Courtney Carmody image of red apple in outstretched hand

Business English Class Offers Proofreading Tips

Posted on 25th August 2011 in Tampa Writing Tutor

I started teaching a short course in business English a few weeks ago. This week, the members of the class discussed tactics they use to proofread business letters.

Courtney Carmody image of red apple in outstretched hand

This image by Cortney Carmody. Catch more of her images in her Flickr photostream at . Image licensed under CC by 2.0They came up with a good list:

  • Read the letter backwards – Start with the final sentence and read each sentence. The student that contributed this tip said that reading “backwards” lets him look at the words without getting caught up in the letter’s content.
  • Read the letter out loud – Let the ear catch what the eye misses.
  • Read the letter with an awareness of the sins of its creator –  Look carefully for the kinds of errors that are typical of the person who wrote the letter.
  • Print the letter and proof a hard copy – Errors are easier to see on paper than on screen.
  • Let some time pass between writing and proofing – Let a final draft sit for a while before proofing it. Come at it with fresh eyes.
  • Find the office English major – Let another person give the letter a look before it goes in the mail.

If you have a good technique that you use to proofread, I would love to add it to our list.

This post written by Tampa English tutor Eric Anderson. Eric tutors grammar and writing. Contact him at 813.787.8959 or using the magic of e-mail at Tampa tutor (at)


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Hyanas resting at Busch Gardens in Tampa FL

Tampa SAT Writing Tutor: Dangling Participles

Posted on 27th May 2011 in Tampa SAT Preparation, Tampa Writing Tutor

Tampa SAT Writing Tutor Hints: Dangling Participles

To do well on the writing section of the SAT, you need to understand dangling participles.
Dangling participle sounds like a painful medical condition, but it’s really an easily corrected writing error.
A participle is a word made from a verb and used as an adjective.
Because participles are made from verbs, they look like verbs and have verb endings (–ed,-en,-t,-ing).  However, participles modify nouns and pronouns because they’re really adjectives.
If that explanation is clear as mud, maybe a few examples will help make it clearer.
I watched the laughing hyenas. (What kind of hyenas? Laughing is a participle that functions as an adjective.)
Hyenas resting at Busch Gardens in Tampa FL

This image of hyenas at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL, created by Dr. Neil Turner and licensed under (CC BY-ND 2.0). See more of Dr. T's photos at

The collapsed mineshaft was dangerous. (What kind of mineshaft? Collapsed is a participle that functions as an adjective describing bridge.)
The stolen motorcycle was recovered by detectives. (What kind of motorcycle? Stolen is a participle that functions as an adjective describing the motorcycle.)
He ate the burnt hash browns covered in ketchup. (What kind of hash browns? Burnt is a participle that describes the noun hash browns.)
Like adjectives, participles are usually found in front of the nouns they modify. Sometimes, though, a participle can be found after the noun it modifies.
The children smelled the cookies baking. (Which cookies? The cookies baking. In this sentence, baking is a participle that functions as an adjective modifying cookies.)


A participle dangles if it can’t logically modify the noun closest to it.
I saw the house peeking through the trees.
The participle phrase peaking through the trees attaches itself to the nearest noun, house. Because the house can’t possibly peek through the trees, the participle dangles.
This dangling participle can be corrected easily.
Peeking through the trees, I saw the house.
Let’s try another.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo’s wallet fell out of his shirt.
What does the participle Rushing to catch the train modify? Not Bo’s wallet, right? It modifies Bo.
Rushing to catch the train, Bo lost his wallet when it fell from his shirt pocket.
Now Bo, not his wallet, is rushing to catch the train.
Notice that when the sentence starts with a participle phrase, the participle phrase is followed by a comma. After the comma comes the noun or pronoun that does the action described in the participle phrase.

Dangling Participle SAT Writing Question

On the writing part of the SAT, you might see a sentence correction question like this one:
Racing to the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
a) Racing for the airport, Jane’s desire was not to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
b) The airport being raced for, Jane was not desiring to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
c) Racing to the airport, so Jane would not miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
d) Racing to the airport, Jane had no intention of missing her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
e) Being that she raced to the airport, Jane’s desire did not intend to miss her flight to the Galapagos Islands.
The original sentence has a dangling participle because Jane’s desire can’t race to the airport. Only Jane can race to the airport. So the only possible correct answers to this question will have Jane immediately after the comma that follows the participle Racing to the airport.
Only choices b and d correct the dangler, and d is the better of the two.
I help students improve their scores on the reading and writing portions of the SAT. If you or a student in your family needs help, please call me.  I’m Tampa SAT tutor Eric Anderson and can be reached at 813.787.8959.
This post was written by freelance blogger Darnell McCray. If you need help creating posts for your blog, you can reach Darnell by e-mail at
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White letter M casting shadow

Tampa Writing Tutor: What is an em Dash?

Posted on 19th May 2011 in Tampa Writing Tutor

Rappers know what an Eminem dash is.

Fat kids know what an M&M dash is.

But, what, in God’s green Earth, is an em dash?

An em dash is a dash that is the width of an m.

In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing, or you’ll seem as breathless as a pre-teen girl backstage at a Justin Beeber concert.

White letter M casting shadow

This image created by Dutch graphic designer marcel van den berg. Licensed under CC by SA 2.0. See more of his work at

Similar to an extended hyphen (-), an em dash is used to show a break in thought or a shift of tone.  It provides more emphasis than a comma, colon, or semicolon.

And it’s way more fun at a party.

Em Dash Examples

1.  I wash the clothes—you wash the car.

2.  Judge Judy, I paid the bills—all of the bills—during the time we were together.

3. The car—a red Porsche Boxster—was double parked for an hour before the police came and towed it. away.

How to Make the Em Dash

Tell it that the N is after it.

Make the em dash in MS Word by holding down the “Ctrl” and “Alt” keys while you push the minus sign (—) on the number pad. The minus sign is in the upper right-hand corner of the number pad.

Incorrect Use of the Em Dash

Review your notes and read Chapters 4—5 for Wednesday’s final.

The em dash should not be used to denote a range of value when referring to dates, times, or numbers. Use the sleeker, sexier en dash instead. The en dash is the width of an n.


This post written by Eric Anderson, The Tampa Writing Tutor. Call Eric at 813.787.8959. M&M is a registered trademark of a large company that in no way endorses this blog or me or any of my friends.


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Writing student in the Vancouver Film School's writing lab

Tampa English Tutor’s Secret Guide to Using Colons and Semicolons

Posted on 22nd April 2011 in Tampa Writing Tutor

Secret Guide to Using Colons and Semicolons

You may be a little apprehensive about the rules for using colons and semicolons. Let the Tampa English Tutor share a few of the ways to use each mark of punctuation. If you are struggling with the comma, check out our previous post on comma rules

Using Colons

A colon can be used to introduce a list.

To use a colon to introduce a list, you should have a noun that stands for the list directly before the colon.

Cal has three things on his mind: gold, silver and CD’s.

Notice how three things on his mind stands for the list.

Ideally, you want to have the word right before the colon be a noun that stands for the list. However, don’t tie yourself in knots if you can’t get the last word before the colon to be that noun.

On his mind, Cal has three things: gold, silver, and CDs does not sound as natural to me, even though it has the noun things in the proper place right before the colon.

Wal-Mart beats its competitors in two areas:  price and service.

Areas stands for the items on the list, so this example has the noun in the right place.

Writing student in the Vancouver Film School's writing lab

This student writer image licensed under CC BY 2.0 and part of the Vancouver Film School's Flickr Photostream. See more of the school's pictures at

Tip: Don’t use a colon directly after a verb.

She said: she loved me and she would never leave me.

Revise that sentence to read: She told me that she loved me and that she would never leave me.

A colon can also be used to connect two sentences. The second sentence should provide additional explanation of the first.

Mr. Erlbaum hated doing yard work:  every summer, he let his grass grow tall and his garden boxes fill with weeds.

Using Semicolons

Use semicolons between items on a list when those items contain one or more commas.

I have lived in Port Jefferson, New York; Dover, Delaware; and Tampa, Florida.

The stronger break provided by the semicolon makes the list easier to read.

Use a semicolon to connect two closely related sentences.

To err is human; to forgive is divine.

I said I would take you to the mall; I didn’t say what time I would do it.

Use a semicolon to connect two sentences when the second sentence contains commas.

The boys like to watch baseball on television; however, they love to play baseball in tournaments.

However is not a FANBOY (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), so a comma is not enough to separate the sentences. The stronger break provided by a semicolon is perfect.

Knowing the rules for colons and semicolons will make you a more confident writer.

This guide created by Tampa English Tutor Eric Anderson and freelance blogger Gracie McRae. If your son or daughter needs to learn to write better or needs help with an essay, contact Eric at 813.787.8959 or by e-mail at eanderson at Tampa bay dot rr dot com.

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open book with note written in marker across text of page

Tampa English Tutor Shares Three Comma Rules

Posted on 8th April 2011 in Tampa Writing Tutor

I just started working with an EAP student at St Petersburg College to get him ready for his Florida State Exit Exam.

Today we worked a little on some basic rules for using the comma.

open book with note written in marker across text of page

This image created by JulieJordanScot. See more of her images on her blog at This image licensed under CC BY 2.0

I shared three comma rules with him:

Use a comma when connecting two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.  Use a comma before for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so — the FANBOYS — when they connect two parts of a sentence that each could stand on its own.

I want to be more comfortable using commas, so I have been studying the comma rules.
She is generous with her time, but she is stingy with her money.
He has a suspended license, yet he insists on driving everywhere he goes.

Use a comma between each item on a list of three or more items.

Sunday’s dinner consisted of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and apple pie.
He was an Eagle Scout, a skilled marksman, and a fine fisherman.
The politician insisted that he was kind, considerate, and honest.
I purchased three boxes of thin mints, two boxes of pecan sandies, and a case of  coconut clusters.

Use commas to set off the name of the person used in direct address.

John, will you please stop giving biscuits to my Labrador?
Will you come to my party, Sandy?

If you want to improve your writing to prepare for college or to advance your career, I can help. Call Tampa English Tutor Eric Anderson at 813.787.8959 or e-mail him at eanderson at tampa bay dot rr dot com.

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