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How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 2)

In the first part, we looked at two of the most widely used punctuation marks: full stops and commas.

 

This week’s post  explores some less common ones, starting with the exclamation mark (!)

 

Exclamation

Originally known as the note of admiration, an exclamation mark (also known as an exclamation point) is used to show strong forms of emotion: excitement, surprise, pleasure, anger, etc. It can also accompany words that represent sounds, or appear at the end of short commands.

 

Used Example
at the end of a short word or phrase that expresses an emotion Look out!

Ow! That really hurt!

after a word that represents a sound Bang!
at the end of a command Stop!

 

Question mark

As the name suggests, question marks go at the end of direct questions. Another use is in question tags, where a short question phrase is added at the end of a sentence to check if it is correct. Question marks are also sometimes added within brackets to signal that the writer is doubtful about what has just been said.

 

Used Example
at the end of direct questions Where were you born?
at the end of a question tag You eat red meat, don’t you?
to express doubt They say operating the new machine is quite easy (?).

 

Remember, you should not add a question mark after an indirect question. For example:

He asked me where I was going. ✔ (He asked me where I was going?)

 

Hyphen

The most important function of the hyphen is to link words or parts of words. Though its use has become less common over time, a hyphen is almost unavoidable when there are certain types of compounds (having two or more parts) in use.

 

Used Example
in compound adjectives a custom-made car
when two nouns (e.g. court martial) are turned into a compound verb to court-martial someone
when a phrasal verb (e.g. to break up)  is turned into a noun The break-up left him shattered.

 

Despite being one of the most important features of written English, punctuation is often taken lightly by most people; but skilled use of punctuation can help take your written English to the next level.

10 Tips for Applying for a Student Visa in the US

Good news! Over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80%, reaching 86% in the most recent statistics for 2013. So, with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.

 

Here’s our top ten countdown on how to do it…

 

10. Get your I-20

Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.

 

9. Check your passport

  • Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
  • Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!

 

8. Pay your SEVIS fee

Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.

 

7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application).

You will need most of the following items to complete this form:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
  • Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
  • Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
  • Admission letter from the college you will attend
  • Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
  • Dates of your last 5 visits to the United States (if any)

After completion the online DS-160 application, print off the DS-160 Bar Code page. You will not need to print the entire application.

 

6. Plan ahead 

You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus). In some countries there may be a substantial wait time to get an appointment, and, more importantly, to process your application. The good news is that student visa applicants are given priority.

 

5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you.

Using this site you’ll learn whether you can make your appointment online or by telephone. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).

 

4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country.

EducationUSA works closely with the U.S. consular officers that conduct the visa interviews. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.

 

3. Enjoy the experience

A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.

 

2. Talk to your friends

Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations. You can also check out how successful students help demystify the student visa process.

 

1. Breathe, relax, and be honest

You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there. Answer the visa officer’s questions honestly. Why did you pick the particular college you want to attend? How are you funding your studies? What are your plans after you finish your studies? It’s always a good idea to know how you might respond to these questions beforehand. 

 

Finally, good luck as you take this important next step!

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