From Struggling Writer to Solid Writer and Beyond

As an English teacher, I have a strategy that usually works for struggling and reluctant writers. If they claim to not be able to write something, I ask them to tell me the story or response to address the prompt. Then, after they tell me a sentence or two, I repeat it back to a student and tell him to write it down. Kid says,

Messy Subjects and Verbs

This morning, as I worked with my kids at school, I realized just how often subjects and verbs get complicated and mismatched. This happens most frequently when you have more than one noun in the subject in the sentence. Consider the following: One of the boys jump over the fence. One of the boys jumps over the fence. Which one is correct? Let’s dissect them

Yay! It’s Yeah and Yea!

This is driving me crazy. I just got an email with the subject, “Yeah a Birthday Baby is Born”. I’m not sure the sender (who is not known for her grammatical prowess) meant to sound as sarcastic as the teenagers we teach, but to someone who knows the difference between “yeah”, “yea” and “yay”, she did. And just what is the difference? If you don’t

Slang and Other Nonsense in the English Language

There was a request in the comments of a previous post about understanding and using more idioms in the English language. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to dig into some of the slang and other odious expressions we bandy about – you know, the crap we say – or the words we speak that really don’t make much sense. A quick warning – if

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here. Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here! I’ll admit I’ve used it in the classroom more than a few times although I don’t know how much good Schoolhouse Rock really does to teach teenagers anything about the parts of speech. Don’t know what I’m talking about when I refer

Message to Non-Native Writers: Market Yourself, Not Your Country

I just spent more than thirty minutes looking for an example to use in this post. The original plan was to take a comment or sales thread from a popular internet forum and point out some areas where the English phrasing could be improved to make this series a bit more “real-world”. I’ve abandoned that plan for the moment because I noticed a bigger problem

Pronouns, Antecedents and Other Quirks

Here’s one you don’t think about all the time – do your pronouns match your antecedents? Consider the following sentence I used today in class: The squirrel attacked him, and he was frightened. Yes, yes – the old attacking squirrel trick. Subject aside, the pronouns are words like him and he. The antecedent in this case is the squirrel or an anonymous him. That’s the

Everyone Get Their Red Pen – This Is a Big One!

It’s easy to get frustrated with the complexities of the English language, especially when it becomes clear that many native speakers still struggle with certain words and phrases. How is a non-native speaker supposed to handle herself with the language when the supposed experts can’t? So native and non-native English speakers alike – be aware of this (very) common usage problems: “Their” means MORE than

ESL Discrimination: Real or Ridiculous?

Non-native writers face discrimination online. Much of this negativity come for failing to write English “properly” – at least according to prospective clients. Looking been around various forums and markets, I’ve come across more than a few exclusionary advertisements about “native English speakers only” and such. Is there a reason so many jobs are asking for native English speakers only? Absolutely – and I’ll tell