Prepositions of Time

Prepositions are definitely one of the trickiest parts of the English language and can be extremely frustrating to English language learners. When writing, you can take the time to double check how you use prepositions and get comfortable using the correctly with some basic rules that simplify when they are used. In this sense, time is used either related to time as it is measured on a clock, or time as it is measured on a calendar. In these circumstances, the most commonly used prepositions of time are IN, AT and ON.

So when do we use in vs. at vs. on?

IN AT ON
General Time Specific Time Specific Dates
General Dates “Night”
Future Quantity of Time

Let’s look at some examples…

IN

The preposition “in” is used when looking at general chunks of time. Think of a calendar or a clock. If you are talking about a portion of the calendar or clock that is larger than its individual unit of measurement (a day or an hour/minute) you use “in.”

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General Time

  • Time of day: In the morning/afternoon/evening/night…
  • Time of year: In Spring/Winter/Summer/Fall…

General Date

  • Year: In 2016…
  • Month: In May…
  • Week: In the third week of May…

The exception to this description of using “in” for general chunks of time is with the example below. Notice how this use of “in” only relates to a future time. This is indicated by using the word “will.”

Future Quantity of Time

  • In 5 minutes, the show will start.
  • I will meet you outside your house in 3 hours.
  • I will be done in a minute.

AT

clock-1196246Now if you zoom in and look at time as it relates to the clock, we use “at” to talk about a specific time

  • Hours: The concert starts at 7pm.
  • Minutes: At 6:37am everyday, the rooster crows.
  • Point in Time of Day: Cinderella had to run home at midnight.
  • Activity Time of Day: We met at lunchtime to discuss the problem.

A confusing instance where both in and at can be used is with night. It is correct both to say:

  • She woke up when she heard a noise in the night.
  • She could not sleep because of the sound of crickets at night.

The difference is comes from when the action occurred. “In the night” is more poetic and often refers to something happening in the middle of the night at a specific instance (a noise). “At night” is then used more generally, to refer to something happening (the sound of crickets) during the whole night. This is the opposite of the usual use of in for general and at for specific.


ONcalendar-1-1588745

Lastly, there is the preposition, “on,” which we use when talking about specific dates. This time, zoom in on the calendar to know when to use “on.”

  • Days of the Week: On Tuesdays, she goes to English class.
  • Dates: The last time she saw her cousin was on June 30th (or on the 30th of June).
  • Holidays: Have you seen the big parade in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day?

Can you use all 3 in one sentence? Here are some examples:

  • On Valentine’s Day, in 2005, she met her date at 6pm for dinner.
  • In Spring, he went to a concert, on March 21st , at noon.
  • She is going to call on Wednesday at 10pm, which is in exactly 24 hours.

Check out this dominoes game from Teach-This.com to test your understanding create some more sentences!

How do you remember the differences between in, at and on? Tell us in a comment!

Happy Writing!

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Feature Writing

clip-art-of-extra_extra-pic-of-front-page-of-newspaperDiving into a piece of writing is so exciting; analyzing and realizing what the author could mean by a certain word, phrase or line is satisfying. As long as you have the evidence to support your claim, you cannot be wrong. However, you can be well-versed at analysis and yet, completely unaware how to write for a newspaper or Internet news. Feature writing in journalism is a whole other ball game. Learning different writing styles can come in handy to make yourself marketable in the job world.

To show the various parts of a features story I will use a piece I wrote as a features intern for the Vineland Daily Journal in Vineland, New Jersey. The terms to describe the parts of the writing are put in [brackets].

[Title] Artist sees the light

[Subhead] Millville painter innovates to make canvas come alive

Features writing allow you to be more creative than straight news. Try to think of a title that will grab people’s attention. Keep it short and sweet. The subhead allows you to explain more about the story. When you read “artist sees the light” you know the story will be about an artist who has achieved something. The subhead explains that he uses an unusual method on a canvas.

[LEAD] MILLVILLE — Dennis Tawes is trying something new on Millville’s art scene

The well-known “pioneer artist” who helped Millville launch the Glasstown Arts District has been hinting about his latest project for months, and finally will unveil his proud work at the city’s Third Friday festivities this week.

In his small art studio at The Village on High, Tawes has been working on a new technique that he hopes will change the way people view his paintings

The lead tells who, what, when, and where the article is talking about. An ideal first line is short, and should be slightly vague so it hooks the reader and encourages the reader to keep reading. It introduces the topic, without giving away the whole story.

[NUT GRAPH] By using LED lights on a canvas to manipulate color, flower petals change hues, a Ferris wheel moves and a woman’s mask disappears from a painting. The use of bright colors is key in Tawes’ work, which is ironic because the artist says he has difficulty perceiving bright hues.

In a nutshellThe nut graph is a sentence or paragraph that states the focus or the main point of the story. It should tell in a nutshell what the story is about and why it is newsworthy. This nut graph explains the technique used by the artist, and an interesting tidbit that the artist himself may not be able to accurately see the hues he is creating. This topic is newsworthy because it is an unfamiliar art technique, and because of the limitations of the artist.

LEDism, as he calls his latest obsession, started about a year ago.

[LEAD QUOTE] “My son hung up some of my paintings in his room where he happened to have an LED light,” Tawes said. “We noticed some of the colors were transforming. Artists focus light upon the subject (of) the canvas, (so we thought) what about focusing outside light onto the canvas, and it evolved from there. I started experimenting.”

The first quote that backs up the lead is called the lead quote. It is usually the strongest quote in the story and it supports the concept in the lead without repeating the same wording. This quote explains the origins of LEDism. Make sure to attribute quotes to proper sources. Ideally, a news/features story should have at least one quote from three different people (at least three quotes in total, depending on length). Since this story is about one person, quotes from just the artist are acceptable. To expand, I could have included quotes from his wife, son, or peers. My editor did not want that, so we just included the artist.

[IMPACT] Through his experimentation, Tawes realized pure color responds to LED lights.

“It’s a whole new different idea, even with painting, because I cannot think in terms of painting how I normally paint,” he said. “I have to think of how the light is going to affect the painting itself.”

Setting out to change how people view paintings, Tawes said this method “enhances” what the viewer sees and “reinvents” the painting.

“In my artistic career over the past 30 years I have endeavored to achieve something new with my art, something that had not been seen before,” he said.

He was hoping to combine modern technology and capture the movement of everyday life. To this point, he has only shown a handful of people his latest paintings; Tawes said he has received positive reactions.

Impact

The impact shows the readers why they should care. This method could “change how people view paintings” according to Tawes. Therefore, it is significant to the art world, but also to the common reader who views art.

[Elaboration Quote] “I haven’t changed my painting style, so it’s expressionist. (I) dabble a little in abstract, but with LED lights, when I first started thinking about it, it’s like a new level in modern art,” Tawes said. “It makes you question more of what you’re looking at. At one point it’s red, now it’s black or turns purple. How did it do that?”

Quotes can stand alone as added information for the story. Instead of me as the writer explaining the methodology, it’s more impactful when the subject explains in his own words. This elaboration is simply added information for the reader.

[Ending] Tawes can’t imagine a different life for himself.

“You raise the so-called bar to a different level where it’s just a natural growth. I don’t want to be cookie-cutter or paint what I think the market wants. That’s not why I paint,” he said. “It’s just waking up and doing what I do.”

Depending on the subject, the ending will vary. This ending is a wrap-up quote. It explains that Tawes will continue to work on his LEDism. You don’t want to repeat information given previously in the ending. Concluding with a quote is a popular way to end features stories.

Find Your Voice!

Find Your Voice!

Just like an essay, there is a structure to features writing. Following the format above is useful to create a features story. Be sure to add some creativity to the piece, so you can have a “voice” in your features story! If you need help with any kind of writing, please contact us! 🙂

Happy Writing!

By Ally Evans

7 Tips for How to Edit Your Writing

Did someone forget to proofread?

Did someone forget to proofread?

Proofreading is one of the most vital or important parts of the writing process. A piece of writing, free of errors, is the optimal accomplishment. Knowing how to edit is important to effectively communicating as a writer. For example…

You can be reading a fascinating piece of work. Then, their’s a typo. Amistake. It ruins the credibility of the writer, and the reader experience. Can you spot the mistakes?

Try these 7 tips for how to edit you writing:

  1. Look at work as a whole – Concentrate first on the organization, focus and theme of your writing. Before editing sentence structure, make sure your writing has the message you want to convey.
  2. Set it aside– Don’t try to proofread as soon as you finish a draft. Walk away from the draft for at least 15 minutes before attempting to edit. This way, you can clear your mind a bit and come back with fresher eyes.
  3. Print out your writing– Reading on a computer screen is difficult. It boggles my mind that Kindles are such a huge success; a paperback book is always my preference! For the eyes, it’s often less straining to read from a piece of paper. When you print out your work, use a red pen to correct mistakes or adjust wording so that you can notice your corrections immediately.
  4. Read the text aloud– Try to read each word as it is written on the page, not what you THINK you wrote. You thought of the sentence, “The dog is fluffy.” You actually wrote “The dog s fluffy.” You know what you are trying to say and may read the second sentence as “The dog is fluffy.” Reading slowly and paying attention to each word will help catch mistakes.
  5. Have someone else look at your work- A second pair of eyes is an amazing tool to use when proofreading. The outside reader can provide valuable feedback if something doesn’t make sense to them. It could be a word, a sentence or an idea. It will be clear to you as the writer, but an outsider who has general knowledge of your topic should also be able to understand your writing.
  6. Use a dictionarySale and sail. They are both words that are spelled correctly. However, if I wrote “The 50 percent off sail was amazing,” spell check will not (and did not) catch that mistake. It should be “The 50 percent off sale was amazing.” A dictionary is a fantastic tool to use in instances when you are unsure if a store’s promotion is a sail or a sale.
  7. Proofreading ChecklistMake a personal checklist– From previous writing, you will know what types of mistakes you typically make. Pay special attention to those. Is it forgetting a period at the end of a sentence? Maybe homonyms (to, too, two) are your downfall. Making a list and checking specifically for those mistakes will greatly help eradicate them from your writing.

Do you use a proofreading technique not included in this list? Let us know!

We love to proofread 🙂 Need a second editor? Start writing with ESL Write Away today!

By Ally Evans

 

Crafting a Cover Letter

So now that you’ve mastered your resume, how about that cover letter? Even though it is sometimes considered optional, cover letters are a great way to personalize your resume and describe your passion for whatever position you may be applying. Although every job market is different, for English-speaking countries, strong cover letters follow the pattern described below. Also, your cover letters is a great way to show evidence of your English skills to an employer in an English-speaking country!

Cover Letter Example

Even though most applications are done online these days, the formatting for cover letters is still formally stuck in the past. For formatting there are 4 main parts:

1. Your contact information goes at the top center including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number

2. The written-out date goes at the top left, ex: April 17, 2015.

3. The contact information for the recipient goes above the salutation on the left side:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Address

4. The greeting continues on the left: qTBX7j46c

  • Dear Mr./Ms. ______,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • To Whom it May Concern,

5. Your signature goes at the bottom left:

  • Closing compliment
    • Respectfully,
    • Sincerely,
    • Regards,
  • Your written signature
  • Your typed name

With the formatting done, all that’s left is to write what makes you the best candidate for the position! Although you should write a different letter for each position, the general idea for each cover letter is the same. You can break down your paragraphs with the following checklist of what to mention in each one:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • The position for which you are applying and the name of the company or organization
  • How you found out about the position
  • Your “thesis” that you are the best candidate for the job

Paragraph 2: Why?

  • Research the company and position and brainstorm how your experiences match what they are looking for in a candidate
  • Pick one or two examples and go into detail about how those experiences show why you are a great fit for the role

Paragraph 3: Conclusion

  • Talk about the company as a whole, why you are motivated to work them, and how this position fits into your future plans
  • Thank them for considering your application
  • State a plan for following up

Applying for a position in an English speaking country? We can help you write an awesome cover letter! Get started here 🙂

The Importance of a First Line

The best day of her life was also the worst day of her life. Exhausted, tears chased each other down her cheeks, and while a smile threaded her lips it did not quite reach her eyes.

clip-art-reading-556419Are you still reading? Then the first line has done its job!

Has anyone ever told you, “Once you get past the first few chapters, this book is awesome!”? Then that book has not delivered for its readers. The first chapter should knock the reader off his or her feet and keep them wanting more. The first line of any piece of writing should enrapture and interest. Without that initial interest, readers will not be excited to keep going.

The example used in the first lines of this post is geared more towards a creative writing piece. However, any type of writing, whether it be an essay, admission letter, research proposal or novel, deserves a killer first line.

Some ways to begin a piece of writing can include:

  • Quotations – A thought-provoking quotation that hones in on the central theme of your piece is a great way to start. Sometimes, someone has already said it best! Use their words and always give credit by putting their words in quotes, followed by the speaker’s name.
  • Questions – If you want your reader to stop and think for a moment after the first line, start with a question. If you are writing a college admission essay about the importance of a family recipe, you may want to ask the reader “Do you remember the aroma of your favorite food growing up? That feeling of family, and the anticipation of the delicious dish that is about to tickle your taste buds?” The reader should experience a more sensory attachment to your writing, and most importantly continue reading.
  • 9781599869513_p0_v1_s260x420In medias resIn medias res is Latin for “into the middle of a narrative; without preamble” according to dictionary.com. Oedipus the King is a famous example of in medias res. As the story begins, Oedipus steps out of the royal palace of Thebes and is greeted by a procession of priests, who are in turn surrounded by the impoverished and sorrowful citizens of Thebes. Thebes has been struck by a plague, the citizens are dying, and no one knows how to put an end to it. There is no preamble to introduce Oedipus or his city; by starting in the middle of the action the reader is intrigued to both learn the back-story of Oedipus and the future of Thebes and its King.
  • Images – A descriptive adjective is a vivid way to begin a piece. You can describe candlelight flickering, a torch’s firelight dancing, or a match’s top struggling to give it beholder enough warmth.

What is your favorite way to deliver a first line? Happy Writing!

By Ally Evans

Ally Evans is a recent college graduate living in New Jersey. She is currently a Festival Coordinator for an arts program. When she is not at the office, Ally loves reading, writing, playing volleyball and going out to eat with friends. Her favorite books include The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Shining by Stephen King. She is excited to bring her passion for reading and writing to ESL Write Away LLC!

New Year, New Resolutions!

 

new-years-resolution-list

A new year means the chance to start fresh! It’s the perfect excuse to make goals and envision where you want to be a year from now. In English we call these goals for the new year your NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 🙂

So what is a resolution? It is something you resolve to do.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 9.28.37 PM

Maybe one of your resolutions for 2015 is to improve your English! In this case, try writing your New Year’s resolutions in English. My New Year’s resolutions always involve a lot of brainstorming about the different aspects of my life: career/school, health, friends, family, love, money etc. I usually try to think of 2-3 things in each category I want to resolve to do better in the new year. For example, some of my resolutions from last year that I accomplished were to:

  • Run a half marathon.
  • Keep in touch with friends across distances.
  • Travel as much as possible!

Some resolutions I didn’t quite accomplish were to:

  • Take the GRE.
  • Become fluent in 2 languages other than English.
  • Make time to read books for fun.

Well, there’s always 2015…

images

Do you notice the grammatical pattern for writing your resolutions in English? New Year’s resolutions are usually in a list, but imagine that there’s a start of the sentence that says “In 2015, I resolve to…”

  • VERB IN INFINITIVE (the “to” is already in the imaginary start of your sentence) + Direct object… 

resolution

Try writing out your own list using this model. Once you’re nice and proud of your resolutions for the year, share them with your friends. The more people you tell, the more you will be reminded to stick to and accomplish your goals!

Here are some other useful and more commonly used phrases for talking about your New Year’s Resolutions from Espresso English:

  • I’m going to… (exercise everyday).
  • I’m not going to… (spend all my money on shopping for clothes)
  • I’m planning to… (eat vegetables)
  • I hope to… (see my family once a month)
  • I’d like to… (get good grades in all my courses)

Each resolution can be as detailed or as simple as you wish. However, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many complicated resolutions! Stick with a few strong resolutions that you can really focus on and accomplish over the year. Wishing you a great start to your 2015!

Happy Writing!

The Paragraph Sandwich

For many years, writers have broken down their ideas into paragraphs, or sections of an essay that help the reader (and writer) to keep the thoughts of the essay organized. However, a paragraph is not just an arbitrary stopping and starting of thoughts. A good, clear, and crisp paragraph is carefully constructed so that the flow of ideas is easy to follow. To remember this careful construction, we can use the idea of a “sandwich.”

Now, a sandwich is typically something to eat that involves 2 pieces of the same bread, with some meat/cheese/vegetables/really anything in the middle. The 2 pieces of bread add structure, while the insides support the sandwich and give it “meat” or substance. See diagram of a sandwich…

Now see a diagram of a sandwich with information about writing a paragraph! Voila!

Let’s break it down:

Topic Sentence (Top Bread): The mini thesis statement or main idea of your paragraph. Your topic sentence should always tie in with your main thesis of your ENTIRE essay, however this first sentence of your paragraph tells what the topic of you paragraph will be. If the paragraph is in the middle of the essay, this sentence is also good for transitioning from your ideas from the paragraph before.

Supporting Details (Sandwich Insides): The ideas and examples that prove your topic sentence to be true. You can use however many supporting details as you feel necessary—just like you can add however many yummy ingredients to the inside of your sandwich.

Concluding Sentence (Bottom Bread): The final sentence that ties your supporting details to your topic sentence, and ultimately your thesis statement. You couldn’t have a sandwich without the bottom slice of bread otherwise it would fall apart! Sometimes this sentence feels a bit redundant, but it shows the completion of your ideas for the paragraph and signals to your reader that you are about to start on a new path (paragraph) that will support your main thesis.

Example

Now, let’s look at an example paragraph structure:

 Topic Sentence: Going to a concert is one of the most exciting ways to listen to music.

Supporting Detail #1: The energy of a live performance enhances the quality of the music that you ordinarily hear through a recording.

Supporting Detail #2: Beyond the music, performers also often include lighting and video effects to create a larger experience for the audience.

Supporting Detail #3: In addition to the performance itself, the ability to enjoy the music with other fans creates a strong bonding atmosphere in the audience.

Supporting Detail #4: Therefore audience-members are absorbed into the world of the concert and can concentrate entirely on the music.

Conclusion: Concerts provide a unique and unifying way to listen to music that goes beyond listening to the works of an artist in isolation.

***See how the underlined words are all contributing to the main idea of the topic sentence***

The Bigger Picture

Look at this example paragraph, what might be the thesis statement for this example essay?

Maybe something like this…

  • In the 21st century, live performances are increasingly popular as a way to enjoy music within fast-paced modern society.

Or this…

  • Music is more highly appreciated and remembered when it is tied to a tangible memory.

Really, this paragraph could fit into the larger puzzle of many different essays. The most important thing is that it can stand-alone as one complete thought process and most importantly, one complete sandwich 🙂 Are you hungry yet?

Happy writing!

**All images from Google Images**

So What is a Thesis Statement?

Organize all that info in a THESIS STATEMENT!

Organize all that info in a THESIS STATEMENT!

Writing essays can be a pretty confusing process. First, you gather A LOT of information, and then, you have to somehow describe everything you wrote in an organized and understandable way to someone who might have no idea what you are talking about. The exciting thing is that you are an expert, but the more important thing is whether you can explain your ideas to the lesser or non-experts of the world.

Whether your essay is 150 words or 15000 words, the #1 way to tie all of that awesome information together is in your THESIS STATEMENT. What does that actually mean? Your thesis is the MAIN POINT of your essay or the #1 thing that you want your reader to take away. If you had to delete everything from your essay and could only have 1 sentence, your thesis would be it. In this 1 sentence, you are telling your reader what your essay is about.

Writing Your Thesis Statement

This is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes you might find yourself changing your thesis statement at the last minute. Generally, you can come up with your thesis statement right at the end of the brainstorm/research stage of your essay writing process. After you gather all that information, start to think to yourself—what is this information telling me? When I put everything together, what is that MAIN POINT?

Your thesis statement is typically one sentence (sometimes it can be two, if necessary). The trick is writing a thesis statement that answers the essay question and encapsulates everything you are trying to communicate (no big deal). Here are some examples for different types of essays from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab

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TEST: Make sure your thesis statement answers the questions of So what? How? and Why?

1 Sentence –> Whole Essay

Now that you have your awesome thesis statement, you have to put it in your essay and craft your essay around it. Your thesis statement usually will go right at the end of your introduction paragraph or essay section.

brain

Now, imagine your thesis is like the brain of your essay. It tells every other paragraph in the essay body what to do. Each paragraph, especially in the first or topic sentence, should relate back and support your thesis. Maybe, you have one paragraph that introduces some opposing thoughts or counterarguments, but overall, everything in the rest of your essay should be connected and tie in with what you say in your thesis.

Here is an example of an outline for an essay topic asking: What is the best pet for living in a city?

P1: Introduction

  • THESIS: Due to the small living quarters and lack of nature that are typical of urban living, cats are the best pet option for city-dwellers because of their adaptability to this type of environment.

P2: Lifestyle of a Cat

  • Topic Sentence: The temperament of average domesticated cats allows them to remain content within an urban environment.

P3: Cat care

  • Topic Sentence: In addition to the compatibility of cats with an urban environment, their lifestyle also fits perfectly with that of a typically busy city-dweller.

P4: Cat cost

  • Topic Sentence: Although pet-owners are usually facing a tight budget, cats are relatively low-cost pets that are affordable in an urban environment.

P5: Conclusion

Majo.no.Takkyuubin.full.713673

Each topic sentence relates back and supports that spectacular thesis statement. Feel free to use words and phrases again to signal to your reader that in each paragraph you are still supporting your thesis. Also, remember to tie your thoughts together using your awesome transition vocabulary!

Ready to write your own? If you’re still nervous, fill out our get started form and we’ll help you write that perfect essay!

Happy writing!

Welcome!

Welcome to the ESL Write Away LLC blog! Have a question about writing? Submit it on our Contact page and we’ll write about it here. Looking for general tips or strategies for any aspect of writing? Look no further! Just need some helpful tools? Check out our Resources page!

We look forward to helping you to be the best writer in English that you can be 🙂