Oct 3rd 2019
What is Personification?
The definition of personification is the attribution of human characteristics to something non-human. Technically, personification is a type of metaphor that is used as a literary tool to make writing more interesting and vibrant. Yet, while personification can be used for stylistic purposes, it can also help the reader better understand a description.
When we say attribute human characteristics, we mean almost anything that can be related to humans: body parts, organs, senses, emotions, actions, thoughts and so on. And, by something non-human, we mean anything that is not a person: trees, animals, buildings, seasons, countries and anything else you can possibly think of.
Personification can be very simple, such as using the word she as a pronoun for a ship, or it can be more stylized and complicated. Below is an example of personification used from a passage of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream:
“The moon, methinks, looks with a wat’ry eye; And when she weeps, weeps every little flower, Lamenting some enforced chastity”
Consider how many human qualities have been attributed to the non-human elements in the passage: The moon is using the human sense of sight, the action of crying and has been given an eye. The flowers are also given the human action of crying, as well as the emotion of lamentation.
The personification definition can be best understood with examples. Below is a selection of original examples of personification:
- The houses lined the street, silently watching the people walk by.
- Winter shook its chilly head and plotted snowy destruction outside.
- Thunder screamed and lightning danced in the sky.
- That last beer in the fridge just called my name.
- The car grinded to a halt; its engine giving out with a final sigh of resignation.
- The table stubbornly refused to move from its spot.
- The stars dutifully saluted the coming night.
- Frost coldly embraced the trees and hedges.
- France was calling her troops home from war.
- The candlelight stretched and yawned, and then burst into life.
- The wind held its breath for a second, then bellowed around our ears again.
- The sunflowers nodded their heads in the gentle breeze.
- The bread jumped excitedly out of the toaster.
- He was not the type of man to fail to answer when opportunity knocked on the door.
- The statues gazed solemnly at each other across the vast museum.
- Dawn was peeping timidly over the mountain tops.
- Each morning my alarm clock yells at me.
- Those red roses were certainly an unhappy bed of flowers.
- Cigarettes and alcohol controlled his early life.
- The hands of justice will grab you, eventually.
- Tokyo is always awake and untiring.
- The streets tricked people into believing they were straight.
- His happiness died that morning with the news.
- The ship skipped across the waves, knowing she was near her home port.
- The team was crying out for some new players.
- The kebab definitely didn’t agree with his stomach.
Purpose of Personification
Why do we use personification in writing?
The easy answer is that it is a matter of style; after all, personification is widely used in poetry and literature.
However, it also helps us understand things better by the process of adding human qualities to them.
Consider that the practice of personification has been carried out by humans for as long as we have been able to communicate through language.
For example, ancient Greeks and Romans used to endow things like rivers, mountains, weather, the sea and the stars with human qualities; albeit, they imagined them as deities.
The Greeks and Romans did this because, among other reasons, it helped them understand the world around them.
While today we know why the wind blows or why a volcano erupts, you can appreciate how these ancient people chose to describe natural events in human terms – because it makes it is easier to understand them.
Modern language can work in the same way. Personification can help bring language to life in a way that we recognize and identify with, and that helps us understand it better.
Oct 3rd 2019
Transition words and phrases are an important part of the English language. They are used to connect words and sentences, often by referring back to one idea and signaling the introduction of a new one. Transition words can also help a passage of writing flow better, although it is best not to overuse them.
Consider the example:
- James did not go to the movies. He visited his grandparents instead.
The transition word in the above example is instead. It links the two sentences together by referring back to the first sentence and signaling that an alternative idea has been introduced.
Consider the example without the transition word:
- James did not go to the movies. He visited his grandparents.
The lack of a link between the two sentences leaves things a bit vague. We do not explicitly know that the two sentences are related, whereas the previous example shows that James visited his grandparents as an alternative to going to the movies.
There are 100s of transition words and phrases in English. Indeed, because of the evolution of language over time, new transition phrases can appear all the time. Often transition words are conjunctive adverbs – words like however, also, indeed, instead, still, therefore – or phrases containing conjunctive adverbs, conjunctions and adverbs. The point is that transition words cover a wide variety of language, but it’s more important to recognize their function rather than categorize them.
When to Use Transition Words?
Fundamentally, we use transition words to connect sentences and words together. They often refer back to the previous sentence or words within a sentence, and let the reader know that there is some related or new information on its way. There are different types of transition words and phrases, and not all of them have this simplistic explanation for their use.
Consider the passage below, and notice the highlighted transition words and phrases:
I do not like dairy products very much, particularly cheese. However, I make an exception for ice cream, especially chocolate ice cream. Indeed, ice cream is probably my favorite thing to eat. Admittedly, I am also aware that ice cream is very fattening, not to mention full of sugar. In other words, ice cream isn’t very healthy. Nevertheless, life is too short to worry about these things. With this in mind, I will continue to eat ice cream every day. I may end up overweight, of course. On balance, this is a price I am willing to pay for delicious – especially chocolate – ice cream.
Can you see how the transition words and phrases stitch the fabric of the passage together? They act as signals by referring to the previous sentence and introducing new ideas in the next, or by referring back to previous information in the same sentence and changing the emphasis of it. Normally, transition words and phrases help a passage of writing flow better, but it’s also recommended not to use too many transition words, as it can make the writing a bit confusing or heavy. As an example, the passage above arguably uses too many transitional words and phrases from a stylistic standpoint and would be easier to read with fewer transtions.
Types of Transition Words
As we mentioned, transition words are normally used to link words and sentences by referring back to one idea and introducing a new one. However, transition words do this in a variety of ways. With that in mind, let’s break down the different types of transition words into categories based on the way they link words together.
Here are some of the main ways transition words are used:
To introduce a new idea or opposite point of view:
- But, while, conversely, however, nevertheless, yet, instead, nonetheless, although, though, even though, incidentally.
- I went to his house hoping to find him; yet, he was not there.
- They told her they weren’t happy with her designs, but she nevertheless resolved to go on.
To introduce a conclusion:
- Finally, so, as, therefore, thus, consequently, in conclusion, since, as such, finally, subsequently.
- Finally, the choir began singing.
- Since that is the case, we have no choice but to resign.
To introduce a list or point out a sequence of events:
- First, second, third, firstly, secondly, first of all, last of all, finally, lastly, after that, until, including, next.
- We go to Paris this Sunday. After that, Rome.
- First of all, let me tell you what happened. Then you can decide.
To admit a concession:
- Of course, admittedly, even so, naturally, alas.
- There is another way to do it, of course.
- Admittedly, it was my biggest mistake.
To add emphasis or additions.
- Likewise, in addition, furthermore, also, additionally, moreover, indeed, namely, in fact, for the most part, as a matter of fact.
- David, Benjamin and Ellie laughed. Indeed, even Daniel found it funny.
- For the most part, the kids in the classroom kept quiet.
To introduce clauses and conditions:
- On the condition that, in light of, in order to, provided that, whenever, while, as long as.
- You can go, as long as you are back by midnight.
- Whenever you return, lock the door after you.
The above just shows a small selection of different transition words and phrases, but there are many more words and phrases used in this way. It can also be somewhat confusing, because sometimes the words on the list above can be used in a sentence without it being a transition word.
Consider these two sentences:
- Despite nerves, Donna came first in the race. (First is not a transition word in this sentence.)
- To win a race, first you must believe you can win. (First is a transition word in this sentence.)
Examples of Transition Words
Below are some more examples of transition words in sentences:
- The Queen is the UK’s Head of State. Additionally, she is also the Head of State for Australia.
- We were hungry. However, because the kitchen was already closed, we didn’t eat until morning.
- One doesn’t need to attend college. There are, in fact, many ways to obtain knowledge.
- She was very tired. Indeed, she hadn’t slept for weeks.
- In light of recent weather events, the show will be cancelled.
- Finally, the car came to a skidding halt.
- You should go to the conference. Likewise, Bill and Caren should go too.
- It’s obvious you don’t want me here. As a result, I have decided I will leave tomorrow.
- We are German citizens. But we are also citizens of Europe.
- He lowered his voice, as if to underline the seriousness of the matter.
- Monkeys groom each other in order to build relationships.
- Michael and Sarah are here. I was chatting with them earlier, as a matter of fact.
Why are Transition Words Important?
Without transition words and phrases, language would be somewhat stiff. They sew words and sentences together, helping them flow better by acting as a link to what was previously stated in the passage. Yet, they are more than that, they act as signals in writing to show shifts in ideas, tone and emphasis, and introduce conclusions, sequences and contradictions.
The key to understanding them lies in the name itself: Transition words. Transition means change, and these words indicate that there has been a change or that a change is forthcoming. This change could be subtle, like a shift in emphasis, or more obvious, like the offering of a contrary idea or conclusion, but transition words, nevertheless, act as a signal for that change. In the end, this is important because it gets to the root of how we understand language, as these transition words act like bridges through words, sentences and meaning.
Sep 2nd 2019
Guest post written by Bernadine Racoma
A translator’s job is to provide an accurate translation of the information from the source language into the target language. If that document was written well, then the translation process, usually, goes smoothly. However, what do you do if the original document contains grammatical mistakes that are just too obvious to ignore? Is it all right to translate poor grammar in the context of the translation being a mirror image of the original?
What a Recent Study Reveals
Professional language service provider Day Translations, Inc. recently conducted a survey of 400 translators. The study revealed that 28.2% of translators declared translating bad grammar as one of the hardest parts of their job.
For these translators, 29.4% said, translating highly technical terminology is the most difficult. Another 16.2% of the respondents found it difficult to translate proverbs and puns, due to their cultural dependency, making them difficult to adapt to other cultures.
The quality of a company’s presence online is very critical today as the availability of information, the efforts of competition and the degree of knowledge of the global community have a direct effect on the credibility and reputation of the company.
Why Grammar and Spelling Matter
You might think that people are just happy to find information about the company or product they seek online. However, many viewers do notice if there are grammatical or spelling errors found in a particular website. Many people voice their opinion that they are less likely to purchase products from a company whose website contains errors. It’s proof that the credibility of the company decreases in relation to its oversight, as it shows that they do not care much about their customers, much less about their company. It’s a sign of unprofessionalism on the part of the company, which also indicates that they are less likely to provide quality products or services.
Likewise, a badly translated website, for example translated from a foreign language into English, will suffer the same repercussions. It’s typical for most people to associate quality with things that are visible. Therefore, when they see a badly written or poorly translated website, it’s a normal reaction to think that the products or services the company offers are also of low quality.
Two Points of View
Some cultures believe that goods manufactured in other countries are superior to local products. At the same time, some cultures have an open mistrust about goods coming from abroad. In the case of the latter, local consumers associate poor translation on the company’s website or the mistake-prone information they gather from the site to further boost their mistrust on the company and its products. It is confounding, since many of these people may also be bad in grammar and spelling themselves.
The reality is that they expect company websites to be factual and correct, and to have impeccably written content. It’s an extension of their expectation that products, especially those coming from developed countries, should be superior – in features, ingredients and benefits, as well as packaging.
Importance of Correct Grammar and Spelling
We live in a global society which is viewed as having evolved into something better and more integrated over time. People are more educated and are inundated with technological advancements that assist them in making information readily available to consumers throughout the world via Internet connection.
Smartphones and other mobile communication devices are ubiquitous today. The continuous growth of Internet services and the availability of mobile devices should push businesses to seize every opportunity to create awareness about their products and services and to help improve the knowledge of customers. This can be done by creating and providing consumers with proper, factually and grammatically correct information.
Why is this important?
A potential customer only spends a few minutes perusing a website to find the information he or she is looking for. In those few precious minutes, the website or its content must make a good impression. If the content is full of spelling and grammatical errors, the potential customer is likely to dismiss your site.
Your online presence is critical in ensuring global business success. Make sure that it is designed to be user friendly, and have a creative content and correctly written text. For sites, targeting speakers of other languages, see to it that it is handled by an accurate translator, preferably a native speaker, so that the adaptation of your original content into other languages is grammatically correct, as well as culturally appropriate.
Always keep in mind that global competition is fierce so you should ensure that you present yourself in a professional and favorable light at all times. Every customer looks for professional service no matter what they want to purchase. Therefore, putting linguistics to good use is a vital part of the process.
Bernadine Racoma, senior content writer at Day Translations, Inc. is passionate about learning different cultures. Working for an international organization opened her eyes to diversity early on. That and her numerous overseas trips give her plenty of inspiration to write articles with so much depth.
Aug 7th 2019
Definition of Metaphor
A metaphor is a word or phrase that describes something in a way that isn’t literally true yet works to help our understanding by way of providing comparison. A metaphor refers to someone or something to show that they are alike. Sometimes we refer to metaphors as figures of speech, meaning they should not be understood in a literal sense but are instead used to explain something in a more vivid way. In fact, at times a metaphor could be an object (in the non-linguistic sense) used as a symbol to explain something else. Metaphors are often used in poetry and literature, but they also play an important role in everyday language, adding both color and context to speech.
Of course, the best way to understand the metaphor definition is to see some examples:
- This bedroom is a pigsty. The bedroom is not literally a pigsty (a pen or enclosure for pigs), but the metaphor is used to stress how untidy or dirty it is.
- The wheels of justice turn slowly. They aren’t literal wheels, but the metaphor serves to illustrate that justice, normally in a legal sense, can take time.
- Dad is my rock. Nobody is literally a rock, but the metaphor is used to convey that a person is solid, dependable.
- Tim is an animal in the courtroom. Tim is not really an animal, but the metaphor is used to convey that he is wild and aggressive when he is in court.
- Molly is up to her neck in paperwork. Molly isn’t really covered in papers, but the metaphor is showing that she has a lot of work to complete.
- The movie Wall Street is a metaphor for the extreme greed of the 1980s. This sentence is not itself a metaphor, but serves to highlight that an object, like a film or painting, can be interpreted as one.
Types of Metaphors
Language experts will often argue as to how many different types of metaphors exist, with up to 15 sometimes cited. However, we can whittle it down to three main areas – direct metaphors, implied metaphors and sustained (extended) metaphors. The first two, direct and implied, are much more common in everyday language than sustained metaphors.
Direct metaphors are used in comparisons, basically saying that one thing is another thing. They are perhaps the easiest to spot and understand in a sentence.
- Those children are angels. The children are well-behaved.
- Congress is a circus show. Congress is unruly, dramatic.
- My mother is a lioness. My mother is strong and protective.
Implied, or indirect, metaphors do not explicitly say that one thing is another, but they hint at a connection in a subtler way than direct metaphors.
- The witness crumbled under the pressure of giving testimony. A person wouldn’t literally crumble, but the metaphor is used to create an image of falling apart – like a cookie, something brittle – to stress the difficulty of the situation and how the witness fell apart.
- The sergeant barked orders at the troops. A person wouldn’t literally bark like a dog, but the metaphor indirectly compares the sergeant to a dog to create an image of sharp, abrupt commands.
- Julie sailed confidently across the dancefloor. The implied metaphor uses the verb sail to give the subject smooth, boat-like qualities, hinting at grace, speed and poise.
Extended metaphors are more common in poetry and literature than everyday speech. As you might expect, they are often comprised of more than one sentence, perhaps encompassing an entire paragraph or passage. One of the most famous extended metaphors is Shakespeare’s ‘world’s a stage’ metaphor at the end of The Tempest. In the metaphor, Shakespeare makes several metaphorical references to life being a play, and thus the passage itself becomes an extended or sustained metaphor.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Dead metaphors are phrases that have become so commonplace that the imagery they used to create no longer has any impact. In fact, some academics claim dead metaphors are not metaphors at all, such is the loss of their imagery and visual impact.
- It’s raining cats and dogs. A common phrase meaning it’s raining heavily. It’s been so frequently used that the imagery of falling animals is no longer important.
- He has kicked the bucket. A once gruesome metaphor to convey that someone had died, with the bucket falling over referencing hanging. Now the phrase has become so commonplace, although it’s still a crude reference to death, that we no longer think of the imagery of its origins.
Special mention should be made of mixed metaphors, which aren’t really metaphors, but linguistic errors made by confusing and combining more than one metaphor. Mixed metaphors are often comprised of dead metaphors, and can be, somewhat ironically, celebrated in modern pop culture.
- “Labour are fighting like rats in a barrel”. Spoken by a UK member of Parliment in 2014, it seems to confuse the metaphors of rats fleeing a sinking ship and shooting fish in a barrel and comes up with a sentence with an unclear meaning.
Simile vs. Metaphor
There is often some confusion over the difference between similes and metaphors. In short, a simile is a type of metaphor that uses the words like or as to compare things. Metaphors, as we have seen above, can directly state a comparison or imply a comparison, but similes use like or as to compare two or more things.
Examples of similes:
- He is as strong as an ox.
- Jamie ran, swift like the wind, across the field.
- Your words cut like a knife.
- The boys laughed like hyenas.
Examples of Metaphors
The beauty of metaphors is that they are limitless in number. Indeed, it’s important to understand that metaphors are not just established sayings or idioms. New metaphors are created all the time and those created by you or I are just as valid as those created in established literature and linguistics, and maybe even Shakespeare! However, here are some more examples of metaphors:
- Those boys are little imps.
- My brain is a computer.
- She is a delicate flower.
- This job is a prison.
- He is a monster.
- The cogs whirred in her mind until she found the answer.
- The defense crouched behind the quarterback, snarling and bearing their fangs.
- Mom buzzed around the kitchen getting things ready for the party.
- The kids chirped in delight.
- The flowers danced in the wind.
Jul 25th 2019
Guest post written by Carol Duke.
Let’s face it: Poor writing is costing your business BIG time.
Writing is a vital skill that can be applied to many areas in our life. But how exactly does it impact the success of your business?
In this day and age, where most people are communicating in 140 characters or less, you tend to become counter-culture if you can actually write, which, by the way, is a great advantage. But this lack of formality can come at a heavy price. With frequent use of emojis and text-speak, writing skills are declining at an incredibly fast pace.
Businesses aren’t immune to this trend. Bad writing – one that’s exceedingly informal, vague, or riddled with meaningless jargon, has made its way into the workforce as well. In a business context, it’s essential to have a firm control of the way we express our message.
What is the cost of poor writing in your business?
According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, bad business writing is “a hidden source of friction that is slowing your company down”.
For the first three months of 2016, the survey targeted businesspersons who wrote at least 2 hours per week, including writing emails. These individuals spent an average of 25.5 hours a week reading for work – about a third of which was email.
Of the 547 businesspersons surveyed, 81% agreed that poorly written content wastes a lot of their time. Many admit that what they read is often ineffective because it’s too long, very poorly organized, unclear and imprecise, and filled with technical jargon.
Instead of speeding up communication, a poorly written email, business proposal or instruction memo slows down productivity, and confuses the content of the message. In turn, the time spent to work out the true meaning of a badly written message means:
- Additional expenses
- Unfinished/incomplete work
- Missed due dates
- Additional costs that are mostly avoidable
Poor Business Writing: What You Can Do About It
Write Clearly and Accurately
Fuzzy writing leads to fuzzy thinking. Inaccurate and passive language facilitates gaps in thinking. On the other hand, clear writing makes use of organized, active-voice sentences that effectively explain what’s happening, what’s about to happen, and what the team needs to do.
There are two advantages to using clear, direct, and active language. Firstly, it forces writers to carefully think through the message they want to convey and the arguments they can use to support it. Secondly, it makes the smart writers stand out. If you value clarity in writing, clear thinkers will surely rise to the top!
The good news is that you and your employees can learn better writing strategies in less time. For example, if you’re planning to create a website or a brochure for your business, you may want to use the service of a consultant or copywriter to work on your written material. You can check out various top writing service reviews for expert help.
Make a Good First-Impression
Falling victim to spelling and grammatical errors is an easy way for customers to discount the credibility of your business. You can’t always rely on built-in spell check features as a lot of companies don’t have an in-house editor. This makes it all the more important to proofread your content at all times.
In business, first impressions always matters. You need to make sure you come across as a professional. Yes, you need to grab their attention, but you’ll also want to earn their respect. The use of correct grammar, appropriate spelling, and proper use of punctuation goes a long way in boosting the confidence of a person (and the company itself).
Increase Productivity Through Better Writing
As mentioned earlier, it takes employers more time to read through and understand poor business writing – about 25.5 hours weekly on average. Just imagine what your company could do if you reclaim even just 2% of that lost time.
For example, if you have 500 people on your team, they would have over 250 hours free every week to dedicate to more productive activities.
A lot of businesses rely heavily on written materials (i.e. memos, emails, proposals) among employees. With proper grammar and spelling usage, your workforce will understand instructions better. This avoids any unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding about what’s expected of them.
The result? Less time wasted trying to figure out poorly written content and more time spent doing their job. What’s more, better writing can help establish harmonious relationships between colleagues, thanks to better communication!
Good writing means a writer is able to craft a message that’s not just attention-grabbing, but clear and interesting, as well. A well-written message stands out, boosts the company’s productivity, and establishes a trustworthy reputation. With good writing, customers and prospects are more likely to trust a business that’s able to communicate clearly and correctly.
Equally so, employees in-charge of communications are expected to be proficient in their job. Therefore, it makes sense for them to be provided with proper training and support.
Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on education-related matters, Carol enjoys traveling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries.