March 2011 Archives

Apostrophe Song

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One of the most common grammatical errors is the apostrophe. Eileen Thorpe even wrote this song about it to help clarify when to use it.

Apostrophe (Oh Christmas Tree)
by Eileen Thorpe

Apostrophe, apostrophe
You drive me oh so batty.
Apostrophe, apostrophe
Your overuse is a travesty.
Some people just can't get enough
They must think you're hot stuff
Apostrophe, apostrophe
Some rules to avoid catastrophe.

It's hers and theirs and yours and its
when you want to possess a bit
And when you need to pluralize,
You don't need to apostrophize.
And what of words that end in esess?
An apostrophe will only make a mess's.

I wonder why you so confuse
I'm sure you're tired of this abuse.
Apostrophe, apostrophe
You drive me oh so batty.

The apostrophe (') is used to show contractions, to show plural forms, and to show possession (ownership). Most people use the apostrophe correctly when forming contractions and showing plural forms. The problems usually occur when showing possession.

Here's a quick review:
1. Singular nouns usually show the possessive case with 's (a manager's office).
2. Singular nouns ending in s may form the possessive by adding either an apostrophe alone or 's. The latter is preferred, and is the one you should adopt (a waitress's uniform or a seamstress's alteration).
3. Note this exception: singular proper nouns that already have two "s" sounds at the end add only an apostrophe (an example using a name: Moses' or Jesus').
4. Plural nouns ending in s add only an apostrophe to form the possessive (the students' papers, the Joneses' house).
5. Plural nouns not ending in s add the apostrophe and s (the children's room).
6. With word groups and compound nouns, add the 's to the last noun (my son-in-law's) to show possession.
7. To show individual possession with a pair of nouns, use the possessive with both (Mary's and John's presentations).
8. To show joint possession with a pair of nouns, use the possessive with only the latter (Mary and John's presentation).
9. Apostrophes also indicate missing letters: can't.
10. Sometimes apostrophes indicate the plural of letters, numbers, and words: mind your p's and q's.
11. Apostrophes show possession but some personal pronouns, like "hers" and "its," have the possession built-in.
12. A word about plurals: Hyphenated compounds are pluralized on the noun portion (editors-in-chief, sons-in-law). Plural possessive compound expressions are usually more clearly expressed with a prepositional phrase (presentations of the editors-in-chief).

It can be tricky, but to figure out if something should be possessive, try to express it as an "of" clause. For example, Mary's book is the book of Mary. If you have this meaning, you know it should be in the possessive form.

If you see a mistake out there like the one I found with this city grocery store, send me the photo. I'd love to hear from you.

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Congrats! You worked hard on your employment search, and now you've secured a phone interview. But what does this mean, and how should you proceed?

Many companies use phone interviews because it saves them time and money. Instead of bringing you in, they chat with you for awhile to size up whether or not it would make sense for them to invest more time in you. Essentially, view the phone interview as a screening step before an in-person interview.

Most likely the phone interview will be scheduled in advance, but it's also possible the human resource (HR) person will pick up the phone and request an on-the-spot conversation.  As soon as you make your phone number available to companies in your job search, be prepared for this possibility. Of course, if a potential employer reaches you at an inconvenient time, it's fine to politely explain that you'd like to call him/her back.  However, make sure to call back promptly. Also, the phone interview is likely to be conducted by the HR person, and NOT the person for whom you'd work. (Always find out who will be interviewing you, and get the correct spelling and pronunciation of his/her name.) This can mean that the HR person isn't as familiar with the specific job you'd be assigned, and he/she may be perfunctory in his/her manner. Don't be put off by this. Keep in mind that the primary goal of the HR person is to narrow the pool of potential interviewees, which is at odds with your goal: to move to the next round. By planning ahead, you can persuasively build the case for why you should be selected for an in-person interview.

The first step in planning is arranging the setting for the phone interview. Find a place where your cell phone coverage is reliable and clear, and there is no distracting noise. Set your documents (résumé, cover letter, notes) on a desk in front of you because you can use these as you speak. Have a pen and paper ready to take notes.  Although it may seem silly, it's a good idea to dress in something more professional--not just your pajamas. When you feel crisp and put together, your voice will sound more confident and mature. Also, smile when you speak. This gives your voice a positive tone and shows more energy. You may even want to stand as you speak to avoid sounding lackluster. Some interviewees have even found it beneficial to have a mirror in front of them, so they are more aware of their physical cues to their communications.
As the questions begin, avoid interrupting your interviewer. Be patient and listen to the whole question. Pausing is fine too. In fact, it's much better than filling silences with "um" or "like."  If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification. Don't ramble, be concise, but allow enough detail to be credible. For example, if the interviewer asks you, "tell me about a time you had to work in a team," make sure to select a specific instance and bring out the points you want to make about why he/she should select you. View every question as some form of "why should we hire you?"
As the interview progresses, keep an eye on the time. Make sure to get responses to your questions too. The best interviews are dialogues not monologues. Show your genuine interest and knowledge of the company through each response.  When the interview is coming to a close, make sure you understand the employer's next step in the decision-making process. And always write a thank-you note to your interviewer within two to three days after the conversation. Phone interviews don't have to be your downfall if you give them the same attention you'd give an in-person interview. They can be the light guiding you toward employment success!


It was the reason I came to Penn State. I loved how students felt connected to the College," says Steven Curtis, student council president, remembering the influence the Earth and Mineral Sciences Exposition (EMEX) had on his college-choice decision. All students who are considering an Earth and Mineral Science (EMS) major are invited to attend the annual recruiting event. This year, EMEX was held on February 25-26, 2011.

Knowing that EMEX can have such a powerful effect is one of the reasons Steven and his co-chairs, Natalie Gerber (freshman, Energy Business and Finance), Zak Khayat (freshman, Energy Engineering), and Jackie Layer (sophomore, Meteorology) started preparing for it months in advance. "I think we're rare in EMS because this big event is really student led," Curtis said. "Certainly faculty and staff support us, but students take the leadership role."

 Prospective students who arrived on Friday attended classes with their student sponsors and met with alumni in their fields to learn more about college choice and careers. Joel Reed, a 1982 materials science and engineering graduate emphasized the "amazing network of Penn State alumni" as one of the reasons he chose Penn State. Cheryl Nelson, a 2002 meteorology graduate, credited the College with her diverse skill set that has allowed her to easily transition from a broadcast journalist to a weather forecaster to her current position, making disaster training films for the military.

Also on Friday night, the residents of Irvin Hall, the Special Living Option for EMS, sponsored an evening of icebreaking activities, including a dance with a DJ, sports, and games. While students were socializing, parents and their families were treated to dinner at the Atherton Hotel where they had the opportunity to meet other families and ask questions of the deans, faculty, staff, and EMS students.

Saturday morning came early to the hearty set-up crew that began inflating balloons at 4:30 a.m. to line the pathways to the Deike Building. Popular each year is the complimentary breakfast of tasty donuts and bagels. At 9 a.m. Dean Easterling gave his opening remarks.

He highlighted the "small feel" of the College whose faculty to student ratio is 12:1. He mentioned that students are "trained by the best faculty in the world," and "all five of the College's departments rank within the top 10 nationally." He spoke of the College's leading research in many areas including energy security, climate change, mine safety, and understanding the world's biosphere. Associate Dean for Education John Hellmann also welcomed the families and encouraged them to explore the College and its offerings.

Throughout the day, prospective students spoke with members of Earth and Mineral Engineering, Geography, Geosciences, Materials Science Engineering and Meteorology and took advantage of the unique exhibits from each of these departments. This year, the glass blowing station, the weather balloon launch, and the ceramic fabrication were particularly popular. The Lion Scouts were also on hand to give campus tours.

Each year feedback is collected from the attendees to tweak the event toward perfection. "We always hear that there's too much to do, but we see that as a good thing," Curtis said as he glanced down at the large notebook he maintains to keep track of the all the details. "One of this year's goals was to increase the number of volunteers, and we accomplished this through the use of new digital recruitment forms."

Lots of faculty, staff, and student volunteers interacted with over 204 prospective students who came from as far away as California and as close as Centre County. The volunteers were easy to spot in their blue EMEX t-shirts designed by sophomores Pam Remetta and Katie Calais. This year's design incorporated Twitter, the social network site, into the theme. At the close of EMEX 2011, there was nothing but sweet tweets of success.

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