Dear Dr. Linda,
I’m not one to criticize—at least I try not to—so how do I tell my son and daughter-in-law and my granddaughter, a freshman in high school, that she needs to learn grammar? Her writing is atrocious! She speaks well but when I read her papers, I’m in shock. I’m not a retired English teacher, but I know enough to be concerned that she will not know how to write a paper with correct grammar by the time she finishes high school.
Dear Concerned Grandma,
Your email couldn’t have been timed better! March 4th is National Grammar Day. It was created by Martha Brockenbrough to encourage the use of correct grammar in both verbal and written language.
Grammar is a set of rules for understanding language—any language. It includes punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, parts of speech, spelling, tenses and more. It is essential to know the rules of grammar in order to communicate orally or in writing.
It used to be a major part of the educational system. Even if it still is a major part, texting ignores most of the rules. Therefore, students brought up texting will not be practicing good grammar. In fact, it’s probably pretty low on their list of important information to learn. They may never think about it.
Here’s a little quiz you can give your granddaughter to learn what she actually knows. If she does well, it means that she has learned many of the rules of grammar, but either ignores them or forgets to use them when writing. Why? Because we don’t always use them when texting.
How’s Your Grammar?
1. Which is a complete sentence? a) A number of people; b) The gaggle of geese; c) Jane ate the apple. d) Some plants
2. Which word is the subject of the sentence? The museum specializes in art from Greece. a) Greece; b) art; c) specializes; d) museum
3. Which word is the predicate of the sentence? The museum specializes in art from Greece. a) Greece; b) art; c) specializes; d) museum
4. How many nouns are in this sentence? The airplane flew over houses, towers and bridges. a) 3; b) 4; c) 1; d) 2
5. Which word in this sentence is a common noun? Sally lives near the ocean. a) Sally; b) near; c) lives; d) ocean
6. Which word in this sentence is a proper noun? Sally lives near the ocean. a) Sally; b) near; c) lives; d) ocean
7. Which word in this sentence is a pronoun? He lives near the Hudson River. a) Hudson; b) he; c) lives; d) River
8. Which word in this sentence is a verb? Jack and Jill went up the hill. a) went; b) up; c) hill; d) the
9. What tense is the word “went” in Jack and Jill went up the hill? a) present tense; b) future tense; c) past tense; d) all of the above
10. Which word in this sentence is the adjective? Funny Fanny makes everybody laugh. a) Fanny; b) everybody; c) funny; d) makes.
11. Which word in the sentence is a compound word? Max wanted to win the goldfish at the fair. a) goldfish; b) Max; c) fair; d) wanted
12. Which word uses a prefix in the sentence? Would you please retell the story? a) you; b) retell; c) would; d) please
13. Which two words are homonyms? a) sea see; b) too two; c) waist waste; d) all the above
14. Which word is the adverb in the sentence? Aunt Jane spoke softly. a) Aunt; b) Jane; c) spoke; d) softly
15. Which word is the preposition in the sentence? Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue went into the store. a) Uncle; b) Joe; c) into; d) store
16. Which word is the conjunction in the sentence? Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue went into the store. a) and; b) the; c) into; d) store
17. Which word is the helping verb in the sentence? Jack and Jill are helping the farmer. a) helping; b) are; c) Jack; d) Jill
18. Which punctuation mark is used to separate a series of adjectives in a sentence? a) comma; b) period; c) question mark; d) exclamation point
19. A word or group of words that expresses strong feelings is called a) a conjunction; b) interjection; c) question; d) none of the above
20. What punctuation marks do you put before and after the exact words of a speaker? a) quotation marks; b) colon; c) period; d) dash
Answers: 1) c; 2) d; 3) c; 4) d; 5) d; 6) a; 7) b; 8) a; 9) c; 10) c; 11) a; 12) b; 13) d; 13) d; 14) d; 15) c; 16) a; 17) b; 18) a; 19) b; 20) a
Since there’s 20 questions, count each as five points. If she misses more than 7 questions, that means she received a 65%. You may suggest at that point that your son or daughter-in-law contact her English teacher to find out if grammar will be taught at some point. If they find out that it has been taught, and others are doing fine, they may consider going online or hiring a tutor to help her brush up.