English Corner – The Active Voice

Every writer has a voice but it’s important to be able to distinguish which is the correct voice to use depending upon the context. There are two main voices in English writing to be aware of: the active voice and the passive voice. In this ‘English Corner’ blog post, we will be focusing specifically on how to use the active voice in your writing, which means that the subject of the sentence is actually creating the action and not the other way around.

The ‘active voice’ adds more impact to your writing, which is why most writers use the active voice instead of the passive voice. Overall, I would argue that the active voice is more important than the passive voice yet you should know how to use both effectively as an English writer.

Active Voice Usage

Sentences written in an active voice flow better and are easier to understand. When you use the active voice, the emphasis is on the subject of the sentence, which is doing the action itself. This makes the sentence straightforward and concise. Examples are:

  • I really love this TV show.
  • Gorillas live in the jungle. 

Sentences that use a passive voice are often harder to understand. Passive voice can make a sentence awkward and vague. The emphasis of the sentence changes to the receiver of the action. Some examples are:

  • This TV show is loved by me.
  • The jungle is where the gorillas live.

Passive sentences usually have more words than active ones, which is one reason why the reader has to work harder to get the meaning of the sentence, and the sentence structure can seem disorderly. If you have a composition that is too difficult to understand, you may be able to change some passive sentences to active ones. Two examples are:

  • The electoral ballots were counted by the volunteers. (passive)
    The volunteers counted the electoral ballots. (active)
  • The flowers were stepped on by the dog. (passive)
    The dog stepped on the flowers. (active)

Active Voice Adds Impact to Your Writing

The active voice adds substantial impact to your sentence; however, you may sometimes want to use the passive voice to lessen the impact of your sentence.

  • Sometimes the active voice is used to deliberately obscure who is responsible for an action, like if a politician said, “Mistakes were made” or “Shots were fired.”
  • Businesses may use the passive voice to lessen their impact like “Your service will be shut off” which is passive, rather than “We are going to shut off your service.” which is active.
  • In crime reports, a policeman would write, “the bank was robbed” because he does not know who actually robbed the bank.
  • In a mystery novel, you may want to place the emphasis on what was taken, like “the jewels were taken” rather than focus on the unknown person who took them.

In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb. These examples show that the subject is doing the verb’s action:

The boy must have eaten all of the hot dogs.

            The boy (subject) is doing the eating (verb).

Jennifer mailed him the love letter.

            Jennifer (subject) is doing the mailing (verb).

Colorful iguanas live in the Amazon rainforest.

            Iguanas (subject) are doing the living (verb).

Because the subject does or “acts upon” the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the active voice. As you go through an individual essay, article, or paper, please be sure to check that you are primarily using the active voice. The passive voice definitely has its place but if you are especially trying to be persuasive, make a congruent argument, or back up your hypothesis, then you should mainly be using the active voice in those types of writing. 

If you find that the ‘subject’ of your sentence is clearly not at the beginning and your action / object is taking its place, then your sentence is not an active one by a passive one instead. The active voice always places the subject within the first word or two at the beginning of the sentence so that the reader will be well aware of who is committing the action. Please keep in mind how to use the active voice in terms of the sentence structure, what the examples show above, and in which types of writing the active voice is mainly used. If you would like to take your English writing to the next level, you must first know what the active voice is and in a later ‘English Corner’ post, the passive voice will be discussed in terms of its usage and some examples.

Lastly, think of the ‘active voice’ and the ‘passive voice’ as the Yin and the Yang of English writing. Both have their separate and unique uses but you can’t only have one in your writing. You must be able to know how to use both because there cannot be one without the other. 

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English Corner – The Rules of Capitalization

Understanding the rules of capitalization is a key part of taking your English grammar understanding to a very advanced level. If you are able to know when, where, and how to capitalize letters and words correctly, you will definitely be ahead of most other English learners.

Some people may tell you that there are far more than just the main ten rules of capitalization in English, which may in fact be true. Other folks may say that there are only three rules of capitalization, and they may also be correct. However, The truth is that, depending on how you organize the rules, the rules of capitalization may be many or few based on how narrow or broad your definition of these rules are.

Most of the things we capitalize in English are what we refer to as ‘proper nouns.’ They are the names of specific and unique things.

  • If you are talking about one specific mountain (Mt. Fuji), state (Idaho) or street (Atlantic Avenue), use a capital letter for every word in the name.
  • However, when you are talking about a common thing of which there are many of them- like a mountain, a state or a street – you don’t have to use a capital letter for those words.

It’s important to remember as well that Capital letters are not used for articles (a, an, the) or for prepositions (of, on, for, in, to, with, etc.).

The Ten Main Rules

  1. Names or titles of people

This one may seem obvious, but there’s also a catch. Of course, you capitalize the first letters of a person’s first, middle and last names (John Quincy Adams), but you also capitalize suffixes (Jr., the Great, Princess of Power, etc.) and titles.

Titles can be as simple as Mr., Mrs. or Dr., but they also apply to situations wherein you address a person by his or her position as though it’s their first name. For example, when we talk about President Lincoln, we are using his role as though it were a part of his name. We don’t always capitalize the word president. Indeed, we could say, “During the Civil War, President Lincoln was the president of the United States.”

Another way to look at capitalizing job titles is to look at the position of the job title in the sentence in reference to the person’s name.

  • You should capitalize the title when it comes immediately before or after someone’s name.
  • You don’t have to capitalize the job title if it comes after the word “the.”

For example:  “Dr. Rogers was the Cardiac Surgeon.” “The cardiac surgeon allowed me to come into the room and observe the patient.”

  1. Names of mountains, mountain ranges, hills and volcanoes

Again, we’re talking about specific places. The word ‘hill’ is not a proper noun, but Bunker Hill is because it’s the name of one specific hill. Use a capital letter to begin each word in the name of a mountain (Mt. Olympus), mountain range (the Appalachians), hill (San Juan Hill) or volcano (Mt. Vesuvius).

  1. Names of bodies of water (rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, streams and creeks)

From here, it gets pretty easy. The same rules that apply to mountain names also apply to water names. A river is just a river, but the Mississippi River is a proper noun and must be capitalized, just like Lake Erie, the Indian Ocean and the Dead Sea.

  1. Names of buildings, monuments, bridges and tunnels

Man-made structures also often have names. The White House, The Eiffel Tower, The Statue of Liberty, The Golden Gate Bridge and The Lincoln Tunnel are a few good examples.

  1. Street names

It’s necessary to capitalize both the actual name part of the name (Capital) and the road part of the name (Boulevard); both are necessary for forming the entire name of the street (Capital Boulevard).

  1. Schools, colleges and universities

All of the words in the name of the educational institution should be capitalized. For example, Harvard University, Wilkesboro Elementary School, Cape Fear Community College.

  1. Political divisions (continents, regions, countries, states, counties, cities and towns)

As is the case with regions of a country, the divisions may not always be political, but you get the idea. When you refer to New England, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest or the South as a region (as opposed to a compass direction), you capitalize it. Also, continents (South America), countries (Belgium), states (Wisconsin), counties (Prince William County), cities (London) and towns (Lizard Lick) get capitalized.

  1. Titles of books, movies, magazines, newspapers, articles, songs, plays and works of art

This one’s a little tricky when ‘and,’ articles or prepositions are involved. If ‘the’ is the first word in the given name of a work, it must be capitalized (The Washington PostThe Glass Menagerie). If ‘a’ or ‘an’ is the first word, it too is capitalized (A Few Good Men), and if a preposition leads the way, you guessed it: Capitalized (Of Mice and Men). However, if any of these words come in the middle of the title, it is not capitalized.

  1. The first letter in a sentence

The last two rules are easy. Always capitalize the first letter of a sentence. If the sentence is a quotation within a larger sentence, capitalize it, but only if it’s a complete sentence. If it’s merely a phrase that fits neatly into the larger sentence, it does not require capitalization. Study the following two examples for clarification:

  • The waiter said, “My manager will be here shortly,” but he never came.
  • The waiter told us that his manager would “be here shortly,” but he never came.
  1. The pronoun ‘I’

It’s only necessary to capitalize other pronouns when they begin a sentence, but ‘I’ is always capitalized.

Remembering the Rules

How can you possibly remember all these rules? Well, first of all, you should ask yourself three questions:

  • Is this the first letter in a sentence? If the answer is yes, capitalize.
  • Is this the pronoun I? If yes, capitalize.
  • Am I using a name that someone gave to this thing or person? If yes, capitalize.

And if you want to remember all the specific categories, try memorizing one of the following sentences.

  • “For Bob Barker, the price is wrong sometimes,” Adam says.
  • Susan Sarandon bought my wife fancy toilet paper in Boston.

The first letter of each word stands for a category:

  • F– First letter in a sentence
  • B– Buildings (and other man-made structures)
  • B– Borders (of regions, states, countries, etc.)
  • T– Titles
  • P– People
  • I– I
  • S– Schools
  • W– Water
  • M– Mountains
  • S– Streets

Other Examples of Capitalization

First Word of a Sentence

The cat is sleeping in my bedroom.

Where did I put that book?

Hey! It’s great to see you! How have you been?

Names and Personal Pronouns

My favorite author is Jonathan Franzen.

Tom and Diane met at Jill’s house.

Have you met my dog, Barry?

The First Word of a Full Quote

Mario asked, “What is everyone doing this weekend?”

Stacy answered, “My sister and I are going to the theme park.”

Days, Months, and Holidays

I hate Mondays!

Harry’s birthday is in July.

Oh no! I forgot about Mother’s Day!

Words in Formal Titles

Lord of Rings is better than A Song of Ice and Fire.

The first movie of the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Cities, Countries, Nationalities, and Languages

English is made up of many languages, including Latin, German, and French.

My mother is Italian, and my father is German.

The capital of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa.

Time Periods and Events

Most of the World War I veterans have now passed away.

In the Middle Ages, poor hygiene was partly responsible for the spreading of the black death.

High school history students often enjoy studying the social changes that took place during the Roaring Twenties in the United States.

In this article, it is not just the ten main rules of capitalization that we have to be aware of. There are many other additional rules where you can use capitalization on a consistent basis. The examples shown above should help you, the reader, to understand when and where these words can be capitalized and to notice a pattern in terms of how these rules can be applied. 

Overall, capitalization is a very tricky topic to fully master but if you know the rules and you know when not to capitalize at all just for definite / indefinite articles along with prepositions, you will be well on your way to having a handle on this advanced grammar topic. It’s important to not be overwhelmed by all of the rules out there including the additional ones that were highlighted here. Starting off with the ten main rules of capitalization is a sufficient enough starting point to focus on. With Capitalization, you do not want to bite off more than you can chew and while the ‘additional rules’ of this grammar topic are important, it’s best to focus on the main rules such as geographic features, names of people / titles, the first letter in any sentence, etc. Good luck!

English Corner – Fun with Adverbs

In a previous ‘English Corner’ post, we covered the topic of ‘conjunctive adverbs‘ and also briefly touched upon ‘adverbs’ in the articles on ‘basic parts of speech‘ but now I would like to go much more in depth to talk about adverbs and why they should matter to the English learner. To put it quite simply, Adverbs are a basic part of speech in English that add clarity to your written and spoken sentences. Adverbs are used to modify, change, or quantify an adjective, verb, or another adverb in the same sentence or group of words.

Without adverbs, sentences in English wouldn’t have the same zest and flair that they do with this basic part of speech being used correctly. Adverbs can draw relations between places, people, times, causes, degrees, etc. While Adverbs are not the most popular form of basic speech, you cannot be well-versed in understanding English grammar without having a formal knowledge of what adverbs are, how they are used, and what kind of examples need them within the sentences you create. Please use this article on ‘adverbs’ to improve not only your understanding of the English language but also your ability to write, speak, and use it freely. 

Traditionally considered to be a single part of speech, adverbs perform a wide variety of functions, which makes it difficult to treat them as a single, unified category. Adverbs normally carry out these functions by answering questions such as:

  • When? She always arrives early.
  • How? He drives carefully.
  • Where? They go everywhere
  • In what way? She eats slowly.
  • To what extent? It is terribly

These examples help bring light to the fact that they are all adverbial functions and may be accomplished by using adverbial clauses and adverbial phrases as well as by adverbs that are singular as well. There are many rules for using adverbs, and these rules often depend upon which type of adverb you are using. Remember these basics as expressed in the examples above, and using adverbs to make sentences more meaningful, and expressive will be easier for you.

  • Adverbs can always be used to modify verbs. Notice that the second of these two sentences is much more interesting simply because it contains an adverb:
    • The dog ran. (You can picture a dog running, but you don’t really know much more about the setting.)
    • The dog ran excitedly. (You can picture a dog running, wagging its tail, panting happily, and looking glad to see its owner. You can paint a much more interesting picture in your head when you know how or why the dog is running.)
  • Adverbs are often formed by adding the letters “-ly” to the end of adjectives. This little tidbit of information makes it very easy to identify adverbs in many sentences. There are many exceptions to this rule; everywhere, nowhere, and upstairs are a few examples where an –ly isn’t apart of the adverb itself.
  • An adverb can be used to modify an adjective and intensify the meaning it conveys.
    • Examples: He plays tennis well. (He knows how to play tennis and sometimes he wins.)
    • He plays tennis extremely well. (He knows how to play tennis so well that he wins often.)

As you read the following adverb examples listed below, you’ll notice how these useful words modify other words and phrases by providing information about the place, time, manner, certainty, frequency, or other circumstances of activity denoted by the verbs or verb phrases in the sentences.

There are many different words that function as adverbs. The following list is broken down into different categories, which list adverbs by their function. After reading, you will be able to think of additional adverbs to add to your own list – after all, there are thousands of adverbs that appear in the English language.                   

The vast majority of adverbs out there end in “-ly”. This makes it very easy to spot the adverbs in most sentences so please be on the lookout for that as you discover this basic part of speech in more detail.

Abruptly

Boldly

Carefully

Deliberately

Excitedly

Financially

Horribly

Mildly

Naughtily

Openly

Poorly

Quickly

Sadly

Terribly

Willingly

Yearly

Some adverbs tell us where the action happened. These are known as adverbs of place.

Everywhere

Here

Inside

There

Underground

Upstairs

Certain adverbs let us know when or how often the action happened. These are known as adverbs of time and adverbs of frequency.

After

Always

Before

Later

Now

Today

Yesterday

Many adverbs tell us the extent of the action.

Almost

Enough

So

Too

Quite

Rather

Very

Some adverbs are used as what’s known as intensifiers.

Absolutely

Certainly

Completely

Heartily

Really

Certain adverbs called adverbs of manner tell us about the way in which something was done.

Briskly

Cheerfully

Expectantly

Randomly

Willingly

___________________

Now that you are more familiar with what ‘adverbs’ are, have seen a good amount of examples of how they are used, as well as been shown a list of the most popularly used ones, you should be better able to use adverbs correctly in written or spoken sentences. Please be sure to study the definition of an adverb, the different ways it can be used, and the list of words that are adverbs themselves. If you do not apply the information that you learn about adverbs such as in this article, you won’t be able to improve your English grammar as much as possible. Good luck and remember to have some fun with adverbs!

English Corner – All About Adjectives

We have previously covered ‘adjectives’ to an extent in a previous blog post entry on the ‘eight basic parts of speech’ for which ‘adjectives is one of them. However, I believe that it is crucial to go into much more detail about what adjectives are and how they can be used in different ways in the English language.

The main definition for a ‘adjective’ is a word that is used to describe a noun or give a noun or a pronoun a more specific meaning. There are hundreds of adjectives in the English language making the possible combinations and uses of them almost infinite. The process of an adjective describing a word is modifying it to become more descriptive. Adjectives answer important questions about the details of a sentence such as: What kind?, Which one?, How many?, How much?

Let’s start out with some general examples of how adjectives can be used within sentences to help give pronouns and nouns more specific and descriptive meanings.

Examples:

The newlyweds live in a beautiful house.

John is a kind and caring teenager.

Tina is a sweet and respectful girl.

The high school students are quiet when they listen to the teacher.

From the general examples of ‘adjectives’ that I have listed above, in the bolded words, you can see a pattern take place in that these words are describing nouns like ‘house, teenager, girl, teacher’, and they always come before the nouns. These nouns as they are well documented are people, place(s), and thing(s). As you can see, while the adjective(s) come before a noun, they also come after verbs such as ‘is, are, live,’ etc. as shown in the examples above. Verbs don’t always come before adjectives but that’s usually the case in a normal sentence.

Here are a few more examples showing how the average verb will come before an adjective in a sentence:

  • Your car is blue. (to be)
  • The sky appeared to be cloudy. (to appear)
  • His face looked tired. (to look)

Adjectives can also modify pronouns as well within a sentence and you can use two adjectives together in the same sentence back-to-back without any issues. Here are some examples I have listed below with adjectives – pronouns together in a sentence as well as the use of two or more adjectives in the same sentence:

  • They were such a nice couple.
  • It is really a beautiful day out.
  • He truly acts like a mature individual.

From these pronouns – adjectives examples above, you can see that they are often subject words such as (they, it, he) and they come at the beginning of the sentence. The adjectives themselves (nice, beautiful, mature) will come towards the end of the sentence after the pronoun but before the noun they modify if there is one to be changed.

  • The cookie is both black and white.
  • He was a dangerous, demented person.
  • LeBron James is a kind, caring athlete.

You don’t only need to use one or two adjectives in your sentences as you can use three or more if you really would like to make your writing as descriptive as possible. Knowing how and when to use adjectives is the key to becoming a better English writer and making your writing more appealing to your audience. By being able to know the vocabulary and how to use adjectives correctly in your sentences, your English will be more readable and also more entertaining to your readers. It will take time but it’s good to establish the basics of adjectives now in order to build upon your knowledge of this topic later on.

When it comes to how to form ‘adjectives’, they will usually come with endings to the words that stand out to you. Examples of adjective word endings include –able, -ible, -ish, -like, -ful, -less, -ous, and –y. Adjectives don’t always end in those word endings but it’s important to be aware of the many cases in which they do end like that.

Examples: Thinkable, Possible, Childish, Adultlike, Thoughtful, Faithless, Courageous, Hungry.

There are hundreds of examples for adjectives that end with these letters but it’s key for you, the reader, to draw the connections by looking at the structure of the adjective and seeing if there’s a –y or –ish ending before you write it for your sentence.

Lastly, a lot of adjectives are comparative or superlative in nature so you have to be aware of how to form those words as well because they will come up a lot in written or spoken form.

Comparative: more or less + adjective and -er

Superlative: most or least + adjective, adjective and –est

Adjective: Tall

1st Comparative Example: Taller

1st Superlative Example: Tallest

Adjective: Dangerous

2nd Comparative Example: More Dangerous, Less Dangerous

2nd Superlative Example: Most Dangerous, Least Dangerous

Hopefully, this blog post on adjectives has helped you, the reader, in terms of what they are, how they are placed within a sentence, how many of them can be used, and how to use them for comparative purposes. You have also seen possible word endings for most adjectives to give you a good hint as to when they are actually adjectives and not just nouns or verbs. Once you have this fundamental basic part of speech down, you’ll be able to tackle harder and more complex (adjective) English grammar topics.

English Corner – Gerunds

In order to facilitate your grammar studies, it’s important to not overlook certain topics that are integral to boosting your knowledge of English grammar. ‘Gerunds’ is one of those key topics to really get a handle on and master because it will come up again and again in both your speaking and writing. While not the most complex topic, being able to understand the rules behind gerunds and memorizing them will put you ahead of other learners. ‘Gerunds’ is a topic that needs to be put into use over and over in order to be used proficiently.

The main thing to keep in mind with gerunds is not to overcomplicate what they are and what they are used for. Gerunds are simple verbs that end in –ing and that never changes regardless of which tense they are used in. –Ing can be added to verbs that are used in the present, past, and future tenses. Gerunds can also be utilized at the beginning, middle, and ending of sentences. These verbs + -ing are extremely versatile in their usage and it’s important to be aware of where they can be placed within sentences.

The key thing to keep in mind with a gerund word is that it used more like a noun than a verb or an adjective. Most students don’t remember that a verb that ends in –ing can also function as a present participle which is different than a gerund. Gerunds are not the same as present participles and the main difference between them is quite easy to remember. Gerunds are primarily used as more of a noun than a verb or adjective whereas present participles function more as exact verbs. Here are a few examples below as to how ‘gerunds’ are used as nouns in a regular sentence:

  1. I like dancing on a Saturday night.
  2. Playing video games is really fun.
  3. Singing in the rain is an underrated activity.

Gerunds have to be thought of nouns in verb form essentially. If you notice from the above examples, ‘gerund’ words can be used as the subject or object of a sentence. They can be placed at the beginning of the sentence to become the main subject or they can be the object of the sentence when the gerund comes after the main subject and the main verb as well.

While gerunds can mainly function as nouns, they can also be used as adjectives when they are right next to each other in the sentence structure.

  1. It was a night of ceaseless partying that went until the morning light.
  2. The careful building of the Statue of Liberty was a great French achievement.

It is important to note that you can often use gerunds after many different kinds of prepositions during a normal sentence. Gerunds often act as a substitute for noun words that you could be used right after prepositions. If you’re only using the base verb without the gerund (-ing), it won’t be grammatically correct. Here are a few examples of how to use the gerund after a few different prepositions:

  1. I will make breakfast before going into work today.
  2. Please do wash your hands after making dinner for our guests.
  3. We are used to driving on the right here in the United States.

It’s important to keep in mind that the gerund immediately follows each preposition directly after the preposition word is used in the sentence. There are dozens of prepositions used in the English language so it is important to keep in mind when to use the gerund after any kind of preposition comes up in a sentence.

Lastly, ‘gerunds’ can be used in a passive voice kind of sentence under multiple circumstances. In these kinds of cases, the gerund word would often come at the end of the sentence to reflect the action taking place. Here are a few examples of how you can use gerunds in a passive voice kind of sentence:

  1. I have three pairs of pants that need washing.
  2. The water cooler at my workplace needs replenishing.
  3. Your shirts are outside the house on the clothesline drying.

Please note that in sentences #1 and #2 from my examples that the main verb ‘need’ is used right before each gerund word. Without the main verb of ‘need’, it becomes much more difficult to express the action that is occurring at the end of the sentence.

Whatever use you find for the gerund, remember that the gerund comes up very often in both spoken and written English. You can use the gerund for multiple purposes including for nouns, adjectives, prepositions, passive voice, etc. The key thing to take away is that gerunds are very flexible in terms of their placement within a sentence. They can also be combined with various parts of speech to make your writing flow better and have more details. While gerunds are easy to form with ‘verb + -ing’, using them within the right context and in the right format is something that requires patience, practice, and repetition.

English Corner – Writing a Good Essay

In order to become an excellent English writer, it’s very important to have the structure in place if you want to write a good essay. Firstly, you are going to want to make sure that you start with a beginning paragraph known as the ‘introduction.’ With the introduction paragraph, you’re going to set the tone in terms of telling the audience what the topic of your essay is along with some supporting sentences discussing the topic(s) that are going to be covered later in the body paragraph(s). Your introduction paragraph should be between 3 to 4 sentences total and you should also have a thesis sentence laying out the main purpose of your essay and what you hope to get across to the audience. 

After completing the introduction, you should make sure to have a body paragraph or a few body paragraphs next where you can discuss the main topic in more detail depending upon how many paragraphs you need to express your point of view or opinion. 

For example, if you’re discussing the weighty topic of climate change, you’ll need a couple of paragraphs in the body section of the essay to discuss why it’s an issue, what can be done about it, and how should people work together to reduce the effects of climate change. For this particular example, you’re going to want to have three body paragraphs total which should be between 4 – 6 sentences total. In these body paragraph(s), you need to make sure you’re giving examples, statistics, or evidence to support the claims and/or ideas that you brought up in your introduction paragraph. The body paragraph(s) are the meat of your essay or article so make sure that it’s convincing, detailed, and engaging to your audience. 

Lastly, you will need to finish up your essay or article with a ‘conclusion’ or concluding paragraph. The conclusion is similar to the introduction in that it is only going to be 3 – 4 sentences total. For this paragraph, you are going to sum up the main points or arguments again that you want the readers of the essay to take from what you wrote. You’ll want to restate your thesis from the beginning paragraph and make sure to leave your reader wanting more information about the topic that you just addressed. It’s important that you follow the introduction + body paragraph(s) + conclusion structure in order to have a truly great essay. The structure and formatting of an essay is really important so you have to make sure that it becomes a personal habit for yourself whenever you’re writing in English. 

An overlooked part to writing a good essay is the fact that you’ll need to back up your main ideas with real examples. These examples can be more scientific or research-based in nature or they can be based off of your own personal experiences and background depending on what kind of essay you are writing. If it is an academic, scientific, or evidence-based essay, you’ll need to use outside sources that are legitimate and directly related to the main ideas you’re reiterating in each paragraph. 

For an academic essay or paper, you should not be using your own opinions or personal experiences to count as doing research. When it comes to this kind of writing, you need to find research that is evidence-based, that has been backed up by more than one source, and is able to be cited in either the footnotes or the endnotes of your essay. The examples needed for this kind of essay should be not your own but rather those of other authors in your field who came to a similar kind of conclusion based on their research. You can use their quotations to cite the work that they’ve done and use their findings to supplement your ideas while adding validity to your essay’s argument. 

When it comes to a persuasive or opinionated essay, you won’t have to do as much scientific or academic research, but you’ll still have to use your own experiences and personal background to add to your essay. Also, there should sometimes be an added effect in these essays where you can use the experiences of other people to back up your main ideas and thesis statements. Your own background and experiences could be useful in developing one body paragraph but another body paragraph or two could be supplemented by those experiences of other people whether they are historical figures or friends and family of yours. 

Your research and outside examples should always be cited in the correct manner whether that is a quotation, a footnote, an endnote, etc. There are many different citation styles that can be used for various types of essays but do choose the one that feels most comfortable for you to implement successfully. Whether its Chicago / Turabian style being used for Business and History writing, MLA (Modern Language Association) style being used for the Humanities, or APA (American Psychological Association) style being used for Education and the Sciences, please choose one of the above citation styles that would fit best for your essay. 

The main point to keep in mind is to always cite your research / findings in some way if it is not your own. You should always be careful in avoiding plagiarism or taking from another person’s work without carefully citing their examples. Depending on the type of essay you are writing, you may also be able to use your own experiences, research, and background to make your writing stand out more to the audience. Without any evidence, examples, or research to support your thesis statement and/or main ideas, your essay won’t nearly be as complete or as appealing to the reader.

It’s necessary to re-state the fact that in order for an essay to be truly complete, the basic structure of an essay needs to be in place in order for the reader to get the most out of it. There is no substitution in the English form of writing for the introduction + body paragraph(s) + conclusion format.

However, once you have the essay structure down, it’s important to be able to brainstorm the main idea of each paragraph followed up two or three key supporting ideas for that paragraph using evidence and/or examples to back up your main idea. Whether it is a research article, an argumentative essay, or a persuasive essay, it’s key to remember that each paragraph especially the introduction and the body paragraph(s) should highlight the main idea and the supporting ideas. When it comes to the conclusion paragraph, you are basically going to re-state the main idea that you introduced in the opening paragraph while citing your supporting ideas once more to leave the reader with. 

The introduction paragraph is used to ‘introduce’ your main idea followed by a brief tidbit about what your supporting ideas are going to entail. Depending upon how many body paragraph(s) you have planned, each supporting idea should be expanded upon in a separate body paragraph where the research and the evidence are cited through facts and details given. In the body paragraph(s), you can rehash what your main idea is but you should not give it too much of your attention. Listed below, I have detailed how the structure of each paragraph should play out along with an example of what a main idea would be along with three supporting ideas for an example essay topic. 

IntroductionTell the audience what the main idea of the essay is along with an introduction to each of the three supporting ideas to be highlighted in the body paragraphs.

BodyParagraph #1 – Supporting Idea #1 with Main Idea briefly discussed (evidence / research needed)

           Paragraph #2 – Supporting Idea #2 with Main Idea briefly discussed (evidence / research needed)

           Paragraph #3 – Supporting Idea #3 with Main Idea briefly discussed (evidence / research needed)

Conclusion: Re-state the main idea of your essay while discussing briefly your supporting ideas and why they should matter to the audience. No more evidence or research should be introduced into the concluding paragraph.

Example Essay Topic

Main Idea: There is too much plastic in the oceans.

Supporting Idea #1Many sea mammals have been harmed or even killed by the plastic in the oceans.

Supporting Idea #2The plastic in the oceans is contaminating our food and even our de-salinization of water efforts.

Supporting Idea #3The plastic is disrupting our oceanic ecosystems and causing coral reefs to be permanently damaged. 

Whatever essay topic you choose to focus on, remember to make sure that you clearly have a main idea and at least two or even three supporting ideas to make the essay flow better whether it is persuasive, academic, or research-based in nature. Writing a good essay is not an easy task but if you’re willing to create an outline with your main and supporting ideas written down, you’ll be off to a good start.

Additionally, good punctuation and grammar will help your essay flow better allowing the reader to easily understand and grasp the ideas you are writing about. As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’ so make sure to practice writing about different topics often and to use peer reviewing and proofreading to fix your mistakes and learn from them.

 

English Corner – Direct and Indirect Speech

One of the biggest challenges that the average English learner can face is not being able to interpret or understand the difference between direct and indirect speech. In order to really understand how they are formed and used, we first need to define these two terms and what they are supposed to represent.

Let us start first with what ‘direct speech’ is. Direct speech simply repeats or quotes the exact words that were spoken word for word without any hesitation. If you need to use direct speech in writing, in English, we use quotation marks (““) to highlight the words that the person spoke so as to not to give false representation. Direct speech in writing always goes within the two quotation marks so that there is no confusion as to who said what words. For direct speech, you can highlight what was said in the present but also what was said in the past. I have listed a few examples below that could be used both in the spoken and written contexts.

Examples

  1. Jimmy says that, “We will need to come home early tonight for dinner.”
  2. Katherine shouted, “There’s a bee in my hat! Help!”
  3. My mom asked me earlier, “What time will you be home? I said to her, “I don’t know yet, mom.”

It is important to keep in mind that direct speech can refer to both the past and the present which is a key difference from indirect speech as I will go on to discuss further.

Indirect speech, also known as reported speech, often discusses what was said or what was written about in the past and may not always be 100% in its accuracy so that is important to keep in mind. The words are often used in the past tense and there are different verbs used for indirect speech such as ‘say, tell, ask, hear, see.’ The word ‘that’ also comes in handy in sentences that use indirect speech and commas are not used as frequently as they are when it comes to direct speech.

Examples

  1. Janet said, “I spoke to him earlier. “ (Direct)                                                                      Janet said that she had spoken to him earlier. (Indirect)
  1. The principal stated to the class, “He will not accept bullying in this school.” (Direct)                                                                                                                                      The principal stated to the class that he will not accept bullying in this school. (Indirect)
  1. They told him that he would never receive a work promotion. (Indirect)
  2. We told the children yesterday that it was time for them to go to bed. (Indirect)

As you can see from a few of these examples, the word ‘that’ is a key part of differentiating indirect speech from direct speech. It is also common to see indirect speech or reported speech not using commas as well. If you weren’t actually there with the person who said those words or had heard it from someone else afterwards, you need to use indirect speech because it wouldn’t be right to quote someone when you weren’t actually there to hear them.

You don’t always have to use ‘that’ to make it indirect speech. However, you never really want to use commas in sentences with reported speech. Lastly, as mentioned before, indirect speech always refers to the past tense whereas direct speech can reflect the present as well since you can quote people’s words in real time as you’re there listening to them speak. That distinction is key to understanding one of the differences between direct and indirect speech because there are a few of them to be aware of.

There are certain verbs for the act of speaking in English that are going to come up in direct and especially indirect speech. You’ll want to use the verb ‘to say’ in a sentence where there is no indirect object. You can use the verb ‘to tell’ when you know who it is the person is talking to in the sentence and can verify who they are. When it comes to communicating with other people, the verbs ‘to speak’ and ‘to talk’ come in handy for both direct and indirect speech.

It’s important to note that the future tense cannot be used for direct speech since you would be basing those quotes or words on your own speculation rather than what you are hearing the person say or would have heard what the person said. Direct speech is for present and past tense while indirect speech is used for the past tense only.

While the tenses are either present or past tense when it comes to the direct speech or indirect speech verbs of ‘talk, speak, say, tell’, etc., it is important to keep in mind that the quoted parts of the sentence referencing the speaker can refer to the past, present, and the future. The direct and indirect speech verbs maintain their present or past tense format while the rest of the verbs can be past, present, or future tense depending upon the context. I have listed a few examples below to make this bit of information more easily digestible.

Examples

  1. Alice said, “She will go to the farmers market tomorrow to get some vegetables.” (Direct)
  2. I heard Alice say that she will go to the farmers market tomorrow to get some vegetables. (Indirect)
  3. Murphy says to the other teachers, “I don’t understand why my students didn’t pay attention in class yesterday. (Direct)
  4. The Math teacher told us how Mr. Murphy didn’t understand why his students weren’t paying attention in class yesterday. (Indirect)

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to indirect or reported speech are that modal verbs such as could, might, must, should, etc. do not change their actual form at all.

Examples

  • They explained to us that this tax bill could have negative consequences for the middle class.
  • We were told earlier that there might be consequences if we don’t finish all of the assigned homework by the end of the semester.

While there are many small differences between direct and indirect speech in English, the main thing to take away from this blog post is that how to phrase and quote speech is really important and must involve practice and effort. Being able to write stories or quote dialogue correctly are integral skills in the English language that can only come from being able to understand and use both direct and indirect speech. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know and best of luck in using this article to further your English language goals!