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Developmental English Vocabulary List


Academic English: The form of English writing that is used by scholars (that is you!) to communicate with one another.  This is the form of English that is expected in most all college-level writing, including this course. Academic English does not use contractions or slang, and is different from everyday spoken English in several other important ways. Just "using fancy words" does not make a text into academic English--the best academic English is often the plainest, simplest and most fat-free writing.

Audience: The people for whom you are writing, or who will be reading what you write. Writing works only when it meets the needs of a specific audience. One of the first tasks of the writer is to decide who the audience is, and what makes them different from other groups, and then target the text specifically to the audience. Writing that is done for "everyone," "the whole world," or "anyone who reads it" [the imaginary "universal audience"] is writing for no audience. Unless you are writing Holy Scripture, never write for "everyone."

Body paragraphs: In a text, everything but the Introduction and Conclusion.

Boring writing is usually bad writing.

Brainstrorming:  Searching for ideas for writing; inventing new and interesting subjects, topics, arguments or ways to express yourself in writing.

Clause: Part of a sentence. An "independent clause" can stand by itself as a sentence. A "dependent clause" cannot.

Conclusion:The last part of an essay. In a conclusion, sum up, never repeat, what you said in the text. Never begin any conclusion with "In conclusion." Just conclude.

Content: The message or meaning of your text.  A text that is well written, beautifully worded, and follows all the rules, but has no meaningful or interesting content is boring, and so is bad writing.

Editing (or revising):Different from proofreading. Must be done separately. Edit for content, meaning, sound, sense and style, keeping your writing fat-free.  The best way to begin editing is by reading your text OUT LOUD to someone else, or even better, having someone else read your text out loud to you. Fix anything that does not sound good or makes no sense to you or to the reader. 

Grammar: How any language works. Every language has grammar; even slang, street language, patois or creole has grammar.  Your task in English class is to learn the particular form of English grammar that is expected in college writing. You can learn this not by studying rules and grammar books, but by reading and writing academic English until it becomes comfortable to you.

Introduction: The first part or paragraph of a text.  Use this to present your thesis statement and to establish your "right to write" on your subject.  In serious academic writing, you NEVER use a "surprise ending," and you always give your major conclusions in the introduction.

Outline: A way of organizing ideas in the process of writing.

Parts of Speech: Different categories of words in English.Traditional grammar classifies words based on eight different parts of speech: the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adjective, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, and the interjection. <http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/partsp.html>Person (first, second, third):  In English,
--the first person is I / me / we / us,
--the second person is you, and
--the third person is he / him / she / her / they / them / it
In academic English, avoid using "you" unless you are directly addressing your audience.

Proofreading (or correcting): Different from editing or revising, must be done separately, after you are finished editing. ! In proofreading, check for problems in: 
--spelling and keyboarding
--grammar and punctuation
--citations (make sure all quotes are in quotation marks, and that all wording and information you quote from outside sources is properly credited in the text).
--style rules or professor's instructions (eliminating contractions, etc.)

Purpose: WHY you are writing what you write, the need, purpose or demand for your writing.  Writing with no purpose (or writing whose only purpose is "because it is assigned") is almost always bad, useless writing.  College English classes teach "real world writing," and all writing in class should be for a purpose beyond that of simply getting a grade.  Writing serves your purposes, you do not serve the writing's purposes.

Quotes and references: Using someone else's words in your own text to support what you have written. Quoting without quotation marks or without giving credit is cheating (plagiarism). 

Rough draft: Not even professional writers can write something out perfectly the first time. Every paper or text must have one or more "rough drafts" to succeed. Do not worry too much about spelling or grammar errors on a rough draft--just make your writing clear and understandable. Then proofread it and fix it up AFTERWARDS on a later draft.

Standard English grammar: "Standard" American English grammar is the grammar expected in college written work in the USA.

Style:  In English, there are three different levels of style or levels of writing: High, Medium (or Middle) and Low.  A writer must decide the proper style for any given writing task, depending on the purpose for writing, the subject, the occasion, and the audience.  College writing is usually between Middle and High style. 

Text: Any piece of writing (not just the textbook).

Thesis statement: Statement what your writing is about, usually found in the introduction. Thesis statements must be specific, opinionated and deniable.  A thesis statement cannot be either an unquestioned fact (2+2=4) or a question (Is torture immoral?), but should take the form of a "should-statement."  This can be either explicit ("We should drill for oil...") or implicit, in the form of a controversial statement that you want to convince your audience of ("Beautiful Ciudad Juárez is a tourist's dream").  

Topic sentence: A sentence determining the topic of a paragraph. A topic sentence is to a paragraph what a thesis statement is to an essay or other text. Topic sentence branch from the thesis statement of the whole text like branches on a tree.  

Verb "to be": Is, was, were, will be, etc. Prefer other, more interesting verbs in your writing.

Voice (active, passive): In most academic writing, prefer the active voice for verbs.  In some situations, the passive voice is not allowed.  In others, it is required.  If in doubt, ask your professor what is best for your particular writing task.

OW 8/05 rev. 9/09

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