The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth (Book Review)

Here’s something for anyone who really wants to go beyond the basics of English. Having recently released Advanced Writing Skills for Students of English, I’ve had a few readers share comments that while they see the value in a clear and simple writing approach they also love long sentences and creative use of English. Once you’re able to write flawless advanced English, what structures and styles can be used to really stand out? How do turns of phrase and idiomatic or poetic language that doesn’t fit the rules work? The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth is an excellent introduction to such ideas.

Forsyth aims to revive a study of rhetoric, the many rules (or, rather, recorded patterns) for very specific, very advanced language techniques. His starting point is the suggestion that Shakespeare was not merely a very talented writer, but a diligent student of the language. Shakespeare used rhetorical devices very deliberately and would have studied them as strategic rules, much as foreign learners have to study the basic rules of English.

Some of the ideas The Elements of Eloquence expand on concepts found in my ELB books, referring to the flexibility of rules and matters of style. Rhetoric puts names to these ideas, such as hyperbaton, the practice of creating sentences that do not fit the usual word order expectations. Some are structural, others more poetic, such as synaesthesia, the cross-application of senses  (e.g. Hanslick’s quote, criticising Tchaikovsky, “this music stinks to the ear”). There are some 39 such rhetorical devices covered in the book.

This book is lightly written, making the subject accessible and giving an easy summary of the ideas. It goes beyond the ordinary in English writing (and general usage) to explain why many supposed errors may actually be deliberate (particularly consider enallage, a deliberate grammatical mistake), and how very unusual sentences work. It won’t necessarily tell you exactly when you can get away with using these devices, as they are very nuanced, but it will raise your awareness of them.

Such incredibly specific techniques in English are ideas I would like to explore myself, as a future instructive guide for foreign learners, but it makes me happy that a book like this already exists, providing a window into a fascinating and rarely discussed area. If you’d like to give it a read, check out The Elements of Eloquence here.

Advanced Writing Skills is available now, with a limited time offer

writing skills bookIt’s finally here – Advanced Writing Skills for Students of English has hit the (electronic) shelves! After an intense month of final updates, with massive thanks due to my excellent beta reading team, the final book is now available in eBook and paperback format from Amazon. (The paperback should also be available to order from local bookshops.)

And for the first week of its release, because I want to give more people on my list a chance to get it, I’m offering the eBook at half price, and the paperback at a discount. Until June 13th only, it’s $3.49 on Kindle and $12.99 in paperback (and respective prices worldwide).

So without further ado – the book! Here’s the cover and blurb: Continue reading

A new look for ELB Books

Spring has finally arrived in the UK (sort of), and it seems like high-time I had a spring clean for the English Lessons Brighton books and website. As the time’s come for me to edit the final version of my upcoming book, Advanced Writing Skills for Students of English, I’m taking this opportunity to consider the overall design of my books and website. In the next few months I hope to give the site itself a redesign, but in the meantime I’m looking at updating some imagery and greatly improving the branding of my study guides. Here’s the direction I’m going in: Continue reading

Different Genres of Fiction to Read

different genres of fiction listWhen I’m not writing about the English language, I’m busy writing creative fiction (if you’d like to see my books, check here). Reading fiction is a great way to learn English, if you can find an area that engages and entertains you. And it’s possible to find examples of English writing at all levels in different genres. The starting point, though, is to identify the genres available to you, so you can find something that you personally enjoy. I’ve prepared a vocabulary list to help introduce the different genres of fiction, demonstrated below with examples of popular books in the genre. (Personally, I write in dystopian and contemporary fantasy genres – which are sub-genres of sci-fi and fantasy.) Continue reading

What’s in the upcoming ELB writing skills book

book guide to writingIf you’re a member of the ELB mailing list you may have seen that I’m working on a new guide to improved writing skills. The idea is to present advanced writing tips for learners of English as a foreign language – a guide based on how the language functions, as opposed to as a creative art (which may have value for native speakers, too!). To introduce the book, I want to share the chapter topics that I currently have planned, and I welcome feedback on any additional topics you’re interested in – or ideas/hopes for how these will be discussed! Continue reading

New author website – with free English fiction

fantasy author website

If you follow my writing you may be aware that as well as educational material I also write adult fiction, in the contemporary fantasy and dystopian genres (more broadly, science-fiction fantasy!). I have just launched a new author website I would like to share – please visit it at phil-williams.co.uk. The website shows the different fiction projects I am working on, and has its own dedicated mailing list – sign up for a free copy of A Most Apocalyptic Christmas, my madcap dystopian adventure. Subscribers will also be the first to hear of (and receive) the next two novellas I am writing. Continue reading

What English tenses exercises would YOU like to see?

Since I published The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, I have been working on an exercise book to accompany it, 101 English Tenses Exercises. Containing no less than 101 exercises to really drill all the rules of the tenses. I need your help, though – my original idea was to exercise each lesson in the book, following a similar structure. It’s the wrong approach, it’s too complicated and simply not fun!

So, if you have a spare few minutes, I’d like to ask for some feedback. What English grammar exercises would you like to see? What are your favourite types of English exercise? Which do you like least?

On my site, I usually post gap fill exercises – either with individual sentences (e.g. this future tenses exercise) or in the form of a reading text (e.g. The Christmas Mess). These would be the bulk of the exercises in the book. Are there other styles you’d prefer to see?

I’m dividing the exercises into grammar themes (e.g. Past Simple or Past Continuous?) and more general themes for mixed tense exercises, which can build specific vocabulary (for example Christmas vocabulary). What topics would you like to see most?

Please comment below or contact me here if you have any thoughts on my upcoming project. After all, above all else I am trying to write something that is both enjoyable and useful to you!

Out now – Word Order in English Sentences 2nd Edition!

word order bookThe updated version of Word Order in English Sentences is now available in eBook and, for the first time, print form. Through extensive editing, and feedback from my readers, this new edition is over twice the size of the original – and looks a lot nicer!

The 1st Edition of the book was a brief introduction to sentence structure that covered the basics of some sentence components. I’ve built on it covering many more of the building blocks of a sentence – making the 2nd edition a more comprehensive guide to understanding how words fit together in English. It remains an introduction, but a much more solid one.

The full contents of the guide now cover:

  • Basic sentence structure (subject-verb-object and beyond)
  • Question forms
  • Negative forms
  • Verb phrases (now including phrasal verbs, transitives and intransitives, and combinations of verbs)
  • Noun phrases (now including compound nouns, noun complements and embedded questions as noun phrases)
  • Adjectives (now including adjectives in unusual positions)
  • Adverbs
  • Prepositions
  • Sentences with multiple clauses (including simple, complex and compound sentences)

The book also includes 16 exercises to test knowledge through re-ordering scrambled sentences. The book will give you a solid basis for understanding how an English sentence fits together, and how one word relates to another – which is the first step towards understanding how sentences can then bend the rules.

Regular readers of this blog may recognise many of the lessons contained in the book – now you can own the material in one easy to use reference guide. The book is available in various electronic forms, including in PDF from the shop here. Meanwhile the print form is designed in a style that matches The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide (so they’ll look good on a shelf together!).

Coming this February – the expanded Word Order guide

word order bookMembers of my mailing list will already be aware that I have been working on a long-overdue update to Word Order in English Sentences – and with the help of my readers it is now almost ready for publication. This February I will be releasing the 2nd Edition of Word Order in English Sentences with greatly expanded content and a much more professional edit.

The 1st Edition of the book was a short eBook I originally produced as a piece of bonus material for my subscribers. It proved popular enough to keep selling, but as an early piece of work, I was never happy with the standard of the book, or the level of detail it covered. The basic original guide has therefore been given an overhaul, with the new version expanded from 47 pages to over 100 – and it will now also be available, for the first time, in print form!

The new contents include:

  • Expanded verb phrases structures, including introductions to tenses, transitive and intransitive verbs, and connecting verbs to locations, other verbs and clauses
  • Expanded noun phrase structures, including a detailed look at compound nouns, noun complements and embedded questions as noun objects
  • Expanded adjective rules, including adjectives after nouns and verbs
  • New chapter on Prepositions, discussing where they come in questions, passive structures, relative clauses and in relation to infinitives
  • New chapter on sentences with multiple clauses, including simple, complex and compound sentences
  • New chapter on flexible word order and sentence structure, introducing ideas for creating different forms from the same sentence

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with some of the new content added to the book. It is a massive improvement on the original – so look out for it in February (and be sure to join the mailing list to be the first to hear of its release!). If you would like to review the book for your website, or on Amazon, or would like to recommend review sites to me, do let me know.

 

The Impact of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – in Language and Culture

christmas carol dickens languageIn 1843, Charles Dickens wrote a novella called A Christmas Carol, a story still told today. The story followed a miser (a nasty man who does not want to share his wealth) on Christmas Eve, as he is visited by three spirits that teach him about kindness and caring. Its positive message, of a bad person becoming generous, has had a big impact on Western culture around the Christmas season – including interesting contributions to the English language. Continue reading