotation marks " …" For example:
I hope your answer was a resounding (no)
I hope your answer was a resounding "no"
We use brackets to add some detail that might not be essential (but is, the writer thinks, still somehow interesting).
I know with the blogging software we use here it's sometimes difficult to see what your posting is going to look like until you've posted it. But I do think you need to give some thought to breaking up your text more. I don't know if you write your blog on the computer first, say in Word, before inputting into the blogging software. If you don't, I think you should as that might help you notice that your posting is often one long, unbroken stream of text.
English writing can sometimes be difficult for speakers from Arabic countries because they're writing in a different script (or alphabet) to the one they're used to using for writing in Arabic. However, I believe the rules are the same in Arabic writing as they are in English – each new topic or idea gets a new paragraph.
The use of paragraphing is particularly important on the web, where a lot of people find looking at a lot of very dense text very tiring (on their eyes)
Have a look at your recent posts and see if you can find ways you could break up the text a bit. On a blog, it's often a good idea to put an extra empty line between each paragraph, just to break up your text on the screen for your readers.
In your next posting, cast a critical eye over your writing, in terms of how your paragraph it.
Next, let's talk about articles. I'm sure you know that if there's only one of something, we use the definite article the:
the Sahara, the moon, the Mississippi
But did you know that we sometimes don't use the at all? For example, when we're talking about generalisations with plural nouns (films):
I love films, don't you?
And with uncountable nouns (music):
I find music very relaxing.
Here a few examples from your last blog where you used the but you shouldn't have:
… to keep up with the chock-a-block life
… away from any kind of distraction about the nature
… and the human fate
Next, let's look at the indefinite article (a and an). We use the indefinite article when we introduce something for the first time in a conversation, when we mean one. Here are a few examples from your blog where you're 100% on the money using indefinite articles:
… from a hectic day
… perform a new sort of meditation
… on a trip my friends and I took
Now, here's your homework. Below there are 10 sentences taken from your last blog. Your job is to decide if each sentence is correct or not in its use of articles. I've thrown in one sentence where agreement is the issue. If you sort out the agreement, the articles will be ok then too.
One final clue before you start - there are five correct sentences:
1. Are you run off your feet most of the time?
2. You would wake up every day without alarm.
3. Then you would watch the lonely rising sun.
4. … it sinks … behind the sand dunes.
5. … you want to take look.
6. … the tea maker has enough time
7. The Bedouins here spend several hours holding a green tea ceremonies
8. … in the modern civilization
9. Though we are called underdeveloped world …
10. We prefer the compass to the watch.
Thanks again for a really inspiring posting. I'm going home now and I'm going to throw away my alarm clock for good!
All the best,
mellow – very relaxed
the close of play – (from cricket) at the end of a match. Now used in business to mean at the end of the business day (usually 5.30 pm)
conjured up - made something appear as if by magic
unsettled me – changed the way I usually think things should be or have to be (usually when we use unsettle we mean change in a negative way. I'm using it here to show that some people might think my new way of thinking is very radical and therefore wrong)
sheets – (to talk about rain) a lot of
corrupted me - made me think bad thoughts (that work isn't so great after all and that the relaxed life is more for me)
breaking up separating out, leaving space between
stream - continuous flow of things (here, words on the page)
dense – very concentrated
cast a critical eye over – look at something in a critical way (trying to find mistakes or errors)
100% on the money – 100% correct
for good – for ever
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