Archive for January, 2012

Elements of Style

I became familiar with Elements of Style in my journalism class while attending Perelandra College. Since then, it has remained as my “go to” guide when I have a question about English grammar.

Elements of Style was originally written in 1918 by William Strunk Jr., as a textbook for his Cornell English class. Resembling more of a condensed reference book than textbook, Elements of Style touches on the most common mistakes found in writing including: basic grammar rules; punctuation usage; principles of composition; matters of form; and even the most commonly misspelled words. Nearly all explanations are rife with examples. Listed below are ten rules from Elements of Style that I try and apply; improving myself as a writer.

1. Determining apostrophe usage with possessive singular nouns.

2. Omitting needless words; making my writing tighter with more clarity. For example, avoiding “who is,” and “which was,” and other superfluous words that can are deemed verbal camouflage.

3. Maintaining one tense throughout.

4. Distinguishing between the usage of comma’s, colon’s, and semi-colons. For example: enclosing parenthetic expressions between commas (if the sentence can stand on its own without the parenthetic expression then commas are necessary); and replacing a comma with a semi-colon when joining two or more independent clauses.

5. One piece of dialog is a single paragraph, even if its one word. Often times I see: “Let’s go Jim,” said Joe, then continued, “we’re going to be late.” This type of sentence breaks the rule. Is this correct?

6. The active voice is more direct and vigorous than the passive voice.

7. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, and non-committal language. Use words that are more concise and positive.

8. Shorter sentences are preferred over longer sentences.

9. If it is obvious who is speaking, there is no reason to say, “he said,” after the dialog.

10. Most of the words and expressions. For example: all right; whether; certainly; and fewer instead of less.

Elements of Style continues to endure its reputation as the premier handbook for English language usage today. As long as I write, Elements of Style will be by my side.


American Chinese New Year

There’s two types of people that come to mind, when I think of American’s making New Years resolutions: those who reflect on the previous year, and carefully plot out their new year; and those who reflect from their head inside a toilet bowl, screaming out resolutions the morning after, “Never again!” It would be remiss if I didn’t reluctantly admit to experiencing the latter on a few occasions. We’ll save those details for another time.

Resolutions are basically goals we promise ourselves for the new year. The most popular resolutions are: losing weight; quiting drinking; and quiting smoking. If you’re overweight and a smoker, it’ll be like making a pineapple upside down cake without the pineapple. Then there’s many people who refuse to adhere to the harshness of resolutions, but it’s probably a result of never following through with their resolutions in the past. In my case, I just prefer not to be a conformist.

In addition to making resolutions, it’s also time for celebration. Recognized as the world’s melting pot, America experiences all different kinds of ways to bring in the New Year. Some treat it as a religious event; some spend it with family; some enjoy social gatherings with friends or strangers; and many just prefer to share a romantic encounter with someone they love… or plan on loving. No matter what the preference, everyone celebrates New Years.

If you prefer to avoid crowds and traffic, you might want to consider bringing those things into the comfort of your own home. Practically every station on TV broadcasts parties and concerts from around the globe, providing vicarious enjoyment of New Years celebrations. If watching others have all the fun is too depressing, there are always marathon TV series and movies to. The most popular New Years Eve televised event, is watching the glowing ball descend in Times Square, in New York. Thousands of people from around the world gather on this typical frost bitten evening to watch this six ton lighted ball drop, signifying another year passed, and another year beginning. It’s a street party rife with concerts and interviews of celebrities publicly announcing their resolutions for the world to witness.

If you’re a hopeless member of the lonely hearts club, for a small fee, you can venture out and join parties held by local restaurants, clubs and organizations. Whichever venue you decide on, be prepared to experience a typical New Years party decorated room: multicolored streamers; banners; balloons; party hats; noisemakers and confetti which make up the dress of a typical American New Years Party. For American’s, the stroke of midnight is immediately followed by the customary kiss; sealing your luck for the new year. I recommend arriving early to give yourself time to troll for a willing participant.

I’ve enjoyed every New Years while living in California, but the one New Year I’ll never forget was in 2009, in Huizhou City, Guangdong Province. My English sidekick and I were bi-weekly “regulars” at Shui Li Fang, a small nightclub with a large personality. We were on a first name basis with the manager and staff, who invited us to celebrate their annual New Years Eve party. The club was decked out in typical New Years decor and full of dance, song and music. The evening included stage dancing with the beautiful, (and risque) staff dancers; parade dancing around the interior perimeter; and everyone singing to classic English songs. We accepted invitations to nearly all tables for an overabundance of friendly “gan bei” (cheers) sessions, and exchanged greetings of “xin nian kuai le” (happy new years). All this propelled us into the early morning hours. As the last noisemake blew, the last bit of confetti fell, and the last person was seen standing, my sidekick, Peter, and I stumbled out to a waiting taxi and headed for home. Yes, that was a year for making resolutions from the inside of an echoing toilet bowl.

No matter what you do or who your doing it with, I hope all your dreams and wishes come true in 2012.