In the MailboxT.S. Causabon's online review of Ten Ways to Tighten Your Prose: A Systematic Approach to Improvement by Susan Ioannou contains a double inaccuracy.
1. Causabon writes: "Ioannou encourages writers to begin sentences with gerund phrases."
Not true. In the passage referred to, Ioannou says nothing about how to begin a sentence. Instead the point is to urge writers to "Dramatize the moment slipping by," using a gesture such as "Twisting her handkerchief'" Ioannou makes this intention clear: "The added gesture shows, not tells. The reader can see time pass." Causabon has misread the passage.
2. Causabon complains that Ioannou "relies on a level of knowledge about formal grammar that many high-school students simply won't have. Ioannou uses 'active voice' and 'passive voice' without defining the terms, for example, and uses 'pluperfect' as though everyone knows what it means."
What a sad (if inaccurate) comment on the state of English teaching today, particularly in conjunction with Causabon's own lack of grammatical knowledge. In the example quoted, "Twisting her handkerchief, she headed down the lane," Causabon wrongly identifies "twisting" as a "gerund," when in fact it is a present participle.
Table of ContentsVolume III Number 11
January 31, 1997
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