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Prewriting strategies: how are they helpful?

Most of my students look at me skeptically when I talk about the importance of brainstorming or other prewriting strategies. They nod their head rather patronizingly, and wait for me to move on to the next topic. At times, I have even got remarks like ‘we hardly get enough time to even complete the essay,’ … Continue reading

comma before ‘and’ in a list? The serial comma

The serial comma, or the Oxford comma as it is popularly known, is the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list. In British English, using it is optional. However, most style guidelines mark this as mandatory in the US. It is certainly preferable, especially in academic writing, to use the serial comma … Continue reading

‘Dear,’ no dear, or ‘Hi’? How to address people in formal correspondence

Some of the following points are meant specifically for readers in India, based on my experience of the sort of mistakes they tend to make in choosing salutations. For formal letters (non-electronic) Dear Mr Taylor, or Dear Professor Sen (for someone you don’t know well, have a formal relationship with, or especially if they are your … Continue reading

How to identify weak thesis statements

Identifying what might make your thesis statement a poor one is as important as knowing what to include to make it a good one. The trick is to run it by the ‘so what’ and ‘why/how’ test. If your thesis statement fails this test, you need to revise it until your statement can provide a … Continue reading

How to respond to compliments?

Thanks. It’s a gift from my… Thanks a lot. It’s from… (or) I got it from… Thanks, I’m glad you like it. You think so? Thanks. Thanks. It’s very nice of you to say so. Thanks. It’s very generous of you to say so. Thank you. It’s very kind of you to say so. Thank you. I … Continue reading

How to give compliments

That’s a wonderful dress, [name]! Did you make this at home? It’s absolutely delicious! This color suits you! That was an excellent presentation. Is that your daughter’s picture on the desk? She’s so cute! You did a great job at the presentation. It was very interesting (or) informative (or) insightful. I enjoyed reading your article. Great work!

‘expect’ ‘hope’ or ‘wait’?

ESL learners often use expect and hope interchangeably. But the words expect, hope, and wait are all different in meaning. Expecting is mental rather than emotional. The dictionary defines ‘expect’ as ‘to consider probable or certain.’ If I expect something to happen, I have good reasons to think it will in fact happen. But hoping is … Continue reading


Easy guess. Coffice: Coffee shop as office. This is a phenomenon increasingly on the rise these days: using a coffee shop to meet clients, work on your laptop and conduct business. So is a nearby Starbucks or Timmy’s your coffice? 🙂  Here’s an article on coffice etiquette:  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sam-title/coffice-coffee-shop-etiquette_b_3605501.html

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