The Don't Panic Success Guide to Sentences

Save Our Sentences: Join the Revolution!


on 06/05/2012

The book idea came from my teaching a course called Grammar and Writing, which is the first of the undergraduate writing courses at Salzburg University. The first semester I taught it, I realised how important this knowledge was, and how much it improved my own writing (or at least my understanding of writing, even if it doesn’t always make it onto the page!).

Most of the book research thus far has gone hand-in-hand with my teaching and planning. Through teaching the course, I get to explain the ideas in a range of ways to see which is the most effective. Each semester, we discuss the successes of the sentence lessons specifically, which is enormously beneficial for the book’s development. The more I visit the course’s contents, the more familiar I become with them, and I will likely teach it twice more before the MA deadline.

Much of the non-teaching research falls under reading books about sentences, firstly to see how others have done it, and, secondly, to see if alternative approaches can nudge my brain into thinking about the characters that will represent each of the components that I’ll introduce in the book. While I’m not writing a children’s book, I have found that the books produced for children are most useful in this case because they have the imaginative edge that books written for adults lack. The creative side — working out the ‘characters’ that illustrate of the sentence components — in part has to be handed over to my imagination and long walks!

I’m incredibly lucky to be able to work alongside some very experienced, competent language professors, non-natives who know the rules far better than natives. In working together, we discuss the intricacies of sentence writing at a level I’d not be able to achieve anywhere else. I make use of them possibly more than I should but will continue to check accuracies with them.

In other areas of the research, when the updated, upgraded (eagerly anticipated) National Curriculum is released (whenever that may be!), I’ll trawl it to learn what the UK education leaders consider the important aspects of writing are, and I need to discuss sentence teaching with UK secondary school teachers, to ascertain what is expected of students approaching GCSE and understand how sentences are taught at that level because I think it’s closest to the academic level the book needs to be pitched at. Fun but thorough.

The lion’s share of my research needs to be on the voice I’ll write in. My feeling is that the Horrible History series is very much like the voice I’d like to use, so my aim is to read a number of them until I have a version of the voice that best suits my book. I’ll also pursue further reading to include publications (magazines, books and online fora) that target the audiences I’m writing for. I have a fairly good understanding of most of the groups anyway because I am that group, and many of my friends fall into the same categories, which means I just need to write with my friends in mind.

Because it’s to be a fairly visual book, I need to source a designer/artist who can work with me. This is something about which I know very little, but I also reckon I should find out how important it is for me to focus on … is it not something publishers would like to be involved in?


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