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TWE block II

Paul Bakker


Peterborough Technical Communication

the plan for the week

today English grammar
Tuesday exercise and one-to-one discussions with me
Wednesday critical group reviews of papers/reports
please bring four copies with corrections incorporated
Thursday readability and tools on laptops
please bring laptop if possible but if not, your paper/report
on a USB drive as Word, .rtf or .txt file

comma ,

in the listing of items

it is wet, cold and windy


in the listing of items

it is wet, cold and windy
it is wet, cold, and windy


serial comma or Oxford comma

in the listing of items

it is wet, cold and windy
it is wet, cold, and windy


serial comma or Oxford comma

it is wet, cold and windy, and we are tired

introducing information of a different kind

separating two lengthy items

More money will be given to Group A from
Group C, and Group B is delighted.
the comma avoids the statement being misread and
wasting the readers time

enclosing parenthetic information

Rutland, a beautiful county, has a small population.
but dont mix with listing function

Our party included Barack Obama, Jacob Zuma,

the South African President, and Joe White.

setting off a signal word

So, Indeed, However, Finally, First, Next . . .
(but Yet . . . ?)

However, Jane went to school . . .

However Jane went to school . . .

marking the end of a preliminary group

especially a condition or a pre-condition

If an error message is seen, blame Microsoft.

marking the end of a preliminary group

especially a condition or a pre-condition

If an error message is seen, blame Microsoft.

To make the bolt, machine the steel rod.

signalling the function of relative clauses

relative clauses begin with words such as:
who whose whom which that

your assignment is given to the tutor who is best

placed to comment on it

signalling the function of relative clauses

relative clauses begin with words such as:
who whose whom which that

your assignment is given to the tutor who is best

placed to comment on it
your assignment is given to the tutor, who is best
placed to comment on it

two main types of relative clause




(doesnt need a comma)

examples of relative clauses

Governments should provide special sites for
power stations, which are offensive to people.
all power stations are offensive (commenting)

Governments should provide special sites for

power stations which are offensive to people.
only the offensive power stations (defining)

making it even clearer . . .

Governments should provide special sites for those
power stations that are offensive to people.
adding those makes the defining function clearer
substituting that for which also makes the defining
function clearer

signalling adjectival or abverbial constructions

Sack the man following the rules.
sack the man who is following the rules


signalling adjectival or abverbial constructions

Sack the man following the rules.
sack the man who is following the rules


Sack the man, following the rules.

sack the man according to the rules


signalling adjectival or abverbial constructions

Insert the disk into the drive with the letters on top.
the drive has the letters on top


signalling adjectival or abverbial constructions

Insert the disk into the drive with the letters on top.
the drive has the letters on top


Insert the disk into the drive, with the letters on top.
the disk has the letters on top


signalling adjectival or abverbial constructions

Insert the disk into the drive with the letters on top.
the drive has the letters on top


Insert the disk into the drive, with the letters on top.
the disk has the letters on top


Insert the disk into the drive, such that the letters on
the disk are uppermost.

Like everything metaphysical, the

harmony between thought and reality is
to be found in the grammar of 
the language.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

sentences . . .
a group of words which makes sense
a word or set of words followed by a pause and
revealing an intelligible purpose
a combination of words that contains at least one
subject and one predicate
such a portion of a composition or utterance as
extends from one full stop to another
a sentence should be complete in thought and
complete in construction

what are the purposes of sentences?

to make statements
to ask questions
to request action
to express feelings

types of sentences
irregular, fragmentary, minor sentences
Why? Goal! Indeed.
regular, major sentences one thought expressed
grammatically . . .
declarative sentence
The man walked down the road.
interrogative sentences Why cant you help me?
imperative sentence Get on with your homework.
exclamatory sentence You never help in this house!

voice: active vs passive

active: emphasis on the person or object doing
Jane bought the car.
passive: emphasis on the thing being done
or done to The car was bought by Jane.
the active voice tends to be more direct and more
interesting, but is not always suitable for technical,
scientific and business communication.
the passive index
40% guideline

harmony in the sentence

common form: I have nothing to offer but blood,
sweat, toil and tears not I have nothing to offer but
blood, sweating, toil and crying.
agreement of subject and number. Seventy cars were
involved in the accident not Seventy cars was . . .
collective nouns committee, government, audience.
Singular or plural, but be consistent. A number of
people is/are going into the shop . . . ?
starting a sentence with And or But is permissible,
but is best avoided
dont start a sentence with Because

closed classes of words . . .

not to be trifled with nor added to
determiners the, which, my, that
pronouns I, me, hers
conjunctions and, or, but
prepositions at, with, from
auxiliary verbs be, may, can

open classes of words . . .

open house for changing or adding to
nouns software, fax, radar
adjectives digital, neural, cellular
verbs out, overdose, outmode
adverbs breezily, grandly, chaotically
interjections damn, ouch, rats

noun is a name of anything
places Newcastle, road, University
objects spoon, car, plant
persons Obama, Putin, Bert
animals horse, mouse, cat
concepts love, skill, thought
proper nouns Philips, Robert, Japan
common nouns hat, garden, film

concrete nouns soil, chair, bike

abstract nouns hate, concern, choice
countable nouns car(s), bike(s), hat(s)
uncountable nouns concrete, music, drama
singular-to-plural . . .
usually add s
singular noun ending in s, sh, ch or z takes es
odd plurals mouse/mice, loaf/loaves, tooth/teeth,
basis/bases, medium/media, stimulus/stimuli
(use a dictionary)

problems with compound nouns priest-in-charge,

mother-in-law, gin and tonic
collective nouns council, army, jury
normally singular, but plural if sense improved
be consistent
collectives a murder of crows, a business of ferrets,
a knot of toads, a convocation of eagles, a piddle of

gender of nouns . . .
masculine man, bull, stallion
feminine girl, cow, ship
neuter shirt, clock, cup

versatile substitutes for nouns
can cause no end of problems
personal pronouns . . .
first person I, me, we, us, myself, ourselves
second person you, yourself, yourselves
third person he, she, him, her, it, they, them,
themselves, itself

possessive pronouns . . .
ending in -self or -selves
themselves, myself, herself
demonstrative pronouns . . .
demonstrating something or indicating something
this, that, these, those, them
interrogative pronouns . . .
used in asking questions
who, what, which, whom, whose
question mark must be used

relative pronouns . . .
that, which, who, whom, whose
used to introduce relative clauses It was Bill who
spoke to me first.

indefinite pronouns . . .
all have to do with amounts ranging from nothing to
everything all, any, every, each, some, one, both,
either, neither, few, little, less, least, many, everyone,
someone, no one, something, anybody, more, most
no one is the only two-word pronoun
little, less, much modify uncountable nouns
each, one, either, neither, someone, no one,
something, anybody are all singular
avoid starting a paragraph with a pronoun,
unless the context is obvious.

verbs express action, or indicate a state or condition:
action Fred is moving away
state I adore Newcastle Brown
verbs have tense, so can help to express events in a
time context . . .
past they were arrested
present they are unemployed
future they will swim
present perfect they have been arrested

verbs are highly versatile

regular (weak) verbs many thousands
laugh, look, advise, play, love
irregular (strong) verbs only about 300
begin, chosen, speak, froze, shrink
use lists

verbs tenses

simple present
present progressive
present perfect
present perfect progressive
simple past
past progressive
past perfect
past perfect progressive
future tense
future progressive
future perfect
future perfect progressive

simple present . . .
used to express a general truth, to make an
observation, or to describe a habitual activity
a rolling stone gathers no moss
Toms stories depress me
my father goes to London every week
with a time expression, the simple present can be
used to refer to a scheduled future event.
the show begins in five minutes
also is used to express a scientific fact or law
water boils at 100 C

present progressive . . .
formed with the auxiliary verb am, are, or is and the
present participle (-ing form) of a main verb used to
indicate action occurring at the present time
Bob is preparing for the GMAT exam
with an appropriate time expression, the present
progressive can be used to announce future events
A new supermarket is opening next week
stative verbs, do not have any progressive tenses,
including know, believe, need, consist, and exist
I am wanting a new computer

present perfect . . .
formed with the auxiliary verb have or has and the
past participle of a main verb
indicates action that began in the past and either is
continuing or has continuing effects in the present
many people have expressed concern about
environmental pollution from the airport
present perfect implies duration of past action
simple past tense expresses completed past action
do you really need it?

present perfect progressive . . .

formed by combining have been or has been with the
present participle of a main verb
used similarly to the present perfect but emphasizes
the ongoing nature of the action or activity
Konrad has been studying English for two years

simple past . . .
used to describe actions or conditions that occurred
or applied entirely in the past.
Frank Whittle invented the jet engine
in 1963, the European Economic Community only
had six member states

past progressive . . .
formed by combining the auxiliary verb was or were
with the present participle of a main verb
describes action continuing over a period of time
but in the past
often used to set the stage for another action of
shorter duration.
he was cutting the grass when the phone rang

past perfect . . .
combining the auxiliary verb had with the past
participle of a main verb
used to describe a past action that preceded another
past action
Angela had thought of volunteering for the scheme,
but then she fell ill
similar to the past perfect tense but puts more
emphasis on the continuing or sometimes repetitive
nature of the past action

past perfect progressive . . .

combining had been with the present participle
of a main verb
Angela had been thinking of volunteering for the
scheme, but then she fell ill
1 Eli Whitney has invented the cotton gin in 1793
2 She divulged the secret, even though she promised
not to
3 It was five years since I last saw Benjamin

future tense . . .
expresses actions or conditions that will occur in the
future consists of the modal auxiliary verb will and the
base form of a main verb
Peter will be a half hour late
in colloquial English, future conditions are often
expressed using the modal auxiliary is going to
instead of will
Peter is going to be a half hour late
avoid this usage in scientific and technical

future progressive . . .
combining will be with the present participle
of a main verb
expresses action that will be continuing or repeated in
the future
right now our daughter is working in a shop, but next
year she will be going to college

future perfect . . .
consists of will have and the past participle
of a main verb
used to describe an action that will occur in the future
but before some specified time
by the end of this year, gun crime will have taken the
lives of more than 200 Black British teenagers

future perfect progressive . . .

similar to the future perfect
but emphasizes the continuous or repetitive
nature of the action
consists of will have been plus the present participle
of a main verb
by tomorrow morning, I will have been working on this
urgent research proposal for eighteen hours!

Auxiliary verbs . . .
primary auxiliaries
to be, to do, to have
modal auxiliaries
can/could, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would
whether something is possible
whether something is permissible
predictive / deductive
so-called fringe modals
ought, used, dared, need

define and modify nouns only
high roof, wet weekend, blue car
describing size his car was enormous
describing colour her car is red
describing a quality his jumper is soft
describing quantity the tank held seven litres
defining specificity I like her French perfume
order for adjectives in a sentence
five beautiful big new Japanese motorbikes

original old descriptive words

good, clean, hot with opposites bad, dirty, cold
but many others are expansions of nouns and verbs:
-able notable, fashionable, desirable
-ible sensible, responsible, actionable
-al natural, oriental, phrasal
-ar circular, singular, spectacular
-ed excited, cracked, married
-ive massive, offensive, defensive

-ent excellent, deficient, emergent

-ful wonderful, hopeful, thoughtful
-ic heroic, romantic, angelic
-ical logical, magical, farcical
-ish Finnish, childish, churlish
-ive massive, offensive, defensive
-less endless, hopeless, legless
-like childlike, lifelike, ladylike

-less endless, hopeless, legless

-like childlike, lifelike, ladylike
-ous nervous, generous, pious
-some troublesome, loathsome, awesome
-worthy newsworthy, airworthy, trustworthy
proper adjectives
Kendal mint cake, German sausage, Indian curry
unnecessary adjectives
past history, personal friend, actual fact

adverbs can qualify verbs, adjectives or
other adverbs
defining manner [end]
they ran quickly
denoting place [towards end]
they can sit over there
fixing time [towards end]
we can go there afterwards
expressing gradation or degree [middle]
I never eat enough fresh fruit

expressing frequency [not at beginning]

we never shop there
indicating view or opinion [towards beginning
personally, I dont like her
link to previous thought [towards beginning
nevertheless, it would be kind
indicate attitude [towards beginning]
remarkably, he slept all night
truly, idly, gravelly, loyally, woolly, yearly, holy,
thankfully, gentlemanly

definite article the
possessive my, his, hers, theirs
possessive proper Pauls, Marys
demonstrative that, this
number one, two, three . . .
indefinite article a, an
quantifier every, most, some
exclamatory what, such
interrogative what? whose?

uses of the definite article the

superlatives the best, the strongest, the worst
unique things the past, the future, the UN
nouns followed by a modifier the book on the table
previous mention the cats name was Bobby
shared knowledge well meet in the car park
contextual specificity all the members were noisy
an entire class of things the smartphone

______ physical fatigue is ______ result of overworking our

muscles to ______ point where ______ metabolic waste
productscarbon dioxide and lactic acidaccumulate in
______ blood and sap our strength. Our muscles cannot
continue to work efficiently in ______ bath of these
chemicals. ______ physical fatigue is usually a

pleasant tiredness, such as that which we might expect after
playing a hard set of ______ tennis, chopping ______ wood,
or climbing a mountain. ______ cure is simple and fast: we
rest, giving ______ body a chance to get rid of ______
accumulated wastes and restore ______ muscle fuel.

definite article with names . . .

Muhammad Ali, Mother Theresa, New York, China,
Christmas, Ramadan, Catholicism, Microsoft,
September, Greenpeace, Hamlet (no article)
but many proper nouns do take the definite article
the Rolling Stones, the European Union, the Grand
Union Canal, the Red Cross, the Vietnam War,
the Golden Gate Bridge, the Cairngorm Mountains,
the University of York
those that take the definite article tend to have a
common head noun

but many exceptions to this pattern; many

common-noun names dont take the definite article
Elm Street, Darwin College, Lancaster University,
Tumbledown Mountain, Pine Creek, Salt Lake City
then some without a common noun do!
the Vatican, the Amazon, the Congo, the Hague
major landmarks tend to take the definite article,
while lesser ones dont
the Atlantic Ocean vs Balls Pond
the United Kingdom vs Burger King

but again not an absolute rule . . .

Michigan State University vs
the University of Michigan
use Google!

linking parts of a sentence together
simple linking and, with
time before, after, until, since, as, while
place where, wherever
cause since, as, because, for
condition if, although, unless, or
comparison as, than, like

contrast although, unlike, as if

purpose so that, in order to
result so, so that, such that
preference sooner than, rather than
exception except, except that
disguised conjunctions formerly participles
considering, provided, including

relating verbs to nouns, pronouns and noun-phrases
relate one part of a sentence to another; not just
about providing a link
We went to the town. She bathed at dusk.
some common prepositions
space between, above, over, into, near, beside
time until, since, past, before, after, at, during
others as, for, in, to, but, by, with, without

multiple-word instead of, other than, in front of, up to

preposition can only be replaced by
another preposition
found a screw in the radio; found a screw on the radio
tendency to create over-long prepositions
as a consequence of, in the course of, in excess of,
for the purpose of, for the reason that, in addition to,
prior to, in the event of


on (to)







out of

out of

in (to)




a point



a line or surface



an area or volume


referring to

Prepositional meanings

ending a sentence with a preposition?

This is the kind of arrant nonsense up with which
I will not put!
difficulty over which preposition to use
aim for/at; disgust over/for; superior than/to;
oblivious to/of
use Google!

the plan for today

working in groups
critically reviewing each others papers and reports
appoint a chairperson to divide the time up fairly
tell your colleagues which parts you would like them to
focus on and what to look for
dont just criticise: suggest improvements

predicting on the basis of surface features how easy or how
difficult a text will be to read

Hello Janet, said John.

Hello John, said Janet.

Shall we go to the shops? said Janet.

Yes, we will go with Mum and Dad. I do hope it is not

We will get wet if it is, said Janet.

Not if we wear our macks, said John.

The T-DNA transfer process of Agrobacterium tumefaciens

is activated by the induction of the expression of Ti plasmid
virulence loci by plant signal molecules such as
acetosyringone. The vir gene products act in trans to
mobilise the T-DNA element from the bacterial Ti plasmid.
The Y-DNA is bounded by 25-base pair direct sequences . . .

Driftwood dreams

It was a hot humid Saturday in the middle of Summer when Susan decided to go beach combing. Susan
had ginger hair, a good sense of humour and was the type that didn't bother about her appearance at all.
Susan walked along the cliff top until she came to the steps that led down to the beach. Susan had her
bucket and spade to collect anything she could find. She wandered around picking up shells and pebbles
as she went. Susan picked up a piece of driftwood and put it in her bucket. When she got home she
added todays findings to her collection. Susan stood back and admired her work.

That night she couldnt get to sleep because she had to look at her collection. As she walked downstairs
she heard a sort of ping ping plop drip coming from the room where she stored her collection. As she
sneaked into the room, the noise got louder. Then she saw a wizard wearing a cloak of seaweed and a
jellyfish hat. He spoke to her in a spooky voice. He said I am Wizard Pling. You may have one wish.
Susan had a think and soon she wished I wish I could go underwater.

A flash and a pop later she was underwater in a kingdom 2,000 leagues under the sea. She sat up in a
prison cell with other humans. Susan started planning a way to escape. She noticed that one of the
prisoners was slouching against a wall, and as he sat there, a couple of bricks started to move behind
him. Susan dived towards them, and more people started to push on the bricks. Soon afterwards, with a
lot of huffing and puffing, the whole wall was pushed out onto a balcony. One by one all the humans
started floating up to the surface. A rescue helicopter had been sent out after Susans parents could not
find her. Suddenly, the rescue helicopter swung round and lowered a rope ladder for everybody to climb
up. Soon everybody was safe at home in their beds. The next day the papers were stormed with reports
of the dramatic rescue. And as for Wizard Pling he hasnt been seen for fear of bad publicity!











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readability statistics: my advice

readability statistics are far from perfect, as most
specialists know
but they can provide a quick check if obtained easily
poor statistics are likely to result from poor writing but
the converse cannot be said
no use without guidance on their use
considering several factors is likely to be more
reliable than concentrating on just one
ranking scores are more reliable than reading age