Dreamt I was the new word bubble grammar fairy. I was responsible for . , : and ;
This was a recent tweet from my friend Diana, who has a super cool webcomic called Sweet & Sour Grapes. Her tweet made me laugh so much that I warned her I’d end up quoting it some time, and now I have. I can’t quite imagine word bubbles with colons or semicolons in them, but I like the funny image of a fairy who dispenses those marks!
Sometimes I feel like the grammar fairy in charge of ; : — ( ) , etc. Only not for speech bubbles. For student writing.
My own experience learning all the punctuation marks was horribly inefficient. I was still picking up random things in college. I can remember exactly which professor went off on a quick tangent to show us about hyphens, and which professor pointed out to me in grad school that my ellipses needed to be spaced apart. If somebody had fed it to me all at once, efficiently and effectively, I would have eaten it up! I didn’t want to look stupid with my ellipses scrunched.
So when I got hired as a graduate instructor, I was totally dismayed when they told us we were pretty much not allowed to teach grammar. They showed us this quote about how it took away too much time from other instruction, and they gave us handbooks that we were supposed to have the students read and take quizzes on.
Can you guess how effective that was?
Anyhow, ever since then I’ve made it my personal mission to find an effective way to give students a repertoire of ; : — ( ) , ” ” ‘ . . . [ ] -, etc, all in one semester. I’ve had successes and set-backs, but I’ve learned a lot about what makes certain teaching methods effective.
I’ve just added a whole section on my teaching page full of pdf files and other useful links about grammar pedagogy, and tomorrow I’m going to show it to college instructors from Idaho, Utah, and Arizona–well, at least any who stop by my session at the TYCA-West conference. Hopefully someone will find the information useful.
I’d love comments about successes others have had–whether as a teacher or a learner–with mastering these conventions.
And if you could be a punctuation fairy, which mark would you dispense most often? For me, it would have to be an em dash. Gosh, I love those things. And a colon would come in a tight second.