Monthly Archives: September 2011

Citizens’ Academies: how you can learn more about government

Christine Speno: Learn about your Flagler County government services |

Those of you that follow me in this blog or through the St. Augustine Record know that I get excited about our community.  This week’s column demonstrates an important effort by our community leaders to give the citizens the opportunity to learn about how our local government entities work.  We are often quick to criticize and complain.  But it is important to take the time to ask questions and learn.  The Citizens’ Academies available in my community are tools that we are given so we can learn and expand our knowledge base. I know that after my husband and I attended the Palm Coast Citizens’ Academy a few years ago, we came away from the sessions with a much broader understanding of what it takes to make things run smoothly.  And we got to know many of our city’s department heads.  My husband works in County government (in another county) and even he learned a lot and gained some new perspectives.

Although we won’t always be happy with all of the decisions made by our community leaders, by trying to understand the reasons for the decisions, we take the first step in working together with them.  So what can you do?

  • Attend your city or county council meetings
  • Listen to our leaders and speak up when you have the chance.
  • Get to know your council members.  Email them or call them.  They want to hear from you and want to know what you want.
  • Get involved.  Think about serving on an advisory board.
  • If your community offers a Citizens’ Academy, apply, attend and learn.
  • Consider running for a local government council  — you may be able to change things that you believe could be done better.

If you are a Flagler County resident and want to learn more  about the inner-workings of your community government, here is your opportunity.  And don’t forget that you can attend any County Board meeting to learn and listen too.  You can also view the meetings live on Channel 198 on Brighthouse and will find a link to Flagler County Government TV programming on the homepage of the county website.

To learn more about the Flagler County Citizens Academy and other county activities and issues, visit  The Flagler County Sheriff’s office and the City of Palm Coast also offer a Citizens’ Academy to local residents.  Visit to learn about the Sheriff’s Office program or contact Marsha Lidskin at the City of Palm Coast at to inquire about the city’s program.

I’ll be sharing more about my experience in the Flagler County Citizens’ Academy in the weeks to come. I’ll be adding a page to my blog devoted to the academy so watch for it soon.  I hope you’ll stay turned and learn with me!

No matter where you live, remember that it is your community.  Don’t be afraid to get involved or learn more about how things work.  What does your community do to promote citizen involvement?  Leave me a comment and share with our readers.

Read this week’s column by clicking on the title above or the link below.  You’ll also find news of some upcoming events in our area.  As always, thanks for reading!

Link to this week’s column.

1 Comment

Filed under community

Confusing Word Pairs

Words and Rules

Image via Wikipedia

Last week’s post about polishing writing, editing and formatting skills drew a lot of attention.  I picked up new readers and subscribers.  That’s exciting for me, and I thank you!

It seems that many visitors to my blog posts about language are non-native English speaking folks, some students and some not.  I started thinking about our very puzzling language – and believe me, it is puzzling at times even to those of us  that are native to the English language.  I think it is important to look at some of our confusing words and rules and set the record straight – or at least make the record a little less crooked and hopefully less confusing!

Confusing words.  Look at the title of this post?  That’s a  place to start.  The word “pair” has two homophones (sounds the same, spelled differently, different meanings). Pair sounds like pare and pear I pared a pair of pears. 

 Be careful with easily confusable word pairs.  Some pairs of words are often confused in the English language.  They are both correct words, but they have different meanings.  Spell check can’t identify these, of course, because they are both spelled correctly. For instance,

  • where    refers to a location of something or someone  —  Where is my hat?
  • were      is the past tense of the verb “was”   —   We were looking for your hat.
  • their       is the possessive of they   —   Where is their house?
  • there      is a location —   The bread is over there.
  • affect     usually a verb meaning change or shape   — What you eat can affect your weight.
  • effect     the majority of the time it is used as noun that means result or impression  — The  effect of our fatty diets has resulted in obesity as a national problem.
  • accept    this word can have several different meanings.  Some common meaning are to take, receive,  endure or consent.   —  The thrift shop did not accept our furniture.
  •  except  means to exclude  —  Except for furniture, the thrift shop accepts household goods.   (You’ll notice the last sentence example uses both of these words in this example.)

What about pronouns?

  • Who/Whom   these are both pronouns, but we have to remember that pronouns have cases.  You will need to use “who” if the pronoun is acting as the subject of a clause, and “whom” if it’s acting as the object of a verb or preposition, and “whose” if it’s possessive (acting as an adjective).

It’s common to be confused about when to use the pronoun who and when to use the pronoun whom. To find out which one is correct, substitute he and him for the pronouns who and whom. He and who are subject pronouns, and whom and him are object pronouns.

For example:

  • Give the papers to him.
  • To whom should I give the papers?
  • We did invite him to the party.
  • Whom did we invite to the party?
  • He spilled coffee all over the white rug.
  • Who spilled coffee all over the white rug?

Review your work!  Now these words and the sample sentences may seem pretty remedial to many of us, but I can’t tell you how many times I have identified these errors when tutoring or reviewing writing projects  —  even my own.  So review your work carefully for simple errors and to help you gain a better understanding of the words that you use .  It’s always a good idea to have another pair of eyes review your work, it at all possible.  And remember that spell checkers can’t identify meanings.  And don’t forget to get a valuable resource to help you.  One that I like is The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman.  You’ll find it any of the well known book sellers like or  It is also available in eBook format.

These are just a few of the many confusing words in the English language.  There are many more out there that cause problems for most of us.   For me, a troublesome pair of words is

  • incite    v to move to action or to put in motion*  —     She incited me to learn more about SEO and how it can help me market my business.
  • insight  the power or act of seeing into a situation*  —  To those of us that are new to SEO, the presentation gave us great insight.

What words or word pairs do you find confusing?  Do you find yourself looking up the same word over and over again?  Share with me.  I’d love to hear from you!

As always, thanks for listening and reading….

  — *definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition.


Filed under writing

Learning more: Writing, editing and formatting

You can never stop learning and polishing the way you communicate.  This is especially true with your writing skills.  In this age of “do it fast,” it is sometimes easy to forget to put your best words forward.  In our virtual world, everyone can check out your skills and level of expertise in an instant.

So for those of us that are established firmly in our world of writing, editing and blogging, how do we improve?  I think a good way is to learn something from every new project that we do.  I was reminded of this last week when reviewing a Master thesis for a student/client of mine, I ran across the word posttest, which looked really weird to me.  I thought, it has to be post-test or post test.  Got the old Merriam  Webster’s out and learned that posttest is the correct spelling for this term.

By the way, the definition is:  A test given to students after completion of an instructional program or segment and often used in conjunction with a pretest to measure their achievement and the effectiveness of the program.

Throughout this editing project, I was reminded of much more than the proper way to use “posttest” in a sentence or how to spell it.  Editing for grammar, spelling and sentence structure is only one part of being a good writer or editor.  When working with college students, being up to speed on APA and MLA styles, is essential.  So I use each student project as an opportunity to learn and reinforce my skillset.

Often a student writes well, but is at a total loss as to how to format their thesis paper. Although every university issues a set of guidelines to to follow for thesis and/or graduate research projects, it is the rare student that fully understands the ins and outs of formatting their paper correctly.  But that’s okay because it gives me an opportunity to help them and to relearn these things myself. It’s kind of like using some software programs.  If you don’t use them every day, it’s hard to remember exactly how to do things. (Think about Excel – unless you use this every day, it is easy to forget how to do certain things).

Some of the things that I most frequently have to adjust in a graduate thesis project are:

  • Heading levels
  • Seriation
  • Display results (graphs, figures, charts)
  • Reference lists

Click the image to zoom in on APA format for referencing a blog post or comment

Since I do this type of editing work frequently, I keep a current hardcopy on hand of the most current MLA and APA manuals and , require each student to provide me as much as information as possible about their degree program and always ask for a copy of the Guidelines issues by their thesis committee.  I also stress to the student that their job is to do their research and develop their project, while mine is to guide them and make suggestions to them so that they meet the standard set by their university.  I NEVER write any part of their paper for them.  I only give them guidance and suggestions.   I also create a binder of those “most used” examples for my future use.  And last, but not least, I continue to develop my list of online resources, like the Purdue  University OWL — in my opinion one of the best!

Working on these types of projects allows me to create a great portfolio of experience in thesis editing and allows me some of  the finest job satisfaction.  There is nothing quite like helping a student achieve their goal of education.  Having worked in higher education for a small private university, I had first-hand exposure to this type of job satisfaction.  It is exciting to surround yourself with those that are enthusiastic about learning and their futures.

And we can learn so much from students……


Filed under writing

Writing and Critiquing

Writing Challenge for You!.

Thought you might enjoy this post from Writing4Effect!

And here’s another good post about Critique Groups


Happy Writing….


Filed under writing

Art – How do you express yourself?

Creek and Bridge / Bach und Brücke (HDR)

Art can be found in anything....

Palm Coast Neighbors: Attic full of treasures |

We are surrounded by talent.  Humans express themselves in so many artistic ways.  We paint, sculpt, sing, play an instrument, write and more.  No matter how we express ourselves, it is our art.  I think it is so interesting to explore the ways that we find our way to our art.  When you think about it, just about anything we do can be perceived as an art.   People sew, cook, garden, design roads and bridges, develop web sites, just to name a few.  And the results of all of these endeavors can be considered that person’s art.   Even if we don’t all agree on what is beautiful, to the “doer” of these expressions, there is beauty.

My community is filled with beautiful talent.  Last week  I attended a critique group that is part of the Florida Writers Association/Palm Coast chapter, and what struck me most was that in a small group of people, we had talent in abundance.   Although the group members are all writers, both published and aspiring to be so, the one strength that came through was the variety of other skills that this group demonstrates.

For instance, one member is an ER trauma nurse and besides being part of The Rogues Gallery Writers, she also creates beautiful fabric panel wall  art by transforming photos with fabric, needle and thread.  See it at her FB business page here.  Another member has written a beautiful children’s book (yet  unpublished, but we keep encouraging her) that not only entertains young children, but teaches valuable lessons and provides tools for teachers.  And yet another member is a publisher, as well as a writer.  Check out his site here.   And the list goes on.  See many of their backgrounds at the FWA blog.

Recently I learned of yet another person in our community who took attic finds and family memories of his wife’s grandmother and uncle and using those tools, he discovered his own hidden talent for writing.  Mr. John Cordasci of Palm Coast is a delightful gentleman that I had the opportunity to sit down with recently.  The love he has developed for the craft of  writing is evident and the pride he takes in telling a family story is inspiring.  Cordasci’s first book is a novella entitled, Stalag17B and The Pete Skripka Story.    Go to buy books on the web to learn more.  The author is a retired senior systems analyst that relocated to Palm Coast, Florida with his wife Judy.  He was educated at City College of New York and New York University.  He served in the Korean Conflict and also spent time in Germany during his military career.  He and his wife have three children and four grandchildren.  He spends his retirement developing his unfolding writing talent.  Find out more in this week’s Palm Coast Neighbors feature  where you’ll also learn more about our local community events.

Thanks for reading!!


Filed under communication

Flagler Beach Historical Museum celebrates 10 years

Christine Speno: Flagler museum celebrating 10 years |

The Flagler Beach Historical Museum promises another fun-filled night as they celebrate their tenth anniversary at a Roaring 20’s Gala.  Read about this event and more in this week’s summary of activities going on in our community.  Click on the link above or at the end of this post to read on!

Princess Place Preserve - site of Creekside Festival

And there’s more on the way.  This year the Annual Creekside Festival will be combined with the Green Expo.    This year marks the Seventh Annual Creekside Festival, and as always, the festivities take place at the beautiful Princess Place Preserve.  There will be music, food, vendors, crafts and more.  The Green Expo was previously held at Palm Coast Town Center in 2009 and 2010.  This is a great combo-activity, and I am glad to see the two events joining forces.  It should be a great weekend.  The weather is usually amazing and in years past the music has been outstanding, so make plans to come on out and enjoy!

I have many readers that don’t live locally so you probably have never experienced the beauty of this park, but I know that your communities have lots of great amenities too.  So be sure to share what’s going on in your part of the world by leaving a comment and sharing your community news.

And if you are ever in the northeast Florida region, I invite you to take in all that we have to offer here in the Northeast Region of the State of Florida.  Palm Coast and Flagler County, Florida.  Beaches, swimming, biking, hiking, trails, fishing and just plan relaxing  —  it’s all here so come on down and visit!  Start learning here.

And I’d love to hear about what’s going on in your communities this fall so be sure to share with me and my other readers by leaving a comment.

Read Christine Speno: Flagler museum celebrating 10 years |


Filed under community