Archive for Tag: writing

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Should Students Use Word’s Spellchecker and Grammar Checker?

By Dorothy Zemach
ESL Materials Writer, Editor, Publisher, Teacher Trainer
Eugene, Oregon
Email: zemach at comcast dot net

I’m old enough to have learned to type on a typewriter, not a word processor. Personal computers arrived as I was leaving college; I got my first Macintosh my senior year. Oh, the glory! Saving! Cutting and pasting! Spellcheck! Wonderful tools.

Of course, like all wonderful tools, these need to be used with some care; and there are other tools available to writers that are not wonderful at all.

A spellchecker is a writer’s friend. It catches your typing mistakes as well as the mistakes you make because you honestly don’t know how to spell a word. It can’t catch everything – if you mean you’re but write your, the mistake will not be fixed. To find that kind of mistake, you still need a good understanding of English, and to reread your papers carefully to make sure you wrote what you meant.

Still, though, spellcheckers catch a lot. I advise students to spellcheck every paper before turning it in; I also advise them to spellcheck emails sent to professors, staff, supervisors, coworkers, clients – in short, anyone with whom they have a formal relationship.

The grammar checker, though … ah, that is another story. It would be wonderful, I know, to have an automated way to fix your grammar, or even just to point out where things were wrong. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll get one. But we don’t have it yet. The grammar checker is one tool I advise students not to use. Ever. And I’m going to show you why.

The examples in this column, all screen shots from my grammar checker, come from novels written by Russell Blake, a well-known writer of thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels. He’s a native English speaker and a good writer. Like most professional writers, after carefully checking his own work (he does three complete drafts on his own), he sends the manuscript to an editor (me).

I do some light fact-checking (if a man runs into the subway in Prague at 4:00 am to escape an assassin, I check to make sure that the subway is open and running then), I watch for words used too often, I make sure the love interest’s eye color doesn’t change between chapters, I make sure phrases in a foreign language and international place names are spelled correctly. And I check his grammar, for both accuracy and variety.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Colorful Writing

TamaraJonesTamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland.

When you’ve been teaching for as long as I have, you’ve probably tried just about every teaching technique at one time or another. I have drawers full of old games and activities that I dust off from time to time for use in a class I am currently teaching. Sometimes, I attend a PD session that reminds me about an approach that I used to use years ago, too. When I was at TESOL in Seattle a few months ago, one of the sessions I attended did just that; it put a name to a strategy that I used to use years ago when I was teaching a TOEFL Prep class, Writing with Colors ©.

Colors in the TOEFL Prep Class

One of my favorite classes to teach is TOEFL Prep. The students tend to be super motivated and focused because they are on the cusp of a major life change, and they need specific scores to move on to the next chapter. It’s also challenging for me as a teacher because the students ask the most thought-provoking advanced grammar questions and because, when I was teaching it, I was always trying to come up with engaging and meaningful ways to introduce students to useful strategies for increasing their scores.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

ESL SmackDown – Writing vs. Speaking

TamaraJonesBy Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, Howard Community College
Columbia, Maryland
jonestamara@hotmail.com

Several months ago, I was at a local ELT conference when I heard something I haven’t been able to shake. Eli Hinkel was delivering the plenary and somehow the topic of speaking vs. writing arose. Someone in the row behind me said, “Well, everybody knows that writing is harder than speaking.” Directly after that, I heard screeching tires. Well, in my head, anyway. What?!? Writing is harder than speaking? Everybody knows this? I remember looking around me to see if anyone else was having the OMG moment that I was, and made eye contact with my equally perturbed colleague, but everyone else was happily nodding.

While this seems to have been a given for many of the teachers in the auditorium on that sunny fall day, it wasn’t for me. Writing necessarily harder than speaking? Really? As the plenary continued, I mulled this over.

What’s so hard about writing?

What do writers have to do? Well, they have to think about grammar and vocabulary. But, then again, so do

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