Sunday, August 5, 2007

10 Minutes a Day!

Question: How can I learn to recognize grammatical problems in my own writing?

Answer: Give me a ten-minute essay a day, five days a week for three consecutive weeks. RayS.

1. Write on any topic you wish for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes, stop! Please. Even if in mid-sentence.

2. Write by typing in an e-mail, on the word processor or long-hand on paper.

3. If you type in an e-mail, simply send the e-mail to RayS. at Or, attach the word processor copy to your e-mail.

4. If you write longhand, scan a picture of your 10-minute essay into a picture file on your computer and attach to your e-mail.

5. I will re-write your 10-minute essay, correcting any problems in sentence structure, usage, punctuation and style (formal as opposed to informal).

6. I am not a computer “geek,” so I hope you are using the Word for Windows word processor or a word processor that is compatible with it.

I will return your original essay and my corrected copy within 24 hours, attached to my “Reply.” Compare the two versions.

Then, below the original and corrected versions, I will show you by “redlining” the detailed steps I took in revising your ten-minute essay. (I cannot show you the red-lined version in this blog because the blog is written in Html and doesn’t accept redlining.)

Finally, I will ask you to tell me if the corrected copy is “worse” than your original; “as good as” your original or “better” than your original. Respond truthfully. After all, you will decide what you learn and use from understanding my changes.

8. Feel free to comment on and to ask me any questions about the changes I made.

9. I will NOT use your essay in my blog. I will NOT share the essay with ANYONE. The work I do with your essay is strictly between you and me. If you wish, I will destroy all copies of whatever you have written.

10. Below is an example of how I corrected a student’s 10-minute essay when I was teaching writing in college. I asked and received permission from him to publish his essay.

My dog Guinness is a black lab. He’s almost a perfect dog, except for one thing, he becomes excited when he meets new people or other dogs. He leaps on them and of course this frightens them. He is saying “I like you”. They feel he is attacking them. One day the vet told me about a thing called the gentle leader. It isn’t a muzzle but it looks like one. When I put it on my dog he immediately calms down. I’m happy now that he does not jump on people or other dogs.

My Corrected Copy
My dog Guinness, a black Labrador retriever, is almost a perfect pet except for one trait: he becomes excited when he meets new people or other dogs. He leaps on them and, of course, they express fear. Although he is saying, “I like you,” people and dogs react as if he is attacking them.

One day, the veterinarian told me about a device called the “Gentle Leader,” which is not a muzzle, but looks like one. When I put the straps on Guinness’s face, he immediately calms down. With the Gentle Leader, Guinness no longer jumps on unfamiliar people or strange dogs.

The redlined version of the corrected essay would appear in the Word for Windows copy attached to my “Reply.”

As you can see, I combined some sentences, removed “it” and “thing,” varied some sentence beginnings, put commas around an “interrupter,” capitalized, put a comma inside closing quotation marks, substituted a synonym and otherwise rearranged expression to remove unnecessarily repeated words and corrected a run-on sentence.

Hope to hear from you. The service is absolutely free, with no strings attached. I just want to help you recognize problems in sentence structure, usage, punctuation and style in your own writing.

Next: some possible topics for your 10-minute essays.

All the best. RayS.

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