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Jewinski, Judi.

Scarborough (Ont.), Prentice-Hall, c1987. 247pp, paper, $12.50, ISBN 0-13-281270-3. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Joanne Peters

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

English Made Easy is a rather curious name for a book that subtitles itself "A Canadian Rhetoric and Handbook." A more appropriate title would be Essay Writing Made Easy, despite the author's disclaimer that "This textbook does not pretend that writing is easy." Essay writing (for that is the main focus of the "Rhetoric" section) is not easy; it is easily the most difficult of all functional writing tasks, and even those students who can analyze the ideas, support, and organization of a model essay, often find themselves in difficulty when they have to make decisions about the content of their own work.

The book is divided into three sections: Section I focuses on the content and organization of an essay; Section II contains sample essays for analysis; and the third section is a handbook of usage, grammar, punctuation, and so on. While both Sections I and II deal thoroughly with the subject matter and provide numerous models and applications of the points being stressed, there is nothing really new here, aside from some handy acronyms to aid students in the composing process. Furthermore, the text assumes that drafting a composition is a totally linear thinking process, in which one proceeds neatly from thesis, to introduction, through development, and on to a conclusion. While some people may work in this fashion, not everyone finds it a useful procedure and there are more than a few of us who, having been set the task of creating an outline of a composition, have written first and outlined later.

Nor does the Handbook provide much new material, aside from one exception. There is a section on "unidiomatic expressions," something I have not seen before in a text, and which is decidedly useful for anyone who has students of ESL backgrounds who are still having difficulty with English idioms. Other than that, there is the usual assortment of grammar, usage, and punctuation drills.

This is a book designed primarily for teaching how to write examination essays, and even so, any of us who have laboured in the attempt to teach such writing know that all too often, the only students who really grasp the point are those who are already competent writers of essays. Of particular interest (and no small amount of annoyance) to English teachers is the fact that not one example of a literary essay is included; of all assignments in the various subject areas, the writing of an essay on a literary topic is known to cause anxiety even in those who might do a competent job on a personal essay topic of their own choosing, or in a subject such as history, where there is a fact base on which the student can draw for content and structure.

To conclude, this is not a book that will be of much use to students in non-university entrance classes (who often have great difficulty with abstract topics about which they know and care little) or for students who do not already have a good sense of the structure of an essay. For those senior high and university students who wish to work at the refinement of already strong skills, the book may be a worthwhile investment, but I have a feeling that it will gather dust on my bookshelf.

Joanne Peters, Sisler S.S., Winnipeg, Man.
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