Funny Girl's Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Vocabulary
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Grammar God Links
- KU School of Journalism and Mass Communications - The John Bremner Editing Test
The official website for the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications
The Light Side of a Boring Topic
Grammar is boring! Who really enjoyed sitting in class learning all the different grammar parts and deconstructing sentences? No one! Ergo, we are a nation of people who by and large hate grammar. For the longest time, I thought I hated grammar. To be quite blunt, grammar still feels like the most boring aspect of writing. But as anyone knows, when you become a master at any skill, that skill becomes much more enjoyable. In college, I had to sit through a few rather intensive grammar courses.
Taking journalism classes and then working as a copy editor for my college newspaper, I began to realize that I still don’t know as much grammar as I should. But the experience provided a few practices I needed to become better at grammar while gaining a few extra tools to become better. Although I still wouldn’t say I’m an expert at all matters grammar, I have found these tools and practices helpful in improving my understanding about grammar in a manner that is more fun and conducive to learning.
Phase One: Changing Attitude Toward Grammar and Vocabulary!
Funny Videos and Comics About Grammar
I’ve never been the kind of person to grow up watching schoolhouse rock. But I still remember the joy of singing the preposition song. Watching funny videos about grammar might not make you the best grammarian right off the bat, but it will change your attitude about grammar. And who doesn’t want to sing a song about some grammatical aspect?
Games usually allow people to have more fun with the kind of words that they use. This game was a game I found in a journalism class. Our journalism professor recommended it to us and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. In this game, you are given a bunch of letters and a time limit. To the side, you’ll find a bunch of tile spaces that you fill by creating as many words as you can from the letters you are given. To advance to the next round, you must use up all the letters. Otherwise, you can’t advance to the next round. The game will keep going until you fail to use up all the letters. It’s a fun game and will keep your mind sharp.
This has to be the best game if you are an introvert who still wants to help others out and can’t be a part of a volunteer organization. Why? It can be practiced from the safety of a personal computer. This game focuses primarily on vocabulary building. Beginning with an easy word, you are asked to pick from a list of words to find the right synonym. For each word you get right, wefeedback donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. With sixty levels, the game will improve your vocabulary and mental acumen while helping to feed people who are facing hunger every day.
Phase Two: Getting the Nitty Gritty of Grammar and Punctuation Through Books
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss
The runaway best seller is the most hysterical book you’ll ever encounter about grammar. Even if you think you hate grammar, Truss provides an ample array of humorous anecdotes to demonstrate why grammar matters and how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Unlike a traditional grammar book that can be more than a little tedious to read, Truss fine tunes the language of appreciation for the punctuation mark. The downside to her book is the overweening paranoia that you’ll face should you make any grammar mistake again. Ever.
When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style
This book provides the nitty gritty details to grammar, understanding the different kinds of sentence constructions (simple, compound, compound-complex, complex) as well as the different meanings of words. Besides covering grammar, the book covers some of the trickier aspects of writing such as how race and sexism are handled in language. Along with providing the trademark secrets of how to be a better writer, the book will also look at the way words are commonly misused. This section is the kind of section that could be looked at again as language changes. As a half-grammatical stickler, I’m still uncertain how much these points will hold as people continue to change and manipulate language to suit their own purposes. But that’s society’s call, not mine.
The Associated Press Style Book
Not just the book for journalists, this is also the kind of book that will fine tune your understanding of the meaning of words as well as making you more aware of some word redundancies. For instance, did you know that in news media, the word "tomorrow" is never used except in direct quotes? This is because journalists are never certain that "tomorrow" actually exists. The word is too uncertain of an entity. You will also feel aghast upon recognizing that "ABM missile" would be a redundant expression as you would then be saying "Anti-ballistic missile missile." But these are just a few of the treasures that await you in the AP Stylebook. To be quite honest, I prefer not knowing all of it as it's easy to second-guess yourself.
Simplifying Knowledge: Consolidating Grammar Knowledge
Grammar books can be a bit intimidating. With so much information to retain, it can be easy to not want to pick up a grammar book. But if that is the case, you might try looking up and putting down all the rules that you still struggle with on one page. I fear I might go to the grave still struggling with the dastardly lay/lie verbs. If you suffer from the "I feel overwhelmed" status, then you might want to try breaking it down. I'm fortunate to have found another website that sends daily grammar and writing skills so that my knowledge remains fresh. Having read many grammar books and still feeling appalled at all I've forgotten, I find this site very helpful in keeping me aware of good and bad writing practices.
Phase Three: Becoming a Grammar Master
Putting Lessons Gained Into Practice: How Many Mistakes Can You Find?
One of the assignments that I thankfully did not have to do was to find 50 grammar or punctuation errors in publication magazines. Although my grammar class did not have to do this assignment, the assignment made me hone my attention to looking for other places with grammar errors. Finding errors in professional publications proffers the most fun entertainment because if the “professionals” aren’t always able to get it right all the time, then maybe the grammar gods aren’t ever going to be completely appeased with our attempts to get grammar right. I’ve provided some of the funniest places that grammar errors have occurred.
So You Think You’re A Grammar God?
Being taught by a really good professor who knew her grammatical skills like the back of her hand, I find myself still wincing about the vast reams of grammar that I don’t know. Really, I should know better but I’m still learning. However, my professor once said that the editing process is not about striving for perfection, but excellence. She also said that media writers and copy-editors are allowed a mere three exclamation points in their lives. Perhaps this was the main reason that I’m rather reluctant to take on editing? Nah. Either way, even if you think you know your grammar skills, you would benefit highly from taking this editing test from a true grammar god. You might find yourself dismayed and humiliated by the results. But even the professionals seem to have gotten it wrong as well.
Still Think You're the Brad Pitt of Grammar?
After the test, you can head over to editteach.org, which has plenty of word games that can further improve your skills. With a hodge podge of grammar games, you can greatly improve your skills as an editor and writer. Along with a bunch of other games and ways to test your knowledge, you'll find a video of the person who wrote the grammar test. I would highly recommend watching the video as it provides an amusing look at grammar mistakes in the news media.
In conclusion, you are being issued the challenge to see what grammar mistakes you can find in this article. How many are there? First person to respond gets a gold sticker. Well, maybe just a smiley face will do. Before I part, I will add that learning a heavy amount of grammar can kill the desire to write (as I've seen through reading research articles). Many of the people who entered into the journalism school I went to came out thoroughly burned out on wanting to write. Maybe they didn't like the "just three exclamation points" rule any more than I did. But either way, I'm still learning to accept the naughty, grammatically incorrect side of me. It is to be hoped that as i writer, you will find the same acceptance for yourself.
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