Thursday, September 11, 2014

APOSTROPHES (More or Less)
Bills/Bill’s Dog Wagged Its/It’s Tail/Tale
(circle correct words)

Any wonder English is difficult to learn? Let alone speak or write?
Back in the day I taught writing—English composition to the unwary college freshmen who wandered through the halls of academe in my city. Yes, this is the same dreaded Freshman Comp taught in every college and university to prepare newbies for the papers they will have to write in later classes.

My first couple of years were pretty good. I honed my teaching skills on the students whose placement test scores had judged them to be in the middle class—neither gifted nor remedial in their needs. Fine with me. I’m pretty much middle class myself.
Evaluation of their papers was three-fold:

·         Grammar, diction, spelling

·         Development of the idea in the essay (based on my class presentations and their textbook)

·         Overall evaluation of the final product—wholly objective—for the grade
Grammar Bible is on the bottom
We spent little time on Grammar, etc. because they had purchased (a required text) a wonderful new grammar of the English Language, easy to read and comprehend, by Diane Hacker. We worked with the book in one class period to acquaint everyone with how it could be used and how to look up information. It was the English Comp student’s bible.

(I fear it went the way of many a Holy Bible—bought, displayed, never opened. But that’s another story.)
As if often the case, I learned a lot from my students—probably more than they learned from me.

For instance:
·         How many ways can you spell their?

Never had this one tried on me....
·         Is the apostrophe dead?

·         Rules are to be ignored. (Such as—type your papers or have someone type it for you. If it's turned in handwritten, I won’t read it.)

·         Lack of class participation in no way should interfere with one’s grade.

·         Class attendance ditto.
Then I was assigned a remedial class. The requirements were the same as for the regular class, but the level of preparation was much different. We used our grammar bible more diligently. We wrote more practice essays in class; these were shorter and focused on only one part of the writing process. We discussed errors in writing and why they caused a breakdown in communication between writer and reader.

Boy, did I learn a lot in that class.
The title of this post is a parody of the kind of exercises I recall from elementary school English classes (now called Language Arts). I loved those exercises. I could do them in record time, get an easy A, and feel my self-esteem rising within. (I was also good at math problems until about fifth or sixth grade; then that all went pear-shaped. Again, another story.)

I leave you with these thoughts:

·         Bill’s is correct. The apostrophe shows possession.

·         The Dog, however, is a step away from Tail—the pronoun Its shows the dog's possession of a tail without an apostrophe.

·         A Tail is wagged. A Tale is a story.
Another day we’ll tackle the other two uses of an apostrophe (punctuation mark).

Class dismissed.
[By the way, you all get an A for today. Next time we grade your progress.]
Typos count as errors--proofread your work!



  1. I was so lucky it came easily too me. If I'd had to work at it, I'd probably be making terribly worded, spelled, and punctuated posts on Facebook here in my latter years. :-)

  2. So many of the posts are badly written...but I read them anyway!