Contact details for the London School of Journalism

Syllabus: Improve Your English

The purpose of this course is to highlight the most common errors in writing English and to show students not only how such errors occur but how to avoid making them. It covers all major aspects of grammar and style, and explains each point in a clear, straightforward manner. We also teach you how to write clear and harmonious English and how to avoid the pitfalls of jargon, cliche and tautology. There are plenty of exercises dealing with the points raised in each lesson, as well as several opportunities for real writing, where your level of fluency will be assessed and areas for improvement suggested.

The course structure is as follows:

Lesson 1: A Question of Style

The value of the written word - its beauty, power and influence; the evolution of language and the effect it has on us all. Steering a middle course between yesterday's and tomorrow's style. The importance of reading. Discriminating in your choice of words. The six rules of good writing.

Exercises include

rewriting a passage of prose in your own words
a series of ungrammatical sentences for you to correct

Lesson 2: Order and Disorder

Correct sentence structure. The importance of syntax. Mood. Avoiding clumsy writing - striking a balance. Hanging and misrelated participles. Parallel constructions. Ambiguities.

Exercises include

correcting faulty constructions
writing an expose on a controversial theme

Lesson 3: What's in a Name?

Nouns: common, proper and abstract. Collective and compound nouns. Problems with foreign words. Agreement. Sexism and how to avoid it. Pronouns: Personal, Reflexive, Relative, Interrogative, Demonstrative and Indefinite.

Exercises include

two sets of text to correct

Lesson 4: The Correct Use of Adjectives

Description, qualification, limitation The definite and indefinite articles. Comparatives and superlatives. Choosing the right word - synonyms and pitfalls. Common examples of misuse. Cliches.

Exercises include

two sets of text for correction.

Lesson 5: Verbs and Adverbs

Active, passive, transitive and intransitive verbs. Choosing the right verb for impact and drama. Common misconceptions. What is a complement? Auxiliary verbs. Split infinitives. Gerunds and participles - errors of proximity. Some awkward pairs of verbs. The purpose of adverbs. Other adverbial phrases.

Exercises include

two sets of text for correction
one exercise in analysis
writing a descriptive passage

Lesson 6: Prepositions and Conjunctions

Preposition or adverb? Or conjunction? The avoidance of ambiguity. Which preposition to use - accuracy and idiom. Conjunctions for added fluency. Correlative conjunctions.

Exercises include

two sets of text to correct
writing a piece of narrative prose

Lesson 7: Punctuation

A necessity not a luxury. The pathway to clarity. Changes in punctuation style. Abbreviations and acronyms. Taking each point in turn - full explanations and examples. Quoted and reported speech. Numbers, fractions and dates. Prefixes and suffixes. A special note about the apostrophe.

Exercises include

rewriting a passage with correct punctuation
further exercises on punctuation

Lesson 8: Final Briefing

A further look at style - in particular, what to avoid. Jargon, euphemisms and circumlocutions. Some common words overused. Compound and polysyllabic nouns. Prepositional verbs. Vogue words. Tautology. Americanisms. The proper function of the paragraph. Good sentence construction. The use of tenses. A review of common errors.

Exercises include

rewriting two passages of 'purple' prose

Additional Links:

Subediting syllabus
Freelance Journalism syllabus
News Journalism syllabus