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LinguaPhile, May 2001

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.


The idea of recording and cataloguing ideas came up in both the March and April issues of LinguaPhile. In continuing to explore that topic, we devote a significant part of the May issue to journaling.

LOOKING AHEAD TO JUNE: Celebrate Bloomsday!

Do We Have Your Summer Address?

By the time you receive your next LinguaPhile, some of you will be on summer vacation! Would you like to have your issues sent to a different address in the summer? If so, and if you will be returning to your present address, you needn't unsubscribe; just add a second address: We want you to be sure to receive LinguaPhile; you might even have more time to read it in the summer.

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Quotes of the Month . . .

The root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.
--James Baldwin, U.S. writer, 1924-1987

Language is the memory of the human race.
--William Henry Smith, British newsagent, 1792-1865

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
--E. M. Forster, English novelist, 1879-1970


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Sharpen Your Vocabulary: noisome . . .

The noisome odor emanating from the dumpster nearly made us sick.

Noisome flies in the face of the theory that learning the meanings of word parts will help you understand whole words. Noisome has nothing to do with noise, a misconception that has been reinforced since it often seems to be used to describe birds. Rather its meaning can range from "offensive or disgusting" to "harmful or dangerous." It is rooted in the same Old French word from which annoy is derived.

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Q and A: Abbreviations . . .

Question: I never know when to capitalize an abbreviation, when to use a period after it, etc. Are there rules to help with this?

Answer: Yes, there are. The first rule to keep in mind is that abbreviations in general should be avoided in formal writing. Exceptions would be titles, such as Dr. or Ms., and a.m., p.m., B.C., and A.D. Repetition of lengthy names of agencies or organizations can be avoided by introducing the abbreviation in parentheses the first time the term is used and then substituting the abbreviation in subsequent occurrences. Abbreviations that are appropriately handled this way are usually all caps without periods, TVA and USMC, for example.

Regarding capitalization, in general if the word would be capitalized, its abbreviation should be capitalized. Units of measure are not capitalized; neither are their abbreviations. Fahrenheit is capitalized as is the F. used to designate the temperature scale. An exception to this rule that recently came to my attention is POW. Although the abbreviation is capitalized (and is acceptable with or without periods), the term prisoner of war is not capitalized. Abbreviations of single words read as the letters themselves, such as TV, TB, and IV, are capitalized without periods.

Regarding the use of periods, although we see them more often than not, the trend is away from them. The U.S. Postal Service claims that its machines can read our addresses better if they do not include periods. Another area in which periods are disappearing is units of measure: ft, l, and mph, for example. Whether periods are used or not used is less important than maintaining a consistent style. Some words, such as government, have a contracted form that includes the same letters as the word's abbreviation. A period should not be used after the contraction which includes an apostrophe.

Correct: gov't or govt.
Incorrect: gov't.

Neither the contraction nor the abbreviation with the period, however, would be acceptable in formal writing.

We invite your questions for this feature. Send them to Fran at GrammarAndMore.

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Portico Books News . . .

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site: This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version? It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

* * *

If you're an educator, I hope you're planning to order a copy of Hands-On English for each of your students for next year. Think how much easier your job would be (not to mention your students' jobs!) if everyone in your class had quick access to this wealth of information. The more your students use Hands-On English, the less they'll need to use it.

* * *

Fran will be exhibiting at the CHAP conference in Harrisburg, PA, on May 11 and 12. If you will be there, please stop by Booth 1304 (same location as last year) to say hello. If you know others who will be attending, please urge them to do the same.

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The Many Faces of Journaling: Topics & Techniques for Personal Journal Writing by Linda C. Senn . . .

If you have read even a few issues of LinguaPhile, you know that I review books that are my favorites, even though they may not be new. Well, here's a brand new one for you -- just off the press in March.

In The Many Faces of Journaling: Topics & Techniques for Personal Journal Writing, author Linda C. Senn shares one of her lifelong passions. That this is a true passion of hers becomes immediately apparent as you read both her ideas about journaling and excerpts from her own journals.

Senn identifies two major advantages of journal writing: enhancing the present by making us more attuned to the world around us and preserving our observations both for ourselves and for future generations.

After providing a historical perspective on journal writing, Senn describes ten distinct kinds of journaling: Some focus on introspection; some inspire our creativity; some encourage observation of nature; some invite our unique perspective on historical events; some lead to rich resources for family genealogists; and some simply remind us of the joy and humor around us.

Best of all, perhaps, Senn relieves decades of guilt for those of us who have felt that we "should" be keeping journals: ". . . that which is viewed as a burden seldom becomes a joy. Write what you want, when you want to. Approach journaling with love and humor, and leave the guilt-trips and 'shoulds' behind."

Senn makes a compelling case for journaling. She clearly presents its benefits, and while she says there is no wrong way to journal, her many suggestions virtually guarantee success. The journal entries themselves -- her own and those of others -- comprise the most powerful testimony. They are the tangible evidence that will endure for generations. Those who keep journals will have this treasure; those who don't keep them will lack it.

In addition to being a helpful guide for any individual who wants to journal, The Many Faces of Journaling: Topics & Techniques for Personal Journal Writing would be appropriate for high school, college, or adult journaling classes.

Available from The Many Faces of Journaling: Topics &: Techniques for Personal Journal Writing

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Journals for Students . . .

Some kinds of journals are especially appropriate for school situations. Privacy must usually be compromised as a teacher is interposed in the journaling process. Other requirements, such as neatness or minimum length of entries, may also restrict the freedom ideally associated with journal writing.

It is vital, however, that the emphasis be on content -- ideas -- rather than on mechanical correctness. The journal is, after all, simply a place to record thoughts. Its entries are not polished or published. It is advisable for each entry to include a date (and a place if the entry is written somewhere other than home). Both the writer and his or her heirs will be grateful for this identification in the future.

1. Students may keep an Idea Book, described in the March LinguaPhile. See #9 at this address:

2. Students may keep a Reading Journal in which they respond to literature. They can write their thoughts and feelings about a short story, article, or poem, or they can write every day or two as they are reading a longer work, such as a novel. This gives them a chance to react to unfolding events and to make predictions about what will happen later in the story. Questions such as those on page 130 of The Activity Book provide good starters for journaling.

3. Buddy Journaling provides a slightly different way to journal in response to literature. Two students share a notebook in which they record their dialogue. This can be a dialogue about a story both are reading, or the students can dialogue about different stories. Although the latter version will remove suspense about a story for a student who hasn't read it, it provides good opportunities for writing clearly and for asking probing questions.

4. A variation of the Buddy Journal is the Response Journal. Each student has his or her own notebook. After responding to a piece (or part of a piece) of literature, a student gives the notebook to another student, who writes a reply in the first student's notebook. This provides the flexibility to share different ideas with different people, and it can be a great way to develop a community of readers. It has the potential disadvantage of becoming a bit chaotic, however, with some students having a stack of journals awaiting their response and others having none.

5. In a particular version of the Response Journal, the response is written by the teacher. This can involve a heavy time commitment for the teacher. However, collecting just a few journals a day can help to make it manageable. Writing in this type of Response Journal needn't be about literature but can be on any subject. This can be particularly valuable if some students are struggling with painful emotional issues.

6. What I Learned Today can make a great journal -- incorporating all kinds of lessons in addition to academic ones.

7. Similar to Senn's Thumbs Up Journal is the Success Journal, in which students record their successes. These needn't be academic, and they needn't be large. Anything that produces even a small feeling of triumph is noteworthy. This journal makes great reading at the end of a day -- or week -- when nothing seems to have gone right.

8. Many students in the upper elementary grades have had the experience of keeping a log for a science project. In the log they record their thoughts, questions, procedures, and observations.

9. Any subject can have a journal similar to a science log. In math, for example, students might write (and illustrate) new concepts, record formulae or algorithms, explain how they solved word problems, and create new word problems patterned after a model. Such writing aids their understanding and retention.

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Help Children Improve Reading

Parents want their children to be strong readers. They see reading ability as the ticket to a good college and a successful life. The first problem, however, may be getting children to read at all.

Fran has published a list of things parents can do to help children improve reading skills. Many of these involve making reading more enjoyable. Like the rest of us, children are likely to spend more time at activities they enjoy. Then they become skilled in those areas which command their time. There are also many ways that comprehension skills can be developed even when children are not reading.

You can see this list at

A printable version is available at Parents, please share this list with others who are struggling with this same problem. Teachers, you are welcome to print this list for distribution to parents. Summer, when students are free of homework, is an ideal time to focus on reading improvement.

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Puzzler: Word Riddle . . .

Which common three-letter word becomes its own antonym if "pu" is added to its beginning?

Answer next month.

Answers to Part A of April puzzler:

1. fish dish
2. floppy poppy
3. fertile turtle
4. teeny genie
5. unique antique
6. supple couple
7. giraffe carafe
8. bona fide homicide
9. Brazilian cotillion

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

© 2001 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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