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A Guide to Grammar and Punctuation Rachel Evans and Rebecca Peat

Training and Development Unit

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

Abbreviations Adjectives Adverbs Apostrophe Capital Letters Clichs Colons Commas Confusable Words Conjunctions Dashes and Brackets Hyphens i before e Idioms Letter writing Nouns Prepositions Pronouns Proofreading Report writing Semi Colons Sentences (including subject and object) Split Infinitives Tenses Verbs Wasteful Words Further reference sources
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Only use abbreviations unless you are sure people will understand what you mean. It is best to write it out in full the first time and abbreviate afterwards. For example: Nottingham Trent University (NTU) offers a wide range of degree courses. NTU is one of two universities in Nottingham. Abbreviations are very rarely used in formal writing. The only ones which are frequently used are the abbreviations for certain common titles, when these are used with someone's name: Mr Willis, Dr Livingstone. The frequent use of unnecessary abbreviations will make your text irritating and hard to read. So, you should write 80 miles per hour (not 80 mph), the Church of England (not the C of E) and the seventeenth century (not C17 or the 17th cent.) It is far more important to make your writing easy to read than to save a few seconds in writing it. There is one exception to this policy. In scientific writing, the names of units are always abbreviated and always written without full stops or a plural s. If you are doing scientific writing, then, you should conform by writing 5 kg (not 5 kilogrammes), 800 Hz (not 800 Hertz) and 17.3 cm3 (not 17.3 cubic centimetres). There are a number of Latin abbreviations which are sometimes used in English texts; e.g. for example, i.e. in other words and et al. and other people Using Latin abbreviations is usually only appropriate in special circumstances in which brevity is at a premium, such as in footnotes.

An adjective describes a noun or a pronoun. For example: New York is a busy city. Wayne Rooney is a talented footballer.

Comparative adjectives are used to say that a thing or person has a certain quality: My car is newer than yours. Chris is taller than Nick.

Superlative adjectives are used to indicate that somebody or something has more of a certain quality than all others: This is the quickest way to Birmingham. This is the best book Ive ever read.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

An adverb describes a verb. Many are often formed by adding ly. There are four distinct groups: Adverbs of manner tell how something happens: Jane is smartly dressed. If you run quickly you will win the race. Adverbs of time tell when something happens or is done: The temp arrived yesterday. School will soon be over. Adverbs of place tell you where something happens or is done: Stand over there! My parents live nearby. Adverbs of degree tell you how much something happens or is done: The child was slightly injured. We were too tired to go on.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

There are two types of apostrophe. Apostrophe of possession: means belonging to Freds boat The Universitys graduates The lions enclosure The boat belonging to Fred The graduates of the University The enclosure belonging to the lions

Note! The apostrophe goes between the word and the s if it is a singular word. It goes after the s if it is a plural word. What about words ending in s? There are two ways to deal with this. James library book Jamess library book

Both are correct, but the form with only one s is more often used in modern English. Watch out! Simple plural words dont need an apostrophe: Parking for coaches only. The chimpanzees were very entertaining.

Apostrophe contractions: where words have been run together or letters missed out Wont Isnt Its Ive Will not Is not It is I have

Watch out for its! It doesnt always need an apostrophe:

The dog wagged its tail Correct The dog wagged its tail Incorrect, as this means: The dog wagged it is tail.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

Capital letters
o A capital letter starts every sentence. o The first letter of every proper noun1 begins with a capital letter: Queen Elizabeth owns many great castles Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and Sandringham. The Golden Gate Bridge towers above San Francisco Bay. There will be a debate between Professor Lacey and Doctor Davis Observe the difference between the next two examples: We have asked for a meeting with the President. I would like to be the president of a big company. In the first, the title the President is capitalised because it is a title referring to a specific person; in the second, there is no capital, because the word president does not refer to anyone in particular. The same difference is made with some other words: we write the Government and Parliament when we are referring to a particular government or a particular parliament, but we write government and parliament when we are using the words generically. And note also the following example: The patron saint of carpenters is Saint Joseph. Here Saint Joseph is a name, but patron saint is not and gets no capital. There is a slight problem with the names of hazily defined geographical regions. We usually write the Middle East and Southeast Asia, because these regions are now regarded as having a distinctive identity, but we write central Europe and southeast London, because these regions are not thought of as having the same kind of identity. Note, too, the difference between South Africa (the name of a particular country) and southern Africa (a vaguely defined region). All I can suggest here is that you read a good newspaper and keep your eyes open. Observe that certain surnames of foreign origin contain little words that are often not capitalised, such as de, du, da, von and van. Thus we write Leonardo da Vinci, Ludwig van Beethoven, General von Moltke and Simone de Beauvoir. On the other hand, we write Daphne Du Maurier and Dick Van Dyke, because those are the forms preferred by the owners of the names. When in doubt, check the spelling in a good reference book. o The names of distinctive historical periods are capitalised: London was a prosperous city during the Middle Ages.

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Britain was the first country to profit from the Industrial Revolution. o The names of festivals and holy days are capitalised: We have long breaks at Christmas and Easter. During Ramadan, one may not eat before sundown. o Many religious terms are capitalised, including the names of religions and of their followers, the names or titles of divine beings, the titles of certain important figures, the names of important events and the names of sacred books: The principal religions of Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. The Prophet was born in Mecca. The Old Testament begins with Genesis. o In the title or name of a book, a play, a poem, a film, a magazine, a newspaper or a piece of music, a capital letter is used for the first word and for every significant word (that is, a little word like the, of, and or in is not capitalised unless it is the first word): I was terrified by The Silence of the Lambs. Bach's most famous organ piece is the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Important note: The policy just described is the one most widely used in the English-speaking world. There is, however, a second policy, preferred by many people. In this second policy, we capitalise only the first word of a title and any words which intrinsically require capitals for independent reasons: I was terrified by The silence of the lambs. Bach's most famous organ piece is the Toccata and fugue in D minor. You may use whichever policy you prefer, so long as you are consistent about it. The second policy is particularly common (though not universal) in academic circles, and is usual among librarians; elsewhere, the first policy is almost always preferred. o Days of the week always have a capital letter, but the seasons (spring, summer etc) do not. o The names of languages are always written with a capital letter: Juliet speaks English, French, Italian and Portuguese. I need to work on my Spanish irregular verbs. Note, however, that names of disciplines and school subjects are not capitalised unless they happen to be the names of languages: I'm doing A-levels in history, geography and English. She is studying French literature.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

Words that express a connection with a particular place must be capitalised when they have their literal meanings. So, for example, French must be capitalised when it means `having to do with France': The result of the French election is still in doubt. The American and Russian negotiators are close to agreement. However, it is not necessary to capitalise these words when they occur as parts of fixed phrases and don't express any direct connection with the relevant places: Please buy some danish pastries. In warm weather, we keep our french windows open. Why the difference? Well, a danish pastry is merely a particular sort of pastry; it doesn't have to come from Denmark. Likewise, french windows are merely a particular kind of window, and russian dressing is just a particular variety of salad dressing. Even in these cases, you can capitalise these words if you want to, as long as you are consistent about it. But notice how convenient it can be to make the difference: In warm weather, we keep our french windows open. After nightfall, French windows are always shuttered. In the first example, french windows just refers to a kind of window; in the second, French windows refers specifically to windows in France. In the same vein, words that identify nationalities or ethnic groups must be capitalised: The Basques and the Catalans spent decades struggling for autonomy. Norway's most popular singer is a Sami from Lapland. o The first word of a direct quotation , repeating someone else's exact words, is always capitalised if the quotation is a complete sentence: Thomas Edison famously observed "Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration." But there is no capital letter if the quotation is not a complete sentence: The Minister described the latest unemployment figures as "disappointing". o The brand names of manufacturers and their products are capitalised: Maxine has bought a second-hand Ford Escort. Almost everybody used to own a Sony Walkman. Note: There is a problem with brand names which have become so successful that they are used in ordinary speech as generic labels for classes of products. The manufacturers of Kleenex and Sellotape are exasperated to find people
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using kleenex and sellotape as ordinary words for facial tissues or sticky tape of any kind, and some such manufacturers may actually take legal action against this practice. If you are writing for publication, you need to be careful about this, and it is best to capitalise such words if you use them. However, when brand names are converted into verbs, no capital letter is used: we write She was hoovering the carpet and I need to xerox this report. o Roman numerals are usually capitalised: It is no easy task to multiply LIX by XXIV using Roman numerals. King Alfonso XIII handed over power to General Primo de Rivera. The only common exception is that small Roman numerals are used to number the pages of the front matter in books.
Based on

Clichs are stock phrases which are often over used. The term dates back to the French Revolution where newspaper printers made up blocks of type with ready to use phrases called clichs. Clichs can be a symbol of lazy writing and can become meaningless. Before using clichs such as these listed below, stop and think if you can replace it with something more original: Acid test, bottom line, give the green light, last but not least, part and parcel.

Are used to introduce a list, especially after words like as follows. There are two reasons why you should not go to the party: you have not finished your homework and it is a school night. The event will run as follows: registration, video, discussion group and then lunch.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

A comma has many uses. Such as: To separate a list of words You will need eggs, flour, butter and milk. To separate introductory words or groups of words If you do that again, I will be very cross. To mark off the person being addressed. James, are you listening? said the teacher. Use commas sparingly! A good rule of thumb is to imagine reading the sentence out loud, then inserting a comma where you would need to take a breath. When writing a letter, modern business style no longer requires a comma at the end of each address line.

Confusable Words
When writing, be aware of words which sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. They are known as homophones. There are also similar sounding words which have very different meanings. accept to receive ambiguous open to more than one meaning appraise assess value biannual twice a year compliment expression of praise continual repeated again and again council administrative body deprecate disapprove of disinterested impartial ensure make certain of except with the exception of/but ambivalent to have mixed feelings apprise inform biennial every two years complement add to in a way that improves continuous uninterrupted counsel give advice depreciate lower in value uninterested not interested insure arrange compensation in the

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

something forward to move gorilla type of ape imply to hint lay put something on a flat surface lend to allow someone to have temporary use of something precede to come before something eg: in time licence an official permit lose to no longer have piece a part of something principal first /Head of organisation review survey or assess site a place where something is located stationary stand still their belonging to them threw throw through the air to expressing direction or position urban of the city way course or route whose belonging to someone

event of damage or loss foreword preamble eg: of a book guerrilla independent soldier taking part in irregular warfare infer to conclude or deduce lie rest in a flat position borrow to obtain something temporarily proceed to move forward license to authorise something loose not firmly fixed in place peace tranquillity principle fundamental truth revue theatrical entertainment sight the power of seeing stationery paper, envelopes etc there in, at, or to a place through moving between two points too very/in addition urbane courteous weigh determine weight whos who is

cite quote a book/author

theyre they are

two number 2

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your something belonging to you

youre you are

A conjunction links two clauses or words together. For instance: I went to the corner shop and bought some milk. You will pass the exam if you study hard. I went home because it started snowing.

Dashes and brackets

Dashes and brackets can be used to add more information to a sentence. For example: Professor Knight sneezed it was a terrible noise which resounded round the room and then continued his lecture. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) was one of the longest reigning monarchs this country has ever known.

A hyphen is used: To join two or more words to form a single expression Mother-in-law To join a prefix to a proper name half-Italian To make a meaning clear by linking words twenty-odd people To divide a word if there is no room to complete it at the end of the line People are increasingly doing without such hyphens in a move towards open punctuation. When using a hyphen to divide a word, the hyphen comes at the end of the line not at the beginning of the next line. Words should be divided at the end of a syllable (dict-ionary).

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i before e
In spelling, the general rule is that I comes before e in a word unless it is straight after the letter c. chief niece but ceiling receipt receive brief alien relieve view

Remember! i before e except after c

An idiom is an expression with two meanings: the literal meaning and a second meaning which may require cultural references to understand it. e.g. Kick the bucket. Meaning 1 to actually kick a bucket Meaning 2 to die

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc


Letter writing2
When writing business letters, aim to: Greeting Opening/introduction Facts Action Remarks concluding Greeting Only use Dear Sir/Madam if you dont know the name of the person youre writing to. Dear Fred take care when using informal greetings in business letters. If you are well known to each other it may be appropriate to use first names. Opening/Introduction If you use a heading, make sure it is meaningful to the reader. For example: Application for BA degree is better than Ref 321/JW. The first paragraph should clearly identify: The subject of the letter, the date of previous correspondence, phone conversation etc, and refer to the event which has prompted you to write. Facts This is the main body of the letter. Lay out your facts in logical order. Make sure they are accurate and complete. Action This paragraph should be clearly distinguishable from the rest of the letter so that it stands out. Indicate what action needs to be taken, when it is to be taken and who is expected to take it. Remarks If you leave the letter at the action stage, it may sound rather abrupt. The last line of a letter should give a polite and human touch, for example: I look forward to hearing from you I hope this information will be useful Thank you for your help with this issue Close using Yours sincerely if you have addressed the recipient by name and Yours faithfully if you have begun Dear Sir/Madam. Remember! sincerely and faithfully are written with a lower case s and f! To help you remember the correct ending, try this rhyme: Never be sincere to a sir, never be faithful to a friend.

Refer to NTU style guide for information about corporate style and layout Nottingham Trent University 2007 14 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc

A noun is a word that names a thing, idea or person. For example: On the table A lively party A fierce dog Small villages Our new neighbours Deep despair

Common nouns All the things we see, touch, smell, hear or feel are common nouns. For example: This song is by my favourite singer. We live in a city. I bought this perfume in a foreign country. I stayed in because of the rain.

Proper nouns A noun that refers to a place or person by name is a proper noun. It always starts with a capital letter. For example: This song is by Tom Jones. Kevin sent me a postcard from London. I went on holiday to Spain. Are you playing football on Saturday?

Collective Nouns These refer to a group of people, animals or things. For example: A flock of sheep A murder of crows A pride of lions A chorus of angels A swarm of bees A gaggle of geese

Traditionally, collective nouns take singular verb forms. For instance: A group of scientists from Nottingham is The Government is. This is because there is one government and one group of scientists made up of several people. However sometimes it sounds more natural to use the plural form. For instance: England are playing France in the World Cup Final.

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc


A preposition shows the relationship between words how the noun or pronoun that comes after it is related to the verb, noun or pronoun preceding it. For example: Will you share it with me? I have an assignment for you. I had a lecture about psychology.

A pronoun is used instead of a noun, often to avoid repeating a noun that has already been mentioned. For example: Julian ordered a pint. He sat down and drank it. The vandals stole a sports car. They drove it to the playing fields and set fire to it.

Personal pronouns: she, I, you, her etc Possessive pronouns: mine, yours, his, ours etc Relative pronouns: who, whom, whose that etc

Nottingham Trent University 2007 Training and Development Unit H:\A Guide to Grammar & Punctuation.doc



(based on BCC Skillswise and SSL, University of Maryland)

Proofreading is reading a text to check for any mistakes that need to be corrected. This could include: Missing words Incorrect spelling Capital letters Question marks Apostrophes Commas Full stops Quotations and referencing Format

It is not an innate ability; it is an acquired skill.

Common mistakes:
1. Homophones (a word that is pronounced in the same way as one or more other words but is different in meaning and sometimes spelling, as are hair and hare) For example: X The principles and senior lecturers enjoyed marking the students work.

DThe principals and senior lectures enjoyed marking the students work.
2. Leaving letters out, especially in the middle of words. Many words contain silent letters, or letters that are not sounded clearly when you speak quickly. 3. Mistakes when adding an ending, or suffix, to a root word. It's easy to make mistakes especially when adding the -ing suffix. It's important to remember the rules for adding the -ing suffix to root words that end in 'e' or a short vowel followed by a consonant. For example: Make + -ing = making (drop the final 'e') shut + ing = shutting (double the final consonant) 4. Using a small i as a pronoun. A pronoun is a word that stands in place of a name such as Sheila or John. Remember that whenever I is a word on its own, you should use a capital letter. For example: Max and I went to the cinema last night.

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5. 6.

Missing words out altogether. Getting letters the wrong way round, especially i and e.

X Freind X Recieve

DFriend DReceive

Remember the spelling rule 'i before e except after c'. 7. Leaving out or mis-using apostrophes

(see apostrophe section, page 4) 8. Using one word when you should use two.

For example: Alot should be written as a lot alright should be written as all right 9. Mistakes with subject-verb agreement. This means using a singular verb with a plural subject, or vice versa: X They was late for their class.

DThey were late for their class.

10. as: Using "should of". This is another common mistake, in sentences such

X I should of proofread my assignment

DI should have proofread my assignment

Proofreading Tips
Read very slowly. If possible, read out loud. Read one word at a time. Read what is actually on the page, not what you think is there. (This is the most difficult sub-skill to acquire, particularly if you wrote what you are reading). Proofread more than once. If possible, work with someone else. It helps to read out loud, because 1) you are forced to slow down and 2) you hear what you are reading as well as seeing it, so you are using two senses. It is often possible to hear a mistake, such as an omitted or repeated word that you have not seen. Professional editors proofread as many as ten times. Publishing houses hire teams of readers to work in pairs, out loud. And still errors occur.

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A dictionary or spell / grammar check in word processing helps but beware of relying totally on the word processing checks as they do not check the context of your content! This means words such homophones may not be picked up. Many people find it easier to spot mistakes on paper rather than on screen, so proofreading a paper copy is advisable. It also helps to ask someone else to read the text as a fresh pair of eyes can often spot mistakes that may have overlooked. Make sure that facts (such as phone numbers, dates of birth or email addresses) are clearly written and correct. Double check these if necessary. Focus on words which you know give you problems. These will vary from person to person, but they could be words with a particular ending (such as ing) or a soft 'c' as in 'cinema' or 'centre'. Make sure you leave enough time to proofread your writing carefully, especially if you are in a hurry!

Good proofreaders:
Have a good visual memory - they can usually spot when a word looks wrong. Know the most common spelling rules in English. Look at the meaning of a piece of text to make sure it makes sense as well as checking the spellings of individual words. Are aware of possible and probable letter combinations. For example every word in English must contain a vowel sound. Don't rely on the computer spell checker to find every mistake. Cultivate a healthy sense of doubt. If there are types of errors you know they tend to make, they double check for those.

Remember that it is twice as hard to detect mistakes in your own work as in someone else's!

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Report writing
Organising a report It is useful to have all your facts and points on separate pieces of paper so that you can start to group things together. You could use: index cards, mind map, highlighter pen. Structuring the facts When your data is organised, you can begin to turn it into a report. As a minimum, this should include: Outline of the position Describe the problem Examine the possibilities Put forward the proposal Draft Start with a draft version. Everyone has their preferred way of doing this. Start at the beginning or even in the middle. Its better to put pen to paper than agonise over the introduction waiting for inspiration. Use plain English, be aware of any jargon and remember clarity and brevity. Layout The layout can have a major impact on the way a report is understood. Check the preferred layout with your manager. You may want to consider features such as double line spacing, headings and sub-headings, indentations, putting technical information such as statistics or graphs in the appendix. The argument itself should always appear in the report, but the supporting data can usually go in the appendix. Try and keep the report brief. It should only be as long as is needed to include all the relevant information and recommendations. Checklist for report writing: Who wants the report? Why do they want it? What are they going to do with it? What precisely do they need the report to cover? What will the report NOT cover? What should happen as a result of the report? When are you expected to deliver the report? A title? What will the recipient(s) already know? How much time will they have for reading the report?

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Semi Colons
A semi colon is halfway between a comma and a full stop. It can be used to separate sentences that are linked in meaning, instead of using a full stop. For example: The thief walked past twenty police officers; he stole the valuable diamond from under their noses! The night was clear; the stars shone brightly.

A sentence is a group of words that makes complete sense on its own. All sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop (which includes question mark or exclamation mark). Sentences usually contain a subject, verb3 and object: The baby fell asleep in its cot. Sophie ate a pizza.

Subject The subject is a person or thing that carries out the action of the verb. Verb The verb describes action. Object The object is a person or thing that the action of a verb is done to. Note! The verb should agree with the subject of the sentence: A banana is yellow. 9 Bananas are yellow. 9

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Split Infinitives
A split infinitive is a construction consisting of an infinitive with an adverb or other word inserted between to and the verb. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

This is an example of a split infinitive. The infinitive is to go and it has been split by the adverb boldy. The idea that splitting an infinitive is incorrect, can be traced back to Latin. Latin infinitives consist of only one word amare to love which makes them impossible to split. However English is not the same as Latin. The placing of an adverb in English is important to give the appropriate emphasis. To go boldly where no man has gone before sounds more awkward than the example with a split infinitive. According to Oxford Dictionaries, in the modern context, the principle of allowing split infinitives is broadly accepted as both normal and useful.

The tense of a verb (see Verbs below) tells you when its action takes place the past, present or future. The present tense tells you about what is happening now. Today it is raining. (Present Progressive or Continuous tense used to describe what is happening now, at this very moment) Paul plays tennis. (Simple Present tense used to express the idea that an action is repeated or usual)

The past tense tells you about what has happened previously. At 5 o clock, it was raining. (Past Progressive or Continuous tense used we talk about an action that had already started and was still continuing at a particular time) Paul did his homework. (Simple Past tense used when the time period has finished) I have seen the move 20 times. (Present Perfect tense used to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important)

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The future tense tells you about what will happen in the future. It will rain this afternoon. I will do my homework after I have played football. I am going to go to Japan next year.

A verb is a word that expresses action - a doing word. It tells us what a person or thing does or how they are. Every complete sentence includes a verb. If it has no verb, it is not a proper sentence. The tense of the verb tells us when its action is taking place in the present, the past or the future. For example: David collects stamps. Rebecca will fly to America. Paul is writing an email. Anna ran the marathon. Raj used to like cricket. Emma is going to sing.

Wasteful Words
When writing, try and avoid using several words where one will do. Here are some of the most common culprits: Due to the fact that At the present time In as much as No later than With reference to With the exception of Prior to In conjunction with Limited number Factor in Because Now As By About, concerning Apart from, except Before With Few Plan

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Further Reference Sources Web Sites ophes/ Books Allen, R (1999) Modern English Usage Oxford University Press, New York Farndell, A, Grandison A, Manser M, Weigall, P and Swain, C (2003) Succeed in English Arcturus Publishing Limited, Northamptonshire Murphy, R (2004) English Grammar in Use with Answers Cambridge University Press Matchett, C (2004) Revision Guide for Key Stage 2 English Schofield & Sims Ltd Eddy, S (2003) Key Stage 3 Bitesize Revision English BBC Active

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