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It's September and students of all ages are heading back to school. But why is it back to school and not back to the school or back to schools? Certainly if I were to write about one specific school, I would write the school. If I were talking about schools as a category, I can say schools.  Continue reading...
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I have to admit that two of the biggest areas in which I struggle as a teacher are instructing grammar and punctuation. Long ago, I didn't seem so frustrated, but like cursive handwriting, grammar and punctuation have become lost in the shuffle.  Continue reading...
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As a teacher of English as a foreign language, I've developed a bit of an aversion to adjectives. Show me too many and I break out into a prolonged, painful and unpleasant rash. Or should that be painful, prolonged and unpleasant? Or...?  Continue reading...
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Neither you nor I set the "rules" of English; we do it together, by using words in certain ways. But we do learn certain "rules," and we can either remember them, forget them, or ignore them. For example, most of us learned that "neither" and "nor" were a pair, like Lucy and Ricky, or peanut butter and jelly.  Continue reading...
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This summer, I've been looking at zombie rules, false grammar rules taught and followed slavishly with little thought. Today, I'll kill three final zombies: the split infinitive, hopefully, and singular they. They're style rules — albeit awkward ones — that are lumbering around as grammar rules.  Continue reading...
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The long-running battle between descriptivists and prescriptivists involves many arguments about whether particular points of usage are right or wrong. Plenty of arguments boil down to "Just because everybody does it doesn't make it right!" I've occasionally asked, "So what would make it right?" but I've never received a real answer.  Continue reading...
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Last month, I introduced the idea of a zombie rule: a false grammar rule that is taught and followed slavishly as though it were the real thing. Like their namesakes, these rules have no life in them, but they keep returning no matter how many times their true form is revealed.  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 183 Articles