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.

 

The Artistry of Appositives

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One of my favorite strategies to teach writers is the effective use of appositives. I like to show kids how appositives, like prepositional phrases, can create a wonderful context for the sentence.

So, what’s wrong with adjectives? 

Usually, with younger writers, we might simply encourage the use of strong adjectives to be placed in front of nouns, and the adjectives work just fine. But in order to help your slightly older kids to elevate their writing, teach them the artistry of appositives. We don’t want students to think that adjectives are the only tool in their Parts of Speech Tool Chest. There are other ways to modify nouns and pronouns. To help build an appreciation for selecting just the right way to say something, appositives are a good go-to.

A positive what?!? 

Appositives are phrases that you set off with commas, and you usually position them just after the word you want described. The appositive is really just a renaming or modified version of the word it follows. Here is an example from one of the Mover and Shaker Sentence activities featured in Shurley English:

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In this case, we have the direct object noun, Jackson’s Market. Notice that I have set the appositive off with a comma just before the phrase and right after it. Then, by strategically placing the appositive just after Jackson’s Market, I have modified the direct object without listing simple adjectives in front of it. It adds a bit of zing to the sentence, don’t you think?

Give it a try.

When your young writing scholar has scraped the bottom of the adjective bucket, it’s time to refill the bucket with some appositives. You can help writers get used to this strategy by brainstorming some basic nouns and appositive phrases that do a good job of modifying them. Keep your list of nouns and appositives handy by posting a Matching Wall of Words, specially designed to help writers find just the right appositive phrases to go with the noun of their choice. Over time, the use of appositives will become second nature. So, get out there and practice the skill of writing with appositives.

 

Comment /Source

David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.

How to Use the Hyphen Correctly

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Knowing how to use punctuation marks correctly is important in any type of writing.  As many of you know, it takes years of practice to apply punctuation rules like an expert.  Recently, the proper use of a hyphen sparked my curiosity, and even though I’ve been using hyphens for years, I decided it was time to revisit the rules for using that “little line.” 

A hyphen is a punctuation mark (-) that is used to form some compound words and adjectives. It is also used to connect the syllables of a word that has been divided at the end of a line. The rules for using a hyphen are straightforward, but a writer can choose to add them for clarity if necessary.  Let’s take a look at the rules!

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Whether you’ve tried to use a hyphen in your writing or completely avoided them like so many do, now that you know the rules, you can try adding them once in a while.  The use of hyphens can add voice and personality to your writing! So, go have some fun experimenting with hyphens! 

 

1 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.

 

What is an appositive?

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Appositives don’t have to be complicated.  You just need to know (a) what they are, (b) how to punctuate them properly, and (c) how to use them to your advantage.  When you understand these three things, you can use them any time they’re necessary in a competent and confident way.

First of all, an appositive is a noun or pronoun placed after another noun or pronoun to identify, rename, or explain it.  It’s always located in apposition because it’s placed next to the noun or certain pronouns that it serves to develop. 

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In the first example, the appositive is set off by commas to indicate that the appositive is not essential to the basic meaning of the sentence.  If we drop the appositive, the meaning of the sentence will not change. 

In the second example, the appositive is not set off by commas because it is necessary to define the noun that came before it.  This appositive can’t be dropped from the sentence without taking away a huge part of the sentences’ meaning.

When an appositive has its own modifiers, it is called an appositive phrase.  Like other appositives, the appositive phrase acts as an adjective because it is describing a noun or certain pronouns in a sentence. 

Appositives can be used to your advantage when you’re writing.  Not only are they useful in identifying, renaming, and explaining other words, appositives make it possible for you to put more words into one sentence.

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4 Comments /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

The Oxford Comma: Let's have a crucial conversation!

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I am a fairly laid-back person, but when it comes to the debate over the Oxford comma, I can get riled up! It’s so true; I can go from Ariel to Ursula in a matter of seconds when defending it!  Unlike Ursula, I don’t want to take the writer’s “voice” away, but I do want to make sure students learn about proper punctuation and why things like the Oxford comma matter!

The Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) is the comma used in a sentence before the coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor) at the end of a list of three or more items.  It is called the Oxford comma because it is the house style used by the editors and printers of the Oxford University Press. 

Most American English style guides recommend using the Oxford comma, and so does Shurley English.  In order to clarify information, the rule says to put a comma between words in a series.  For example:  I like apples, bananas, and oranges.

The controversy over the comma began when the Associated Press and journalistic style guidelines advised against using the serial comma in an effort to save space and pack in more news per square inch.  Now, the tiny omission of the Oxford comma to save space has left a huge number of people confused about its use and purpose.

I consider the debate about the Oxford comma a crucial conversation, so allow me to use contrasting to demonstrate my point.  Contrasting is a technique used to clear up misunderstandings by using Don’t/Do statements.   As you read these Don’t /Do examples, notice how the Oxford comma clarifies meaning and keeps any type of misunderstanding from happening! Correct punctuation matters, so follow the rules!

 

Don’t write:  My heroes are my parents, Superman and Wonder Woman.

Do write:  My heroes are my parents, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

 

Don’t Write:  I owe my success to my parents, the president and the vice president.

Do Write:  I owe my success to my parents, the president, and the vice president.

 

Don’t Write:  I love cooking, my family and my pets.

Do Write:  I love cooking, my family, and my pets.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.