Improving Your Writing – With a Little Help from George Orwell

In distant days of the Spice Girls, Nintendo 64s and fluorescent shell suits, one could very easily bimble their way through the English GCSEs, without giving any consideration or two-hoots to what makes for good writing. Now however, as the grammatically incompetent Bob Dylan once quoth, ‘The Times They are A-Changin’. With marks being awarded in most subjects for the quality of written expression, it is imperative that we try to remedy the situation. Therefore, this short tract, with a little help from George Orwell, will try to highlight the importance of writing eloquently and prepare you for life as a lexical champion.

I have already written on the different parts of speech and thus I presuppose that you can identify nouns, adjectives, clauses, metaphors and so on. Therefore, I will begin with Orwell’s celebrated rules of good writing before adding my emendations and additions.

The first requirement of writing is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of written expression follows clarity of thought. If you can develop this process through excellent oracy, then so much the better. Think what you want to say, then write it as plainly as possible. Consider George Orwell’s six elementary rules from his wonderful work, Politics and the English Language:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

 (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. Let us consider each pontification and explore how they can be beneficial to our writing.

On Metaphors:

“A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image,” stated Orwell. Much of our language is built on metaphors without our being aware of it. As Alex Quigley explains, “Metaphors are essential for good writing. They provide the backbone to rhetoric. They are the stuff of imagination and they transform our stories. They can illuminate information and make explanations comprehensible. In short, they are essential.”

However, we need to be careful when using them. Dead metaphors can add subtlety and sophistication to your writing, but outworn metaphors should be avoided like the plague. James Geary argues that we use six metaphors a minute. His interesting and entertaining TED talk on the power and magic of metaphors can be viewed here:

On Short Words:

Use them. They are very easy to spell and even easier to understand. Do not waffle when brevity will suffice. Do not overuse polysyllabic lexis to sound like a fancy-pants. That is all.

On Unnecessary Words:

Upon occasion, additional words can add nothing but length to your writing. When using adjectives, ensure that they make your meaning more precise and be cautious of those you use to make it more emphatic. For example, very is often used to add greater detail, but leaving it out can sometimes offer more meaning and create a deeper effect. Try this: ‘He was smelly’ may have more force than ‘He was very smelly’.

Furthermore, never use three words when two spiffing ones will suffice. Remember this apology from parliamentary draftsman, Blaise Pascal ‘I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter’. Proofreading and a brutal edit will make your writing concise and formal. If possible, cut out subordinate clauses and take the shortest route to the end of the sentence. Do not pass go; do not collect £200.

Finally, we come to needless repetition and tautology. Some examples include: A major disaster could have been sparked off when Morris hit the dance floor”, “The bunny died of a fatal dose of laughing gas” and “Mr Fothergill kept it from his friends that he was going on a secret and unexpected journey.” I like Mark Twain’s comments on the subject when he exclaims, “I do not find that the repetition of an important word a few times–say, three or four times–in a paragraph troubles my ear if clearness of meaning is best secured thereby. But tautological repetition which has no justifying object, but merely exposes the fact that the writer’s balance at the vocabulary bank has run short and that he is too lazy to replenish it from the thesaurus–that is another matter. It makes me feel like calling the writer to account.”

On Active, Not Passive:

The passive voice invariably hides information and sounds pompous. If unsure of the difference, please see this slide:

active and passive

On Jargon and Foreign Phrases:

Avoid them as much as possible. Language from the office, bureaucracy, legal system, boring Science teachers, media trash, techy geeks, and those ruddy squaddies, should be ignored and replaced with plain and understandable expression. Keep it simple, stupid. Furthermore, do not get me started on the supercilious folk who like to drop in the odd Latin or French phrase to sound snooty. Shakespeare captures this perfectly in his bombastic and arrogant braggadocio, Pistol, when he screams “Si fortuna me tormenta, spero me contenta” to bemused prostitutes. The beautiful irony is that it’s a garbled mixture of Italian, French and Spanish, and means absolutely nothing. Shakespeare uses it to demonstrate the foolishness and faux intelligence of the character.

I hope the key messages of Orwell remain with you and help improve your writing. The more you are aware of your expression and the implicit decisions we make when trying to communicate, the more you write with clarity and sophistication.

How to write good...

Or not?

 

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Our Recommended Reading List for Literary Lovers

From the classics and Winnie-the-Pooh to poetry, biographies and books that changed the way we view the world… we at SWA present to you our literary recommendations to enlighten, engross and entertain.

dog-reading-book

POETRY

18th/19th centuries. Some poets worth getting to know:

Alexander Pope, P.B. Shelley, G.M.Hopkins, Lord Byron, John Keats, Elizabeth Browning, William Blake, Lord Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, W.Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Walt Whitman

20th century:

Wilfred Owen, Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, T.S. Elliot, R.S. Thomas, Sylvia Plath, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, Douglas Dunn, W.H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Tony Harrison, Louis MacNeice, Stevie Smith, Simon Armitage, Stephen Spender, Derek Walcott, Liz Lochhead, Thomas Hardy, Ezra Pound, e e cummings, Langston Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, Allen Ginsberg

 

DRAMA

Shakespeare’s time: Shakespeare! Marlowe, Jonson,Webster

19th century:Wilde, G B Shaw (spans both centuries)

20th century: Brian Friel, Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Sean O’Casey, Arnold Wesker, Alan Bennett, John Osborne, John Arden, Alan Ayckbourne, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, Sam Shepherd, Tennessee Williams

 

NOVELS BY OLD, DEAD FOLK, BUT STILL WICKED

Thomas Hardy – Jude The Obscure, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

W.M. Thackeray – Vanity Fair

Charles Dickens – Great Expectation, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby

Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

George Elliot – Middlemarch, Silas Marner

Henry Fielding – Tom Jones

Elizabeth Gaskell – Mary Barton etc.

Harriet Beecher Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Jane Austen – Emma, Pride and Prejudice

Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Bram Stoker – Dracula

Robert Louis Stevenson – Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Daniel Defoe – Robison Crusoe

Alexandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo

Anthony Trollope – The Way We Live Now

Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray

Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes etc.

Homer – The Iliad, The Odyssey

Virgil – The Aeniad

 

 NEWER STUFF THAT IS GENERALLY AWESOME

 Arnold Bennett – The Old Wives’ Tale

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

E.M. Forster – Where Angels Fear to Tread, Howards End

D.H. Lawrence – Sons & Lovers

James Joyce – Portrait of the Artist

Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

Virginia Woolf – Moments of Being

Edith Wharton – The Age of Innocence

Graham Greene – Power & the Glory, Brighton Rock

George Orwell – 1984, Animal Farm

John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath

Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited, The Sword of Honour Trilogy

William Golding – The Lord of the Flies

Jack Kerouac – On the Road

John Le Carre – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Kingsley Amis – Lucky Jim

Ian McEwan – Atonement

Alice Walker – The Colour Purple

Paul Scott – Staying On

Joseph Heller – Catch 22

Margaret Drabble – The Millstone

Fay Weldon – Life & Loves of a She-Devil

John Fowles – The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong

Nick Hornby – High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, About A Boy, Juliet, Naked

Tony Parsons – Man and Boy

Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Shadow of the Wind

J R Tolkien – The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings

A A Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh

C S Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters

Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns

John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Yann Martel – Life of Pi

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

Russell Hoban – Riddley Walker

Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections

Paul Auster – The New York Trilogy, Leviathan, The Book of Illusions

Truman Capote – In Cold Blood

Ken Kesey – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

William Burroughs – Naked Lunch

 

GRAPHIC NOVELS (Grown up picture books)

 Alan Moore – Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Batman: The Killing Joke, From Hell

Frank Miller – 300, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One

Harvey Pekar – The American Splendour Series

Daniel Klowes – Ghost World

 

PHILOSOPHY

Plato – The Republic, The Death of Socrates

Aristotle – Poetics, The Nichomachean Ethics,

David Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

 

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES BY COOL FOLK

Ranulph Fiennes – Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

Patrick Hennessey – The Junior Officers’ Reading Club

Bradley Wiggins – My Time

Mark Oliver Everett – Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Andy Behrman – Electroboy – Memoir of a Mania

William Burroughs – Junky

Hunter S Thompson – Hell’s Angels

 

TEACHER RECOMMENDATION

F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby (Mr Hetherington)

Pat Barker – Regeneration (Mr Price)

Alexandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers (Mr Morris)

John Kennedy-Toole – A Confederacy of Dunces (Mr Fothergill)

 

 STUDENT RECOMMENDATION

Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being A Wallflower

John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

Prepositions – Get over it!

prep

preposition is a word which governs a noun or a pronoun and connects it to anything else if the sentence or clause.  Prepositions are words or groups of words that introduce phrases; and these phrases modify some element in a sentence. What follows a preposition is normally a noun, pronoun, or noun clause. A word that follows a preposition is its object, and, in the case of pronouns especially, this affects the form of the word.

  • Within the dark cave, he felt the presence of death.
  • Beneath the shadowed moon, the trees danced gracefully throughout the night.

Here are the main prepositions:

Prepositions

Task:

  1. Look at the image below
  2. Write a paragraph of five sentences, each starting with a different preposition

forest

Conjunctions – I like them big and I cannot lie!

Image

A conjunction is a word which joins together any two words of the same part of speech, or any two words of the same part of speech, or any two phrase, or clauses, or even sentences. The word ‘conjunction’ comes from past participle, ‘coniunctus’, of the Latin ‘coniungo’ meaning ‘I join together’, a bit like a glue-happy Bob the Builder.

There are two general kinds of conjunctive words: co-ordinating conjunctions and subordinate conjunctions.

Co-ordinating conjunctions join elements that are grammatically the same: two or more words, two equivalent phrases, or two equivalent clauses. The most common co-ordinate conjunctions are: and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet.

  • Hot and cold (two equal words joined in a phrase).
  • I like going for a run and wearing Lycra (two equal phrases in a relative clause).
  • I felt sleepy, but needed to stay awake and watch ‘Made in Chelsea’ (two equal clauses in a complete sentence).

A correlative conjunction is a special kind of co-ordinating conjunction. It connects equivalent elements, but it works in pairs of words: both, and; either, or; neither, nor; whether, or; not only, but also.

  • He wants both riches and glory.
  • Neither money nor power matters.
  • Either she will go, or she will stay.

Subordinate conjunctions: While coordinating conjunctions connect equal grammatical elements, subordinate conjunctions introduce dependent or conditional clauses.

  • Although she has money, she never buys us chocolate.
  • Because he was late, he didn’t get a cookie.
  • After this terrible movie is over, we will angrily throw popcorn at those who recommended it.

Words that operate as conjunctions can often be used in other ways, such as adverbs, prepositions, adjectives, or even pronouns.

  • We have met before (before is an adverb).
  • Before they leave, let us have dinner (before is a conjunction).

There are other words besides conjunctions that serve as connectors (or connectives) in sentences. The relative pronouns who and which are often so used.

  • That is the fellow who was wearing the spiffing bow-tie.
  • The dessert is strawberries, which give him a rash.

Some of the conjunctions work both as adverbs and conjunctions in the same sentence. This is often true of consequently, however, therefore, and nevertheless.

  • He was ill; nevertheless he went to work to infect as many people as possible.
  • She disliked her friend; consequently she threw a snowball at her face.

 Polysyndeton is the use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some could otherwise be omitted (as in “he ran and jumped and laughed for joy”). The word “polysyndeton” comes from the Greek “poly-“, meaning “many,” and “syndeton”, meaning “bound together with”. It is a stylistic scheme used to achieve a variety of effects: it can increase the rhythm of prose, speed or slow its pace, convey solemnity or even ecstasy and childlike exuberance. Another common use of polysyndeton is to create a sense of being overwhelmed, or in fact directly overwhelm the audience by using conjunctions, rather than commas, leaving little room for a reader to breathe.[2][3]

Polysyndeton is used extensively in the King James Bible. For example:

  • And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. Genesis 7:22-24
  • Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcass of an unclean beast, or a carcass of unclean cattle, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty. Leviticus 5:2.
  • And Joshua, and all of Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had. Joshua 7.24.

Writers of modern times have also used the scheme:

  • “I said, ‘Who killed him?’ and he said ‘I don’t know who killed him, but he’s dead all right,’ and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights or windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was right only she was full of water.” Ernest Hemingway, After the Storm
  • “[The train] came boring out of the east like some ribald satellite of the coming sun howling and bellowing in the distance and the long light of the headlamp running though the tangled mesquite brakes and creating out of the night the endless fenceline down the dead straight right of way and sucking it back again wire and post mile on mile into the darkness after where the boilersmoke disbanded slowly along the faint new horizon and the sound came lagging and he stood still holding his hat in his hands in the passing ground shudder watching it till it was gone.” Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
  • “Tender as my years may be,” said Caspian, “I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands meat or bread or beer or wine or timber or cabbages or books or instruments of music or horses or armour or anything else worth having.” C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader
  • “There were frowzy fields, and cow-houses, and dunghills, and dust heaps, and ditches, and gardens, and summer-houses, and carpet-beating grounds, at the very door of the Railway. Little tumuli of oyster shells in the oyster season, and of lobster shells in the lobster season, and of broken crockery and faded cabbage leaves in all seasons, encroached upon its high places.” Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son

Task:

  1. Read the extract from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects the conjunctions have on the reader.

“Maybe she would pretend that I was her boy that was killed and we would go in the front door and the porter would take off his cap and I would stop at the concierge’s desk and ask for the key and she would stand by the elevator and it would go up very slowly clicking at all the floors and then our floor and the boy would open the door and stand there and she would step out and we would walk down the hall and I would put the key in the door and open it and go in and then take down the telephone and ask them to send a bottle of capri bianca in a silver bucket full of ice and you would hear the ice against the pail coming down the corridor and the boy would knock and I would say leave it outside the door please.”

Adverbs – not verbs that describe an advertisement!

adverbs

An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, adjective or another verb. The word derives from the Latin ‘ad’ meaning ‘to’ and ‘verbum’ which quite simply means, errr, ‘verb’. ‘Adverb’ is therefore a sort of shorthand word for reflecting the fact that adverbs modify verbs very much more often than they modify adjectives and other adverbs.

The most common use of an adverb, of course, is to describe verbs: He ran quickly. Actually, however, adverbs can modify anything but nouns or verb forms used as nouns. Typically adverbs express:

  • time (now, then, yesterday)
  • manner (happily, easily)
  • degree (less, more, very)
  • direction and place (there, up, down)
  • affirmation or negation (certainly, not)
  • cause and result (thus, consequently), and
  • qualification or doubt (however, probably).

Although many adverbs are formed by adding ‘-ly’ to adjectives (quick/quickly, happy/happily, spiffy/spiffily), adverbs have no characteristic form and thus can be hard to work out. They can only be identified by the function they perform in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “That is a fast car”, fast is an adjective. However, in the sentence ‘He ran fast’, it is an adverb. Strange, huh?

Certain adverbs (how, when, where, why, whenever, and wherever) are called relative adverbs because they introduce relative clauses. In the sentence “The monkey is upstairs where you left him”, the clause “where you left him” modifies the adverb ‘upstairs’.

Other adverbs are called conjunctive adverbs because they join one clause with another. Some of these adverbs are: therefore, accordingly, besides, furthermore, instead, meanwhile, and nevertheless. In the sentence “He was pretty goosed; therefore he stayed home and watched My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”, the word therefore modifies the clause of which it is a part and connects that clause to the previous part of the sentence.

TASK:

  1. Read the poem ‘Slowly’ by James Reeves
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects the adverbs have on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, write an adverb poem of your own. Remember to plan all your ideas first before you start. Use the following adverbs to help:
    quietly, gently, softly, lightly, swiftly, brightly, loudly, frantically, jocularly, sternly, jovially, awkwardly, cunningly, cautiously, furiously, monstrously, desperately, bravely, luckily, mysteriously, tragically.

Slowly

JAMES REEVES

Slowly the tide creeps up the sand,

Slowly the shadows cross the land.

Slowly the cart-horse pulls his mile,

Slowly the old man mounts his stile.

Slowly the hands move round the clock,

Slowly the dew dries on the dock.

Slow is the snail – but slowest of all

The green moss spreads on the old brick wall.

Verbs – You can do it!

tense

A verb is a doing or being word; a verb is a word which expresses an action or state. The word ‘verb’ derives from the Latin word ‘verbum’, meaning ‘word’. The reason for this rather peculiar and dreary derivation is that a verb is the word in any sentence. Should you omit it, all other words cease to make sense and your sentences become confuddled. For simple minds like myself, I like to think of verbs as just ‘a telling word’.

When I was a young Sir, I became rather muddled by all these inflections during my French and Latin lessons and thus ran from them as quickly as possible to the rugger pitch, wanting to dive around in the mud. Therefore, to save both my head and yours, I will outline the very basics of verbs and how to use them correctly in sentences.

Verbs are the Everest of word classes: ridiculously difficult to define, describe and analyse. Nevertheless, the main characteristics you will find explained in detail below:

1.     Tenses: Questionably, the most important division of verbs is into tenses, which show when the action is being done (or might have been done, or should have been done, and so on). Tense shows the time of a verb’s action or being. There are three inflected forms reflected by changes in the endings of verbs. The present tense indicates that something is happening or being now: “She is a disco diva. She has a potato on her head.” The simple past tense indicates that something happened in the past: “She was a disco diva. She had a potato on her head.” And the past participle form is combined with auxiliary verbs to indicate that something happened in the past prior to another action: “She has been a disco diva. She had driven a new car.”

 There are several different ways in English that you can talk about the future. Unlike most other languages, English does not have inflected forms for the future tense. Instead, English future forms are created with the use of auxiliaries: so called because they help verbs to form some of their parts, such as “She will be a disco diva. She is going to have a potato on her head.” Furthermore, modal verbs are used to show what is possible (can, could, may and might); what is necessary (must); what is allowed (may and might); and what is expected or intended (may, might, will and shall).

2.     Voices: Doing verbs are either in the active voice or in the passive voice. The active voice is for when the subject of the sentence is doing whatever is being done. The passive voice is for when the subject is not doing the action but experiencing it – that is , having it done to them. Take the following example:

active verbs

3.     Moods: Verbs are also a) in the indicative mood, or b) in the imperative mood, or c) in the subjunctive mood, or d) in the infinitive mood. The mood of a verb indicates its function – what it is used for – in the sentence in which it appears.

a)      The indicative mood is usually for making a statement or asking a question

b)      The imperative mood is used for commands and orders

c)       The subjunctive mood expresses doubt, uncertainty, improbability, an order, a wish, a condition or a purpose.

d)      The infinitive mood is used to express an action or state of being without giving any indication of a subject. In effect, it plays the role of a noun as well as a verb.

4.     Non-finite parts of verbs: after tenses, voices and moods, there is one last group of verb that needs to be explained: these are called non-finite parts of verbs. Non-finite parts are verbs which, unlike any other verb type, are not, and cannot in any way be connected with a subject (the do-er). There are three types of non-finite verb parts: the infinitive (as in ‘To teach); the participle (as in ‘The teaching profession’); and the gerund (as in ‘Teaching is satisfying). In contrast to any other type of verb, these cannot have a noun or personal pronoun placed in front of it as a subject.

a)    The infinitive simply names the action or state without reference to who or what is either doing the action, or being whatever it is that he or she is being.

b)    A participle is a part of a verb which does the job of an adjective as well as a verb. It is called such as it participates in the nature of both verbs and adjectives.

c)     The gerund, formed from the verb by adding ‘-ing’ on the end and making it a verbal noun; that is to say, the gerund is in one respect a verb and another a noun.

5.     Irregular verbs: Finally on the subject of verbs (as my eyes have gone a little squiffy), there are irregular verbs. Most verbs form both their past tense and the past participle by adding ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ on the end of the base form of the verb. Thus ‘love’ becomes ‘I loved’ and ‘I have loved’. However, there are more than two hundred verbs which you do not simply add ‘-d’ or ‘-ed at the end, and these tend to be more common nouns. For example, ‘teach/taught/taught’, ‘sing/sang/sung’, ‘go/went/gone’.

 

TASK:

  1. Read the following extract from Martin Luther King’s infamous ‘I have a dream’ speech  and identify all the different types of verbs.
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects they have on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, provide an answer for the following question, providing evidence to support your opinion: How did Martin Luther King Jr’s speech reflect a changing American society?

Extract from Martin Luther King’s Speech: ‘I Have a Dream’

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

 

Adjectives – the most splendiferous of all

adjectives

An adjective is a word which describes a noun or a pronoun. Rather beautifully, the word ‘adjective’ comes from the past participle of the Latin word ‘adicio’ which breaks down into ‘ad’ meaning ‘towards’ or ‘at’ and, when it by itself without a prefix in front of it, ‘iacio’ meaning ‘I throw’. Thus, literally, an adjective is a word ‘thrown at’ a noun. Just think of that poor, defenceless noun next time you decide to throw a whopping adjective at it, hitting it in the noggin and making it lose consciousness, just like Sniper Morris hurling highlighters and glue sticks at students on a regular basis.

Furthermore, adjectives have also been niftily described as ‘the clothing’ of nouns and pronouns. Once again, ensure you dress your nouns and pronouns exotically; no one likes a butt-naked noun or pronoun.

There are five types of adjectives, which you will find explained in detail below:

Adjectives of quality, which answers the question ‘Of what sort?’, as in ‘spiffing and awful’ and ‘cheerful and dull’

Adjectives of quantity, which answers the question ‘How much?, as in ‘any’, ‘few’, much’ and ‘enough’.

Adjectives of number, which answer the question ‘How many?’, as in ‘one’ all the way up to infinity.

Demonstrative adjectives, which answer the question ‘Which?, as in ‘this or that’

Possessive adjectives, are used in three different sentences and show errr, possession; as in, ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’, ‘our’, ‘your’ again, and ‘their’. These always stand either:

a)      Before the noun(s) they apply to (as in ‘your glockenspiel lesson); or

b)      Before any adjective(s) immediately before the noun(s) they apply to (as in ‘your splendiferous glockenspiel lesson); or

c)       Before any adverb(s) immediately before any adjective(s) immediately before the noun(s) they apply to (as in your amazingly splendiferous glockenspiel lesson). Got it? Good.

The basic adjectives, which are called positive adjectives, can have comparatives and superlatives, both of which indicate degrees of the adjective in question.

a)      A comparative adjective is the form of the positive adjective which makes it mean more of the adjective in question.

b)      A superlative adjective is in the form of the positive adjective which makes it mean the most of the adjective in question.

Examples of the positives, comparatives and superlatives of adjectives include: ‘best, better, best’, ‘sweet, sweeter and sweetest’ and ‘spiffing, more spiffing and most spiffing’.

Despite trying to make them have them, some adjective just do not have comparatives and superlatives. Some of these include ‘unique’, ‘infinite’ and ‘dead’. Nevertheless, Mr Morris does try to break this rule as often as possible when attempting to be witty and flippant, such as, ‘Forget your homework again and you’ll be deader than the deadest doornail in history’. That guy is so hilarious.

worst post ever

TASK:

  1. Read the following poem by John Keats  and identify all the different types of pronouns.
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects they have on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, provide an answer for the following question, providing evidence to support your opinion: On its surface, the ode “To Autumn” seems to be little more than description, an illustration of a season. But underneath its descriptive surface, “To Autumn” is one very thematically rich poem. How does Keats manage to embody complex themes in such an apparently simple poem?

TO AUTUMN

John Keats

                                            1.

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

2.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

3.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Pronouns – much better than amateur ones

pronoun dog

A pronoun is a word which takes the place of a noun. It is used to avoid gawky, repetitive sentences. The word comes from the Latin ‘pro’ meaning ‘for’ or ‘on behalf of’ and of course if you have read our previous blog on nouns, you will know that ‘nomen’ means ‘name’.

There are various types of pronouns, the most basic of which you will find explained in detail below:

Personal pronouns – they include

  • number: singular (eg: I) or plural (eg: we)
  • person: 1st person (eg: I), 2nd person (eg: you) or 3rd person (eg: he)
  • gender: male (eg: he), female (eg: she) or neuter (eg: it)
  • case: subject (eg: we) or object (eg: us)

Other kinds of pronouns include:

Intensive pronoun, as in ‘I myself can see it’

Reflexive pronoun, as in ‘I myself can see myself

Relative pronoun, such as ‘who’, ‘which’ and ‘that’; for example, Mr Morris’ gnarly tattoo saying ‘He who dares’ and ‘The thing that he dares to do’. Furthermore, relative pronouns can be used as conjunctions which join clauses together, as ‘We have found the mongoose that you were looking for.’

Demonstrative pronouns, such as ‘this’ and ‘that’, as in the famous whimsical proclamation from Hamlet ‘To be or not to be: that is the question’.

Interrogative pronouns, such as ‘who’, ‘whoever’, ‘which’, and ‘what’, but this time starting a question, as in ‘Who the devil made that smell?’, ‘Whoever could have stolen my favourite gerbil?’ and of course, ‘What the deuce?’

Indefinite pronouns, do not refer to any specific person, thing or amount. They are vague and “not definite”; some typical indefinite pronouns are: ‘all’, ‘another’, ‘any’, ‘anybody/anyone’, ‘anything’, ‘each’, ‘everybody/everyone’, ‘everything’, ‘few’, ‘many’, ‘nobody’, ‘none’, ‘one’, ‘several’, ‘some’, ‘somebody/someone’

Possessive pronouns – we use possessive pronouns to refer to a specific person/people or thing/things (the “antecedent”) belonging to a person/people (and sometimes belonging to an animal/animals or thing/things). We use possessive pronouns depending on:

  • number: singular (eg: mine) or plural (eg: ours)
  • person: 1st person (eg: mine), 2nd person (eg: yours) or 3rd person (eg: his)
  • gender: male (his), female (hers)

TASK:

  1. Read the following poem by Robert Browning and identify all the different types of pronouns.
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects they have on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, decide whether you agree with this statement, and provide evidence to support your opinion: the poem has a disturbing effect as we gain intimate insight into the mind of a would-be killer and are horrified by her intended actions and lack of regard for her potential victims

 

The Laboratory

Ancien Régime

 I.

Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly,

May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely,

As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy—

Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?

II.

He is with her, and they know that I know

Where they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow

While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear

Empty church, to pray God in, for them!—I am here.

III

Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste,

Pound at thy powder,—I am not in haste!

Better sit thus, and observe thy strange things,

Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s.

IV

That in the mortar—you call it a gum?

Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!

And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue,

Sure to taste sweetly,—is that poison too?

V

Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures,

What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures!

To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,

A signet, a fan-mount, a filigree basket!

VI

Soon, at the King’s, a mere lozenge to give,

And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!

But to light a pastile, and Elise, with her head

And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!

VII

Quick—is it finished? The colour’s too grim!

Why not soft like the phial’s, enticing and dim?

Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and stir,

And try it and taste, ere she fix and prefer!

VIII

What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me!

That’s why she ensnared him: this never will free

The soul from those masculine eyes,—Say, “no!”

To that pulse’s magnificent come-and-go.

IX

For only last night, as they whispered, I brought

My own eyes to bear on her so, that I thought

Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she would fall

Shrivelled; she fell not; yet this does it all!

X

Not that I bid you spare her the pain;

Let death be felt and the proof remain:

Brand, burn up, bite into its grace—

He is sure to remember her dying face!

XI

Is it done? Take my mask off! Nay, be not morose;

It kills her, and this prevents seeing it close;

The delicate droplet, my whole fortune’s fee!

If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me?

XII

Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill,

You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!

But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings

Ere I know it—next moment I dance at the King’s!

Nouns – these are crazy things

crows

A noun is the name of a person, place or thing; that is to say, it is fundamentally the name of whatever we can think about. It is also, in old-fuddy times, known as a substantive. The word originates from the Latin for ‘name’: ‘nomen’.

There are lots of different types of nouns, which you will find explained in detail below:

For names of persons or places:

a)      Most nouns are common nouns. This does not mean that they sound like they should be on an episode of Jeremy Kyle, but in fact, indicate a class of persons, places or things. These only require a capital letter when stated at the beginning of a sentence. Examples of common nouns are, for instance, the words ‘man’, ‘school’ and ‘glockenspiel’ (one of my favourite words).

b)      However, some nouns indicating persons and things are proper nouns. A proper noun refers to an individual person or place, and almost always starts with a capital letter; for instance, ‘Herbert’ and ‘Nantucket’.

c)       Furthermore, when a noun is the name of a thing, that thing could be:

  1. A concrete noun. A concrete noun is something which exists in a material form and which we can therefore see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
  2. An abstract noun: an abstract noun is something we cannot perceive with our senses, because it is separate from matter. Examples of abstract nouns include justice, beauty, happiness, history, childhood and I guess, Mr Morris’ hair.

d)      Finally, one other important category of nouns is the category of collective nouns. Examples include ‘flock’, ‘jury’ and ‘committee’. According to their sense in particular cases, the same collective noun can:

  1. Sometimes be plural, as in the sentence ‘The committee were in disagreement among themselves’; and
  2. Sometimes be singular, as in ‘The committee was full of intelligent teachers deciding which pub to go to after work’.

TASK:

  1. Read the following poem by William Wordsworth and identify all the different nouns.
  2. Next, zoom in and analyse the different effects on the reader
  3. In the comments section below, answer the following question: how does Wordsworth achieve the seemingly effortless effect of implying the unity of his consciousness with nature?

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

By  William Wordsworth

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Spelling Guide for Parents

spelling

We at Samuel Whitbread are trying to improve our students’ literacy by targeting their reading, writing and spelling across every subject. Every student will be learning reading strategies, writing techniques, as well as subject-specific terminology and advanced vocabulary to ensure the best possible chance of success in their GCSEs.

When we write we have to consider a number of aspects and make certain decisions. We need to know what the purpose of our writing is and for whom we are writing. We need to think about the content and what form our writing will take, for example, is it a science report, a history essay, a letter to a parent, or an email? We then need to think about the structure appropriate to the purpose and form of our writing, in addition to the use of sentences, paragraphs and punctuation.

We then select the vocabulary that will best convey our meaning.

And finally, we think about how to spell the words we write.

Children can find writing a real challenge; especially if they do not read at home for pleasure. They need encouragement, support and praise for their efforts. You can best support them by encouraging them to read and write on every possible occasion, praising their efforts and, importantly, by letting them see you reading and writing whenever possible. You can play word games with them (e.g. ‘Words with Friends’, Scrabble), you can discuss interesting or new words which you have read and you can compose emails/letters together. Why not have a family book club?

Most adults, even if we consider ourselves to be good spellers, make spelling mistakes at some point (especially English teachers). What is important is that we know what to do when we get stuck and we know how to correct our mistakes.

The English language is rich and complex; but, despite its difficulty, 85% of the English spelling system is predictable. Your child will learn the rules and conventions of the system and the spelling strategies needed to become a confident speller. Here are some of the strategies that will help your child become a confident and accurate speller:

  • Sounding words out: breaking the word down into phonemes (c-a-t) – however, many complicated words cannot be sounded out so other strategies are needed;
  • Dividing the word into syllables, say each syllable as they write the word ( re-mem-ber);
  • Using the Look, say, cover, write, check strategy: look at the word and say it out aloud, then cover it, write it and check to see if it is correct. If not, highlight or underline the incorrect part and repeat the process;
  • Using mnemonics as an aid to memorising a tricky word (rhythm: rhythm helps your two hips move);
  • Finding words within words (lie in believe;
  • Making connections between the meaning of words and their spelling (e.g. sign, signal, signature)
  • Working out spelling rules for themselves – please see below;
  • Having a dictionary on mobile phones and tablets.

Top Four Spelling Rules

1. Using I Before E

Use i before e, except after c, or when sounded as “a” as in “neighbour” and “weigh.”
EXAMPLES: believe, chief, piece, and thief; deceive, receive, weigh, and freight
COMMON EXCEPTIONS: efficient, weird, height, neither, ancient, caffeine, foreign

2. Dropping the Final E

Drop the final e before a suffix beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) but not before a suffix beginning with a consonant.
EXAMPLES:
ride + ing = riding
guide + ance = guidance
hope + ing = hoping
entire + ly = entirely
like + ness = likeness
arrange + ment = arrangement
COMMON EXCEPTIONS: truly, noticeable

3. Changing a Final Y to I

Change a final y to i before a suffix, unless the suffix begins with i.
EXAMPLES:
defy + ance = defiance
party + es = parties
pity + ful = pitiful
try + es = tries
try + ing = trying
copy + ing = copying
occupy + ing = occupying
COMMON EXCEPTIONS: journeying, memorize

4. Doubling a Final Consonant

Double a final single consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel when both of these conditions exist:
(a) a single vowel precedes the consonant;
(b) the consonant ends an accented syllable or a one-syllable word.
EXAMPLES:
stop + ing = stopping
admit + ed = admitted
occur + ence = occurrence
stoop + ing = stooping
benefit + ed = benefited
delight + ful = delightful

For more spelling rules, please see here: http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/spelling-rules-and-tips