April 2010 Newsletter

College Focus:
  UC Berkeley
The Right Word:
  Complement vs. Compliment
Strunk & White Tip:
  Rule 2: Items in a Series
  Recommended.Reading:   Jack London
  SAT/PSAT PREP    June 14 - 25

    June 28 - July 2
University of California, Berkeley
Treasure of the Golden State

Known to sportswriters and fans throughout the United States simply as “California” or “Cal,” UC Berkeley is better known to scientists and researchers worldwide for its discovery of californium, berkelium, and other transuranic elements in the periodic table.

Envisioned in the 1849 California constitution and founded in 1868, Berkeley has deep roots in California history. The school of mining is named for the Golden State’s most famous gold miner, George Hearst. His wife, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was the university’s first millionaire patron. Starting in 1891, her dollars built several of the oldest buildings on campus, including Girton Hall, designed by Phoebe Hearst’s friend and protégé Julia Morgan in 1911.

More recently, descendents of the pioneer Levi Strauss, who made a fortune selling durable Levi’s jeans to the gold seekers of 1849, endowed the Haas School of Business. Although UC Berkeley is famous as one of the world’s best publicly supported universities, private donors have supported continuing scholastic excellence during the state’s most recent budget crisis. The Hewlett Foundation, for example, pays the bills for 100 of Berkeley’s top professors with its $113 million endowment.

Private donors have helped in other ways. Andrew Wang, a former Improve Your English student in his first year at Berkeley, praises the college’s resources, especially the main stacks of the Doe Library, “which stays open until 2 a.m. every day and 24/7 during finals.”

“As a pianist,” Wang adds, “I also take advantage of the multiple private practice rooms in the music hall. Overall, Cal is a great school, and I have enjoyed just about every single day—except for the overpriced, mediocre food in the Dining Commons.”

Cal alumni have founded or cofounded many of Silicon Valley’s largest companies, including Apple Computer and Intel, and indeed, some of its smallest. Steve High, a product of Berkeley’s top-rated English department, started Improve Your English Tutoring Services in 2002. The company has sent several of its tutoring students to Berkeley, including Julia High, class of 2010.

We are especially proud of helping nonnative speakers from local high schools boost their essential English skills sufficiently to gain admission.

Jessica Sreewilai, a native of Thailand who attended Lincoln High in San Jose, is a member of the Berkeley class of 2014. Jay Lee, a native of Korea, transferred to the Haas School of Business from De Anza College. Chris Tandiono, another Mission High grad, came to the United States from Indonesia as a small boy. He is on his way to becoming a doctor.

In the eyes of many of its graduates, Berkeley is the greatest university on the planet. Most objective observers also give the university high grades. Although U.S. News & World Report rates 19 private universities (such as nearby Stanford) higher than Cal, the same publication paradoxically rates all of Berkeley’s individual departments within the top 10. Students who received acceptance letters from multiple universities this month should look closely at the departments in which they intend to major.

As noted above, Berkeley’s English department is rated number one. History, Chemistry, and Computer Science also landed on the top of the news magazine’s list. Other rankings:
Math and Biology: #2
Internal Medicine, Physics and Engineering: #3
Earth Sciences: #4
Law: #6
Business and Education: #7
All college rankings are suspect, and most universities are much closer in quality than the scores indicate. Although the U.S. News rankings are the most famous, there are others. For example, the Washington Journal ranks Berkeley number one in the United States and Shanghai Jiao University calls Berkeley the third-best university in the world, behind Harvard and Stanford.

Berkeley’s historical contributions to California and the world are simply too numerous to list fully, from the development of the atomic bomb to the creation of the UNIX operating system. For an astonishing list of superlatives, go to Wikipedia’s entry on UC Berkeley.

Admission letters go out this month. High school seniors, watch your mailbox and cross your fingers.

Next time: University of Southern California

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Complement vs. Compliment
Teresa Kim,

by Teresa Kim

Many students don’t realize that two such words exist, let alone that they have distinct definitions.

As a verb, the word compliment means “to give praise.”

I complimented him for his hard work.

The verb complement means “to make a good combination with someone or something else.” Think of the word complete.

His personality complements hers nicely.

In other words, the couple’s personalities may be dissimilar, yet they fit together well: they complete one another.

As a noun, a compliment is “spoken praise.”

Her compliment brightened my day.

A complement (noun) is “something that completes”
something else.

You can buy the hat and shoes as complements.

In the early lessons (3 and 6) of the diagramming workbook, we learn about two kinds of Subject Complements: the Predicate Noun and the Predicate Adjective. Together they are called Subject Complements because they complete the subject of the sentence, either by renaming it (Predicate Nouns) or by describing it (Predicate Adjectives).

Predicate Nouns follow linking verbs and rename the subject:

Predicate Adjectives follow linking verbs and describe the subject:

On a side note, what is the difference between complementary services and complimentary ones?

If you go to the car wash and ask for complementary services, you will pay the additional costs for the service people to wax the exterior, vacuum the interior, dress your tires, etc.

If you ask for complimentary services, you won’t pay a dime, but you may not get very much out of your request!

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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Strunk and White’s Rule #2
Steve High,

by Steve High

The point of Rule 2—whether or not to use a comma after the last element in a series—seems so minor that I almost blush to bring it up.

To anyone except an editor, the following distinction may seem picayune:

Strunk & White say...
Hurray for the red, white, and blue.
The Associated Press says...
Hurray for the red, white and blue.

Can you even see the difference? Strunk & White uses a comma after white and AP does not.

Someday you may well be at least a part-time editor—of a school newspaper or yearbook, of a PTA or church newsletter, or of a marketing or technical publication.

In all these cases, you will have to settle on a uniform practice to use throughout your documents.

As with rule 1, both The Elements of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook are “right,” but they are not both right at the same time. In other words, you cannot mix and match. Using a comma in one instance and leaving it out in another defeats the purpose of a style manual, which is to give your work a professional appearance.

Want a chance to quiz yourself on Strunk and White’s Rule No. 2? Go here.

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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Jack London
Nat Crawford,
director of tutoring

by Nat Crawford

Jack London is one of California’s most famous writers and, in his greatest works, also one of the state’s best. Although he grew up in the Bay Area, he gained his fame for stories that describe the perils of life in Northern Canada and Alaska. He writes of people caught at the extremities of existence, where life is difficult and dangerous, often destructive, yet also exhilarating.

London became famous for writing stories in which people and animals struggle to survive a cold, barren, and indifferent climate:

The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. … It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. (White Fang)

Some of his characters persevere; others—those who lack will or imagination—die. In “In a Far Country,” two lazybones, manifestly unfit for surviving an Alaskan winter, kill each other simply because they prefer complaining about work to doing it. In “To Build a Fire,” London depicts a foolish man who, possessing only book-learned knowledge of the world, cannot imagine the dangers of extremely cold weather:

It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe.

The ones who survive this world do so but barely, and only after their spirits have scoured their bodies for the last atom of strength, purpose, or cunning. In “Love of Life,” a man limps through the Canadian barrens without food or friend. By the end, too weak to crawl more than a mile in a day, he battles against the urge to lie back and sleep for eternity:

He steeled himself to keep above the suffocating languor that lapped like a rising tide through all the wells of his being. It was very like a sea, this deadly languor, that rose and rose and drowned his consciousness bit by bit. Sometimes he was all but submerged, swimming through oblivion with a faltering stroke; and again, by some strange alchemy of soul, he would find another shred of will and strike out more strongly.

Here, London shows his marvelous talent for depicting the consciousness of a person at the breaking point.

London is equally talented at depicting people. Consider the protagonist of “All Gold Canyon”: “Thinking was in him a visible process. Ideas chased across his face like wind-flaws across the surface of a lake.”

Or visualize one of the two thieves in “Just Meat” : “He was a slender, wizened man, nervous, irritable, high-strung, and anaemic—a typical child of the gutter, with unbeautiful twisted features, small-eyed, with face and mouth perpetually and feverishly hungry, brutish in a cat-like way, stamped to the core with degeneracy.”

Or deplore the sorrowful condition of a 16-year-old boy worked to deformity by factory labor: “He was a travesty of the human. It was a twisted and stunted and nameless piece of life that shambled like a sickly ape, arms loose-hanging, stoop-shouldered, narrow-chested, grotesque and terrible.” London had vivid memories of the hours he spent working in factories and traveling with tramps, and these memories come to life on his pages.

Though adept at portraying malcontents and criminals, London seems to take particular pleasure in describing heroic triumph and exuberance. In “Trust,” a man drives himself without sleep for over two full days just to return a backpack to a friend. At one point he paddles and drags a canoe for miles into a 40-mile-per-hour wind; at another point, he crawls around a pit full of dead and dying horses, in the dark, without a flashlight, to recover the pack. In The Call of the Wild, London suggests that the imagination of the artist and the exuberant energy of the wild animal spring from the same source:

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; … it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. (The Call of the Wild)

In one of his finest stories, London places an aging Australian boxer, Tom King, on the the other side of this youthful exuberance. Here, Tom contemplates his younger, stronger, and healthier opponent:

And Tom King, looking, saw Youth incarnate, deep-chested, heavy-thewed, with muscles that slipped and slid like live things under the white satin skin. The whole body was a-crawl with life. … He grinned with a certain wistful pathos in his own ring-battered countenance, and went on cherishing his strength with the jealousy of which only Age is capable.

In the match that follows, London puts Tom King on the knife-edge between victory and defeat. To see if Tom King wins that fight—whether he ends up one of London’s triumphant heroes or one of his defeated ones—you’ll need to read “A Piece of Steak.”

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