1. Mr_Swashbuckler
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    Mr_Swashbuckler Member

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    Good English writing and grammar guide

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mr_Swashbuckler, Mar 13, 2011.

    Hi

    I’m an Engineering student from the UK. I do a lot of technical writing that doesn’t really involve the use of correct grammar. My writing isn’t really punctuated or properly structured.
    My plan is to start writing fiction but my writing skills are a little weak and need brushing up.
    I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good English writing guide book that would inform me of the rules of punctuating dialogue and general writing techniques .

    Many thanks
     
  2. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    One of my favorites is Strunk & White's Elements of Style (though, if I remember right, there are a few things that are rather specific to American English in it). It's often viewed as too overbearing on certain topics, but I find that it gives me a good general starting point; better to begin with a more strict base and learn to relax than to begin with a too relaxed base and have to figure out what you need to correct.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Getting the Point: A Panic-free Guide to English Punctuation for Adults by Jenny Haddon and Elizabeth Hawksley.

    It's fun to read and UK English - I have that and the penguin one.
     
  4. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I've checked out the English Grammar DeMystified, written by Phyllis Dutwin, in the library, and the book is good for those who wants to fix their grammar errors.
     
  5. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    No books immediately come to mind, but if you go into a bookshop (Waterstones is probably best) and go to their education section, I'm sure you'll find some good English guides and you can ask the staff what they would recommend.

    You could also look at the 'Better Writing' section on the Oxford Dictionaries website.

    Also, read. Read fiction, read the newspaper, just read!
     
  6. Omega14
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    Omega14 Member

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    English Grammar for Dummies is good and easy to understand.

    Rachel
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You really really need to sort that out for your engineering, too. I'm a professional engineer, and nowadays the profession is as much about clear communication as it is about calculations and design. You might pass the exams with writing that isn't really punctuated or properly structured, but it will hold you back as you move beyond that.

    I would not recommend Strunk and White. Aside from the fact that it's US English, not British English, its advice is questionable (Google for "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice"). If you do go with that one, write the way that they actually write, not the way they say you should write. They're not the same.

    A good starting point would be the Plain English Campaign's website, which has a couple of free guides available. Then take a trip to your local library, which will almost certainly have some good books on grammar and style. I don't know what level you're at (although you obviously don't need the basics, because your question was fine) so it's probably best to browse for something you like. I picked up Terence Denman's How Not to Write, which is lightweight but fun and covers the major issues writers have trouble with. There will probably be something like that in your local library (unless you live in Bromley in which case I've got it on loan at the moment). Denman recommends David Crystal's Rediscovering Grammar, which I've not read but I have a massive respect for David Crystal so I expect that to be good.

    Longer term you'll probably want some reference material. I suggest you keep a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage in the smallest room, to dip into when you spend a few minutes in there. The 2nd edition is the one favoured by language pedants, but the New Fowler's Modern English Usage would probably be more useful to you. The Oxford Style Manual is probably useful to keep on your bookshelf. Neither of them will do much to teach you good grammar or style, but they'll help you with any tricky points. I use the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English a lot, but the "Student" there relates to students of linguistics so it's probably a bit technical to be of much use to you.

    Creative writing is more flexible than the business and technical writing that grammar tutors and references concentrate on, but you need to know the "rules" before you can relax them, so do the formal stuff first.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is a hilarious book on punctuation, and it takes in some grammar as well. Plus, it's UK rules.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, it's good fun but do take it with a pinch of salt. Read David Crystal's "The Fight for English" for a less prescriptive response. I don't think either is much good for actually teaching grammar and punctuation, but that's not what they set out to do. Truss makes a good case for why it matters, and Crystal makes a good case for hesitating to be too picky.
     
  10. Mr_Swashbuckler
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    Mr_Swashbuckler Member

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    Many thanks.
     
  11. Mr_Swashbuckler
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    Mr_Swashbuckler Member

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    Many thanks to all of you for offering your sound advice; I will certainly be giving my local Waterstones some good business at the weekend.
    I’m already an avid reader, mostly historical fiction and engineering guides.
    As digitig has said above my degree coursework focuses on the technical content of my writing not the grammatical side. However I know that our industry depends on good communication so I think it’s of a vital importance that I brush up my writing abilities now while I’m still at university.
    I’m sure the old phrase will come true on this one. “Practice makes perfect”.
    I’ve set myself a challenge to write every day and make sure my writing is properly structured and my dialogue punctuated correctly.

    Once again many thanks to all.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never seen that saying as a verb. I've always seen it as a noun:
    'Practice makes perfect.' ;)
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even quite large branches of Waterstones don't carry much on grammar (other than for kids). That's why I suggested trying your public library first (and don't forget to check the reference section as well as the lending section). That way you can browse to see which books you like and then order them online. If you just order online you might end up with something unsuitable.
     
  14. Mr_Swashbuckler
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    Mr_Swashbuckler Member

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    A fine example of why one should proof read! :)
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    No need -- Madhoca will do it for you :D
     
  16. Mr_Swashbuckler
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    Mr_Swashbuckler Member

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    Thanks, I'll try the library too. The library at my uni is fairly well stocked so I’m sure they will have something.

    Any ideas on how I can get rid of my duplicate post above?
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ask a moderator, I think. Or you could just edit it to read something like "Sorry! Duplicate post."
     
  18. amydyslex
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    amydyslex New Member

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    I would like to suggest you to check our site writeawriting.com for some initial help. Some of the good books recommended to me are by Barron's Painless Grammar and Gordon's series.
     

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