Simple Psychological Tips for Learning Languages

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by Philip Yaffe

Native English-speakers are increasingly exhorted to learn foreign languages to play a more effective role in globalization. However, we tend not to learn foreign languages for three very valid reasons.

1. Many other peoples in the world are not just exhorted to learn English, they are required to do so. Thus, you can find English virtually everywhere you go.

2. The grammar of most other languages, certainly most European languages, is much more complex than English. Thus, native Anglophones often view language learning as a daunting, and even demoralizing task.

3. Most native Anglophones, especially in North America, live in almost exclusively English-speaking environments. We virtually never hear other languages spoken live, on radio or television, and virtually never see them written in newspapers, magazines, books, etc. This is hardly motivating.

The fact is, the world conspires against Anglophones learning other languages. So if you speak only English, you have no reason to be ashamed.

Nevertheless, while these factors explain why so few Anglophones know other languages, they are not valid excuses for not learning them when the situation calls for it. For example, you are sent to open or manage a foreign subsidiary, you are assigned to negotiate or maintain working relationships with a foreign partner, etc.

How should you go about learning a foreign language with the least pain and most gain? In my experience, the secret lies in changing your mindset.

I live in Brussels, Belgium. I speak French fluently, understand and can more-or-less get around in Dutch and German, and I am now rapidly acquiring Spanish. But the first language I mastered was none of these. It was Swahili, which I learned when I spent two-and-a-half years working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.

Like many (probably most) Americans growing up in an essentially English-speaking environment, I thought the ability to speak another language required superior intelligence; only people endowed with this unique talent could actually achieve it. Shortly after I got to Tanzania, I visited in a remote tribal area where virtually everyone spoke three languages. Moreover, virtually none of them had ever seen the inside of a school (there just weren’t any schools), let alone graduated from a prestigious university (UCLA).

I therefore had to radically rethink my attitude towards language learning. This new mindset has significantly helped me master the languages I now regularly use. I will illustrate with French, the language I know best. But remember, these same tips and techniques apply to learning virtually any language

Seeing Is Learning

If you are studying French, it is probably for one of two reasons. Either you are required to do so for school or for your job. Or because French is “a language of culture,” i.e. no properly educated person should be without it.

Whatever your reason, here is some good news. Learning to speak French is perhaps the easiest part of the task.


I know you may have thought that speaking is the most difficult part. However, I would argue that most people can learn to speak French reasonably well within 5-7 months.

Writing French is quite a different story. French is one of the most complex written languages in the world. In fact, written French and spoken French are almost two separate languages. If your objective is to speak French, you should first concentrate on speaking, then let the written language follow at a more leisurely pace.

In some quarters this may sound like heresy, because the majority of language courses try to teach both speaking and writing at the same time. I believe this is a mistake. Also, I am not advocating “total immersion.” Few of us have the luxury of spending a week, or preferably several weeks, totally concentrating on learning a language.

What I am advocating is doing things in the proper psychological order.

Most people can master enough basic grammar to be able to speak (poorly but nevertheless coherently), and to understand what is being said to them, really quite quickly. This is because the major obstacle to acquiring another language is not grammar; it’s vocabulary.

If you don’t know the verb you need, it doesn’t matter that you know how to conjugate French verbs; you still cannot speak. If you don’t know the adjective you need, it doesn’t matter that you know how to decline French adjectives; you still cannot speak. And so on. 

I therefore suggest that the most effective order for learning would be:

1. Basic French grammar — the minimum necessary to put together an intelligible (if incorrect) sentence

2. Basic French vocabulary — the minimum necessary to begin using the basic grammar

3. Elaborated French grammar and vocabulary — building on basic grammar and vocabulary as soon as you can actually use them

4. Writing in French — tackling the daunting task of putting French on paper.

If vocabulary is crucial, then the largely unrecognized key to learning to speak French is: Learn to read it.

There is nothing like being able to sit down with a French newspaper, magazine, or even a novel to reinforce both grammar and vocabulary. The more you read, the more your vocabulary will expand. And the more some of French’s apparently bizarre ways of doing things will seem increasingly normal.

For best results, the novel should contain a maximum of dialogue and a minimum of description. With dialogue, you can more or less anticipate and interpret what the characters are saying; with description you haven’t a clue. When I was learning French, I used mystery novels by Agatha Christie and Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs because they are about 90 percent dialogue and 10 percent description. However, any novels with a strong emphasis of dialogue will do.

The problem is, as in English the words you see written in many, many cases will be spelled quite differently from how they are pronounced. So if you are going to improve your spoken vocabulary by reading, you will need some way of translating what is written into what is said.

You will find some important tips on how to do this at the end of the article (“How to Pronounce Silent Letters”). However, if you are lucky enough to know a native French speaker, don’t hesitate to ask him or her for help. Not to carry on a conversation, but to ensure that you are properly pronouncing what you are seeing in print. If you don’t have the luxury of a French-speaking friend, try the Internet. Put into any search engine French + audio to access an almost endless number of websites with audio examples to help you.

It’s All in the Mind

If French is your first foreign language, let me assure you that while learning it is not easy, it is far from impossible. And you don’t have to be either a genius or have a “natural talent” for languages to achieve it.

As noted above, most of the people I met in Tanzania spoke at least two languages and often three or more, even those in remote bush areas untouched by formal education. This was nothing exceptional. People in similar circumstances in virtually every country of the world speak two or more languages as a matter of course. Here in Belgium, around Brussels even burger-flippers at McDonald’s are expected to speak both Dutch and French, two of the countries three official national languages (German is the third), plus English.

If they can master other languages, certainly you can, too. Admittedly, it is never easy; however, it is far from impossible — and the rewards can be astounding.

When I first arrived in Tanzania, I was speaking in Swahili by translating through English. However, one magic day I suddenly realized that I was no longer translating through English. I was speaking in Swahili directly. It was like being released from prison. Although this happened more than 40 years ago, the picture of my cell door flying open and my mind flying free is as vivid now as the day it happened. It’s an experience not to be missed!

The process of learning another language is greatly facilitated by understanding and bearing in mind two key psychological principles.

1.   Facility Principle: What you don’t have to do is always easier than what you do have to do

In other words, the less you have to think about in learning French, the more rapidly you will learn it. And the fewer mistakes you will make. Believe it or not, French (both written and spoken) has certain features and characteristics that make it objectively easier than English. Pronunciation provides a perfect example.

Most people are largely unaware of how seriously difficult their own native language could be to a foreigner. As a native Anglophone, you probably find that English is quite easy to pronounce. But the fact is, French is even easier.

What! With its nasalization, trilled “r” and other difficult sounds? Yes, and I can prove it!

First, it is important to understand that no sounds, in any language, are inherently difficult to pronounce. If they were, they wouldn’t exist because the native speakers never would have accepted them into their language in the first place.

Learning foreign sounds is never easy; French speakers learning English have a terrible time with the “th” sound in words such as “the,” “they,” “through,” “throw,” etc. Because there is no equivalent sound in French, they have great difficulty in mastering it. But it certainly isn’t impossible. Just as it may be difficult, but certainly not impossible, for you to master unfamiliar sounds in French.

Where French pronunciation has an undeniable advantage over English (and most other European languages) is its virtual lack of a “tonic accent.”

Tonic accent simply means that certain syllables in a word are given more stress than are others. For example, “difficult” is pronounced “dif-fi-cult”; the first syllable carries the tonic accent. It could just as easily be pronounced dif-fi-cult,” which is what the Spanish prefer (dif--cil). Or even “dif-fi-cult.”

Technically, the tonic accent does exist in French, but it is very hard to hear it. For example, in English we say “un-i-ver-sal.” In French, this is “un-i-ver-sel,” with no apparent stress anywhere. Likewise with “restau-rant,which in French is “rest-au-rant.” And so on.Thus, you never have to guess where the tonic accent should go, so you can never make a mistake

As a native Anglophone, you have grown up with the tonic accent, so you might not immediately recognize what a blessing this is. However, if you have had any dealings with foreigners speaking English, you know that if they put the tonic accent on the wrong syllable, you might not understand the word at all. By foreigners, I don’t necessarily mean non-native English speakers. If you are American, try conversing with an Australian or an Englishman; you are likely to have the same problem. And vice versa.

2.   Familiarity Principle: Familiar habits and patterns of thought are often hard to break

Paradoxically, some of the aspects of French that are easier than English at first glance will appear to be strange — and therefore falsely difficult. Although it may take you some time to accept them, once you begin to think in French, you will rapidly come to appreciate them and enjoy their benefits. Here are a couple of anecdotes to illustrate the point.

  A.  Straight is more difficult than zigzag

One time I was talking with a Dutch-speaking friend. He agreed that English is fundamentally simpler than his own language; nevertheless, he complained that he just couldn’t get used to English’s simpler sentence structure. In certain instances, Dutch grammar requires the order of the words of the sentence to suddenly reverse; this never happens in English. Objectively, then, English sentence structure should be easier than Dutch. But to him, not reversing the word order just didn’t seem natural

B.  Never overlook the obvious

One day I was telling a French-speaking friend of mine about my experiences in Tanzania. I mentioned that Swahili has the interesting characteristic of forming plurals with a prefix rather than a suffix. For example, the Swahili word for book is kitabu; the plural is vitabu. So to go from the singular to the plural, you change the beginning of the word rather than the end. His reaction was swift and surprising.

He:  They can’t do that! They can’t form plurals with a prefix!

Me:  It’s their language. They can form plurals anyway they want.

He:  But it makes no sense. And I can prove it. Which is more important, what a word means or whether it is singular or plural?

Me:  What a word means.

He:  Then announcing that a word is plural before saying the word is illogical.

Me:  I agree. So why do you do the same thing in French?

He:  We don’t do that in French!

Me:  Of course you do. And I can prove it.

You need to understand that in French, as in many other languages, the definite article (“the”) has both a singular and plural form. Why? I don’t know, that’s just how it is. In French you say le livre to mean “the book,” but you say les livres to mean “the books.” The definite article le (pronounced “luh”) changes to les (pronounced “lay”). So just as in Swahili, French requires you first to announce whether the following word is singular or plural, then say what it is.

My friend was astounded. What he had found so strange, and even absurd, in another language turned out to be exactly what he was doing in his own. Suddenly Swahili no longer seemed quite so bizarre.

Context and Comprehension

Before proceeding, it is necessary to make a fundamental observation.

No amount of grammar and vocabulary can fully cover every situation that may arise in using a language, your native language or a foreign one.

Language is used to communicate meaning, but meaning often depends on context. Therefore, what you say may be grammatically correct, but still not communicate the meaning you have in mind.

The importance of context in communication can be demonstrated by a simple example. J’ai besoin d’un avocat / I need an avocat. How would you interpret this sentence? Avocat means both “avocado” and “lawyer,” so you could interpret it in two ways: 1) I am making a Mexican salad and I need this particular fruit, 2) I am having legal problems and I need professional help.

Without knowing what preceded the statement, there is no way of deciding which interpretation is correct. It is only within context that we can know.

According to the celebrated dictum, “Translation is treason.” In other words, when you go from one language to another, chances are you will fail to transfer some important nuances. I would like to propose a new dictum. Within the same language, “Context is comprehension.” In other words, many apparent problems of English or French (or any other language) tend to disappear within the context of their use.

Context is vital; it must always be taken into account.

How to Pronounce Silent Letters

If this sounds like a contradiction in terms, it really isn’t. Remember, you will be doing a lot of reading to improve your vocabulary and to get used to thinking in French. The problem is, the words you will see written in many, many cases will be spelled quite differently from how they are pronounced. So if you are going to improve your spoken vocabulary by reading, you will need some way of converting what is written into what is said. Fortunately, with many other languages (e.g. Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Swahili), this is much less of a problem.

The major part of the disconnection between spoken and written French has to do with silent letters. French is littered with them. However, there are some strategies you can use to help you pronounce what you see.

Silent letters that do Not affect pronunciation

Most silent letters come at the end of words. The two letters “s” and “x” almost never affect pronunciation.

The silent “s” is the ubiquitous ending for plural nouns, articles and adjectives. It is not pronounced. Neither is “x”, which also sometimes indicates a plural and is often the ending on masculine adjectives. For example: chien – chiens, grand – grands, élegant – élegants, pou – poux, jeu – jeux, peureux (adjective), fâcheux (adjective), etc.

The silent “s” is also often found at the end of words for no apparent reason other than to be decorative. For example: cas (kah), pas (pah), souris (sooree), tapis (tahpee), héros (eeroh), sans (sahn), moins (mwehn), pis (pee), etc. The words bus (bewss), as (ahss), fils (feess), non-sens (nahn-sahnss), sens (sahnss), tournevis (toornahveess), and vis (veess) are important exceptions.

The silent “x” is also often found at the end of words for no apparent reason: prix (pree), voix (vwah), noix (nwah),paix (pay), croix (krwah), taux (toh), toux (too),etc.

Words ending in a silent “s” or a silent “x” have the same pronunciations and spellings in both the singular and the plural. 

Silent letters that Do affect pronunciation

The silent “e”

The silent “e” is the ubiquitous ending indicating a feminine noun or adjective. It itself is never pronounced, but it may change the pronunciation of the syllable to which it is attached. For example: vrai – vraie, bleu – bleue, cru – crue(no change of pronunciation). But boulanger (masculine), pronounced boo-lahn-zhay; boulangère (feminine), pronounced boo-lahn-zhair. Caissier (masculine), pronounced kay-see-ay, caissière (feminine), pronounced kay-see-air. Port (masculine), pronounced por, porte (feminine), pronounced port.

Silent letters that affect pronunciation in verbs

Silent letters that change pronunciation occur mainly in conjugated verb forms, and specifically in the imperfect and conditional tenses.

Imperfect tense

Je parlais, tu parlais: The “s” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “ais” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlai = par-lay. parlais = par-leh.

Il/elle parlait: The “t” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “ait” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlai = par-lay. parlait = par-leh

Ils/elles parlaient:The “ent” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “aient” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlai = par-lay.  parlaient = par-leh

Conditional tense

The conditional tense uses the same endings as the imperfect tense, so the effects of the silent letters are the same.

Je parlerais, tu parlerais: The “s” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “ais” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlerai = par-ler-ay.  parlerais = par-ler-eh.

Il/elle parlerait: The “t” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “ait” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlerai = par-ler-ay.  parlerait = par-ler-eh.

Ils/elles parleraient:The “ent” itself is not pronounced. Without it, the ending “ai” would be pronounced “ay.” With it, the ending “aient” is pronounced “eh.”

Example:  parlerai = par-ler-ay.  parleraient = par-ler-eh.

Pronouncing nouns and adjectives with silent endings

French writing is characterized by its enormous number of nouns and adjectives with silent endings that are pronounced nothing like how they are spelled. Therefore, in order to use reading as a basis for speaking, you must be able to determine their pronunciation. This is not always easy, but there are some generalizations that can help.

Words ending in a silent “t” 

Most nouns and adjectives with a silent ending other than “s” or “x” will end in a silent “t”. The combinations are:

a. ait: This combination is pronounced “ay.” Examples: attrait (ah-tray), fait (fay), lait (lay), portrait (por-tray).

b. art: This combination is pronounced “ahr.” Examples: art (ahr), part (pahr), rempart (rahm-pahr).

  1. at, ât: These are both pronounced “ah”; the accent circonflexe (^) has no effect on the pronunciation. Examples: dégât (day-gah), état (ay-tah), plat (plah), rat (rah).

d. ert: This combination is pronounced “air.” Examples: couvert (coo-vair), ouvert (oo-vair), pivert (pee-vair)

e. et, êt: This combination is pronounced “ay”; the accent circonflexe (^) has no effect on the pronunciation. Examples: billet (bee-yay), complet (com-play), filet (fee-lay), forêt (for-ay), intérêt (ehn-ter-ay).

  1. ort: This combination is pronounced “or.” Examples: fort (for), effort (eh-for), mort (mor), port (por), sort (sor), tort (tor).

g. ot: This combination is pronounced “oh.” Examples: boulot (boo-loh), complot (com-ploh), lot (loh), rigolot (ree-goh-loh)

  1. out, oût: These are both pronounced “oo”; the accent circonflexe (^) has no effect on the pronunciation. Examples: bout (boo), goût (goo), tout (too),
  1. ut: This combination is pronounced “ew” as in “few.” Examples: début (day-bew), rebut (reh-bew), statut (stah-tew), substitut (sub-stee-tew). The word but (goal, objective) is an important exception, being pronounced “bewt.” The word scorbut (scurvy), pronounced “skor-bewt” is also an exception, but you will probably have little use for it in normal conversation.



There is no equivalent of the French “u” sound in English. It comes close to the “u” sound in “few” if you tighten your lips while saying it, This book uses “ew” to indicate the sound in writing. However, the only way to really get the sound is to listen to a French speaker — and then practice. Free online French courses with sound files are excellent for this purpose.

Words ending in “er”

The ending “er” is extremely important. It is the infinitive ending on a major class of verbs, where it is pronounced “ay.” Examples: assister (ah-sees-tay), fermer (fehr-may), manger (mahn-zhay), participer (pahr-tee-see-pay), etc.

It is also the ending on numerous nouns and adjectives, where is it also pronounced “ay.”

Examples: chantier (shan-tee-ay), fermier (fehr-mee-ay), héritier (eer-it-ee-ay), premier (pray-mee-ay), etc.

Words ending in other silent letters 

Silent endings other than “s”, “x”, “r” or “t” are relatively rare. But some of these words are rather important, so you will need to know how to pronounce them when you see them written. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • · accord (ah-cor): agreement
  • · corps (cor): body, as in the expression ésprit de corps
  • · coup (coo): hit, strike, or blow, as in coup d’état
  • · nez (nay): nose
  • · pied (pee-ay): foot
  • · riz (ree): rice
  • · trop (troh): too much

Je vous souhaite bonne chance et bon amusement (Zhe voo soo-ate bone shance ay bon ahmusmahn) / I wish you good luck and good fun.

This article is excerpted from the author’s book Gentle French: French grammar as native speakers really use it.


Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.

He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974.

Books by this Author

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

The Gettysburg Collection:

A comprehensive companion to The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

Actual English: English grammar as native speakers really use it

Gentle French: French grammar as native speakers really use it

What’d You Say? / Que Dites-Vous?

Fun with homophones, proverbs, expressions, false friends, and other linguistic oddities in English and French

Science for the Concerned Citizen: What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.

The Little Book of BIG Mistakes

The Eighth Decade: Reflections on a Life

Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists: Human Biology

Books in “The Essential Ten Percent” Series

(at August 2012)

College-level Writing: The Essential Ten Percent

Logical Thinking: The Essential Ten Percent

Public Speaking: The Essential Ten Percent

The Human Body: The Essential Ten Percent

Wise Humor: The Essential Ten Percent

Word for Windows: The Essential Ten Percent

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The Famous Authors: Walt Whitman

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The Famous Authors: Walt Whitman

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First known for his controversial book of poetry, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman was thought to be vulgar and immoral. Whitman was unorthodox in form as well as content. In his poetry, the line was a rhythmical unit and meter was disregarded, but most of his poems achieved a musical effect. His major themes included the sacredness of the self, the beauty of death, the quality of all people, the love of comrades, and the immortality of the soul. This program explores his life and major works.ISBN: 0-7697-8527-1
Running Time: 30 minutes
Sound: Dolby 2.0
Performers: Walt Whitman

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Custom Essay Writing – Should You Buy Essays Online?

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Custom essay writing services are rampant on the web these days. Every time I turn around, it seems like there is a new website selling essays to unsuspecting college students around the world. These companies are unethical and doing their customers a major disservice.

Keep reading to find out why you should never pay money for an essay online.

Where do essay writing services get their essays? Although many of these companies would like you to believe that they are creating essays with a qualified team of writers, most of these so-called essay writing services actually outsource their writing to India and other countries. Think of it: someone in New Delhi is getting paid a few bucks an hour to write your college paper.

Why is it so bad to buy an essay that was produced in a foreign country? Besides the obvious waste of an opportunity to grow intellectually and the apparent waste of your college tuition, an essay written by a foreigner is simply not going to reflect the expectations of a college writing class in the United States.

Many custom essay writing services will also provide you with a finished document that is recycled from previously composed work for other customers. Some of these essays even get reproduced online and become easy for your instructor to catch and dismiss as simple plagiarism.

As a college writing instructor myself, I have found it very easy to identify essays that students either buy online or pay someone else to write. It is not difficult and often very obvious when it happens. I want to urge you to think twice (even three times) about making this error next time you think about skipping an assignment and finding an essay for sale on the web. Not only will you be throwing away your college education, you’re also very likely to get caught!

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Source by Jason Clegg

Raymond Duke | Copywriter

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Raymond Duke | Copywriter

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On my blog I talk about the ins and outs of persuasive writing. Using personal stories, you’ll get insights about human behavior, marketing, and life.

Kindle blogs are fully downloaded onto your Kindle so you can read them even when you’re not wirelessly connected. And unlike RSS readers which often only provide headlines, blogs on Kindle give you full text content and images, and are updated wirelessly throughout the day.

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The Disputed Authorship of Ephesians

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The authenticity of Ephesians as a genuinely Pauline epistle has been doubted especially since the time of the Dutch Humanist Erasmus in the sixteenth century. Several schools of thoughts exist today in connection with the authorship in Ephesians. Barth (1974) identifies four such options. Some scholars accept Paul as the author. Others see him as responsible for an original manuscript that has been augmented by an editor. A third set – Moffatt, Goodspeed, Dibelius etc. – rejects Pauline authorship and the fourth thinks there is not enough evidence to decide. Gabel, Wheeler and York observe in their discussion on the canon of letters that Ephesians is categorized as a disputed letter that is “almost certainly not by Paul” (1996, 237). Scholars “have tried to explain this letter as the writing of a student and admirer of Paul’s, bringing the apostle’s gospel to his own later generation” (Turner 1984, 1222). Some conclude that it is most reasonable to consider it as deuteron-Pauline, that is, in the tradition of Paul but not written by him. While I recognize the strength of the other views, I accept (with supportive evidence) the traditional view that classifies Ephesians as an authentic Pauline letter.


Rhein (1974) asserts that “Ephesians is thought to be spurious by many” (264). His argument is that the purpose and impersonal tone are difficult to explain if it is attributed to Paul.


Some see the Ephesians as an early Catholic writing and that there is an un-Pauline interest in various orders of ministry. Rhein (1974) also rejects Paul’s authorship on the basis of dating. He observes that “the subject matter indicates a later date than its companions. Christ is no longer the lone foundation of the Church” (268). He asserts that the apostles have taken his place (2:20-22), heretical sects have had time to make their appearance (4:14), and the church itself is now regarded as a means of revelation.


Some doubt Pauline authorship since a number of words in Ephesians cannot be found in other Pauline writings (Drane 1986). Examples include aswtia (wantonness) and politeia (citizenship/commonwealth). Others include some prominent features such as the references to ‘the heavenly world’ (Eph. 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Guthrie (1965) admits that “the style (in Ephesians) is certainly different from the other nine undisputed Pauline epistles and this has seemed to some to weigh against Pauline authorship” (483).


Drane (1986) observes that “the way Ephesians is put together is also distinctive. Instead of the unplanned – and largely unrestrained- language of the other letters, Ephesians moves from one theme to another in more sedate fashion” (346).

Relationship with Colossians

Drane (1986) observes that some scholars view Colossians as the original letter which was subsequently copied and adapted by the later author of Ephesians who cannot be Paul. Colossians is usually considered to be a genuine Pauline letter, and Ephesians is thought to be the work of an imitator who used Colossians for some of his ideas.

Doctrine and theology

Drane (1986) also comments on the fact the Ephesians seems to reflect concerns that were especially typical of church life later than the time of Paul. Examples cited include the use of the term ‘church’, apparent absence of any reference to the parousia of Jesus, and to the theme ‘justification of faith’. Furthermore, it is observed that believers are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (2:20), whereas Paul sees Christ as the one foundation (I Cor. 3:11). Some believe that these are really in contradiction, for “in 2:20, Christ is ‘the chief cornerstone’, which surely accords with the passage in I Corinthians. Others note that in Ephesians ekklhsia always refers to the universal church, while Paul normally uses the word for the local congregation” (Carson, Moo and Morris 1992, 307). It is noted that “further differences are claimed to appear in Paul’s Christology in this Epistle” (Guthrie 1965, 489). Acts attributed to God in the other epistles are attributed to Christ in Ephesians. Ephesians 2:16 (where reconciliation is described as the work of Christ) is compared with Colossians 1:20 and 2:13-14. Another example is Ephesians 4:11, where Christ is paid to appoint officials in the Church as compared with I Corinthians 7:28.

Possible authors

Barnett (1946) proposed that Onesimus prospered so well in Christian service that he later became Bishop of Ephesus and believed that he wrote Ephesians. Miller and Miller (1973) comments on Goodspeed and Mitten’s submission that the likely authors are Onesimus (Col. 4:9) and Tychicus (Col. 4:7); Eph. 6:21) respectively. If Paul was in prison, Holding (2003) argued, then he was probably in no condition or had no ability to do significant cross-checking, and would give his scribe considerable latitude in composition, indicating only major points to be developed – if indeed it was someone he trusted. On this account, he further argues, and given other factors, Timothy is a likely candidate. The issue is that “there has been a question whether Paul himself wrote it or one of his disciples after his death” (Chamberlin and Feldman 1950, 1111).


My conviction of Pauline authorship is in consonance with the following supportive evidence.

Doctrine and theology

Drane (1986) observes that “whatever we conclude about the person who actually wrote the words down, we should certainly not miss the weakness of the other arguments put forward against Paul’s authorship” (346). He dismisses the close relationship as proving nothing since a modern author writing about theology will quite base on book on something that has been written – and Paul had certainly done this before. Furthermore, nothing in Ephesians actually contradicts previous statements by Paul, and much is a logical development of things he had said elsewhere. The parousia is not mentioned in Ephesians, but it is not mentioned in Romans either. According to Wallace (2003), “the case is quite similar to the relation of Galatians to Romans: the first, an occasional letter, is less developed theologically; the second, a more reflective letter, is more developed” (3). Both the time when written and the reason for writing shape Paul’s style and theological statements.


Gundry (1981) firmly believes that Paul must have written Ephesians and Colossians at approximately the same time because the subject matter in the two epistles is quite similar. He asserts that “Tychirus must therefore have carried both letters at once. (Colossae was about one hundred miles east of Ephesus)” (294). Commenting on the view that the reference to “the holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5; cf. 2:20; 4:11) indicates that the writer belonged to the second generation, Thiessen (1955) argues that “this cannot be, for the writer includes himself among the ‘holy ones (saints) (3:8)'” (241).


Commenting on the argument that synonyms are used instead of Paul’s usual words and that more words are used in a new sense, Thiessen (1955) argues that the criticism is strange and doubtful. He continues, “besides, is a man always obliged to use a word in the same sense unless he does not care about losing his identity?” (241). He attributes the absence of personal greetings in the last chapter due to the encyclical character of the epistle and observes that the reference to the Church, rather than to some local church or churches, is likewise in harmony with the destination of the letter. Responding to the objection that there are forty-two words in Ephesians not found in other Pauline writings, McCain (1996) observes that “this is about the same percentage of unique words found in other Pauline writings” (249). Carson, Moo and Moris (1992) quote Cadbury’s forceful and convincing argument: “which is more likely – that an imitator of Paul in the first century composed a writing ninety or ninety-five percent in accordance with Paul’s style or that Paul himself wrote a letter diverging five or ten per cent from his usual style?” (306). Even if the style may be different from Paul’s usual manner of writing, Guthrie (1965) argues that “it may, in fact, be regarded as evidence of Paul’s versatility” (493).

Relationship with Colossians

Scholars have argued that the same writer could not have produced Colossians and Ephesians and that the latter is the work of an imitator. Carson, Moo and Morris (1992) dismiss this argument as unconvincing for they seem to support the view that “the same man wrote Colossians and Ephesians a little later, with many of the same thoughts running through his head and with a more general application of the ideas he had so recently expressed” (308).

Relationship with I Peter

Thiessen (1955) argues that the similarities in the Epistle to the Ephesians and in I Peter do not disprove the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. He notes that “if there is any dependence between the two writers, it is more likely that Peter borrowed from Paul than that Paul borrowed from Peter” (241).

Internal evidence

Among other things, “the writer twice calls himself Paul” (Eph. 1:1; 3:1). The epistle is written after the Pauline pattern, beginning with greetings and thanksgiving, leading on to a doctrinal discussion, and concluding with practical exhortations and personal matters” (Theissen 1955, 240).

External evidence

Ephesians had been in wide circulation from the early days and its authenticity does not seem to be questioned. From all indications “it was accepted by Marcion (as the letter to the Laodiceans); it is the Marcion (as the letter to the Laodiceans); it is in the Muratorian Canon and was used by heretics as well as the orthodox. No one seems to have queried Pauline authorship” (Carson, Moo and Morris 1992, 306).


To echo my thesis statement in the introduction, I endorse the argument that “from all this, we conclude that there are no insurmountable obstacles to the traditional view of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle” (Theissen 1955, 241). In other words, “when all the objections are carefully considered it will be seen that the weight of evidence is inadequate to overthrow the overwhelming attestation to Pauline authorship, and the Epistle’s own claims” (Guthrie 1965, 507). Bruce (1961) logically defends Pauline authorship in an indirect but forceful argument:

If Epistle of the Ephesians was not written directly by Paul, but by one of his disciples in the Apostle’s name, then its author was the greatest Paulinist of all time – a disciple who assimilated

his master’s thought more thoroughly than anyone else ever did. The man who could write

Ephesians must have been the Apostle’s equal, if not his superior, in mental stature and spiritual insight (11).

In spite of the fact that pseudonymity is regarded in modern scholarship to have been an established practice among the early Christians, the advocates of the traditional view (the researcher included) are entitled to emphasize the self-testimony of the Epistle as supportive evidence for their position “until some satisfactory explanation is found which accounts for the universal acceptance of the Epistle at its face value” (Guthrie 1965, 507).


Barnett, A.E. 1946. The New Testament: Its Making and Meaning.

New York: Abington-Cokesbury Press.

Barth, M. 1974. Ephesians.

New York: Doubleday.

Carson, D.A., Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris. 1992. An Introduction to the New Testament.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Chamberlain, R.B. and H. Feldman. 1950. The Dartmouth Bible.

Boston: Hougton Mifflin Co.

Gabel, J.B., C.B. Wheeler and A.D. York. 1996. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. 3rd ed.

New York: Oxford University Press.

Gundry, R.H. 1981. A Survey of the New Testament.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Guthrie, Donald. 1965. New Testament Introduction.

Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press.

Holding, J.P. 2003. Wrote Wrote Ephesians?” Available [Online]:

[]. 20th August 2003.

McCain, D. 1996. Notes on New Testament Introduction.

Jos: African Textbooks.

Miller, M.S. and J.L. Miller. 1973. Harper’s Bible Dictionary.

New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Rhein, F.B. 1974. Understanding to the New Testament.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing House.

Turner, M. 1984. Ephesians. In New Bible Commentary. 21st century ed., 1222-12244.

Leicester: Inter Varsity Press.

Wallace, D.B. 2003. Ephesians:Introduction, Argument and Outline.

Available [Online]: 19th August 2003.

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General Tools 380B Two-Point Scriber

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General Tools 380B Two-Point Scriber

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The Standard Two-Point Scriber provides multi-faceted scribing solutions for machinists, mechanics and sheet metal workers. The aluminum knurled body and dual threaded steel points allow you to customize the tool to the needs of your particular job. Use the straight point to mark bend lines for an air conditioning duct, or flip the tool around and use the 90 degree bend to remove an O-ring from a piece of equipment.

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This scriber consists of short straight and short 90 degree bent steel removable points which thread into knurled body
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Creative Writing: How Long Should Your Novel Be?

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The length of a novel should depend on two things, and two things only:

1) It should be long enough to qualify as a novel; and

2) It should be just long enough to tell your story.

Too many authors try to stretch their novels into 200,000-word epics, only to bore their readers to tears. Others try to get the entire story over with in 50,000 words, leaving out valuable information. A novel should be just long enough to tell your story, but long enough so that all of the details are included.

Even the shortest novels, however, should be at least 50,000 words. Any shorter than that, and the novel becomes a novella. Anything less than 10,000 words is a short story. Although there really are no set “rules” for length of a manuscript, 50,0000-150,000 words is a safe bet. If your novel is more than 150,000 words, you might consider splitting it into two parts, creating a sequel.

That said, there are other factors which can influence the length of your novel. Pacing, characters and action are just a few, combined with the complexity of the subject matter. For example, in Tom Clancy’s novels, he has to explain the complicated military jargon as well as the construction of planes and tanks. Therefore, his novels are much longer than 150,000 words. The same could be said for Jurassic Park, which uses in-depth scientific explanations.

Some authors choose to outline their plots before they begin writing, and using this technique, they can usually tell how long their novel will be before they even sit down to write. I never use an outline – I prefer to wing it – so the length usually comes as a surprise to me once I’ve finished. I judge the pace of the novel as I write, and I go over it chapter-by-chapter to make sure that I’ve written each scene as concisely and briefly as possible while still delivering the full effect.

For beginning writers, your best bet is to just continue writing until you get a feel for length. Write short stories to practice telling a story in fewer words and work on condensing sentences into their purest form. It’s an art – that, I’ll admit – but once you have a sense of your own abilities as a writer, it will be second nature.

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American Literary Classics – The Transcendentalists: Teaching Henry David Thoreau – Botanist, Environmentalist & Journalist

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American Literary Classics - The Transcendentalists: Teaching Henry David Thoreau - Botanist, Environmentalist & Journalist

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The Transcendentalists: Teaching Henry David Thoreau offers students and teachers a first of its kind introduction to Thoreau. This program presents convenient and essential information for a first introduction to this famous 19th century American philosopher, writer and Intellect. Each chapter features instructional insights by distinguished scholars. Each educator develops essential information about Thoreau’s life and his significant ideas to create a better understanding and appreciation for this nineteenth century American writer. Additionally, individual and chapter class projects are included to help discus and then write about relevant ideas. Transcendentalist scholar and English teacher, Richard H. Baker, introduces classroom strategies for teaching Thoreau relevant for today’s student environment. Employing instructional classroom techniques that have earned him accolades at Noble and Greenough School, Baker draws upon relevant issues in each Chapter to foster discussion, writing and interpretation of Henry David Thoreau who secluded himself from 1845 to 1847 at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. CHAPTER SEGMENTS: Each Chapter is tailored appropriately for today’s busy class schedule. To recognize the value of Thoreau in a classroom setting, each of the seven Thoreau Chapters opens with specific, relevant and applicable interpretations for today’s student, regardless of age. By demystifying the numerous challenges for understanding Thoreau’s essays, Professor Baker encourages individual responses to important issues, always aware of the difficulty in understanding Thoreau on a first reading.

When sold by, this product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media.’s standard return policy will apply.

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Writing Tip – Verbs of Utterance

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Josie shook her head, “It will never work.”

“I can’t believe that actually worked,” Ben chuckled.

Miss Gilmore woke them with a shout, “It’s time to get up!”

“What the heck is a verb of utterance?” Maria asked.

In the sentences above, the phrase “Maria asked” would often be referred to as a tag. The phrases “Josie shook her head” and “Ben chuckled” might be referred to as tags, but they should also be referred to as wrong. More precisely, the phrases themselves are fine, but the punctuation setting off those phrases needs fixing. You may see the reason immediately, but such misunderstanding of verbs of utterance in dialogue is probably among the top three mistakes I see in work by new fiction writers–and often by established authors, too.

Sure, I’m talking (in most cases) about the difference between a comma and a period. If you squint you’ve fixed it. But how many times have I said that an aura of professionalism can be the difference, for agents and editors, between wanting to work with you and considering you an amateur? And this is one of those massively easy-to-fix commonplace writing mistakes that can, if peppered throughout a manuscript, scream “amateur.”

Dialogue tags in general should be used with caution; it’s painful to read a long passage of staccato dialogue between two characters in which every quotation mark is followed by “said” or “asked.” Try to use them only when necessary to make the speaker’s identity clear or when they serve a meaningful purpose, in which case “said” and “asked” should rarely appear, unless they’re followed by an adverb you cannot live without (I said emphatically).

When using tags, think as carefully about them as you do the words between the quotation marks. A lot of verbs shouldn’t be used as verbs of utterance, but that doesn’t mean you have a tiny selection to choose from. A character can shout, whisper, bellow, spit, or mutter a sentence… but they can’t chuckle a sentence. (See example two above.) Use that simple test if you’re unsure.

As always, gray areas exist. I say you can’t “chuckle” a sentence, but some perfectly fine writers might get all stubborn on me and insist you can. Another test is simply to look in your dictionary and see if the verb is transitive or intransitive (i.e., whether it takes a direct object or not). Webster’s says “chuckle” is intransitive, so I’m right. Ha ha. Then again, Webster’s says “giggle” can be transitive and, specifically, is a verb of utterance. Why can I giggle a sentence but not chuckle a sentence? No explanation.

But I’m talking mainly about more straightforward examples, such as the first and third ones above. Your character definitely can’t shake her head a sentence. And in the third example, “woke” is the verb and “shout” is a noun. Miss Gilmore didn’t wake her words, she woke people. Scan your manuscript and I guarantee you’ll change at least a few commas to periods, and you will then come across as a more polished, professional writer.

If you want to play around with the language and have your character chuckle a comment, go for it. The grammar police may or may not catch you. But always be aware of how you’re using tags–most writers are so focused on the dialogue itself that they get lazy after that end quote. Think before you ink (hey, I like that) and know why you’re putting that word and that punctuation on the page.

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Rules for Writers with 2016 MLA Update

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Rules for Writers with 2016 MLA Update

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THIS TITLE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT THE 2016 MLA UPDATES! Our editorial team has updated this text based on content from The MLA Handbook, 8th Edition. Browse our catalog or contact your representative for a full listing of updated titles and packages, or to request a custom ISBN.

When students routinely use their handbook in the course, they see its value, find that it’s a faster way to get answers than search engines like Google, learn to rely on it as a reference, and are more likely to achieve the goals of the course. And when that handbook is Rules for Writers, you can be sure the advice they find is practical and reliable—with help for composing and revising, writing arguments, analyzing texts, using grammar and punctuation correctly, and working with sources. In revising the eighth edition, Nancy Sommers has woven a new emphasis on reading critically throughout the first section of the handbook, introduced advice for analyzing multimodal texts, and added help for public speaking. New practical Writing Guides support students working through college assignments in a variety of genres. And new peer review advice helps students effectively comment on drafts and apply feedback to revisions of their own work. All of these improvements help student writers—but they also save you time and effort. You can draw from Rules for Writers for planning class discussions, conducting in-class workshops, and providing feedback on student work that they can easily apply. Rules for Writers even comes with a complete instructor’s manual, Teaching with Hacker Handbooks, with stepped-out lesson plans to customize and sample assignments, syllabi, and rubrics from your peers.
Rules for Writers with 2016 MLA Update

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