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The Northumberland Public Library will offer a course on Applied Linguistics to help patrons become better writers. The classes will cover Theory on the first day, Monday, April 24th and Practice on Wednesday, April 26. Instructor Jim Schmalz will repeat the class each day to give students a chance to attend either at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m.

Schmalz, whose last course was on Celestial Navigation, taught Engineering Writing at Washington University in St. Louis for 13 years.

“Writing is like ballet dancing: it’s a special skill that must be mastered through training and practice.” said Schmalz. “The science of Linguistics helps explain the differences between speaking and writing, and also helps a student understand what is actually involved in writing English.”

Listening carefully to spoken English reveals tonal components, stresses, tunes, and pauses that convey as much meaning as the words themselves.

“Punctuation has developed over centuries of writing to convey these tonal components to the reader, although hardly anyone realizes this until they ‘see’ it,” he explained.

He used placement of a comma as an example.

“John quit, calling his boss a jerk.” Meaning, John doesn’t like his boss and quits.

But remove the comma: “John quit calling his boss a jerk.” John remains on the job, but no longer calls his boss a jerk.

The course is geared to patrons who want to improve their writing, including high school students.

Schmalz said he has helped students in high school writing centers, where non-teacher coaches brought a different perspective. His long-term goal is to establish similar centers here in the Northern Neck, and this course is the first step towards that goal.

Pre-register by calling the library at 580-5051 or email: library@nplva.org. You may also register the day the class starts. Call Jim Schmalz at 804-724-9180 with questions or for additional information.

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