reading your bookAs writers, it is very easy to forget who it is that are reading our words. If you consider the number of words that are read nowadays on screen as opposed to on paper, you may want to consider readers of English to whom English is a second or third language, as part of your real or potential readership. As a teacher of English, I know full well that this opening paragraph is highly unsuitable reading for an operating level non-native English reader.

Reading is very important when acquiring, learning, improving, practising and perfecting a new language. For students, reading allows time to think, consider and work out what is being said. Listening skills take much longer to acquire than reading, so it is important for them to find reading texts that are both manageable to read, and importantly, interesting.

Blogs are now being used more and more in English language teaching because they offer such a wide choice of subject matter to attract student attention and are also usually of an appropriate length. Around two hundred to six hundred words. So when you are writing blogs and articles perhaps it is worth considering your grammar and lexis. Second language students normally have trouble understanding when they have difficulty in finding the basic elements of phrase. That is, subject, verb, object. Even if they do not understand the adjectives, adverbs, modifiers and some vocabulary, they can still follow an idea so long as the structure is friendly for them.

If I was to consider this article as being good material for a student, I would re-write my introductory paragraph above as follows.

Writers can forget the readers of their words. People are reading more words on screens now than in books or magazines. Second language English students are reading more and more material on the internet as a way of learning and practising their English. Writers should think about using material that is suitable for these readers.

The most noticeable change here is in starting sentences with a clear subject. Sentences starting with adverbial phrases, gerunds and prepositions cause difficulty for students who have less than an advanced level of English. Cleft sentences and conditionals without if, test even an advanced learner.

Another consideration is in the demographic of those acquiring English. Professionals, academics, bankers, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists and the list goes on. In fact, the same demographic you are writing for currently, except with less than mother tongue English skills. I would certainly not advise changing your style to that of a children’s bedtime story. However, I would consider keeping the first one or two paragraphs reasonably student friendly to at least grab their interest and add the possibility of new readers of your work. You can then happily show of your ability to use the subjunctive later in your piece.

My advice? Were it to be me, I wouldn’t use a phrase such as, lo ‘t was my postilion who was stuck by lightening, though. Be that as it may, you are still advised to write with form and style.

Derek’s Vandal Blog
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