Vocabulary Organizer - New in 2014I loved Michael Lewis and Peter Wilbergs’ Business English. A Filofax for one-to-one teachers. A book of blank pages. Awesome. What Business English is all about – the student as a resource…

I loved Longman’s Word Flo’ – despite the fact that my own ‘Pathways’ (co-written with Anne B.) bit the dust. A book of blank pages. Ring-binder? Publishing suicide. A commercial failure, inevitably.

Then along came the Macmillan English Dictionary. A star system for frequency….productive / receptive distinction…..this could make a difference to WHERE students record their vocabulary in a Lexical Notebook…

Starting my EAP courses, I would I say to my students: “Write it in your lexical notebook”

They would say: “What’s that?” before shooting off to W.H.Smith’s and spending money on a notebook full of unformatted pages. Sigh…

Pulling the ice axe from my leg, I staggered on, spindrift stinging my remaining eye… 

I gave the idea of a Lexical Notebook based on the productive / receptive division to publisher 1. But they didn’t do EAP books.

So I pitched the idea to publisher 2 who were suitably impressed, printed pilot copies but were overwhelmed with projects and dropped ours.

I tried to put everything into perspective, set it against the scale of human suffering and I thought of the Mugabe government and the children of the Calcutta railways. This worked for a while but then I encountered Primark FM.

So I went back to publisher 1 (now doing EAP). “We cannot sell a book of blank pages….”

Overhead a rainbow appears in black and white

So I approached Collins, at IATEFL 2013 and given a minute to do an elevator pitch. A wonderful, switched on team heard my prayer. Awesome. Collins print dictionaries with word frequency bands. COBUILD. Perfect…

One year later – I’m presenting it at IATEFL.

Is there a moral from this tale? “If at first…..”

With thanks to Half man, half biscuit for providing half the above text….



“If at first you don’t succeed…..”:a prose poem for publishers

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