What is the Difference Between Then and Than? Allusion and Illusion? To, too, and two? A List of Common Homophones and their Differences

Posted by Alison on 12/12/16 6:03 PM

What is a Homophone?

There are many more words in the English language than one might expect, given how similar their pronunciation and spelling can be. They're usually nouns and adjectives, except for those that function as conjunctions or contractions. Once you accept that English contains many pairs or groups of deceptively similar words with different meanings, then you will have a better understanding in sight of how to speak and cite and write the right ones.

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Tags: English, expository writing

Essential Components to the Personal Statement: How to Tell Your Story

Posted by Anna on 11/18/16 6:20 PM

Sharing your story in a clear, compelling way is an important skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life, from writing personal statements to presenting yourself in interviews. It’s also a skill that’s not often emphasized in high school and college English classes, where literary analysis is highly prized. How can you hone this skill?

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Tags: English, college admssions

One for All and All for None? Grammatical Rules for One, Neither, and Each!

Posted by Alison on 11/7/16 6:07 PM

In this blog post, our resident grammar girl reviews the impossibly confusing rules for singular subjects that refer to plural groups; subject-verb agreements involving"each", "all", and "none"; and last (but not least!) "neither", "neither", and "nor" and how they relate to your verb choice. Read More

Tags: English, expository writing

The Most Common Prefixes and Their Meanings

Posted by Alison on 10/17/16 6:00 PM

The English language comprises a plethora of words that can change meanings with the addition of a prefix or a suffix. For example, the prefix re signifies that the base word to which it attaches is happening again, as in "do" and "redo". In theory, one could add re an infinite number of times to the front of a word, and the effect would continue to do the same thing; the word's function would be repeated however many times the prefix re appears. The fact that such a pattern exists in English recalls an aspect of the language (there it is again, re in recall to call to mind again) that dates back to its origins. As much as English is a language full of exceptions to the rules, it also presents patterns that, when understood, can shed light on how and why we use the words that form the English language.

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Tags: study skills, English, SAT

Possessive Plurals and Plurals' Possessives

Posted by Alison on 9/23/16 9:30 PM

Within the realm of punctuation, apostrophes on plurals and possessives can also lead to questions. There are patterns for forming plurals, though, and so that you do not have to wonder about when and where to put an apostrophe.

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Tags: English

Semi-colons, Colons, and Commas: How and When To Use Them

Posted by Alison on 9/9/16 6:00 PM

One advisory that students hear a lot, especially in earlier years of English class, is "avoid a comma splice." A comma splice is an excessive use of commas without the proper elements of a complete sentence to justify the commas. When to use a comma versus a semi-colon depends on the type of sentence you have. Below are the sentence types that call for commas.

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Tags: English, expository writing

Punctuate Your Point, Correctly: How to Punctuate Dialogue

Posted by Alison on 7/27/16 9:30 AM

They may seem small, but punctuation marks can make all the difference in how we read and understand the English language. The title of what has become an iconic little book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, exemplifies the level of ambiguity that can result from the presence or absence of a comma. This chapter focuses on several oft-mistaken categories of punctuation marks – the comma, the semi-colon, the apostrophe, quotation marks – and how, when, and where to use them properly.

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Tags: English, expository writing

You Could Care Less About Grammar, But Maybe You Could Care More?

Posted by Allison S. on 6/13/16 9:30 AM


"I could care less where we go to dinner."

"It was really unique."

"Between you and I, that movie wasn't very good."

To many, there is nothing unusual about the statements above. Indeed, most of us use some variation of them frequently. But to a grammarian or someone with a depth of knowledge about the rules of English, these utterances can be cringe inducing. They sound good, but they are grammatically or semantically incorrect.

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Tags: English, expository writing

Did I Read The Same Text Everyone Else Did?!

Posted by Pat C. on 6/8/16 9:30 AM

This has happened to all of us in high school, in college, even in graduate school. You did the reading but then the questions the instructor asks don’t make sense to you or you can’t answer questions about details she seems to think you should know.

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Tags: English, expository writing

The Best Ways to Prepare for an Essay Exam

Posted by Danielle D. on 5/20/16 9:00 AM

College students are often intimidated by essay exams, a common final exam format for courses in the humanities and social sciences. Because the exam itself provides so little structure for your answers, it can feel impossible to get all of your thoughts on paper in an organized way without running out of time. As someone who has graded a lot of college students’ exams, I’ve realized that students most often lose points because they don’t realize that an exam essay is a specific genre of writing that you can practice in advance, even if you don’t know the exact questions you’ll be answering. By developing a strategy for success in writing exam essays, you’ll be able to make sure that the material you worked hard all semester to learn shows up in your answers on the day of the test.

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Tags: study skills, English, expository writing