Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop

By Jeff Anderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction

To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as [Thank
God its Friday] (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only
of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive [its]
(no apostrophe) with the contractive [it's] (with apostrophe) is
the unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple
Pavlovian [kill] response in the average stickler.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves

It's fair to say we don't often hear an encouraging, tolerant tone toward grammar and mechanics errors in society or in many classrooms. [Grammar and mechanics are to be done correctly or not at all] is more often the underlying message. What about experimentation? Play? Approximation? Grammar and mechanics shape meaning, and as in all language endeavors, we must make mistakes to move toward correctness. Where's the bridge between getting started and stretching with grammar and mechanics and being wrong?

Let's get one thing straight. I am not a grammarian, nor am I punctilious about much. I've never been a language maven or even a stickler. My desk is piled high and every surface in my room is covered with papers and books. When I was a new teacher, I followed the three cardinal rules of effective writing instruction that I learned from Peter Elbow: write, write, write. Still do. As a new teacher committed to teaching reading and writing workshops, I knew that I wasn't supposed to use grammar books or worksheets, even though everyone seemed to. Still don't.

-3-

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