Entries from June 2008 ↓

Jane’s grammar nugget: Not your grandma’s grammar!

Jane StrausJane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, is back as a guest at our blog. Today, Jane has stopped in to help us modernize Grandma’s grammar! Jane says:

“As if it isn’t enough that computers have influenced just about every area of our lives, you’d think that something as sacred as the English language would remain immune to technology’s pressures. Not so. You may not need to learn new rules of grammar as often as you need to update your computer’s RAM, but tweaking your grammar skills will make you look more professional, and you can impress your friends and colleagues with some cutting-edge reasoning.”

Spaced Out

One or two spaces between sentences after a period?

Professional printers who set material in proportional fonts have always used only one space after ending punctuation marks such as the period. However, original typewriters had monospaced fonts, so two spaces were used to make the text more legible. Most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just ONE space after a period, colon, or any other ending punctuation mark. You will not be struck by lightning, I promise!

Questionable Marks

Quotation marks and punctuation

In Grandma’s day, a period used with quotation marks followed logic:

    Example: Myrtle said the word “snarfblatt”.

The period went outside the quote because only the last word was in quotation marks, not the entire sentence.

    Example: Myrtle said, “I would never say that.”

The period went inside the quotation mark because the entire sentence is a quote.

Today (actually for the last 30 years or so), the period always goes inside the quotation mark in American English.

    Example: Myrtle said the word “snarfblatt.”

This does not follow logic, but it makes life easier for professional editors and for the rest of us who have enough to think about besides punctuation.

Warning: If you write a quotation in England, ignore this advice. Logic is still followed on that side of “the Pond.”

We’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe

Since Grandma’s day, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form. Memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda. Yet other words still retain their original length, spelling, and plural form: curriculum and curricula.

With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now normally used in both the singular and plural form.

    Examples: The data are being tabulated. The data is useful to the scientists.

Just Because

In Grandma’s day, you would be scolded if you started a sentence with but or because. But you wouldn’t have deserved that scolding then or now. Just make sure that if you start a sentence with either of these two words, you are following them with complete thoughts.

    Good Examples: But she would never say such a thing. Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen.
    Bad Examples: But I can’t. Because I said so.

These are incomplete thoughts, and you will get your knuckles rapped with a ruler for writing them.

Reprinted by permission of Jane Straus, author of the bestselling The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, from her free Grammarbook.com e-newsletters and blogs.

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From Kim

Thanks again to Jane for sharing from her wealth of knowledge!

We love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Pack. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here. And to read more of Jane’s Grammar Nuggets, type “Jane” in the search box above.

The improtnace of slef-edintig

The Phomnnaeil Pwoer of the Hmuan Mnid

Aoccdrnig to rscheaerch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are. The olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Pttrey azmanig, ins’t it?

Tihs is why WirteSohp bevelies so stonrgly in teh slef-edintig prcoses! We encrougae sutednts to raed thier ruogh drfats oevr and oevr aigan to mkae srue tehy dno’t msis ayninthg.

Hepfull hntis

  • It rlleay hleps if wrtiers raed thier pragrapahs bckaarwd bcaseue, wehn tehy do, they are froecd to raed evrey sgnile wrod. It’s eisaer to fnid “to be” wrdos, rpeaeted wodrs, and eevn sellping eorrrs.
  • Anthoer vabulale tool is raednig aluod wrod for wrod. Aigan, it hleps sutdntes ctach mroe erorrs wehn they hvae to raed each wrod invidlliduay.

The iompartnt thnig is tihs: Encuorgae yuor chldiern to tkae thier tmie and not rsuh thougrh thier edintig. Tehy wlil see a dffirecene!

Photo: Peter López, courtesy of Creative Commons.

World of Animals StoryBuilders

What’s this?

A curious porcupine hears, “Help! Save him!” . . . and it’s coming from the pantry? A forgetful robin flies into a car and gets separated from his family? What kid wouldn’t love to write a story filled with such intrigue, mystery, humor, or whimsy?

Continue reading →

Win a set of Vision Forum DVDs!

Vision ForumMy friend Molly Evert is holding a contest on her blog for the month of June with an awesome prize! She’s giving away a complete set of Vision Forum’s Reclaiming the Culture DVDs. This set of teaching DVDs normally retails at over $100.

The contest is a pretty simple scavenger hunt. It shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes to find the answers. Rules for the contest are on her blog  http://www.counterculturalmom.blogspot.com, so pop on over and join the fun!

How to write poems of comparison

poems of comparison, figurative language, imagery, descriptive, simile, metaphor, personification, poetic devices Figurative language contains images. To add interest, make things clearer, or create a word picture, a poet often describes something through the use of unusual comparisons. Similes, metaphors, and personification are examples of figurative language used in poems of comparison.


Similes compare two unlike things that have something in common, using the words like or as to make the comparison. A simile says This is like That or This behaves as That does.

Example: Emeralds are as green as grass, a ruby red as blood

(from “Flint” by Christina Rossetti)


Metaphors also compare two unlike things, but without the words like or as. Metaphors simply say This is That.

Example: The night is a big black cat / The Moon is her topaz eye

(from “The Night Is a Big Black Cat” by G. Orr Clark)


Personification gives human traits, characteristics, or qualities to a non-human subject.

Example: I thought I heard the city crying in its sleep

(from “Foghorns” by Lilian Moore)

Below is an example of how poems of comparison combine some of these poetic devices.  See if your children can identify the following:

  • Simile
  • Examples of personification
  • Vivid verbs
  • Strong adjectives

night forest, poems of comparison, figurative language, imagery, descriptive, simile, metaphor, personification, poetic devices, poetryThe Night Forest

Wild and scary, like a nightmare,
Darkness hovers over the ancient forest.
Trees moan weakly
As the wailing wind
Teases their black branches.
Tall pines lift gnarled arms upward
Waiting for the peace of dawn.

Directions for Writing Poems of Comparison

  1. Write a poem using a combination of similes, metaphors, and personification.
  2. Be sure to use descriptive imagery, including bold, colorful words. Your thesaurus will definitely help!
  3. Your poem does not have to rhyme.
  4. Do not write your poem in paragraph form. Write individual lines.
  5. Begin each line with a capital letter. Look at the example above to see how this is done.

Topic ideas for poems of comparison

  • a kitchen appliance, like a toaster or mixer
  • beach or ocean or waves
  • a howling wind or a gentle breeze, a rainstorm or blizzard
  • mountains or hills or a field or meadow
  • trains
  • storm clouds
  • rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls
  • a season (summer, fall, winter, spring)
  • a spring sky filled with big fluffy clouds
  • a kind of animal


  • How does my subject look like a person?
  • How does my subject act like a person?
  • What can I compare my subject to? What can my subject be? What can it be like?

Idea: When writing poems of comparison, compare your subject to a color, a smell, a taste, an animal, a machine, or a vehicle.

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Is your child perpared?

This is a bad sign . . . literally AND figuratively!

Grammar tips: Is it I or me?

Is it I or me? Do you think "I" sounds refined while "me" sounds common or uneducated? These grammar tips will help you use each one correctly!

Is it or me? As children, we were so often corrected for misusing me that many of us think I is always right while me has become the evil impostor.

When we would say, “Me and Rebecca are going to the store,” it’s likely that someone drilled into our young heads: Rebecca and I. Rebecca and I. Rebecca and I.

Which Is It: I or Me?

We’ve been led to believe that me sounds common or uneducated, so we overcorrect by saying: Can Sean go to the ballgame with Mark and I? Join Dad and I for breakfast tomorrow. This gift is from you and I.

But contrary to popular belief, I isn’t always refined, educated, OR correct.  Continue reading →

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