Grammar Phobia vs. Grammar Snobbery

Viral.

Definition 1:  relating to a virus, a disease that poisons the system.

Definition 2: relating to any media that circulates widely on the web.

Late April 2016:  a video blog (vlog) from The Guardian earned the “viral” cachet when the presenting editor inferred that grammar rules are made by the white, highly-educated segment of the population, and thus grammar rules are designed to be prejudiced against those who break them.

You can see the vlog here: Grammar Snobbery Vilified

What?  Wait.  Standard English rules are prejudiced?

No.

Actually, what the vlog editor inferred is that grammar helps communication, but some people become snobs when applying the rules.

Look, here it is, in 13 Points.

  1. Communication is both non-verbal and verbal, and verbal means spoken and written.
  2. The audience needs guides to follow communication.
  3. Those guides help the audience “read” spoken and written communication.
  4. The guides became standardized into common rules to assist communication.
  5. Certain rules that actually confuse communication became imposed on the English language. One confusing rule was made famous by Winston Churchill.  About the preposition at the end of sentences, he said, “That is a rule up with which I will not put.”
  6. The common rules became a mark of the highly-educated ~~ they usually were also the wealthy in the established (predominant) culture. Business primarily wants those who present the best image (non-verbal communication) to their clientele.
  7. In order to help those not in the upper echelons of society, the teaching of the common rules became a mainstay of the curriculum. [Originally, rhetoric (communicating to persuade) was the mainstay.]  Thus, the teaching of the rules was designed to assist the lower strata of society escape dead-end jobs.
  8. Imposition of the grammar rules by certain grammar snobs gave grammar phobia to the many who were learning the rules.
  9. We have forgotten that the rules are guides for communication—and that communication creates community through commonality.
  10. Commonality is necessary for community and is not antagonistic to diversity.
  11. Diversity in communication keeps the audience interested.
  12. Too much diversity, however, may obscure communication.
  13. Any communicator’s believability (credibility, ethos) is based on how well s/he communicates.
The Editor from The Guardian :: Does she have the final word on grammar rules? Or will the rules remain to aid communication?

Did you notice that the presenter explained her points in Standard English with an upper class accent and fully rounded tones?

Even as she debunked grammar snobbery, she proves she is a proponent of grammar snobbery.

This vlog from The Guardian reinforces the blogs on Writers’ Ink Books:  grammar should not disrupt communication.  We use grammar to increase communication, not to browbeat others.

As writers, we use grammar to manipulate our readers’ impressions of our works.

We can enchant with lyricism.

We can convert with suasion.

We can entertain.

Or we can turn off our reader.

Look at the vlog.  Would you believe this denunciation of grammar snobbery if she broke numerous grammar rules?  Or is she more persuasive because she follows the grammar rules?

Ah, we agree with her that grammar snobbery is wrong even as she disproves her own points.

Switch It Up :: Yoda Charm

Instantly Identifiable but Permanently a Gimmick

The first instantly recognizable side character from the original Star Wars trilogy was Yoda.

Why did everyone immediately fasten upon him?  Two reasons:  his Zen-like pronouncements and his inverted statements.

Classic Yoda: “This one a long time have I watched” & “Always in motion is the future.”

After his charming introduction to the world, however, came all of the take-offs:  his inversions created easy mimicry.  While some of his pronouncements sounded like truth, many became little more than gimmick.

The prior Writers’ Ink blog looked at methods of repetition.  Inversion can be just as clever as anaphora or polysyndeton.

The WHAT & HOW & WHY of Inversion

Inversion = to change the normal order of words.  The fancy Greek term for it is “anastrophe”.

Sample these:

“Yet I know how the heather looks” vs. “Yet know I how the heather looks.”

The second version is Emily Dickinson’s third line in “I Never Saw a Moor”.

As with any structural device, like polysyndeton, anastrophe (inversion) requires the reader to consider the reason for the alteration from the norm.

Dickinson presents us with simple ideas about using the mind’s eye to travel, but with the inversion we now realize she is talking about the power of imagination in comprehending life and the afterlife.  She continues: “I never spoke with God / nor visited in Heav’n / yet certain am I of the spot / as if the checks were given.”

Sample these:

“It doesn’t matter how the gate is narrow or how the scroll is filled with punishments.”

vs.

“It matters not how strait the gate, / how charged with punishments the scroll.”

Some of us recognize the opening of the last stanza of William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus”.

More inversion.  And choosing strait for narrow and charged for filled with, the classic flipping to synonyms.

Shifting ideas & words around will change our view of life and the afterlife, for as Henley reminds us, we are “the captain of [our] soul”.  We are also the captain of our writing.

CHIASMUS

Of the Greek rhetorical devices, my personal fave is the chiasmus, in which words are repeated in reverse order.  That mirror effect leads to truth.

Shakespeare is our master.  From the witches in Macbeth:

“Fair is foul, foul is fair.”

Ah, how the three witches tempted Macbeth to change his perception:  that which he had formally accepted

Mirror Image
Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt

as good become evil to him, and that which was evil (murder) became good.

Chi is the Greek letter that looks like X.  The chiasmus is set up on that X pattern when you pair up the lines one above the other.

Try these:

> “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale (sometimes accredited to Margaret Thatcher)

> Never let a fool kiss you or kiss a fool. ~ modern proverb

> “Do I love you because you are beautiful?  Or are you beautiful because I love you? ~ Oscar Hammerstein, Cinderella (preferred over the Disney version)

And this wonderful bit of dialogue from Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee:

[Nanny] “When you need me but don’t want me, I must stay.  When you want me but don’t need me, I must go.”

[Boy] “We will never want you!”

[Nanny] “Then I must stay.”

PROBLEMS

We can take inversion too far, and then like Yoda we’ll sound.  That gimmick from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back gave us an immediately identifiable character.  By now, however, the anastrophe has become cliché, and clichés must we avoid.

Find creative ways to use anastrophe, as Emily Dickinson did, and wonderful ways to use the chiasmus, as Shakespeare and Hammerstein and Thompson did.  Our readers will be happily surprised and thankful.

Our question :: can inversions help us or hinder us?

Yes.

Mistakes so Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades, part 3 of 3

The Grammar Monster presents ~

Clear Pronoun Reference

A Backwards Approach

The true key to any communication is awareness of what interferes with the message.

Communication depends on clarity.

Approaching any message, word-based or graphic image, from the stance of “What can go wrong?” seems backwards.  However, any longtime writer will confess that is the question constantly in mind as they prepare to write.

From Business to Athletics to the Arts

“Begin with the End in Mind” is the mantra of any endeavor:  business, sports, arts, religion :: the customer, the win, the performance, Heaven . . . or Hell.

Once the idea is in place, all impediments are then removed.  As the idea progresses to reality, impediments are continually removed until the idea becomes tangible reality.

If businesses don’t start by creating smooth pathways for customers, then customers will leave.  So they should begin by identifying the blocks that will impede or frustrate their customers.

Few inventions begin with someone saying, “Great idea.”  Most inventors want to devise a better method.

Athletes create regimens by removing what interferes.

Artists don’t start painting their visions on blank canvasses.  They prep their canvas to remove any imperfections.  Then they begin.

Writing begins with idea.  Removal of impediments begins next by determining characters and GMC*, plot situation and structure, and setting.  We refine as we process, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.

The End is Not the End

When we all come to the end of our goal, we haven’t reached the end of our task.  We’re still putting on final touches.  And we’re thinking of the next goal that we want to communicate to our audience—even if that audience is just ourselves.

And we constantly look—beginning, middle, end—for impediments to our message.  We want those impediments gone!

Especially when those impediments are glaringly obvious.

Grammar Mistakes so Bright

Throughout this series of blogs, we’ve talked about grammar checkers and readability stats, mis-used words (“Vial Trolls”) and sentence subjects being lost (“Pesky Trolls”).  We’ve covered fossilized verbs and MisMods & DangMods.

We’ve offered ways to create emphasis and ways to add interest.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these trips.

Clear Pronoun Reference, part 3 of 3

Pronouns cause problems when our audience cannot quickly determine the nouns they refer to.

  1. Oscar waved to his coach as he came down the escalator. >> Who is on the escalator?
  2. Oscar met up with Mike after he saw Julio yesterday and said that he had the gear. >> Who has the gear? We have 3 choices.  Who exactly saw Julio yesterday?  2 choices.
  3. Before the gate could fit the opening in the fence, it has to be made smaller. >> What needs to be smaller: gate or fence opening?

Awareness of the problem helps us avoid it, just as we noted above:  Begin with the End in Mind.  If you know you make certain errors, you will learn to spot those errors more quickly.

CPR for CPR

When proofreading, touch every pronoun back to the noun immediately preceding it.  If too many nouns have inserted themselves between your pronoun and its antecedent, divide the sentence to conquer the problem. (btw: ¶ = paragraph)

  • Oscar met up with Mike. ¶ “I saw Julio,” Mike said. “He said he’s got our gear.  We just need to pack it up.”  ¶ “When can we do that?” ¶ “Well, yesterday.” (grin)

As a rule of thumb, nouns should be in the same ¶ with the pronoun.  Repeat the noun when entering a new ¶.

FICTION follows a slightly different rule:  In training through a situation, several ¶s will occur.  Restate the noun occasionally and in different positions within the different types of  ¶s.

¶ types vary greatly:  some narration, some dialogue, some exposition, some action.

Read aloud for flow and continuity and pronoun reference.

*GMC is goal, motivation, and conflict, as first expressed in my knowledge by Deb Dixon in her book of the same name.

Grammar Starters Set 2: 16 Lessons

A Grammar Starter leads into a lesson.

  • What do you know?
  • How do you know if it’s correct?
  • What do you not know?
  • What do you notice about the rule you haven’t learned?

Simple conversation on these four questions strengthen the foundation of knowledge.

Grammar Starters Set 2 continues the same pattern as previously, two lessons per week (Mon. and Wed.) with a review of problems on following days (Tues. and Thurs.).  If no problems were noticed, then no review is necessary.

You will need MS powerpoint to open this link.

Grammar Starters 2nd set

Errors in Grammar Starter 1 will recur in this series of lessons.  Newly noted are errors in pronoun / antecedent, dangling and misplaced modifiers, overuse of commas, finding subjects and verbs and complements, subordinate clauses, and a brief introduction of analogies.

At this point in the year, students should have a good grasp of subjects and verbs (including knowing the difference between action and linking verbs).  They should understand the complement:  action verbs lead to the direct object while linking verbs connect the subject to the predicate noun (nominative) and predicate adjective.

These 16 lessons (eight weeks) should take you through Christmas and into January.

A Word on Analogies

Analogies are not grammar;  they are a critical thinking skill.  They look for similarities and differences based on many different combinations.

An analogy sentence may look like this:

black : white : : night : ____

We read that sentence in this way:  Black is to white as night is to ____.

Black and white are simple opposites.  The opposite of night is day.

Some developers of analogies consider they have created “hard” analogies when the sentence’s “difficulty” is based on a vocabulary lack.  How many students know this one:

geese : gaggle : : quail : ____ = covey.

That’s not a hard analogy.  It’s only based on vocabulary words.

Hard analogies require students to think in new ways.

Song : poetry : : conversation : ____ = prose.  Students have to realize that poetry is very like songs and talking is basically prose.  This connects real world to the education world.

Can you complete this analogy?

____ : sorrow : : laughing : ____.

Did you say tears and happiness?  Great.

Look for the next Grammar Starter lesson set in early January.

Mistakes So Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades, part 2 of 3

Communicating ideas is difficult enough without confusing the audience. Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers cause confusion.

MISPLACED

Exactly as its name suggests, the MisMod is just out of place.  A simple fix:  move it.

John found a green boy’s sweater.

What’s green?  The boy?  No, we haven’t found a troll.  The sweater?  Yes!

  • simple > the adjective swap > “boy’s green sweater”
  • simple > the prepositional phrase swap > “I mopped the garage with my brother.” No, I didn’t dip his head in the bucket, turn him upside down, and mop the floor.  “My brother and I. . . .”
  • not so simple > the adverb swap. Be careful with adverbs.  While they can move around in the sentence, they can change meaning.

“Only John and Alice went to the cemetery at night.” :: the only ones to go

“John and Alice only went . . . .” :: the only place to go

“J and A went only . . . .” :: sounds like the previous one, but this position suggests that other options were available.

“J & A . . . the only cemetery at night.” :: This town has only one cemetery.  BTW, this use of only is an adjective, not an adverb.

“J & A . . . at night only.” :: because they like to hang out with ghouls.

DANGLING

The DangMod is more than out of place.  We have to add / subtract / divide / multiply?

A not-so-simple fix, the DangMod may hide from us.  We know what we intend to say.  As we write, as we edit, as we run through the final proof, we may never see the DangMod.

Only rarely have I noticed a writing software’s grammar/spelling checker spotting the DangMod for your judgment to correct or not.

First Readers may not spot it, either.  However, some readers of published writing will spot it and inform us.  Dang it.  Be nice.  Thank them.  Point out the DangMod is dang hard to spot, and correct it in your document.  Keep a chart of errors.  When you’ve corrected enough to have the original document substantially better, upload the new version.

What do DangMods look like?

Wading moose that escaped the car.

Several moose were seen while traveling by car through New Brunswick, Canada.

How does this dangle?  1] Who saw the moose?  2] Who was traveling?

While traveling by car through NB, CAN, several moose were seen.  This sentence is still NOT correct.

The moose are not seeing themselves.  They still are not driving.  Their antlers aren’t sticking out the car windows.

This extreme example helps point out the very problem with DangMods:  the act-er (subject) of the verbs to see and to travel is missing.

While we were traveling . . .  we saw several moose.

After loading the dishwasher, the video gaming continued.  >> Who loaded it?  Who was gaming?

Upsetting the neighbors, the fireworks were set off early. >> Who upset the neighbors?  Who set off the pyrotechnic display?

Careful reading of exactly what we have written will help us avoid the MisMods and those DangMods.

The Crux of the Argument

Proofreading our work is never fun.  After we’re past the thrill of character and situation, after we’ve paced the plot and twisted the scenes to avoid the humdrum, after we’ve tracked symbolic images and tweaked the archetypes, yet another read of the manuscript offers no excitement.  Checking sentences and word use and punctuation is an especially oh-hum yawn-worthy task.

Yet we want to present the best possible product to our audience.  We paint our portraits with words.  Our words should carry the energy that our story needs.  That last proofread is crucial.

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

How do we do it?

  • Most people advise checking for spelling by reading backwards, word by word.
  • Since we’ve been concerned primarily with sentences, I advise reading backwards, sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. We get the context and can still spot punctuation and spelling.

Awareness alone is often enough to solve the problem. As we become aware of our stumbling blocks, we learn to check for them.

Avoid the dangs.  Proofread.  Troll for the grammar trolls.

Mistakes So Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades

Glaring Errors that Blind the Reader

Previous blogs have discussed “vial trolls” who aren’t captured by the machine grammar/spell-checkers.  Other errors can also escape the machine.  Some of them even escape us.  Here are three identified glaring errors:

1st: Irregular Verbs

2nd: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers (coming up next)

3rd: Clear Pronoun Reference (coming up after)

Let’s play.

  • Irregular Verbs

Some fossils are interesting.

Some fossils are scary.

Irregular verbs are fossils from Old English, when the language itself was a dialect of German, waiting eagerly to be intermixed with Norse and French.

We often spot other people’s problems with the common irregular verbs.

TAKE >> I take, I took, I have taken:  Not “have tooken”, sweetheart; taken.

BUY >> I buy, I bought, I have bought.  Now I’m broke.

SLEEP >> I sleep, I slept, I have slept.  I am going to sleep again!

SWIM >> I swim, I swam, I have swum in the past and want to do so again on this hot day!  Whew! But not with that scary fossil.

We know the balloon burst (not bursted—or busted)!

We’ve got that the shoes stink and stank and have stunk up the entire house.

Some fossils have altered over time.  LEAP once had “leapt” but now is “leaped”.  SLEEP, however, is not becoming “sleeped”.

Even with all our knowledge, irregular verbs can trip us up.

Why, oh why, oh why?

It’s the not-so-common irregular verbs that slink into our writing and fling our readers across the room when we use them improperly.

SLAY (Watch out, writers of historical novels and fantasy) >> I slay the trolls.  I slew the trolls.  I have slain the trolls and will do so again.

BID (Here is the perfect verb to use when using dialog to create a sense of history.) >> “I bid you goodbye.”  “Look, Agatha, he bade her goodbye.”  He has bidden her goodbye and left hours ago.  Catch him before he turns into a fossil.

STRIVE >> We strive.  We strove.  We have striven.  (I encounter the error “strived” constantly in books by one author and keep intending to write an email.  Maybe it’s better if I don’t.)

WEAVE >> She weaves when driving while drunk.  That driver wove over the center line.  Because she has woven off the road, we dialed 911.

English has a lot of fossilized words, some of them no longer in use except in crossword puzzles and idiomatic expressions.  “Eke” and “wend”, the “kith” of “kith and kin”, and other words are ones that we often give “short shrift” ;).  Check them out.  Type “fossils of English language” into a search engine and up they pop (along with images of scary fossils).

Language fossils can be the very thing to give a historical or interesting touch for your setting or one of your characters.  {BUT avoid the Yoda gimmick, discussed in the last blog, “Switch It Up”.}

It’s up to you to determine if language fossils are interesting or scary, help or hindrance.

As it is, if you notice—or someone kindly tells you—that you have problems with
certain words, it will never hurt to check a dictionary, whether a walking dictionary or an “official” one in print.

My walking dictionary never failed to tell me when my use of “prove” and “proved” was invariably wrong.  I miss my walking dictionary.

Dictionaries are your friend.

And online dictionaries are really fast!

So, here’s my tribute to my walking dictionary.

 

Grammar Starter: 1st 6 Lessons

Here is a Grammar Starter powerpoint with 6 grammar lessons.  Each lesson contains two sentences filled with several errors.  Answers for each slide are at the end of the powerpoint.

These sentences come from an old textbook adoption handbook that I once used in my teaching.  I usually had to increase the number of errors in each sentence.  9th grade students did not find the errors difficult.

mark errors with red ink if the grammar problems bleed through communication
Red Ink

Each slide usually contains one tricky problem.  All of the sentences serve as reminders of the small ticky details that students often overlook in their own writing.  These are the same ticky details that often irritate us in the world at large.  A perfect example is ladie’s above the ladies’ restroom door.

Two lessons a week work well (Mon. and Wed.), followed by a review of any problems that were spotted (Tues. and Thurs.)

Expect capitalization, end mark and quotation mark problems, usage and verb tense, subject/verb agreement, commas with nonessential phrases, and run-on sentences (fused sentences) among other problems.

Grammar Starters

The next Grammar Starters will be issued on September 19.  That slide series will contain 16 lessons (or 8 weeks of lessons).

Grammar Helps

Has the thought of the Grammar Monster got you screaming in terror?  Are you begging for some grammar helps?

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

Here are a few beginning handouts and lessons for home schoolers and others tackling the Grammar Monster.

Speechparts practice

Usage Matters 15 items

Usage Matters 15 practice

Grammar Basics Expletives 3 Cs

Go forth and conquer.

Never forget, communication is possible even if you don’t understand all the words.  The position in the sentence is everything.  I picked up the following many years ago (it’s definitely not mine.  I’m not this clever.)  The answers are here.

CORANDIC

Corandic is an emurient grof with many fribs; it granks from corite, an olg which cargs like lange. Corite grinkles several other tarances, which garkers excarp by glarcking the corite and starping it in tranker-clarped storbs. The tarances starp a chark, which is expanrged with worters, branking a storp. This storp is garped through several other corusees, finally frasting a pragety, blickant crankle: coranda.

Coranda is a cargurt, grinkling corandic and borigten. The corandic is nacerated from the borigen by means of loracity. This garkers finally thrap a glick, bracht, glupous grapant, corandic, which granks in many starps.

  1. What is corandic?
  2. What does corandic grank from?
  3. How do garkers excarp the tarances from the corite?
  4. What does the slorp finally frast?
  5. What is coranda?

Curiously enough, a Yoast SEO readability says “the copy scores 64 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered ok to read.”  I don’t find “Corandic” ok to read.

Here’s a little more, not necessarily grammar helps, but this shows how the entire year of grammar is tied together with composition and literature, the other two arts in the world of Language Arts.

Communication comes in two opposite forms which are based on opposites.

  1. Visual (sight-based) drawn OR not-drawn (gestures, body language, facial expressions and para-language – tone and sounds that give meaning)
  1. Verbal (word-based) spoken OR written

Written Communication comes in two opposite forms which are also based on opposites.

  1. NonFiction = about real events, short memos OR long reports, instruction manuals before you work OR evaluations after you work), essays – personal OR public, factual OR opinion
  1. Fiction = about imaginary events, short stories OR long novels, highly fantastical OR a mirror of reality

Fiction written as a PLAY has lines spoken by character.

A poet groups lines together in stanzas.  Any POEM is like an emotional essay.  POETRY can be pure verse (rhyming, etc.) or free verse (free of rhyme).

Just like communication, our world is based on OPPOSITES (in, out; stick, circle; on, off;  hot, cold;  sun, moon;  good, evil;  male, female;  work, play).

We see opposites in VOCABULARY when we understand a word by what it is and is not like (synonyms AND antonyms) as well as in crazy homonyms and connotations.

We see opposites in GRAMMAR when we realize that thoughts >> which become sentences >> are based on idea AND action (subjects AND verbs).  Punctuation has starts (CAPS) and stops (. ! ?) as well as LINKERS which show PROGRESSION.

COMPOSITION combines opposites and progressions in the Introductions vs. Conclusions, achieved through the Body;  the subject explored through the thesis and its progressive topics, themselves progressed through details.

Using Number Symbols in Writing

Originally this blog post published July 2016 on the Writers Ink Books website.  WIS reruns it because, after all, reruns are totally watchable.
For those looking for the Grammar Monster blog series, look for the chart link at the end of the blog.  In that chart you will find the important background lessons that students need before the Grammar Monster comes out of the cave.

You Can Do Magic:  Paint with Numbers

In the last blog, “Let’s Play” (in 2016, remember, on the WIB website, not this one), I mentioned that working in threes is the preferred number for repetition.  Three is that mysterious number in the realm of symbols, and it has great influence on the audience.

3’s are significant, whether spoken or written or visual.  Most will “hear” the first mention of an idea but think nothing of it.  A second mention sounds like coincidence.  The third mention is magic for the readers and audience.

A good comic will set up a joke with an unusual phrase, cycle back to that phrase in a later joke–just in passing, then hit that unusual phrase for the clincher of a closing joke.   Expectation has been created with the second mention and fulfilled with the third.  The humor then has a greater effect on the audience.

Ron White is the master of this extended use of threes. [Don’t click if you don’t like curse words. ;)] Listen for the third different use of “tater”.

So, that’s the effect of the 3 in repetition.  What about the other numbers?

Well, numbers are important in the world of literature (and religion, both so closely tied together in their origins that their devices [tropes] take on mythic gravitas.  Wow, that was a side excursion and a half).

The symbolic meaning of numbers (and colors–coming in the next blog) solidified in primitive cultures.  We can see the influence of the natural world and our own bodies in their development into virtually universal meanings.  Many numbers have both positive and negative connotations.

So, here are the meanings I have gleaned:

First Hand
  • 1 = the Self, of course.  Solitary / lonely  (positive / negative).  Independence, self-reliance.  Rank, descending or ascending (I’m number 1!  or the starting [lowest] point).

    the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  • 2 = companionship, love.  Deception > two-faced.
  • 3 = mystery > e.g., the Moirae, the three Fates of ancient Greece; the three Erinyes ( the Furies who are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone); the three Norns; the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; past / present / future;  Plato’s tripartite being: mind / body / soul.
  • 4 = the number representing Earth > e.g., north / south / east / west; the basic elements of earth / air / water / fire; and proteins / carbs / lipids / acids; the luck of a four-leaf clover; the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the four mathematical operations; the four Beatles.
  • 5 = 1/2 of 10 and thus halfway to completion; the limits of aspiration.  The musical staff is on five lines;  it takes both treble and bass staffs to create full harmony.  The five Sikh symbols.  The pentagram.
Second Hand
  • 6 = doubled mystery > secrecy, magic
  • 7 = perfection, absolute.
  • 8 = rebirth (one more than perfection > starting over), renewal OR as 8 is between 5 and 10, on the road to completion.
  • 9 = 3 + 3 + 3 = intensified mystery.
  • 10 = completion, fulfillment.
Three Extras
  • 11 = transition, thresholds, the liminal space. Over time, 11 became associated with death, which is the greatest of thresholds to cross.  BTW, literature pre-supposes that man has an existence after death, whatever form that existence might take; so it’s this existence, crossing the threshold, and the after-existence.  In literature, death is not a stoppage–unless it’s modern literature.  Oh, well.
  • 12 = man’s relationship to the Divine, in whatever form the Divine takes > 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Christ, 12 Signs of the Greek Zodiac, 12 cycles of the Chinese Years, 12 chief gods of Olympus, and more.
  • 13 = considered unlucky because man steps beyond his relationship with the Divine to pursue his own path, and challenging the gods [as Tantalus discovered] is never wise.  Gradually, it became associated with the occult.

How do you work with symbolic numbers in writing poetry and fiction and non-fiction?

Using symbols can add surprise and depth:

  • Instead of a Council of 5 have a Council of 4, representing the four pillars of earth.
  • Instead of four traps, have 6.
  • For a protagonist who never achieves his goal (how sad), have the number 5 constantly pop up:  a meeting at 5 o’clock, 5 friends who give him advice he never takes, the missed train on Platform 5, the fifth missed message from his boss, the 5th time he forgot his anniversary on May 5.
  • Repeat an image three times.  Repeat using synonyms or other variations of a concept six or nine or twelve times.
  • We all see lists of seven or ten.  Be different:  create lists of eight.
  • Categorize into four major areas, each with three subsets (a hidden seven).

When it’s time to flesh out the details of your outlined work, think through the numbers and see if they can magically assist you.

~~M A Lee

Click this link for the Grammar Monsters Opening Lessons Chart.

Grammar Monster: Introduction

We have to do hard things in life.

Especially in places like school or at completely new jobs, we find ourselves introduced to a lot of hard things.  So many new things are thrown at us that we want to throw some of them back.

We find it extremely difficult to see the reason we have to plow through all of the ticky little details involved with that hard thing.

And we look and pray and hope and wish for the end of it.

Grammar is one of those hard things that we encounter in school.

It is necessary.

One mark by which we all are judged, whether we are speaking or writing, is our grammar.  Make one mistake, and people automatically assume that we’re ignorant.  Or that we didn’t learn it.  Worst of all, they think we can’t learn it.

Those people judge our level of intelligence as well as the credibility of what we are saying.  It’s not right, but it happens.

Quite frankly, credibility–the believability that others accord to our statements, our opinions, our standing in the community, our businesses, and so much more–is all we stand on.

Each small nick in credibility costs us.  Those small increments build over time until the statue of “us” falls.

What is the point of grammar?

What we call “grammar” is actually divided into three disparate realms:  grammar (the way words work together to form complete thoughts), usage (the way words are used), and mechanics (the punctuation coding that helps us read groups of sentences).

We call it GUM:  grammar, usage, mechanics.

Use the wrong “their/they’re/there”, and people think you weren’t educated.  Slip the wrong verb form in the wrong place (“have tooken”), and people cringe.  Plop an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong, and opinions go downhill.

We say “grammar”, but we actually are talking about communication.

Whether spoken or written, we are communicating.

You may have heard of the “7 38 55 Rule of Communication”  or that verbal communication (speaking or writing) is only 10% or 20% of all our communication.  That’s not quite right: This Psychology Today article clears it up.

What is right–and non-quantifiable–is that we judge the speakers and writers (whether casual or informative) based on how they use the language.  GUM guides that judgment.  No errors, and we continue blithely along with that person.  Lots of errors, and those little nicks in their credibility start being applied.

What would happen to your belief in my ability to understand grammar if I had an error in this writing?  Down, down, down it would go, and nothing I wrote afterwards would have any effect.

It doesn’t matter if I tell you that no one is absolutely 100% perfect.  That mistake sits there, glaring at you, glaring at me, glaring at everyone.

The nick happened.  We can’t move on from there.

You say, “The computer will find the errors for me.”

Maybe.  It can’t now.  It may never be able to do so.  Grammar rules, especially in English, dependent on what are called fluid factors.  To encode all those fluid factors would create a massive computer program.

Take this simple spelling rule:  I before E except after C or as sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh, and weird is just weird.  This one rule has four fluid factors.

Think of all the unusual forms of sentences where the subject does not occur first.  The first sentence of this very paragraph has an understood subject.  We also have modifiers that come first.  Questions throw the subject out of position.  Sentences are sometimes inverted.  That’s four more fluid factors.

Now add in all the words of the English language, which is twice as large as any other language in the world.

Do you see the problem?

Students in my dual enrollment college composition courses tried to defeat the monster that grammar can be by using an online grammar checker for essays.   This is a much more sophisticated program than the simple grammar/spelling checker in word processing programs.

Word processing software doesn’t find every error.  However, surely something online can find every error?  Sorry.  Not possible.  Not yet.

The students used the online grammar checker because they didn’t want to learn how to avoid the Type I errors.  More than three Type I errors would fail an essay (not my rule but the rule of the college).  Invariably, more than a handful of Type I errors would be missed by that online grammar checker, and they would fail the essay.

Maybe your grandchildren won’t have to learn grammar–but I doubt it.  English has too many variables.

But~~

Misktakes do happen, don’t they? 😉 (That was deliberate, BTW.)

I do understand a lot about grammar, much more than the average English teacher, but I will add that I don’t understand everything.

What I do know and how I know it, these things I will share with you.

So, here are the Grammar Monster blogs, provided for anyone wanting more information about GUM and specifically as Home School Helps.

Starting on August 8 will be the first Grammar Monster blog.  Enjoy.

(Grammar can be enjoyable.  Truly.)