National Grammar Day. How exciting!
Wait, that may not be grammatically correct. Are those sentence fragments? Should I avoid using an exclamation point? Let me try again.
Isn’t it exciting that today is National Grammar Day?
I almost missed the big event, and my students would have, too. Thank goodness that Sandy Woodcock, director of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, sent an e-mail to the Journalism Education Association listserv about the event, and my colleague Judy Robinson then sent me an e-mail that I read on my iPhone as I walked to class.
I announced to my class today that this was an exciting day. I then showed them Grammar Girl’s Web site with “Celebrate National Grammar Day!”
Laughs and a few groans.
This is a class that is serious about the importance of grammar. The students write every week, and every week they are graded not only on writing style (i.e., news story, personality profile, news release), content and organization but on grammar, spelling and Associated Press style. Points are deducted for every error.
As our state-mandated testing for public schools (the FCAT — Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) does not include an emphasis on grammar, many students arrive at the University of Florida with a limited knowledge of grammar rules. Students in Writing for Mass Communication often apply the “if it’s a long sentence, put in a comma when you take a breath” rule. Another strategy is to use a comma before every “and” or “but.”
We spend time in every writing lab working on grammar — worksheets, analyzing the grammar errors the students made in the previous week’s writing, etc. The students have “When Words Collide” for reference. After receiving their graded writing, most students analyze every grammatical error they made.
By this point in the semester, they are making comments like, “I think I need a comma here because I’m using an introductory phrase” or “I need a hyphen because this is a compound modifier.” Really music to our ears as instructors.
So when I announced this was National Grammar Day, the students smiled and laughed.
A few even wrote down the URL to order a National Grammar Day T-shirt.