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Reference Guide

English Composition - Reference Guides

Computer Science
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Sentences form the basis for written language and composition
A sentence is a group of words that forms a complete thought
It is easier to express complete thoughts orally than it is through writing;
written sentences are more elaborate than those used in oral communication
An important goal is to make written sentences as clear and understandable as possible
A sentence has two main parts: a subject and predicate
The subject is the person (person, place, thing or idea) that does the action; the predicate is the verb describing the action
Example: Mary slammed the door to her room. (The subject is Mary and the predicate is slammed)
• Choosing words to convey thoughts can be tricky; choose words
that clearly express the correct meaning
• Before the writing process begins, the thoughts behind
communication are already searching for the best words to use,
the best level of communication, and words not to use
• Ultimately, a writer’s word choices are personal; word choice
reflects the style of the writing
• The three main levels of language are literary, medium, and
• Average everyday text (e.g., found in most newspapers) is
medium-level language; it is neither literary (more complex, higher
vocabulary) nor informal (colloquial, maybe using slang)
Slang is colloquial language that is not socially acceptable in most
conversations, nor in writing; it may include swear words and
phrases that are used by younger people (when slang is used in
formal writing, it is enclosed in quotation marks)
Colloquial language is usually spoken in informal settings
(e.g., family at home) and should not be used in writing
• Some contractions are colloquial speech (e.g., ain’t);
grammatical errors are also part of oral colloquial speech
(they may be acceptable in familiar surroundings)
Literary language is found in literature and specialized texts
• Regional language includes words and expressions found in specific
geographical areas
Technical language includes words and expressions found in
specific professions or areas of expertise, mostly familiar only to
those people within that profession or area of expertise
• If technical language must be included in non-specific texts,
terms must be defined and made clear to the general public
• Technical language that is not defined or clarified is jargon;
jargon is frowned upon as it is usually aimed at impressing
audiences that are not familiar with the terminology
Euphemisms are words generally understood to be kinder
replacements for harsher terms (i.e., less offensive)
• The use of language depends on the target audience
Figurative language is embellished speech that evokes images to
convey or emphasize meaning
• A simile is a word used to express a comparison of a characteristic to
another, involving the words like or as
Examples: He is built like a bull. He’s as large as a bull.
• A metaphor is also a word used in comparisons, but it does not use
an actual comparison word (i.e., no like or as)
Example: He is a bull, you’ll see.
• Metaphors are generally used in more poetic writing, but can also be
effective in expository paragraphs
• An extended metaphor is a metaphor that recurs and develops over
various sentences or a whole paragraph
Example: The thief was the wind. No one saw ever saw him, and this
invisible air current would drift from store to store, shoplifting whatever he
wanted. One day there must have been a tornado because eighty-seven
different stores in the mall reported unnoticed thefts.
Notes: When elaborating on extended metaphors, do not mix images
or use mixed metaphors
Personification is the attribution of human qualities to things, objects
or ideas
Examples:The new Volkswagen has two friendly eyes and a big smile.
It says, “Hello!” • The wind whispered softly.
Denotation: The literal meaning of a word (e.g., how a dictionary
describes a word)
Connotation: Suggestions or implications that the same word can
Example: Look in your mailbox, tomorrow, Charlie, you might find
yourself a little gift… if you do the right thing. (The denotation of gift is
the meaning of the word [a present]; the connotation is the
possibility of a bribe or an offering with strings attached)
Note: In common cases such as the common connotation attributed
to the word gift, some dictionaries have started listing connotative
meanings for words, as well as their classic literary meanings
Clichés are overused catch-phrases that should be avoided in writing
Examples: Better safe than sorry. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Jargon is undefined, overblown technical language aimed at
impressing audiences unfamiliar with specific terms
Example: The most important components of an electric guitar are the
instrument’s pick-ups, and a Gibson P100 pick-up sounds very different in a
hollow-body guitar than it does in a solid-body guitar or a semi-hollow
body guitar; the string gage, action, and tuning pegs all play a part.
Doublespeak involves exaggerated euphemisms that try to mask the
truth or present the subject matter in a much gentler (and thus
untrue) light
Example: vertically-challenged meaning short
Sexist language must not be used in writing (and should be avoided
in oral speech)
• Do not add female before a profession (female doctor should be
• Gender-based words like stewardess or steward should be replaced by
flight attendant
• Do not use he for both sexes (use him or her, or his or her)
• Do not use man if you are referring to both sexes (use humankind)
• Avoid occupational stereotypes (e.g., men can be secretaries, women
can be plumbers)
English Composition
English Composition
ENGLISH COMPOSITION • 1-55080-565-7 1© 1999-2012 Mindsource Technologies Inc.
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