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BOOK REVIEW: The Australian Students’ Guide to Writing and Grammar by Claire Duffy

| 2 August 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Australian Students’ Guide to Writing and Grammar by Claire Duffy

NewSouth Publishing
February 2019
Paperback, $27.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / English Language & Literacy Educational Material

85% Rocking


Some people find grammar and punctuation impenetrable. Perhaps you weren’t taught a lot of it at school or you might find the rules difficult to comprehend. Enter: Claire Duffy and The Australian Students’ Guide to Writing & Grammar. Duffy is a school teacher by trade and she makes it her mission to make grammar and punctuation accessible. She does this with a cheery and informative guide to Australian English.

Part 1 is about how good grammar makes you a great writer. We look at parts of speech. These are the labels we use to describe the function a word (or group of words) performs: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and so on…
Part 2 takes you through the essential skills of writing well: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, sentences and paragraphs…
Part 3 looks at how to be a good writer. It provides ‘recipes’ for you to follow so that you can use the essay formats you need most often in school and at university.
Part 4 is about writing for marks. It contains templates and looks closely at the three major forms of writing a student has to learn to be able to do: creative, persuasive and analytical.
Part 5 offers support for writers, with ‘cheat sheets’, helpful terms and vocabulary, as well as more advanced grammatical information for those with an inner geek that needs feeding.

Duffy has also written The Australian Schoolkids’ Guide to Debating and Public Speaking. She approaches her topics with an infectious enthusiasm, because she wants readers to essentially love language. This book is not a dry and technical textbook look at things. Instead, Duffy breaks down and describes the information with some helpful step-by-step examples. It also aims to instruct students so that they may feel confident, and gain new skills and mastery.

This book is an educational and practical one. While it is primarily for students aged twelve and older to improve their writing for exams, it can also be used by adults who want to brush up on their knowledge. This volume starts with some basic topics and builds to more advanced ones. But it can also be dipped in and out of, depending on what subjects readers want to learn or revise.

A dangling modifier (often a dangling participle) is an ambiguous grammatical construction which means the reader can’t tell which word relates to which. The subject of the verb may be unstated, unclear or too far away. It matters because it stops the sentence being understood. It’s a depressingly common problem, and an easy mistake to make.

The author has divided this volume into five parts. The first is about grammar and covers useful definitions and examples of things like adverbs, prepositions, articles and conjunctions. The second is about spelling, punctuation and writing structure. It includes guidance on how to compose sentences and paragraphs. The other three sections are about planning, editing and proof-reading your work. It also includes some more advanced grammar tips and some information about the different forms of writing. While this is by no means a definitive guide, it is a handy primer to some fundamental topics associated with Australian English.

The fourth hidden feature of a pronoun is its case. This is about how the pronoun relates to the verb. Is it doing something, or having something done to it? Depending on the answer you will use a different pronoun.
1. ‘Doers’ are called subjective case. These pronouns are driving things. They cause the action. Because they are doers, they go before the verb. , you, he, she, it, we and they.
2. The ‘done to’ are objective case. These are on the receiving end of the action. They (usually) come after the verb: me, myself, you, yourself, him, her, it, himself, herself and itself.

This volume caters to different audiences. For instance, the “Nerd’s Corner” sections provide more detailed information about language and should appeal to grammarians. For those with a more basic understanding of spelling and grammar, the sections “Warnings!” and “Wise Advice” offer simpler and more easily digestible forms of the information. The latter are also very useful and are handy for revision.

Dashes and hyphens

It’s easy to confuse a dash with a hyphen. A dash is longer than a hyphen and is a different character on your keyboard. The hyphen also does a different job. It joins two words together to make them work as one.

The Australian Students’ Guide to Writing & Grammar is an essential guide for classrooms. Duffy has firsthand experience teaching children who struggle with writing, even though they may speak well. She brings a pragmatic and informed approach to this guide by helping students avoid common mistakes. She also assists them in learning about common conventions in language and this too should help readers improve their writing.

Duffy’s guide is ultimately a clear and concise look at grammar and punctuation. She demystifies the process of writing, and offers up some handy tools and lessons so that readers may know more about the anatomy of language. In sum, The Australian Students’ Guide to Writing & Grammar is a handy and accessible beacon through some challenging language waters.

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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