Saying it better

Pronunciation and writing skills can be improved quickly with will and practice.

Over the next four editions of Exploring English, in response to readers’ questions as to how they might quickly and significantly improve their pronunciation and writing skills, attention will focus on the superior speaking and writing improvement techniques advocated by the 4S-Accelerated English Program (4S-AEP), that is, The Art of the Alternative.

There are 10 regular ways that this skill can be readily applied to enhance the quality of personal communication.

They are:

·Using superior adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs to express ideas;

·Using “Clefting” to give emphasis in conversation and communication;

·Using phrase and clause equivalents instead of single words to qualify another word;

·Using alternative forms of punctuation;

·Using words as alternative parts of speech;

·Using different stress when pronouncing words as nouns, verbs and adjectives;

·Using selected words and constructions when speaking or writing so as not to offend or to achieve the best response;

·Using the thesaurus and the dictionary with purpose and effect;

·Using appropriate colloquial and idiomatic terminology for effect; and

·Using different words and constructions to commence sentences when speaking and writing.

These 10 techniques will all be considered in some detail, beginning with the first three this week.

(i) Using Superior Adjectives, Adverbs, Nouns and Verbs:

As explained in detail below, one of the best English-improvement tools is the thesaurus, originally compiled by Peter Mark Roget.

A thesaurus lists numerous examples of synonyms and antonyms that can be used as “superior” alternatives to simple or basic adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs when expressing ideas or concepts.

New learners of the English language repeatedly use simple words such as “nice”, “good’, “bad”, “big”, “little”, and so on to describe their experiences.

With practice and self-discipline, personal English proficiency can be raised significantly by applying The Art of the Alternative with the aid of a thesaurus and a good dictionary. Synonyms – words that have an equivalence or close similarity in meaning – can be both valuable and fun to master.

Instead of describing a meal as nice, a superior descriptive such as delicious, enjoyable, palatable, pleasing, savoury, scrumptious, and tasty could be used.

Again, superior alternatives to the word good to describe a friend could include dependable, faithful, loyal or trustworthy.

Using alternative, superior adverbs also can greatly enhance the quality of one’s speech and writing.

In lieu of saying that someone worked well, one could use alternatives such as assiduously, competently, effectively, masterly, proficiently, and so on.

(ii) Clefting a Construction:

When a journalist or a speaker/writer wants to give “importance” to a particular aspect of a construction, for example, to highlight “who”, when”, “where” “why”, “what” or “how”, the technique of Clefting is applied.

Clefting is a modern grammatical term used for purposeful, textual variation. It is also called Transformation and Inversion. Consider the following text:

Early on Sunday morning, October 18, 2009, at the age of only 16, Australian teenager, Jessica Watson, set out from Sydney Harbour in her 10.23 metre yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, on her solo journey to be the youngest person ever to sail unassisted, non-stop, 38,000 kilometres around the world.

In this construction, the initial emphasis is given to “when”, that is, the date: Early on Sunday morning, October 18, 2009 …

However, the sentence could be easily clefted, transformed or varied to highlight a different “when”, such as Jessica’s age, by beginning with: At the age of only 16 …

Again, the text could begin with “why”, for example: To be the youngest person ever to sail, unassisted, non-stop, 38,000 kilometres around the world …

Alternatively, importance could be given to “how” by commencing with: In her 10.23 metre yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady.

Another common starting option is to give emphasis to “who”, that is, Australian teenager, Jessica Watson, …

Depending on its desired meaning, alternatives to a common noun form such as an “event” could be circumstance, eventuality, happening, incident, occasion, occurrence, phenomenon.

Alternatives to the verb form like in a sentence such as “I like classical music” could be appreciate, delight in, enjoy, or prefer.

For a writer or speaker of English to endeavour to use alternative quality words is similar in many ways to an artist experimenting with different, more complex forms, techniques and colour combinations.

It requires persistence, practice and imagination.

(iii) Using phrases and clause equivalents:

While it is easy to use single-word descriptives and qualifiers in speech and writing to convey meaning, it can be more interesting for a listener or reader when phrase and clause equivalents are used instead.

A simple example of this application is seen in the sentence: Malcolm is an experienced mountaineer.

Instead of the adjective “experienced”, the adjectival phrase “with considerable experience” or the adjectival clause “who has great experience” could be used with equivalent or improved effect. For example: “Malcolm is a mountaineer with considerable experience” or “Malcolm is a mountaineer who has great experience.”

Single-word adverbs can also be replaced with adverbial phrases. For example, the injured worker was driven speedily to the hospital > The injured worker was driven with great speed to the hospital.

Likewise, an alternative to an adverbial phrase can be an adverbial clause. For example: I have an Internet connection at my home. > I have an Internet connect where my home is.

by Keith Wright,  the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

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