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On 1st March we moved to a new blogging system.

The archives of all the student, teacher and staff blogs are still available here to read but commenting has closed.

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

If you can't stand the heat ...

Hi Eman,

Thanks for your posting. I don't know about anyone else, but I thought the chicken looked delicious - and I'm a vegetarian! I think we'd all like to hear more about your grandma's jam making and your mum and sister's chicken cooking.

Your oven looks very different from any oven I've seen before. Most ovens I've used are gas or eclectic. This is my boring old gas cooker and electric oven at home:

Your stove looks much more interesting. Is it used every day or only for special dishes, like the chicken dish that your mum and sister made for you?

I thought we'd look at a couple of areas of your writing today – sentence length and pronouns.

Sentence length
I noticed that your sentences are quite long. And although I don't know any Arabic, I wonder if that's a reflection of your mother tongue. Does Arabic tend to have longer, more flowing sentences perhaps? Let's take this sentence as an example:

Today I were out of my office as I had a meeting with my colleagues in Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) to work on the publicity of the 3rd Palestinian International Conference on Computer and Information Technology (PICCIT 2010) that is focusing on research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and which will be held by PPU on March 9, 2010.

That's a very long sentence. In English, we tend to go for slightly shorter sentences. We'd probably write something like this:

Today I was out of my office as I had a meeting with colleagues in Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) on the publicity for the 3rd Palestinian International Conference on Computer and Information Technology (PICCIT 2010). The conference, which we'll be hosting on 9 March, is focusing on research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

And though I really shouldn't blow my own trumpet, here's some advice you might find useful which I gave to Jin Lu, a previous student blogger.

A good tip for sentence length in English is to try and say it in one breath (without first filling your lungs to maximum capacity!). When you run out of breath, it's time to put a full stop in your writing. Try reading your sentence above out loud and see how you do.

Have a look at few of your other longer sentences in your blog and see if you can see a way of breaking up their length a bit.

Pronouns are words which take the place of nouns (I, his, theirs, etc.). But in a sentence like this from your blog, you can run into trouble:

Everybody is heading to his job.

If you use his, I feel left out (and so should you!). He or man or mankind, when we mean he or she, people or humans, is considered sexist. And what most people try to do nowadays is make their language as inclusive as possible. So where does that leave us with our his job sentence?

Well, you have a few options. You could say:
a) Each person is heading to his or her job.
b) Everybody is heading to his or her job.
c) Everybody is heading to their job.

Most people, I think would say that sentence (c) is the easiest on the ear and eye. However, the use of their in a sentence like this is not without controversy. You see some grammarians say that everybody is singular but their is plural, and that makes for a grammatical no-no! But actually the singular their has been used in English for hundreds of years (even Shakespeare used it), so I think you can quite safely use it, if you want to!

One more point about pronouns is the use of I in a sentence like this:

I and Ruba are responsible of media coverage

In English, it's considered polite to mention ourselves last, after other people in a sentence.

So can you see a way to change the Ruba sentence above?

That's all for now. Thanks for your blogs so far. And along with all your followers, I'm looking forward to your next posting from Palestine.


a reflection - a sign or result of something
blow my own trumpet – (an idiom) to boast or talk proudly of your own achievements
breath - air that goes into and out of your lungs
lungs - the two organs in the chest with you use to breathe
maximum capacity – the most that you can put in something (here, your lungs) breaking up their length a bit – making into smaller pieces
sexist – language or behaviour that suggest women are less able than men or not as good as them
inclusive – including everyone, making everyone feel welcome
the easiest on the ear and eye – the easiest to hear and see (or here, read)
controversy – something that causes disagreement or discussion
a grammatical no-no – grammatically not correct


Hi nuala, It is a nice experience for me to learn from your teacher blog. The test is very good (how long the sentence should be) When you specify the (c) line is easiest on the ear and eye .. i wonder! u r a excellence teacher who can read the students mind.. :P

Hi, Nuala. Your oven may be different from Eman's, but the KETTLE! It is amasingly alike Eman's kettle.

Hello Nuala, how are you? It's a great pleasure to read your postings and learn English from you. I liked this posting explanations very much. I found the previous posting very difficult when you explained the grading adjectives. It's very hard to reckognize the difference among the adjectives. I liked the picture of your stove. I have a stove similar to Eman's in my house. It is heated with burning wood. But I have to say that in hot days it's very hard to stay in the kitchen when it's on. Thanks for your postings. I'll sure keep on learning from them. Good bye.

Nuala, I really like the gentle, thoughtful way that you help these students with their writing, aiming for clarity and simplicity and highlighting just a couple of grammar or style areas at a time. I'll recommend your blog to my students at Acadia Center in Maine, USA.

Quite interesting comments on sexist pronouns. Portuguese is my first language and when it comes to nouns in the plural form, the adjective falls on the male one. I guess that English, being a "lingua franca" tends to sound more democratic. Thanks for the tips.

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

February 2010

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