Monday, September 06, 2010

An ESL Guide, Part 6: Idioms

English has thousands of idioms. I frequently hear from ESL learners that they enjoy learning idioms because using them appropriately demonstrates a great facility with the language. An important issue for writing at work is knowing which idioms would seem acceptable in e-mail. Would it be preferable to write:
  • “I get it” or “I understand”? I prefer the more formal “I understand.”
  • “Let’s talk it over” or “Let’s discuss it”? I have no preference.
  • “I didn’t get around to it” or “I did not have time to do it”? I don’t like either, preferring a more positive, “I needed more time.”
  • “I changed my mind” or “I reversed my opinion”? I prefer the idiom “I changed my mind.”

Two sites, and offer good lists of idioms, yet the best way to master them is to read diversely and abundantly and listen carefully to respected communicators.

Books by Philip Vassallo
How to Write Fast Under Pressure
The Art of E-mail Writing
The Art of On-the-Job Writing
The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching Through Philosophy

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