The Growth Team

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Write a Grammatically Correct Essay

Try your hand at creating an essay. Below is an exercise in grammar, using past, present, and future tenses.

First, think of a problem you have or a topic that is on your mind right now. Do you have one? Ok.

Now, notice the three columns of di on the photo below. Each dice has a picture on it.

Using each of the three pictures in each column, you will be constructing three paragraphs. Your paragraphs will be about the problem you have or the topic you are thinking about.

Here’s how (BTW, use your imagination):

1. Using each picture in the column on the left, describe what came before your problem or topic (past tenses).

2. Using each picture in the middle column, describe what is happing now regarding your problem or topic (present tenses).

3. Using the pictures in the right column, describe what you will do and what will happen next regarding your problem or topic (future tenses).

Joe's Problem: "I need to make a presentation and my mind is blank."    See how Joe uses the pictures in the left column...
#1:    I went home last evening, unlocked my door, and went inside. I couldn't relax. I took off my shoes and paced up and down, thinking of what to say in my presentation.

Sentence Nuance and Hidden Meaning - - Function (Style) Words vs. Content Words

The content of a sentence is not all there is to communication! The ways people convey a message is a big part of meaning. The nouns, adjectives, and verbs that people use to express themselves, express the sentence content. There is also linguistic “style” (James Pennebaker’s word for “function words”). Style is how people put their words together to create a message. Style or function words are usually go unnoticed, but the mere 350 function words make up more than 50% of the words we use.

What accounts for “style”? Consider the ways in which three different people might summarize how they feel about ice cream (tan words are "style" words):

"Person A: I’d have to say - I like ice cream.
Person B: The experience of eating a scoop of ice cream is certainly quite satisfactory.
Person C: Yummy. Good stuff.

All three are saying basically the same thing, but the way they express themselves hints at other issues:

Person A is tentative; Person B is formal and stiff; Person C easy-going and uninhibited."

What's different?They differ in their use of pronouns, the size of their words, the amount of words, and many other dimensions. You can detect linguistic style by focusing on the “junk words” – the words that convey little in the way of content. The junk words, usually called function words or particles, act as the cement that holds the content words together. Function or style words can be auxillary verbs, conjunctions, determiners, prepositions, pronouns, modal verbs, particles, and quantifiers.*      
Adapted from “Psychological Function of Words, by Dr. James Pennebaker

EXERCISE:   During the course of your day, listen for function words (see 20 most common words below). Use them to try to understand better, what people mean. Also, use function words to show more clearly what you mean. Notice which function words you use. Assure you are using them to stylize and clarify your message.


What's so funny? See how many of these puns you can understand. Have fun:

When chemists die, they barium.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.

I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.

I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

Broken pencils are pointless.

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government's fault.


* The 20 most common words:
(they just so happen to all be style or function words... You should see the 100 most common words!)

I, The, And, To, A, Of, That, In, It, My, Is, You, Was, For, Have, With, He, Me, On, But



Remember when writing: Clichés, slang, and swearing are boring! They have been said too often.
Clichés, slang, and swearing have become white noise - they are ignored or cause irritation. Clichés, slang, and swearing are what you write when you feel lazy, uninspired, and not diligent enough to think of something original to say. The reader perceives that and makes a judgment about you, the writer.

It's fine to use clichés and slang when speaking because they help you convey a concept quickly, but when you're writing a cliché, slang, or you swear, you are not saying anything new (you're just repeating a boring words that have lost their power).

Give the right impression of you and your work. Brainstorm a fresh metaphor to replace each cliché, slang, or swear word. For example, imagine wanting to use “she was happy as a lark.” The listener will get distracted. Their mind will wander to "Oh? Just how happy is a lark? And what is a lark, anyway?" 

To replace it, think of other ways to describe happy. Think of situations in which you are happy and magnify them. For example, "She was so happy, her entire body came alive. Her face radiated, and she connected with everyone in the room."

Now go and highlight every cliché, slang, and swear word in your writing. Now think of a fresh and impressionable way to convey your point. 

NOTE: Go ahead and use clichés, slang, or swear words in your first draft in order not to stop the flow of your thought. Just be sure to replace them in your final masterpiece. 

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