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Rhetoric: The Best Thing You Didn’t Even Know Existed

As most of you are probably aware, I’m a university student taking a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies. Now, I’ve learned many things in university so far that will help me with my creative writing, my personal writing, and my professional writing. For the most part, the three tend to be held in separate categories; however, one class specifically helped me improve my writing in every way possible. I left this class every day feeling like my brain was dripping out one ear because every single class just blew my mind: it was as if I was learning how to write all over again. What was this class, you may ask?

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Rhetoric

Yes. Rhetoric is a word that deserves being bolded, italicised, and underlined because rhetoric is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been taught. According to Corbett and Conners (who wrote my rhetoric textbook that I think I read about ten pages of), rhetoric is “the art of the discipline that deals with the use of discourse, either spoken or written, to inform or persuade or motivate an audience, whether that audience is made up of one person or a group of people. (1999, p. i). Basically, rhetoric is the art of persuasion, like how-to-informedly-debate 101. It tends to be used in persuasive speeches and essays for the most part, but I’ve found myself using it in just about every essay I’ve written since taking the class, plus in every other aspect of my life physically possible because that’s how much I love rhetoric. Now, the cool thing about rhetoric is that it essentially breaks down a rhetorical debate into a five-point classical disposition, which are as follows:

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1) Exordium

The exordium is essentially the introduction to a topic of debate. In the exordium, a writer prepares their reader to discuss their chosen topic, orients them to their view of the topic, and integrates themselves with their readers. This is probably my favorite step, because it allows writers to become personal with their readers, and to use their own feelings, examples, and emotions to connect to the reader. It’s here that writers establish their ethos: the imperative trust that the readers must have in their writers. By the end of the exordium, you want your readers to feel as if they understand the importance of the topic, they are ready to open-mindedly consider your argument, and that they are somewhat engaged in your debate and your topic.

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2) Narratio

In the narratio, writers produce the facts surrounding the topic of debate. It’s important to the writer’s ethos that there is absolutely no argument in the narration: it’s simply a summary of the current unbiased facts surrounding an issue. This is where the debate is set into context, where readers learn the facts, and at the end of the narration is the first time the writer explains the stakes of the debate by stating his/her thesis: their stance and what they are going to debate.

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3) Confirmatio

The confirmatio is probably the easiest part of the debate to write, because it’s the part where writers posit their stance. It’s the “I’m right and here’s why” stage, where you state your argument and then back it up with relevant facts that support your argument. An important thing to remember about the confirmation is that it can’t be derogatory towards the other side of the debate, because that decimates an author’s ethical appeal; instead, it must consist of stating an opinion and backing it up without attacking the other’s side.

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4) Refutatio

Refuting my opponent’s side? Heck yes! Here’s where authors get to explain why their opponents are (respectfully) wrong. This would be a good time to say things like “this piece of evidence supporting the opposition is faulty because…” and “although this person said this, the facts say this other thing.” An important part of the refutation is ceding to an opponent’s most powerful point, because it gives the argument ethical appeal; if the debater is unable to cede to an opponent’s point, even if it is correct, then the rhetorical balance of debate is lost, and what was a beneficial rhetorical debate turns into an actual argument. The order of the refutation and the confirmation can be switched depending on what works best for each individual debate, but most people tend to refute their opponents after they argue their stance so that the reasons their opponents are incorrect tend to stick in their reader’s minds.

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5) Peroratio

The peroration isn’t simply the conclusion of a rhetorical debate: it’s where the strongest emotional appeal is used. This emotional appeal should remind the reader of the importance and value of the writer’s topic and opinion, while also cementing their own opinion (that hopefully coincides with the writer’s opinion). The peroration can be quite difficult; however, when it’s done correctly, it leaves readers emotionally engaged in the topic, with a favourable opinion of the author, and with an opinion of their own about the topic (which is the intent of a rhetorical debate). I personally tend to weave the peroratio into some kind of narrative (probably because I’m a fiction writer and it’s what I do best), but it can be done many different ways.

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Isn’t rhetoric cool? I mean, it takes the basic essay structure we’ve all been learning since fourth grade and amplifies it to a whole new level, making it more effective, more structured, and more mind-blowing. I stand by my statement that rhetoric is the coolest thing because once you understand it and start using it, rhetoric will change your life. I promise. The best part? The five-point classical disposition is only the tip of the iceberg of amazing things that rhetoric offers (and you’ll hear about the rest in the future).

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Are you ready to take on some rhetorical debates?

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-K

 

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Burpees, EMOMs, and Lots of Sweat: Workout #1

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about motivation and taking the steps towards getting that first workout in the bag, but we haven’t spent very much time talking about exactly how to work out if you’re doing it at home. Today, we’re going to run through a basic workout plan that’ll be good to start you off if you’re beginning your workout ventures in the comfort of your own home. I’ll take you through a brief warm-up, a workout that’ll hit most of the major muscles in your body, and then some light stretching to do at the end. Now you’ll have no excuse to avoid that first step any longer!

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Warm-Up (5 min):

Like I’ve said before, warming up before you start your workout is extremely important, not only because it gives your muscles a chance to prepare for the workout ahead, but also because it gets your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and your mind ready to work hard. Warm-Ups can be anywhere from two or three minutes to half an hour long, so how long you do things for and how many things you do will vary depending on the specific warmup. Here’s a pretty basic 5-minute warmup to get that blood flowing and get your body ready to go.

1) Running on the Spot (1 min)

2) Jumping Jacks (1 min)

3) Push-ups (1 min)

4) Sit-ups (1 min)

5) Squats (1 min)

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Workout (8 min):

Excellent! Now that your body is warm and your muscles are primed, you’ve probably already started to break a sweat, which is important: we don’t save our sweat exclusively for the workout. Today’s workout is called an EMOM, which stands for Every Minute On the Minute (not an electronic mother like I thought it was the first time I heard it). This means that you have 1 minute to do a full circuit of the exercises, and then you have to start again. If it takes you 50 seconds to complete the exercises, then you get 10 seconds of rest before you start again. If it takes you 30 seconds to complete the exercises, you get 30 seconds of rest before you start again at the top of the minute. This is an 8-minute workout, so try to push yourself: you only have to do everything 8 times!
1) 6 Burpees (because 5 isn’t enough and 7 is too many)

2) 10 Lunges

3) 10 Mountain-Climbers

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Stretching:

Yay! You made it! Congratulations: I’m excited that you pushed your way through! Don’t you feel good? It may not have sounded like a hard workout when you started, but it turned out to be pretty difficult, right? If it wasn’t, then next time, either add more minutes to your time, or more repetitions of the exercises. Now it’s time to stretch, relax, and get ready to get back to work (or schoolwork if you’re a university student like me).

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Sitting Stretches:

1) Spread your legs as wide apart as you can, point your toes to the sky, and walk your hands forward as far as you can (hold 30s x2)

2) Put your feet together in front of you and reach down to touch your toes (hold 30s x2)

3) Put the balls of your feet together, pull them in towards your body, and use your elbows to push your knees to the floor (hold 30s x2)

Standing Stretches:

1) Grab one of your feet and pull it towards your butt. Point your knee towards the ground (hold 30s/leg)

2) Place your feet one shoulder-width apart and reach down to try and touch your toes (hold 30s)

3) Reach one arm across your chest, and hug it tightly to your chest with your other arm (hold 30s/arm)

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All done! See? Easy as pie! Working out sounds extremely difficult, time-consuming, and painful, but in reality, it’s as easy as taking a half-hour out of your day for some ‘you’ time. Now that you’ve done your first workout, why not try a second? A third? This exercise can be done once a day (or more), and once you work your strength and endurance up, you can increase your repetitions or the amount of minutes for your EMOM. If you want to switch up the exercises because something isn’t working as well as they can for you, do it, just make sure that they’re working similar muscles. Good work, friends! Now go and enjoy the rest of your day, knowing that you’ve done your physical activity for the day.

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Don’t hate me when your muscles hurt tomorrow!

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-K

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Words, Acceptance, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Importance of Theme in Today’s Society

I never watched Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child, but recently, when one of my good friends found out I hadn’t seen it, he made it his mission to make sure I watched it. He talked me into it using the music —we bonded over our love for Alan Menken soundtracks— and he was appalled that I hadn’t heard any of the music from the film. When we sat down to watch it, I will admit, I was expecting another The Little Mermaid or Tangled, and boy was I wrong.

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Not only was the music absolutely fantastic (that’s a research paper for another day), but the plots and the subplots also absolutely captured my mind, body, and soul. The film’s themes wouldn’t necessarily be captured and understood entirely by the children that the film is directed towards, but for the adults watching, there are a plethora of different thematic concepts that the film asks viewers to consider. Now, I’m not here to give you a summary of the film (mostly because I’m going to highly encourage you to re-watch it at your earliest convenience); instead, I’m here to point out some of the most important themes in the film and remind you why, in today’s society, they are quite possibly more prevalent today society than they were in 1996 when the film was first released.
Firstly and foremostly, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is about acceptance: accepting people who are different not for their beliefs, values, religions, sexualities, looks, or genders, but for who they are. Quasimodo, the hunchback, longs to be able to walk the streets with the people down below, but his master, Frollo (who is a capital B-Butthead), reminds him that because he is deformed, he is a monster, and will never be accepted into society. The film is about the realization that who people are inside is more important than what people look like, for both Quasimodo himself and also for the people around him (the scholar in me also has to point out that this theme of acceptance by far surpasses physical boundaries, and could be used for any person who feels they don’t quite fit into societal norms). This film teaches its viewers, on both a conscious and subconscious level, that it doesn’t matter what people look like: it’s who they are that really matters.

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The second-most important theme that I saw in the film (though it may not be an often-considered theme) is the power of words. Quasimodo only believes he is a monster because Frollo tells him so, and it’s Frollo’s words that instill fear in Quasimodo and cause him to hold back on his dreams for fear of them becoming true (partly due to the fact that Frollo’s voice is the only one Quasimodo hears, save those of the gargoyles). In the same way, Esmerelda’s positive words when she stands up for Quasimodo in the marketplace bring him hope as he realizes, for the first time in his life, that perhaps Frollo could be wrong, and that some people may see him for who he is and not the monster he appears to be. The most important word I caught in the film, the one that brought the most happiness to my heart, was the word “friend”. When Quasimodo chases Phoebus away as he searches for Esmerelda, Phoebus tells Quasimodo that Esmerelda is lucky to have a friend like him. The power that Phoebus’s words have on Quasimodo is nigh unexplainable: it rocks his world to realize that he has made a friend, and that friend believes in him. “Friend” is the fuel that fires Quasimodo’s desire to help Esmerelda escape Frollo, because “she is my friend, and I’m going to help her”. Words are powerful, and the effects they have on a person can be life-altering, both in a positive and negative way, and it’s never too early to realize their importance.

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The reason these two themes are extremely pertinent in today’s society really shouldn’t be a question in anyone’s minds; however, I’m going to go over some very important reasons we should all be considering these themes in our everyday lives anyway. Acceptance, and lack thereof, especially in light of the recent American directive in regards to transgender people in the military, is something that needs some serious consideration today. In general, acceptance requires people to people-up and be okay with those who have different beliefs, thoughts, and feelings on topics. Nearly every major battle in history has, to some degree, dealt with a lack of acceptance, and if we all managed to get off our high-horses and recognize that people are people and it’s who they are inside that really matter, the human race would probably be far better off than it is right now. Another incredibly pertinent application of acceptance can be found in the refugee crisis. Just as the gypsies were hated and chased form city to city, so are today’s refugees. Some countries are welcoming to these refugees, other countries meet refugees with an unwelcoming fence. Also, the words we communicate to other people in person, on Twitter (*coughs aggressively*), and in any other medium have great power, especially now that they can go out to the entire word with the click of a single button. The words we use have great power and great meaning to a great many people, and we need to remember that.

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And all of these lessons and more can be found in a Disney film (very different from the novel or the stage play). Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case.

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Be nice to each other (and go watch the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Stat. Please.)

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-K

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The Mortal Enemies of Good-Grammarians: Spellcheck and Autocorrect

Yes, autocorrect, I really do mean to say Obi-Wan, not obliterate. Thank you for trying, though. No, spellcheck, that it’s really shouldn’t be its. Don’t make me question everything I know about possessives. Thank you autocorrect, but I really did mean Jessica, not Jesus: I’m really not best friends with God. Spellcheck, please stop trying to tell me that I’m spelling Biaria wrong. It’s a fictional country I’ve created—I think I of all people would know how to spell it properly.

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Spellcheck is both a blessing and a sin. On one hand, it helps us ensure we’re using the basic rules of proper grammar because yes, spellcheck can recognize that a person is correct and an person is incorrect. It will regognize when we spell words incorrectly (like I just did) and tell us that we should fix them. Yet it won’t recognize other important factors in writing like the difference or consistency of using colour vs color, and occasionally will even mix up the difference between than and then (even now, spellcheck is trying to tell me than should be then or that). It’s in these later cases that the most major issue of spellcheck enters: the errors.

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We all know the struggles of sending the text message before we read it, and we especially know the ‘oh crap’ moment when we realise we’ve sent a totally different message than we intended to. We’ve probably all sent one of those messages to a boss, a crush, or someone else important in our lives and wanted nothing more than to hide in a hole instead of being forced to correct ourselves for not looking at what we were typing. Although autocorrect can be helpful in terms of turning taht to that if we’re typing too quickly and jumble up some words, sometimes autocorrect tends to break rule number one of the copyediting mantra; something that we grammarians take very seriously in our lives.

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I SHALL NEVER INTRODUCE AN ERROR INTO A TEXT. As an editor, I live by the copyeditors mantra, and whenever I edit, my worst fear is that I’ve inadvertently caused an error by trying to right a different wrong. As an editor, introducing an error into an already clean text is the biggest taboo physically possible; after all, you’re there to correct the wrongs, not to create more of them. It’s here that autocorrect and spellcheck fail us grammarians in every way possible: even though their purpose is to edit behind us, if we ourselves aren’t well-versed in all the strange doings of the English language, it could ask us to change a correct sentence into an incorrect one.

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Now, the level of importance in autocorrect changes slightly; when you think about it, the importance of a grammatically correct multi-million dollar building proposal is way higher than a grammatically perfect text to your mother telling her you’re out with your friends. The importance of proper spelling and grammar in texting is an entirely different blog post topic, but I will say that it’s important to at least get your point across without random words spotting your screen and making your point unfindable. If you’re trying to say you’re making plans going to the zoo but your phone changes it to zoology (something I’ve seen before!) you may end up with some very confused friends that end up in a classroom instead of standing in front of the sea lion exhibit at the zoo. The changing of a certain swear word that starts with an F to ‘duck’ isn’t nearly as important. It’s all a matter of perspective.

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What does this mean? Should we immediately call an end to spellcheck and autocorrect to save good grammar? Probably not. I mean, if not everyone is well-versed enough in the English language to be able to know when spellcheck is wrong, then there’s no way that everyone is able to live without spellcheck. As much crap as it gets, it really does provide us with an important service: it fixes the majority of our grammatical errors, and only occasionally sprinkles our correct work with errors. The important difference that we have to recognize between ourselves and spellcheck/autocorrect is that whereas we can recognize that some things are correct in theory and incorrect in practice, all spellcheck and autocorrect recognize is the theory: no practice. Therefore, instead of advocating for an end to all autocorrect and spellcheck, I’ll advocate for something that’s been advocated for years: using one’s own brain to decide what the correct answer really is. Think before you type, dear friends, because the grammatical decisions you make are on your head, not that of spellcheck or autocorrect. Be your own smarter, self-aware, grammatical genius version of spellcheck and autocorrect; after all, that’s the best way to ensure your knowledge is really shining through in whatever piece you may be writing.

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Be smart, fellow grammarians.

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-K

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Just Do It: How to Crush Your Workout Blues

Today, let’s get down and dirty as we talk about the hardest part about working out: actually doing it. I totally get it; I mean, it’s hard to get out of bed early in the morning to take on your 6 am bootcamp class and possibly even harder to get up off the couch after a long day at work to do your 7:45pm Taekwon-Do class. Just ask me: I’ve done both. I’ve talked to lots of people that find they have the motivation to be active and try new activities, but either don’t know where to start or have trouble physically motivating themselves to do it in the moment. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve found helpful to make and keep a fitness schedule, as well as find that motivation in the moment to commit, get up, and go.

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From the very beginning, working out is hard. Making the decision that you want to work out and get fit is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t count for very much unless you’re prepared to actually do it, and let’s be real, like all things, the novelty wears off after a while and it gets really easy to start staying home instead of going to the gym.

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My first suggestion to you is to find yourself a darn good workout partner. Someone at a relatively close fitness level to you would be ideal, but depending on what kind of workout you’re doing, it may not matter if you can lift more weight than your partner can. Having a workout partner not only makes your workouts more enjoyable; it also means you have someone to show up at your doorstep and drag your butt off the couch on days you just aren’t feeling those weights (don’t worry—you’ll get to do it right back to your partner the week after).

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Secondly, make a schedule. I know that schedules don’t always work and things change, but if you can pick a time once or twice a week (say Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:45-7) and make that your undisputed workout time, you’ll be far more likely to honour your commitment than if you do a weekly schedule and suddenly it’s Friday and oh, well, we’ll do it next week. Making a commitment is a big step: don’t be afraid to do it! Don’t let coffee dates and extra work interrupt your workout time—that’s your time that you’ve earned. Enjoy it!

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Third, find something you enjoy. If you would rather brave the depths of hell than run, don’t run! There are hundreds of thousands of different ways to work out, and I can guarantee you you’ll find one you love. Try different things: a kickboxing class here, some aquafit there, and maybe even the occasional spin class. Find something you enjoy and then pursue it. If you aren’t into scheduled classes, plan your workouts to include all your muscle groups, but keep the exercises you dislike to a minimum. If you don’t like pushups, find another exercise that works those very same muscles, but is far more enjoyable. Don’t make working out painful: make it fun instead! That way, it’ll be a thousand times easier to get up off that couch after a long day of work.

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Finally, don’t let yourself get discouraged. Take your time: the right workout for you isn’t going to jump out of a box and punch you in the face. It takes time and effort to find something you are really passionate about. I found my sport when I was 9; my mother didn’t find her sport till she had a 9-year-old. The only thing I can promise you is that eventually your efforts will be rewarded. Get out there. Try new things. Push yourself. It sounds easy and instantly gratifying, but I can promise you that it can be difficult, and that if you commit to finding something, you will in the end. You can do it, dear readers. I believe in you!

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Work hard, friends!

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-K

 

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One 70s Show to Rule Them All: The Hardy Boys

The highlight of the 70s (at least for me) can be found in one single television show. Showcasing 70s fashion, music, ideals, and acting, this show is unquestionably the best imagination of one of my favorite childhood series. A little bit of murder, a lot of mystery, and some absolutely fantastic character charisma lead this show to the top of my most-watched list. It makes me laugh, cry, and occasionally hide my face in a pillow when second-hand embarrassment takes me over, and it is by far the greatest show the 70s ever produced. Which show is it, you may ask?

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The Hardy Boys. One of the most popular children’s series in history, reimagined into a beautiful, engaging, and exciting television show. The Hardy Boys were the brain child of Edward Stratermeyer in 1927. Stratermeyer sent the idea to a Canadian author, Leslie McFarlane, asking him to write the first novel. Though McFarlane had sworn he would never write children’s mystery novels again (apparently he wasn’t a huge fan of Dave Fearless), he fell in love with the Hardy Boys, and ended up writing the first 26 novels. The novels were a huge hit worldwide, and have sold hundreds of millions of copies. Even though the first Hardy Boys novel was written in June of 1927—almost 100 years ago—today, you can walk into any bookstore and be guaranteed to find at least one Hardy Boys book gracing their shelves.

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Now, I could talk about the Hardy Boys forever (which all my university professors know because I’ve written at least three papers on the subject); however, my purpose today is to focus on the little things that make the Hardy Boys TV series just so fantastic. To keep me from going off on yet another 6-page rave about the series, I’ll stick to the 2 most important things this show has done to stay true to the books, but to also attract viewers of all ages to the mystery-filled world of the infamous Bayport detectives.

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First and foremost, let’s talk casting. I mean, casting can make-or-break TV shows, and in the case of the Hardy Boys, the casting 100% makes it. Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy brought Frank and Joe to life in a way that I didn’t even think was possible. Stevenson makes being the logical, level-headed older brother look easy, and embodied Frank Hardy’s character to a T—down to the cautious, protective elder brother, that cool calm in dangerous situations, and being the brains of the operation. Shaun Cassidy plays Joe’s character perfectly; the charm, humour, and sass made me fall in love with Joe (and Shaun) all over again. Another thing I love about Shaun Cassidy’s portrayal of Joe is that he gives Joe an extra emotional depth that isn’t there in the books, but I find it makes his character more real and relatable (plus it makes me cry more: can we TALK about Sole Survivor??). The two banter together as if they were real brothers, which isn’t only hilarious—it also brings out that brotherly bond that’s central to both the show and the books.

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Side note: I absolutely love the fact that popular singers of the time like Ricky Nelson, Paul Williams, and David Gates make appearances in the show, because it expands the musical side to the show that centrals around Shaun Cassidy, and explores other famous faces of the 70s, By showcasing the music of the 70s, these casting choices help cement 70s culture into the show in a way that would have been extremely difficult to do otherwise

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Secondly, let’s talk writing. The writing and planning of a show essentially make up itself, and we all know that even beautifully-planned, wonderfully acted shows can go to shit if they’re poorly written. In terms of book-to-movie translations, writing is probably the most important factor in keeping both book fans and movie critics happy. The writing for the Hardy Boys was absolutely fan-freaking-tastic. There weren’t any episodes that were right out of the books, but a few episodes in the first season were loosely based off of the books, such as the Disappearing Floor and the Mystery of Witches’ Hollow. I’ll admit it, there were some episodes in which the writing just didn’t do it for me: I wasn’t a huge fan of the Disappearing Floor, and I still can’t handle how unrealistic Frank’s random obsession with that swimmer is to his character in Death Surf; however, the vast majority of the writing is absolutely fantastic. The character development we see in Sole Survivor and The Last Kiss of Summer especially got me, because it’s the strong writing that really brings these characters through. I found that the writers really stayed true to the essence of what it means to be a Hardy Boy, and they kept the beautiful innocence of the mysteries the boys solved entirely intact.

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s about time to replay Shaun Cassidy’s Born Late vinyl (again) whilst I agonize over which of these beautiful Hardy Boys episodes I want to watch. Hmm. Decisions, Decisions.

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Peace out, mystery nerds.

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-K

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Semicolons 101: How and Where to Properly Use a Semicolon

Okay, let’s get this out there: no one really knows how to use a semicolon. Most of us just dawdle through our everyday emails, essays, and texts and think “oh, I’ll replace this comma with a semicolon to spice it up a little.” If you weren’t already sure, that’s probably not the greatest approach to take, not only because it shows that you really don’t know how to use a semicolon, but also because if the reader is someone like me who’s super fussy about her semicolons, you’re probably going to get a reply with as any properly-used semicolons as physically possible just to prove a point. Am I a little passive-aggressive about my semicolon usage? I wonder…

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My intention today, dear readers, is to make it crystal clear in regards to how and when semicolons should be used. Now, admittedly that’s going to be pretty difficult, because you all know how the English language works— it’s exception after exception after exception. I’ll cover most of the basic rules, and leave you with sources and resources that you can use if you ever run into a terribly difficult semicolon debacle.

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The biggest issue that people have with a semicolon is that it has two distinct purposes: it can serve as either a strong comma or a weak period. Let’s look at these examples, which will help us understand the ever-elusive semicolon concept.

It is late. The meeting must start soon.

It is late; the meeting must start soon.

There are two ideas in the first example, which are separated into two sentences: the idea that it is late, and the idea that the meeting needs to start soon. Now, these ideas may be separated by a period, but they are connected through a thought. We as readers understand that the meeting has to start because it is late, which means that we are inherently connecting the two ideas in our minds even though they are separate sentences. This means that instead of separating the two ideas with a period, we could instead join them with a semicolon, which will link them more strongly together and help us readers understand the importance of their connection. Remember that this can only be used with two proper sentences—you absolutely cannot use a semicolon to connect a sentence with a sentence fragment.

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The sights the tour will cover can be found in Italy, Rome, and Paris, include the Tomb of King Tut, Birkenau, and Niagara Falls, and will take place in four countries, six cities, and nineteen hotel rooms.

The sights the tour will cover can be found in Italy, Rome, and Paris; include the Tomb of King Tut, Birkenau, and Niagara Falls; and will take place in four countries, six cities, and nineteen hotel rooms.

Now, let’s be real: aside from the obvious factual mistakes in the first sentence that would make any normal person shake their head in absolute confusion, the sentence itself is quite a lot to follow. Is the author trying to insinuate that the sights the tour is covering can be found in Niagara Falls and Birkenau, or that they will cover four countries while still in Italy? Long, convoluted lists that are peppered with commas are a great place to use some semicolons to separate the lists more definitively than yet another comma would. Here, the semicolon is showing the separation between “Italy, Rome, and Paris”, “the Tomb of King Tut, Birkenau, and Niagara Falls”, and “four countries, six cities, and nineteen hotel rooms” (admittedly, this is another way of phrasing the sentence, but the semicolon method makes most sense and looks most professional).

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In theory, any end-of-sentence (terminal) punctuation mark can be replaced by a semicolon and used to join two sentences, and any semicolon that’s separating two ideas (clauses) can be replaced by a terminal period and separate two sentences. You have to understand that in no way am I encouraging you to go through and start peppering your own work with semicolons just because you’ve read this blog and you think you understand how to properly use semicolons. Just as you spend time agonizing over the words and phrasing in your writing, you should also agonize over your punctuation use. Would your sentence be stronger with a period or a semicolon? Do you create a sentence that’s too long and confusing to follow with your semicolon? Does a semicolon or a comma work better to drive your point home? You have to ask yourself these questions before just throwing a semicolon in because it looks smart. Remember, if you use the semicolon incorrectly, you’re more likely to look bad than if you actually consider how and when you’re going to use it. Because I just can’t get enough of my favorite punctuation mark (and because this next thing is actually super cool and useful), here’s one more example of ways you can use semicolons effectively.

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The meeting is at my house, which means I spent lots of time cleaning today.

The meeting is at my house; therefore, I have spent lots of time cleaning today.

My favorite place to use semicolons in sentences is before a conjunctive adverb such as therefore, consequently, or however. In my head, it sounds extremely professional to say something like “I believe that this may be a viable option; however, we have to consider the cost it could potentially reap”. Now, in this case, either a semicolon or a comma could be used; however, I find that the semicolon puts more emphasis on the pause before the conjunctive adverb which puts a greater weight on the second half of the statement you’re making. Pro-tip: use semicolons and conjunctive adverbs to really push those important argumentative statements in papers and theses. Professors will love it!

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Congratulations! You now know how to properly use a semicolon! Now you can go forth into the English language and show off the fact that you actually understand one of the most misused punctuation marks. Doesn’t it feel good? Don’t let all this knowledge get to your head though; rememberthat there are exceptions after exceptions after exceptions when it comes to semicolons. I’ve listed a few books and websites you can check out if you ever have any semicolon concerns. If my sources can’t help you out, you can always tweet your questions at me, or send me a message on Instagram!

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Good luck, fellow grammar nerds

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-K

 

Sources:

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Semicolons.html

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/semicolon