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March 20, 2007

Some of You Might Want to Tape My Mouth Shut After You Read This

Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Most of us can't remember a time before we learned to punctuate. We perhaps remember learning to read and spell, but not the moment when we found out that adding a symbol '!' to a sentence somehow changed the tone of voice it was read in" (134-135).

This is an excellent point. I remember, at least vaguely, learning both formally and informally how to read and write, but how on earth did I learn to use punctuation properly? So, how did we learn how it affects our writing? I think the idea of a question came pretty easily to us when we were young since kids are naturally curious and often ask a lot of questions, so they easily learn to recognize the types of sentences that need one of these "?" at the end. And we all just knew a period went at the end of any normal statement probably from seeing them in books that were read to us. I suppose exclamation mark usage was probably picked up in very much the same way as we noticed our parents raising their voice anytime they read a sentence with an exclamation point at the end (at least in those lucky enough to experience the pleasure of our parents reading to them when they were little).
Interestingly I do not remember learning punctuation rules formally until high school (I know I must have at some point) but I really can't remember learning punctuation rules in the same way I formally learned to read and write. I wonder if we stop teaching/emphasizing that sort of thing too early. No wonder we all still have trouble using punctuation properly. Honestly! Obviously the world is having a little bit of trouble with it (or Tuss would not have written this delightful little tribute to the sticklers out there).

While I do remember doing grammar lessons in high school, but I know I was always confused about how to use the semicolons and colons and properly and so I think perhaps more time needs to be spent on that in school. At least it needs to be something worked on more consistently, so that students get enough practice. I remember doing grammar exercises in 9th and 11th grade once in a while, but that is all. (And I had the same teacher for those years - one of my favorites actually.) So there was a whole year in between when I wasn't doing anything like that and I think it would have been helpful if I had. Of course, I also think it would be helpful for students to go to school year-round, so maybe I am just off my hinges and everyone will want to tape my mouth shut once I actually do go into education.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at March 20, 2007 3:18 AM


Yeah, grammar really should be taught more in schools, I guess. I've never really had a huge problem with grammar, but I know lots of other people who did. They teach you grammar in elementary schools, and I think they kind of drop it from then on because it's assumed that you've already learned it and then can move on to the more complex concepts of writing. However, grammar (as I've learned from this book) is often a matter of interpretation, with some people using Oxford commas, and others not. Some people want to put "s'" on names that end with "s" and others don't. Grammar evolves, and what the last generation was taught to do in grammar school later falls out of favor. So, maybe grammar isn't as simple as we thought. There are complexities in grammar that ought to be addressed in the higher grades along with all the stuff about strong word choice and showing and not telling.

Posted by: Matt Henderson at March 21, 2007 3:12 PM

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