Learning to write – nouns

Recently I realised that the goal of this blog was to improve my writing and that I had lost sight of that. To rectify this, I have decided to take an in-depth look at all the aspects of writing, starting with nouns.

I have used My grammar and I by Caroline Taggart and Grammarly’s blog post on noun’s as a resource for this post.

This should be a quick one? The essence of a noun is that it is a ‘naming word’.

However, as is the way with the English language, there are many categories and sub-categories within the categories of nouns. So, without further ado, let’s get into nouns. Fun fact: every sentence must have a subject, and the subject will be a noun.

Nouns can also be the verb of a sentence, just to confuse things. An object can either be an indirect or direct object. A direct object is a noun that receives the action from the subject. An indirect is much rarer and is the recipient of a direct object.

Common nouns

Common nouns are nouns used to name a person, animal, place, thing or abstract idea. An abstract idea would be success, failure, delight, boredom etc.

There are two sub-categories of common nouns, concrete and abstract nouns.

Abstract nouns names something that has no physical existence, such as success, delight and failure.

Concrete nouns are used to name something you can sense with your senses – sight, smell, touch, sound, taste – e.g. parsnip, red, umami etc

All I have to say is why?

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are used to name a specific person, animal, place or thing. Christmas, Wednesday, John etc

Compound nouns

A compound noun as you may have guessed is a noun mad up of more than one word; normally it is two nouns but could be an adjective to.

Science-fiction, level cap, word limit, truck driver etc.

Yet another way of categorising nouns is by countable and non-countable nouns; why you would want to do this, I have no idea.

Countable nouns are used to name something that can be counted; I am not going to bother giving examples for this other than words, 238 words…Use fewer when talking about these nouns, again I don’t know why, probably just convention and now we cant be bothered to consolidate.

non-countable nouns: air, food, sand, wisdom, stupidity etc. Use ‘less’ when talking about these nouns

Last one, I promise!

Collective nouns

A collective noun refers to a group or number of individuals, such as staff, team, jury, colony. Basically, there are loads, check this out for all animal related collective nouns.

The key point is that it is one noun that talks about many of the same.

An issue with the collective noun is that one can refer to a group acting together, or all the groups the members of a group acting as individuals.

There is much more to this subject and I am not the man for the job, here is a good resource

I will leave plural and singular nouns for another day.



Progress and Procrastination – week eight as a PhD student

In contrast to last week, I have managed to start writing this on Friday, Will I finish it? No courses this week, the only time I left the house was to attend the school’s weekly Wednesday seminar. The weekly seminar series is compulsory; students and academics have to give talks at least once a year. First years like me normally have until the summer before they have to do a turn. However, it still gives me fear, knowing I am going to get an email telling me when I have to perform. Anyway, that was the only time I actually went to the place where I work, which is one of the perks of doing a PhD. This week I have felt much less productive, I have been busy but it didn’t feel like I was getting much done. One of those weeks I guess. Also, our washing machine broke and we had our bathroom window break so that it was stuck open, not ideal. I am very distracted whilst writing this, as I am watching DrDisRespect at the same time.

I did not finish this on Friday night… It is now Saturday morning, today I have to un-plumb the washing machine so the new one can be installed, go to the gym, record the data from my experiment and re-evaluate what my short-term goals are for my experiments. I have a lab meeting coming up next week, where I will at the very least have to explain what I am up to. This isn’t really something you can wing and you generally get challenged each time on certain aspects of your thinking. But this Is one way in which one learns. I have a love-hate relationship with It, on one hand, I can’t live without challenge, on the other hand, I don’t enjoy being questioned in front of the group, who does? So I will still be working today but not at as much as I would on a weekday; I do try and keep a 9-5 schedule. I am very cautious of burning out, a phenomenon I encountered every exam period as, I am sure, every student has at some point. To be fair I fully understand the confusing literature on lettuce discolouration from the results of my experiments this week, so that is a big personal win. At least there Is a sign of progress. Although pink and brown are the obvious colours the eye is drawn to, they are not the most significant change. That most changed award goes to yellow, which increases subtly over shelf-life but no-one seems to care about it!

This week I got a personal best solve on the Rubix cube, one minute and twenty seconds. I am getting close to the sub one minute zone, pro’s only. We are going to start watching season two of stranger things this evening which is exciting, we binged-watched the first season last weekend. I think I will leave it here for this week; I am going to try and make this the best piece of writing I have done, in a grammatical sense, so far.

According to Grammarly, there are 19 advanced issues. Can you spot them?

Your site deserves a boost?

Since I have been posting on this platform, I have been reminded each time I log in that ‘Your site deserves a boost!’ As the goal of my posts are to improve my writing the measure of success from this is my writing improving there is no monetary incentive. I am not convinced that my site ‘deserves a boost’, seeing as 100% of the traffic to this site comes from WordPress’s ‘reader’ I am not sure that a boost would achieve anything. If you’re a fellow blogger and have given your site a boost, please let me know what your experience of this has been! Has your traffic and interaction with readers significantly improved?

Why and at what point did you decide to upgrade?

Besides ‘phd992007674.wordpress.com’ just so happens to be my preferred URL, so the joke is on you WordPress!

Booking some time off – Week Seven as PhD student

Almost without fail, I plan to write these on a Friday and then forget about it until Sunday. So here I am on Sunday writing this to fulfil an obligation I have long lost sight of. At first, I thought I would do it to improve my writing skills, I am not sure if there is any difference so far, I guess I would have to take the plunge and make them public for that to happen. I also committed to writing six posts/articles/diary-entries? I’m not sure what to call this exactly, but I have now exceeded that goal. I write with Libre office and then use Grammarly to check my grammar (the free version only so far). I do really like the program and I think I will invest in the full version as I progress through my PhD and have to produce higher quality content. I set out to write around 500 words, as I can’t really be bothered to write for too long and it should keep me concise. We are currently 172 words In, if you count 172 as a word, which I did.

This week I veered widely off my path in terms of reading, I have picked up a book called ‘Look homeward, angel’ by Tom Woolfe. I thought I would start with a classic and couldn’t find anything else I recognised. To be honest I am not enjoying it and long to get back to non-fiction. To me, the book feels like it was written as an art piece with a thesaurus used extensively. It is very diverse with its wordage and doesn’t connect with me that much. I can’t really pursue the nomadic narrative, In all its forthcoming glory. I did read an amazing article this week though, called ‘an interview with the man’ found on raptitude.com. In my opinion, it is required reading. In other news, I have not really done much this week, in terms of variety anyway. I had a course on Monday, which was about making and designing posters for conferences. It was actually quite useful, I can now spot a sub-optimal poster a mile off. Also with that course, I have completed my compulsory five courses for this year!

In other news, this week I upped my investments to twice my previous monthly amount; I am still half of the monthly amount I can theoretically invest each month, but I am unsure how much doing a PhD will cost so I am starting off more cautiously. Still, a big improvement and I am feeling better. My flexibility has also improved massively, I can now stand with straight legs and very nearly put my hands flat on the ground, a few more months and I will be there. I also booked off 4 days in December for a quick ski-trip to Slovakia, which will be the first time I have been skiing in two years; that is the longest I have not skied for since I was ten or eleven. I do not think I will be able to backflip like I used to, not because of skill, but because of nerve, I have none any more. The more educated I become the fewer risks I want to take, make of that what you will.

With regards to my work this week, I have spent most of my time at home. I am running an experiment from home, using ImageJ to track the development of discolouration in lettuce. I thought a software solution would be quicker, but it still takes me two to three hours a day to analyse. I need to write a script to save me a lot of time. There are still a few issues I need to iron out though; at the moment I am only capturing around thirty percent of the leaf in my data. Tune in next week to see if I resolve the issue!

P.S Grammarly is telling me I have 20 advanced issues, see if you can solve them!

Stumbling towards productivity – Week six as PhD student.

This week, I feel that I am finding my feet a little bit. I am still unsure what I am doing, but I have been doing something, which is progress in some sense. I have one training course this week that was about creative thinking and problem solving, as expected I felt about average in the group with my problem-solving skills. The creativity part was easily the most fun, as we just played games essentially. I noticed that the main effect of the creative activities was the awakening of my competitive side. For anyone else out there that has a highly competitive personality, you will know that is the best and worst of you at times. I feel that creativity is more fun in many ways, but often feels devoid of meaning, so I will not be donning my kimono and silk trousers anytime soon (I don’t know).

I Learnt how to use a new program (ImageJ) which made me feel productive for the first time in a while. However, I also tried to learn how to use scikit-image, the python module for image analysis and had a nightmare installing the module. If anyone has tried to switch to Linux from the ‘other two’ you will be well aware of the time-sink that can occur trying to get stuff to work, that you know would take minutes on the ‘other two’. I installed Linux as I wanted to learn a bit more about the technology I had been ignorantly using for the majority of my life. The massive positive is that my patience has drastically increased. There are so many problems you have to solve using Linux, such as getting the spellchecker to work in Libre Office, which was a good half-day. There have been many instances similar to that, however, i have not yet come across a problem that I could not solve eventually. I would recommend switching only from a hobbyist point of view or in professional circumstances, you would certainly be more productive in the ‘other two’ operating systems. But, having said that, most of the best things in life are due to their difficulty; there are also privacy and ethical issues to consider, but I will not get into that. Wow, that was very rambly, I do apologize.

In summary, it is coming along slowly, I still feel lost. The consolation is that everyone I speak to is feeling the same, and thankfully misery loves company.

My view on life – week 5 as PhD student

This week I learnt about the expensive underbelly of science. You have to pay to exhibit at a conference? I am unsure as to why I did not expect to have to pay to present research at conferences, but I recently submitted an abstract to the tune of £90. That was to submit the abstract (300 words), and if am to be accepted, it is in the £1000’s to go and present. This will give you an indication of how naive I am; I don’t understand why people do it! Other than to stay in a potentially exotic location doing a lot less work than usual, I don’t understand it. Secretly, I will not be annoyed if I don’t get accepted. Along with this I only had a weekend to produce the abstract, and as I have only just started, I have no data to write about. This made me very stressed for the first time since the start of the PhD, which goes against my current life philosophy.

The life philosophy. Going back 6 years I was working in a gym and just getting started in self-development. I fell into all the pitfalls, the bullshit motivational speakers (Tony Robbins et al.) who are selling you the dream one bestseller at a time. My mantra was essentially once I get x I will be happy, time after time I achieved my goals and was happy for approximately 1 day, no matter how big the achievement. It took me a long time to figure out that achievement hunting wasn’t the key to happiness. So now, my guiding principle is just to enjoy where I am at the moment and not just grind for future happiness.


P.S. I must have not done much this week as this is by far my shortest post. However, I can already start to see improvements in my writing.

One month review of WordPress

I thought I would just share my experience of posting on this platform for the past month. Without any effort on my part, other than writing posts, I have gained 6 followers, 43 views and 22 likes. From looking at the accounts that have followed, I have realised that all but one are liking and following in the hope I will do the same to there blog, and therefore, increase their followership. This does not work.

Without doing anything to promote my blog, all the readership comes from WordPress’s Reader. I would like to see how far this blog can grow organically, so I do not intend on spending money to promote this. However, I may soon upgrade to the next level of WordPress package so I can get a better URL, and more importantly, remove ads. I will upgrade once I have a few more followers, maybe 50?

On finding meaning

A nihilist, an optimist, a rationalist, a humanist. My biggest struggle? Finding meaning in life, which may not be the right word as I know there is no meaning to be had. I guess what I am trying to say is: ‘ what should I do?’. To this question, I do not believe there is an answer. There is, however, an innate desire to find one. Many books have been written on the subject of meaning; none of which answer the question as there isn’t one. Why do people try to better themselves if there is no meaning? Either, they believe in something – a deity usually – or they believe what the most charismatic person they happen to have come across has sold them.

I suspect there may be a biological answer to the question of meaning, hard-coded into our DNA. The better our standing in society, the more likely our genes are to be preserved. I am not convinced by that argument to be honest; In modern times, social standing does not seem to influence gene propagation. Then why do I have ambition? Has TV corrupted me? I don’t think this is the reason either, people have competed against one another since ancient times.

I come back to the same question; if there is no reason, why do I keep trying to find one? Perhaps if I had asked myself these questions earlier, I would have become a physicist, for searching for the origin of the universe seems like it is the ultimate search for meaning. I can see the comfort in partitioning my mind and accepting a deity; but doublethink is beyond me, especially when this question can be asked: ‘where did [deity] come from?’. ‘It was always there’, is not a satisfactory answer.

Where are the beakers? Week four as a PhD student.

The clocks were rolled back at the end of this week; in theory giving us all an extra hour in bed, or in my case, another hour laying awake thinking about my PhD. This was written on the 29th of October 2017. Efforts have been doubled this week, and there is a much more noticeable increase in pressure. Pressure to get work done. I learnt what was expected of me in this 1st year was to essentially try as many different experiments as possible to try and find something suitable for taking forward. So, I have spent a lot of timing planning experiments this week. I’m trying to do the most basic experiments first, so I can get used to the lab and find where equipment is, as that Is genuinely the hardest, most daunting part of my PhD thus far. One of the main benefits to doing a PhD is also one of the most difficult things in the beginning. What I am talking about is how independent your work is. Of course, this depends on your lab group and your project, sometimes you will join an ongoing project and get help with your work. In my case, I am not joining an ongoing project, and all the work will be my own, therefore there is nothing set up for me, and I have to figure everything out for myself from the first instance. Where are the beakers! What do you mean I might have to buy them?

Other than dealing with logistics and busy work; I have been writing an abstract for a conference. Since I have no data, or experience in writing an abstract for conference submission, writing 300 words has been quite the challenge. But the challenge is why I wanted to do a PhD, so despite the pressure, I felt this week I am still happy! Going back to the difficulty of orienting myself in the lab, I organised a meeting with one of the post-docs in the lab for me and my fellow fresh PhD students, so we could ask questions like dude where’s my beaker. It turns out you have to either, order them yourself, or ask someone if you can borrow them. The same is true for almost all equipment, from spatulas to GC-MS systems. So, one of the key skills I think I will develop is the art of beg, borrow and, well, hopefully, I won’t need to complete that triad of skills.

The only other thing of note this week was the fact that, I am the only male 1st year PhD student in the Food Science and Nutrition department (this was the same in undergrad). I am yet unsure if this a good thing or not, it will certainly be easier for me to stand-out.

P.S. Looking back on this is a useful exercise in itself, I can clearly see 4 errors in the punctuation, and it is generally quite poor. This was written 16 weeks ago, it is nice to see how far I have come in such a short time. Although, you will not see this improvement for many weeks to come. I was very tempted to edit this piece, however, I think it is important to show the process.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑