In this issue:

IYE News

Student Achievements

College Focus:

Mills College,
A Quiet Women’s College
in the Heart of Oakland
The Right Word: Principle vs. Principal
Strunk & White Tip: Strunk and White’s Rule 11
Recommended.Reading: Willa Cather’s “The Sentimentality of William Tavener”
Summer Classes:

Click below to see the class web site.
SAT English & SAT English Advanced begin July 9th!


Student Achievements

Congratulations to June’s SAT English students Samuel Liu and Elizabeth Li for showing the greatest improvement during our two-week courses! Samuel raised his Writing score from 640 to 790, while Elizabeth raised her Critical Reading score from 610 to 750.
Irene Hsu, a rising senior, will be one of the editors-in-chief of her school paper, The Epic. She will also serve as the fiction editor for her school’s literary magazine.
Phoebe Yin appeared in the newspaper, performing community service at a local elementary school with her mother!

Our Recent Book Worms

It takes persistence to finish something you start, even an exciting book!

Eric Zhang, rising freshman, and Luke Chui both finished The Three Musketeers. That’s 67 chapters with 1612 unique vocabulary words!
Shaya Nikfar finished reading Pride and Prejudice. That’s 61 chapters with 1029 words!
Clara Hu, rising seventh grader, finished her first book with IYE, Anne of Green Gables. That’s 38 chapters with 573 words!

Student Writing of the Month

Evan Ye’s personal essay, “Ocean’s Message,” was a Silver Key winner at the regional level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Evan has been a student at IYE since 2010. This fall, Evan is heading to UC Berkeley. Congratulations, Evan!

Click here to read his essay. (And if you’re inspired to enter a contest too, talk to your tutor and, of course, practice your writing!)


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Mills College
A Quiet Women’s College in the Heart of Oakland

Are you looking for a college with a tight-knit community and small class sizes? Located in the Oakland foothills, the 135-acre campus of Mills College provides a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of its urban surroundings. Founded in 1852, Mills is the oldest women’s college west of the Rockies, and its undergraduate program is women-only to this day. It has a student population of just over 1,500, with just under 1,000 undergraduate students enrolled.

In addition to creating a tight-knit student body, the college’s small population has other notable benefits: an average class size of 14 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 11:1. Mills students have the opportunity to get lots of one-on-one time with their professors. U. S. News & World Report ranked Mills as fifth overall among regional colleges and universities in the West and seventh in “Great Schools, Great Prices” (high academic quality relative to the net cost of attendance) among colleges and universities in the west region for 2011-2012.

As a liberal arts college, Mills has excellent programs in the humanities. Mills is also home to the Center for Contemporary Music with a music program known for its emphasis on experimental music and composition. Despite the fame of its music program, English is the biggest major at the college; students can focus on either literature or creative writing. Students interested in science should also take a look at Mills—biology ranks among its top six most popular majors. For those who wish to do something a little different, Mills also offers students the option to create their own majors.

Even though Mills carries a higher price tag than some of its neighbors on the West Coast—almost $39,000 a year—students and parents should note that a whopping 97% of undergraduates received need-based financial aid in Fall 2011. Mills also gives out scholarships of up to $20,000 (half of the yearly tuition!) to first-year students based on “academic record, scholastic achievement, demonstrated leadership ability, contributions to the community, or special interests and talents.” Entering freshmen who do well in high school are likely to be granted scholarships.

Strong English skills can help family pocketbooks at Mills: by simply getting good grades in high school and having an outstanding application essay, students can cut their tuition by as much as half!

Despite its small size, Mills also offers an exciting campus life. Students have multiple housing options to choose from on the beautiful campus, from traditional dorms to a small six-woman co-op. For students looking for extracurricular activities, Mills has more than 50 student-driven clubs and organizations. For example, aspiring writers can contribute to the student-run weekly campus newspaper. Convenient public transportation also allows students to explore Oakland and San Francisco.

Freshmen living on campus may also participate in the Mills Living Learning Community program. LLC students choose an area of interest ranging from philosophy to sustainability and local food. Through this program, Mills students have the opportunity to make friends while learning about different subjects; some programs even have hands-on community outreach opportunities.

With its strong humanities programs, small class sizes, and tight-knit community, Mills is an excellent choice for women looking for a liberal arts education right here in the Bay Area.

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  Steve High,

Strunk and White’s Rule 11:
A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.

by Steve High

Participial phrases always function as adjectives. Accordingly, they need to modify the right noun or pronoun or they “dangle” from the sentence without doing their job. As Strunk says, the result is sometimes ludicrous. A small cottage industry has grown up among bloggers who collect dangling participles like these:

Having finished my dinner, the waitress offered to bring out the dessert tray to me.
(The commenter notes, “I am not tipping a waitress who eats my dinner.”)

Your reader can probably figure out what you mean, but you don’t want him laughing like a paper bag bursting at the wrong point in your composition.

Correction Tips

One solution that always works is to convert the voice of the sentence from passive to active or active to passive, as in the following example:

Having finished my dinner, I was offered the dessert tray by the waitress.

Another quick edit that often works is to move the participial phrase from the beginning of the sentence to the end or vice versa:

We sat on the back porch and watched the cows playing Scrabble and reading.

Since cows aren’t good at playing Scrabble, the sentence should read this way:

Playing Scrabble and reading, we sat on the back porch and watched the cows.

You should always make sure the participial phrase modifies a noun in your sentence.

Dangling modifier Correct modifier

When writing a timed essay, the simple approach of changing the voice from active to passive or passive to active may be the best idea.

When you’re writing a timed essay, the simple approach of changing the voice from active to passive or passive to active may be the best idea.

Unlike the introductory dangling modifier in this example, the complete clause does not dangle because it does not refer to the subject of the sentence.

Professor Strunk’s students at Cornell remembered him as a warm and witty man. He was not, however, given to rollicking humor in his written handouts to students. Here is a rare funny exception from his original Elements of Style:

Dangling modifier Correct modifier

Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.

Because the house was in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy it very cheap.

E. B. White, whose revised version of The Elements of Style is the one we use today, likewise had a whimsical sense of humor that shows up only rarely in his handbook.

Nat Crawford,
co-author of
Write It Right

Why did Strunk and White take grammar so seriously? Because they saw it as an essential part of consideration for the reader. A dangling participle may not make your readers laugh out loud, but it will cause at least momentary confusion or irritation. For artistic effect, you may someday wish to confound or challenge your reader. When writing for your teacher or boss, however, it’s best to keep Rule 11 firmly in mind.

Mr. Crawford and I have more to say about dangling modifiers in our free ebook, Write It Right With Strunk & White.

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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  Jen Jebens,

Principle vs. Principal

Because these two words sound and look similar, it is easy to confuse them. However, a little memorization is all it takes to know the difference between them.

Principle is a noun that can mean “an accepted or professed rule of conduct.” This meaning of principle often has to do with morality.

The politician refused to take the bribe because of his stringent principles.

Peter would never wrong another person purposefully; he is a man of good moral principle.

Principle can also mean “a fundamental, primary, or general idea or law on which others are based.”

Addition and subtraction are basic mathematical principles.

Through his scientific work, Isaac Newton helped establish the principles of physics.

Principal, on the other hand, is most commonly used as an adjective meaning “first or highest in rank, importance, or value.”

Laurence Olivier was the principal actor in his 1948 production of Hamlet.

The national debt is a principal issue in this year’s election.

Principal can also be a noun meaning “a chief or head.” In a more specific sense, it can mean “the head of a school.”

Our principal, Mr. Jones, had been a teacher for 40 years before he started working in school administration.

Maria worked on her ballet technique for many years before becoming the principal in the dance company.

Here are a few more examples to help you remember the difference:

Incorrect Correct
A fun mnemonic to help you remember the right word is “Your principle is your pal.” A fun mnemonic to help you remember the right word is “Your principal is your pal.”
Strunk and White outlines the principals of good writing. Strunk and White outlines the principles of good writing.
The principle accountant at the company never altered the books—he had strong principals. The principal accountant at the company never altered the books—he had strong principles.

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Ann Hillesland,
senior tutor

Willa Cather’s “The Sentimentality of William Tavener”

by Ann Hillesland

Most people are familiar with the basic plots of Hollywood romantic comedies: A couple of young, attractive, single people are perfect for each other, but they are kept apart by some grave misunderstanding (often involving either deception, outright stupidity, or both) that keeps them from realizing, for the space of a two-hour movie, that they belong together. But Willa Cather in her short story “The Sentimentality of William Tavener” accomplishes a much greater feat. She takes a couple, William and Hester, who have been married many years and shows how their basic personalities have worked together to drive them apart. And, unlike in a formulaic Hollywood movie, we aren’t sure if the two of them will ever be able to bridge the gap and fall in love again.

The setting, as in many Cather works, is Nebraska, still on the American frontier (as it was when Cather was growing up there). Hester is described, charitably, as “a good manager” by her neighbors. Less charitably, Cather says, “The only reason her husband did not consult her about his business was that she did not wait to be consulted.” In other words, Hester is smart and opinionated, and she doesn’t wait meekly for her husband to ask for her advice. She’s not always kind when she knows she’s right. It would be easy to dislike her, and perhaps that would have been even easier for readers in 1900, when the story was published. However, the first line of the story shows that Cather appreciates Hester: “It takes a strong woman to make any sort of success of living in the West, and Hester undoubtedly was that.” Surprisingly, perhaps, her husband William appreciates her too.

William’s character is the opposite of Hester’s. Hester gives her opinions freely, while William talks little. Cather says, “Silence, indeed, was William’s refuge and his strength.” And what he often needs refuge from is Hester. However, despite their differences, he does value her advice; and though it’s not fashionable for a woman to be so outspoken, he admires her abilities:

His sisters in Virginia had often said that only a quiet man like William could ever have lived with Hester Perkins. Secretly, William was rather proud of his wife’s “gift of speech,” and of the fact that she could talk in prayer meeting as fluently as a man.

Perhaps these two are perfect for each other after all. 

But over the years, her managing disposition and his silence work upon each other to drive them apart. The more she talks, the quieter he gets. Furthermore, Hester thinks William is too hard on their sons. Cather doesn’t spare William’s faults either, describing him as “…a hard man towards his neighbors, and even towards his sons; grasping, determined, and ambitious.” To counter this harshness toward their children, Hester starts secretly buying the boys “foolish, unnecessary little things” and disguising the purchases among her bills for dresses and bonnets. Over the years, the two of them have more of a business relationship than a romantic relationship. Hester’s managing instincts are met by William’s silence; William’s harsh attitude toward his sons is met by Hester’s opposition and secret indulgence.

These problems are much greater and longer-lived than the barriers that separate lovers in your standard romantic comedy. These two people have been entrenched in their positions for years. Can they find their way back to romance? You’ll have to read the story to find out!

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