If you’re reading this from America, you probably know both these books. Otherwise they might have passed you by. Personally, I discovered them quite late, by which time I already adhered to most of the principles in them. However, they summarise a lot of my views on writing clear and concise English language, so much so that I thought it worth blogging them here. Already famous in America, The Elements of Style was labelled one of the All-Time 100 Nonfiction Books by Time magazine – that is, one of the most influential books written in English since 1923. Otherwise called the Strunk and White (after its authors), this prescriptive language book is often forced upon students for its simple and effective rules. They are sometimes contentious, but mostly on point. The second book I want to highlight is Writing That Works, a business writing guide that novelist Louis Begley called “the Strunk and White of business writing” and famed advertiser David Ogilvy gave as his number 1 advertising tip: “read it three times”. Writing that Works is a similar style guide, from some of Madison Avenue’s most successful advertisers, and gives rules specific to communication. Continue reading
English vowel sounds: there are 20 ways to pronounce them and only five letters for writing them. So learning or teaching the pronunciation of English vowels requires a detailed table of spelling rules and examples. Continuing to teach English around Brighton, I produce handouts for the English language that don’t appear to have been catered for. I couldn’t find a complete summary or explanation of vowel pronunciation online. Pronunciation explanations or exercises are usually very basic, for young learners or beginners, and rarely show all the different sounds in a table. When I taught in the UAE the only useful resource we had was a book containing this information, and I believe it helped learners a lot. So I have reproduced the idea here, either for learners to study or as a point of reference for teachers.
Write Right Now contains two homophones – two words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. One of those homophones is also a homonym – a word that could mean more than one thing, spelt the same way and pronounced the same way. My sister site Copywrite Now uses a cunning mixture of homonym and homophone depending on the way you split up the words. I imagine most people can see what I’ve done with the two titles, but this kind of wordplay is possible because the English language is frankly a bit of a mess for clashes in words’ spelling, pronunciation and meaning. It’s a frequent difficulty for new learners and native speakers alike, and I doubt most people have given it a second thought since school, so I’m gonna don my teacher cap and explain a little about the mechanics of these ridiculous words.