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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Relaxed State of Grammar Rules

Remember that English teacher who corrected your grammar? It seems that grammar rules have relaxed over the past couple of years. Whether we can attribute changes to social media or today's fast paced society makes little difference, but what does matter is how these changes affect students in our classrooms.

An example of this is the apostrophe "s" ('s) rule. In the last two years there has been a shift to add an extra apostrophe "s" to the ends of words ending in "s". A couple of summers ago, a group of high school and college English teachers met to discuss changes to curriculum. High school teachers informed college instructors that on the new state test, some of the grammar questions were correctly answered using an apostrophe "s" ('s) on words ending in "s". An example was:

Incorrectly written: Chris' bike was red.   
Correctly written: Chris's bike was red. 

Old school English teachers cringed--what was the world coming to?  

Another great example is the use of "who", which refers to people, versus the use of "that", which refers to objects/things. This mistake is often made by people when speaking, but it should be corrected when writing. However, it's one of those grammar rules that has slowly become acceptable in the classroom.

How about the use of a comma before "and" when used in a series:

Mary, Tom, and Sue went shopping. 
Mary, Tom and Sue went shopping.

Both of these sentences are now correctly written. I like to explain this rule as a journalism rule from the AP Style Manual Book that has crossed its boundaries and is now accepted in academic writings. I'll accept this rule as correct if it's written either way, but students must use one or the other when writing and are not allowed to use both rules within one essay. Be consistent!  

Grammar changes affect students and teachers because of state testing scores, teacher evaluations, pay raises tied to test scores, and college readiness standards. Plus, many teacher preparation programs at colleges still have few classes that teach how to instruct students on grammar. Grammar is trial and error for many teachers, who are overwhelmed with other issues that take high priority over teaching basic grammar rules. 

Even though grammar rules continue to relax and change over time, I know if my elementary school English teacher was around she'd correct my grammar errors. Then, she would say we've gotten lazy about using proper English rules, and, once again, she is right...

Enjoy teaching grammar rules!
Beth, Educator Helper

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