Help them write with elegance

8th August 2003 at 01:00
Paul Livesey's polemical article on the use of "comma splices" by JK Rowling ("Harry Potter and the Pedants", TES, July 25) makes a valid point about the importance of ensuring that books read by children should provide them with models of good English.

Although good English is about more than merely correct syntax and punctuation, correctness in these two areas - itself difficult to achieve with consistency, even by educated adults - often affects the clarity, precision, logicality, cohesion, explicitness and, in general, elegance of our writing.

The error referred to as "the comma splice" is but one of many mistakes routinely made even by professional writers, as the numerous examples of faulty usage collected by me in the course of linguistic research clearly suggest.

This is why I passionately believe in the importance of systematically introducing to pupils the principles which organise written communication - always doing so in context, of course, to make them meaningful.

Armed with this knowledge, children will be better equipped to deal with the effects of their exposure to bad English, and this, in turn, should help them to become better writers themselves.

Anna Nolan

Consultant to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, writer on linguistics and teacher trainer

17 Manesty View

Keswick

Cumbria

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