Definitions and Usage for College English
- Avoid abbreviations in formal text. When
using acronyms (words formed from the initial letters or
parts of a word), use the full title first followed by
the acronym, e.g., hypertext markup language (html).
- Accept is to take in, add, or put in to;
except is to leave out or not consider.
- The degree to which a measure or description falls within
or represents a limit or specified standard, as in an
arrow hitting a target.
- adverb clause
- A dependant or subordinate clause that marks time and
qualifies the action of a sentence. Adverb clauses are
large continuity markers beginning with words like if,
because, since, although, even though, and when.
- Like similes and metaphors, or for that matter any
symbol, allegory is the use of one thing to represent
another. Thus, the characters in a story or the story
itself are meant to represent ideas and principles (and
often historical figures and events). George Orwell's
Animal Farm (1945) describes the principles of Russian
Communism through a revolt by farm animals. The allegory
of ideas is common in medieval literature as in Dante's
Divine Comedy (1307-21) where the pilgrim represents
man's quest for salvation through reason.
- An event or its attributes which an individual or group
finds pleasing or beautiful, often an aspect of color,
proportion, harmony, or truth. The Golden Rectangle has
the proportion 1.0 to 1.618 which many claim is a
reflection of ultimate reality even if only silhouetted
by numbers. See constant.
- The person, group, or practice for which the paper is
written. In expository writing the audience is most often
a group of students or colleagues seeking a better
understanding of a particular objective or empirical reality (physics,
chemistry, biology, engineering, economics, law, etc.).
- That part of the documented research paper which acts as
an introduction to the history (primary sources/review of literature),
issue, and purpose of the paper.
- base rate
- The value at which a unit rate is standardized. Base
rates are natural or artificial standards against which
we compare current rates or desired rates. A 500-year
flood is a base rate (the actual measure is some x-feet
or percent above flood stage) to which we can apply the
current facts. Did I hear that the 1997 Red River floods
approached a 1,000-year rate?
- The full sentence assertion or hypothesis you are trying
to explain or test. Most people recognize three types of
claims--factual, theoretical, and normative. You can test
a factual claim. You can compare and contrast theoretical
claims. You can agree or disagree with normative claims.
Examples: Factual--Students who have
completed English 113 write more reports than those who
have not. Theoretical--Students who have
completed English 113 are better (normative?) writers than those who
have not. Normative--Students should
take English 113. Avoid normative claims
in English 113.
- related to or based on a method of telling or marking
time. Many background statements are organized
chronologically often from recent past to present.
- cohesion, coherence
- Stuck together, linked, related, tied down, fixed,
connected. See transitions.
- The setting (place and time) in which the event or
composition occurs. When you hear a person say, "in
what context," they are asking for the actual conditions which could qualify and extend or limit
- This word has the same derivative as standard. A constant
doesn't change and we rely on that unchanging nature to
communicate observations (the constant e and spiral
galaxies) and take measurements (there are 12 inches in a
- controlled conditions
- Observations made of an event or between two or more
events where sampling, measurement, and experimenter errors are minimized and the error is calculated or made
- correlation (r)
- A relationship among variables or their characteristics.
A positive correlation indicates a similarity of
tendency; a negative correlation indicates a tendency to
difference. Thus, were we to get a better tasting orange
juice by paying more per ounce, the correlation would be
positive. If we were to get a worse tasting orange juice
by paying more per ounce, the correlation would be
negative. Spearman's rank-order correlation coefficient
provides a formula for assessing the relationship of
ranked characteristics. In many of our food surveys we
used the characteristics unit cost and taste.
- This unfortunate sounding word means only to repeat
the results usually by another or in another
- A writing that contains information, evidence, and the
primary or first-hand sources of evidence, particularly
controlled field and laboratory experiments and surveys.
- Documenting sources
- Introducing and recognizing the sources of information in
- Documentation style
- Methods of giving credit to sources used. All styles must
indicate how the reader can locate and review the primary
research information. Common elements include author
name, report title, publication, place of publication,
publisher, date. An internet address is now also included
for web sites and publications on the sites. If you have
no standard style preference (MLA, APA, Chicago), use one
in your English writer's handbook. If you don't have a
handbook, it is essential that you get one.
- There are two kinds of things (my way and your way, mind
and body, ying and yang).
- A mockup, layout, or model of the essential elements of
the documented research paper. Rather than just an
outline, a dummy anticipates how much space will be
allotted to each major idea, topic, or sub-topic heading.
- Capable of observation, measure, and reproduction
(repeatable) at least in principle.
- executive summary
- A rather long but condensed version of the report that
details all essential parts of the purpose, procedure,
results, and conclusions. It must stand alone, with no
additional information introduced that is not in the
- A rhetorical purpose which emphasizes information,
analysis, and audience understanding rather than
arguments, persuasion and audience satisfaction.
Explanatory prose relies on direct material referents,
measurements, scientific scales, and inference testing.
- Facts are interactions between two or more (billions) of
instances, or points, or bits of data stuff in time. It
is the degree of abstraction that determines the
character of an event; it is the amount of change
(variability) that determines its age.
- Information which characterizes a claim or theory. The
claim, "your papers have been late" is
characterized by marks on an attendance sheet or a
time/date stamp on a document.
- expected frequency
- A phrase when using a Pearson chi-square test (two
samples are independent, randomly and independently
sampled, observations singular for each cell, sample size
- denotes a basis (usually numerical) for comparing
observed frequencies. For example, all other things being
equal, I would not expect that the men who enter my store
would be more inclined to buy grapes than the women who
enter. I expect, no matter how many of each
enter, their proportion of grape buyers to be the same.
- expected value
- The sum of all values of x times their probability. If I
need some tomatoes for a salad and I put some money in my
pocket to pay for them, I would have put a sum at least
equal to or greater than what I expect to pay for them.
When I reach the store and find that the tomatoes are
$1.25 per pound, I have an observed value which may or
may not be significantly different than the expected
- The systematic explanation of an event or its model or
representation. Expository writing is most concerned with
the mixture of facts and theory. Writing without theory
is blind. Writing without facts is empty.
- Often an empty word. In science and business writing, a
fact is a measurement or attribute of an event
independent of the scientist or the tool. (See data.)
Facts are also reproducible and reliable. If one were to
analyze the light spectra given off by carbon at the edge
of the seeable universe and right here at home, it would
have the same attributes. The carbon atom is a fact of
life. We can distinguish fact from inference and
interpretation by asking the question, how is this
known? A sound argument, interpretation, or
inference jumps out of the facts of experience and points
the way to further questions and tests.
- fair copy
- Accessible and readable without hesitation. No puzzles,
mis-quotes, or lack of citations. Documents written in
standard English and according to a recommended format.
Fair copy may contain glosses, comments, and instructions
by the author to the editor. On-line submissions
are at least fair copy. Since on-line instructors
function much like editors, be sure to send "revised
drafts" which are easy to read. Do not send
"rough drafts" as an excuse to submit
sub-standard copy or write in sub-standard English. Fair
copy is intended for someone else; it's what you submit
to a printer or hand in to an instructor.
- The quality of a claim, hypothesis, or assertion which
indicates what would happen if it were false. Karl Popper
used the principle to demarcate between
testable/empirical claims or the claims of science and
the interesting but unfalsifiable (untestable in
principle) claims of an emerging social science which
were often just interesting ideas or statements of faith
or belief. Thus, if one asserts that all the world is a
stage, what conditions or events would occur today if all
the world were not a stage. Or, how would existing
conditions or events be any different if the assertion or
claim were false. Popper was worried that psychological
claims would be little more than truisms and folk wisdom
saying no more than what could be explained by chance or
a placebo effect. However, If E=MC squared were false,
light would not bend around Sol's gravitational field.
- Fewer is countable; less is degree. Thus, I have fewer
dollars than you, but also less money.
- Figurative language tries to explain the unfamiliar using
the familiar. For example, saying there is a hole in the
ozone layer is figurative since a good percent of
original ozone still remains. The speaker or writer
assumes that the audience is less likely to understand
the significance or magnitude of a decrease in parts per
million ozone and so uses hole as a figure of speech.
Metaphors and similes (the evening is spread out against
the sky like a patient etherized upon a table) are
figurative. Allegories are elaborately figurative.
or photo ready copy
- A document you could publish on the net. Contains few, if
any, errors and has been checked by an independent source
or editor. In English 113, I grade the finished copy
after I have seen the fair copy.
- In composition, focus entails separating out and
examining those topic and sub-topic ideas which account
for most of the explanation of a variable(s). Most
writers do an initial survey of their topic to uncover
the key variables.
- The design or organization of a document. Format and
layout determine the document's shape. The reader or
audience comes to rely on format so that they can quickly
access and scan documents. Thus, format standards are
maintained by most disciplines and publishing houses,
e.g., business letter, memo, science experiment,
- Little man (a fully formed human inside of every sperm
- One who believes that Truth with a capital T can be
discovered and known as in a unified field theory of
physics. Numbers are discovered.
- The perception of reality that is mediated by personal
emotion and reason. In art, an impression was
distinct from a representation. The early
impressionists like Claude Monet (1840-1926) tried to
bring more light and atmosphere into the painting's slice
of life. Starting with a white background (instead
of dark or black), impressionists worked toward the
darker colors. Previous painters had started with a
dark background and worked toward the lighter colors.
- Inductive inferences or inductive generalizations are
abstractions or constructs based on information or
measurements from a sample or set of direct observations.
Inductive inferences or generalizations however are no
more true or contain no more information than the
observations or measures upon which they are based or
drawn. Deductive inferences are conclusions derived from
a set of premises which are usually inductive inferences
or generalizations.. A deductive inference or conclusion
draws its truth value from the premises and its validity
from the logic/language structure. A sound argument is
one which is both true and valid. A mistaken or false
deductive inference or conclusion is often the result of
an error in the preliminary reasoning. (See logical
- In the question, issue, problem logic, issues are
conditions, events, or procedures over which parties
disagree or have come to no certain agreement, usually
because they lack an independent confirmation of the
- Contraction of it is. The possessive pronouns its, ours,
yours, hers, theirs do not need an apostrophe to show
- interrogative adverbs
- Adverbs which begin a question such as what, who, where,
when, why, how much.
- A review of the primary researchers who have conducted
field or laboratory studies developing findings related
to your chosen topic. See also interrogative adverbs,
- The area (white space) of a page from the edge to the
beginning of any field or text, usually an inch to an
inch and a quarter in width. Most major subheadings in
books and articles start on the margin (usually left).
Titles and chapter headings are usually centered. On the
margin means on the inside edge.
- The stuff that stars and things are made of (and us too).
- The arithmetic mean or average is the sum of the
individual scores or measures divided by the number of
individual scores that were summed.
- The most frequent score(s) in a distribution of scores.
- There is only one kind of thing (my opinion, my way,
god's way, elementary particles).
- Following the distribution of the normal curve--the
mountain we used to draw when we were kids, just above
the horizon line with uniformly slopped shoulders down to
the lake. Sort of like Mt. Saint Helens before she blew.
- The arrangement of data in a table must connect to the
purpose. If the purpose is to find the best value, then
the data table is arranged from best values to least
values, left margin, top to bottom. Tabular display is
easy to read because of the almost universal left to
right, top to bottom flow of data. Graphical display
organizes around the most important variable or
relationship(s) between variables as in a map with roads,
rivers, and mountains.
- Writers achieve more coherence in their compositions by
describing different ideas using the same grammatical
structure or sentence type, or by using the same location
from one paragraph to the next. Poetry contains many
- passive voice
- The passive construction is inherently wordy and vague,
e.g., It has been decided that...rather
than, I decided; or scientific reports
have been shown to...rather than, using
scientific reports Jones showed that....
Passives hide the doer of the action. Passives can be
buck passers. Passives also signal that the writer may be
writing habitually or in a stream of thought without
conscious control of the action. The author may not know
the structure of the writing. Use the passive only
when the object of the action is more important than the
subject or producer of the action, and then carefully.
Don't confuse the passive voice with the past tense,
e.g., the passive forms of I sang the song and I
was singing the song are the song was
sung and the song was being sung.
Avoid the latter.
- An example which illustrates a model or method of
interpretation. A paradigm can be a conceptual framework
or theory used to explain physical and cultural
- When source material can be shortened or summarized
without losing the emphasis and main ideas of the
original, paraphrasing is appropriate. Principal ideas
still must be referenced to the original source. Commonly
the paraphraser uses her own words, but in science and
business writing, to avoid distortion or omission, the
structure, emphasis, and key language of the original (as
in a précis) are appropriate. Long adjective clauses can
become adjectives, noun clauses nouns, adverb clauses,
adverbs. Note original: "Whether we
think of television as a source of propaganda, whether we
think of it as a first-class source of information, or
whether we think of the television as our primary source
of entertainment, it is first and all the time something
that affects the individual" (Coston, 83). Note paraphrase:
Whether we think of television as propagandistic,
informative, or entertaining, it primarily affects
- paper plan paragraph
- Last paragraph of the background statement where the
writer sets out the methods and main sub-topic headings
to be developed in the body of the paper.
- This form of notation uses parentheses (Woodward, 41) in
the text to refer quoted or paraphrased material to the
- Copying or not setting off or enclosing in quotes the writing of
another. The student who submits plagiarized copy frequently
fails the class on the spot.
- There are many things and what benefits me most is true
(if it works, fine. If it doesn't work, fix it. If you
can't fix it, throw it away and start over). Pragmatism
is not far from monism as the circle goes.
- There are many kinds of things (points of view, moral
codes, ways of knowing).
- photo-ready copy
- Sent out to the net for anyone to read. Its purpose is
not to request revisions but to make a point and receive
a judgment. This is the copy that the instructor grades.
- point of view
- First person (I, we), second person (you), third person
(he, she, it, they). Reports, expositions, and
explanations emphasize the third person, concentrating on
the actions and reactions of subjects, variables,
factors, and events.
- A population is a collection of objects or events (of
often infinite size) that have common characteristics.
For our purposes, we will talk about rather limited ones,
like orange juice sold by the Covington Safeway.
Population parameters are often given Greek letters.
- A condensed version of an original which maintains the
language, structure, and emphasis of the original. It is
a summary but does not use paraphrase. Technically,
scientific and business summaries are précis' since great
effort is taken not to distort the original in summary.
- primary source
- A researcher or group of researchers who set up
controlled experiments and report their findings and
produce experimental or business data. Primary sources
are the backbone of documented research papers. Many
newspaper and magazine writers are not primary sources;
rather, they are secondary sources quoting or
interviewing primary sources (we hope so).
- In the question, issue, problem logic, the problem is a
specific discrepancy between an existing condition and a
desired or expected one. For example, if you are
currently producing five widgets, and you seek (want) or
your goal is to produce seven, your problem is 2 widgets.
- Orally reciting, word by word, line by line, and page by
page to reduce copy errors. An example of a line not
proofread is: It has not be shown that the ...(been).
- proof marks
- The author's aim or intent is classically defined as to
inform, to persuade, or to entertain. One might also
include to express self or to write what one thinks, as
in a diary. One could reasonably claim that most purposes
are aesthetic, that is, to seek a clearer, more
beneficial, or more pleasant state. For our purposes
though we will stay with the classical definitions.
English 113 emphasizes expository writing as explanation
of cause and effect, the scientific method, rational
analysis, and reducing error. Thus, the primary purpose
of papers written for 113 is to analyze and clarify
issues (disagreements) of a factual or conceptual nature.
And to define problems and make proposals. And to test
inferences. To recognize meaningful fragments...As in,
did the reader go so far as to read to this line. If so,
- qtd. in
- The work of a primary source which you find in the work
of another and wish to quote. Finish the parenthetical
documentation with (qtd. in Works Cited name of
- In the question, issue, problem logic, the question sets
or states the initial purpose or direction of inquiry,e.g.., what is the best buy on computers in the
Pacific Northwest? The research question is anticipated
and aided by a preliminary survey of previously defined
problems, solutions, or issues. It is useful to think of
the question, issue, problem logic as a spiral..
- question, issue,
- The natural logic of empirical or material conditions or
events. The underlying assumption is that one can test or
produce a material answer to an empirical or material
question. Answers can become issues (disagreements over
the facts). Once we agree on the facts, we can define
problems. Once we have a defined problem (a material
difference between what is and what could, should, or
will be) we can begin the logic path again by raising
questions as to possible solutions.
- Three variables affect quality: accuracy, precision, and
reliability. A quality letter of inquiry accurately
states the need or purpose, follows a standard letter
template, and gives the reader no reason to believe that
future letters would be otherwise.
- Interval between the lowest or least and the highest or
most measured value of the event (variable) being
- The relative value of a measure, member, or event in a
group of events. We assign a rank to the measure relative
to the other measures. In our cases, we usually rank from
most preferred or greatest value to least.
- Easy to scan and access information. Some helpful
elements include descriptive titles, headings, and
illustrations; paragraphs which begin in transition and
get quickly to the main idea; active voice; multivariate
analysis; fresh metaphors.
- What we might call the ordinary or common sense view of
perception in that we sense reality directly.
Scientific realists propose objects and events that
are independent of perception (mass, natural selection,
random mutation) and which figure into the understanding
of cause and effect.
- A naive realist is a person who believes that what you
see is what you get. Scientific realists believe that the
laws of science are external to and independent of mind..
- The object or event (real or imagined) to which a word
- The relationship between an issue or solution and the
problem. Also, the degree to which the measures of the
event account for the variability of the event. Relevance
usually requires an understanding of the relationships
between sets (collections of things) or between elements
(things within sets). Avoid meaningless measures of
- The degree to which events in the presence can be
expected to occur in the future. The likeliness that test
results in one setting repeat in another similar setting.
- Rhetoricians study how language can best produce meaning
and persuade. Because there is no limit to what a skilled
writer or speaker might say, many people associate
rhetoric with propaganda or bombast. Still, the modern
task of rhetoric is to so construct the process of
writing that the topic is relevant, explanations are
clear, the evidence weighty, and the conclusions valid.
- A subgroup of a population. Random samples can be
constructed when the researcher knows every member of the
population and every member has an equal chance of being
included in the sample. Representative samples select key
characteristics or key members with known measures. The
statistics derived from the sample are meant to represent
the population parameters.
- The boundaries, parameters, or limits within which the
research or inquiry is conducted. The scope statement
defines the population from which the sample is drawn.
- should and must
- Avoid should unless a probability
statement and must unless a logical
necessity. Better to give a reason or rationale than an
opinion or an imperative.
- Important differences. These differences can be
statistical ones between or among groups, economic
differences between or among outcomes, or scientific
differences which have import for a wide variety of
topics, as in the recent doctoral dissertation concluding
that the universe may not be uniform in every direction.
- A notch on the stick that is meaningful but never
abiding. Just the other day I realized that high jumping
7 feet 5 inches was now typical for the best male
athletes, where 7 feet was the standard twenty years
before. Composition and document standards have also
changed in twenty years. Science and business writing has
raised the standards for readability by emphasizing
information and decreasing decoration, requiring an
active prose style (voice), and
requiring easy-to-scan formats.
- Samples produce statistics which are numerical estimates
of a population's parameters A sample more or less
represents a population. The better the representation,
the more one can rely on the statistics as being low
error estimates of the population parameters. Student
research papers review sample statistics from primary
sources to produce valid and reliable conclusions about
- A description of the principal characteristics of a
variable or set of variables. It is important early on in
the survey process to define what measures best serve the
explanatory purpose of the paper's topic. For example, we
buy food for many reasons: less money, good taste,
convenience, nutrition (it's good for you), status,
popularity. A survey would describe the relative value
people assign to these assumed reasons. The writer must
always check back to see if the original assumptions of
what is valuable remain valid. See focus and purpose.
- The structure or form of a language unit, usually a
sentence. All communication is characterized by a
vocabulary (symbols), in a particular order (syntax),
delivered by and through a particular medium (sensory
- A model shape or design, like a cookie cutter. A common
template for lab reports is purpose, procedure,
- title page
- The first page of a document (excluding the cover) which
lists the title, author, and some facts of publication.
For Green River students, they would put their paper
title, name, course name, the college name, the place
(Auburn, Washington) and the date.
- An explanation of why something happens or how something
works. In its simplest form a theory is an untested
hypothesis--a guess; in its most developed form a natural
law. A good scientific theory will predict and hold for
all but the most extreme or unusual conditions (as in
black holes and alternate universes). A good social
theory will explain what nature has left to drift.
- Attitude toward subject and reader. In letters of
inquiry, I encourage a curious attitude to the subject
and an appreciative attitude to the audience. In the
documented research paper, I encourage a skeptical
attitude toward secondary sources, an analytical attitude
toward primary sources, and a no-frills but thoughtful
attitude toward the audience. In a proposal, I would
expect a bit of enthusiasm to all.
- topical headings
- Topical headings, like rhetorical headings (purpose,
procedure, observations, background, Works Cited) divide
the paper into major subsections but at the discretion of
the researcher/writer. They may simply restate the major
primary resources reviewed in the paper. They are
consistent however with the paper plan described in the
last paragraph of the background section.
- Any words from the set of continuity marks (first, next,
then), the set of conjunctive adverbs (whereas, however,
furthermore) or the adverb clauses (when, if, since). In
the larger sense, headings and sub-headings act as
general transitions among thematic parts of a report.
- The practice of rules and principles to produce exactness
and clarity in meaning. Most usage guides help readers
make sensible choices about controversial words,
meanings, syntax, and pronunciation. In science and
business writing, usage guides usually provide ways to
reduce the official jargon, fuzzy thinking, and baloney. Fowler's Modern English Usage third
edition (1996) edited by R. W. Burchfield is an excellent
general source and who has not heard of Strunk and
White's Elements of Style. Follow the general
Avoid nominal descriptions of events and their
elements when more accurate and precise descriptions
apply (ahh..vague words). For example:
bad economic effect, important statistic, more than
Avoid tautologies. For example: square
in shape, adequate enough, during the
course of, final result, refer back,
short length of time. The underlined portions add
nothing to the meaning.
Avoid strings of prepositional phrases. For
example: There was a lot of quickness in her step--She
Avoid unnecessary abstractions. For
example: retail outlet means store; intelligent can mean
witty, clever, smart, bright, able.
Cut unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
For example: The convenient and attractive science
laboratories were adequately serviced by qualified
assistants could become certified technicians serviced
the new science labs.
Prefer to use subordinate clauses and
constructions over coordinate constructions. For
example: She went to town and decided to have her hair
done could become while in town, she had her hair
Avoid pretentious writing. For example:
In many cases the arduous task of assuming leadership in
public affairs has the ability to turn anyone away from
right action and into crime. meaning leadership
corrupts many people. see also, passive
- Unit costs, unit rate, unit
- A unit cost or rate is a two or more variable
(multivariate) expression of an event, usually one which
most fully explains your interest in the event. Some
examples of unit rates include miles per gallon, cubic
feet per second, kilowatts per hour, dollars per pound,
calories per minute, miles per hour, parts per million,
visits per year, birth rates, death rates, migration
rates, crime rates, unemployment rates, inflation rates,
interest rates, discount rates, bank lending rates--to
name a very few unit rates.
- See base rates.
- The degree to which a measure or an inference represents
the essential character or important characteristics of
the variable or event being measured
- Any characteristic or event which changes or takes on
different values one day to the next. When growing up, I
kept track of my changes in height on the closet door
frame. I was measuring the variable height. Science and
business is more or less the study of what causes things
to vary and how we can get things to vary the way we
- From the Latin vita meaning life. A vita is a short
biographical or autobiographical sketch.
- Works Cited
- Usually the last page or part of any documented research
report. Unlike a bibliography, the Works Cited contains
only those sources quoted or referred to directly in the
text of the report. Entries are alphabetical. Use a
standard style sheet for formatting the entries. A
college writing handbook will most likely give a good
summary of the formats, especially the Modern Language
Association (MLA) or the American Psychological
Association (APA) style sheets.