Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grammar Isn't Quite so Tough When You Break it Down!

While English grammar can seem to us like a labyrinth of arbitrary rules and endless possibilities for error, the truth is that 90% of all grammar errors fall into just 20 types. This means that if you can identify and correct just twenty types of errors, you will be able to write papers that are at least 90% error-free!

Of course, some errors can take time to truly master, such as errors in tense and number (a fancy word for singular vs. plural), particularly if English is not your native language. Nonetheless, becoming familiar with these error patterns is a big step toward successfully eliminating them. With that in mind, the Writing Center offers the following link to the

Dartmouth Writing Program’s website:

This website identifies and defines the twenty most common errors.

"Grammar Scares Me" Part I: Who vs. Whom

The choice between who and whom may be the most scary of all pronoun issues.

Use this method from The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need to help calm your fears:

  1. First, remember to look only at the clause associated with who or whom. Sometimes there is only one clause and sometimes there are independent and dependent clauses.

  2. Next, scramble words in the clause (if you have to) so that the words form a statement, not a question.

  3. Now, substitute either he or him for who or whom. This will tell you whether to use who or whom. Use the mnemonic he=who, him=whom (the final m helps you remember the association).

  4. Be on the lookout for predicate nominatives (sometimes called a predicate noun, it renames the subject). After you scramble the words, if you have a linking verb rather than an action verb, use he (who) instead of him (whom).

Let's try it!

  • (Who, Whom) pounded on the door last night?

In this sentence, no scrambling is necessary since you can substitute he and have a perfectly good sentence: He pounded on the door late last night. Since you used he, you would use who in the original sentence.

  • (Who, Whom) were you meeting in the dark?
Scramble the words to make a statement; then, substitute he or him, and you have the statement "You were meeting him in the dark last night." Since you used him in the new sentence, you know to use whom in the original sentence.

  • Dr. Frankenstein worried about (who, whom) the monster would be paired with during the Haunted Competition.

This sentence has two clauses, but you're only concerned with the clause that contains the who/whom question. Take the words after about, scramble them to make a statement, substitute he or him, and you have, "The monster would be paired with him during the Haunted Competition." Since you used him, you would know that the original sentence would use whom.

Now, ease your fears with these practice exercises!

  1. We helped the man who/whom was lost in the woods.

  2. She is the woman who/whom I told you about.

  3. I don't like people who/whom aren't compassionate.

  4. You will work with our senior engineers, who/whom you will meet later.

  5. Who/whom did the Democratic Party nominate in 1992?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing Center Services for Mt. SAC Students: Part III--COMPUTER LAB





Another service available to all Mt. SAC students with current IDs is use of our computer lab, equipped with 50 computers loaded with Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. While waiting to meet with tutors, students can improve their writing skills in the computer lab by using the following grammar software available for self-study:

Writer's Resources
Study Wizard 4
Inspiration 8
ReadPlease Plus
. . . and many more!

Lab tutoring is also available to students working on writing assignments for their Mt. SAC courses. Students can opt to have their tutoring sessions in the lab while composing their papers at their computer stations or just simply ask lab tutors about their thesis statements, topic sentences, or other questions pertaining to writing.

Black and white printing is 10 cents per page and color printing is 50 cents per page.

Come in and use our computer lab where most students can concentrate better than they can at home!

~Posted by Nicole Blean

Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Center Services for Mt. SAC Students: Part II--WORKSHOPS





Like our tutoring service, The Writing Center's workshops are aimed at improving students' writing skills in conjunction with what they are learning in their courses. Our workshops are offered on a repetitive basis throughout the academic year and are taught by Writing Center staff or English Instructors. Students can choose from the following workshops:

  1. APA Style

  2. Developing Your Sentence Style

  3. Easy Steps to a Great Thesis

  4. Fixing Fragments, Run-ons, and Comma Splices

  5. How to Write an Essay in Two Hours (Timed Writing)

  6. Keys to Better Paragraphs

  7. MLA Documentation and Citation (Research Workshop Part III)

  8. On Course: Success Strategies for Writing

  9. Overcoming Writer's Block: Tips for Getting Started

  10. Plan Your Essay in Three Easy Steps

  11. Starting Your Research(Research Workshop Part I)

  12. Using Quotations and Paraphrases Effectively (Research Workshop Part II)

  13. Writing the Personal Statement (located in the Career and Transfer Center, Bldg. 9B)
During workshops, students have opportunities to work on various writing activities, take home writing tools such as handouts and outline templates, and ask workshop instructors questions about their assignments.

After attending a workshop, one student reported, "I understand that the most important key to success is preparation. This is something that I have struggled with for a long time (i.e., procrastination) but I believe that this workshop helped mold me into a better student." Come to a workshop and see for yourself!

Workshops are FREE to all Mt. SAC students and are 60-75 minutes. All workshops, with the exception of The Personal Statement, are located in The Writing Center's computer classrooms inside Bldg. 26B, 1561A. Please call 909.594.5611 x5325 for more information or to sign up for a specific workshop. Click here for a calendar and workshop descriptions:

All workshops are supported by a Title V grant.

~Posted by Nicole Blean

Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing Center Services for Mt. SAC Students: Part I--TUTORING





PART I--TUTORING: The Writing Center's tutoring service is available to any Mt. SAC student working on a writing assignment from any course. During tutorials, tutors can help students improve their writing skills by focusing on "global issues" such as strengthening their thesis statements, developing their sentence style, and clarifying their ideas, among other concepts. Our mission is to help students become better writers.

In order to dispel any misconceptions (or student fantasies!) about tutoring, we must be clear that we are not an editing service. We do not help students if we edit their papers for them. We do help by reviewing students' papers with them paragraph by paragraph, utilizing our 50+ handouts, and consulting grammar and documentation handbooks to show students options for revision.

Students using the Writing Center (or WC, for short) should come 5 minutes early for their appointments to fill out a goldenrod colored DLA sheet (Directed Learning Activity). Sounds complicated, but this form simply helps students to focus on the most important concepts they would like to work on during their 30 minute tutorials.

Coming next week . . . Part II: Workshops. In the meantime, happy tutoring!

~Posted by Nicole Blean

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Annual Tutoring Conferences: Where One Might Meet His or Her Long-Lost Younger Twin

Even though all of our tutors are CRLA (College Reading and Learning Association) certified, we believe in continual tutor training and take our staff meetings VERY seriously. Every year since our beginning in the 2007-2008 academic year, we have also corralled as many staff as possible and herded them to the annual tutor conference, hosted by the Southern California Writing Center Association. At each conference, a group of our Mt. SAC Writing Center tutors have presented a panel or hosted a session. Not to mention, we've been able to visit a new college each time and check out their own writing centers. Through our participation at the annual tutor conferences, we have gained many insights about tutoring. For example, we've learned new strategies for helping ESL students, we've had the opportunity to share about our new computer lab tutoring, and we've even heard a Vietnam vet/writer speak about responding appropriately to personal narratives. Each year's conference has proven to add more nuts and bolts to our tutoring tool kit. And who knows? One might even meet one's long-lost younger twin, like Dr. Dave at our first conference!

~Posted by Nicole Blean