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Becky T.
Former English Teacher and Visiting University Lecturer
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

I'm writing a paper on Abnormal Psychology and I know what I want to say but I'm having trouble putting it down in words. I keep getting stuck and worrying about grammar and APA formatting and I'm convinced this paper won't make sense to anyone reading it. What can I do to make it better?

Becky T.
Answer:

Hey! Writing a paper can be a struggle sometimes - especially if you're overwhelmed with information or, like yourself, are having trouble making your message clear to the reader. How about we start with just the writing first? Don't worry about the APA formatting yet - we can get to that later. It's hard to tackle everything at once, so let's do it one at a time. First, let's look at your paper one sentence at a time. In my experience, I've found that most of the time papers are unclear or confusing because they have too many words. Sometimes, simple is better. Go through each sentence and see if you can take small words out like that, so, the, a, an, this, etc." Also, try and avoid using suggestive words such as "seems" or "appears" - these indicate you are not as confident in what you're saying and they add unnecessary words to a sentence. Second, generally speaking, you shouldn't use the same word twice in one sentence or the same word to start two sentences that come after each other. This is why a thesaurus will be your best friend when you are writing a paper. For example: "Theories organize similar ideas, observations and interpretations into a usable framework for individuals and their environment. Theories are meant to be applicable." This uses the word "theories" to start two sentences back to back. It flows better and sounds better to say: "Theories organize similar ideas, observations and interpretations into a usable framework for individuals and their environment. They are meant to be applicable." Third, read your paper out loud. This is extremely important for finding grammatical mistakes and for recognizing when a sentence is a run on or has too many words in it. If you find sentences like this then rewrite them to by simpler and more to the point. After you do these things we can see if the paper is still confusing and we can go over APA formatting. Just remember, tackle one issue at a time!

Literature
TutorMe
Question:

We're reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 in my English Lit class and I have to write a paper on it but I'm having trouble understanding what it means because the language is confusing! My teacher also wants us to find two themes but all I can on come up with one. What can I do?

Becky T.
Answer:

Shakespearean sonnets can be tough because they're so different from how we talk and write now. There are a few techniques, though, that I think can help you figure what Mr. Shakespeare is trying to say. First, read through the sonnet again and circle any word you don't know. I want you to circle a word even if you think know what it means but aren't 100% sure. If there's any doubt then you should circle it. Second, go through each line of the sonnet. If there's a word that you circled in the line then look up it's meaning. After you read a line go to a blank paper and rewrite it in your own words. For example, this is the first line from Sonnet 22 that I rewrote: My glass shall not persuade me I am old - My mirror won't convince me that I'm old. When I first read the phrase "my glass" I immediately thought it could be a cup you drink out of but after reading the rest of the line I realized that by "glass" he meant something he could see his reflection in - something that could physically reflect his age. Therefore, I knew that by "glass" he meant "mirror." Third, after you've rewritten each line in your own words read through what you wrote and figure out what the sonnet is saying. Who is the narrator? Is he speaking about or to someone? What is the subject of the sonnet? What is the message? Fourth, go back to the original sonnet and highlight any literary devices you find. Are there similes or metaphors that help make the meaning of the sonnet more clear or visual? Fifth, read the sonnet out loud. Is there alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance or consonance that make the sonnet sound a certain way? After you do these five things you should have a clearer idea of what the sonnet is about and how it uses language to do it. I'd like for you to do these things and then come back and we can discuss what you found out and how you interpreted the sonnet. Additionally, we can work through any issues you're still having when it comes to understanding the sonnet. Then we can discuss the theme you've already identified and see if we can talk through the sonnet further in order to identify more themes as well as a paper topic.

English
TutorMe
Question:

I am in a linguistics class for my English major and I am really confused about the difference between subject complements and object complements. Actually, I don't understand the whole concept of complements at all and I have a quiz over them this week. Could you explain them to me?

Becky T.
Answer:

Complements can be confusing, that's because they can be nouns, groups of words, adjectives, etc. How about we break down what a subject complement is first. Every sentence has a subject. Some sentences have a subject complement that goes with the subject. A subject complement is something that renames the subject or describes the subject of the sentence. Subject complements also come after a linking verb such as "to be." You can switch the subject and subject complement in the sentence and still have it make sense. For example: Becky is the tutor. In this sentence "Becky" is the subject, "is" is the linking verb. and "the tutor" is the subject complement. You can switch the subject and subject complement in this sentence and still have it make sense: The tutor is Becky. See? The subject and the subject complement are synonymous. Here are some more examples: The author is Dan Brown. - "The author" is the subject. "Dan Brown" is the subject complement. You can also switch them: Dan Brown is the author. The dogs are Maltese. - "The dogs" are the subject. "Maltese" is the subject complement. It was I who took the last slice of pizza. = "It" is the subject. "I" is the subject complement. Object complements rename or describes the object of the sentence. It will most likely come after the direct object. It can be one word or a group of words. For example: We call our dog Bo. In this sentence "dog" is the director object and "Bo" is the object complement. Here are some more examples: My boss named me chairperson. - "Me" is the direct object. "Chairperson" is the object complement. I want to make him happy. - "Him" is the direct object. "Happy" is the object complement. I found a mouse living in the cabinet. - "A mouse" is the direct object. "living in the cabinet" is the object complement.

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