May, 2012

Sports writing

Tweet A few years ago I was having coffee with a friend who worked at the time at The New York Times. We agreed that some of the best writing on the newspaper could be found on the sports page. Nothing earthshaking happens in sports –the player hits the baseball “out of the park” or […]

The not so mysterious disappearance of the past perfect

Tweet One of the cardinal virtues of good writing is clarity, and proper use of verb tenses is crucial to clarity. Since most students have never been informed of their purpose, or form, they trudge around in a swamp of verb tenses, using them arbitrarily without controlling them. The past perfect (the “had + past participle” […]

Find the Subject and Verb – “this” and “there” developments

Tweet In previous posts I wrote about Subject-Verb mismatches when a clause intervenes, and when a prepositional phrase intervenes. There is another, perhaps more pernicious, form of mismatching, the There is malformation.  This has become widespread not only in my students’ papers, but on television, in political speeches, and in print articles. Here are some examples […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Prepositional Phrase intervening

Tweet Several previous posts have discussed grammatical problems occurring in my classes this past semester. In the previous post, I discussed mismatched Subjects and Verbs when a clause intervened. This post addresses a similar error pattern, only this time the intervening language consists of prepositional phrases. Here are some examples from my students’ papers: The effects [of […]

Find the Subject and Verb – Clause intervening

Tweet As discussed in a previous post, students have not been prepared in high school to identify the Subject and Verb of a sentence. The argument against teaching grammar is that we need no tutoring to create comprehensible sentences, unless there is some mental dysfunction. Volumes could be written about that contention, and I will not […]

Errors with Prepositions

Tweet This series of posts is about the error patterns in my students’ sentences. The errors interfere with clarity, flow, and aesthetics. There are so many occurrences of basic errors that my conclusion is not that the students are inattentive or sloppy, but that they have never been taught how to construct a solid English […]

Hal and the Cell Phone

Tweet I love my cell phone and would not like to go back to a world without them. But like Hal, the bossy computer in Stanley Kubric’s great film, 2001: a Space Oddysey, these little machines are messing with our heads. I teach first-year university students, and have noticed two new developments this year:  1) […]