Saturday, April 26, 2014

Grammar Lesson Mid-Term Exam

The following brief essay appears without standard punctuation
Here is a handful of punctuation marks which you may select and use as you see fit

" . . ."   " "  "  ' ' ' ' , , , , , ,  . . . . .  ! !  - - -   ; ; ; ;  : :  (  )  ? ? ?  Discard any you don t need

A few days ago I presented a grammar lesson which elicited some comments that reassure me  I am not the only person whose take away from English classes was minimal nor am I the only one for whom placement of punctuation marks is somewhat a mystery  Yet having read after these people I am convinced that their communication skills are quite adequate as I hope mine are  I find it amusing therefore to attempt an essay albeit brief sans punctuation  One wonders if in future grammarian will no longer be a career possibility for the aspiring young Likely though the role will not disappear completely as we shall always need disciplines by which we attempt to impose standard behaviors on the young  I am not saying this is a bad thing nor am I saying it is a good thing  I am just saying


Vee said...

Several years ago, the school district here eliminated the teaching of grammar and punctuation. The curriculum people argued that the exercises were boring and didn't help. Parents were informed that students would learn to write by following appropriate models. Apparently district desicion-makers hadn't considered the fact that state assessments test students' knowledge of grammar and punctuation. District scores started to fall. Teaching grammar was in again.

Those tests may be good for something after all.

Jim Grey said...

I was a professional author and editor for the first half of my career. Despite that, I have mixed feelings about the teaching of grammar and punctuation, at least the way it was taught to me in public school in the 70s and 80s. Frankly, it seemed so removed from the actual language that I struggled to make the link. I think that approach works better for more rational, thinking types; I have a more intuitive, feeling personality. I approach writing and editing that way. I picked up the rules along the way -- but I understand them at an intuitive level and probably could not articulate them accurately.

BTW, I was a championship speller back in my school days. I just "got" how words should be spelled. I could hear a new word and spell it right 90% of the time. Idiot savant.

However, I did have a lengthy, spirited argument with a colleague once 25 years ago about the non-restrictive appositive. I was wrong, by the way. The example was in writing, "XYZ, Inc., recommends blah blah blah" -- I thought the comma after Inc. was superfluous. I still think it looks stupid there, but Inc. does qualify as a pesky non-restrictive appositive.

Secondary Roads said...

I didn't realize that your post lacked punctuation in the text. It's interesting that way.

I took little away from English classes. That was until I started to learn a second language. Then all those old lessons made sense.

Jim Grey said...

P.S. - That I read the entire post and did not miss the punctuation says that adequate spacing between sentences is probably sufficient.

vanilla said...

Vee, I believe the drop in scores is a result of dropping those requirements. The merit of requiring study in certain disciplines is as much about training the functioning of the intellect as it is about learning “the rules.” My whole thing here on grammar and punctuation, while posted largely in fun, has generated some very interesting conversation. I spent many hours of my life attempting to inculcate a sense of grammatical usage into the minds of the young. I do not support the concept of throwing the discipline away, even if I was the one who found it tedious when I was a student myself.

Jim, I have enjoyed your comments here, the perspective of a professional writer. Clarity of communication should ever be the goal of any grammatical construct. I find it interesting that a debate you had a quarter century ago about grammatical
usage still sticks in your mind!
btw, I think that comma looks stupid there, too, but. . .

Chuck, curiously enough, I found it easy to read, too. I wondered if it was only because I wrote it. Guess not. Is punctuation vastly overrated? Or just a little bit overrated?

Jim Grey said...

What I learned about Inc. is that if your company name is XYZ, Inc., you need the second comma -- but if your name is XYZ Inc. you don't! So if I ever incorporate, I'm going to be Jim Grey Inc.

Grace said...

When I read I hear the words in my head - I'm assuming that is the usual way - so reading your paragraph was goingjustlikethisveryfastandnotretainingwhat Iwasreading.

Punctuation and grammar serve a purpose - you know, like, aiding in understanding what is being said. (If it is written is it 'being said'?)

Sharkbytes said...

You gave away most of the period locations with two spaces. One is the standard now. We dinosaurs who learned keyboarding as "typing" have to be retrained. I'm sure you've heard Victor Borge's routine on punctuation. Hilarious. If not, see

Shelly said...

This old English teacher's brain started automatically correcting it as I read. As long as I am living, grammar will live! :)

vanilla said...

Jim Grey Inc. seems a perfectly fine name.

Grace, you are saying, then, that punctuation does serve as an aid to your understanding and retention of a passage. We shall try to make use of adequate punctuation here at String Too Short to Tie in future.

Sharkey, I did leave a double-space “marker” which assists in the reading even absent periods. However, I have to say that while I am aware of the “modern” one-space convention, that is one modernism I refuse to adopt. (Along with a bunch of others, such as “text messaging,” for instance.)

I have heard the Borge routine. He was funny.

Shelly, did you reach for the red pen? (Another anachronism, they tell me. I have even heard of districts that disallow “red marks” on student work.) “As long as I am living, grammar will live!” I had teachers just like that. Oh, wait. I was one of them myself.

Marsha Young said...

Fun essay! T.S. Elliot - or was it e.e. cummings - had nothing on you ... of course why would they?
have a good weekend - marsha

vanilla said...

Marsha, thank you; but I must say, both of those gentlemen were quite well-known, unlike yours truly. Also, they have both shuffled off this mortal coil, unlike me. ;-)