Tag Archives: writing

Word Choice/Usage/Management?

An interesting discussion on word choice occurred during my editing class last night. Obviously a good writer should be mindful of each and every word that can go into a document. Despite this fact novice writers often misjudge the value of words that hold similar meanings.

Case in point, this was the first sentence that appeared on a draft for an actual guide for novice gardeners we were editing in class:

“There is more than one way to do a garden.”

The sentence as it appears is technically correct. Gardening is certainly not an exact science. Yet the reader might agree that there are better ways to phrase this sentence…specifically that troublesome “do” word. Our class quickly noted some possible replacements like plant or build. Yet despite our best efforts a single, perfect word eluded us.

The obstacle in coming up with the right replacement word revolves around several important factors for this little gardening guide: how formal do you want to be? What is the best way to reach out to the novice gardener?

Many words appear usable synonymously within a sentence. Yet specific word holds a major impact on the message the writer attempts to present. Should I say “build a garden” and treat the process like a construction project? Maybe it would be better to say “plant a garden” and go straight into a garden-based tone? Perhaps I want to appeal to fashionable sorts and say “design a garden” instead.

Considering that this is the introduction to a novice-level guide to gardening, these sorts of word choices are rather important. They set the tone for the rest of your guide. A sloppy writer would introduce gardening like a carefully planned construction project and then maneuver the language to indirectly suggest that appearance is everything.

The important thing to consider is that similar words often have different meanings. Don’t say ‘plethora’ in place of ‘a lot’ for example. While plethora often implies a large number, the point of the word is to express overabundance, or too much.

Just a little something to consider the next time you read a famous work. What logic did the author follow in word choice? Why is it that the Man In Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed? Why was it the best of times? Why was it the worst of times? Deep stuff, word choice.

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Super Library Bros.

Libraries are not made; they grow.
-Augustine Birrell

In writing my literature review for my MCS Capstone (examining the future of the academic library) I’ve come across all sorts of awesome material. Sadly I’m quickly developing the realization that not all of it will make the cut for my final project. Regardless, I’m finding all sorts of fascinating trends that you might not expect in the world of bookshelves. One such example: gaming in academic libraries.

Gaming in libraries is nothing new; however, trends suggest that the practice is mostly limited to public libraries. Public libraries are always making a splash about the next new innovative gaming club, and research supports the examination of effects of video games on the public library. Believe it or not, gaming in academic libraries is more popular than you might think. University libraries across the country are incorporating video games into their own world of information academia.

An obvious question emerges at the forefront of this discussion. Why should academic libraries bother with video games? You go to an academic library to do serious research, not perfect your latest Toon Link strategies or pwn noobs with grenades…right?

Part of the answer lies in marketing the library services. College students, especially freshmen, aren’t completely aware of the many services an academic library can provide outside. Often no real effort is given outside of a short demonstration given in English 101 that most students probably sleep through or spend cruising Facebook. Given that many college students play video games, it only seems natural that offering video games will entice these reluctant users to come. Draw them in with video games, and perhaps they will stick around. Students then discover that they can actually get some help on that paper that they’ve been procrastinating on because they were too busy playing video games at the library.

Okay, so video games will get people to come to the library and check out a book. What about the cost behind getting all of this equipment? As case studies have shown, obtaining the necessary equipment will not destroy the library budget. Compared to the amount of money spent on books and other media such as movies and music CD’s that you’ll often find at an academic library, video game equipment can actually prove to be a worthwhile investment. How much money is spent on books/media which end up sitting on a shelf forgotten for months, if not years at a time? By investing in a small stock of popular video games, an academic library will make a worthwhile investment that patrons will obviously use.

The process of integrating video games into an academic library is not an easy one. Indeed, the video game medium introduces a very different set of challenges that you won’t encounter with other forms of media. Cataloging can be an issue in addition to the logistics of creating and maintaining a dedicated gaming area in the library that won’t disrupt other patrons. Yet video games might prove to be a valuable tool in the ever-increasing push to market the academic library to millennials making the transition from high school to college.

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Random Star Wars Poetry

“But from now on you can just think of me as any other non-Jedi in our little group…with a lightsaber…and force powers.”
-Jolee Bindo

I’m part of an organization at UMBC known as the Writer’s Guild. Meeting every Monday night in a small inconspicuous corner of UMBC, write and share short stories, poetry, really any form of writing.  Sometimes…okay usually the writing can get strange, often in a hilarious way.

The process is simple: We come up with a short prompt idea, and then write for ten minutes or so. This is a piece I wrote for a Star Wars poetry prompt we did a few weeks back. It’s not particularly poetic, but I like it nonetheless. I’ll add some more pieces later.

Red Five

This is Red Five, I’m going in.
I’ve got the force on my side, so I’m full of win.
I may have shut off my targeting device,
But I don’t need that vice.
The force will help me see,
That’s what Obi-Wan taught me.
Sure the situations growing hairy,
Cause Darth Vaders kinda scary.
Yet there’s no need to worry,
I have a happy ending to this story.
Now Vader has me in his sight,
Ready to rain down his might.
He was like “The force is strong with this one.”
It made sense; after all, I was his son.
All hope seemed lost,
I had my fingers crossed.
Then Harrison Ford came down,
And took Vader to town.
So I let my missiles fly,
And blew the death star sky-high.

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A Classic Print vs. Television Debate

The debate between Neil Postman and Camille Paglia displays a classic argument between the ideals of print and television. Yet the debate goes beyond a mere clash between these two mediums. While the discussion of the mediums took the forefront, the arguments presented were done by two different people living in two different times. Although there is only a small gaps in years between Postman and Paglia, the rapidly changing times that separate them contain a battle between traditional and modern cultures. Both debaters present a valid case, yet in the end Paglia clearly wins over Postman; her wide variety of techniques winning over the narrow viewpoint of Postman.

Although both debaters begin on fairly equal ground, it is when the baked sea urchin is served that Paglia forces Postman to go on the defensive. The introduction to the article “Two Cultures – Television versus Print” points out that Paglia’s approach employs “a rush of images, juxtapositions, and verbal jump cuts.” Paglia clearly displays her versatile skill by jumping from dancers and education, to an attack on what she believes to be a narrow-minded view that Postman’s generation holds:

“I’ve found that most people born before World War II are turned off by themodern media. They can’t understand how we who were born after the war canread a book and watch TV at the same time. But we can.”

After Paglia’s sudden offense, Postman attempts to adopt a similar strategy by debunking television and claiming it to be pointless in aspects such as advertising. Unfortunately for Postman this only plays directly into Paglia’s versatility. Paglia enters into long sweeping monologues in which she dances between ideas and throws multiple examples that counter Postman’s narrow-minded ideas on Television. She continues this into the seared scallops section, with her brilliant wordplay and constant of ideas and images with Postman quickly reduced to a mere spectator.

Postman does manage to regain some ground shortly thereafter with a comment about the absurd nature of Charlie’s Angels:

“At the end, they shoehorn in a vestigial narrative. Once I saw an episode in which, in order to explain everything, the voice at the end had to mention characters and action that hadn’t even been in the program…Those sixty secondsbefore the credits – when the show was actually already over – were meant to givea show about hair a sense of sense of logic or coherence.”

Yet even after this great point, Paglia manages to twist it into something positive. She points out that this idea of hair has had a lasting impact on society.

Paglia’s barrage of examples and images continues through the rest of the debate, and Postman is simple unable to keep up with this new line of reasoning. Postman’s archaic views on society simply cannot hold a candle to the changing face of media that Paglia represents. Although the printed word will likely remain an influential media for some time to come, Paglia’s ideas of a flood of images through the television medium often holds a greater impact on the more recent generations.

Works Cited:

Paglia, Camille and Neil Postman. “Two Cultures – Television versus Print.” Communication in History. Comp. David Crowley and Paul Heyer. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.


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24 Medialess Hours

Living twenty-four hours without interacting with electronic media. Such a task seems simple enough, but of course anyone who has attempted it would likely say that it’s easier said then done. I know I have. Although I don’t consider myself as technologically inclined as many college students in some regards (my cell phone gathers dust from time to time, if such a thing is possible) I knew that I was still very technologically dependent.Just how technologically dependent I was became quite evident to me when I attempted this challenge over Spring Break.

In her article “The Longest Day” Danna Walker explains just how electronic technology has been a subtle influence on the current age college students that have grown up with it:

“And yet, even though they are savvy, articulate, emotionally attached and educated consumers of electronic media, millennials don’t actually think much about it. At the beginning of the semester, my students seemed surprised to learn they are trail-blazers in a time of great upheaval in the media world. But they became painfully aware once forced to unplug.”

Indeed such a thought brought back memories to me as I started the day without the welcoming tunes of my iHome to pull me out of sleep. As I began to plot out the days activities in my head I began to realize just how much of my life has been spent around electronic technologies like computers and video games. The event reminded me of a moment many years back when a random power outage meant no electronic activities over a rainy day. Although the outage only lasted a few hours, it created a struggle when, being unable to play outside, I tried to figure out ways to pass the boredom. This event was beginning to replay itself here.

Ultimately I decided to use the opportunity to catch up on some tasks that I had been neglecting. Walker explains how some of her students went out, caught up on sleep, and read to pass the time. Reading was one such thing I decided to try over the twenty-four hour period. Although I am normally an avid reader over the winter and summer, schoolwork keeps me from reading series that I want to catch up on. Not in the mood to study, I decided to take the opportunity catch up on some reading. Unfortunately I never finished the book I started. Unfortunate since after the twenty-four hour period I never got back to reading it being easily distracted by something else.

As I continued through the day, I noticed something interesting. Electronic media has grown so much, that it has had an influence on activities that traditionally had no need of the stuff. When I decided to take some time work ahead in preparing adventures for my Dungeons and Dragons group, something that occasionally gets left for the last minute, I realized that I couldn’t use my computer to type up notes like I normally did, or look up a rule easily. Gah! As one of the traditional pencil and paper games, it didn’t occur to me until now just how much games like that have evolved through the use of electronic technologies. Now games like that (and even board games) can be played online through instant message technologies and online games. Instead of play by mail for games like chess, now you have play by E-Mail. Unfortunately the day was not all peaceful as temptations to use electronic media were abound, made especially difficult by the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl a few days before. To have time to play it and yet be unable to felt ironic. Yet I knew that spring break was still young, and I would have time to unlock Snake and Sonic later.

Although it was a long day indeed, I managed to survive somehow. After resting up and getting back to Brawl the next day I contemplated the exercise. The new forms of media and technology have become essential to everyday life. With the ability to communicate and transfer data instantly society has evolved to become reliant on the stuff. People, myself included, have become slaves to technologies to the computer. Constantly checking e-mail, news, and social networking sites like Facebook to become up to date on the latest going-ons and events. As Walker points out, “E-media keep us up to the minute on information, facilitate relationships without geographic constraint, make logistics easier and sometimes help us relax and fight boredom.” Although there was not much waiting for me when I connected to the internet the next day, there could have been something important, you never know.

Is this reliance a bad thing? Although these new technologies have granted us great new tools such as Wikipedia, old technologies like the encyclopedia have taken an entirely new form. As Stacy Schiff points out in her article “Know it All: Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise?” Wikipedia and those behind it believe that it can “produce an encyclopedia that is as good as any written by experts, and with an unprecedented range.”Of course, with this new rise in technology come new threats in the form of online hackers using the internet to obtain and exploit personal information. Problems abound arise with this rise in electronic technology. Yet that is only natural as a new technology grows and matures. Will we ever fully understand how to deal with this? Elizabeth Eisenstein notes in “The Rise of Public Reading” the ambiguous nature of the influence of older technologies like print media through today:

“Even at present, despite all the data being obtained from living responsive subjects; despite all the efforts being made by public opinion analysts, pollsters, or behavioral scientists, we still know very little about how access to printed materials affected human behavior.”

It is hard to determine what the future will bring as electronic media and technologies continue to dominate our lives. But as society has been influenced and repeatedly changed by the technologies that have come before, these forms will continue to evolve and effect how we live our lives.

Works Cited:

Eisenstein, Elizabeth. “The Rise of the Reading Public.” Communication in History. Comp. David Crowley and Paul Heyer. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.

Schiff, Stacy. “Know it All.” Annals of Information. The New Yorker. .

Walker, Danna. “The Longest Day.” washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. .


Filed under Life, Writing

The Future of Literacy

With the rise of the newest forms of media, the traditional forms of written and spoken communication become gradually more complex and intertwined. In an examination of the World Wide Web, it is clear that both written and spoken communication see new light in the forms of written blogs and online videos through websites such as Youtube. Although both forms of communication hold great power of its readers and viewers, one form of communication is clearly superior to the other. In today’s society, the nature of the written word has greater power and potential over the viewing and listening of speeches and the spoken word.
The power of written communication lies in its ability to make inferences and judgments about what is being conveyed without hindrance. If you are a reading a document by yourself, you are not looking at someone telling you the message. In the form of the latter, this message can be twisted and distorted from sources that originate outside the context of the message being conveyed. Facial expressions and appearance of the person speaking the message for example might cause the audience to develop a far different interpretation of the message as opposed to reading the written version instead. By forcing the audience to read and comprehend information for themselves through the written word, they are able to develop their own meanings without dealing with another potential bias in the form of the speaker producing the message verbally.
Even amidst the new forms of viewing the written word, it will still remain a critical and important avenue of communication. As Howard Gardner points out in his article on washingtonpost.com, “Even in the new digital media, it’s essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people’s attention, to write well.”(Gardner) As the ability to view and comprehend the written word increased, Gardner emphasizes that despite the changing times in how we view it, the written word will remain important, and that “the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.”(Gardner) The written word has become and remained a key method of communication, and one that is commonly relied upon.
Although speech communication is a valuable method of communication, the changing faces of media cause it to become downplayed when compared to its written counterpart. While speech communication brings with it an instant message that is more easily comprehendible by the average person, this advantage becomes one of its greatest weaknesses. The speed of which someone can get and comprehend the communication of speech can lead to impatience, as Susan Jacoby illustrates in an article on washingtonpost.com. According to Jacoby, such an impatience can lead to quicker, dumbed-down messages as “video consumers become progressively more impatient with the process of acquiring information through written language, all politicians find themselves under great pressure to deliver their messages as quickly as possible”(Jacoby) By increasing the speed of speech communication, the major points of a message can be seriously toned down or even lost in the rush to maintain the listener’s attention.
Another disadvantage that speech communication brings when compared to written communication is its inability to easily reference specific points between differing pieces. Jacoby notes this through a quote by Caleb Crain: “A comparison of two video reports, on the other hand, is cumbersome. Forced to choose between conflicting stories on television, the viewer falls back on hunches, or on what he believed before he started watching.”(Jacoby) Going back to examine major points between two videos or people talking is not as easy as examining similar points on a written document. With a written document that you have read, you know where to look. On the other hand with a video or speech you have to move between points to find that particular spot, or if that’s not possible hope you took good (written) notes. Certainly a written transcript of what was said would be nice to reference.
Written and speech communications both offer differing yet informative ways of viewing and comprehending information. In today’s society however, with the internet rapidly refining these forms of communication, the written word presents itself as a superior method of communication. While you struggle to remember what was said or attempt to find that time in the video you just watched, the written document will still be waiting for you where you left it.

Works Cited:

Gardner, Howard. “The End of Literacy? Don’t Stop Reading..” washingtonpost.com. 17 Feb 2008. The Washington Post. .

Jacoby, Susan. “The Dumbing Of America.” washingtonpost.com. 17 Feb 2008. The Washington Post. .


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