Showing posts from December, 2013

Curious quotes from my book

A selection of some of the curious quotations included in my new book, The Art of Connection . ‘After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once;’ (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland , 1865) ‘At present, we may truly be thankful that a reform in this matter has commenced.’ (Albert Day, Methomania: A treatise on Alcoholic Poisoning , 1867) ‘Before I dismiss the uses of architecture, and indeed of the Arts generally, I cannot but dwell for a moment on the amazing effects they have had, on the labour and mechanical skill of our country.’ (Henry Dilworth Gilpin, An annual discourse before the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts , 1827) ‘But finally they lost patience, seeing that their reformatory efforts went for nothing, and threw both friends and strangers overboard.’ (Mark Twain, What is Man? and Other Essays , 1906) ‘Forthwith he made the well his objective. In that country wells were not plentiful

Grammarly perfection tested

Further to my recent post examining the effectiveness of software designed to assist with grammar, punctuation, and style, I wanted to find out whether it was possible to score 100% on the software. I tried to test by using text taken from their own website. That does not work, however, as they recognize their own work and they have already marked it as 'perfection.' They award themselves 100% for their own work. Is that surprising? Nonetheless, if we select text from, their text has a variety of errors - according  to Similarly, text taken from the website fares badly when it is tested by These results suggest that the software programmes have not managed to create a reliable and universal system that successfully tests and verifies grammar, style and punctuation. Whichever system is used there is a typical 35% reporting of errors in the text submitted. Cl

Testing the Grammar Check Test

The march of technology into every corner of contemporary education often leads to the harsh judgment that traditional teachers have become - or will soon become - a redundant human resource.  Are the rumours of pedagogic extinction justified? With the perfection of advanced linguistic software, a brave new world of error-free writing has emerged. Machine-generated clarity and precision is leading us to a written world that will be ruthlessly stripped of recurring lapses and common mistakes. Foggy chasms of fatal confusion will be banished from the linguistic ecology of the planet. There will be no more sleepless nights; no more worrying about the comma splice, sentence fragments, and dangling modifiers. Indeed, an inexpensive monthly subscription provides an enticing opportunity to join the new democratic republic of letters - a nation of automated stop-keepers. After all, the technology has now conquered the checking of spelling, grammar and style. Indeed, some of the  m

Creating a Map of Connection and Transition

Students create their own maps of connection "The creative journey has more departures than arrivals."   Students often have problems thinking about the flow of their ideas within a paragraph. This is not surprising as different thought-pathways occur at each (full) stop.  For instance, having expressed one idea, the next one might illustrate, supplement, qualify, or reverse the preceding sentence.  As a result, our sentence journeys quickly become very complicated. A complex argument often degenerates into confusion, and the sense of feeling lost. Writers and readers need signposts, and they need a map. In reality, writing involves weaving together a complex and dense thread of connectives and transitions. These words have the special function of signalling the direction of travel. They help to maintain a sense of purpose and direction. By using them effectively the writer is able to stick to a plan. Transitions help writing to flow . By thinking about the di

A remarkable instance of long-windedness: sprawling sentences

Essays often fall into two categories: the short and the long. While there is often a virtue in brevity there is more often a vice in prolixity. Writing should avoid repetition and restatement. On the whole, a concise but well thought out response will score higher marks than a sprawling and rambling composition. More specifically, sentences which are too long, or too complex, often prove to be confusing. On the surface, these kinds of sentence may look impressive, but they often come in for critical censure. In his book , Composition and Punctuation familiarly explained, ( 1865), Justin Brenan discussed a classic example of the long-winded style of writing. VERY REMARKABLE INSTANCE OF LONG-WINDEDNESS. I Thought that I had exhausted this subject. Yes, I believed that I had furnished the most glaring examples, but here is one that eclipses them all, and I give it because you cannot have a better lesson. It is from the History of England (Cabinet Cyclopaedia), by Sir Jam

The Idea of the Ludicrous

In this post Alexander Bain offers definitions and examples of the ludicrous. 108. The Ludicrous and the Laughable are names for what excites laughter. Among the causes of laughter we may name abundance of animal spirits, any sudden accession of pleasure, the special elation of power and superiority, or an unexpected diversion of the mind when under excitement. 109. The Ludicrous in composition is for the most part based on the degradation, direct or indirect, of some person or interest—something associated with power, dignity, or gravity. It is farther requisite that the circumstances of this degradation should not be such as to produce any other strong emotion, as pity, anger, or fear. Comedy took its rise from the jeering and personal vituperation indulged in during the processions in honor of the god Dionysus, or Bacchus. In the regular comedy, and in every kind of composition aiming at the laughable, the essential in gradient is the vilifying and degrad

Adversative conjunctions

If you have been enjoying my book, The Art of Connection , you might be interested to read what Alexander Bain had to say on the topic of Adversative conjunctions : Certain of the Adversative conjunctions are used to indicate the mutual bearing of consecutive sentences. Some of the members of this subdivision are termed Exclusive, because they indicate the exclusion of some circumstances that would otherwise be allowable. "Else," " otherwise," are the chief examples; they occasionally introduce sentences, but owing to the intimacy of union that they express, their chief use is to unite clauses. Those termed Alternative sometimes form a link between two sentences; for example, or and nor. When nor is used without neither preceding, it is commonly in the sense of and not: " Nor would he have been mistaken;" " And he would not have been mistaken." We may have one sentence commencing with either and the next with or; and so with ne