OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

Handy Tips for Using Bullet Points

Image courtesy of Danel Solabarrieta (CC 2.0 Flickr)

 

These days people are too busy to read long texts, so improving readability has become important. Make content uncomplicated and interesting to read, and you may have the reader’s attention.

 

Bullet points can be very handy in this context, as they help break up clunky text into tidy chunks that are easy to take in. Use a bulleted list, and your text begins to look organised, with all the important points highlighted.

 

Though there are no hard and fast rules about using them, here are some tips to help you.

 

Keep it uniform

A bulleted list should be uniform. For example, make the text following all bullet points fragments, complete sentences, or questions; do not combine different forms.

 

Punctuate if necessary

Broadly speaking, if a bullet point is a complete sentence, it should begin with a capital letter and end in a full stop. On the other hand, if each bullet point comprises a fragment, these things don’t matter.

 

Avoid linking words

It is best to avoid linking words (e.g. firstly, secondly, thirdly), as they are unnecessary; bullet points naturally introduce a sense of structure to the text. Linking expressions, if added, may slow down the reading process, so leave them out.

 

Keep it short

Brevity is the key to making bullet points noticeable, so avoid making them extremely long. Ideally, bullet points shouldn’t look like paragraphs. Remember, the longer the text following a bullet point, the lower its impact.

 

Create parallel lists

Try to have similar-looking words at the beginning of each bullet point – for instance, start with action verbs or nouns. That way, it is much easier for the reader to follow the text.

 

Use numbers if necessary

If you have a lot to include, say more than five points, it may be better to have a numbered list instead of a bulleted one.  The reader can then easily refer to each point by quoting the corresponding number.

 

Overall, there’s no doubt that bullet points can make content attractive and easy to read, but overuse will most certainly lessen their impact.  So, steer clear of too many bullet-pointed sections when you put together a text.

 

 

 

GLOSSARY                                                                                                              

 

clunky
Form : adjective
Meaning : heavy in a way that is awkward
Example : His house is full of clunky furniture.

 

take in
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to understand something that your read
Example : Irene felt sleepy while reading the manual, so she didn’t take in most of the details.

 

hard and fast
Form : phrase
Meaning : describes something that cannot be changed
Example : There are no hard and fast rules about who can use this car park.

 

fragment
Form : noun
Meaning : a smaller piece of something larger
Example : I overheard fragments of the conversation that my parents had in the kitchen.

 

 

brevity
Form : noun
Meaning : the use of few words while speaking or writing
Example : The brevity of her speech surprised us – it was over in less than a minute.

 

steer clear (of something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : to try to avoid something
Example : You are diabetic, so steer clear of desserts at the party.

 

 

 

Deike’s Story: Globetrotting With IELTS

IELTS Award winner Deike (right) tells us about her work, experiences abroad and study goals.

Congratulations on winning your IELTS Award! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background? Where are you from and what are you studying or working on at the moment?

Deike: I’m from the northern part of Germany; I was born in East Friesland which is where the name Deike is from. It’s quite an unusual name that even most Germans have never heard of. I have a background in medicine, more specifically in paediatrics. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, so after completing my degree in Medicine at the Medical School Münster, I specialised in paediatrics, working with children with cancer. After a year, I was given the opportunity to go abroad to work in a hospital in Peru for four months which was a great and intense experience. As this project was developing so well, we decided to do another project to help children in Myanmar. We worked in a hospital there with local doctors to identify the most pressing needs. We found that the main problem was incorrect diagnoses, leading to wrong treatments. We tried to help by sending a specialist over to train the doctors in diagnostics which made a huge difference. I then went to Africa with the organisation German DoctorsOpens in a new tab or window. to work in the second biggest slum in Nairobi, treating babies and young children. This experience has had a tremendous impact on my life and my ambition to help more children through structural changes in the healthcare system.

How did you find out about IELTS and this Awards programme?

Deike: The study programme I wanted to apply for required proof of English language proficiency. I compared different language tests and decided on IELTS as it is globally recognised and had a test centre near my hometown of Oldenburg. I found out about the IELTS Award while checking the British Council Germany website for information about the IELTS test.

You’ve already told us a bit about your work with children in Germany and abroad. Will this be the focus of your studies?

Deike: I doing a Master in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineOpens in a new tab or window.. The reason for doing this is that after all my experience in working with children in Africa, Myanmar, Peru and at home, what I felt I really wanted to do was not only help single children with acute problems, such as malnutrition, but to get to the cause of the problems and help change these, in order to be able to help a lot of children, not only one single child at the time. This is what Public Health is about – improving and maintaining the health of a whole population through structural changes in the healthcare system.

What made you choose the institution and destination for your Master’s programme?

Deike: After deciding that I wanted to study Public Health I looked up which institutions offered this programme and compared their rankings. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and education in the health sector. They have excellent facilities and some of the best professors to learn from, which were the main reasons for my choice. That the school is located in London is the cherry on top!

Why do you think studying or working abroad is important to young people’s lives and development?   

Deike: As we live in a globalised world I think it gets more and more important to not only think of your own country or culture, but to get to know and engage with other people with different cultural backgrounds. Especially if you work in a field with a more global outlook, it’s important that you move around, travel and get involved with different cultures, which for me, always equals personal growth.

Finally, where did you take your IELTS test and how was the test experience for you? Would you recommend this test to others who are aiming to study abroad?

Deike: I took my IELTS test in Bremen which is very close to where I live. They offered different slots and I found one that suited me perfectly. On the test day, I felt that everything was really well organised and structured. I always knew what I had to do which helped me focus on the actual tasks. I enjoyed all four parts of the test, but must admit that I was a bit rusty with my writing, mainly as I hadn’t written a free text in a while. I would recommend IELTS to everyone and was pleased with the organisation and experience of the test.

Thank you for these great insights, Deike!

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 5)

Image courtesy of Shibby777 (cc 2.o Flickr)

In this final part of the punctuation series, let’s consider ellipsis and two kinds of brackets: square and round.

 

Ellipsis

An ellipsis is a set of three dots (…) that are evenly spaced. It’s most commonly used to show omission, i.e. not including some words in a sentence, usually ones that aren’t important.

 

Used Example
to shorten quotations The rule book clearly states that “members must return any borrowed item ….”
to indicate hesitation See, the thing is … he’s broke.

 

Remember, if the ellipsis appears at the end of a sentence, it is placed along with the full stop, making it a series of four dots.

 

Square bracket

Square brackets can introduce an explanation that provides clarification, or may provide a short translation of a foreign word that appears in a quoted sentence. They may also be used to indicate that the writer feels something in the original material is a possible error.

 

Used Example
to provide clarification The year I got married [2007] was an important one in my life.
to provide short translations of words in quoted materials Diana says in the interview: “He whispered je t’aime [I love you] as I walked by.”
to indicate a possible error The book says he was born in Venice [Verona?].

 

Round bracket

Also known as parentheses, round brackets are mostly used to add extra information; this may be a single word, fragment or complete sentence.

 

Used Example
to provide additional information The governor (and his family) will attend today’s event.
to provide short translations of words He said cześć (hello) as soon as he saw me.
to expand abbreviations or acronyms that the reader may not be familiar with She became CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of the company in 2012.

 

It is worth remembering that the content between brackets should not be grammatical integral to the main sentence.

 

Punctuation is one of the simplest language features to learn, so use it appropriately; people will think you are being careless if you don’t!

The View From Campus: How You Can Finance U.S. Studies

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

This month’s article features Aimee Thostenson, Director of International Student Recruitment, at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Ms. Thostenson explains one of the most critical elements to successfully studying in the United States: funding your years of education.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words? Large, research, public, comprehensive, urban

 

For what is your institution best known overseas? High-quality and top-ranked academic programs, great metropolitan location, affordable tuition and many opportunities for students to get involved outside the classroom

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

  • Top 5 countries represented in programs at all levels: China, Republic of Korea, India, Malaysia & Vietnam
  • 13% of all students are international, 9% at the undergraduate and 23% at the graduate level. The University of Minnesota Twin Cities enrolls students from 130 countries

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

Students can submit IELTS results as part of their application for admission.  At the undergraduate level, our minimum for admission consideration is 6.5 overall with a 6.5 section score in writing.  Graduate programs require 6.5 overall with 6.5 section scores for both writing and reading.

 

What are the best sources of funding for international students coming to the U.S.? 

  • Some universities will offer merit-based scholarships, which means that they award the scholarships based primarily on a student’s academic record or grades.
  • Universities may also offer need-based awards, based on the student’s family financial situation. Make sure to check with each university on how this works.
  • Sometimes, universities may offer special scholarships because of a personal attribute or talent, like a scholarship specifically for students who play a particular instrument or intend to go into a particular program/major.
  • Sports or athletic scholarships are also an option, but they are often extremely competitive
  • Graduate students, in addition to merit and need-based scholarships, may be eligible for assistantships (teaching or research under the direction of a faculty member).
  • Usually, assistantships mean that the full or partial cost of tuition is waived and the assistant may receive other benefits like a salary and health insurance.
  • One additional benefit of F-1 immigration status is that international students are allowed to do off-campus internships, paid or unpaid, during their academic program (called Curricular Practical Training) provided the internship is directly related to the student’s academic program.
  • International students may be eligible for educational loans if they have a US citizen or permanent resident cosign the loan for them.
  • Some international students may be eligible for third party funding, for example, from a future employer or sponsoring agency.  This would be up to the student to investigate on his or her own.  A good resource for this kind of funding is the EducationUSA network.

 

For graduate degree seeking students, what is the best advice for finding institutional aid?

Graduate students should be in contact with the academic department directly about funding opportunities.  Graduate admission officers also can assist prospective students to find the right person.

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 4)

Image courtesy of Iain Farrell (CC 2.0 Flickr)

 

In this part of the series on punctuation, we’ll explore different uses of the colon, semicolon, and slash.

 

Colon

The colon usually introduces a list or an explanation. It can also appear before direct speech, or be used to highlight the last part of a sentence.

 

Used Example
before a list We need the following: eggs, butter, sugar, and flour.
to introduce an explanation My motto is simple: live and let live.
to signal direct speech (i.e. a speaker’s actual words) She pleaded: ‘Please let me in!’
to highlight a single word or phrase at the end of a sentence Having starved for two days, I had only one thought: food.

 

Semicolon

Stronger than a comma, weaker than a full stop: this is possibly the simplest way to define the function of a semicolon. Its main use is to separate sentences that are closely linked.

 

Used Example
between two sentences that are too closely linked to be separated by a full stop Students can’t use mobile phones in class; teachers can in an emergency.
in a long list with internal commas We have stores in Bremen, Germany; Krakow, Poland; and Moscow, Russia.
between two independent clauses joined by a transitional phrase (e.g. consequently, for instance, thus) It has been raining heavily since yesterday; consequently, many trains have been cancelled.

 

Slash

Also known as the virgule, the slash has several functions but is seldom used in formal writing.

 

Used Example
to carry the meaning per 100 km/h
as shorthand for or Each passenger must carry his/her passport at all times.
to carry the meaning cum Don’s dad was his manager/coach till 2005.
in abbreviations c/o (short for care of)
to indicate a period spanning two years 2015/16 season
to show the connection between two things The London/New York flight is delayed.

 

Just like how the meaning of spoken words can vary, depending on the use of various pronunciation features such as tone or pausing, the meaning of written words may change by the use of punctuation marks. So, as far as punctuation goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Postgraduate Studies: How to Invest in Your Future

Image courtesy of Colin Howley (CC 2.0 Flickr)

For many, the idea of committing to further education and postgraduate study can seem like a daunting prospect. But the benefits to your career far outweigh the time taken to do them. Here are some things to consider when deciding if postgraduate study is right for you.

 

Money, money, money

Although postgraduate study can be expensive there are lots of funding schemes available and some courses are offered part-time, so you can keep working as you do them.

It’s true that career earnings for those with postgraduate qualifications is on average higher, but you won’t necessarily start off in a job on a higher salary, so it’s worth remembering that further studies are about investing in yourself for the long-term, not immediate financial gains.

 

Career goals

Postgraduate studies can help you change career as well as develop in your already chosen field. Many traditional careers expect you to have a postgraduate qualification as standard, so make sure you know what your studies can lead to in the world of work and how things might change. The nature of work is always changing, and so are the types of skills employers are looking for. Try to anticipate what the skills are you‘ll need to thrive in your career 20 years from now.

 

Networking  

Making contacts is a great way to kick-start your career and a lot of them can be found through postgraduate studies. Your professors will always have a great number of contacts that you should make the most of. You don’t have to devote all your time to it, but it’s a necessary evil – putting yourself out there can help you land that first contract.

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 3)

Image courtesy of QuInn Domborwski (CC Flickr)

 

In the previous part, we covered some uses of the exclamation mark, question mark, and hyphen. Moving on, let’s take a closer look at three more punctuation marks, beginning with the dash.

 

  1. Dash

The dash and hyphen are often confused by many language learners, as they are similar in appearance. The difference, of course, is that the dash is wider than the hyphen. However, their usage is entirely different.

 

While a hyphen holds different parts of a word (or different words) together, a dash is used to separate non-essential information in a sentence. It can also be used in a sentence instead of a comma, semicolon, or colon.

 

Used Example
to separate information that is not essential to understand the sentence Getting the train ‒ though it’s often crowded ‒ is the fastest way to the city centre.
in place of a comma, semicolon, or colon, to show breaks in a sentence He lives in a cottage ‒ which was built in the 1950s ‒ beside the lake.

 

  1. Apostrophe

There are two main uses of the apostrophe: to show possession (i.e. something belongs to somebody) and to show omission (i.e. not including something).

 

Used Example
to show how a person or thing is related to, or belongs to, someone or something Ben’s car (= a car owned by Ben)
to indicate that letters or numbers have been left out she’ll (short for  she will) | We got married in ’83 (short for 1983).
with the plurals of letters and digits He hit four 6’s in an over. | There are two m’s in this word.

 

Using an apostrophe to form the plural form of decades or abbreviations is considered incorrect these days. For example:

 

1930s ✔ (1930’s)

several MPs ✔ (several MP’s)

 

  1. Quotation mark

Known as inverted commas in British English, quotation marks can be single (‘s’) or double (“d”). They are commonly used at the beginning and end of direct speech – i.e. words someone said that are written down exactly as they were spoken.

 

Used Example
to mark the beginning and end of direct speech The air hostess asked, “What would you like to have?”
to separate a word or phrase that is being discussed His new book is called ‘The Rising Sons’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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