CM Archive
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Joseph T. Lyons.

Scarborough (ON), Prentice-Hall, c1983.
205pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-13-971622-X.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Ralph Wintrob.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

There must be some message in the fact that this is the third language and writing skills text in as many years that I have been sent for review. All of them are directed at the post-secondary student.

This particular text is written by a community college English instructor for his students and their peers. Language skills courses are obligatory, and this is an ideal text.

All the topics that used to be taught so vigorously in elementary and secondary schools are reviewed here: parts of speech, sentence organization and analysis, grammatical traps and errors, spelling and punctuation (Do YOU know the rules for comma placement?), good diction, paragraph development (Remember the topic sentence?), making an outline, and organizing an essay.

Each new topic and subtopic is introduced with a plethora of exercises. That is a plus. However, in design, structure, and presentation, the book suffers from the fault of its models of old: it's dull, repetitious, unimaginative, uninspiring. It is more likely to turn one off language than inspiring one to use it more—the object of the exercise after all. It is a turn-off because the more particular, the more technical are our expectations, the more inhibited its users, and artificial their product.

So here we are, back on the horn of the dilemma that led to the abandonment of language analysis years ago: it does not encourage good or accurate writing. But the need to express oneself fluently and correctly is equally compelling at a time when a single spelling mistake or misuse of a word on a resume is enough to cost one a job opportunity.

Perhaps necessity will make better writers of our young people. But I tend to think that the answer lies not in textbooks. How would you react to a cover come-on in bold print of technical terms of usage: mood, gerund, tone, participle, metaphor, infinitive, ad nauseum. Maybe a whole new approach is necessary. The only one on the horizon is the word processor, for the machine can do most of the dirty work and convert language skills learning into a game-like pursuit.

This is not to take away from the clarity, simplicity of explanation, and organization of the text. It is exemplary. It is just that the book is still part of trie problem, rather than showing the way to a solution.

Ralph Wintrob, Zion Heights J. H. S., Willowdale, ON.
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