MET workshop: grammar pathway minisession

Modal verbs: “Might you be in the mood?”

Facilitator: John Linnegar

In the writing of ESL and EFL authors, English modal verbs often present editors and revisers with challenges at a number of levels. Amid much unidiomatic usage, they find themselves having to fix the inappropriate use of modal verbs in order to render texts comprehensible. In particular, can, could, may, might, shall and will present challenges. This minisession will take participants through the current wisdom on the preferred usage of modal verbs in several contexts in English and help them to apply these verbs in a selection of different text types.

Participants will learn by doing – in that they will be exposed to a wide variety of texts in which errors of modal verb usage occur. They will then have an opportunity to correct the errors, which will in turn lead to discussions about currently acceptable or unacceptable usage in a variety of contexts and genres.

About the facilitator: John Linnegar is something of a grammar geek, having had the best of English teachers at school at a time when grammar was well taught. A former schoolteacher (English and History), John has been improving authors’ texts since 1979. He has written and published Engleish, Our Engleish: Common Errors in South African English and How to Resolve Them (2013), Text Editing (2012) and, more recently, Grammar, Punctuation and All That Jazz ... (with Ken McGillivray, 2019). He is a co-author of Oxford English Grammar: The Advanced Guide (2015) and contributes a regular column on grammar and punctuation to the quarterly newsletter of the Professional Editors’ Guild. He considers himself a descriptivist more than a prescriptivist in matters grammatical, being inclined to reflect what the authorities* consider to be preferred current English usage.

* John Kahn The Right Word at the Right Time (Reader’s Digest, London 1985); Tom McArthur (ed) The Oxford Companion to the English Language (OUP 1992); David Crystal The Fight for English (OUP 2007); Elizabeth Manning Murphy Working Words (Canberra Society of Editors 2011); Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (6th ed, John Wiley & Sons Australia 2011); Bryan A Garner Garner’s Modern English Usage (OUP 2016).