The English Building Block Most Kids Are Missing

English Building Block Most Kids Are MissingWhen you’re trying to teach kids higher English skills, it can be really frustrating when they are fundamental skills they simply don’t have. In my experience, the English building block most kids are missing is an understanding of clauses.

The Clause: English Building Block & Gamechanger

Defining Characteristics of Clauses

Since this is a blog for writers, I’m assuming that most of you already know what clauses are (English-wise). On the off chance that you don’t, however, here’s a brief description of the most important distinctions:

  • A clause must always have both a subject and a verb.
    • Independent Clause = a complete thought that can stand on its own
    • Dependent Clause = an independent clause with an added word in front of it

Yes, a dependent clause is an incomplete thought, but recognizing the conjunction or adverb that turns the independent clause into a dependent clause is really useful. See, students can’t always tell when something is an incomplete thought. They can, however, tell when the word “because” is in front of a subject and verb (more often, anyway).

Here’s an example:

  • Independent Clause (IC): He traveled forty-five miles in the driving rain.
  • Dependent Clause (DC): After he traveled forty-five miles in the driving rain.

The first one is a whole sentence. The second one is a fragment until or unless an independent clause is added to the end of it.

After he traveled forty-five miles in the driving rain (DC), he decided to not even try to drive the rest of the way that night (IC).

Why Is Knowing Clauses Important?

Some people will tell you that knowing clauses is important because it helps you to recognize the different types of sentence structures. While that’s true (the sentence structures are defined by the number and types of clauses in the sentence), naming the type of sentence structure isn’t particularly useful unless you’re going to be teacher English Language Arts or making your career in linguistics.

In which case, I sincerely hope that you don’t struggle with identifying clauses.

The reason I want all my students to be able to write and recognize clauses is that you cannot know punctuation rules well without them. You can’t. Where commas go, where semicolons are needed, where colons can be used – all these rules rely on whether something is a clause or a phrase, what type of clause it is, and where the clause/phrase is in the sentence.

Without understanding those punctuation rules, students are effectively left guessing or following rules given to them in lower grades that are only true sometimes.

For example, in younger grades, students are often told to put a comma in front of “and.” That’s only true if the “and” is part of a list (if you were taught the Oxford comma), or there is an independent clause after “and.”

To prove my point, the punctuation in each of the following sentences is correct:

  • We went to the movie theatre, the ice cream parlor, and the book store.
  • The number of parties on campus are increasing and seem to be causing a drop in grades.
  • Tim and his friend went to the pet store, and they immediately left after catching a glimpse of the tarantula in the clerk’s hand.

So… sometimes, the student would be right and other times, not. If the student’s teacher likes the Oxford comma, the student has a 2/3 chance of being right. If the student’s teacher hates the Oxford comma, the student has a 1/3 chance of being right.

The worst part of this is that the student has no idea why following this rule is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

This problem is most obvious when students are supposed to edit something. Anyone can (and will) make punctuation mistakes when writing. Students who don’t know these rules, however, have nothing to go on when looking for errors. They can’t find them because they don’t know where to put the commas, semicolons, or colons in the first place.

And, you know what? Those same rules can help the students understand reading passages better.

That’s why knowing clauses is important, and that’s why it’s so frustrating that most kids are missing this essential English building block. If we want kids to be able to write and punctuate effectively, we need to figure out how to fix this.

Any ideas?


Up With Which I Will Not Put: Not a Winston Churchill Quote

Nope. “This is just the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put,” is not a Winston Churchill quote according to quote investigator. We have been mislead yet again by the internet (well, it actually started with newspapers and such).

On the other hand, it’s an excellent example of why I’m not a big fan of trying to make English conform to Latin rules (AKA avoid ending with a preposition). It really shows how horribly awkward sentences can get when you try to use a common phrase (“put up with”) without ending with a preposition.

Sooo awkard…

What I like best about this quote, however, is how it shows the humor long associated with this debate. And, really, read the quote investigator article for quite a few variations on the story, its set up, and how newspaper men apparently didn’t get it (because they ruined the punchline).

All that aside, it might also remind you of some traditional blonde jokes and various other forms of a tongue-in-cheek protest of this Latin rule.

The older form (including the “up with which I will not put” story) goes like this:
  1. A job or work context is given, and within that, someone (usually in management) sends out a message that ends with a preposition.
  2. A reply to that statement mocks its lack of grammatical correctness.
  3. The original speaker replies to the insult with a sentence that deliberately avoids using the preposition at the end and results in an overly elaborate and, therefore, humorous response (Oh, the irony!).

This is the format of the Winston Churchill story (which is apparently false), several versions set in the military, and more.

The new form varies in the aggressiveness of the response:
  1. A person asks a stranger a question that ends in a preposition (usually something along the lines of “Where are you from?”).
  2. Instead of answering the question directly, the stranger scornfully scoffs at the use of a preposition at the end of the sentence.
  3. The original person re-asks the question and uses direct address with an insult (usually a curse word) to keep the preposition from being at the end of the sentence (“Where are you from, b*%$?”).

Did you realize what that means?

There are actually traditional forms of jokes about this preposition rule. Multiple ones!

Now, that’s funny.

Of course, so is “up with which I will not put.” Even if Winston Churchill didn’t say it.

Learning Direct and Indirect Objects from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If you haven’t read, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I highly recommend it – it’s a great children’s book. It’s also a useful tool to begin learning direct and indirect objects.

How to Use Direct Objects and Indirect Objects

First, I’d like to break down an action into two parts: cause and effect. The cause would be the subject (the one doing or starting the action), and the effect would be the object (the one that feels the result of the action).

Direct Object

A direct object is the thing or person that the verb controls. Depending on the verb, the direct object could be moved, struck, passed, lifted, etc. The action is happening to that object (but it will NEVER be directly after the word “to”!).

“If you give a mouse a cookie…”

You (subject) are giving (verb) the mouse a cookie. The cookie is being given, so “cookie” is the direct object.

Indirect Object

The indirect object is the thing or person that receives the direct object.

“If you give a mouse a cookie…”

You’re giving the cookie (direct object) to the mouse, so “mouse” is the indirect object.

Notice that you can reword the indirect object by moving it after the direct object and putting “to” in front of it. For example, “If you give a cookie to a mouse…”

Since this works without changing the meaning, we know that we have identified the correct indirect object*.

Why This Book?

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is the type of book that follows a pattern. That means that the sentences on each page are fairly similar. Most of the pages involve statements where very little changes except the direct object. That makes identifying the direct object simpler when starting out, so it’s a good way to start learning to recognize them in sentences.

Make sense?

*Once “to” is in front of “a mouse,” “mouse” becomes the object of the preposition and is no longer an indirect object (technically).

How to Recognize Logical Fallacies by Type

How to Recognize Logical Fallacies by TypeWith all the ridiculous reasoning being thrown around the news, internet, and more, I’m constantly reminded that people don’t recognize logical fallacies. With each reminder, I’d start thinking, maybe, if more people knew how to recognize logical fallacies (& resist), there’d be less bad reasoning in the world.

So I thought I’d write an article about a handful of extremely important logical fallacies. I’ve done it before for work, so why not?

Then, I started researching (I didn’t want to miss a really important logical fallacy simply because I didn’t think of it right off the top of my head). And I found out that there are waaaay too many logical fallacies for me to try to cover in an article! Seriously. I wrote down 104 that I might want to cover (not including duplicates with different names), and I skipped quite a few from each site I looked at (such as “The Master List of Logical Fallacies,” “The Skeptics Guide to Logical Fallacies,” “The Logical Fallacies Handlist,” and even the Purdue OWL article on Logical Fallacies).

The more I read, the more I started to see patterns – links between different logic errors. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe instead of encouraging people to memorize or even learn to recognize ALL logical fallacies (or even the main ones), what if I talked about those commonalties. Seeing the underlying motives of the fallacies might be just as helpful as being able to call out each error by name.

Plus, it could be useful for characterization and plotting, so win-win, right?

Recognize Logical Fallacies by What They Do

After looking at a lot of logic errors back-to-back, it seems like they all have one of two purposes: to distract from the facts or cause commotions with your emotions (or both).

Distraction & Redirection

When a magician doesn’t want you to see his trick, he directs your focus elsewhere. These logic problems do the same thing – they move your attention away from the facts that might make you disagree. They can do this by subtly switching the topic, distracting you with emotion, skipping a step (or 3), or playing with words.

Topic Changes You Never Even Notice

There are a lot of logical fallacies that allow people to change the topic while pretending that they’re not changing the topic. Yeah. It’s really infuriating if you catch them at it, but, unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Red Herring: responding with a fact that seems important but isn’t really related to the argument
  • Straw Man: oversimplifying the opponent’s argument to defeat it makes you seem like you’ve won, but you weren’t actually defeating their argument – you were defeating the oversimplified version.
  • Faulty Analogy: a good analogy helps explain something. A faulty analogy works about the same way as a Straw Man argument because it makes you think you’re arguing against one thing when really you’re arguing against something else.
  • Overgeneralization: Like the others, this statement can be true, but it’s usually too general to justify making a decision based off of it or to defeat the opposition. Since it is true, however, sometimes it’s seen as a winning statement regardless of those other pesky details (*sigh*). Interestingly, it’s also known as a cognitive distortion (thinking errors that can effect your world view and emotional health).
  • Calling “Cards”: this is like saying that someone is playing the “race card” or “gender card,” which suddenly changes the argument to whether the person is pretending there’s an issue to get his/her way rather than the argument of the issue itself.

There are many, many more. To catch them, though, pay attention to whether the statement is actually 100% relevant to the argument or has the strength to prove the point. Looking for examples where the argument isn’t true or scale differences (like 1 side arguing that disabled vets should have ways to get help through government aid, and the other side arguing that people should work for a living – the second side is arguing a much larger scale, so it’s not directly arguing against the specific situation).

Making It a Personal or Emotional Issue

Yes, this could fall under the “playing with your emotions group”; however, there are times when the subject is changed through an unrelated point that pulls on people’s heart strings enough that it feels both related and significant.

  • Patriotic Ad Populem: linking an action with patriotism or being against patriotism when patriotic feeling is not actually part of the equation
  • Ad Hominem: attacking the person instead of the topic (and suddenly they’re trying to defend themselves instead of their position)
  • Appeal to Tradition: although “It worked before,” doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better way, it can feel like it does. In reality, the argument about whether it worked before is a different argument than whether there is a better way for the future.
  • Measurability: This changes the topic of the argument by saying that something isn’t measurable; therefore, it is not important (which is not grounded in fact but emotion).
  • Tone Policing: “You’re being emotional.” Yes, and? That doesn’t devalue the points the person has made. It’s also not always/often true.

These are particularly hard to counter because they can feel important even though they’re not motivated by logic.

Skip That

Skipping facts that argue against you, jumping straight to say a conclusion when you don’t have the facts to back it up, etc. If you’re not paying close attention or don’t know a topic very well, it can be really easy to miss the fact that someone glossed over a few steps to make an argument.

Sometimes, people think the step is so obvious that they don’t have to say it (but they really do need to). Other times, people drop the facts on purpose.

Doubletalk and Trickery

Then, there’s when people play with the words and the word meaning to confuse the issue and trick people into believing something. This is stereotypically thought of with lawyers and politicians, yet anyone can use it.

  • Equivocation: using a different definition of a word than the other person did to make the original argument seem flawed
  • Loaded Question: closely related to passive aggressiveness, this asks a person a seemingly-simple question that assumes something negative about them. Like, “Have you stopped drinking too much?”
  • Circular Reasoning: when the support for your argument is really the same as the argument – it just uses different words. Some people do this and don’t even know, especially school kids. “Drugs are bad because illegal substances have negative effects,” is basically saying the same thing twice. There’s no support.
  • Passive Voice Fallacy: using passive voice to shift attention. Like talking about “the book was stolen” rather than “he stole the book.” One shifts the attention to the theft, the other to the thief (also associated with victim shaming).
  • Moving the Goalpost: “I’ll admit your product is better if it can do x.” The product does x. “Oh, well, it really needs to do y to be better.”

These tactics bother me more than many because they feel more deliberate – let’s be sneaky and change the topic with my language skills because I know I can’t defeat your points. It’s also the annoying habit of some of my teenage students, so that could be part of my dislike, as well.

Playing with Your Emotions

In addition to the distraction tactic above that tugs on your heart strings, there are plenty of logical fallacies that use emotional appeals to try to override facts and logic. The most common reasons are to alarm, excuse an action, or rile the emotions so much that reason is virtually impossible.

Scare Tactics

Yes, “scare tactics” is a specific fallacy. At the same time, it’s a really good way to describe this general tactic of alarming people into belief.

Here are some other examples:

  • Slippery Slope: a small negative act will soon and inevitably lead to a much worse, end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it type action
  • Misleading Statistic: this has a bit of distraction in it – it’s using a statistic to scare someone through their ignorance or lack of context (Over half of the people in this study died within weeks! Granted, there were only three people…)
  • Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.
  • Argument ad baculum: using a threat of force to get your way (like threatening to fire someone if they don’t do x, y, or z unreasonable demand)

Unfortunately, scaring people into belief works. Equally unfortunately, people either don’t feel there’s anything wrong with using these or don’t recognize them as incorrect (because they get forwarded around the internet a lot).

Excuses, Excuses

You know how kids always have excuses for their behavior even when they know (or knew to start with) that the behavior is wrong? Yeah. Apparently, people don’t really grow out of this. They just find new, more socially acceptable ways to try to falsely justify their behavior.

  • Appeal to Heaven: “It’s God’s will.” (Always followed in my mind with “He told me so. Yesterday. At lunch.”)
  • Appeal to Nature: “It’s unnatural.”
  • Default Bias: we can’t change anything, so there’s no reason to try.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error: “It’s ok when I don’t do the chores because I’m tired, but when you don’t do them, you’re just being lazy” (also known as hypocrisy).
  • Moral Licensing: “It’s ok to do this bad thing because I did a good thing earlier.”
  • Moral Superiority: “He deserved it.” OR “She deserved it.”
  • Appeal to Privacy: “what I do in private is my business” (even if it involves, say, murder).
  • Sending the Wrong Message: “We can’t do that because it would send the wrong message to ____.”
  • Silent Majority Fallacy: a lot of people agree with me even if they don’t say so (and they don’t)
  • Venting/Locker-Room Talk: “He didn’t really mean it. It was just locker-room talk.”
  • Diminished Responsibility: “I was really tired, or I wouldn’t have done it.”

Yep. Lots and lots of excuses that don’t actually justify the behavior at all. Beware these errors!

Trigger Words

I know that people have heard a lot about trigger words and safe environments lately (a discussion that’s sadly included too many logically fallacies), so let me clarify what I mean when I use “trigger words.” Basically, I’m talking about words that bring on such a strong emotional response for a group or individual that emotion overrides logic, and any chance of debating a topic with reason is lost.

Do you have any friends that become completely irrational when a certain word or phrase is brought up? For example, maybe, an ex-girlfriend’s name makes Leroy so angry that he can’t stand to hear about any possible reasons behind her behavior (let alone any possibility that he shared any of the blame).

That’s a trigger. Here’s some ways they’re used:

All these amount to is knowing how to push someone’s buttons at the right moment (which, honestly, counts as a different kind of distraction IMHO).

Long story short? Watch out for emotional appeals and logic gaps or tangents. That’s what most logical fallacies are trying to do. 

Is it really that simple? No. Probably not. But if you keep in mind that it isn’t really that simple, the two tactics may work out. As far as I’m concerned, recognizing more logical fallacies is a good thing. Falling for fewer of them is even better.

Any questions?


Old Grammar Rules That Should’ve Died with Latin

Here lies an obsolete grammar rule…

A friend of mine sent me a link to Oxford Dictionaries’ “Can you end a sentence with a preposition?” a few weeks ago. Obviously, I wasn’t horribly curious to hear the answer (having only just read the article). And why not? I already knew the technical answer, and I still didn’t care if anyone ends a sentence with a preposition. I still don’t. In fact, I’d bet you don’t either. And neither does most of the English-speaking world – it’s one of those old grammar rules that is so under-emphasized that I don’t know why we still have it.

That said, as an English-loving person, I read the article anyway (eventually). Ok, ok. To be honest, I skimmed it for interesting tidbits, and I found one. A little-known historical fact that answers a question I’ve felt but never tried to put into words:

Who made up those old grammar rules
and why did *he/they do it?

Now, you know me: I support knowing grammar rules for the simple reason that they give you the tools to shape sentences to create the effect and meaning you want. They’re especially good for making meaning clearer and easier to understand (especially these 5 grammar rules). And in absolute terms, I can sort of see that putting a preposition next to its object should be clearer than separating them. It really should.

But it usually isn’t.

The problem is that we usually separate prepositional phrases when saying the phrase as a whole interrupts the flow of the sentence, requires additional words and phrases, and makes the whole statement downright clunky. That’s not simplifying anything. And it rarely makes the sentence clearer (unless you’re drawing a sentence diagram… you know… for fun.).

So why did they do it? Why did they care about the rule?

Well, according to aforementioned blog post, they did it to follow the rules of Latin. That’s right. They criticized people’s English skills based on Latin rules.

And you thought today’s Grammar police were bad!

Can you imagine criticizing someone’s writing based on a different language system? I mean, I get that English stole its grammar, syntax, and words from a variety of languages, so, yes, it’s got a lot in common with Latin. But still! That’s like judging American football by rugby rules because they have a shared origin (at least, I hope it is… sports aren’t my best thing.)

Long story short, no wonder no one cares anymore! You want me to rewrite this sentence based on the rules of a dead language? Um… no.

Because that’s what Latin is – a dead language. Instructors even had to make up an accent for it because there was no one left to speak it in outside of academia. Yet a tiny handful of people are still judging English on it – telling us not to end sentences with prepositions or not to split infinitives.

And they don’t even know. But they will, right? The next time they try to correct you. 😉

*I assume “he” because of the time period of the rule and the lack of influential female grammarians from that time.

The Most Common Colon Error Ever: Make It Stop!

Colon errors make happy smiley angry

How I feel when I see this colon error

The colon is one of those punctuation tools that people tell you not to use if you’re not sure how to use it correctly. One problem: people think they know how to use it when they don’t. Which leads to the most common colon error ever – and, no, I’m not being as dramatic as you think. I see this colon error every single day, and it drives me crazy.

Wondering what the most common colon error is? Let me give you an example.

The correct way to use a colon never includes:

  • What I just did [coming between a verb and its direct object(s)]
  • Interrupting a thought (especially a sentence)

For some reason, people think that if you have a line that leads up to a list, the line ends with a colon. Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on the line. If the line is a complete sentence, then sure. Use a colon or a period. If the line is only part of a sentence (like the one in the example above), then DON’T USE A COLON!

Yes, colons are used with lists, but colons should not be used after a verb – unless the sentence ends with the verb. A colon should not interrupt a sentence unless quotes are involved (which interrupt the sentence anyway), yet I see this happening over and over again.

So what makes this so hard?

It’s like people remember that colons go with lists, but not the other half of the rule. They think, “It’s a list, and it looks funny to have the word hanging out there by itself without the rest of the sentence to finish it. I know! I’ll add a colon!”


If you want to add anything (if you can’t stand leaving the last word before the list alone by itself before hitting that “Bulleted list” button), add an ellipse. Technically, it’s not necessary, but it is correct.

If you want to use a colon correctly, use…

  • An ellipse instead of a colon after a verb that doesn’t end the sentence (like I just did)
  • A colon after a complete sentence before a list

See that? That’s ok. That’s not a colon error. Here’s another correct way to use a colon.

These are my top colon errors to avoid:

  • Using a colon between a verb and its direct object(s)
  • Interrupting a thought with a colon

Notice how the line before the list is a complete thought – even though it ends with the verb (ok, it’s an infinitive phrase, but to people who don’t remember what that is, it’s a verb). If you replaced the colon with a period, the statement would still make sense.

That’s how you know it’s ok to use the colon. That’s how you avoid making the most common colon error ever.

Got it?

Articles Are Important. Don’t Believe Me? Here Are 3 Examples to Prove It.

Articles: a, an, and the. Three little words that are often overlooked or outright dismissed, especially by math-minded people or people with English as their second language. No, really – I do a lot of editing for writers in both categories, and from experience, I can tell you that both definitely tend to skip articles. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them every time I edit: Articles are important.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it with these 3 examples.

3 Examples to Prove That Articles Are Important

 1. Why “the” is important

To a lot of people, the is a filler word. It’s a word you pronounce differently to sound funny or pretentious. A word you’ve used for so long that you don’t even know its definition. In fact, you’ve probably never even thought if it as having a definition. But it’s a word – of course, it has a definition.

the: a definitive article used to denote that a person, place, or thing is unique

In other words, you use it to indicate that something is special or one-of-a-kind. It’s a way of being specific. And you might be surprised how vital it can be to certain phrases or sentences…

the is important articles are important

Did she tell a secret, or did she simply drop something?

Can you honestly tell me that those two statements mean the same thing? I mean, really, people – that’s a pretty big jump in meaning from putting in or taking out 1 little word!

 2. Why “an” is important

Ok, an doesn’t have as much of a definition going for it. The definition is basically “the definite article used before a word beginning with a vowel.” But it adds so much more meaning than that by helping you distinguish between different options.

Picture a fancy dinner party – you’re talking to a sexy writer for a big-time magazine who, naturally, starts boasting about recent interviews. You hear one of the two statements below…

an is important articles are importantHow would you tell the difference between these two homophones without an? Putting in an unnecessary article can make as dramatic a change as dropping a necessary one (Although, honestly, I’d be more interested in the 2nd statement…).

3. Why “a” is important

A is an‘s counterpart. The other side of its coin. The dark side of its moon. The an for words starting with consonant sounds.

Ok, I’m done.

Seriously though, a is just as important as the other two definite articles. It makes your language more precise and really helps you express yourself clearly. And if you still don’t think articles are important, just wait. I have saved the best example for last, and it is my personal favorite because it very clearly illustrates exactly how valuable the word a is.

a is important articles are important

It’s an important distinction to make. Especially to a police officer.

WIFE: Bail? Why do you need bail?
HUSBAND: I dropped an article.

There you have it: 3 examples to prove that articles are important. They can help you communicate, improve your chances of getting a date, and keep you out of jail.


Ok, ok. They can help you with the first one, which can help you with the other two. You’ll definitely impress English lovers more if you use them correctly (and they’ll laugh at you less). Believe me, writing book, sentence, or even ode without them, doesn’t make most understandable creations in long run.

Any questions?

7 Product Grammar Fails: The Tip of the Iceberg

who rescued who whom

“Whom.” You were trying to say, “Who rescued whom?” It’s a direct object, not a subject.

Maybe, it was the 200th time I saw the pet adoption sticker above and wanted a red marker. Or it could’ve been all the advertising I see that ignores direct address rules. Like every sports ad ever. Whatever the reason, I found myself particularly aware of products with bad grammar this holiday season. Here are 7  product grammar fails that I saw and thought to document from 3 shopping trips (that’s right – 3 trips):

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No wonder people don’t know how to use commas correctly! They see bad grammar everywhere.

It’s bad enough looking at internet posts where anyone can upload anything. There’s no one checking the posts, no quality control. But these are products sold by big companies! They have copyeditors – they should, anyway. I know that the actual manufacturing is usually outsourced as cheaply as possible (often to countries where English grammar is not a common skill), but the designs are still made in-house and should be checked in-house.

In other words, there’s no excuse for this. Either the company was too cheap to hire a copyeditor and trusted their target audience not to care (a probable yet frustrating option), or the copyeditor didn’t know grammar that well (grumble). Neither option is pleasing, and there’s only one thing we can do to fight it: spread the awareness.

Post products with *grammar fails. Correct them so that people learn. So that they are too ashamed to show off products that are missing commas. Better yet, teach them the right way so that they will never buy them. At least, teach them the top grammar rules not to break!

I know. I’m an optimist.

Look at it this way: even if it doesn’t teach everyone, you still get to correct the error virtually. That’s a lot better than getting arrested for vandalism when you paint the comma onto the expensive-yet-grammatically-incorrect billboard, right? It’s definitely less expensive than the hospital bills from the fall when the police bullhorn startles you into falling off (or am I the only klutzy grammar Nazi?).

Think about it. Better yet, start posting photos of products with horrible grammar in the comments! Satisfy your inner grammar Nazi and show the world the right way to write.

*Yes, I know that “grammar fail” is technically a grammar fail – I appease my inner grammar Nazi by considering it slang.

Grammar Humor to Brighten Your Weekend

Want to brighten your weekend? How about some grammar humor?

 1. Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet? Almost. T-shirt

Run, pun! Run!

They get capitalization and punctuation leniency since it’s a pun (because puns naturally break a lot of those rules). Still, I’d be more tempted to buy the t-shirt from etsy if the capitalization were better…

 2. Learn to Cut and Paste Kids

We're going to learn to cut and paste kids. Commas matter.

Ah, Grammarly, an oldie but a goodie. Also, outside of an Adobe Cloud class, never say this as written. 

See! See! Direct address matters! Using correct direct address punctuation can keep you from sounding like a serial killer!

3. The Difference Between Knowing Your Shit And…

Grammar The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit

Whoever wrote this at falls into the first category.

Granted, it’s possible to know your shit and still know you’re shit, but the related emotional problems are a little too deep for a grammar-humor post. Let’s just pretend that if you know your shit, you know you’re not shit (if you’ll excuse my French).

 4. Adjectives vs. Nouns: The Difference a Comma Makes

Toilet only for disabled elderly pregnant children

How does that even work? No. No. Don’t tell me.

So… nobody use this toilet. It’s off limits to everyone who exists within logic and reason. That, or add commas. Commas could work. Articles would help, too.

 5. The Cannons Be Ready, Captain

The cannons be ready Captain. Are.

I have no idea who made this. But whoever it was, hats off to you! (I’ll even overlook the missing direct address comma!)

This is a personal favorite. It’s fairly subtle as puns go, but you know that every time you hear a pirate say, “Arrr” now, you’re going to hear, “Are.” It’s a great example of how to take an old standard and turns it on its ear (AKA the art of the unexpected). Way to go! Now, even pirates can have grammar humor!

And now you’ve had a bit of grammar humor to brighten your weekend. I hope it was worth a smile at least!

Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About Split Infinitives?

You know it’s true. For all that high school Grammar & Composition teachers tried to drill it into us, nobody cares. I’m not even sure the teachers care outside the classroom. Even grammar nazis seem to shrug and look the other way.

In case some of you care so little that you’ve already wiped the error from your mind, here’s how it works.

to + a verb in its infinitive form = an infinitive phrase

For example, “to be,” “to run,” and “to gallivant” are all infinitive phrases. Written like that, they’d be correct (not split). If you stick an adverb in the middle of them, “to humbly be,” “to awkwardly run,” or “to dramatically gallivant,” then they’re split and (technically) incorrect.

So why doesn’t anyone seem to care?

I don’t know (I don’t think anyone can know), but I can theorize. I can theorize that most people don’t know what an infinitive is, let alone an infinitive phrase or a split infinitive. And if they have no clue what it is, why on Earth would they care? (Let alone how…)

Then again, many people don’t know about plenty of other grammar errors, and it drives grammar lovers crazy (homophone errors or direct address, for starters).

So why is it that grammar lovers (or nazis) don’t care about this particular rule?

It can’t be because we split infinitives all the time when we talk – we break plenty of grammar rules when we talk. Most grammar nazis either understand the difference between casual speech and formal speech (especially between spoken and written) or don’t care and get upset about grammar mistakes in either.

The only reason I can think that explains why no one cares about split infinitives is the fact that it doesn’t muddle meaning. It really doesn’t. In English, adverbs can go before or after the verbs they modify, so it isn’t misplacing the modifier. It truly seems to be a rule for the sake of a rule (which, I would argue, is not usually the case).

But, like I said, I don’t know. That’s the only reason I’ve thought of that makes some sense (to me). How about you? Got any ideas?