How to make an effective and memorable ‘How to …’ Presentation

How to make a ‘How to …’ presentation that is effective and memorable.

A ‘How to …’ presentation is an informative talk in which you go through the completion of a task or a process by demonstrating how to complete it while going through a number of clear steps. Examples of possible topics for a ‘How to …’ presentation are:

  • How to tie your shoes correctly
  • How to set up a blog
  • How to speak with conviction
  • How to eradicate malaria
  • How to predict the weather
  • Etc.

In order to explain the completion of a task or process properly, it is important to clearly structure your talk by making sure you do these six things in order:

  1. Explain why it is necessary for the audience to listen to you
  2. Give them an overview of the entire process you are going to describe
  3. Divide the process into a number of steps and going over them one-by-one
  4. Describe each step, and show it (if possible)
  5. Discuss possible options, extras or variations (optional)
  6. Give a summary
  1. Explaining why

The first thing you need to do is come up with an effective opening in which you explain to your audience why it is important for them to listen to you. You do this by making clear which problem they will be able to solve after you are done speaking. When they know this, they will be motivated to listen to you because they will understand what is to be gained from it. Reasons for listening could be, for instance:

  • Earning money
  • Building a range of skills
  • Making life easier
  • Solving an important problem

It often helps to start your presentation with a story in order to paint a picture for your listener. For instance, if your talk is about how to learn to speak with conviction, you may want to start with a story about yourself in which you tell a story about a situation in which you were not able to do so, and the problems that caused you. You could then continue by describing how your life improved after having become a better speaker. A story like this allows you to build rapport with your audience because they will be able to put themselves in your shoes and relate to what you are saying.

  • Giving an overview of your entire process

Before describing the steps that need to be taken for the completion of whatever it is you are going to explain, it is important to give your listeners a clear overview of the entire process. This will provide a framework for the details you are going to talk about later. By doing so, you will allow your listeners to put the different steps of your process into context. You need to make sure you keep the framework simple, so it’s easy to understand.

  • The steps

Once you’ve given your audience an overview of your talk, you can move on to talking about the individual steps of your process, sticking to the core outline of your framework. Here the emphasis should be on how the steps are connected. Generally speaking, the simpler your series of steps is, the better. When your series contains optional steps or alternatives, it often works best to leave them until later so you can keep the emphasis on how the different steps in the series relate to each other. These connections should be clearly ‘signposted’ by using clear signaling language, like:

To move on, …

First, …

Finally, …

Etc.

  • Describing the steps

After mentioning the steps,  you need to explain what the different steps of your process are and describe (and possibly show) each step separately. You can do this by:

  • Explaining the purpose of each steps, or why each step is necessary
  • Making clear what needs to be done during each step
  • Showing how each step should be performed
  • Discussing options, extras or variations

If the process you are describing includes options, extras or variations, it is important to leave them until after you have completed the task or process description. This is because offering alternatives while describing the steps often leads to confusion in the audience. You need to keep the emphasis on the general process and leave any options or variations until the end.

  • Summarizing

Finally, you need to summarize the entire task or process for your audience and recap the benefits of following the steps you offered. This will be your ‘take-home message’, so your summary needs to be simple and easy to remember.

How to make an effective and memorable ‘How to …’ Presentation

About your visuals

When selecting the visuals for your ‘How to …’ presentation, remember that your own body is the best prop. Good body language is essential for making your talk effective and memorable. Also, keep in mind that physical props make what you are saying more real. This means that if you’re explaining how to tie your shoelaces correctly, bringing a pair of shoes to your presentation will have a positive effect on your audience. If your topic doesn’t allow you to bring physical props to your presentation, using photographs and diagrams instead, could also help you, as long as you keep them simple. Finally, make sure that all your visuals are big enough for everyone in your audience to see.

Revising Sentence Fragments

How to correct fragmented sentences that were created because the sentence lacks a subject, a verb, or both, or because the sentence does not express a complete thought

As the word ‘fragment’ suggests, a sentence fragment is a ‘part of’ a sentence. In other words, a sentence that is not complete. To be able to talk about sentence fragments it is important to talk about a sentence first.

For a group of words to form a complete sentence, it needs to first of all be a complete thought. This basically means that what is being expressed makes sense. The sentence should have a clear meaning by itself, without relying on other sentences around it to give it meaning.

Secondly, for a group of words to be a sentence, there needs to be a subject. This is the someone or the something that the sentence is about.

The third condition for a group of words to qualify as a sentence is that it needs to have a main verb. The main verb helps to explain what the subject (so the someone or something) is or does.

The following is an example of a complete sentence:

The researchers chose three random samples.

In this sentence ‘The researchers’ is the subject and ‘chose’ is the verb. Also, the sentence expresses a complete thought because it has a clear meaning by itself.

So, let’s move on to the sentence fragment.  In a sentence fragment, important information is missing and therefore it does not express a complete thought. These sentence fragments often occur in informal types of writing, for instance when the writer tries to use a more journalistic style, but in formal writing, fragments should not be used. Now, let’s look at these three examples of fragments:

Because the team made three awkward choices.

A plan with many risks involved.

Potential for making money everywhere.

There are four reasons groups of words are considered fragments.

  • There is a subject missing
  • The main verb is missing
  • They are both missing
  • The writer has created a subordinate clause.

The Subject is Missing

One way in which a sentence fragment can be created when you write a sentence that has no subject, like in this example:

By simply shipping more units can make this business profitable again.

Here the writer mistook the prepositional phrase ‘By simply shipping more units’ for a subject, which created the sentence fragment.  To correct this mistake, the preposition, so ‘By’ could be taken out, making the activity of ‘Simply shipping more units’ the subject of the sentence. Now it is a complete sentence that works.

The Main Verb is Missing

Sometimes a fragment is created because the sentence lacks a main verb, like in the following example:

Affordable products sold everywhere.

Possible revisions, in this case, could be either completing the verb, creating:

Affordable product were sold everywhere.

or turning the fragment into the direct object of the sentence by adding a subject and a verb. Like here:

They saw affordable products sold everywhere.

The Sentence Lacks a Subject and a Verb

Sometimes the subject and the verb are both missing from the sentence, like in this example:

Without a suitable explanation.

In this fragment there is no someone or something, doing or being anything, and it is also not a complete thought.  To revise this fragment, (to turn it into a sentence), a subject and a verb could be added, and the sentence would look something like this:

She left without a suitable explanation.

The Writer has Created a Subordinate Clause

The final reason why a group of words is a sentence fragment is that the writer has created a subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause, so a clause that needs independent clause to make a sentence).  A subordinate clause is a group of words that does contain a subject and a verb, but that does not express a complete thought because this type of clause needs to be combined with an independent clause to give it meaning. A subordinate clause by itself is a sentence fragment. Here is an example:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed.

To turn this fragment into a sentence it needs to be combined with an independent clause (In this case ‘the project cannot move forward’), and the sentence could look like this:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed, the project cannot move forward.

This is now a sentence that expresses a complete thought.

Subject – Verb Agreement

How to make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs

Subject/ verb agreement means that subjects and verbs must agree with each other in number. In other words, if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb that goes with it needs to be singular as well, and if the subject is plural, the verb needs to be plural. Even though this seems pretty straightforward there are some situations in which using the right form of the verb could cause problems.

In the sentence, ‘My brother is taking the bus to school,’ for example, ‘brother’ is a singular noun so the singular verb ‘is’ needs to be used. However, in the sentence ‘My brother, as well as most of his friends, is taking the bus to school.’ It is a lot less clear whether a singular or a plural verb needs to be used. The following guidelines will help you make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs. Situation number one”

1.         When the subject is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by            and you need to use a plural verb.

            He and his sisters are on vacation.

2.         When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, you          use a singular verb. Like in this example:

      The chairman or the secretary is at the meeting.

3.         When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun      joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearest to the verb.

            The owner or his employees go to the bank every day.

            Or

            The employees or the owner goes to the bank every day.

4.         Number four is about not being misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb. You just have to make sure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun that might be in the phrase.

            One of the men is injured.

            The girl with all the dogs walks down the road.

5.         Number 5. You should use singular verbs with the words: each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one.

            Each of these books is good.

            Nobody ever calls the emergency number.

6.         Number 6 is about what to do with nouns such as mathematics, civics, euros, measles, and news. Although they also need singular verbs.

            The news comes on at ten o’clock.

            Note: words like euros or, for example, dollars, are a special case. When you are          talking about an amount of money, you need to use a singular verb, but if you are           are referring to the euros or dollars themselves, so the currency, you need to use       a plural verb. So,

            Ten euros for a ticket sounds quite cheap.

            Euros are often used instead of Pounds.

7.         Number 7. Plural verbs are used for nouns like scissors, tweezers, trousers, etc.           

            Those trousers look very cool on you.

8.         Moving on to number 8. When using sentences beginning with there is or there are, make sure the subject follows the verb.

            There is one option

There are many possibilities.

9.         Number 9. Collective nouns, so nouns that are considered singular but are usually made up of multiple members, like team, committee, class, family, etc. take a singular verb when they operate together as a group, like in:

            The committee votes on the proposal.

            If the members of the group represented by the collective noun operate          independently, (so doing different things probably at different times) you should use a plural verb.  Like in:

            The class write their thesis papers this year.

This means that the people in the class write papers on different topics, probably       at different times during the year. They don’t operate in unison towards the same goal.

10.      The last one is number 10. When you use expressions like including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well, etc., the number of the subject does not change. If the subject is singular, so is the verb.

            The King, accompanied by the Queen, is visiting the Netherlands.

Revising Comma Splices in Writing

A tutorial on how to revise comma splices in your writing

You create a comma splice when you join two independent clauses with a comma but without a conjunction. To be able to understand what that means it is important to understand what an independent clause is and what a conjunction is.

 An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a verb and that expresses a ‘complete thought’. This means that an independent clause has a meaning on its own and does not need another clause to give it meaning. A simple example of an independent clause would be I sleep until nine, for instance. Here the subject is I, the verb is sleep, and the sentence expresses a complete thought because it is clear what is meant.

Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or sentences together, like in this example:

I like ice skating and field hockey, but I hate ice hockey.

Here and and but are the conjunctions that link the words and phrases together. As mentioned before, a comma splice is created when two independent clauses are joint together with a comma but without a conjunction, like, for example and or but.

The following is an example of how a comma splice is created starting with two independent clauses. The first independent clause is:

Spiders are not considered insects.

And the other one is:

They are arachnids.

When you join these two sentences together using just a comma – like in the example – you create a comma splice.

Spiders are not considered insects, they are arachnids.

There are three ways in which you can correct a comma splice. You can:

  1. Add a conjunction
  2. Change the comma into a semicolon
  3. Make separate sentences.

So, let’s take this sentence with a comma splice and rewrite it in these three different ways:

So, we start with:

He is not going to buy a house, he is planning to rent one.

This sentence contains a comma splice.

Adding a Conjunction

If you add a conjunction to the sentence, it would then read like this:

He is not going to buy a house, but he is planning to rent one.

So, the comma is still there, but it is now followed by a conjunction.

Adding a Semi-colon

Instead of using a conjunction, you could also add a semi-colon. The advantage of that is that the sentence would read the same as the originals sentence with the comma splice, the only difference being that it is no grammatically correct.

He is not going to buy a house; he is planning to rent one.

If you decide to use a semi-colon, it is important to make sure there is a close, logical connection between the two independent clauses. In this case the semicolon works because both sentences are about ways get a house.

Two Separate Independent Clauses

Another option is to divide the sentence containing the comma splice into two separate independent clauses. The sentence would then look like this:

He is not going to buy a house. He is planning to rent one.

Even though turning a sentence containing a comma splice into two separate sentences is an acceptable option, you have to keep in mind that good writing often means having to connect ideas. This is very difficult to do, however, if you use to many simple independent clauses, because it often leads to a very ‘choppy’ and simplistic writing style.

Acceptable Uses of a Comma Splice

There are also a few instances in which comma splices are acceptable. The first one is when using question tags, like in:

He is not here, is he?

It is also acceptable to use comma splices in short parallel contradictions, so when both phrases that make up the contradiction have a similar grammatical structure, like in:

I’m not rich, I’m poor.

Finally, comma splices are often used in fiction and poetry for the simple reason that in these types of informal writing the rules are a lot less strict. An example would be:

Using Parallelism in Writing

A tutorial on how to use parallelism in you writing effectively and how to revise faulty parallelism

Using parallelism means using matching words, phrases or clauses or sentences to express equivalent ideas. The reason for using parallelism is that it adds unity, balance and force to your writing.  On the contrary, when your writing lacks parallel structures, your writing style may seem awkward, which, in turn, could obscure the meaning of what you are trying to express. In other words, lack of parallelism could create confusion.

Using Parallelism Effectively

Parallelism emphasizes the relationships between equivalent ideas because it highlights the correspondence between:

  • Items in a series
  • Paired items
  • Elements in lists and outlines

Items in a series

When presenting items in a series, you should present them in parallel form. Like in these examples:

Baby food consumption, toy production, and school construction are likely to decline as the population of the Netherlands grows older.

Three factors influenced his decision to seek new employment: his desire to relocate, his need for greater responsibility, and his dissatisfaction with his current job.

Paired Items

Paired points or ideas should also be presented in parallel form because it emphasizes their equivalence and connects the two ideas. Here are two examples:

Roosevelt represented the United States, and Churchill represented Great Britain.

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Items linked by correlating conjunctions (such as not only/but also, both/and, either/or and neither/nor should also be parallel.

The design team paid close attention not only to color, but also to texture.

Thirdly, parallelism highlights the contrast between paired elements linked by than or as, like here:

Success is as much a matter of hard work as a matter of luck.

Items in a list

You should also  present Items in a list in parallel form, like in this example:

The Irish potato famine had four major causes:

  1. The establishment of the landlord-tenant system
  2. The failure of the potato crop
  3. The inadequate financial support by England
  4. The passage of the corn laws

Revising Faulty parallelism

Faulty parallelism occurs when equivalent ideas in a sentence are not presented in parallel form, like in for instance:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and their healthcare facilities are inadequate.

After revision, this sentence could look like this:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and sufficient health-care facilities to serve them.

Faulty parallelism when pairing items can be revised by making sure you use matching elements. This means that you have to pair nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, and phrases and clauses with similarly constructed phrases and clauses.

The following is a sentence with paired elements that should be revised:

Faulty:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifters, and jogging.

Revised:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifting, andjogging.

Sentences are often clearer and more emphatic if you repeat certain keywords (articles, prepositions, and the to in infinitives, for example) in each element of a pair or series, as illustrated here:

Faulty:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, increasing the speed of production, and improving efficiency.

Revised:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, by increasing the speed of production, and by improving efficiency.

When repeating relative pronouns, the relative pronoun constructions who(m) … and who(m), and which … and which are always paired and always introduce parallel clauses. When you revise, check to be sure a relative pronoun introduces each clause. To illustrate, let’s look at this example:

Faulty:

The Thing, directed by Howard Hawks, and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.

Revised:

The Thing, which was directed by Howard Hawks and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.

Revising Unwarranted Shifts

A tutorial on how to revise unwarranted shifts in writing to avoid awkward or confusing sentences

Verb tense in a sentence, or in a group of related sentences, should not change without a good reason. A good reason could be to indicate a change of time, for instance. Like in this example:

Pulp Fiction is a classic film that was made in 1994.

1.

Unwarranted shifts in tense, like in the following sentence, can make your text confusing.

I enrolled in the business course because I wanted to take over my father’s business. However, after a few months I start losing interest.

This would be an unwarranted shift from past to present and a revised version of this sentence would look like this:

I enrolled in the business course because I wanted to take over my father’s business. However, after a few months I started losing interest.

The verb start is now in the same tense as in the related sentence.

Unwarranted shifts don’t only occur from past to present, but also the other way around.

2.

Shifts in voice can also occur, for instance from active to passive, or from passive to active. The following example shows an unwarranted shift from active to passive:

Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, and later a biography of Leonardo da Vinci was written.

This awkward change in voice could be revised like this, by making the passive voice (was written) active (wrote):

Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, and later wrote a biography of Leonardo da Vinci.

There are instances where a shift in voice from active to passive within a sentence may be necessary, however, like here:

Although the students protested, the legal drinking age was raised.

In this case the shift from active (protested) to passive (was raised) keeps the focus on the students and the fact that they protested. Saying who raised the drinking age (for example, the government), in an active sentence would change the emphasis of the sentence here.

3.

Mood indicates whether the writer is making a statement or asking a question, which is called the indicative mood. Issuing a command or making a request is a called the imperative mood, and expressing a wish or a hypothetical condition is called the subjunctive mood.

Shifting between moods also leads to awkward sentences, like in this example, where the sentence shifts from the imperative to the indicative mood for no reason.

Next, place the slide under the microscope, and you should make sure to refocus the lens.

A revised version of this sentence would look like this:

Next, place the slide under the microscope, and be sure to refocus the lens.

4.

Person indicates who is speaking (for instance first person I or we), second person (So, who is spoken to (you)), and who is spoken about (he, she, it and they), which is third person. Unwarranted shifts in person often occur between third and second person, like in this sentence:

When someone buys a house, you should compare mortgage rates.

Here is the revised sentence:

When you buy a house, you should compare mortgage rates.

5.

Number indicates shifts between singular (for instance, words like it, business,  or cell) and plural (they, them, businesses, or cells). Singular pronouns should refer to singular antecedents and plural pronouns should refer to plural antecedents, which is not the case in the following sentence

If a person does not exercise regularly, they will not remain physically fit.

Here plural they refersto a singular noun, a person. The revised sentence should be this:

If a person does not exercise regularly, he or she will not remain physically fit.

6.

Direct discourse reports the direct words of the speaker or writer using quotation marks and an identifying tag (for instance she says), like in this sentence:

My teacher said, ‘I want you to report to the principal’s office.’

Indirect discourse summarizes the words of the speaker of writer and no quotation marks are used. To introduce the reported words, that is often used in case of a statement. For questions, who, what, why, whether, how, or if are used. Here is an example:

My teacher said that he wanted me to report to the principal’s office.

Shifts from in direct to direct discourse often cause the sentence to be confusing. Like here:

During the speech, Jake Anderson strongly emphasised the regulations and said I am in charge.

Revising Faulty Predication

Faulty predication occurs when the predicate in a sentence or a clause does not explain what the subject of a sentence is or does.

A predicate in a sentence (or clause) tells you what the subject does or is. You could also say that the predicate is everything that is not the subject. So, to give you an example, in the sentence ‘The email contained many interesting details’, ‘The email’, is the subject, and ‘contained many interesting details.’ is the predicate.

In the sentence ‘The applicants for the job were skilled programmers.’, ‘The applicants for the job’ is the subject, and ‘were skilled programmers’ is the predicate.

What faulty predication means is that a sentence’s predicate doesn’t logically complete its subject, and there are three causes for it:

  1. Incorrect use of the verb Be
  2. Incorrect use of ‘Is when’ and ‘is where’
  3. Use of: ‘The Reason … Is Because’

Incorrect use of ‘Be

Faulty predication often occurs in sentences with a linking verb – a form of to be, for example. – in combination with a subject complementlll, like in this example:

Political corruption and Economic decline were the downfall of the Roman Empire.

What the writer says here is that ‘Political corruption and economic decline’ were the downfall of the roman empire, as if ‘the downfall of the Roman empire’ described or identified the subject ‘Political corruption and Economic decline’, while in fact what the writer meant to say was that they were reasons for the downfall.

What the sentence should have been is:

Political corruption and Economic decline caused the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Incorrect use of ‘Is when’ and ‘Is Where’

This type of faulty predication often occurs when the writer presents a definition that includes a construction with one of is when or is where, like here:

Arachnophobia is when a person has a fear of spiders and other arachnids.

When defining something is must be preceded and followed by nouns or noun phrases, which is not the case here so the sentence could be rewritten like this:

Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and other arachnids.

Now ‘the fear of spiders and other arachnids’ defines ‘arachnophobia’.

The reason …’ in combination with ‘ … Is because

Using The reason in combination with Is because leads to a similar problem as you can see in this sentence:

The reason they overeat is because they are bored.

When the phrase the reason is precedes because., like in the example, the word because means for the reason that, so the writer is saying the same thing twice. This is why because should be deleted and the sentence would look like this:

The reason they overeat is that they are bored.

Revising Mixed Constructions

How to correct sentences in which the subject is created through incorrect use of dependent clauses, prepositional phrases or independent clauses.

In order to be able to revise or even recognize mixed constructions in your writing it is important to understand what they are first. A mixed construction is created when a dependent clause, prepositional phrase or an independent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

So, let’s take a look at what it looks like when a dependent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence:

Because he works eleven hours every day explains why he is always tired.

To be able to understand this example it is important to know what a dependent clause is first. A dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb but which does not express a complete thought. For this reason, it is not a sentence and can’t stand alone. The dependent clause in this sentence is: Because he works eleven hours every day, and in this case this entire clause is incorrectly used as subject here. A revised version of this sentence could look like this:

Because he works eleven hours every day, he is always tired.

If you get rid of ‘explains why’ the clause ‘Because he works eleven hours every day’ is combined with an independent clause (He is always tired) and together they now form a grammatically correct sentence that expresses a complete thought.

The following sentence contains a mixed construction because, what’s called, a prepositional phrase is incorrectly used as the subject of the sentence.

By enlisting in the army is a good way to see the world.

Prepositions are words like at, on, in, by, etc., and if a phrase starts with one of these words, this phrase is called a prepositional phrase. You create a mixed construction if you use this type of phrase as the subject of a sentence, which was the case here. ‘By enlisting in the army.’ is an incorrectly used.

After revision the sentence looks like this:

By enlisting in the army, you can see the world.

The prepositional phrase is still there but you now is the subject of the sentence.

Sometimes independent clauses are also incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence, like in the following example:

She was rich made her buy more than she needed.

An independent clause is a sentence with a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought and that, therefore, can stand alone. However, in this case it is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

She was rich is the independent clause here that was incorrectly used as a subject, and the sentence can be rewritten like this:

Being rich made her buy more than she needed.

Being rich is now the subject of the sentence and now the sentence works.