Archive for the ‘Grammar & Style’ Category

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Multimodal Mondays: Re/Mixing Traditional Academic Essays As YouTube Videos

posted: 4.13.15 by Andrea Lunsford

As I write this week’s post, I am wrapping up an illuminating weekend at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and its library’s conference Digitorium, where I engaged with colleagues who use critical pedagogy to “do the work” of digital humanities (DH).  There were so many different kinds of re/mixing and re/envisioning happening, that I felt, for the first time, the true interdisciplinarity of DH.  My colleagues were leading students in geocaching and visualizing distance reading data from biblical texts (see Bo Adam’s Presentation). So much of what I saw made me think about how our students really do produce texts for various publics, more and more frequently in digital spaces.  And it also made me think hard about the “doing of DH” and how we, as instructors, don’t have to be IT professionals to find a comfortable praxis in this “doing” and “re/mixing.” [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Digital Writing, Grammar & Style, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays, Teaching with Technology
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Are you a "comma queen"?

posted: 3.5.15 by Andrea Lunsford

When I say I am a teacher of writing to a new acquaintance, I often get the response no doubt familiar to you: “Oops; better watch my language.” This stereotype of the English teacher as a nit-picker extraordinaire is widespread and seems to be deeply ingrained in the national psyche as “Miss Fidditch.” This character’s name seems to have been coined by linguist Henry Lee Smith in the early 1950s—though H. L. Mencken had earlier referred to “old maid schoolteachers who would rather parse than eat.” So the stereotype is surely an old one. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Grammar & Style, Punctuation & Mechanics
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Casket or Coffin? The New York Times and Style

posted: 12.11.14 by Andrea Lunsford

In mid-November I was skimming headlines when this one caught my eye: “Please, Don’t ‘Decry’ the ‘Divorcee.’ Or Give Us Your ‘CV.” The Times Guide to Modern Usage.”  Intrigued, I clicked and read on.  In this brief piece, Susan Lehman, former deputy editor of the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, provides a “sampling of terms that should be used with care.” [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Grammar & Style
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Choosing Verbs

posted: 11.17.10 by Barclay Barrios

This post is part of a continuing series on building a course around the textbook Emerging. For previous posts in the series, see here, here, and here.

The success of any given assignment depends on a number of factors, but often hinges on the choice of a certain verbs. Whenever you write assignments, therefore, pay particular attention to (and consider the possible implications of) the verbs you use. For example:

  • Explore. “Explore” is a useful verb in assignments because it asks students to use analytical skills.  However, you might find that assignments using this verb produce papers that are meandering, since “exploring” does not require students to locate a central argument.
  • Reflect. “Reflect” implies both regurgitation and interiorization, neither of which is consistent with the goals of these courses. Just as importantly, this verb does not ask student to enter the conversation of the texts.
  • Discuss. Like “explore,” this verb may produce generalized papers without any clear focus.
  • Argue. While we certainly wish students to make arguments in their papers, using this verb suggests a black or white, win or lose position.  Students are more likely to use personal attacks against the author, force the evidence, or ignore contravening pieces of text when arguing their case.
  • Defend or refute. Like “argue,” these verbs can be combative. [read more]

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Categories: Emerging, Grammar & Style
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The Grammar Question

posted: 11.5.10 by archived

When I was working at Writing Center last week, a student came in with a midterm from her developmental English class. She hadn’t done well on the exam, and her teacher had suggested she come in for some help. The three-page exam contained a page with sentences in which students were to underline subjects and verbs, as well as two paragraphs rife with sentence fragments to repair.

Despite current trends away from teaching grammar in skill and drill fashion (at least at the college level), such instruction seems to be an important part of many developmental comp classes and, in the basic writing texts I’ve examined, generally takes up about half of the pages.

As I start to put this course together, I’ve been thinking about what place grammar instructions should have, what form it should take, and how I should approach both the course description’s mandate that “basic principles of spelling, punctuation, usage, sentence structure, and paragraph and essay development are stressed” and the expectation on the part of health science colleagues that the English department produce students capable of writing reasonably “correct” prose.

Let’s start with purpose: what could be the instructor’s aim in teaching grammar as the stand-alone content of a composition class? [read more]

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Categories: Community College issues, Grammar & Style, Holly Pappas
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Warning: Your Usage May Vary

posted: 3.20.09 by Traci Gardner

Garment Warning TagWhen I read the tag attached to a new flannel shirt, I thought about student texts that needed a similar tag. It would read something like this:

A note about this text
The differences in spelling or word choice, the appearance of unusual sentence structure or grammatical constructions are all part of the natural beauty of language. These linguistic characteristics are an important part of the style and enhance the beauty of this text. These VARIATIONS are not considered defective.

In a world that expects standardization, it’s hard to explain that language has few absolutes. Most writing teachers know that language use comes with color, shading, and finish that to a purist seem like errors.

The regional, cultural, and social variations we read in student texts, like the “fabric slubs and gentle wrinkles” of my new shirt, are all “part of the natural beauty” of the final products that we see.

The challenge in the classroom is helping students identify the times when the variations don’t fit the overall fabric of the text. We accept a few wrinkles in a journal entry or email message, but we generally expect the formal essays students turn in to be more polished. Here’s one way to show them:

[read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style
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Err-O-Meter

posted: 4.28.08 by Barclay Barrios

In my classes, some kinds of errors are more serious than others.  Errors that impede meaning (such as sentence fragments) are for more detrimental than the occasional missing apostrophe.  To help your students understand different degrees of error have them work collaboratively to create a “Err-O-Meter” that measures the seriousness of different kinds of errors.  If you have them create these scales in small groups you can also have a discussion about why groups chose different errors as more or less serious.  Use this exercise to then create a guide to the most serious errors, having students include tips for checking for the error and listing the section of the handbook that addresses it.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Punctuation & Mechanics
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Grammar Math

posted: 4.9.08 by Barclay Barrios

Sometimes the best way to see something is to look at it in a whole other way.  Have your students review the material in the handbook on sentence construction and then have them create mathematical formulae for sentences.  For example,  subject + verb = simple sentence or subject – verb = fragment.  Ask them to provide a sample sentence for each formula from their current drafts or from the essay under discussion.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Learning Styles, Punctuation & Mechanics, Revising
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Wikipedia Manual of Style Check

posted: 3.4.08 by Barclay Barrios

Have your class review Wikipedia’s style manual. Ask them to look for areas that seem to depart from general grammatical usage or areas that seem particularly important. Have them compare these areas to the handbook and then use this to start a discussion about the socially constructed nature of grammatical rules in general and the reasons why a project like Wikipedia would be invested in a particularly uniform style.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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Attack of the Grammar Nazis

posted: 2.25.08 by Barclay Barrios

Ask your students to hunt down grammatical errors in the real world: business signs, newspaper articles, song lyrics, and more. For each error they locate, they should also locate the section of the handbook that addresses the issue. Use this also as an opportunity to discuss the contexts that make error-free writing most important.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Business Writing, Grammar & Style, Popular Culture
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