A century ago, a man named William Strunk Jr., wrote a book called Elements of Style. He was an English teacher at Cornell University in the United States.
The book was revised by one of his students, E. B. White, where it went on to be published. Elements of Style has since become the master text on English linguistics.
ESL teachers around the world and in Australia implore their students to keep this book front and centre in their English Language course. Second to this should be your thesaurus and dictionary.
This article is a homage to the expert teachers whose knowledge has shaped the way we understand the English language.
Few elements of English's style and form have transformed since Elements of Style. There have in fact been only very minor updates made since the book's first edition.
In this English Language lesson, we will inspect what has changed in grammar and vocabulary since Strunk Jr. penned his linguistics bible, and help you come up to speed with the most basic, important lessons. We will also take a look at how the rapidly changing modern world has impacted the English language.
Why is Good Grammar So Essential?
Our creative writing might not rely on the nitty gritty of grammar terminology, with some teachers and parents having gone as far as to say that it negatively impacts this craft.
While your knowledge of modal verbs from your relative clauses might not be super important to improving your English, a foundational grasp of grammar is an invaluable skill that will help you flourish in your English course.
Workplaces shifting to an online environment has meant that writing is a primary way of conversing in most work environments. It has become much more common to send someone an email rather than picking up the phone.
You might need to write a report, newsletter, blog post, or an email to a client, colleague or stakeholder. In all of these instances, ensuring that your spelling and grammar is correct is vital in creating a professional and favourable impression for yourself, as well as your workplace.
Grammatical mistakes can appear careless, weaken an argument, and in the worst-case scenario, even call into question whether you are worthy of a promotion or pay-rise.
Applying for jobs
Feeling confident with your English grammar skills becomes of crucial importance when applying for jobs.
It's not uncommon for organisations to immediately discard applications that have obvious grammatical errors when sorting through an overwhelming number of job applications. The job you're applying for might not require high-level writing skills, but paying attention to grammar and spelling on your resume and cover letter is the bare minimum of a strong job application.
You can easily avoid falling into the most common grammar mistakes by referring to this guide from Reed, a handy recruitment website.
Social media is undeniably a major part of most of our lives—it's how we communicate with one another when we're not face to face. Not having a grasp of basic English grammar skills could lead to some uncomfortable or frustrating encounters when talking to new friends on messaging apps like Facebook or Instagram, dating apps such as Tinder, or on chat forums like Reddit.
Unfortunately, having weak grammar skills might lead others to suspect that you are suspicious or of low intelligence. This impression might be made subconsciously, which consequentially might lead to fewer people being keen to chat on social media and dating apps.
Punctuate with ease
The first chapter of Elements of Style, section 6 asserts: Do not split sentences in two.
This is unusual advice for the world we're living in, where run-on sentences are becoming very popular and whole paragraphs are typed out, often neglecting a standard comma – let alone a full stop to conclude.
A run-on sentence compromises of two or more independent clauses with no punctuation.
I like my English course Mrs. Watson is a great English teacher.
You'll see that this is an example of a run-on sentence. It's clear that the two grammatical clauses should be split into two, at least by a semi-colon, if not by a full stop, making two seperate sentences.
Section Six of Elements of Style include a sub-header: do not use a full stop in the place of a comma.
You'd be surprised how tricky many English learners find this grammatical advice.
It's only recently that languages like Urdu and Greek have incorporated such punctuation marks into their written language. Others like Lao and Thai still haven't adopted them.
Punctuation is a considerably new addition in Mandarin Chinese, too.
Learning English in Asia has its specific challenges, not only with full stops and commas but in leaving a space between the punctuation mark and the next word. For instance:
Used For Industrial,Car,Furniture Oil Based Paint Marker (found on Alibaba website)
The definition of Punctuation is: the marks and spaces used to separate words and sentences.
To improve your grammar, you should study, practice and integrate fundamentals of punctuation.
Proper use of Adjectives
Those who are learning English online and around the world are often taught to describe each noun with as many adjectives as possible. This instruction often results in exaggerated, overblown prose.
American writer Stephen King promotes clean writing. This involves using adverbs conservatively
His belief is mirrored in many Native English speakers' overuse—and misuse— of the adverb "literally".
Those who speak with such excessive description, want their listener to feel intensely engaged in their story.
I am literally so tired right now I could die!
Anyone who has experienced exhaustion knows how overwhelming and uncomfortable this state of being feels, but fatigue is generally not followed by death!
If you're practising mastering your clean, sharp prose, it's worth reading this guide to Adverbs to improve your understanding.
To summarise, overly relying on adverbs or adjectives leaves you sounding artificial and feeble.
The Active and Passive Voice—What's the Difference?
Active voice follows the typical subject-verb-object sentence structure.
Mr. Mills helps you at homework club every Wednesday
The subject executes an action directly onto the object.
Here is the sentence, written in the passive voice:
At homework club every Wednesday, Mr. Mills helps you
While learning English, you may discover that switching around the subject and object of a sentence makes your text sound interesting.
It's always admirable to test yourself when learning a new skill, especially when endeavouring to refine your oral and written skills. In this case, there are a few reasons why this kind of sentence construction does not work for everyday conversation in English.
- Doing so accentuates the object instead of the subject
- Is the most important part of the sentence homework club or your teacher?
- Academic writing is built upon clarity
- Sentences in the passive voice can sound confusing and vague
- Your writing might appear speculative and your tone unconfident and frail
- Our next segment will explore writing with command
Does The Passive Voice Ever Work?
On very specific occasions:
- When you are unsure who performed the action:
- The exam was supervised
- When it's irrelevant who will undertake the action:
- Homework club will be held after school
- When you are discussing a common truth:
- Good things come to those who wait
- When you want to bring attention to the object:
- The Shining was written by Stephen King
One final thing we'll say on this topic: use this grammar construction carefully, and only when needed.
Know Who You Are Speaking To
This is a perennial piece of wisdom that many ESL teachers encourage their pupils to remember.
Of course, there is no way of knowing who will read your essay, and what their linguistic style and tastes may be.
We'll admit then, that the advice to keep your audience in mind isn't totally relevant when studying English.
There is merit to this advice. See if you can ground your learning within the field you wish to excel in.
If your dream is to find a job in hospitality, hone your skills toward conversational English.
Or maybe your goal is to start your own IT company. If so, practice your technical, business-angled English, and test them out on a friend.
We have a blog post about words with multiple meanings in English.
If you intend to return home and teach English, soak in every nuance of English while in Australia, and watch your skills strengthen.
It doesn't matter what direction the English language takes you in, learning it in any setting and context is beneficial.
What Can I Learn About Speaking English?
English is spoken by over one and a half billion people around the globe.
Everyone has different methods and preferences when learning a language, so there is not one singular technique when it comes to learning and practising.
That being said, there are a few tips that might help you improve.
If your goal is to speak English fluently, practice every day inside and outside of your lessons- regardless of whether you are a beginner or at a higher level.
Advance your skills by joining an English class - this could be in person or online.
It can be daunting to put yourself out there and practice speaking with others when the shame around failure is so prevalent in some societies. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, it's how you learn.
Practising your grammatical skills deepens your capabilities.
The things mentioned above are general ways that you can develop your spoken English. Here are the things to help you stand out.
Allow your spoken English to reflect your writing skills.
Lots of people who learn English at home or online as a second language practice nailing more challenging grammar phrases and impressive vocabulary, preserving their lesson time for the basics.
Truthfully, the more you include essential vocabulary into your own distinct way of speaking, the more you can improve at remembering sophisticated verbs and grammar frameworks in your everyday English.
At the end of the day, as long as you don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself, and embrace your own unique voice, the more confident and fluent you will become in English.
At last, we give you permission to...
Break The Old Grammar Rules
While we may have introduced you to Elements of Style, a book that is regarded as essential reading for proper English use, there are some archaic grammar rules that have lost relevancy through time.
You may have been told to never finish a sentence with a preposition, nor should you begin one with a conjunction.
However, it is more than fine for you to do this. It is in fact, one grammar rule that we are sure was made to be broken.
You can find other revisions of old grammar rules in this enlightening article.
Using them places you on the frontlines of the English language revolution.