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    Not sure if this is the correct place to post this, but I was wondering if anyone can give me any tips on how to improve my English? I'm especially thinking of essays and similar. When I write something longer in English I often find that I have loads of grammar errors in that piece and just awkward sentence structure in general (I also cannot work out when to place a comma and when not to – this just confuses me no end). I have no idea what to do to, I don't own any English grammar books or dictionaries that might help. But I'm just not very good at expressing myself really and I would like to improve that as it is frustrating me. Any suggestions on what I might do to improve would be very welcome, thank you
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    (Original post by Adarah)
    Not sure if this is the correct place to post this, but I was wondering if anyone can give me any tips on how to improve my English? I'm especially thinking of essays and similar. When I write something longer in English I often find that I have loads of grammar errors in that piece and just awkward sentence structure in general (I also cannot work out when to place a comma and when not to – this just confuses me no end). I have no idea what to do to, I don't own any English grammar books or dictionaries that might help. But I'm just not very good at expressing myself really and I would like to improve that as it is frustrating me. Any suggestions on what I might do to improve would be very welcome, thank you

    It would be worth reading a grammar or guide to usage. I personally like 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' the best; I use the original edition, but you can easily find more recent editions that have been suitably modernized. If you're prone to grammatical error, you perhaps need to spend some time thinking about the mechanics of the language. If you grasp the nature of the sentence, and the function of punctuation, it will be much easier to place full-stops and the like correctly; easier, certainly, than trying to memorize some fixed rules for the placement of stops and clauses. It would also be useful to read widely, but not indiscriminately. Reading a lot of trashy novels or newspapers will do little to improve your English; try reading better prose, even if it has to be twentieth century: Orwell might be a good place to start.
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    (Original post by svidrigailov)
    It would be worth reading a grammar or guide to usage. I personally like 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' the best; I use the original edition, but you can easily find more recent editions that have been suitably modernized.
    Thanks for the reply! I'll see if I can get hold of that grammar, hopefully I can pick it up second hand somewhere . I guess even English

    (Original post by svidrigailov)
    If you're prone to grammatical error, you perhaps need to spend some time thinking about the mechanics of the language. If you grasp the nature of the sentence, and the function of punctuation, it will be much easier to place full-stops and the like correctly; easier, certainly, than trying to memorize some fixed rules for the placement of stops and clauses. It would also be useful to read widely, but not indiscriminately. Reading a lot of trashy novels or newspapers will do little to improve your English; try reading better prose, even if it has to be twentieth century: Orwell might be a good place to start.
    that's the most confusing thing really... it seems to me that nearly every book I read has different punctuation. In some books you never see a comma before an 'and' for example, in others you see that a lot (um... not talking about trashy novels here ).
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    English doesn't have very strict rules, it's much more a question of personal style, which I think makes it more interesting but also quite frustrating. I'd recommend reading a (quality) English newspaper on a regular basis, as that would improve both your language and your knowledge of society (um..that's an exam thing. But I can't think of how it should be said in proper English).
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    Read "eats shoots and leaves" by Lynn Truss. It's basically a funny and easy to read approach to punctuation and grammar. Soon you'll be a stickler for spelling, punctuation and grammar!
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    English doesn't have very strict rules, it's much more a question of personal style, which I think makes it more interesting but also quite frustrating. I'd recommend reading a (quality) English newspaper on a regular basis, as that would improve both your language and your knowledge of society (um..that's an exam thing. But I can't think of how it should be said in proper English).
    Does the BBC's website count? They don't sell British newspapers at the local kiosk, but when I move to England I'll start reading newspapers, thanks

    (Original post by sophieliz)
    Read "eats shoots and leaves" by Lynn Truss. It's basically a funny and easy to read approach to punctuation and grammar. Soon you'll be a stickler for spelling, punctuation and grammar!
    Ah yes! I've heard about that book, i think my mum has a copy, I'll have to ask her
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    i know what you mean because English is a little bit crazy, but I do agree that the use of commas etc is not about strict rules - I don't even think about where I put them now, I just write! Someone once told me that you should use a comma when you are listing (e.g. apples, bananas, soup and peas), or when the reader of the sentence will need to pause or take a breath, for example if the sentence is getting quite long! Madelyn is right though - punctuation is all about personal style, and you can use commas and other punctuation in your own style to emphasise words etc. Eats Shoots and Leaves is a really good book, and it will show you the power of carefully placed punctuation! Try not to get too worked up about it and it will probably come naturally!
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    yes, i place commas where I would take a breath if I was speaking, but I also do it automatically! When you're reading novels, if you're trying to improve your English, I would avoid pre-twentieth century or you may pick up some quaint turns of speech that wouldn't be used in modern English.
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    naturally good english writers and speakers read a lot.
    you should read novels and stuff and through that can get an idea (usually subconciously) on good writing
    Also, reading will help you with correct spellings, especially if you frequently encounter words more often
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    back to newspapers, you can read all of the Guardian for free on its website, www.guardian.co.uk
    Not that I'm obsessed with the Guardian or anything...
    "Eats Shoots and Leaves" is great.
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    Eats shoots and leaves is an excellent book!

    exposes the wonders of punctuation!
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    eats shoots and leaves is good, but also my teacher always used to say just read a lot... the more you read the better your english.
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    yeah eats shoots and leaves gives you all the basics, but i have to admit i used to read it if i was having trouble sleeping! my advice is just to relax, and write however comes naturally to you, as long as you have the basics i dont think it matters too much, we all have different styles!
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    (Original post by Adarah)


    that's the most confusing thing really... it seems to me that nearly every book I read has different punctuation. In some books you never see a comma before an 'and' for example, in others you see that a lot (um... not talking about trashy novels here ).

    That's because both styles are acceptable in modern English. The comma before the 'and' is generally called the 'Oxford comma', and is characteristic of that school of thought on the subject which deploys punctuation marks according to the principles of logic, and not the facilitation of understanding. It will, as in this case, employ the comma where, though it is not strictly necessary, it ought to follow by analogy.
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    (Original post by Madelyn)
    back to newspapers, you can read all of the Guardian for free on its website, www.guardian.co.uk
    Not that I'm obsessed with the Guardian or anything...
    "Eats Shoots and Leaves" is great.

    I don't know that I'd necessarily turn to the Guardian as a source of quality prose. Newspapers are written under reat pressure of time, and even at the broadsheets the standard of copy is often poor. Far better to read something carefully considered and composed, as the essays of Orwell, Russell, Emerson, Thoreau, &c.
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    (Original post by svidrigailov)
    That's because both styles are acceptable in modern English. The comma before the 'and' is generally called the 'Oxford comma', and is characteristic of that school of thought on the subject which deploys punctuation marks according to the principles of logic, and not the facilitation of understanding. It will, as in this case, employ the comma where, though it is not strictly necessary, it ought to follow by analogy.
    ah, thanks for that! So, uh... does this basically mean I can put a comma where I want? (well, obviously not stick commas in random places, but that in general I can just place them where they seem to be needed?)

    I'd started reading William Thackeray's Vanity Fair, but I find the language a bit hard to understand, it's not the words so much (there is a good commentary at that back of the book for all the obscure words), but the whole style in general I suppose. I'll try and read something a bit more modern.

    Thank you everyone for all your helpful suggestions!
 
 
 
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