REVIEW #2 is due tonight by 11:00 pm. See Canvas for more details.
Plan for the Day
- Submit REVIEW #2 on Canvas
- Review Ch. 7
- Prose Revision Assignment DUE Next Week–10/26
- Nov. 2nd: In two weeks, you have Quiz #2
Ch. 7 Choosing Nominals
We’ve briefly covered appositives, and they’re great choices for efficiently adding information to your sentences. Try your best to combine shorter sentences by using appositives. For instance, notice the efficiency in the following revision:
- Original: Dr. Grabchak is a specialist in probability theory. His expertise is internationally recognized. His PhD from Cornell University in New York is in statistics.
- Revision: Dr. Grabchak, an internationally recognized scholar in probability theory, received his PhD in Statistics from Cornell University
in New York.*
*I don’t think you need to add “in New York” for a university as well-known as Cornell.
The revision is more efficient, but let’s think about it in terms of written vs spoken. How often do you speak in phrases you’d contain in dashes? Probably not a lot of times, but, when you do, you often speak quickly—adding the information rapidly for your audience. On the other hand, using parentheses makes the appositive seem to be more of an aside. How would you say the following sentences? Read them aloud.
- Dr. Grabchak—an internationally recognized scholar in probability theory—received his PhD in Statistics from Cornell University.
- Dr. Grabchak, an internationally recognized scholar in probability theory, received his PhD in Statistics from Cornell University.
It’s subtle, but there is a difference in delivery. Dashes are for signaling something quickly, and parentheses convey information in a muted fashion.
Below is the same situation as above. Check out the Group Discussion on page 112 for this sentence. I’ve highlight the revision to show the changes:
- Original: The Lost Colony is an outdoor symphonic drama that tells the story of the British settlement on Roanoke Island. It has been performed in Manteo, North Carolina, every summer since 1937.
- Revision: The Lost Colony,
isan outdoor symphonic drama that tells the story of the British settlement on Roanoke Island, Ithas been performed in Manteo, North Carolina, every summer since 1937.
Interestingly, I used the “strikethrough” HTML command to show what I removed, and it looks like dashes. You could also write the sentence this way:
- The Lost Colony—an outdoor symphonic drama that tells the story of the British settlement on Roanoke Island—has been performed in Manteo, North Carolina, every summer since 1937.
By the way, notice that the play’s title—as is the case for film, book, album, and TV show titles—is italicized. Barrett’s Perfect English Grammar has more information on formatting titles, but follow you style guide’s standards.
Colons and Dashes with Appositives
As I’ve mentioned before, I love using dashes. My dissertation director hounded me about using too many dashes, which she considered my overusing them, because she claimed I was taking the easy way out of considering higher-level punctuation strategies. I agree with her—but I love using them! Generally, the rhetorical effect of dashes is to emphasize an aside quickly and forcefully as opposed to using commas that would soften the phrase. Use them sparingly for better effect. The first example below uses dashes effectively, but the second example should use a colon instead:
- Nicolas Cage—an actor more prolific than Kevin Bacon—is quite hated in New Orleans.
- Various ethnic groups make up the unique flavor of New Orleans—people of French descent, whose lineages date back over 300 years; people of Caribbean descent, whose traditions make Cajun cuisine amazing; and Americans, whose laws forced different groups to coexist side by side.
- Better choice: Various ethnic groups make up the unique flavor of New Orleans: people of French descent, whose lineages date back over 300 years; people of Caribbean descent, whose traditions make Cajun cuisine amazing; and Americans, whose laws forced different groups to coexist side by side.
- Setting off a large amount of text with a dash isn’t effective—save them for shorter phrases and clauses!
- Also, the above sentence isn’t the entire story of New Orleans, but I needed to conform to our expected series of three items. Is the sentence parallel? Why or why not?
Colons can be used to separate any independent clause, but you shouldn’t use them interchangeably with periods: use them to communicate “something’s about to come.” I use them to introduce long-ish quotations or long lists. For instance, here are examples from Video Games and American Culture:
- Additionally, they use a rhetoric of fear tactic to attempt to signal to readers that even consuming a small percentage of violent media can harm audiences: “because so many people are exposed to violent media, the effect on society can be immense even if only a small percentage of viewers are affected by them. It takes only one or two affected students to wreak murderous havoc in a school.” (pp. 49-50)
- Consider the following examples that valorize competition: sports, dating shows, and reality TV challenges. (p. 126)
- Anecdotally, veteran students I have taught discuss playing video games (many hours in fact) as they transition from military to civilian life. This specific group highlights the nuance in taste for, specifically, violent video games: some love the immersive violence, others will not watch or play simulated violent entertainment, and others may watch simulated violence but avoid immersing themselves in violent video game worlds. (p. 127)
Some might consider my using “anecdotally” in the sentence above improper because there could be some confusion about what it modifies. For instance, does it mean that veteran students provided me anecdotes? Did veteran students provide these stories anecdotally? I’m actually talking directly to the reader and saying I have anecdotal evidence to share—evidence not gathered in any systematic, statistically sound way. How is the reader to know? Well, my sarcasm oozes throughout the book, so, if they don’t catch my talking to them in the above sentence, then I don’t know what to do. Our goal is to make things clear for the reader: that’s the overall goal of technical communication. No one dies reading “anecdotally” as correct or not. However, it does identify who’s a sophisticated reader or not. (See what I mean about sarcasm?)
The Sentence Appositive
This phrase is not a sentence; instead, it refers or renames the entire gist of the sentence. These are quite effective at the ends of paragraphs. Notice the chills you get from finishing a paragraph like the following:
- My teaching, service, and research interests all culminate into a single, overarching focus—rhetoric.
Ok, maybe you didn’t get chills, but such a sentence as the final one in a paragraph should give the audience the idea that the writer privileges the discipline of rhetoric above all others. Or no discipline captures his interest more than rhetoric. You could also use a colon, but there’s something cool about using a dash to set off one word. I prefer to use colons to set off a series or a full independent clause.
Typically, -ing words signify the present progressive verb form: they refer to actions currently happening or ongoing (the present progressive tense). For instance, “I am running late” conveys you are late right now! A gerund, however, is a noun with -ing. Therefore, in the sentence “Running is my favorite activity,” “running” is the subject, a noun.
In this chapter, Kolln & Gray focus on gerund phrases. Gerunds are quite versatile and can “fill all the sentence positions usually occupied by noun phrases” (p. 116). These are different from participial phrases that are verbs (or verbals). The examples on p. 116 demonstrate the difference.
The following is sentence #8 from Exercise #26 (p. 119).
- 8. The baby’s crying upset the rest of the rest of the passengers.
“The baby’s crying” is the gerund in the possessive case. Think about it. Many things a baby has could be annoying: The baby’s parents, The baby’s stroller, The baby’s toys…In this sentence, “crying” is a noun. Also, the ‘s shows possession and isn’t a contraction for “baby is.”
Consider the meaning changes in the following sentences:
- The baby cried. It upset the rest of the passengers. (“cried” is the verb)
- The crying baby upset the rest of the passengers. (“crying” modifies “baby” in this case, making it an adjective)
- The baby, crying on the airplane, upset the rest of the passengers. (“crying on the airplane” is a participial phrase)
Nominal clauses introduced by “that” are quite common, and the “that” may be removed usually. Other nominalizers include why, who, and what.
In the end, it is more important to know how to use nominals (and all the phrases and clauses we discuss) to vary your sentences and be more concise. Knowing the names of different types of phrases and clauses is helpful, but using them effectively is why we’re covering them.
Prose Revision Assignment
Your goal for this assignment (Due 10/26) is to make the prose more readable, more efficient. Just remember not to change the original meaning of the text. This won’t be a Portfolio Assignment that you revise–you get one shot at it. There are three paragraphs on the Assignments Page with specific instructions. Your goal is to make them more readable, more efficient. Just remember not to change the original meaning of the paragraph.
Use the efficiency techniques we’ve discussed this semester, but don’t change the intended meaning of the original text. Before you start revising, make sure you slow down and figure out what the original sentence means. These paragraphs have multiple sentences, so you have more context than if I had a series of unrelated individual sentences. Your revisions will have a variety of effective possibilities, but don’t change the intended meaning of the original. Pay close attention to cause and effect.
Keep following the syllabus reading schedule. Read Ch. 8 in Rhetorical Grammar and Ch. 13, 14, & 15 in Perfect English Grammar. Remember, Perfect English Grammar is more of a supplemental text to help mainly with grammar rules and some style concerns. You do have to read it, but I won’t have many specific lessons from that book. Of course, it’s fair game for the Final Exam.
REVIEW #2 is due tonight by 11:00 pm.
Also, don’t forget that your Prose Revision Assignment is due next week (10/26).