College ESL Writers: Applied Grammar and Composing Strategies for Success
Copyright Year: 2018
Publisher: University System of Georgia
Conditions of Use
In general, this is a comprehensive book, and I found some particularly helpful topic inclusions. These are: articles, verb + preposition and adjective + preposition constructions, verb + gerund or verb + infinitive forms. On the other hand, there... read more
In general, this is a comprehensive book, and I found some particularly helpful topic inclusions. These are: articles, verb + preposition and adjective + preposition constructions, verb + gerund or verb + infinitive forms.
On the other hand, there are several problems. The paragraph as a single piece of writing needs more explanation and practice. Similarly, there is little to no information about rhetorical styles. It is not necessary to have each writing practice or assignment delineated as such, but a few models of illustration and comparison/contrast, for instance, would be useful, particularly for ESL students who often want structure. As I reviewed the text, I noticed that the section describing fragments covers more pages (seven) than the section on run-ons (four pages). In fact, there are three pages devoted to colorful diagrams to detail types of fragments, but nothing like that in the run-ons section. In my experience, college students make run-ons much more frequently than fragments. Another, perhaps too selective, complication in the book is how the authors refer to male vs. female and singular vs. plural pronouns on page 195 and 199. While he/she/him/her/his/her is difficult for some ESL students whose first language uses one word, no matter the gender, it may not be necessary to practice this, especially because they/them/their has become more common to use as singular. And no, I am not suggesting that the authors should have tackled the issue of gender and pronouns; I just think it’s not even necessary to cover it in grammatical terms, as in done on page 199. Finally, as others have mentioned in their reviews, an index would be beneficial.
The most accurate part of this book’s content is in its self-editing exercises. This manner of practice is very authentic to what students need to do in a writing class.
However, there was almost no explanation of the differences between the topic sentence of a single paragraph and the thesis statement of an essay. Last, the end-of-chapter exercise doesn’t always make sense with what is covered in the preceding pages, e.g. page 24 exercise 5 requires identification of fragments and run-ons, but these two common errors are not explained in chapter 1 at all.
The text is relevant throughout, and if updates are needed, they will not involve a complicated application process.
The sections titled Tips for effective writing are accessible, effective e, and practical. Explanations in the grammar/sentence skills chapters are clear and utilize good examples for college ESL students.
Even so, I found the “composing” chapters to be rather text-heavy; more bullet points and more white space on some pages would provide clearer understanding.
Terminology and framework are consistent throughout this text.
This book is highly adaptable if a teacher would like to “pull out” a particular section or chapter to use on its own. It is also convenient if chapters are not followed in the exact order as listed in the table of contents.
There are a few flaws in this category. First, chapter 1 should be connected to chapter 7, especially section 7.1. I concur with other reviewers who have pointed out that chapter 4, in particular 4.1, should be before chapter 3 “Writing Paragraphs.” Finally, between page 27 and 37, Naomi’s paragraph about the government bailout is presented ten times. This is rather boring and repetitive, even for the professor.
Maneuverability is excellent in the text. Ability to use one click on a chapter title or section heading in the table of contents is great, as is the “Return to Table of Contents” click at the bottom of each page in the book.
One slightly difficult item is the legibility of several hand-written samples. I am not sure about students, but I had to increase the size from 100% to at least 120% in order to read these.
I did not find any grammatical errors.
When I focus on chapter 9 and its eight student paragraph examples, I see a good overall presentation of cultures represented, but three Vietnamese seems a bit heavy with one country only. Other students’ writing samples are from China, the Dominican Republic, Iran, Palestine, and Ghana. To be more globally representational, perhaps one piece could come from an Eastern European student and/or a South American student.
As stated in the title, this is indeed a reasonably comprehensive account of the major of applied grammar and composition. Virtually all of the units that typically comprise a grammar and composition textbook are covered here, albeit this... read more
As stated in the title, this is indeed a reasonably comprehensive account of the major of applied grammar and composition. Virtually all of the units that typically comprise a grammar and composition textbook are covered here, albeit this document focuses almost entirely on form, without very much attention paid to meaningful content, research, or the art of rhetorical persuasion. Granted, this was almost certainly a deliberate choice, since the ESL student will typically receive more instruction in those areas in a future English 101 course. Nevertheless, it somewhat limits the efficacy of this text as a resource for ESL teachers, in that it's difficult to hold students' attention for more than a half hour at a time with such abstract, and frankly dry, material. (I suspect that little to no opportunities for discussion will be prompted by this resource).
Some of the chapters here utilize non-standard groupings of the material; why, for example, do adverbs and adjectives appear under "Chapter 6: Usage, Form and Context" along with subjects such as "Commonly Confused Words" instead of "Chapter 7: Overview of English Grammar"? (This might come across as a churlish quibble, but it is questionable, if not downright confusing to anyone surveying the material). Overall, though, this text does not appear to contain any glaring errors.
There are a smattering of relatively contemporary references here (for example, the subprime mortgage crisis in Chapter 1); however, on the whole the references made in the text and its writing samples read more like the 20th century than the 21st century. The reality is that most written content these days (including this text itself) appear over the internet, whether through OER, the internet, web sites or social media. The references and sample writings included here ought to reflect that.
The stylistic qualities of this text vary; sometimes a model of precision (as it all should be throughout) and sometimes unnecessarily vague and clunky.
A couple of examples:
"The welfare system keeps a socioeconomic class from gaining employment by alluring members of that class with unearned income, instead of
programs to improve their education and skill sets." (p. 101)
The above sentence is cited in Chapter 4 as a model thesis statement. And yet, if one of my English 101 students were to include this in an essay, my marginal comment would read, "WHAT socioeconomic class is meant by 'a socioeconomic class'"??? (This is a prime example of holding back on more specific language even though the writer clearly has in mind the LOWER socioeconomic class).
Another example: In spite of the requisite unit on avoiding wordiness (see Chapter 5) the author has stacked up "is able to be demonstrated" (p. 102) when a mere "demonstrable" would suffice.
By my reckoning this text is relatively free of internal contradictions.
This constitutes one of the main strengths of the text- the lessons are by and large 'free standing' and could easily be used as a supplement or an introduction to any subject in grammar or composition. However, it does beg the question of why bother to have yet another unified 'one stop shop' in the first place, since web sites such as linguapress.com, the Purdue Owl and learnenglishfeelgood.com already fill that role.
The organization is for the most part coherent and logical, though I'm not sure why composition chapters precede grammar chapters- the sequence has usually been the reverse in traditional English pedagogy.
Probably the biggest advantage to this particular iteration of English grammar and composition consists of its ease of interface, aka "navigability." One can easily click on a link (located at the bottom of every page) in order to return to the table of contents, and, once there, click on any chapter to access it immediately. This is no small thing with OER materials, since it streamlines access for both busy teachers prepping lessons, and students who want to locate a particular topic quickly.
I don't agree with the author's implicit premise that the student essay examples should be reproduced exactly, aka 'warts and all.' ("You may find some minor errors in the sample paragraphs, but they were [sic] exactly as the student wrote them") Aside from the grammatical gaffe of "were exactly" there (which is unfortunate, and in no way representative of this text on the whole), WHY, exactly, this mania for authenticity? Shouldn't the author have simply performed the basic editorial function of tidying up the prose so that it might be adduced as an actual model to be followed, instead of a 'realistic' albeit flawed example of student writing?
The sample student writings at the end are in fact multicultural and not culturally insensitive.
The book takes readers from the structure of a sentence through revising an essay. For those ELLs who need references and exercises to work on basic grammar and punctuation, Chapters 8 and 9 provide complete information that is easy to navigate.... read more
The book takes readers from the structure of a sentence through revising an essay. For those ELLs who need references and exercises to work on basic grammar and punctuation, Chapters 8 and 9 provide complete information that is easy to navigate. Samples of good student writing, writing topics, and grading rubrics round out the offerings. Students and instructors can rely on this as a primary text with few or no supplemental materials necessary.
I did not detect any inaccurate information in this book.
Students often struggle to transition from basic sentence structure to essay writing. This book breaks this common struggle into easily digestible sections better than most books I have used. It also teaches skills, like self-editing, that are necessary but challenging for some students. The book overall could not be more relevant to developing ELL writing skills.
Objectives are clearly stated at the beginning of each chapter. Each example goes step-by-step to clearly explain the concept without skipping steps or causing confusion.
Chapters are structured similarly throughout the book. Tips and Key Takeaways are always indicated with red header text.
While this book works well as a complete guide to a college-level writing course, many exercises and examples can be excerpted to use as a supplement to other materials. There are one or two writing topics that may need to be adapted for your specific circumstances, but that can be done easily.
The book is organized progressively from sentences through writing and revising essays. While some could argue that the basic grammar and punctuation information should go first, rather than in the appendix, I feel that most college-level ELL students should grasp these concepts well enough that only a brief review is needed.
Navigation is extremely convenient. In particular, having a link to return to the Table of Contents is an idea I intend to implement when I create my own OER texts. Book uses simple, consistent headings that should be UDL compatible. The book does use a serif font, which is excellent for a print text but may be harder to read for students accessing this electronically. Some examples are images that use handwriting font. I found the handwriting fuzzy on screen at 100% size, and I anticipate students might struggle as well.
No grammar errors detected.
Examples using names draw from a wide variety of cultures (not just Bob and Jane). Possible writing topics are appropriate for all cultures and do not assume a white American cultural background.
I intend to use this book when I teach writing again. It will work as either a primary text or as supplementary material.
The book is wide-ranging but not comprehensive. The authors describe it in the OTN catalogue as “a comprehensive grammar and writing etext for high intermediate and advanced level non-native speakers of English.” However, I cannot say that this... read more
The book is wide-ranging but not comprehensive. The authors describe it in the OTN catalogue as “a comprehensive grammar and writing etext for high intermediate and advanced level non-native speakers of English.” However, I cannot say that this book comprehensively presents the grammar and composition advice that writers at this level need. Its advice in Chapters 3-5 about composing paragraphs and essays and revising what you write is generally helpful—usually written in level-appropriate, natural, honest English. Also, in Chapter 9, the authors address the students respectfully as fellow writers. Outside those four chapters, however, students at upper-intermediate and advanced levels will not find very much they need.
There is useful material here, and I can see myself assigning parts of it, but I’ve never seen an ESL writing syllabus (or one for a freshman-comp class; I’ve taught both) that syncs up with this text. It must work for the authors, and I’m sure that with adaptation (allowed under the license) it can be made to work for others. I would just caution that the organization is idiosyncratic, and most teachers will need quite a bit of pre-semester time to work out a feasible sequence.
Our authors explain that their work is an adaptation of an earlier, unattributed Business English book. I suspect that the writer of that original text was reacting against the sentence-integrity problems (fragments, comma splices, run-ons) that plague ESL students’ writing even at advanced levels. The presence of Section 2.3, “Sentence Structure Boundaries and Associated Errors,” is a pretty strong indication. I think that’s why the “Composing” part was articulated down to the sentence level.
That’s an understandable but unfortunate decision. (1) There is no point in going on about basic sentence grammar anymore to upper-intermediate or advanced students. Saying it again won’t make any difference. They just need practice-feedback, practice-feedback—i.e., to write, hear from peers and teachers, and revise. (2) Leading off with grammar-focused chapters makes the Composing section, which should feature some global thinking, start out intensely local. It’s hard to see actual composing in there at all. This would have very low face-validity with my upper-intermediate students, because Chapter 1 (and much of Chapter 2) mirrors the scope and sequence of a beginner-level grammar text. If you adopt this book, you’d do well to delete Chapter 1.
Keep Chapter 2, but delay using it until after your students have started composing something--so you can connect it to their own work. I’m all for working on sentence-integrity problems with ESL writers at the upper levels. Still, we don’t have to teach basic sentence structure again to get there, and we should not call it composing unless it’s within the context of a writing project.
Chapters 6 through 8 are meant to provide a grammar and mechanics handbook. Again, I’m sure this works for the authors. Otherwise, why put in the time to write this? But I don’t know why this book’s treatment of basic housekeeping (e.g., spelling rules, lists of irregular verbs, hyphenation rules, etc.) is superior to the many versions online. I think many of the online handbook sites are a bit richer because they have more exercises. This book has a few, and they can’t hurt, but there’s still the level disjunction.
I cannot imagine this working as a handbook in a class of upper-intermediate and advanced writers—not mostly, anyway. It’s a free-flowing, but not comprehensive, reminder of basic beginning-level grammar points. Only occasionally, as when modals come up, does it touch on anything I might recommend to students at the target level. I certainly believe in telling writers, at any level, to check a style manual if they’re not sure about something. The stated audience of this book could use a handbook, but this isn’t it.
No serious inaccuracies, but I wonder about some statements.
• On p. 203, I see, “Compound subject pronouns are two or more pronouns joined by a conjunction or a preposition that function as the subject of the sentence.” I wonder which prepositions they have in mind. With? Plus? Colloquially, plus can be a coordinator (We’re expecting Tim plus Fiona), but is it a preposition in that case or a conjunction? Whatever debate there may be about such colloquial uses, does that matter in this writing book? Should we adopt that definition?
• Some pieces seem to have entered without much examination. For example, even in 1973 (see Quirk & Greenbaum) for was suspect as a coordinator If you gave in and called it a coordinator, just to keep the “fanboys” together, you at least had to admit that it was formal. Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman later called it “somewhat archaic.” No such subtleties are observed here, though this is just the sort of book in which such cautions should appear.
• Terminology is sometimes used loosely. For example, under the heading “Hyphens Between Two Adjectives That Work as One,” we see the example “habit-forming”—made up, of course, by a noun and a participial adjective. Many such stumbling blocks can be found, so an adopter should be ready to give the text a careful reading, with an eye toward smoothing the path.
Be aware that this book solidly supports certain orthodoxies about the teaching of paragraph and essay structure. You may or may not consider these inaccuracies.
1) Orthodoxy: Every paragraph has a topic sentence. Especially at the higher levels, we can be more honest and nuanced: “Most paragraphs have topic sentences. Some do not. Such paragraphs do not advance a topic but are used only to set a scene, to make a transition between sections, or to serve some other function. But in this class we’ll work only with paragraphs that have topic sentences.”
2) Orthodoxy: (Implied) The functions of a topic sentence—stating a topic and expressing a controlling idea about it—are always accomplished by a single sentence, In reality, two sentences may work together to do this.
3) Orthodoxy: The controlling idea is always an expression of opinion or an arguable point. In reality, the controlling idea is often something bland like simple enumeration or a statement that something exists. For our convenience, ESL teachers have long misrepresented the general run of academic discourse.
4) Orthodoxy: Paragraphs all have concluding sentences, which summarize or restate the main idea of the paragraph. In reality, almost no paragraphs have concluding sentences. Rather, in a well-written piece, paragraphs flow one into another via connective devices. A concluding sentence is likely only if the entire piece is a single paragraph or if the paragraph is the last in a multi-paragraph section.
5) Orthodoxy: An essay should be argumentative. I hesitate to call this an orthodoxy, since most of us consider argumentation to be just one of many possible purposes for writing. Be aware that this book deals only with argumentation.
This book has the normal number of examples that will slip out of date over time (e.g., “The e-book reader, which is a recent invention…”). Adopters should just scan for those and change them.
The writing is clear in most places. Where the purpose of a section truly matches up with the needs of the intended audience, the text is even pleasant at times. Clearly, the authors are good writers. Here, for example, is a passage from Chapter 9:
"When we say that good writing follows the rules, we don’t mean that a writer cannot be creative. Just as an art student needs to know how to draw a scene in correct perspective before he can “break the rules” by “bending” perspective, so a writer needs to know the rules of language. Being well versed in how to use words correctly, form sentences with proper grammar, and build logical paragraphs are skills the writer can use no matter what the assignment. Even though some academic settings may call for conservative writing, there are other areas where creativity is not only allowed but mandated. By following the rules of language and correct writing, a writer can express creative ideas in a form that comes through clearly and promotes understanding."
Just one more note about clarity: In Chapters 1-2 and 6-8, a lot of the text, by its nature, is thick with grammatical terminology. It is generally clear and makes sense, but students must read slowly and carefully.
The tone varies significantly between parts that lay out out very basic grammar and parts that give composition advice.
The text is highly modular. Chapters 1 and 2 operate independently of each other and of the rest of the text, Chapters 3, 4, and 5—the section about writing and revising—form a bloc. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 form a sort of style handbook, within which each chapter operates independently. Chapter 9, writing models, stands alone. Chapter 10, which offers lists of possible essay topics and sample rubrics, also stands alone.
In the section about Comprehensiveness, I made many comments about difficulties with the structure of the book. To sum up, I think its organization is hard to match with the structure of many writing courses. I’m sure it works fine for the authors, but outside adopters should be prepared to reshuffle material extensively.
The Navigation between the Table of Contents and the text works really well and is very helpful. Despite my doubts that the handbook would be used much by students at this level, this navigation would make such use easy.
There are typos and proofing errors, but these are easily fixed.
On page 100, there is an example essay topic about TV’s sexualization of teenage girls. Could be inappropriate for many cultures. Adopters should be aware that, like most writing books available in North America, this one assumes students who value direct, linear presentation. You state your thesis early and clearly, and then you support it. This is certainly a good rhetorical blueprint to teach for work to be done in North America, but adopters may want to add an explicit statement that this is a cultural thing. Doing so may help reduce the long, oblique lead-ins common to upper-level ESL writing. The writing topics in Chapter 10 may be helpful for some novice writing teachers, although the topic list should be examined carefully for dated concepts (e.g., a question about requiring “courses in computers”), subtly inappropriate assumptions (e.g, that all students are living or have lived in the U.S.), and concepts that may be culturally unacceptable to a few students (e.g., what if you could talk to a dead famous person?). I know some reviewers find the rubrics in Chapter 10 helpful. Good, but I think they’re more useful as discussion-starters than as final assessment tools.
Comprehensiveness: The text covers all of the topics covered in most English Composition texts, including those not written for ESL. An index may not be imperative because of the comprehensive Table of Contents. A link to the acronyms used, i.... read more
Comprehensiveness: The text covers all of the topics covered in most English Composition texts, including those not written for ESL. An index may not be imperative because of the comprehensive Table of Contents. A link to the acronyms used, i. e. "hv" means "helping verb" or a glossary of these acronyms and other terms would be helpful and should be linked to the page(s) they are used.
I would have liked to see more attention on idioms for ESL students.
The accuracy is "spot on." The charts are very helpful in summarizing the content. Some of the terms used in the book and on the charts could be overwhelming for students, even advanced ESL students: modifiers, subordination, conjunctions, antecedents. A short glossary linked to some of these words would assist comprehension for students.
The "Tips" section was relevant and insightful.
Most of the content is up-to-date. I did notice that some of the topics did not reflect current attitudes. For instance, the essay topic of marijuana use (page 68) was stated in negative terms when today this is legal in most states. Given that this book is coded as "attribution," I see no problem however. The instructor could easily use more current issues such as vaping and change some of the examples.
Often when writing an essay it is important to cover both sides of an issue (such as the argument around vaccinations) and then give a conclusion with the student's opinion. As an instructor, I would "tweek" a number of the examples.
Clarity is excellent in this text. Again, since the text is "attribution," I would conduct a readability score on some of the writing examples to determine if they were appropriate for the level I was teaching. Readability formulas can be accessed through the Internet, and I think that Microsoft has that capability right on their Word software.
The framework is consistent. In that you can click on any of the topics from the Table of Contents, an instructor can pick and choose numerous subject areas to meet his/her curriculum. If instructional software such as CANVAS or D2L is used, links can be made directly into the modules. For instance, if the instructor wants to start out with "freewriting" in the beginning, they could link to the topic in Chapter 4.
I have the same comment as in the section on Consistency. In that you can click on any of the topics from the Table of Contents, an instructor can pick and choose numerous subject areas to meet his/her curriculum. If instructional software such as CANVAS or D2L is used, links can be made directly into the modules. For instance, if the instructor wants to start out with "freewriting" in the beginning, they could link to the topic in Chapter 4.
The organization is typical for most English Composition textbooks. So the ESL student would be aware of the format when he or she enrolls in the next college composition class.
Revision of this text might include a search feature by topics. Revision might also include some technology resources such as those on YouTube or some surveys to analyze grammar errors such the Checklist on page 136.
I discerned no grammatical errors.
Considerable effort was used by the authors to include cultural relevance in their activities and examples. Since this text is coded "attribution," an instructor could insert appropriate examples or activities from the culture of the students in the class. For instance, in Minnesota, essays by Somali students would be especially relevant and could be shared and utilized as examples. Activities could also be created around these examples.
I was especially impressed that rubrics were included. This is an important part of any assignment. According to the Minnesota Board of Teaching for certifying teachers, rubrics are a required part of any assignment or project that is graded. The vocabulary used in the rubrics must be clear to the students so should be carefully chosen when revising the rubrics in this e-book.
This text would definitely be at an advanced ESL level to prepare students to enroll in a college English composition class. Care should be taken to determine the vocabulary level of some of the examples and activities.
Is it permissible for students to use translation software? My students in developmental writing use this feature and it is helpful for their reading comprehension, especially for writing examples from my text.
I teach a disciplinary literacy course in the Education Department at a university and have prospective students/teachers who will be teaching ESL or languages. This e-book would be an excellent resource for them as they develop lesson plans. For instance, if they are teaching about confused words in English, the section in Chapter 6 would provide a framework for instruction. These student teachers utilize numerous strategies such as literature and grammar circles, exit tickets, anticipatory guides, think-pair-share, and the close technique in their lesson/instructional plans. They could adapt, edit, or revise their plans using some of the chapters in this e-book.
The book covers all key grammar structures that should be covered in a college-level writing/grammar book. However, some structures could be covered in more detail. For example, for college-level writing, students should be able to use all three... read more
The book covers all key grammar structures that should be covered in a college-level writing/grammar book. However, some structures could be covered in more detail. For example, for college-level writing, students should be able to use all three types of dependent clauses (noun, adjective, and adverb clauses) extensively in their writing. The book includes explanations and exercises for all three types of dependent clauses, but the details are not included on advanced use of these structures (e.g. fairly basic, intermediate-level description is given), and exercises to practice these clauses are somewhat lacking. Also, the book’s primary focus is on sentence structure/grammar, but there are also two sections on specific types of formal writing: paragraphs and essays. These two chapters include the basics on what paragraphs and essays consist of, but no instruction is given on different types of rhetorical styles (e.g. exposition, argumentation, etc.). If writing is included in the book, it should cover not just basic formal writing structure but also styles.
After thoroughly analyzing each chapter, I would assert that the book is very accurate in its description of specific grammar structures and specific writing features. I am familiar with all of the grammar structures and formal writing features due my experience as an English language instructor, and I didn’t find any description of specific grammar points that were in any way inaccurate (maybe somewhat incomplete, but I addressed this issue in the previous response). Also, the authors’ explanation of specific paragraph and essay features match my expectations and the descriptions I’ve encountered in numerous other ESL writing texts. In short, accuracy is not an issue in this text.
Writing with varied and accurate sentence structure and good grammar is key for international students navigating the realm of academic writing tasks in a U.S. university. This book seeks to thoroughly cover all of the major grammar structures and types of sentence structures students should be able to use in their writing. That being said, in the first and final chapter, some grammar points are a little too basic for the target level of this book. To illustrate, International students at this level already know what subjects and verbs are. If I were to use this book in my class, I would skip these sections to avoid wasting class time on information students already know.
The writing is clear, but some of the explanations are so long-winded that international students may have difficulty finding main points/key ideas in the text. The book would benefit from having more bullet point lists and highlighted/boldfaced text to make key ideas more salient to ESL student readers. Vocabulary, overall, is appropriate for the topic and the level.
The book is very consistent in its presentation of the content. Each section starts with specific learning objectives (awesome feature!), followed by explanation and examples of target content. Exercises for most target writing and grammar points are included at the end of each section.
The text is easily and readily divisible.
This is answer is in response to overall organization of the book. At first glance, the organizational structure seems logical--move from the sentence to paragraph to essay level and then cover revising and editing followed by grammar and mechanics. However, as a writing teacher, it find it best to integrate writing process and structure, grammar/sentence structure, and mechanics rather than treating them as separate units. In other words, if I used this book, I would cover a little bit out of various chapters each week rather than just moving through the book chronologically. To underscore the point I’m trying to make, I would want my college ESL writers to be writing a paragraph during week one, but I followed the organizational structure of the text, we wouldn’t get to paragraph writing until week 3 (or so depending on how long it takes to get through each chapter).
This book includes very useful tables and some illustrative graphics (e.g. mind maps) to help organize complex content (e.g. specific grammar rules and structures), but overall, the text is very “text heavy.” That is, there are very few graphics, images, and illustrations, so it reads kind of like a chapter book. Adding images would greatly enhance the book’s interface.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
This is sort of an “n/a” question since the book doesn’t really address cultural issues aside from academic expectations on tone and attitude. I chose “4” for the question because it includes a number of authentic example essays from actual ESL college students. These essays are presented unedited and include a range of topics; therefore, these example essays provide excellent blueprints from which students can fashion their own writing as well as models that can be used for editing and revision practice (e.g. students could add thesis statements to essays that lack one or edit the essay for specific grammar points).
For a free writing grammar book, “College ESL Writers: Applied Grammar and Composing Strategies for Success” offers a number of relevant grammar points, explanations, and exercises that teachers can use to help their ESL writers improve their academic writing accuracy and variety. The example essays at the back of the book are a great resource that can be used for multiple purposes (e.g. example essay analysis, revising, editing). The editing exercises sprinkled throughout the text provide excellent authentic editing practice. Finally, having online access and a linked table of contents allows students to use their mobile devices to access the text and specific sections of the text anywhere at anytime. I will use specific parts of this book in my future writing classes.
This would be a good textbook for a developmental English/writing course. It covers the basic expectations students will encounter when writing in an academic setting with exposure to some basics for the workplace as well. It is not, however, a... read more
This would be a good textbook for a developmental English/writing course. It covers the basic expectations students will encounter when writing in an academic setting with exposure to some basics for the workplace as well. It is not, however, a text for English Learners (ELs); it would better serve native speakers of English and some resident minority (Gen 1.5) learners.
The text's content is consistent with the content of many/most college writing textbooks.
The text's content will remain relevant, though some updates re: writing with multi-media could be added.
The language is not particularly reader-friendly - if the text is for ELs, i.e. ELs would encounter similar language in a developmental English course textbook, one for native speakers of English.
The text is consistent internally and employs the language used in many/most writing texts.
The sections, headings, and sub-headings, as well as visuals are clearly titles/labeled and placed in the text.
It's difficult to outline and explain the writing process - or any process - in random order. With that said, some organization issues exist, e.g. chapter 3 begins, "Now that you have identified common purposes for writing..." Identifying "common purposes for writing" is addressed in the following section, 3.2, not 3.1.
Most visuals are easy to read and practical. It might be worthwhile to put charts and tables in an appendix - an 'at-a-glance' or reference repository for students looking for specific information.
The authors' grammar is flawless, yet the grammatical explanations for students are based on traditional grammar, not pedagogical grammar. ELs need the pedagogical lens on grammatical constructions.
The text itself is not "culturally insensitive." It is, however, not a text for English learners. See "Other" comment.
This text is a great effort to make available the basics of academic writing for developmental, i.e. native speakers of English, but it lacks the linguistic foundation necessary for supporting and instructing non-native speakers of English.
The book might be considered more comprehensive if you considered it as a college prep book. As a first-year college-level writing text, it covers some material that I consider too basic and leaves out other material that I think necessary at this... read more
The book might be considered more comprehensive if you considered it as a college prep book. As a first-year college-level writing text, it covers some material that I consider too basic and leaves out other material that I think necessary at this level. For example, in the grammar section, some points helpful to ESL students are covered, e.g. which verbs license gerunds and which license infinitives. However, others that are frequent problems at college level, such as distinguishing "could" from "was able to" and heavy noun phrase shift, aren't. Instead, time is spent on lower-level material, such as verb conjugation. Similarly, the punctuation section doesn't mention how to format titles, except for a passing mention that quotation marks are used for titles, but in college writing it's essential to know how to format titles of books, articles, etc.
The text also lacks discussion of currently evolving issues in language usage, such as the use of the singular "they."
Among the helpful inclusions are some creative, thoughtful assignments at the ends of chapters, as in this example:
2. Children’s stories are deliberately written in short, simple sentences to avoid confusion.
Most sentences are constructed using the standard subject-verb-object format. Choose a
children’s story that is suitable for eight- to ten-year-olds. Rewrite a chapter of the story so
that it appeals to a slightly older age group, by editing for sentence variety. Experiment
with the techniques you learned in "Sentence Variety," including the three different ways
to vary sentence structure at the beginning of a sentence and the three different ways to
connect ideas between sentences. Compare the revised chapter with the original version
and consider how sentence variety can be used to target a particular audience.
Some definitions are problematic, e.g. "a sentence that is missing a subject or a verb is called a fragment." While technically true, this definition leaves out fragments that include a subject and a verb, which many do. Though later on some exercises and explanations make this point available to students, they could easily be misled by this initial claim, and the flow chart based on it, which would lead them to conclude that any clause with a subject and a verb isn't a fragment. Similarly, the definitions of word classes, such as nouns, are the traditional ones rather than the more useful modern ones.
The section on faulty parallelism also exemplifies opportunities where the explanation could be more effective. Identifying grammatical, rather than functional, similarity as the deciding criterion, the writers characterize this parallelism as faulty:
A brisk walk is as beneficial to your health as going for a run.
Since the parallel elements here are both subjects, the sentence is completely acceptable. This may seem like an overly picky example, but given the wide variety of structure issues ESL writers deal with, I believe it's important to teach concepts and strategies that maximize their efforts.
At the rhetorical level, the text is quite accurate, but I was worried by the apparent confusion concerning topic sentences and thesis statements. For example, in a section called "Developing a Topic Sentence," the text says this:
When writing a draft of an essay, allow a friend or colleague to read the opening line of your first paragraph. Ask your reader to predict what your paper will be about. If he or she is unable to guess your topic accurately, you should consider revising your topic sentence so that it clearly defines your purpose in writing.
But a topic sentence doesn't give the topic of the paper; it gives the point of a paragraph. The opening line of an essay would be the first line of the introduction paragraph, which of course leads up to the thesis; its first sentence is rather unlikely to be a topic sentence, given the function of the paragraph, and may not tell the topic of the paper.
The sections are discrete enough that I think updates could be put in easily. What might add to the ongoing relevance is if more genres were addressed, e.g. professional emails (they appear in examples but not as sections), blogs, podcasts, etc. That way those modules could be added to or replaced as new genres become relevant.
The writing is clear, with helpful analogies comparing writing to other processes such as dancing and cooking.
Some parts, such as the (very effective) section on conciseness, use example sentences appropriate to college writing. In some other examples and exercises, the authors do what a lot of books do but I've never understood: they use sentences for correction that you wouldn't be likely to find in academic writing. For example, here are a couple of the items from an exercise on correcting fragments:
1. Working without taking a break. We try to get as much work done as we can in an hour.
2. I needed to bring work home. In order to meet the deadline.
If you've taught first-year composition for any length of time, you have a corpus of student work from which you can take actual examples, appropriate to the kinds of assignments they do. It would be better to stick with those data throughout the examples and exercises.
The sections are of appropriate length, and the headings match the content.
Again, it seems like the text is designed for pre-college rather than college. It goes through extensive sentence-level and paragraph-level work before getting to essay writing.
The text has clear, prominent, informative headings, a good amount of white space, and links back to the TOC, The tables are not formatted in the most attractive way, but that's minor.
There are unfortunate editing issues, e.g.
p. 66 Fix the following paragraph based the methods described in the sentence structure
p. 80 In academic settings, the reasons for writing fulfill these main purposes: to summarize,
to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate.
There's no mention of cross-dialectal differences. For example, the discussion on collective noun agreement doesn't account for non-American dialects. When many students come from overseas and have studied British models, this is a problem. Further, concepts such as the thesis statement and paper structure aren't presented as cultural phenomena, when in fact their cultural grounding needs to be made explicit. I was also greatly bothered by the non-commented-on use of "Mrs." in this example: Hello, I would like more information about your job posting. Thank you, Anita Al-Sayf Dear Mrs. Al-Sayf, Thank you for your letter. Please read the attached document for details. Sincerely, Jack Fromont
Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace adapted their book from Business English for Success, a text adapted by the Saylor Foundation. The new version includes a helpful preface explaining the text’s design, a note to the instructor explaining the... read more
Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace adapted their book from Business English for Success, a text adapted by the Saylor Foundation. The new version includes a helpful preface explaining the text’s design, a note to the instructor explaining the rationale of their approach, a note to the student, and the features and benefits of the text. A very clear comprehensive table of contents is then provided. Organized into 10 chapters, the book covers three main areas: composing strategies and techniques; language use, grammar, and mechanics; and writing techniques with samples, topics, and rubrics.
The text included some punctuation errors, which are most likely typos. For example, on page 40, there is a typo where it states that “yet indicates a reason.” This should be “yet indicates a contrast.” Also, on page 139, the explanation of the use of “a” and “an” should have an added part to show that “a” is used before a word that begins with a consonant sound and that “an” is used before a word that begins with a vowel sound. (It is a pronunciation rule rather than a spelling rule.) Aside from the minimal errors, the text is highly accurate and completely unbiased.
The information in the text consists of classic, relevant content and will remain so over time. The content is very clear and well organized, so readers should be able to quickly and easily make any needed updates and/or changes.
The writing style is clear and concise with just the right amount of prose. There is no inaccessible jargon or terminology; however, for lower-level ESL students, the instructor may wish to adapt some of the vocabulary.
Overall, the authors use an extremely consistent framework as well as terminology.
Before proceeding to using units in a random order or reorganizing units for a class, it is preferable to read the introduction, which includes the preface, note to the teacher, note to the student, and the text’s features and benefits. Many of the units build upon each other, but some units, especially those in Chapter 7: Overview of English Grammar, can be easily reorganized and realigned without disruption.
The selection and progression of book topics are very logical and clear, and the steps from unit to unit remain consistent.
There are no interface issues or navigation problems in the book, and the images as well as the charts are very clear.
There is a typo on page 24 where it says: “He sing horribly.” Prior to this sentence, it is correctly said. No other grammatical errors were found.
No cultural insensitivity or bias was found. The authors make an effort to be inclusive by using names from a variety of cultures in the student exercises and providing authentic ESL student writing samples.
This book was written to help non-native speakers of English to improve their academic writing in a college setting. Although it sometimes uses some challenging paragraph examples, it should be easy to alter them for use in my high-intermediate level ESL academic writing and grammar course. The text also provides a great deal of information about writing style as well as valuable tips and key takeaways at the end of each section; furthermore, the mechanics unit is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of punctuation usage. Finally, the last part of the book is especially valuable to both instructors and students as it includes qualities of good writing as well as student samples of good paragraph and essay writing.
The textbook provides a comprehensive overview of English grammar and writing strategies that would be helpful to second-language learners. The information is presented in an accessible format, with a link at the bottom of each page to return to... read more
The textbook provides a comprehensive overview of English grammar and writing strategies that would be helpful to second-language learners. The information is presented in an accessible format, with a link at the bottom of each page to return to the table of contents which in turn has clickable links to all the topics listed. However, there is not an index or glossary.
The information in the book is accurate and culturally sensitive.
The material is relevant and up-to-date. The writing topics in Chapter 10 are mostly universal; although some are almost to the point of being cliche, they offer a starting point and could be revised to specific contexts. The writers make mention of the two main style guides (APA and MLA) in Chapter 5 to create awareness, but they do not provide specifics; I think this is wise given the likelihood of updates to one or both of these guides and allows instructors to share their own requirements without conflicting with textbook examples.
The explanations and examples in the book are presented clearly and in ESL-friendly language. In addition to examples of desired language or writing strategies, the writers often include examples of "wrong" answers to help clarify the point being discussed. The text complements prose explanations with easy-to-read charts and graphs throughout the book that students are sure to find useful.
The text is consistent in its use of terminology and framework.
Each unit/chapter is divided into subsections that are clearly marked; these subsections all have clickable links in the table of contents and thus are easily accessed. It seems that it would be easy to refer students to different parts of the text throughout a course without following a linear progression.
Although every writing teacher likely has her/his own preference for how to present course content, the text provides a logical organization and could easily be followed as is. It seems clear that the authors have put much thought into to order of topics.
The text interface is user-friendly.
The text does not contain any grammatical errors.
The use of student writing samples in this text can help ESL writers feel more confident that their words and ideas have as much value as those of native speakers. These samples, as well as international names, are included in an effective and culturally sensitive way.
As a writing teacher who has worked with international students for over twenty-five years, I was excited to come across this text. In many ways, it feels like the kind of composition textbook I have always wanted to write if I had the time! The writers have gleaned the essential information to create a well-balanced composition text. The material is presented clearly and logically without being too elementary. I especially appreciate that the authors have included relevant exercises throughout the book to give students targeted practice; such exercises are often missing in typical college writing textbooks but can be quite helpful to second language learners.
The text covers the essentials for successful college writing, including units on sentences, paragraphs, vocabulary, and grammar. It does not have a "research unit" nor does it contain readings. read more
The text covers the essentials for successful college writing, including units on sentences, paragraphs, vocabulary, and grammar. It does not have a "research unit" nor does it contain readings.
The book is relatively error free.
I think it is relevant only in that it covers the basics of good writing. I am not sure how innovative it is in terms of its approach to writing, i.e. there is not much on integration of skills nor on the purposes of writing. Today's rhetorics are grounded in genre theory. This text appears to come out of a product or current-traditional rhetoric tradition. The section on "commonly confused words" does not seem appropriate for an ESL audience unless the students are ear-learners. My experience as an ESL teacher is that L2 learners of English do not confuse words like then/than; effect/affect; or there, their, they're etc. These types of confusions are more prevalent among native speakers, or as I mentioned above- the ear-learners.
The explanations and examples are clear, easy to follow, though perhaps abstract for ELLs.
The terminology is consistent throughout.
If a class is competent in sentence level issues, then skipping past this chapter to paragraphing would be okay and for those students who may need review in some sentence level grammar, then they could easily be referred back to that chapter for instance.
The organization begins with sentence parts and progresses through various grammar and mechanical points and ends with models of good writing for paragraphs and essays. It also provides suggestions for topics that students can write about.
The interface seems to be fine in that it is like a paper-based book. Images, charts, etc are of decent quality.
I did not find any.
The book attempts to be inclusive drawing from multiple literary sources for examples.
This is a nuts and bolts text that seems to hearken back to the Mina Shaughnessy and Strunk & White days. The chapters cover such items as parts of speech identification, gives explanations and examples but then it does not provide exercises for students to demonstrate understanding or mastery of content covered in each chapter. The book does a nice job of moving students from the sentence level to the essay level and focuses attention on sentence level features, composing and revising strategies, but there's little to no mention of writing for a purpose -- audience analysis and crafting arguments for said audience. Though the book does not say who the text is intended for, it seems most appropriate for an advanced level L2 learner of English in an intensive English program or a resident L2 learner of English in a community college context. In terms of proficiency scales, the text is probably a CEFR C1-C2 meaning the grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure is that of a native/near-native speaker of English. A student with a score of 58 and below on TOEFL-itb or 4.5 on IELTS would likely struggle. Approximately 70-80% of the vocabulary comes from the first 1K word list and the text itself is written at a 5th grade reading level. Regardless, the instructor will need to supplement with readings and if a research project, i.e. research paper complete with citations is expected in the class, then research methods, strategies, and citation styles (MLA, APA) will also need to be supplemented.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Writing Basics - What Makes a Good Sentence?
- Chapter 2: Sentence Variety - How do I Refine My Writing?
- Chapter 3: Writing Paragraphs - Separating Ideas and Shaping Content
- Chapter 4: Writing Essays - From Start to Finish
- Chapter 5: Revising and Editing
- Chapter 6: Working with Words - Usage, Form, & Context
- Chapter 7: Overview of English Grammar
- Chapter 8: Punctuation and Capitalization
- Chapter 9: Good Writing - Models and Samples
- Chapter 10: Suggested Writing Topics & Grading Rubrics
About the Book
College ESL Writers: Applied Grammar and Composing Strategies for Success is designed as a comprehensive grammar and writing etext for high intermediate and advanced level non-native speakers of English. We open the text with a discussion on the sentence and then break it down into its elemental components, before reconstructing them into effective sentences with paragraphs and larger academic assignments. Following that, we provide instruction in paragraph and essay writing with several opportunities to both review the fundamentals as well as to demonstrate mastery and move on to more challenging assignments.We have structured the etext into three basic parts. Part I, Composing Strategies and Techniques, includes a sequenced discussion from composing effective sentences through paragraph and essay writing. This includes the prewriting and planning stages of writing as well as the revising and editing stage in the first five chapters. Part II, Language Use, Grammar, and Mechanics, is meant to be used as a grammar and mechanics handbook as well as the practice and review of idiomatic wording. Part III, All About Writing: Samples, Topics, and Rubrics, has chapters with additional writing topics for practice, sample student papers, and rubrics for evaluating writing.
About the Contributors
Barbara Hall, Georgia State University.
Elizabeth Wallace, Georgia State University.