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About this book

Shows students how to make their writing effective and grammatically correct. Organised into mini units and easy to read, it deals with everyday tasks and problems. This second edition adds further guidance on common questions raised by students, for example 'When does one use italics and/or underlining?'

Table of Contents

1. The Logic of Effective Writing

Abstract
A card in a newsagent’s window draws attention to an intriguing offer: ‘Alsashun puppies for sale. Going cheep.’ Most people reading the card will smile in a slightly superior way. We might not be entirely sure how to spell ‘Alsatian’, but we know that it isn’t like the spelling on the card. At the same time, there is something rather endearing about the advertisement, as it is so clear that the person who wrote it ventured forth bravely, trusting that the spelling of the word would echo its sound. But that is not the only spelling mistake. If we did not know better, we might be tempted to take a look at these dogs as they appear to be quite remarkable animals: rather than barking, they do bird impersonations, going ‘cheep’.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

2. Applying for a Course, Applying for a Job

Abstract
‘My passion for English Literature … ’. An application for a university place, and yet another in which the applicant starts their personal statement with a declaration of their passion for the subject. The admissions tutor groans. And it happens in every subject: ‘My passion for Civil Engineering … ’, ‘My passion for Law … ’, ‘My passion for Accountancy … ’. Here we go again with the same well-worn words.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

3. Writing Correct and Convincing Sentences

Abstract
The core unit in writing is the sentence. It is impossible to produce effective work if one cannot produce mechanically correct sentences. When writing goes wrong — for example, when someone fails to say what they were trying to say — it is usually because the construction of the individual sentence has gone wrong. Generating effective sentences should, of course, be the easiest task in the world; after all, we all manage to do it thousands of times a day when we are speaking. But when it comes to putting words on paper, generating effective sentences is an activity that everyone finds a challenge.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

4. Punctuating a Sentence: Commas, Colons and Semicolons

Abstract
If you can make yourself proficient in the handling of punctuation, you will find it possible to say exactly what you want to say. This is because punctuation is the key to precision. But, in addition, you will also start to sense that everything you write carries real conviction and authority. Above all else, what you need to get hold of is how to handle commas correctly. Commas [,] are the equivalent of changing gear when driving; you come to a point where you need to slow down a little or turn a corner. The commas help you negotiate these changes, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they enable you to take your reader along with you. Given the importance of commas, it might seem surprising that so many people only have a vague idea how to use them, and often misuse them. We suspect that the problem is that people think there are complicated rules about commas. But there aren’t. There are just six main ways in which commas are used. Master the six rules and you will be in control of everything you write.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

5. Avoidable Errors

Abstract
Writing is like driving a car. It’s relatively easy, but a lot of people write carelessly, even recklessly. Let us assume for the moment, however, that you have negotiated the fundamentals: you can steer a sentence along, stopping, with a full stop, when you need to stop, and changing gear, in the sense of introducing a comma, when you have to turn a corner, change speed or make an adjustment in a sentence. With a little bit of practice and particularly if you think about what you are doing as you proceed, you will find yourself in control of these basic manoeuvres.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

6. Tricks of the Writer’s Trade

Abstract
Sections 3–5, focusing on the mechanics of how to write correctly, have dealt with things that you might already know. In this section, however, we want to move on to things that you won’t perhaps have been taught, to those little hints and wrinkles that can dramatically improve the quality of your writing. These are some of the tricks and skills of the writer’s trade, the ruses that writers rely on to give their work extra impact.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

7. Essay Writing: Structure

Abstract
Everyone finds essay writing difficult. No matter how much research, planning and preparation you have done, there comes that awful moment when you sit down with a blank piece of paper or a blank screen and cannot think what to say. Eventually, of course, the words do come, and, after much sweat and tears, you have a completed essay. At this stage, most people are unsure whether what they have written is any good or not. They hand their work in and nervously hope for the best.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

8. Essay Writing: Paragraph Control

Abstract
At the heart of everything we have said about essay writing is the idea of thinking, organising and writing in three steps. An effective essay can — we would go so far as to say should — fall into three fairly distinct stages, in which you introduce the issue, pursue it and then, in the last third of the essay, take the matter a stage further. It is an equally good idea to aim for three steps in each paragraph of the essay. Later on in this section, we will discuss how this approach can be applied in the central paragraphs of an essay and in the conclusion, but what we want to focus on here is the opening paragraph of an essay.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

9. Make Every Essay an Effective Essay

Abstract
When you are asked to write an essay, you are, of course, being tested. The test falls into two complementary parts. The people examining your work want to establish whether you have taken possession of the kind of knowledge and understanding of the topic that is consistent with the standard they are demanding. In simple terms, a university course would demand more in the way of knowledge and understanding than a GCSE course in the same subject. It is the lectures, discussions, seminars and the books recommended for reading that alert you to the level of sophistication and depth of understanding that is required at each stage of your education.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

10. Taking Stock

Abstract
A lot of people who drive become tremendously interested in cars, buying car magazines, watching motoring programmes on television, and knowing all manner of things far in excess of what they actually need to know to get from one place to another. Obviously, people get interested in football, fishing, music, celebrities and a host of other subjects in a similar kind of way; they become self-appointed experts in their own fields of interest. If you think about it, you are going to spend a lot of your working life writing. If you teach, work in an office, work in industry or in the service or retail sector, you are nearly always going to have a pen in your hand or be working at a computer screen. And when you aren’t writing, you’ll be talking; there really is no escape from working with words.
John Peck, Martin Coyle

11. Twenty Questions

Abstract
In the 1990s we wrote a book called The Students Guide to Writing and then, a few years later, wrote the first edition of Write it Right. Both books had more or less the same objective: to offer advice to students about how to write both correctly and effectively. To our delight, both books met with a good response and seem to have worked well. But sometimes it is the case that when you provide answers, that simply prompts more questions. We can honestly say that not a day goes by without us being asked questions about words, about writing, about grammar, about essay writing — indeed, about every aspect of how we use language. Sometimes this proves a chore; late on a Friday afternoon, an email arriving asking one to explain just once more what a split infinitive is can feel like one email too many. But most of the time we are delighted to answer queries; that is, after all, what we, as English teachers, are here for. But as so many of the questions asked are the same questions, over and over again, it seemed a good idea to add a fresh section to this new edition of Write it Right in which we can respond to the questions we have been asked most often. Some questions are precise and narrow in focus, but we want to start with one of the broadest, and most frequently asked, questions.
John Peck, Martin Coyle
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