October 2010 Newsletter

College Focus:
  Santa Clara University
The Right Word:
  After vs. Afterward
Strunk & White Tip:
  Strunk & White: Rule 4
  Recommended.Reading:   W. Somerset Maugham
Santa Clara University

The University of Santa Clara is California’s oldest university. Established on the site of Mission Santa Clara de Asis in 1851, it is one of only twenty-eight Jesuit colleges in the country.

The beautiful Spanish architecture and landscaping of the grounds is evidence of its Old California heritage.

The school’s Roman Catholic influence is present in SCU’s curriculum and mission to educate leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. Nevertheless, as student Taara Khalilnaji explains, “Religion is not imposed on students at all.”

Many of the university’s fifty Jesuit priests in Residence teach classes and tutor students of all religious backgrounds.

Karen Valenzuela, a senior at SCU, has lived on campus for three years, and says, “I feel extremely lucky to be able to go out to Mission Gardens and smell the roses on my way to class.”

The state-of-the-arts facilities (like the recently completed $95-million Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library) and manicured lawns have earned SCU the reputation of being an academic resort.

SCU’s small student body enjoys intimate classroom settings with top tier professors.

“Professors know your name, the last grade you got on your test, and where you normally sit in the classroom,” says Linh Li, who chose SCU over Stanford. “That’s great for someone who’s naturally pretty shy. I wouldn’t be able to speak up in a lecture hall of 200 students, but I can stand out in a room with just eight other people.”

The fact that SCU gave her a nice financial aid package sweetened the deal, she adds.

SCU is a private university. Annual tuition is about $37,000.

In 2009, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine named Santa Clara University among the top 50 best values among private universities nationwide.

“My classes have been difficult,” says Katie Wynn, an incoming sophomore majoring in business, “but we have a great accounting association that works really hard at getting students internships and jobs.”

More than half of SCU’s alumni live in the Bay Area, where many of them are leaders in business, law, engineering, academia, and public service. Among these are David Drummond a vice-president of Google; retired California Supreme Court Justice Edward Panelli; William Carter, Chief Technology Officer, Xilinx; Frank Cepollina, deputy associate director of the Hubbell Space Telescope project; and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., former governor of California and current candidate for the job.

Not all SCU graduates are famous, but nearly all obtain good jobs. According to, Santa Clara produces more high-salaried graduates than 97% of the nation’s private colleges.

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Strunk and White’s Rule #4

by Steve High

Strunk & White’s Rule 4 is about punctuating the clauses in compound sentences.

One Clause

Two Clauses

I kicked the dog and bit the cat.

I kicked the dog, and it bit the cat.

The left-hand sentence is not a compound sentence; therefore, you should not use a comma before and. Of course, you should not bite the cat either.

So what is the difference between a clause and a phrase? A clause contains a subject and verb; a phrase does not. All sentences have at least one clause. When they contain two clauses, you need to think about commas.

Fortunately, Rule 4 is easy to apply. First, find the subject and verb. If there are two sets, then there are probably two clauses.

Second, look for a coordinating conjunction. The most common is and, the “A” in FANBOYS:

Coordinating Conjunctions

F is for


A is for


N is for


B is for


O is for


Y is for


S is for


These are the only conjunctions used to form compound sentences. If the clauses are connected by some other word, then the sentence is by definition complex, not compound.

Finally, insert a comma before the conjunction connecting the two clauses.

Let's review. A clause has a subject and verb. A phrase does not. An easy way to test: divide the sentence at the and (or other conjunction). If there is a sentence on either side, then there are two clauses.

By the way, don't kick the dog either.

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

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 Nat Crawford,
director of tutoring

After vs. Afterward
by Nat Crawford

Do not confuse after with afterward.

After is either a subordinating conjunction or a preposition. It cannot be used as an adverb. Afterward is an adverb.

WRONG: That evening, we went bowling. After, we went out for ice cream.
RIGHT: That evening, we went bowling. Afterward, we went out for ice cream.
(Afterward as adverb)
That evening, we went bowling. After Steve bowled his last strike, we went out for ice cream.
(After as subordinating conjunction.)
RIGHT: That evening, we went bowling. After that, we went out for ice cream.
(After as a preposition)

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

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Multimillion-Dollar Maugham:
The Trembling of a Leaf
  Steve High,

by Steve High

“The more we know about Somerset Maugham,” writes Blake Bailey in a review of a new biography published in May, “the more admirable he becomes—the more, in short, he seems the witty, cynical, eminently sensible fellow that comes across in his writing.”

Maugham was indeed eminently sensible: he earned more money than almost any of the best writers in either of the centuries in which he wrote—enough money to live like a duke. (A single story, “Rain,” available on our website, earned him more than $3 million.) And yet Maugham did write not for money. He wrote as other men eat food—because he had to.

What exactly drove Maugham to write we cannot know, but a study of his stories reveals his enjoyment of creating narrators and characters, describing natural beauty, and expressing irony in characters and their actions.

It is easy to know and like the narrator of Maugham’s polished short stories—the “I” who both tells and takes part in them. Maugham himself, however, cautions against confusing his fictional and biographical selves. He notes that the first person narrator of fiction is also fictional.

If he [the writer] makes the I of his story a little quicker on the uptake, a little more level headed, a little wittier, a little wiser than he, the writer, really is, the reader must show indulgence. He must remember that author is not drawing a faithful portrait of himself, but creating a character for the particular purpose of his story. (W. Somerset Maugham, Preface to Collected Stories Vol. 2)

Maugham created a large number of such narrators over a literary career that spanned most of the final century of the colonial era. He was already a successful novelist when American, British, and German warships shelled Samoa and divided the islands among themselves in 1899. He was London’s most popular playwright when New Zealand replaced Germany as Samoa’s ruler in 1914. He wrote a final memoir, Looking Back, in 1962, the year Samoa became an independent self-governing nation. And he had already made this island the scene of one of his most famous short stories, “The Pool.”

Set primarily in Apia, Samoa, “The Pool” is one of Maugham’s earliest uses of first person narration in a short story.

As the story begins, the narrator (not the author, of course, but his fictional counterpart) arrives in Apia and meets the members of the European community there. The manager of the hotel, Chaplin, introduces him to Lawson, the main character. The narrator listens with interest to their stories, which, “true or not” entertain him. However, the narrator (whom it is difficult not to think of simply as “Maugham”) becomes uncomfortable and irritated with both men’s excessive drinking.

It was without enthusiasm that I yielded to Lawson’s persistence and accepted his offer of another cocktail. I knew already that Chaplin’s head was weak. The next round which in common politeness I should be forced to order would be enough to make him lively, and then Mrs Chaplin would give me black looks.

The story reads as if a trusted acquaintance were confiding in us. It is only with effort that we can remember that “I” and the story itself are both imaginative creations.

Likewise, the originals of Maugham’s characters are similar to, but by no means identical with, their fictional selves. For example, the real hotel owner Maugham met in Samoa was indeed bullied by his wife. She sometimes imprisoned him in his own room for his excessive drinking. But “Chaplin” was a dentist, not a mining engineer. He had owned hotels and businesses elsewhere. These details Maugham leaves out of the story because they hint at a better-educated, wealthier, and more complex character than the one Maugham needed to contrast with the upper-class Lawson.

There was a great difference between Chaplin, rough and vulgar, and Lawson: Lawson might be drunk, but he was certainly a gentleman.

The real “Lawson” was a real estate agent, not a bank manager, and he had come to Samoa for his health, not for professional reasons. Maugham recalled him only as an unpleasant drunkard. But then he transformed him into a much more interesting character in “The Pool.” The narrator seems almost consciously aware of his job as a writer:

Who would have thought that this wretched object was in his way a romantic figure or that his life had in it those elements of pity and terror which the theorist tells us are necessary to achieve the effect of tragedy?

In addition to the people he observed in Samoa, Maugham also described the pool for which the story is named. In his journal, he says only that it is “a lovely spot.” However, as with his characters, he uses the medium of the story to make his original description blossom:

The coconut trees, with their frivolous elegance, grew thickly on the banks, all clad with trailing plants, and they were reflected in the green water. … it had a tropical richness, a passion, a scented languor which seemed to melt the heart. The water was fresh, but not cold; and it was delicious after the heat of the day. To bathe there refreshed not only the body but the soul.

In the story, the pool’s effect upon both Lawson and his wife is powerful and hypnotic. This beautiful spot is central to both the beginning and the end of Lawson’s life and marriage on the island.

The beauty of Maugham’s description, though, is not without its irony. Those who have read the story through will recognize this trope in the words “refreshed … the soul.” Indeed, Maugham had an exquisite sense of irony, which he reveals throughout The Trembling of a Leaf, from the vignettes that open and close the collection to the plots and characters of the main tales. It is this sense of irony that helps make the stories such a delight to read nearly a century after their publication.

In his brief visit to Samoa, Maugham saw only the middles of his stories; using his great gifts, however, he imagined and set down the beginnings and the ends. These gifts would make his stories immensely popular, in his day and in ours. Nearly all appeared first in popular magazines and continue to be reprinted. Yet Maugham rarely bothered to please the literary elite. He felt that his vocabulary was too limited and his mind too literal to compete with writers like James Joyce or Virginia Woolf. He considered himself only at “the top of the second rank.”

Study the boldfaced words in The Trembling of a Leaf, and you will ascertain that Maugham was too modest both about his vocabulary and his immense talent. We have identified nearly 600 SAT words in this brief collection. More important, these stories retain their power to delight readers nearly 100 years later.

Fiction that outlasts the writer’s lifetime is rare. Such longevity is the touchstone of literary greatness.

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