January 2010 Newsletter

College Focus:
The Right Word:
Writing Tip:

UC Santa Barbara
Exasperate vs. Exacerbate
Learn to Edit Yourself
Joseph Conrad

University of California, Santa Barbara
One of the Nation's Best

The University of California, Santa Barbara offers students one of the best college educations in the country. UC Santa Barbara has a total of five Nobel Prize winners among its faculty.

In addition to having an outstanding academic reputation, UCSB offers its graduates excellent job prospects. Forbes ranked UCSB as the 14th best public university in the United States for “getting rich!” UCSB was ranked number 59 of the “Top Global Universities” in an article in Newsweek magazine in 2006. And in 2008, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCSB number 12 in its annual listing of the “Top Public National Universities in the Country.” UC Santa Barbara has a 92-percent four-year success and progress rate; that means that since the fall of 2001, 92 percent of entering students either graduated or enrolled in a graduate program four years later.

Here are some other facts you may not know about UC Santa Barbara:

  • UCSB offers more than 100 undergraduate courses of study. Two of its most popular majors are biology and business economics. Economics professor Finn Kydland is another of the University's Nobel Prize winners.
  • The ratio of students to faculty is 17 to 1, and 71 percent of undergraduate classes at UCSB have fewer than 30 students enrolled.
  • Santa Barbara has many research opportunities for undergraduate students. Students can apply for undergraduate research and creative activities grants, a faculty research assistance program, and internships in nanosystems science, engineering, and technology. The university has 100 research units, centers, and institutions.
  • In addition to the five Nobel Laureates on the UCSB faculty, many other faculty members have received international awards and are members of professional organizations. The faculty includes 23 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 27 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 members of the National Academy of Engineering, and 38 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • UC Santa Barbara's graduate programs in physics, engineering, chemistry, earth sciences, and English are among the top-ranked graduate studies programs among national universities. UCSB is home to 55 graduate programs.
  • UCSB graduates appreciate their education: they donate more money to their school than do the alumni of any other UC campus.

Next time: Harvey Mudd

Newsletter Table of Contents   |   More Newsletters   |   Back to Improve Your English

Exasperate vs. Exacerbate

Nat Crawford,
director of tutoring

by Nat Crawford

Exacerbate means to make worse:

He exacerbated his ankle injury by running around the block.
Exasperate means to annoy.

He exasperated his parents by his constant complaining.
Like exacerbate, aggravate also means to worsen:
He aggravated the insult by failing to apologize.
And like exasperate, irritate means to annoy.
He irritated his parents by talking too much.

For answers to specific writing questions, email us here. Who knows? Your question may inspire our next article on The Right Word.

Newsletter Table of Contents   |   More Newsletters   |   Back to Improve Your English

Learn to Edit Yourself

by Teresa Kim

Beginning writers often suffer from a common issue: they don’t know how to edit their writing. What’s worse, they like to say things like, “I don’t need to learn grammar,” or “Why should I learn to correct my own writing?” To me, it’s quite baffling. It is like hearing someone say that architects don’t need to learn geometry or to review their blueprints.

If you want to be a good writer, you’ll never escape correcting your work. Eventually, every writing instructor will admit, “Writing is twenty percent creativity and eighty percent editing.” They don’t say this to discourage students who haven’t learned grammar. Instead, think of it in the following way: when you’re sitting paralyzed in front of a sheet of paper as blank as your thoughts, you can remember two things. First, a rough draft doesn’t need to be perfect; no one has to see it but yourself. Second, going back to fix your work is not a sign of failure. All the best writers do it, all the time.

In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes,

“All good writers write [bad first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers ... and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell ... But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated."

Stories of obsessive editing surprise only inexperienced writers. Most veteran writers can sympathize with Ernest Hemingway, who rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times in order to “get the words right.” They can even understand Czech writer Franz Kafka, who couldn’t stop perfecting his work. Even as Kafka was dying, he wrote a letter asking his friend to burn all of his unpublished stories, poems, and letters.

Certainly, knowing when to let go is necessary, especially when deadlines are involved. For most students, however, you would benefit by allotting time to edit your own work. Correcting yourself will not only help you to learn grammar. As you master the technical aspects of language, it opens up new avenues of expression, and you will also learn to write clearer, more organized, and more daring first drafts.

In the end, unless you are Mozart, no one cares about first drafts, particularly if they’re faulty. (And even Mozart thoroughly edited everything in his head.) If an architect drew up a house without double-checking his plans, would you agree to live in it? What if the architect was infamous for buildings whose load-bearing walls could not hold up their own weight? It would probably save everyone a lot of concern if he consistently looked over his drafts. By doing so, he would probably recognize some common errors and learn to avoid them in future.

The same goes for writing. It saves you time to learn your common errors now. It is only by identifying them that you learn to avoid them in future first drafts and to turn out “terrific third drafts” (or, in Hemingway’s case, thirty-ninth drafts).

When it comes to writing, don’t fall for the popular notions of divine inspiration and immaculate conceptions. When people marvel at great writing or beautiful buildings, they are marveling at products of major revision. Consider the sage advice of E.B. White in The Elements of Style: “Revision is no sign of weakness.” On the contrary, it is perhaps the most revealing and valuable part of the writing process.

For answers to specific writing questions, email us here. Who knows? Your question may inspire our next article on Writing Tips.

Newsletter Table of Contents   |   More Newsletters   |   Back to Improve Your English

Joseph Conrad

by Steve High

Joseph Conrad is my choice as the greatest British writer ever to tell a story. Of course, no two people agree on such a ranking, but take a look at the dozens of “top 100” lists at the link. His “Heart of Darkness” is on nearly every one.

Remarkably, he learned English at age 21. Certainly he’s the greatest ESL student of all time.

The California Department of Education has a reading list for different grade levels. “The Secret Sharer,” is the only one of Conrad’s stories on the list. There are many books worth reading on this list, but this inexplicable neglect of Conrad tells more about the Department of Education than about the greatest books of all time.

A better introduction to Conrad’s writings is “Youth.” It’s a sea story about a voyage to Bangkok.
“Youth” introduces Charlie Marlow, the merchant marine officer who also narrates Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Marlow is based on Conrad himself, who learned English as a British sailor.
This story is a lesson in the richness of the English language. Its vast vocabulary is vast, and its sentence structure is masterful.

Young readers will identify with Marlow’s zest for life. He remembers his younger self’s relish of hardship and challenge:

That time when we were young at sea; young and had nothing, on the sea that gives nothing, except hard knocks—and sometimes a chance to feel your strength—that only.

Their parents likewise will remember their own youth and the salt-sweet taste of the memories themselves:

Our faces, lined, wrinkled; our faces marked by toil, by deceptions, by success, by love; our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone--has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash—together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions.

There are many editions, including Kindle, audio book, and eBook versions. You can download a free mp3 or a high quality mp3 version for $8. Stan Pretty, from the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC, reads it.

You can also read it on the web for free. As always, the better the book, the cheaper it is.

Newsletter Table of Contents   |   More Newsletters   |   Back to Improve Your English

355 W Olive Avenue, Suite 207, Sunnyvale, CA 94086 408-738-8384
Copyright 2003-2014, Improve Your English Tutoring Services, Inc. All rights reserved.