English Syntax: A Guide to the Grammar of Successful Writers

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Writing Style 1

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January 2007

I studied grammar at North Texas State with Mary Whitton, one of the authors of the Harbrace Handbook and later with Archibald A. Hill at the University of Texas. I loved the subject, and I enjoyed teaching it to my seventh grade language arts class at Dickinson Junior high in 1959. I was remarkably successful in teaching those seventh graders the basic structure of English sentences. I used a combination of the activities I now use in my guides to writing style. My students wrote sentences according to patterns, and they analyzed sentences to see how they were formed. I have continued those activities in the forty-seven years I have been teaching since then.

The basic idea is that I never expected my students to know the structure until I taught it. Then I expected them to know it and build on it to form or analyze increasingly complex sentences. I know that when writers know about English syntax and know about what structures can be used to accomplish a particular task, they write better and more confidently. Thus, they willingly write more.
For years I taught English Syntax and composition classes without the aid of my guidebooks, and I was successful, but since I wrote them and have been using them, I find it easier to be successful. Students who are ill and get behind on their work particularly benefit. Some have even used the book without classroom instruction and have successfully completed the course. Several of my former students have reported to me that they have used some of the exercises from the workbooks in their own writing classes.

It is not my goal to teach every structure of English. It is not a comprehensive or scientific grammar that I teach but a pedagogic grammar, one designed to provide structures most useful for writers.


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Home of Dick Heaberlin Writes

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English Syntax:
A Guide to the Grammar of Successful Writers

Writing Style 1

Connecting for Coherence:
A Guide to Building Sentences With Syntax And Logic

Writing Style 2

Purposeful Punctuation:
A Syntactic Guide to English Punctuation

Writing Style 3

Skinny Writing:
A Guide to Concise Prose
for Writers and Editors—Writing Style 4

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