Writing Conventions: What is the new norm?

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I saw this sign one day at a place I frequently visit. (See image below.) I strive to use Standard English for published pieces, and I cringe just a little when I see improper English getting published this way. Maybe I am being too critical, but it is hard to ignore how informal, and just plain incorrect language, has wiggled its way into the formal arena.

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It’s about audience. Writers need to consider not only the purpose for writing, but also the audience that will be reading the publication. If there is an intended audience, it should be more formal. I don’t mean to pick on the content; rather, I think we could all use some pointers about audience and formal vs. informal language.

For example, in the sign, the content needs to be handled with formality without sounding stuffy. We can improve tone with this simple fix:  replace the phrase “insure you” with a simpler phrase “be sure to.” That makes the message clearer and sounds less stuffy.

Next, pay attention to homophone pairs, such as your and you’re. Homophones sound exactly the same but have different spellings and meanings. We fuse the words you and are together to make the contraction you’re. We use the apostrophe to show where certain letters from both words have been left out. The word your belongs in this sign, not you’re. People often misuse these words because they sound the same. But if you see an apostrophe, the word is either possessive or it is a contraction. If the word is a contraction, think of the two words used to make it and say them aloud. That will help you hear the difference. In this case, we must use the word your.

There are a few other issues we could address from this example, but to be clear…if a message is important enough to share with others, it is important enough to publish it correctly and to gear it to the right audience.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. There’s plenty of room for informal English in our communication. For instance, informal English will work well enough in personal texts to friends and family. But, stick with Formal English to attract attention to any important message you want to share with an audience.

Classroom Extension:

Informal English is used rampantly nowadays to communicate throughout our society. Why not take a moment and discuss this growing issue with your class? Have your students take pictures of several signs. Encourage your students to find examples that show correct conventions, informal conventions, and incorrect/absent conventions. Then, allow your students to present their examples to the class. Next, host a candid discussion about conventions. Here are a few questions to help get the conversation started:

· What do you think about the unedited format of our informal culture?

· Do you believe the use of the conventions of English, which include: capitalization, punctuation, spelling, correct usage, and grammar, are critical to readability in written communication?

· Where do you think this trend will lead in ten or twenty years?

Comment /Source

Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.

Capitalization and Punctuation Rules: Teaching students the art of conventions

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If the Capitalization and Punctuation References are creating stress in your Shurley English classroom, let me offer you some relief.  Shurley English students are not expected to memorize the rules in one grade level.

Some teachers assume that their students are expected to memorize every single capitalization and punctuation rule and rule number listed in the references.  Well, that’s just - not true.  What is true is that knowledge of conventions and the ability to edit are essential to a blooming writer; in fact, Conventions are one of the Traits of Effective Writing.

In the lower grade levels, Shurley English students are exposed to basic capitalization and punctuation rules that support what they are learning about sentence structure and paragraph construction.  Early exposure to the rules along with multiple opportunities to practice them increases students’ ability to use the proper conventions when writing.

Capitalization and punctuation rules increase in complexity in each level of Shurley English.  (I have provided you with reference lists from our level four text at the conclusion of this article.) The intention is NOT to have your students focus on memorizing all of these rules at once; the intention is to continuously EXPOSE them to capitalization and punctuation rules AND give students plenty of opportunity to apply the rules during editing exercises and writing assignments throughout the year.  Applying the capitalization and punctuation rules over and over again in various exercises is the best strategy to help students commit these rules to memory. 

The Shurley English References are designed for your students to “refer to” when necessary.  This idea of “exposure” holds true for many concepts that are introduced to our young learners, so take a breath and remember: Shurley English students attain mastery through repetition!

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Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.


Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.