Tag Archives: University

Count and Noncount Nouns: Technology Edition

In class, these topics often come up. I decided to post it here as well.

  • Hardware = noncount
  • Software = noncount
  • Information = noncount
  • Computer = count
  • File = count
  • App = count
  • Data = plural, but most people use it as a noncount noun. (datum is the singular form, but this use is very uncommon.)

Making Paragraphs

Many students want to write essays. But some of them don’t know how to arrange their sentences correctly. This makes their work hard to understand and low-scoring on tests. I’ll show you how to make paragraphs correctly.

Some students start their sentences on every line.

This is hard to do.

It looks like a list, not like an essay or story.

I am sad when I read it.

You should feel sad when you read it too.

To correct this, we must group the sentences together like this:

Some students start their sentences on every line. This is hard to do. It looks like a list, not like an essay or story. I am sad when I read it. You should feel sad when you read it too.

Traditionally, we will indent the first line as well. You can do this using the “tab” key on your keyboard. It will look like this:

Some students start their sentences on every line. This is hard to do. It looks like a list, not like an essay or story. I am sad when I read it. You should feel sad when you read it too.

There. Now you’ve got it. Happy writing!

Saving time by wasting it…

Often, people may choose to ignore instructions that seem complex or counter-intuitive. A few days ago, I gave my students an exercise in which they have to find spelling and punctuation errors in a group of sentences. Some students “found” grammar errors – but there were no grammar errors in the exercise.

Top Tip – if you don’t understand an exercise, assignment, or task, ask your teacher or boss about what you need to do. It will save you time and energy, and allow you to concentrate on the most important part of it!

Vocabulary of Education

Many words discuss education, but they aren’t used consistently from country to country. If there’s one time where you don’t want to make a mistake, it’s when you are talking about your schools! Here are some common words and how they are used in Canada.

  • University: A school that gives a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree. They may also grant certificates or diplomas.
  • College: A school that gives certificates or diplomas only. They cannot give Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degrees.
  • Degree – a Bachelor’s (usually 4 years), Master’s (usually 3 years), or Doctoral (usually 3 years) course of study at a university.
  • Major – the subject that you study in the most detail. (Special note: Many students use the word ‘career’ to mean ‘major,’ but this is incorrect. Your career is related to your work only, and has no necessary connection to your studying.)
  • Minor – a subject that you study in less detail than your major, but more than your electives.
  • Elective – a course that you take that is not related to your degree, diploma, or certificate, but that is required by your school.

Example: I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Victoria. My major was economics, and I completed a minor in business administration. I took electives in music, art history, and biology. After that, I completed a programming certificate at a college for six months. Now, I work designing games for the iPhone. My career is in game development.

  • Diploma – A program that is longer than one year, usually offered through a college or technical school. These programs often train people for a specific job, such as nursing, auto mechanics, legal secretary, or web design.
  • Certificate – A program that is less than one year of study. These programs can also prepare people for specific jobs, but often simply train someone in a general subject. You might find certificate programs for software training, for example.
  • Post-secondary: Any schooling that is completed after graduating from high school.
  • Undergrad – short for undergraduate. Refers to a Bachelor’s degree, or a person studying towards that degree.
  • Postgrad – short for postgraduate. Refers to a Master’s or Doctoral degree, or a person studying towards those degrees.
  • Postdoc – short for postdoctoral. refers to study that is taken after completing a Doctoral program.

Grades 1-12 – In Grade 1, a student is 6 years old, and goes to primary school. The grades progress upwards at a rate of one per year. The last year of highschool is Grade 12, when a student is typically 18 years old. These expressions are used for children and teenagers who are studying in primary (usually grades 1-6), middle (usually grades 7-9), and secondary (usually grades 10-12) schools only.

  • First-year: a person in the first year of their post-secondary education. In America, this person is called a freshman.
  • Second-year: a person in the second year of their post-secondary education. In America, this person is called a sophomore.
  • Third-year: a person in the third year of their post-secondary education. In America, this person is called a junior.
  • Fourth-year: a person in the fourth (or greater) year of their post-secondary education. In America, this person is called a senior. Note: The American names are not commonly used in Canada.

Why you should take a reading class

Most ESL students read at about 200 words a minute, which is the same speed that they speak. The average reading speed for native speakers is about 500 words per minute, and you can reach speeds of 1000 words per minute and above with practice.

So what? With a faster reading speed, you can:

  1. save time.
  2. read more efficiently.
  3. spend more time on more important actions.

If you’re taking a test, faster reading will help you in every section. You’ll have more time to consider the answers, and finding the answers will be faster too. Reading for fun will become more fun. Nobody wants to spend a month reading a popular book, but reading it in a week? That sounds better!

Work will become easier too. Think of how much there is to learn about at your company: business reports, emails, summaries, proposals, contracts, and more. With a higher reading speed, you’ll be able to devote more time to doing your job, rather than just reading about what other people are doing.

Here’s a website that has speed-reading exercises and tests. I taught a reading course for many years, and was amazed by how quickly the students improved their speed. Over a month, most students were able to double their reading speed. You can too!

Formal Letters for Business and University, Part 2

Continuing on from last week, where we learned about the addresses and dates on our letter, we’ll take a look at the start and end of our letter.

The salutation is the “hello” of the letter. There are several common choices, depending on how well you know the recipient.

If you don’t know their name, use “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To whom it may concern,” to start your letter. If you have spoken to them on the phone, sent emails, or have met them once or twice, use “Dear Mr. Familyname,” or “Dear Ms. Familyname.” If you know them well, or see them often, “Dear Firstname” is acceptable.

The closure comes at the end of the letter. There is some personal choice here, but “Yours truly,” and “Sincerely” are always correct. In casual situations, you could use “Thanks,” or “Cheers,” if you know the recipient really well. Leave two blank lines, so you have room to sign your name, and then print your name with a period at the end, like this:

Sincerely,

Dave Henderson.

Formal Letters for Business and University, Part 1

Today’s tips are about letter-writing. Details count!

Your address is placed at the top of the letter, on the right side. You do not put your name, email, or phone number as part of this section.

The first line contains your apartment/office/suite number, the building number, and the street name. In the second line, write your city and province. The last line is for your postal code, which is written in capital letters and is separated by a hyphen. Here’s an example of the top of a business letter.

 115, 221B Baker St.,

Vancouver, B.C.,

V2W-9Y5

May 12, 2011

Recipient’s Name

Recipient’s Job

Company Name

Suite, Building, Street

City, Province

Postal code

Country (if it’s not the same as yours)

Dear Jane,

Name that text!

You’ll find that some people have very strict requirements for the layout of papers. Perhaps this is for a university essay, or maybe a contract for your work, but the details count. Here are some examples of common layout instructions.

This sentence is justified left.

This sentence is justified centre.

This sentence is justified right.

This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided. This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided. This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided. This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided. This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided. This paragraph is written with box justification, which changes the size of the space between the words. It’s very hard to read quickly, and should be avoided.

These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines. These are single-spaced lines.

These lines are double-spaced. This style is quite common in schools and universities, because

it leaves space for editors or markers to add comments. These lines are double-spaced. This

style is quite common in schools and universities, because it leaves space for editors or markers

to add comments. These lines are double-spaced. This style is quite common in schools and

universities, because it leaves space for editors or markers to add comments. These lines are

double-spaced. This style is quite common in schools and universities, because it leaves space

for editors or markers to add comments. These lines are double-spaced. This style is quite

common in schools and universities, because it leaves space for editors or markers to add

comments.

This text is bold. Bold text is often used for headings.

 This text is underlined. Underlined text is also used for headings, but not as often as bold text.

This text is in italics. Italics are sometimes used for quotations or foreign word, but the most common use is to emphasize a word or phrase.

Free Software

I know that software can be expensive, especially for complex or business-oriented packages. However, there are some excellent free programs that do what the expensive stuff does.

Photoshop? GIMP
Sound recording? Audacity
Microsoft Project? Project Libre
Microsoft Office? Apache OpenOfficeNeoOffice, and LibreOffice

There are also cloud services, where you use software over the Internet.

Google Drive is great for wordprocessing, making presentations, and spreadsheets, just like Office is.

Dropbox is a way to share files and folders with your colleagues.

And of course, if you need a cheap computer to run it all, check out Free Geek Vancouver.