Category Archives: Grammar

Classical Homeschooling: A definition

Aristotle“The failure of our educational system goes beyond what they fail to teach. It includes what they do teach, or rather indoctrinate, and the graduates they send out into the world, incapable of seriously weighing alternatives for themselves or for American society.” Thomas Sowell, columnist

My visit to a recent homeschool convention showed me not only that some of the curriculum “out there” is inadequate to teach students thoroughly and well, but also that Classical Schooling must be the newest fad to follow.

This both encouraged and disheartened me. As a teacher in Classical methods I was encouraged because Classical Schooling is gaining in popularity among homeschooling families. Discouraged because, from my experience as a teacher, curriculum writer, and attendee at many homeschool conventions over the years, I know that many of the offerings I saw at tables were not high enough quality to meet the stringent demands that some classicists have.

What is Classical Schooling?

The writer Dorothy Sayers sparked a flame that began to grow when she wrote an essay titled “The Lost Tools of Learning” in 1947. In that essay she expounded on the way a child learns best, and that is according to the model of classical learning from times past. She mourned the loss of such educational methods, as she was very much a classicist herself. “Is not the great defect of our education today–a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned–that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.”

Sayers posits that a child learns best if his learning methods are addressed according to his age group. When in the Grammar level (up through 6th grade or so)–Sayers calls it “Poll-Parrot”–the student learns the components of his language and of the other subjects in school. The “grammar” of math, then, are the math facts every child can learn to parrot back to his parent. The grammar of history would be those history facts that every child learns: the presidents, the continents, the states, the names, places, and dates. And so forth. Children learn in a sing-song manner the parts of language, almost as much as you can cram into their darling little heads. They don’t need the whys; they just stuff their heads full of facts and parrot them back.

As a high school English teacher I was in tears when I first watched third graders diagram sentences. The year before, when we had not yet transitioned to Classical, those same children hardly knew the parts of grammar. Here they were a year later diagramming sentences, having fun showing off their knowledge.

Once they have their facts, and they reach  the age of argumentation (those little eyeballs start to roll around in their heads about 6th or 7th grade), they have transitioned to what Sayers calls “Pert” or Dialectical. This is when their teachers need to incorporate Logic into their thinking. This is when we take the facts they have been learning and make connections for them–or better put, we allow them to make the connections. Their writing becomes more sophisticated. Their history, math, and science understanding grows because they can begin to form hypotheses and test them out based on what they already know.

This is the time that they want to challenge authority, whom they suspect doesn’t know what they’re talking about. So they learn Logic, a new way of thinking, almost the equivalent of learning a new language. They see how arguments can be analyzed by their component parts, what makes fallacies, and why. They pick up on the fallacies of other people’s ideas–then they realize that they themselves make fallacies too.

By the time they reach 9th or 10th grade, they are ready for what Sayers calls the “Poetic” or Rhetoric stage. Here they can put all their past learning together and figure out how to make connections across the broad scope of their learning. They can look into the ideas and philosophies of the past and see how mistakes of the present day are a direct result. They can put into writing those thoughts and ideas that come flowing out, beautifully expressing themselves.

Nuts and Bolts: What gets done?

One of the hallmarks of Classical education is the integration of learning. The classical approach is known for moving through the periods of history and learning everything there is to learn at each level. So what you read in literature you are also learning in history and geography, and you’re doing art projects connected to the history and country that you’ve been studying. Science gets involved, as you can study the inventions of the ages you visit. As students get older the studying goes deeper. Delve into the religion of the age, read the philosophers, study their style of writing and their art, their music and theater. At the Rhetoric level, examine the ideas of the authors and philosophers. See how they lived out their own ideas and how well that worked. Imitate the writing of the great authors to see how their words flowed. Make your own writing soar beautifully like that. Examine your own philosophies and worldviews based on what you learn in the worldviews of others whom you study. For example, in history they may be learning about the French Revolution, while in literature they read Tale of Two Cities, and in philosophy they study the ideas of the Social Contract and  the writings of Rousseau and other Enlightenment philosophers, while in Rhetoric they study and analyze the speeches of Robespierre and Desmoulins. These students can reach across the disciplines of study to make connections and conclusions, and they can amaze their teacher by what comes out of this kind of thinking.

What material works best?

I am not going to recommend particular curriculum. That’s the job for other people. But I will give you criteria to use when examining curriculum.

For the grammar level, find curriculum that will teach grammar facts in a sing-song manner, just the same way you might teach them Bible verses through song. But don’t just go for the singing; aim for the breadth of what is covered. Are all the grammar facts–are all the math facts–covered in an age-appropriate manner, and is it achievable in a span of 9 months (the length of a school year)? Make sure to expose your children to lots of age-appropriate literature. Give them plenty to read. Choose their history, literature, geography, and science in a complementary fashion that goes along with their literature. Start simply and add more complicated information as they get older. Give them great books to read, not just simple junk you pick up at the Christian book store.

Some parents think that makes their job easier, to know they will be studying all one age in history and focusing everything around it. Some science curricula break up a year of science into four sections: earth, biology, physical, and chemical. Those sciences get more and more complex until the student can take a full year of general and then a full year of physical science in the dialectical stage, then moving up to Biology in 9th.

Should they take Latin? Most classical schooling does include Latin. Some have done that so by a certain point the child would be ready to read some of the philosophers and poets in the original language. The rote method helps a student to organize his thoughts, to learn English grammar, and to expand his English vocabulary. At the grammar stage Latin is simply just rote learning: repeating sounds back to the teacher. Look for early Latin grammar that focuses on rote (sing-song) learning. Those mechanical memories get attached to meaning once they move along into vocabulary-building. The acquirement of this second language will help aid in the learning of yet another language–Spanish or French–when they get older as well. You’ll be amazed, when you learn with them, how similar much of the vocabulary is.

At the high school level there is much to be had for the teaching at the Classical level. Some of it is good. In another blog I will provide some more thoughts on what to look for. Just be careful to find high school curriculum that doesn’t simplify but includes readings from primary sources all through history. Read the great thinkers (authors and philosophers) in their own words, and connect that with what’s going on in their time of history.

Can Classical Schooling be done at home? For years it was thought that no, this was too difficult, too wide and too deep. However, as they sometimes prove to be pioneers, homeschoolers met that challenge and decided to climb Mount Olympus.

However, don’t be drawn in by all the flashy offerings that call themselves “classical” just because it carries the name. It needs to have certain criteria to be considered good enough for your classically-schooled child. Look for more helpful information on classical schooling in the Dialectical and Rhetoric level in my next blog.

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Filed under Biblical Worldview, Classical Education, Education, Grammar, Homeschooling, Literature, Parenting

Home Schooling in High School means pursuing excellence well

“This is why we home school.”

a-messy-roomI hear that phrase a lot, and I’ve said it myself. We choose to home school for so many reasons. Some families are athletic or musical, and they need more flexible schedules. Some just believe that the alternatives out there–public or private schools–are not desirable for them. And others believe that God has called them to raise and educate their children themselves, combining their faith with their children’s education.

No matter the reason you elect to home school, I want to speak to you. Whatever you choose to do in educating your child, do it well. Choose carefully. Don’t over-commit, when over-commitment means you cannot do everything well.

Years ago I had a long talk with a mom whose daughter had spent much of her youth in violin lessons and violinperformances. The child was very talented, said the mother. They had focused on her violin lessons, rehearsals, travels, and performances, almost to the exclusion of anything else. I know it may be hard for some of you to believe this, but the mom told me that her daughter, at age 15, had not had more than elementary math, no science, and no writing or grammar. She was anxiously seeking my advice, and this turned into a very difficult meeting. I had to be brutally honest with her about the reality of her situation. Her daughter might earn music scholarships to college because of her talent, but she won’t get accepted to those colleges because she couldn’t handle the academics. Mom refused to hear what I had to say, and I have no idea what she did for her child afterward.

The lesson here is balance. Yes, those music lessons or those athletic abilities are really important. In balance, however, what takes priority? Is it your child’s figure-skating success, or is it her ability to perform academically, think well, write well? If, on average, your child is not holding her own on those yearly standardized tests, you need to examine why, short of any significant learning disability that may get in the way (and I am not talking about learning disabilities).

Another parent asked my advice on a schedule for her daughter’s first year of high school. She had signed up for all the basics: English, history, Bible, science, math, foreign language, at our online school. Then she added that a local co-op had a Shakespeare class they really wanted, plus she would be taking dance, drama, and piano, and then taking one day to babysit at the co-op while other moms taught. (And she would participate in two major dramas a year.) Given the number of hours in a day, and what it takes to succeed in each academic class (much less sit in each class each week), that child was starting out with a deficit of time, and the hole would just get deeper through the year. “Be ready to pitch those non-academic commitments overboard when it gets to be too much,” I told the mom. They never did, and their daughter was completely burned out halfway through the year.

Choose well, and choose wisely. Be selective about what your children do. Maybe you are like us, with kids who had no outstanding athletic or musical abilities, just wanting to have fun in band or soccer. Our rule for them during high school was “Youth Group Plus One.” In other words, they could do Youth Group and add one more activity beyond that each year. It could be fall sports and a spring job, or band all year, or drama. This kind of restriction was set so that they could learn the layer of priorities in their lives. For our children, work and worship needed to be learned and reinforced in proper balance as they developed into young men and women. They didn’t need more things piled on top of them just so they could stay busy. We didn’t always do a great job at that, but it was a principle we tried to stay with.

exhausted kidOvercommitment plagues most of us. We love lots of things, want to be involved in every great activity.  “This is why we homeschool” cannot–should not–be used as the reason for signing up for more than can humanly be done. If that debate tournament schedule means you will miss too many classes or too many homework deadlines, rethink your priorities. You could say no to the class, but do you need the class more than the debate club? Sometimes you just cannot manage both–one has to give way. Choose wisely and well.

Think about a manageable formula. For each academic high school course your child takes, he should study 1.5 to 2 hours per day, on average. Some courses will take more time, some less. What kind of time is left? (I know I have already stirred a hornet’s nest for some of you, who disagree that any child should spend that much time studying. So be it.)

Sometimes homeschool families overcommit more than “other” families do, just because they use that popular phrase “this is why…” Could it be you and your children BOTH need a little lesson in saying no? Balance work and activity, fun and worship. Say yes to a select few things, and then proceed to ENJOY your homeschool.

See related posts here, here, and here.

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Slouching mediocrity: I already KNOW how to write…

broken pencilParental angst about writing instruction for their homeschooled children fills my email inbox. Somehow parents know that math and science and history are SO much easier to deal with: Answers are either right or wrong.

Children take personal offense, though, when mommy tells them that their paragraphs were wrong.

As a writing teacher, I totally get it. In order to maintain a good relationship with their children, some moms who are not as sure about teaching writing will hire someone else, go to some other source, for help. That’s wise, for parents who just are not comfortable. I maintain that there is a right attitude and a wrong attitude about teaching good writing skills. Let’s take a look at some who misunderstand.

Some parents exhibit a lack of understanding of just how important good writing can be. I wish I had a dollar for every time a parent told me, “We believe a good reader will turn out to be a good writer, so we just expose our child to good books, and we know that when he is ready to write, he will be great.” This is like learning how to cook by eating at gourmet restaurants. Surely you know a lot about good food, right? So cooking like a chef will be a breeze.

Reading a lot of great books will help you in countless ways (see a previous blog about that). Exposure to the timeless classics expands the vocabulary, broadens the reader’s world, allows him to make connections to literary allusions in other works, enhances critical thinking skills, and more. It may also help improve one’s writing simply because his vocabulary is so greatly increased. The practice of imitation in Rhetoric uses pieces of great literature so that the student copies, by hand, the words and thoughts of great writers. Doing so will enhance a student’s grasp of the grammatical flow and thought process of the writer.

However, just absorbing the words in a great book will not translate to making a good writer. It’s not as if he will read and read and then suddenly *poof!* he is automatically a good writer. Not at all.

Similarly, other parents have told me that writing and writing week after week has improved their children’s writing skills. Does he get feedback on his writing, I ask? Well, no, but he is writing. But then how do you know he is improving if he has no guidance, no direction, no correction in his writing?

So there are two elements in growing a good writer: the practice of writing, and guidance in writing. If parents are not comfortable doing that at their own kitchen table, I advise them to find someone who is able to do that for them. Interview that person: what are his or her qualifications? What standards does he use? What experience does he have? I often suggest finding an English major currently in college who wants to earn some extra money, or an English teacher who is retired or a mom at home now.

There is a plethora of online writing classes these days; if you go that route make sure you are getting what you pay for. Will your child get regular, guided, personal feedback on every piece of writing, aiming him toward better writing on his next assignment? Some online organizations just don’t offer that kind of personal service. They are good at assigning but not so good at grading. Remember: no feedback = no growth. Since I teach at an online school I can recommend a very good one to you–just email me and we’ll chat. 🙂

I’ve encountered other kinds of misunderstanding about writing from homeschooling parents. One is that parent who had a bad experience back in third grade with a writing curriculum and was then afraid to try anything again. My advice: don’t give up. (See my post about schooling with excellence.) Keep trying to find that next writing curriculum. Find someone who can help you if you feel lost. Don’t just pass that off as something your child will never be able to do well. Short of a learning disability–and often even with one your child can do well–there is no reason he cannot learn to write at a college level while in high school.

Another comment comes from the parent who tells me that her high school child has joined a “write a novel in a year” club. Someone hands out information on how to write dialog and how to create a good couple of characters, and off the child goes to write a novel. The instruction is vague at best, and the product may be a sweet little story, but this child has not learned college-ready writing skills.

Or the parent who wants to make sure her child is doing “every kind of writing.” Somewhere someone told a parent that her child will be a good writer if she learns every kind of writing. By that I assume they mean journalism, poetry, compare/contrast, opinion, persuasive, short story, and whatever else I may have left out. Let me get you straight on this one: All that is great to know. However, the one basic skill a high school (and even a junior high) student needs in his tool box is Expository Writing: the essay that proves a thesis. College-level writing.

What are those college writing skills of which I speak? The expository essay presents an idea in a thesis and then proceeds to argue that thesis–prove it–with support through an essay. Call it a five-paragraph, ten-paragraph, or twelve-page paper, that is the writing skill your child will need to be ready for those college-assessment tests. Teach him how to incorporate and cite quotes, how to prove his thesis with argumentation, to introduce and conclude well. Teach him to do it in a paper or in an essay. Teach him to do it in a timed format (40 minutes and then 25 minutes, for example), because those college-assessment test writing portions are timed. If you can’t do it, then ask someone to do this for you.

Think of it this way: Your child wants to be a musician and picks up an instrument to play beautiful music. Instead, out come horrid sounds. Give that child lessons and theory; teach him how to play scales and chords; teach him the classics of the masters on that instrument. Then he can go and play all sorts of other types of music on that instrument to his heart’s content. Just as in writing. Teach that expository essay, and that child will be able to do all sorts of other kinds of writing as well, with practice.

See related blogs here and here.

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Moving away from mediocre: Read good books

Kids-sitting-on-booksThe only time I watched “19 Kids and Counting,” that TV show about the Duggars, I nearly choked. My daughter was interested in it, so I sat down with her and turned it on. They are a home school family, and they are Christians, and I will not criticize them too much for any of their choices, because–God bless them–they are doing what they believe God has called them to do, raising that big bunch of kids.

But (you knew there would be a “but, didn’t you?) this one episode had the family visiting a public elementary school and talking to kids about their big family. Essentially they had become ambassadors for homeschooling. A student asked one of the older girls about her favorite book of all time. She smiled and named something that made me groan. Honestly, I don’t remember which book she named, but it was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. When I had looked it up, I found it was some sort of Christian fiction novel that oozes romance, bonnets, and formulaic simplicity. (See my blog on those silly books here.) I had SO wanted to see someone stand up and tell the world that she was a well-read homeschooler by announcing that her favorite book of all time was something like Les Miserables or The Scarlet Letter. Instead, she showed the shallowness of so many parents who just don’t reach beyond their comfort level and challenge their children with excellent literature.

So why the groan? Need you ask? (Please read my post on the need for excellence in home education here.) Let’s think of good literature like we think about food for just a moment. And in many ways, we can do that because literature is food for the brain. Consider what happens when you consume a steady diet of junk food for very long.

fat-kits-eating-mcdonalds

Not very attractive, is it? (Poor kids.) The same can be said about literature. Consuming mushy, senseless literature creates mushy thinking. There is no challenge for the mind to hang on to, no deep thinking to draw upon, no great themes to puzzle over. Mindless reading may be good for a day at the beach, but a steady diet of it will stultify the brain just like empty calories and high sugar content will create sluggish little bodies.

Challenge  your child to read great literature. I have all sorts of good suggestions here. Give your child the wonderful struggle of good over evil, the theme that every conscience dwells on daily. Give them deep subjects to wrestle with, reaching slightly over their age level once in a while. Read to them from the non-abridged versions of classic literature and let their little imaginations soar. Once they get accustomed to a diet of rich literature, that junky, formulaic romance will no longer hold any sway.

Just like a good diet, though, you certainly don’t want to slip into old habits of sugary, fatty nonsense. Fill your bookshelf with classics that fire the imagination. Start them early with great selections from AA Milne, Shel Silverstein, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lucy Maud Montgomery, CS Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and more. Keep them going on that once they can read on their own. When they’re older, tantalize them with JK Rowling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters. And once they have consumed all of this, they are ready for the really big guns: Victor Hugo, Ayn Rand, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, and more.

Why challenge their sweet little minds? Why not let them just read what they want? Because, left to their own devices, they will slink away to a corner and eat french fries and chocolate bars all day long. Left to their own devices, they will read Captain Underpants until their minds turn to fat, sweaty mush. Left to their own devices, they are suddenly age 17, wondering why they can’t pass their SAT tests.

Some moms have sweetly told me that while challenging their kids to work hard and well on their schoolwork is a good thing, raising them to be good people in a loving environment is much more important. I will always look those parents in the eye (figuratively, since I am speaking to them from the blogosphere) and remind them that one of the most loving things they can do is to teach their children hard work done well–a skill that will last them a lifetime, no matter what they do in their lives.

See related posts here and here.

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Daring to be mediocre

I recently attended a homeschool convention, one of the largest in the country. While I noticed many of the usual things–moms with rolling carts and rows of little heads following behind, little boys carrying wooden swords, little girls donning brightly colored…um…aprons and bonnets–I also noticed the plethora of educational material being sold to homeschool families. Not all of it excellent.

Yes, that is the purpose of the convention, for sellers to market their wares. And yes, this is an enormous group of homeschoolers ready to purchase next year’s collection of curricular materials. But not–absolutely not–is all of that material well done. Nor does it push students toward excellence. At best, it reaches the merely mediocre.

I’m not sure what came first–the poor curriculum or the parent who didn’t want to buy the best out there. Some of it has to do with money. But some, I am convinced, has to do with not wanting to challenge those little sweet children to work hard and do their best.

As a mom, I have heard my fair share of whining (and not all of it from my children). Plenty of times I have caved to that high-pitched, foot-stamping, grouchy-faced I-don’t-wanna. But not when it really mattered in the big picture. In the big picture, we were there, digging in our heels, telling them they were going to work on that hard math until it was done right. Digging in to tell them to rewrite that essay until it shined. Refusing them a coveted TV show until the science was studied. Withholding car keys until the grade was raised.

And when it mattered, we sacrificed and found them quality education where we could, when we could. In our patchwork quilt of educational choices, sometimes we didn’t always make the right decisions, but we were quick to change course the next year in an effort to find them the challenge they needed. Not all of their challenges were pleasant for them. But in the doing, they pursued excellence, and we pushed for it in them.

I wish I could challenge every homeschooling parent–AND other-schooling parent as well–to buck up and be unafraid to do what’s hard for your child. What is your end goal? It has to be excellence, doesn’t it? I’ve asked that question of many, many parents about their children. Some don’t have an end goal in mind, just keeping their heads down to get through one more year. Enduring the sour scowls and moaning meemies while simplifying the load just to get their children off their backs. I’ve watched them take their children to low-goal-setting homeschool co-ops where well-meaning moms teach subjects they might have once studied themselves. I’ve been asked to teach at such co-ops only to be rejected, told that my style of college-prep writing instruction was too hard for their high school students. They just didn’t want to make their children work that hard.

Set high goals for your students, and keep reaching. Don’t give up. (Real story, honest!) One parent told me, “We had a bad experience back in third grade with an English curriculum, so we haven’t done much writing since then.” How old is your child now? “Seventeen.” And he hasn’t written an essay yet. And he wants to go to college. When was reality going to sink in? At that point it was MY hard job to tell the parent that her son was not going to be ready for college in a year.

(Another real story!) Another parent asked, “Is that class going to be fun? My daughter only wants to take classes that are fun.” How old is your daughter? “Going to be a senior.” You have never challenged your daughter to enjoy the hard work. Remember, sister, that labor was hard when you delivered her? Was the hard work worth it? Of course! Why not allow her to do hard things once in a while, reaping the fruits of such labor as she goes along?

Parents: dare to reach for the excellent, the difficult. Challenge your child to work hard and to enjoy the doing of it. Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” I want to produce in every child that satisfaction of a difficult job well done, having reached higher than he has done before. That’s why I ask my seniors in Rhetoric to write a 15-17-page thesis paper–and then defend it in front of their peers. And they do it well!

I want to see curriculum that stretches the mind and the imagination. Find material that reaches beyond your child’s abilities and urges him to grow. Set the bar high and run beside him as he pushes to get over it. Discard the simple, the “five finger grammar method” or whatever else is cheap and simplistic. Go for the challenge and avoid the mediocre.

See related posts here and here.

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Butchering Grammar 10: Pet peeves and funny mistakes

The average North American consumes more than four hundred Africans.

Wow. A friend sent that sentence to me, and I was afraid for those unfortunate Africans who get consumed.

Unfortunately, astoundingly stupid sentences like this amphiboly get printed, posted, and advertised all too often.

An amphiboly is a fallacy worded strangely so that the meaning of the sentence could get misconstrued. Here is another amphiboly: “Iraqi head searches for arms.”  Note to self: Proofread carefully, and perhaps show what you have written to someone else who might catch your stupid mistakes.

Here’s another: A farmer’s market near my house posted a sign that said “Now Hiring Ripe and Tasty Tomatoes.” I’m not sure what to think about that one.

A couple of pet peeves make their way to the top of my grammar and proofreading list. First is the misuse of the words “who” and “whom.” A book I just finished reading tried to sound very proper, I am sure, by saying “Whom is the one you suspect?” Now unless “Whom” in this case is the name of a character in the novel, the author (and her editor) is guilty of butchering grammar.

“Who” is a subjective pronoun, just like “it,” “we,” “he,” “she,” and “they.” When the pronoun becomes the subject of the clause, “who” is properly used. “Who is the one you suspect?” becomes the clear winner here, because in this case “Who” is the pronoun.

“Whom” is the objective pronoun. It receives the action; this pronoun is the object of the clause. “He is the one whom you suspect.”

I must tell you about another great pet peeve of mine: “I feel.” Too many times each day I hear a politician, a speaker, an entertainer say “I feel it is important to…” This, to me, is a sign of the degradation of our intellect. Really what you’re saying is “I think” or “I believe.” Why can’t you just say that? Possibly because the assertion of your beliefs can be offensive to another person, so you disguise what you believe by saying it is what you feel? That’s pretty wimpy.

It may not surprise you to know that my students are not allowed to tell me what they feel, unless they are describing the state of their health or emotions. If they want to assert a point in my class, they must accompany that point with the correct words: “I believe,” “I think.” Don’t tell me it’s what you feel. “I feel it is important to assert your beliefs clearly and unambiguously.” Gag.

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Butchering Grammar 9: don’t let me catch you doing this

In my previous blog, I mentioned a few grammar slips that make me twitch. (I tell my students that this is all about me anyway, so do NOT make me twitch.) I thought I would give you a few more on my top Pet Peeve list of grammar and usage errors.

The word “although” is often used interchangeably with “however.” However, it should not be mistaken for replacing the “however” I just used at the beginning of this sentence. The word “although” has a couple of uses and one specific way it should NOT get used.

Correct: “I agree with your point, although I can see the other side to the argument.” Use it like however here. It does not need to be surrounded with commas; just the one comma in front, because it is a conjunction.

Incorrect: “Although, I never do agree with you when we argue.” Here it cannot be used as you would the word “however.”

Correct: “Although you and I never agree, I still love you.” Here the conjunction needs a comma after the phrase in which it is used, because you are connecting a dependent and independent clause.

So while “however” can be used to replace “although,” the word “although” cannot be used completely interchangeably with “however.

“Build off of.” Twitching begins here. I do not build an argument OFF of something else; I build an argument ON something else. I’m not sure how this became misused, but I see it more often lately. Think of this as a building problem. I cannot build a bridge off of a foundation; I must build it on a foundation so that it is firmly rooted to the spot.

Affect and Effect. One is a verb, and the other is a subject. “Affect” is the verb: “How did that affect your plans?” “Effect” is the noun: “What effect did that have on your plans?” Very, very rarely is “effect” used as a transitive verb, and in that case it means “to make happen or to bring about.” “I had hoped to effect a change in your writing by introducing these twitchy grammar problems.”

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