Posts for the Topic language

Psychologically speaking: your brain on writing

Brain-shaped word cloud saying "Psychologically speaking: your brain on writing"

Remember when you were little and just learning how to write? Just writing your name was a huge accomplishment. Yet with practice, it became much easier. The brain is not a muscle; although, in some ways it develops like one. The more you use it in a specific way, the more able it is to perform the task. So what is the brain actually doing while you write? The following are a number of brain areas that work together to form ideas and get them down on paper.

Frontal Lobe

Show, don't tell

A picture of a paper octopus coming out of a book, clutching a paper ship

Descriptive writing is what can help an author flesh out the world they are creating in their books and transport readers into fictional spaces. Some authors take a rather flowery approach to this, while others give only the necessary details. Regardless, most of the famous authors adamantly believe in the concept of “showing, not telling”.

Oxford commas: what’s the whole fuss about?

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is one of those writing conventions in English that people either love or hate. If you were one of the lucky few in high school to have an English teacher who was particularly passionate about the subject, then you probably know what I’m talking about. The most important thing to know about the Oxford comma is that it isn’t a clear cut grammar rule. In other words, it is what one could call “optional punctuation”.

Revisiting Google Ngram: What we can learn from Corpora

Ancient inscription captioned "It doesn't mean a thing, but boy, will it drive them crazy a thousand years from now?"

So I’ve been thinking about Google’s Ngram Viewer and how it applies as a teaching tool. Although it doesn’t directly translate, Ngram reminded me of a really handy tool that we use regularly at the Writing Centre. I’ve also realized that many people may not have encountered it before. So, I present to you: the Now Corpus.

An experiment with Google Ngram Viewer or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Dr. Strangelove meme captioned "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the war room"

At the Writing Centre, we’re always looking out for new teaching strategies and tools. So when one of my colleagues mentioned Google Ngram Viewer (I was shamelessly trolling for blog posts ideas, to be honest), I was intrigued. What is it? What does it do? And more importantly, how does Google keep creating these things?

New! Improved?

During my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto, I took a class on a Roman poet named Catullus. For a long semester I laboured over his poetry, trying to wrestle his sophisticated Latin phrases into easy English.  From all the hundreds of lines of his poetry that I worked on, one word stands out in my memory: palmulas.

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