Monday, January 18, 2010

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares

My students think I love grammar. For that, I deserve a Golden Globe nomination. I don’t love grammar. I love Shakespeare, I love Toni Morrison, I love language and imagery and symbolism. But, in front of my class, I embrace proper grammar and punctuation with the same zeal with which Jon Gosselin embraces Ed Hardy. I have to; if I don’t, my students will take grammar as seriously as drivers take the no-cell-phone-while-driving laws.

You see, my students insist they write best when they don’t have to worry about all the “stupid grammar rules.” I love that idea in theory- I really do. How could I not relish the idea of young, vibrant minds freely disseminating page after page of unfettered brilliance? But, that’s not quite how this “freedom” translates to the written page. This email written to me from one of my students illustrates their interpretation of the concept:

I was curious to on my grade report I got the letter F by Writing Skills.I'm guessing I didn't pass the class but what I'm curious about is how? Im hopping its a mistake, I know Im not the best at writing, but I did all my homework accept for two assignments and I did some extra credit.I thought I atleast did ok on the finals also.

(Let me guess: my student’s the only one who doesn’t understand why she failed college English.)

I’m not, however, interested in lamenting the current state of writing. That would be as obvious as lamenting the current state of the economy or of Lindsay Lohan. And, trust me, today’s writing skills- with all of the missing apostrophes, misplaced commas, randomly capitalized letters, and bizarre misspellings- are in as much need of help as this:

Instead, I am interested in offering the knowledge I have gleaned from grading thousands of essays and reading as many emails. I have found that most of us tend to make the same big, noticeable mistakes. These can easily be fixed to drastically improve our writing. I am not interested in perfecting punctuation and grammar, just with confronting the major issues that confuse people and make them laugh at us (Thus, for Ms. Lohan, I would probably have to advise starting with more sleep/less collagen.)

Welcome to Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares.


Dirté said...

As a child, my favorite part of a book was the pictures. As an adult, I don't read books...but when I do, I focus first on the pictures. I believe in efficiency, and if a picture is worth 1000 words, and if I can view and comprehend a picture in much less time than it takes me to do the same for an actual 1000 words, then why not. That being said, the 2000 words that you have provided in the Ed Hardy-clad Gosslin and the Lindsay Lohan are priceless. I call them, Douchebag and Smooch-hag, and I'm in love.

keppi baranick said...

Bravo my beautiful girl. I am in love too.

Elisabeth said...

Great writing Jenny. I can relate to your passion! Even with spell check, I still look up words the old fashion way - a dictionary! Elisabeth

hv_vampyre said...

I just have to say that I found this report I heard/read on NPR interesting:

The attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day and the lessons learned from it were the subjects of no fewer than four hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

A "who's who" of Obama administration national security officials paraded to the Capitol to answer questions about how suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center , told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that Abdulmutallab should not have been allowed to step onto a plane on Christmas Day.

"The counterterrorism system collectively failed, and I, along with director Blair and Secretary Napolitano and others, want to tell you and the American people the same thing we told the president: that we have to do better," Leiter said.

As for how the system failed, there was much talk about lists — why Abdulmutallab's name appeared on some but not others.

One reason, State Department official Patrick Kennedy told the Senate Judiciary Committee, was because someone misspelled the suspect's name after his father reported concerns about his son to the U.S. Embassy. As a result, the concerns were not added to Abdulmutallab's visa information.

Who says spelling isn't important?

keppi baranick said...

Hi Jen it is me again and Marilyn, my friend and a fellow teacher. She is hard core on grammar too.