Book of the Month
In Our Own Words
A guide with readings for student writers

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Authors: R. Maynarczyk and S. Haber
$12.95

ISBN 780521 67648

Upper Intermediate


This is a book which teaches students the basics of academic writing. The edition of the book reviewed here is the second. There has been a third edition of the book produced since, but this latest version costs around $40, which is in our opinion too much to pay for a book of this sort. The second edition can still be found in some bookstores. It represents much better value for money in a situation where prices for all kinds of academic textbooks seem to be rising out of control. However, given that every EFL exam contains a writing element which it is essential to pass, a book with a focus on the the skills required for academic writing is worth consideration even by students on a tight budget.

There are three main parts to this 336-page book. These are in the sequence that anyone should follow when writing a text. That is, planning and preparation, the actual writing, and then reviewing and rewriting. This book does a good job in describing the steps required to produce a coherent piece of prose, and also describes some of the problems involved in putting a text together.
 
The main part of the book is the section on 'writing' which is where the 'our own words' part of the title comes in. Each section starts with a short essay written by a student. These essays are of different types of writing, with topics such as 'places', 'people' and 'experiences'. Each essay is followed by an analysis of 'grammar in context' which covers topics such as consistency in verb tenses. This part also describes more formal writing such as that which a student will need for a discursive essay. The final section is rethinking and rewriting. This is a short section on how to review what you have written, with suggestions for improving grammar and spelling.
 
The authors recognize that many texts these days are written on a computer and therefore they include a description of how best to use a spell checker. There are very occasional black and white pictures which break up the page, but most of the book is solid text. There is also an index which is a handy reference to which points are covered under which essay title.


Who is this book for? While this book will be useful for students studying for an EFL exam, this is not the main focus of the book. There is, for example, very little on timing, which every student knows is critical in exam writing. The actual target reader is a student in college or finishing secondary school who has reasonable English, but poor writing skills. This book would do a reasonable job of making such a student a good writer.

Verdict: Expensive, but worth it for the right buyer
Assessment 5/10
 
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