The Reading Matrix
Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2001

Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide, second edition
Janet Lane & Ellen Lange (1999)
Boston: Heinle & Heinle
Pp. xxiii + 294 + G-10 + I-6
ISBN 0-8384-0949-0
U.S. $33.95
Reviewed by Sachie Karasawa
Community College of Southern Nevada

Recent research in second language (L2) writing instruction indicates the complex nature of English as a second language (ESL) writing and its specific needs. Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide, second edition written by Janet Lane & Ellen Lange is designed specifically to address some typical errors found in ESL writing. This book focuses on fifteen most common errors observed in ESL writing and analyzes each of them in detail. The first section discusses 9 global errors: verb tenses, verb forms, modals, conditional sentences, passive voice, relative/adverbial/noun clauses, sentence structure, word order, and connecting words. The second section examines 6 local errors: subject-verb agreement, articles, singular and plural nouns, word choice, word forms, and prepositions. The final section goes beyond the grammar and describes some other important points for improving writing such as expanding vocabulary and revising for clarity. The glossary section towards the end of the book lists common grammatical terms and their definitions to help the learners understand the instruction throughout the book better.

Each unit opens with a brief description of the characteristics of the target error, which is followed by a self-test in the form of a checklist and a summary of grammatical rules related to the particular type of errors. Then several passages are presented as models with detailed instructional remarks. Various exercise activities, such as filling in the blanks and sentence completion tasks, are provided at the end of each unit. One unique exercise activity featured in this book is the CNN Video Activity, which utilizes accompanying video segments to initiate classroom discussions on a wide range of topics as a pre-writing activity. The video activity also includes relevant writing topics that can be assigned to students. Another exercise, which all of the units contain, lets the learners read sample student writing and edit the specific type of errors discussed in the unit. This type of exercise would encourage students to look at writing critically and help them develop editing skills, which they could use in examining their own writing.

The authors indicate high-intermediate to advanced ESL learners as their target student populations. Although the descriptions of importance of mastering the particular target grammatical features seem to be a little redundant at times, the section provides some authentic reading material for the learners at the target levels and gives them an opportunity to re-evaluate a possible relationship between the errors they make and their (mis)understanding of English grammar rules.

As has been reviewed here, the main emphasis of this book is on improving the form of writing. Topics such as how to improve the ideas expressed and the overall rhetorical organization of writing are only briefly touched upon in the third section, and the learners will need other reference material for improving the content of writing once they reduce the initial problems with grammatical errors.

Since this book specifically addresses ESL writing errors in relation to grammatical rules, the most appropriate instructional setting for adopting it as a main course textbook would be ESL courses with emphasis on writing instruction. It could, however, be also used as reference or supplementary material for ESL learners who are enrolled in mixed (with native English students) or regular English composition courses. Whether it is used as a main textbook or reference material, the topics examined in the book should fit well in revising processes on mechanical errors.


















Sachie Karasawa has been a tenured professor of Japanese since 1994. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English language and literature, and has just completed her dissertation on L2 writing in an interdisciplinary Ph. D. program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at University of Arizona.