May, 2011

The American “r”

Tweet Visits to this  blog have come from 69 countries, from Azerbijian to Zambia, so I’m writing today a little word of compassion for those of you who have tried to master the American “r,” as my three-year-old granddaughter is trying to do.  It is the last hurdle before her complete mastery of American consonants. […]

Standard Language

Tweet One purpose of standard language is the creation of a level playing field. It is the place where people get together who speak in vernaculars, with accents, and in specialized language. An author from India may have won a prestigious prize, and  sold millions of books, but if she speaks English the way she […]

Grammar exercises: Site Two

Tweet After explaining a grammatical point to a student, it can help to do some exercises which will allow that point to solidify. Purdue University has devised a set of grammar exercises which illustrate a series of grammatical entities or practices:  count and noncount nouns, appositives, verb tenses, etc.  The link is Their site includes […]

Grammar Exercises: Site One

Tweet This blog,, has a series of quizzes, called “Grammar Guide Quiz,” which have multiple choice exercises aimed at clearing up common misunderstandings, mainly semantic, such as the difference between “reign” and “rein” and “loath” and “loathe.”  It’s superficial, quick, but I found that there were certain usages which I was not clear on, and […]

Pronouns – the singular “they”

Tweet I have given my students the job of finding, within their lifetimes, a gender neutral pronoun other than the Queen’s one. Some suggestions have been thon, heer, ha, hs, hiser, shhe, and s/he. Though these might be logical, they don’t quite fit phonetically. We’ll have to try harder. How would you rewrite the C. S. […]

Grammar and Syntax (part one)

Tweet This is one of a perhaps infinite number of posts differentiating grammar from syntax.  Our understanding of the two words is evolving.  Grammar is a floppy term endowed with many meanings, depending on who is speaking, and in what context.  It is the broader of the two terms, grammar and syntax. Grammar has traditionally […]

Logical punctuation

Tweet I am constantly apologizing to my students for the dumb rule that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, “Yes, that’s what I apologize for.”  This makes no sense, and no wonder everyone ignores it. But help is on the way — a move towards logical punctuation is gaining ground, as more and more people ignore […]

You Are Not Alone

Tweet Berit Aberg, an elementary school teacher from Skovde, Sweden, was one of 28 teachers to receive the European Union’s “Tongue Stories” award for highlighting linguistic diversity.  A report in the local newspaper, The Local, wrote that, “… she said she was troubled by a trend she sees in her classroom of six to seven-year-olds: Too […]

Freeing the Imagination

Tweet Young students are always auditing themselves, judging their thoughts “right” and “wrong,” “acceptable” and “not acceptable.”  This exercise frees their imaginations to indulge in a bit of wild creativity, which can bleed, in a milder form, into their essays. A story needs characters, a location, and a conflict.  Create three columns representing three characters. […]

Me and Mary went to the mall.

Tweet My prediction is that sentences using the grammar of  “Me and Mary went to the mall” will some day be considered the standard.  The meaning of this sentence is clear, though some other permutations still would sound very strange, such as “Me is/am hungry.” Discussion of this form, which is commonly used in everyday […]