Instructor Karl J. Sherlock

If you would like to use this site as a resource for your own course, please feel free to contact me.  I'd be only too happy offer permission.  Thank you.

 

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Contractions, Abbreviations, Notations, Symbols
Pronouns
Diction
Sexism, Age-ism, Heterosexism, Racism and Cultural Egocentricity
Names, Titles of Respect, and Essay Titles

 

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CONTRACTIONS, ABBREVIATIONS, NOTATIONS, SYMBOLS

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Avoid using contractions; they tend to suggest an over-familiarity with an audience that values its objective distance from the subject. When using terms that are commonly referenced by their abbreviations, introduce the full term the first time, followed immediately by the abbreviation in parentheses); you may then substitute the abbreviation each time thereafter: e.g., Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (A.I.D.S.). Try, however, to avoid using abbreviations which are more appropriate to note-taking, such as "etc.", "&" "w/o" "@" and other similar substitutions for commonly used words in expository prose. Good academic writing should not be in shorthand.

 

 

CONTRACTIONS

ABBREVIATIONS

SYMBOLS

CONTRIVED SPELLINGS

NOT PERMITTED

can't won't isn't didn't shouldn't I'm musn't they'll would've it's
and so on

 

etc.   yr.-old   wk. min.   univ./U.   Jan.   w/o   a.s.a.p.   p.o.v.
and so on

* @
+ &
= %
and so on

2good4U thru

tonite delite

PERMITTED

 

U.S.A.   m.p.h.
C.O.D.   F.C.C.
C.I.A.   T.W.A.
and so forth*

F  C
$

etcetera*

 

 

*Be sure to consider whether or not your formal audience will understand the meaning of these abbreviations or symbols. If there is any doubt, follow the first use of such an abbreviation with the full word or meaning in parentheses; for example: F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

If these symbols are used in their proper context, and not as substitutes for words, they may be permitted. If you have any doubt, check with your instructor.

EXAMPLE
Abstinence is a great goal for most sex ed programs in the U. S.; eighty-six % of the sex ed teachers responding to the Guttmacher Institute survey are saying they taught their kids 14 yrs. or older that abstinence is the best way not to get pregnant and w/o sexually transmissive diseases. Most of the teachers are saying they tried to help their kids not do intercourse by giving instruction on how to back off from peer pressure and how to say they won't have sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.

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PRONOUNS

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The debate over what pronouns writers can use to introduce and discuss their ideas has long since vexed students and teachers alike. The issue is really whether or not to include references to the writer and to the reader in the discussion. Although it is not strictly forbidden to use the pronoun "I" in one's prose-for there may, indeed, be occasion when the writer needs to include herself in describing relevant personal experience-it is usually unnecessary, since it produces a voice uncertain about its own ideas and in need of qualifying its statements as personal observation. Using the pronoun "you", on the other hand, makes a writer guilty of over-familiarity, since the second person pronoun is a prominent feature of everyday, informal discourse. The pronoun "we", when overused, can convey a supercilious or condescending tone; the pronoun "one", when overused, can torture sentences in unnecessarily passive constructions and make for a conspicuously clinical tone. The key to pronouns in academic prose is in using them consistently and in moderation, or to write your prose without any use of such pronouns at all.

Well meaning attempts to avoid sexism when pronouns need not be gender-specific have created a number of clumsy, intrusive solutions to deal with this shortcoming of the English language: e.g., "s/he"; "his/hers"; "him or her"; "she or he"; "they". In addition to disturbing the style and character of academic prose, these awkward solutions occasionally make for real syntactical problems and problems of agreement: e.g., "One should strive to appreciate the historical contexts of the books they are reading." Although writers try to rely on the plural pronouns to help them, this is not a perfect solution either. Perhaps the best way to solve this dilemma is to vary throughout the prose the gender of those pronouns that are not gender-specific, but be consistent to one gender within the sentence. In cases where the gender of the speaker or narrator in a work of literature is unknown and cannot be ascertained from context, use the gender of the author.

 

NOT ALLOWED

agreement issues: singular antecedent with they/their, and so forth

slash pronouns: he/she, his/her, him/her, s/he, and so forth

 

second person pronoun:
you, your, you're, you've, you'll, yours

PERMITTED SPARINGLY

choice of pronoun: he or she, his or her, him or her, his or hers

genderless pronouns: "one" and "one's"

appropriate use of passive voice

first person plural pronouns:
we, our, us

first person singular pronouns:
I, me, my, mine

COMMONLY PERMITTED

agreement issues: plural antecedent with they/their and so forth; singular antecedent with he, her, its and so forth

third person pronouns: he, she, it, one

indefinite pronouns: some, all, many, none, few, and so forth

 

 

EXAMPLE
The largest single group in this country to suffer the greatest increase in abuses and hate crimes is the disabled. A sight impaired person, for example, has a 45% chance-greater than any other group-of having their money stolen or their physical safety jeopardized in a public place. You even see an increase in more violent and invasive types of crime perpetrated against the handicapped, such as rape and assault with weapons. Unlike members of other groups for which a consciousness about hate crimes has been raised in recent years, the average disabled individual feels that s/he is even less protected by his/her city and government authorities than they did just twenty-five years ago. Perhaps one needs to make oneself more proactively responsible for the rights of the disabled in one's community so that one may not some day fall victim, oneself, to the injustices that now befall your average handicapped neighbor. You never know.


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DICTION

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A vocabulary companionable to academic prose should avoid colloquialisms, slang, cliches and all other turns of phrases that overtly interfere with the impression of objectivity in the writing (except where an intentional effect is desired). That is to say, even though writers often defend subjective positions with regard to interpretation and exegesis, their voices try to maintain reason, clarity and objectivity. Try to ingratiate yourself to the members of your academic audience by using the lexicon that acknowledges what they know about the subject and in what manner they are comfortable discussing it.

For an informative and extensive list of CLICHES, click HERE.

For more about HYPERBOLES, USAGE ERRORS and MALAPROPS, click HERE.

 

CLICHES

hopefully, so to speak, needless to say, all in all, pig in a poke, on a wing and a prayer, hope beyond hope, in society today, in conclusion, since time immemorial, since the beginning of time, none in the face, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

 

HYPERBOLE

awesome, biggest, greatest, definitely, absolutely, postively, impossibly, unbelievably, undeniably, super, really, extraordinary, fabulous, incredibly, certainly, very, extremely, it is amazing that

 

SLANG and VULGARISMS

 

cool, neat, great, crappy, piss-poor, sucked in, bad-ass, whack

 

INTIMATE OR PERSONAL
USAGE

 

kids, kiddies, moms, dads, rehab, okay, alot (a lot), alright (all right), folks, solo

 

COMMON USAGE ERRORS

 

affect/effect; must of/must have; prejudice/prejudiced; themself; theirself; ourself

IMPRECISION AND MALAPROPISMS

thing, get, got, got to, get to, going to, have to, kind of, there is, there are, analyzation, orientate, prioritize, irregardless

 

 

EXAMPLE
In society today, there are a lot of different kinds of people. Not any other country in the world today has got so many different kinds of races, nationalities and ethnicity groups. But even though the U.S. has been a really big asylum for different kinds of peoples, it hasn't always been such a great refuge for diversified cultures. Our great country has opened its doors to tons of nationalities, but often their cultures aren't getting encouraged to survive. It's amazing to think that we pride ourself in these things that make our country a place of freedom, but we must of forgotten some of the more basic principles of freedom 'cause so many new immigrants have to endure the pressures of a bland and uniform culture that kind of forces their own to take a back seat. This is not alright and is incredibly insensitive. Hopefully we can prioritize this and make a change for the better in the new millenium.

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SEXISM, AGE-ISM, HETEROSEXISM, RACISM AND CULTURAL EGOCENTRICITY

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Whether or not the specific gender of a referenced individual is known, it is appropriate to choose an occupation title that is not gender-specific. Furthermore, be mindful of the variety of cultural, philosophical, spiritual and sexual identities represented in your formal audience; in so doing, you will establish a relationship with your audience that is on neutral territory with regard to those issues unrelated to your topic.

 

AVOID PRESUMPTIONS

not everyone in your audience is White
not everyone in your audience is Christian; not all of your readers are religious
not all of your readers are heterosexual
not everyone shares your politics or appreciation for popular culture
not everyone to whom you appeal speaks English as a first language
your readers are not necessarily the same age as you

 

NOT APPROPRIATE

mankind, fireman, mailman, actress, congressman, housewife

 

PREFERRED

humanity, fire fighter, postal carrier, actor, congressperson, housekeeper

 

DO NOT PRESUME THESE ARE ALWAYS MALE

 

doctor, lawyer, professor, president, vice-president, C.E.O., broker, chef

DO NOT PRESUME THESE ARE ALWAYS FEMALE

nurse, assistant, teacher, secretary, cook, beautician, homemaker

 

EXAMPLE
God created the world in six days, but now the planet has been taken over by men as if we owned it. The average politician might refer to this exploitation of the planetary resources as "progress," but he, and so many others who reap the greatest monetary benefits from the destruction of forests and other rarified environments, does not speak for the majority of concerned world citizens. "All you need is love," so the song goes, but the kind of love we show the planet now, in a very serious manner, reflects the kind of regard we hold for our own species. And we must wear our hearts on our sleaves these days for anyone to take notice of our environmental message. Over the next thirty years, humans will directly cause the extinction of a hundred species per day; eventually, we will be one of those species. Clearly, our stewardship of our planet will ensure our very survival, an important concept we as parents must pass on to our sons and daughters.

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NAMES, TITLES AND ESSAY TITLES

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When referring to authors, it is customary in academic prose to introduce them for the first time by their full names and, in the case of scholarly writers, by their authority or background. After the initial introduction of a full name, reference by last name is acceptable. Likewise, the full titles of works with long titles should be introduced first, then referenced afterward by a prudent abbreviation (e.g., first, "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversation in Two Acts and a Requiem, " then "Miller's Death of a Salesman"). Like the tone of your essay's prose, the title of your essay should reflect sensitivity to your audience. Regardless of how informal some aspects of the essay may be, there is a need to inform academic readers clearly about the content of the essay by way of its title. Make sure that the title of your essay communicates the essay's topic or intent, if not in a primary way (e.g., "Isolation as a Human Invention in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'"), then in a secondary title (e.g., "The Insect Under the Sofa: Isolation as a Human Invention in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'"). Know when levity or obfuscation are inappropriate, so as not to offend your readers (e.g., "Getting Bugged by Humanity: Gregor as Dung Beetle in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'").

 

DISRESPECTFUL REFERENCES

If author's name is, for example, Helen Gardner, and she is Doctor of Philosophy in Literature, then

NOT
Helen or Dr. Helen

BUT RATHER Dr. Helen Gardner or Dr. Gardner or simply Gardner

INAPPROPRIATE SHORTENING OF TITLES

If the title is Joseph Campbell's "Transformation Of the Hero: 8. Departure Of the Hero."

NOT
"Transformation" or "Transformation of Hero"

BUT RATHER
Campbell's "Transformation Of the Hero"

GLIB OR FLIPPANT TITLES

If you are titling your own essay that analyzes Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," then

NOT
"Getting Bugged by Humanity: Gregor as Dung Beetle in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'"
or

"Pass the Roach: Kafka's Secret Pet"

BUT RATHER
"Isolation as a Human Invention in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'" or
"The Insect Under the Sofa: Isolation as a Human Invention in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'"

 

© 2005 Karl J. Sherlock