26 octubre, 2007

Basic Paragraph Structure

In many languages, the fundamental unit of composition is the paragraph. A paragraph consists of several sentences that are grouped together. This group of sentences together discuss one main subject. In formal academic English, paragraphs have three principal parts. These three parts are the topic sentence, body sentences, and the concluding sentence. We will also talk briefly about details in paragraphs.
The Topic Sentence
A topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph; that is, it is usually the first sentence in a formal academic paragraph. (Sometimes this is not true, but as you practice writing, please keep to this rule unless you are instructed otherwise.) Not only is a topic sentence the first sentence of a paragraph, but, more importantly, it is the most general sentence in a paragraph. What does "most general" mean? It means that there are not many details in the sentence, but that the sentence introduces an overall idea that you want to discuss later in the paragraph.
Supporting Sentences
When a reader reads a topic sentence a question should usually appear in the reader's mind. The reader should then expect that the rest of the paragraph will give an answer to this question.
That is, the second and third sentences give some explanation The second and third sentences are called supporting sentences. They are called "supporting" because they "support," or explain, the idea expressed in the topic sentence. Of course, paragraphs in English often have more than two supporting ideas. At minimum, you should have at least five to seven sentences in your paragraph.
The Concluding Sentence
In formal paragraphs you will sometimes see a sentence at the end of the paragraph which summarizes the information that has been presented. This is the concluding sentence. You can think of a concluding sentence as a sort of topic sentence in reverse.
You can understand concluding sentences with this example. Consider a hamburger that you can buy at a fast-food restaurant.* A hamburger has a top bun (a kind of bread), meat, cheese, lettuce, and other elements in the middle of the hamburger, and a bottom bun. Note how the top bun and the bottom bun are very similar. The top bun, in a way, is like a topic sentence, and the bottom bun is like the concluding sentence. Both buns "hold" the meat, onions, and so on. Similarly, the topic sentence and concluding sentence "hold" the supporting sentences in the paragraph.
Not all academic paragraphs contain concluding sentences, especially if the paragraph is very short. However, if your paragraph is very long, it is a good idea to use a concluding sentence.
Details in Paragraphs
Whenever possible, you should include enough details in your paragraphs to help your reader understand exactly what you are writing about. Why are details important? Consider the example of the hamburger, mentioned above.* If the hamburger buns are the topic and concluding sentences, then the meat, the cheese, the lettuce, and so on are the supporting details. Without the food between the hamburger buns, your hamburger would not be very delicious! Similarly, without supporting details, your paragraph would not be very interesting.
A Note on Formality. In addition to having a particular kind of structure, academic paragraphs are different from "ordinary writing" in that certain kinds of expressions are not allowed. For example, in formal essays, you should not use contractions such as don't or aren't. Instead, you should write out the words in full, for example, do not and are not.
Also, in formal essays you should avoid the first and second person. That is, do not use the pronouns you or I. The pronouns we and us are sometimes used in formal essays in some major fields, but in general you should not use these unless you are certain that they are customary in your field and/or your professor allows them. It is safer simply to use the third person.

At the beginningn in the end

‘At the beginning’ or ‘at the end’ (of the story) tell us the chronological point.
‘In the beginning’ (and ‘at first’) suggest a contrast later. We expect to hear ‘but later’ the circumstances changed. Or ‘ in the end’ suggests a contrast earlier. Before, there were problems and uncertainty.
Finally and eventually suggest a long wait. (Finally usually comes before the verb.) The outcome may be positive or negative.
At last suggests a very long wait. The outcome is positive.
Compare the following pairs of sentences.
John and Anita got married at the beginning of May. In the beginning, the marriage worked well, but problems soon began to emerge.
At the end of the war, the soldiers all went home.
We had a long and bitter argument, but in the end I realized he was right after all.
I burnt the meat and dropped the vegetables, but the meal turned out all right in the end.
At last the waiter brought them their meal, but by then it was cold.
1 Practice
Put one of the above words or expressions into each gap.
After the operation, he went home to recuperate. ____________ he made good progress, but his condition soon began to deteriorate.
_____________ of the film, we are introduced to the two main characters, Bill and Sarah Cunningham.
Damian told me the other day that he wants to be an astronaut. I didn’t believe him _____________, but then I realized he was serious!
She spent days trying to decide what to do. She __________ decided that the best course of action was to do nothing.
I’ve spent thousands of pounds trying to get my driving licence, and now, after seventeen goes, I’ve got it _______________.
They tried hard to make the marriage work, but their hearts weren’t in it, and they got divorced ________________.
The story jumps around from place to place, and there are characters introduced who don’t seem to be connected. _____________, you have very little idea of what it was all about.
I had to wait weeks for the cheque to come, but it arrived ___________.
2 Practice
Complete the sentences with at or in
Example: He players shook hands _at__ the end of the match.
It took John a long time to find a job after he left school. _____ the end he found a job as a waiter.
‘When do you get paid?’ ‘_____ the end of the month.’
Are you going away _____ the beginning of August or ______ the end?
I couldn’t decide what to get Ann for her birthday. ____ the end I didn’t get her anything at all.
We waited ages for a taxi. We gave up _____the end and walked home.
_____ the end of the course the students usually have a party.
I’ll be moving to a new address _____ the end of September.
His illness got worse and worse. _____ the end he had to go into hospital for an operation.
Tom didn’t want to lend the money at first but _____ the end he agreed.
In the beginning/at first
At the beginning
In the beginning’ / at first
Finally and eventually
At last
In the end
At the end
In the end /eventually
1 in
2 at
3 at, at
4 in
5 in
6 at
7 at
8 in
9 in

08 octubre, 2007

Listening tips for listening to the news

Author: Miles Craven
Some useful tips if you want to listen to the news.
-Make sure you have heard the news in your own language before you listen. Perhaps make some notes of the main stories, including any names of people or places.
-Don’t worry about how much you understand. Listen to or watch the report first a few times ‘just for fun’.
-Stop and review as many times as necessary.
-Write a brief summary (one or two sentences) of each story.
-Set yourself a few questions to answer. Then listen again for the answers.
-Make notes of any new vocabulary you think is useful.
-Why not listen to the news with a friend? You can help each other by talking about what you each understand.
-When you feel confident, try listening to the news in English in different accents.