Hi Teachers,

Could you correct this paragraph, please?

Tom, Susan’s husband, is going to make a cake for Susan. It is going to be a surprise for her. She is not at home; she went to her parents’ house this Sunday morning. Tom has some eggs, butter, sugar and milk. He doesn’t want to use a lot of sugar, in fact only a little sugar, but he wants to use lots of butter. The problem is he doesn’t have any chocolate, and he needs a lot of it because it is going to be a chocolate cake. So he must go to the store and buy it.

Thanks in advance
1 2
I don't think there's anything WRONG with it, but I think there are ways to improve it.

1. There are a lot of short sentences, and parts of sentences separated by commas, most of which convey only one idea each. For example "It's going to be a surprise for her". It's certainly possible, and in my opinion desirable, to merge multiple ideas, to shorten the text.

2. Some words are repeated unnecessarily. For example, Susan, sugar, and "it". This is similar to the previous point.

3. "This Sunday morning" seems to appear out of nowhere. Up until that point, it's just a general narrative, but suddenly it becomes very specific, in other words a specific context is suddenly applied. This is a style issue. I find it a bit jarring because it's unexpected. I would introduce the context first, at the start. If there was a previous paragraph that provided the context, this wouldn't be such a problem.

"Susan's husband, Tom, is going to bake her a cake, to surprise her"

You could also say "bake her a surprise cake". The cake is not a special "surprise" type of cake, but in this context you can call it a "surprise cake". This is a style issue and I'm not saying "surprise cake" is necessarily better than "cake, to surprise her". You could also say that Tom "is going to surprise her by baking [her] a cake" or similar. "Bake her a cake" means "bake a cake for her".

I used "bake" instead of "make" because it's more natural to "bake a cake" than to "make a cake", even though the baking process is just part of the procedure.

The commas before and after "Tom" are probably required from a grammatical point of view, because "Tom" is a sort of parenthetical comment, but I wouldn't use them myself because I wouldn't pause in those places when saying the sentence. You probably should, though. The comma I just put in "should, though" is another example of the same point.

"... , while she is at her parents' house."

"She went to her parents' house" is unnecessarily wordy. Saying "while she is at her parents' house" is clear enough, unless it's important to say that she went there THIS MORNING specifically, as opposed to being there since the day before, or whatever. There's nothing else in your paragraph that indicates that this is important, so the simplification should be fine.

I would also move "this Sunday morning" to the start of the whole paragraph.

"He has [the] milk, eggs, butter and sugar"

"He" instead of "Tom" is simpler. Tom is the only male character mentioned so far, so "he" is not ambiguous.

I would put the relevant items, butter and sugar, at the end of that statement, since this keeps them in the mind of the reader. The milk and eggs aren't mentioned anywhere else, so they can "go in one ear and out the other" from the reader's point of view. Again this is a style issue.

Adding THE before "milk, ..." is not necessary, but sounds better to me. From Tom's point of view, he needs to collect these ingredients together, so they're not just "milk, ..." they are specifically THE "milk, ... " that he will be using for THE cake. This becomes more relevant when you mention THE chocolate later in the paragraph.

"... , and [he] wants to use a lot of butter, and not much sugar."

This is a bit troublesome, because it's not clear why he wants to use a lot of butter and not much sugar, and these points don't relate to anything before or after that statement, so I'll just leave those statements as "random" comments, but I've removed the "in fact" part, since these comments don't seem to be very important, so they don't justify a detailed explanation like that.

"a lot of" instead of "lots of" is slightly more formal. More examples, listed from most formal to least formal, would be "a considerable (or significant) amount of", "a large amount of", "a lot of", "lots of", "heaps of", and "tons of".

"He needs a lot of chocolate, but he doesn't have any, so he will have to go to the store and buy some."

I've added "chocolate" before the first occurrence of "cake" in the first sentence, so you don't need to point out here that it's going to be a chocolate cake, since the reader will already know that. If you want to keep that information secret until the last sentence, you can, but I don't see any reason to do that.

The fact that he needs A LOT OF chocolate is not implied by "chocolate cake", so you can keep it here in this sentence. By putting that statement at the start, you introduce the object "chocolate" early, which is a good idea because it is the important object in the sentence and is implied in the other two parts of the sentence - "doesn't have any" clearly means "doesn't have any chocolate".

"he will have to" instead of "he must" is just more natural, I think. You could also say "he has to" or "he will need to".

"buy some" instead of "buy it" is more appropriate for things that you can buy in quantities. If he needed, for example, a baking tray, he would have to go to the store and "buy one". Either "buy some" or "buy one" are more appropriate than "buy it". This is because IT refers to a specific thing, and the CHOCOLATE that is introduced at the start of the sentence is chocolate that he doesn't have; it's not the same as the chocolate that he is going to buy. I hope you get my meaning.

Finally, do you mean cocoa, not chocolate? I've baked a chocolate cake before, and my recipe used cocoa powder, not chocolate. You can put chocolate in a cake, but you also need cocoa, I think...?

The result of these changes would be:

"This Sunday morning, Susan's husband, Tom, is going to surprise her by baking her a chocolate cake while she is at her parents' house. He has the milk, eggs, butter and sugar, and he wants to use a lot of butter, and not much sugar. He needs a lot of chocolate, but he doesn't have any, so he will have to go to the store and buy some."
Hi KrisBlueNZ,

I'm really astonish by your correction, explanation, and advice!!!Emotion: nodding

It's fantastic and very well done.

The main idea of this story is to use as many quantity words as possible. The cake is just the excuse. Now, I realise I should have said it before. But, thank YOU so much for your incredible help.

Finally, do you mean cocoa, not chocolate? I've baked a chocolate cake before, and my recipe used cocoa powder, not chocolate. You can put chocolate in a cake, but you also need cocoa, I think...?

Well to be honest, I don't know much about baking cakes. Sorry for that.Emotion: embarrassed

Best wishes from BarcelonaEmotion: smile

TS
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Hi again,

How come you know so much about narrative??Emotion: thinking

I've reread it three times already. It's just awesome. It really is.Emotion: wink

TS
Thanks for your kind comments.

I'm not special. I was just lucky to be raised speaking English, which has become the de facto international language, and I mostly know how to speak and write it well, and how to explain it with reasons and examples. And I type fast. (Or should I say, I type quickly.)

I'm sure you could teach me a lot about Spanish. I'm just lucky I don't need to learn it. I admire people who learn new languages, because it's so difficult, especially as you get older. And English is a pretty disorganised language!
Hi KrisBlueNZ,
KrisBlueNZThanks for your kind comments.
You deserve the recognition of your work, and that's what I did.Emotion: clap

I hope to see you around for everybody's benefit.

Take careEmotion: wink

TS
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Finally, do you mean cocoa, not chocolate? I've baked a chocolate cake before, and my recipe used cocoa powder, not chocolate. You can put chocolate in a cake, but you also need cocoa, I think...?

Off-topic FYI. You can make a chocolate cake with just chocolate, chopped fine, then melted. You can also use just cocoa powder. You can also use both. It's the cocoa, believe it or not, that makes it particularly chocolaty, especially if you use "Dutched chocolate cocoa powder". It's treated with alkali, which brings out the flavor.

CJ
Hi TS,

I'm surprised that you are still writing sentences with repetition like this.

Tom, Susan’s husband, is going to make a cake for Susan.

Emotion: cryingCliveEmotion: crying
CliveI'm surprised that you are still writing sentences with repetition like this.
I overlooked all that because I thought it was a pedagogical device, i.e., deliberately crafted like that for elementary students.

It's not?

CJ
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