About this site
What began as a class handout for students in further and higher education grew in the making into something I hope will be of use to a wider
readership. While the emphasis remains on exposition (academic writing), there is rudimentary advice on narrative (story telling) and that blend of
both styles that is characteristic of the magazine article.
The site assumes a reasonable competence in written English and is unlikely to be of value to people beginning to learn the language. Aficionados,
on the other hand, might find it of interest only with their critics' hats on.
The English is British in distinction to American, but I have been selective. The prodigious social and technological developments of the last century
required reciprocal developments in the language and many American coinages of the period have become virtually indispensable: aerospace, bikini,
genocide, gimmick, internet, supermarket. But while additions to the language are necessary, I am less persuaded of the need for substitutions,
especially when what is already in place is perfectly serviceable. I would therefore prefer to receive an invitation than an invite, to learn that an event is
forthcoming rather than upcoming and, should I be so unfortunate, to enjoy the small consolation of being told that my home has been burgled rather
To avoid an accusation of sexism (to cite another invaluable Americanism), I must explain my use of the pronouns he and she. As I point out in
Appendix II, sex discrimination inevitably results in a language that lacks a common-gender, third-person singular pronoun. Repetitions of he or she
and his or her become intolerable, while the use of their as a singular pronoun is ungrammatical (The caller withheld their number). Within these
constraints, I decided that the best way to balance sex equality with tolerably good English would be to assign writer and reader different genders.
Consequently, the writer is consistently she and the reader, he.
In addition to the people listed in the bibliography, I would like to thank Margot Charlton of the Oxford English Dictionary for clarifying several issues of
grammar and usage, Dr Christine Dobbs for her proof reading and helpful suggestions and Ben Wheeler for compiling the site.
Finally, while I am afraid I cannot offer personal advice, I have no objection to receiving it. If you have any comments to make, please address them to
me via the contact page.
Last updated, March 2013