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5.9.1: Choosing a Place to Go on a Vacation

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    Choosing a Place to Go on a Vacation

    Choosing a place to go on a vacation requires a lot of planning.  First of all, it is necessary to choose the place to go.  This will have a lot to do with the rest of your planning.  After you have chosen a place, you must determine how long you can go on vacation for.  This requires thinking about school and work schedules.  Everyone who is going on the vacation needs to have time off at the same time.  After that, you must figure out how much money you will need to support yourself while you are away from home.  The last thing you want is to be away from home on vacation and then run out of money.  Running out of money far from home can really ruin a vacation.  Finally, you need to book reservations for transportation to and from the vacation destination and to book motel reservations if you are not staying with relatives or friends.  The sooner you do this, the better off you will be.  Sometimes people put off making reservations and then end up having a hard time finding a place to stay or a convenient time to return home.  By following these steps, you can be sure of covering the basic needs of a vacation while eliminating possible headaches from not planning well enough.

    What holds a paragraph together and makes it easy for a reader to follow the writer’s thoughts?

           Ideas in a paragraph are usually connected to each other by using transition words or phrases.  These are words that show the relationship between ideas.  They guide the reader through the paragraph as well as from one paragraph to the next.  In the paragraph above, notice how the following words move the reader along: First of all, After, After that, Finally.  Good writers help the reader by using transition words.  A paragraph without transition words does not read smoothly.  English has hundreds of transition words.  You will need to learn them and use them in order to become a good writer.

    How do people go about learning how to write a good paragraph?

           Practice, more practice, and still more practice!  There is no other way to do it.  Writing paragraphs, having someone correct the paragraphs, rewriting the paragraphs eliminating mistakes, and having the paragraphs corrected again is the best way to learn to write.  It’s not easy or fun, but it is the only way I know how to make oneself a decent writer.

    More about Topic Sentences and Controlling Ideas

           Every good academic paragraph has a strong topic sentence with a focused controlling idea.  Usually, but not always, the topic sentence in English is the first sentence in a paragraph.  Basically, a topic sentence names the topic to be discussed and then limits that topic to a specific area of discussion which can be covered in one paragraph.  The following are good topic sentences:

    Driving on freeways requires both skill in handling the car and attention to the road.
    Baseball, my favorite sport, is very much unlike football.
    Diamonds, a girl's best friend, are prized for their hardness and beauty.

    From these topic sentences, it would be an easy task to write a solid paragraph because what you write has been determined by the controlling ideas.  For example, in the sentence "Driving on freeways requires both skill in handling the car and attention to the road," as a writer you would go on to write about the skills needed to drive on freeways and then the necessity of attention to the road.  That would be about all you could reasonably write about in one paragraph. 

           Sometimes writers have problems writing good topic sentences because they either make them too general or, conversely, too specific.  Topic sentences do need to be general; however, the controlling idea of a topic sentence should limit the discussion.  Likewise, topic sentences should not give very specific details.  Details come later in the paragraph to support the topic sentence.  Topic sentences only give the general idea of the topic.  The specific supporting details come later.


    Components of a Good Composition

    1.  Purpose Statement:  Each composition must be preceded by a one-sentence purpose statement that defines the purpose of the composition (the reason you are writing the composition).  This usually come in the topic sentence.

    2.  Audience:  The “audience” of a composition is who the writer expects to read the composition.  The two main elements of the audience are the person(s) who will read the composition and the register in which the writer writes:  formal or informal writing.  Academic writing is almost always classified as formal writing.

    3.  Clarity:  Clarity refers to how easy it is for a reader to read and understand what you have written.  Word choice is very important in academic writing.  Vague, common, everyday words should be avoided with more precise words used instead.  Also, clear pronoun references are very important for a composition to be clear.  Mixing up a pronoun reference makes it very difficult for a reader (or listener) to clearly follow a piece of writing.  For example, when writing about a man, the correct pronouns would be he, him, his, and himself.  If a writer uses her or them instead of his or him, it will confuse a reader very badly.  This may seem like a small mistake; however, it is very serious because it stops the reader from understanding what or who the writer is writing.

    4.  Unity:  Unity refers to all of the sentences in a paragraph or composition referring to the main topic of the paragraph or composition as a whole.  In other words, all of the supporting details refer to the topic.  There are no details or sentences that refer to something unrelated to the topic.  Again, if the topic isn’t unified, the reader will get lost in trying to follow the idea of the piece of writing.

    5.  Coherence:  Coherence refers to the organization of a composition and the ease with which the ideas flow from one idea to the next in a logical order.  There are three elements that go into making a composition coherent: logical order, repetition of key words or phrases, and precise use of transitional words and phrases.  Logical order means that sentences flow 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  They do not flow 1, 4, 2, 5, 3.  Repetition of key words or phrases keeps the writer informed of the main topic.  However, good writers need to be careful not to make a piece of writing too repetitive by using the same phrase over and over again.  To avoid this, correct pronoun usage is very important.  Also, repeating an idea using different words is the sign of a good writer.  Transition words and phrases help to move the reader from thought to thought more easily.  They tell the reader beforehand what is coming.  If I am reading something and I see the word therefore, I know that the result of some action will follow.  If I see the words on the other hand, I know that something opposite of what was just written will appear.  Transition words and phrases tell the reader what to expect next.

    6.  Proofreading:  After a writer writes a formal piece of writing, it is imperative to read the piece again and again to make sure there are no mistakes either in facts or in writing mechanics such as capitalization, spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  I always reread anything I have written at least two or three times before giving it to someone because I know how important this step is to ensure that there are no foolish mistakes.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  It is the writer’s responsibility to make sure whatever he has written has no mistakes.

    7.  Grammar:  In academic writing, good grammar and writing mechanics are an absolute necessity.  Be very careful with pronoun selection and verb tenses.  Mistakes of this sort look like black ink stains on a white dress.  Educated readers will almost always notice grammar and punctuation mistakes.

    8.  Support:  Ideas need to be supported with facts, other ideas, or examples.  Good writers support statements so that the reader will give the wrier more credibility.  Writing without strong supporting information is poor quality writing. 

    Exercise 41:  Unscrambling Exercise:  Unscramble the order of the following sentences so that they form a coherent paragraph, please.  Write out the paragraph on a separate sheet of paper.


    Nowadays, people can’t afford to do that anymore. 

    It is just too expensive. 

    Of course, that was a long time ago, before the price of gasoline went up and up and up. 

    However, it used to be a cheap way to have a lot of fun.


    Americans used to love to get in their cars and drive around just for the pleasure of it. 


    Thus, we can say that people who are health conscious stay away from junk food.

    Americans eat a lot of unhealthy junk food.

    All of these make people fat, and too much fat is bad for everything.

    For example, food like cheeseburgers, French fries, milkshakes, and pizza contain too much fatty products and carbohydrates which tend to make people fat.

    Diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and bone/joint problems are all attributable to eating too much junk food.


    They always smell so fragrant and look so beautiful.

    Sometimes in the early evening I will go out and smell the roses in my front yard. 

    Of course, I realize I am standing on the ground, but my mind doesn’t know that.

    Their fragrance takes my mind away and I feel like I am floating on air.

    I love the smell of roses on warm summer nights.

    Sample Paragraphs   Read each paragraph and think about what it says and how it is organized.


           We all have made many friends in our lives.  Some of our friends are very close friends, while others are just casual friends.  Three of my best friends are men I met in Iran from 1974 to 1976.  Roger Bourret is my best friend.  He is also an English teacher.  He and I share the same ethnic background.  Both our families emigrated to the U.S. from Canada in the early 20th century.  In fact, his parents and my father spoke French as their first language.  We met and immediately became best friends.  Another friend whom I met in Iran is Doug Clark.  He was also an ESL teacher at Bellevue College.  He and I hung around a lot in Iran and then traveled together.  When I returned to America, I lived with Doug and his wife for a year.  The third good friend from Iran is Hossein Aghai.  He and I have shared very many good times together in a lot of very good places.  I always enjoy spending time with Hossein.  He is a wonderful host and a fabulous cook.  These three men, Roger, Doug, and Hossein hold dear places in my heart.

    Strange English Words

           English has a lot of words that started out with one meaning and have ended up with an entirely different meaning.  The word “awful” is an excellent example.  In its original meaning, it meant the feeling one would get when looking into the face of God.  Try to imagine that feeling, and you will understand “awful” as it was first used.  What does “awful” mean now:  terrible, very bad, no good.  Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.  Another word whose meaning has changed is “fascination.”  At one time, it had a sexual meaning to it.  It meant to look at either a person or a sexual partner with the idea of mating.  Today, the word fascination means the idea of being strongly interested in something.  For example, I have a deep fascination for ancient history.  There are very many words like these in English.  That is why it is a good idea to use a newer dictionary.


    I love dogs because they are loyal friends, lovable animals, and lots of laughs.  There is a saying in English that dogs are man’s best friend.  I completely believe it.  No matter what the situation, dogs will stand by their master’s side and defend their master to the death.  Also, no matter how bad a mood a master is in, his dog doesn’t care.  A person can always count on his dog to help and support him.  Furthermore, dogs are lovable.  Their love is 100%.  They can sense if their master is unhappy or sick, and they snuggle up close to relieve the sadness or pain.  Finally, dogs are a million laughs.  Playing with them or watching them is a pleasure in itself.  They do the stupidest things.  My family has always had lots of good times just watching our foolish dogs.  They comfort us with their foolishness.  Thus, in my opinion, a dog is the best friend a person can have.

    Being a Father and Being a Son

    Being a father is different from being a son in many ways.  A father has responsibility for the well-being of his family.  For one thing, he needs to work to bring money into his household.  Without money, life can be very very hard for a family.  Fathers don’t always have to have a lot of money, but they must make enough for food, medicine, and a roof over their family’s head.  Most sons have very little responsibility other than schooling.  They should help out around the house, but they often don’t do much.  Also, sometimes when they do things, it makes more work for their fathers.  Sons are generally more careless than fathers, for the most part.  In addition, fathers have to set a good example for their sons.  Sons love and respect their fathers and most fathers know that they must teach their sons properly to get as well as earn the respect that their sons give them.  Therefore, fathers have to lead correct lives if they want their sons to be upstanding men when the time comes.  A lazy father or a dishonest father “teaches” by example his son to be lazy or dishonest.  Thus, if a father wants to have ambitious and honest sons, then he himself must be ambitious and honest.  Lastly, fathers have to be there to listen to and give advice to their sons.  Most sons know that their fathers are interested in what they are doing and know that their fathers are not going to deliberately give them bad advice.  Fathers know they have made every mistake known to mankind in their lives.  They don’t want their sons to make the same mistakes, if possible.  On the other hand, fathers rarely ask their sons for advice – unless it is about some new electronic device that their fathers know nothing about.  In sum, fathers have very much more responsibility than sons do.

    Woman’s Work

    “A woman’s work is never done.”  This is an old saying that is truer today than it was a hundred years ago.  Traditionally in America, women stayed home and took care of the house and family, while the men worked outside of the house to “bring home the bacon.”  Looking at this in today’s America, it seems as if it is some kind of fantasy.  In almost all families, both the husband and wife have to work outside the house to make ends meet.  One income per family is just not sufficient any longer.  What does this mean to the “woman of the house”?  It means she has a lot more work to do and fewer hours to do it in.  For instance, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, ironing clothes, cooking meals, etc. still need to be done.  Most men are either too lazy to do housework or just incompetent when doing it.  In other words, they either don’t want to do the work or they do it poorly, not up to their wife’s standards.  (I know this for a fact.)  What is the result?  Women have to work outside the house to bring money home for the family, and they must find the time to do all of the work they traditionally had done.  Most women realize that this is unfair, but most women also realize that it is their lot in life – if they want a somewhat peaceful life.  Ah, the good old days!  They certainly aren’t so good for most women in today’s America.  Today, it means more work and less quality time for family and friends for women.

    Three Important People in My Life

           In all of our lives, we have had certain people who have been more important to us than others.  Most people move in and out of our lives for brief periods of time and then they are gone.  Others stay with us forever, even after they have died.  In my life, my father and mother have had perhaps the greatest influence on me and who I am.  They were the base upon whom I have grown into who I am today.  They taught me right from wrong and the correct way to treat other people.  My sons Alex and André have been the focus of my life for the last thirty years.  They are and will continue to be the most important people in my life for the rest of my life.  When they were little boys, they brought me joy and laughter.  As they have gotten older and become men, they have made me proud of them.  They are intelligent, kind, and respectful of others.  And finally my friend Roger Bourret has been my rock-solid best friend for the last forty-one years.  We met in Iran when we were both young men.  We immediately hit it off as friends.  We have had many fun times together since 1975.  Even now when we are old men, we still share a lot of good times and laughs together.  I value his friendship very much.  In sum, all of these people have been important to me and have played important roles in my life.

    Dog People versus Cat People

           Some people are dog people, some people are cat people, and some other people are non-animal people.  The last group of people is hard for me to relate to because I have always loved almost all animals.  My two favorite animals, however, are dogs and cats.  Of the two, dogs are my absolute number one favorite.  I am for sure a dog person.  I have always loved dogs.  In addition, I have always had dogs as part of my family.  In fact, for me they are an integral part of my life and family.  Other people are cat people.  They feel about cats the same way that I feel about dogs.  Cats are part of their families and life.  Whether people prefer dogs or cats or some other animal doesn’t matter.  What matters is that people can relate to animals in the same way that they relate to other people.  In the same way that people love and share their feelings with other humans, they can do the same with the animals of their choice.  One of the great characteristics of animals that is better than human characteristics is that animals have only true love and understanding.  Humans may love other humans, but they can be critical of the ones they love.  Animals, on the other hand, are never critical.  They love 100% no matter what.  My dogs have always loved me and stood by me no matter how bad life has been or how bad I have been.  People with cats feel the same way about their cats as I feel about my dogs.  Dog or cat people doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we have had loyal friends for life.

    My Favorite Pastimes

           There are many ways that people pass their free time.  Some people watch TV or listen to the radio.  Other people go to bars to drink beer with friends.  Still others go fishing or hunting.  As for me, I have three pastimes, all of which make my life more complete and fulfilling.  First of all, I love reading.  I always have at least one book I am reading as well as a magazine or two at the same time.  I try to read every day, especially before I go to bed at night.  Reading relaxes me and seems to keep my mind active.  I always learn something new when reading.  Second of all, I have my garden which occupies a lot of my time, especially in spring and summer.  After the cold, wet, Seattle winter is finished, I must get outside to get my garden ready for planting.  Actually, I have three gardens.  I have my big vegetable and flower garden in my back yard, my herb and flower garden in my front yard, and my greenhouse next to my back-yard garden.  I grow peppers and herbs in my greenhouse, plus I start plants there in early spring.  My final pastime is working with wood to build things or to make art projects.  I build or repair tables, fences, gates, or chairs mainly.  They are not high quality furniture, but they are for my workshop, back yard, or greenhouse.  I also like to make wooden masks and statues for fun.  I also use these in my gardens and greenhouse.  I have lots of scarecrows which people stop to look at and smile at because my wood projects are almost always funny looking.  Thus, my pastimes keep me busy and make my life much more enjoyable.

    Places to Take Short-Time Visitors in Seattle

           We all have visitors who come to spend some time with us in Seattle.  Sometimes it is only for a day or two.  Other times company will stay for longer periods of time.  For guests who stay a week or less, let me recommend the following places to take them.  If the guests have children, the Woodland Park Zoo, located in North Seattle on Phinney Avenue North, is an excellent place to go.  There are lots of exotic animals from all over the world for the children to see.  Also, there is a lot of room for the children to run around safely.  Moreover, it is a very good place to have a picnic lunch because there are picnic tables to sit at and set out the food on.  Another good place to go is the Chitterdon Locks, located in Ballard on Market Street just off 15th Avenue Northwest.  Locks are manmade waterways which allow big boats and sips to move from one body of water to another body of water over land cut out between the bodies of water.  The Chitterdon Locks are cut out from the Puget Sound to Lake Union, which in turn connects to Lake Washington.  The waterways (locks) rise and fall so that boats can move from one section to another.  The locks are very interesting to look at and see how they operate.  In addition to the locks, there are very beautiful flower gardens, lawns, and walkways for people to enjoy.  Also, there are fish ladders for salmon to move from the Puget Sound back to the places where they were born in order to lay their eggs for the next generation of salmon to be born.  It is quite fun to watch the salmon jump up the ladders in order to reach their destination.  Finally, there is the Freemont area of Seattle, where there are a lot of interesting shops as well as public art.  In Freemont, many artists do their art and sell it there, also.  There are many small but good restaurants, some cheap, some expensive.  It is just a nice neighborhood to walk around and look at things.  Its three most famous sights are the Freemont Troll, the Freemont Rocket Ship, and the statue of Vladimir Lenin, which someone bought in the old Soviet Union and transported to the Freemont neighborhood.  Therefore, when visitors come to Seattle, you should bring them to see these places.  They are all worth seeing, and they are all fun places for everyone.

    Three Places I Have Visited      

           Like almost everyone else in the world, I like traveling and seeing new places very much.  It refreshes and relaxes my brain and allows me to keep myself sharp and interested.  There are three places which I have visited which I have found very enjoyable.  Years ago, I visited the Taj Mahal in India while I was traveling there.  It is located in the city of Agra, which is fairly close to New Delhi, the capital of India.  The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jehan in the mid-1600s for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who bore him 17 children (I think).  He built it as a symbol of love which is exactly what it "says" to people who see it.  It is the most beautiful man-made structure I have ever seen.  Another place I have been in a few times is Paris, France.  I was there when I turned 27 years old for the first time.  In fact, I turned 27 in Paris.  I had been in France as a student and decided to visit the country with some friends.  We went to Paris after a couple of weeks of touring.  Paris was as exciting and beautiful as I had always heard it was.  I only stayed there for one week that time, but it was definitely a good time.  Since that time, i HAVE BEEN BACK TO Paris, and it remains as beautiful and vibrant.  The last place I have enjoyed visiting is right here in Seattle.  Woodland Park Zoo is located near my house, so I often went there when my boys were younger.  We always had fun looking at the animals and playing in the fields in the zoo.  We don't go there that often nowadays because my boys are bigger, but we still sometimes visit the zoo when guests come to visit us.  Therefore, because traveling always makes me feel better, I love to visit places both in distant countries and in my own city. 

    General Thoughts on Good Writing and What It Takes to Be a Good Writer

           Good writing is not easy.  It is especially not easy for foreign people; however, it is not easy for native speakers, either.  To become a good writer requires lots of hard work and a lot of practice.  It is impossible to become a good writer without more and more practice.  To write well, a person must pay attention to spelling, grammar, transitions from one idea to the next, good sentence variety and structure, and topic development.  It is, in fact, the most difficult of all aspects of language acquisition.  Speaking, listening, and reading are much easier than writing.  In all areas, language learners will make mistakes.  In speaking, listening, and reading, people don’t see or really hear mistakes.  In writing, however, mistakes don’t just disappear into thin air.  They remain forever for readers to see.  Thus, always try to be very careful in whatever you write.  Your writing ability “says” something about you to people who read your writing.


    5.9.1: Choosing a Place to Go on a Vacation is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.

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