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English Stylistics in Practice

Class at Faculty of Arts |


1. Having fun in style which we take a light-hearted look at a selection of the most common stylistic errors and weaknesses and outline a 'troubleshooting' strategy (Introduction)

2. Getting it right which we focus on grammatical accuracy, root out needless slips and pinpoint fossilized errors (focus: Correctness)

3. Making sense which we structure sentences, relate clauses, use conjuncts, refine word order and organize paragraphs (focus: Logic)

4. Putting your finger on it which we fine-tune meaning and avoid ambiguity (focus: Precision)

5. Keeping to the point which we avoid wordiness and steer clear of tautologies and pleonasms (focus: Relevance)

6. The long and the short of it which we look at ellipsis, abbreviation and contraction (focus: Economy)

7. To comma or not to comma? which we master punctuation and, in particular, use of the English comma (focus: Readability)

8. The same difference which we delve deeper into synonymity and antonymity and further develop lexical variety and contrast (focus: Variety)

9. Letting it flow which we vary sentence length and rhythm, avoid stilted structures and work on cohesive devices (focus: Cohesion)

10. The likes of them which we draw upon metaphor and simile (focus: Imagination)

11. Pitching it right which we establish and maintain register and pay attention to situation, politeness and convention (focus: Register)

12. Watching your tongue, watching your pen which we look not at what  to use, but when and where to use it, and how to euphemize (focus: Slang and appropriateness)

13. Time to conclude, finish and have done with it which we produce and discuss a final checklist of points for stylistic improvement and receive tutor feedback on final written assignments (Closing session)


The seminar provides participants with the opportunity to improve their written style in a concentrated and practical fashion, with each session highlighting one particular aspect for special consideration. Through a combination of (a) brief, varied and highly focussed textual tasks, (b) group discussion and (c) concentrated tutor feedback students will increase their awareness of specific ways in which their own writing may be improved as well as honing their editing and text-evaluation skills not only to the benefit of their current academic activities but also in preparation for possible future employment in English teaching or in other fields involving working with English text.

They will also become familiar with the most commonly used text editorial signs and will fine-tune their oral evaluation skills. In addition, the seminar may function as something of a 'style surgery' for specific queries, depending on the needs and current writing interests of individual participants.

This elective course is aimed at third-year bachelor's students on the Anglistikaamerikanistika programme.