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My punctuation irritation

This blog has been trying, for a short while now, to dispense with apostrophes to see if they do indeed serve much of a purpose in a text. When I say purpose, the only purpose I see for punctuation is to aid understanding of said text for a reader. So I am not saying down with all punctuation.

I am saying that the use of punctuation is related to convention despite us being told it is all rule based. Actually, I would say that the use of all the little dots, squiggles and dashes in various combinations should only be to serve the text in which they live, and even then to not serve some notion of the writer, but as a kindness to the reader.

So, that being so, do I now think we need apostrophes? Well sometimes in the contracted form: well or we’ll for example but, really, not a lot. We can’t so much more often in our writing than we cant, that leaving out the apostrophe in place of the missing no is largely redundant. And the convention of possessive apostrophes are actually taken as law, one to be enforced wherein the illuminati can demonstrate their superiority over and, in the worse cases, to oppress the perceived illiterati (this is the ‘educated’ minority attempting to prevail over the majority you understand).

So much more useful these days are the emoticons of text and email writing. I am sure a skilled writer could make their meaning amply clear with a well constructed and unambiguous sentence, but we live in fast times and, far from being a lazy and overblown addition to a text, a quick 🙂 or 😉 or even 😛 helps the reader quickly decode the spirit in which they should be reading the message.

I confess I spent some time resisting the use of emoticons. But if you hang out long enough in the virtual world you begin to understand they aid speedy and effective communication far more than assiduous use of, say, apostrophes 8)

Life changes, communication changes, as we have moved on from making marks on cave walls, so punctuation should keep up.

nb This post was constructed with the reader in mind, but I think the punctuation still needs some work…

Another dog

I am holding onto today’s thoughts about the news that about 9% of children (the majority being boys) start secondary school with the reading age of an 7 year old. Don’t worry, I’ll let go of that particular volley in due course…

The reason for this is uncharacteristic circumspection is that there is a blog queue.

First up, and following on from the escaped Brazilian dog at the airport, this is a picture produced by the 6 year old for her esteemed and rather fun aunt, a recent visitor. We understand the masterpiece now decorates the walls of world domination at the epicentre of the universe that is Wray Barton.

One Pen?

For some reason I said this to one of my students this afternoon. The group on Wednesdays could not possibly devalue their street cred by actually lugging their own biro about with them. Fair enough, I understand entirely. When I was about their age – somewhere between 16-19 – I would not have been caught carrying anything that would not fit in a pocket. All money, make-up, whatever, had to fit in there and that was that. All this pre-dates mobiles of course.

Anyway, where they have no pen, I am required to dish them out weekly, one pen each. They always leave them behind too, for the same reason they never have one in the first place; so the only thing they are costing the tax-payer is a bit of ink, my time and the building overheads. The hope is, with the qualification they get, they will eventually end up tax-payers themselves and can subsidise the next generation of non-pen carrying students.

I have digressed. What I was going to say was that saying “One pen” reminded me of something. Then I remembered it is what the street kids often say to you in India when they are mobbing you for stuff. I told the students this and they thought it was funny. I suppose it is really. They can beg or borrow a biro any time they like; they are of little consequence. In India, like everything, they have value.

I ran out of the one pens I took quick enough when I went to India for the first time. It was in November 1998, a fact I would have not remembered if I had not recently found a travel diary I wrote. I do remember that I ended up doling out sweets too, in the absence of one pens. Once, in the desert state of Rajasthan, a kid pinched me hard on the arm for my trouble. I have always wondered why, but I can’t say I blame him.

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Yet.  That, you may notice is not a fully formed sentence.  I confess that although I can nit-pick with the most illiberal of grammarians I sometimes allow myself a brief slipside into the abyss of literacy permissiveness.  After all the sky is not going to fall in on account of a badly placed comma,

I sometimes wonder about teaching grammar.  I notice that foreign students get the technical names for things like prepositions, future perfect tense, suffixes, prefixes and so on.  What I find is that when trying to teach adults with holes in their literacy education using these terms gives them at least twice as much new information to take on board, which can actually hinder their learning.

Ok I am not talking about academic students here, I am talking mainly about people who lack some elements of basic functional literacy but I do “enjoy” an ongoing internal dialogue about whether I should keep them in the dark about the nature of these beasts or fight the jargon tooth and nail.  Keeping things real in the classroom.  After all, if you are busy mum with P.E. kits to remember and a job and bills to pay what do you need to know.  Obviously everyone is different but I think people need to know the applications of to, too and two as opposed to 2, but do they need to know they are called homophones?  Well I think you can introduce that idea and explain that the term is to do with “homo” – same and “phone” sound but then that’s quite a lot more to remember…

Is it a battle between form and function?  I favour function over form in the beginning, otherwise everyone can get jolly confused.  Can’t they?

Very interesting but not entirely necessary

Very interesting but not entirely necessary