Monday, December 7, 2009

Final Blog Post, Jennifer Kerr

The blogging project was definitely the most valuable part of Prow 100. Most of the material that we learned in class was review for me or overlapped with other classes, but I found this project to be both educational and interesting. As Ramona Korpan said in her “Thanks, that was fun,” post, this was an interesting way to collaborate with my classmates. I have become interested in blogging, and have even started a personal blog to share some of my writing with friends and family.

Not only did it give me a chance to more closely examine certain elements of writing, but the interaction via commenting on posts was a very interesting new experience. Many of the writing assignments that are done for school are only ever read by the teacher, so having the opportunity to not only read, but make comments about other student’s work was valuable.














Word Power, Jennifer Kerr

Words are the most direct way in which people communicate, and as such they have a tremendous amount of power. They can be used directly and indirectly to convey almost any thought, idea or emotion. Much can be learned about a person just from their choice of words. Words can be used as weapons, masks and tools of manipulation. They are powerful, which is why they should be used carefully.

Rosalie Maggio wrote an essay entitled “Bias-free Language: Some Guidelines” in which she makes plain her opinion that using biased language can be damaging to people by demeaning or dehumanising certain groups. “Bias-free language is logical, accurate, and realistic. Biased language is not,” she wrote. This is valid point; when someone uses sexist or racist language, they not only oppress and exploit a group of people, but they often fail completely at getting their point across. It is important that a writer think very carefully about his or her word choice, to make sure that they are not using habitual terms that don’t fully describe their intent.

While it is true that writers need to be careful to avoid disclusive or biased language in their writing, it is possible to take ‘political correctness’ too far. Michiko Kakutani argues in her essay “The Word Police,” that bias-free language doesn’t solve the problems of bias in the first place, and that being too careful about making language completely bias-free can lead to absurdities. She warns against taking political correctness too far.

Words are powerful, and they must be used carefully; however, if they are used too carefully, they lose much of their power. As Loren Wozny points out in her “Word Power” post, a balance must be found when using unbiased language.

This is the End...

At the beginning of Prow 100, blogging was a mystery to me. I had never written, nor had I read a blog. During our first blogging class I felt completely overwhelmed and inadequate. I was confused by the linking to other websites , the embedding of an image, and the general purpose of a blog. I have come a long way since the first class, and am grateful that I have been able to overcome the major insecurities I felt about using modern writing technology. I know now that I am capable of learning the technology, and using in whatever capacity I can.

I agree with Ramona that it has also been interesting to read the blog posts of my classmates, and to feel connected to them within the context of our blogging experiences. Creating an online portfolio was a very unique and, at times, challenging process for me. I learned that I still have much to learn about writing, and that the English language is constantly evolving. There were times when it was difficult to post a blog, knowing that it probably contained proofreading errors that others would notice. I will continue to learn about the writing technology of today, as I strive to write creatively and to come up with fresh ideas.
My Blog Posts:
Between Generations
The Respite of the Semicolon
Grammar Detective
People First
Power to the Bias Free Language
Wired Teens
My Comments:
The Importance of Being Like Earnest
Lets Talk Lexicography
The Last Post
The Comma
Starting to Notice
The Dictionary
Grammar Detective


Like many of my classmates, when we first started blogging as part of class I was a little sceptical. I have followed blogs for many years, and even tried my hand at keeping a few, but I never considered blogging to be an educational tool. I am glad to have been proven wrong. Blogging as well as having an online portfolio of my writing via the class blog has given me a new outlook on scholarly writing. It has also shown me how even grammar, something that is typically seen as static and unchanging, can be molded into a format consistent with the modern age we live in.

Blogging and its scholastic value is not the only pleasant surprise I received from this class. As I said in our initial blog post, students are often only given one chance to learn grammar in elementary school and once learnt there is no refresher course. The very basics of grammar tend to get pushed to the back of students' minds and slowly forgotten as more relevant information is learnt. I was surprised as we worked our way through the Foundations of Composition coursework at how much grammar knowledge I had once I dug it out from the dark corner of my mind it had been hidden in. Not only did I brush the layers of dust of off my long-neglected grammar skills, but I also developed new knowledge that I feel has and will continue to benefit my writing.

All in all, this class has helped my writing develop into a format that is much more technically correct. I don't think, like I may have at the beginning of term, that this development of grammatical correct writing will negatively affect the tone of my writing. If anything, being grammatically correct will only improve the tone of my writing as I am much more able to express myself in ways that make sense to everyone, not just me. I have also developed a tool box of online resources, such as the Grammar Girl website, to help me continue to develop my writing.

My Blog Posts:

My Comments:

Summing up, Final blog post, Caleb Caswell

Editing one-self is time consuming, aggravating, and can feel like you are dragging a sack of iron fillings across a beach on the way to the pillow factory: it is hard work and you are not sure why you're doing it in the first place. The struggle and can be even worse when you are unsure as to the rules of grammar.

Luckily, through time invested and attention paid, this struggle has become much easier throughout the term. Instead of looking at a sentence and knowing that it is incorrect, but not knowing why, I can now see the evident error in thinking and technical misuse of phrasing. Creative projects and classmate help aside, I have matured in my ability to discover proper usage of grammar, the importance of being certain in language usage, and how in-depth knowledge of basic structure can help to take one's writing to new editorial heights.


Surely it is our victory as a class. As a faction of writers and editors to-be, we will walk into offices and jobs that require the utmost scrutiny and bias in our view of language. Not just as professional writers, but as lovers of the language which we have spoken and expressed ourselves with.

God Bless Canadian Grammar!

Should anyone need any more help though, here's a handy site.

Comment #1

Comment #2

Comment #3

Comment #4

How to Lose Friends, Caleb Caswell, grammar detective

The grammar enthusiast must be one of incredible social ability to keep their friends. Wrong spellings and punctuation stand out and scream to us. A decision of such moral magnitude must be made that many find themselves willing to avoid it all together. The decision is this: does one correct a friend after having made a typographical error, or, leave them to stew in their ignorance?

In an age of typing, texting, and typography typical of today's tendencies towards technology, more punctuation and spelling is being left at the wayside for the sake of speed and style. In many cases, these are flippant remarks that hold little to no effect on the grander scheme of our lives, but when a writer should see a friend text him "My woman think's you're cute, and wants to find you a girl," we have little to do but hold our opinions in our cheeks and let the room stop spinning of its own accord.

These comments are everywhere. As writers, we must make a moral decision as to whether we value the sanctity of our friendships or the sanctity of our friends freedom to be grammatically ignorant.


But where do these issues stop? and will they not effect language as a whole should we let the go uncorrected? Blockbuster carries "movie's" instead of "movies." You can purchase 'apple's, orange's, and banana's" from your local grocery store, although what belongs to these fruits remains a mystery. Should we let the country as a whole become so unconfident in its typographical ability that they start making errors out of the fear of making errors? Or as a community of dedicated snobs, should we take hold of the issue and sacrifice our friendships for the cause of proper signage and speech?

I have made my decision, and my birthday parties have been getting lonelier with every year that passes.

Here is a nifty site to help with five major errors made in grammar.

Here's something Ramona wrote that will be sure to be some fun.

Reflection by Kayla Gaffney

I came into this class with a very bleak outlook. PROW 100 Foundations of Composition sounded extremely dull to me. Learning the rules and applications of grammar scared me as well because I knew certain rules were complicated. When we were asked to make a blog about our journey through grammar, I was skeptical. In questioning another another student in our class, Sarah Maludzinski also had similar feelings. Blogging seemed to be a waste of my time. As I began to make different blog posts, I noticed that the class blog was helping my grammatical skills instead of hindering them as I had predicted.

The format of writing that I was accustomed to was either a simple pen and paper approach or writing in Microsoft Word. The blogging term project was a different way to write. My skepticism came to a halt when I began to comment other blog posts written by my peers. Every student had something different to say, even though most of the blogs were based upon a singular subject. The blog provided the students in our class with an outlet to view and critic each others work.

I feel that my writing style has not changed very much, but the way that I proofread my work has benefited from this class. I have realized that there are so many things that a simple spell-check is not able to detect, so proofreading is essential. I now see the many grammar mistakes around me, including the lack of punctuation in my picture. Jessica also provided many different websites based on common grammar errors which helped me to see the error of my ways, literally. The grammatical mistakes that I have made in the past should hopefully be erased by this class. 

Blog Posts 
Reflection by Kayla Gaffney 


Wired Teens

In Prow 100 this term, we have discussed the phenomenon of text messaging to a great extent, and one of our assigned readings was Kris Axman's "r u online: The Evolving Lexicon of Wired Teens." In his essay Axman quotes, "This is really an extension of what teenagers have always done: recreate the language in their own image" (248). When I was a teenager we used to pass notes back and forth in the hallways and in the classrooms, and yes the words that we spoke were different than the seemingly dull and conservative tones of our parents. The telephone was also a preferred means of communication, and I remember talking for hours at a time to my friends.

When I purchased a cell phone with a text messaging plan for my teenage son, I had no idea what I was getting him into. I wasn't really aware that text messaging had replaced the phone or the written note, but it definitely has. Kayla also addresses the issue of texting in her blog "Let's Talk Text Speak." My son gives me daily tips on how to avoid being caught text messaging in class, and how to actually send him a discernible text message. On an afternoon that I had planned to take him shopping for a Halloween costume I texted him: wll b fn 2 go lk @ Hlwn cstms! He texted me back: Why do u want to go lick @ Hllwn cstms?

Despite all the changes that my son's cell phone has ushered in, one thing remains the same: he is still the smart-ass he always was!

Spell-Off, Caleb Caswell


The day we held a spelling-bee in class, I did not have much confidence in my spelling ability. I assumed that I would be eliminated with relative ease and would sit after a question, or two. To my surprise, my word recollection ability was greater than I had presumed. After several turns at the board, my confidence grew in my ability. Rather than thinking through the phonetic properties of the word, the proper spelling would appear in my mind's-eye as soon as the word was said.

Where had I gained this knowledge? I rely on spell-check as much as any other individual, and oftentimes find numerous mistakes in the editing of my work. It is very possible, however, that through constant reading over a period of several years, I have subconsciously registered spellings for further use. Also, if much time is spent writing, one can get used to mentally 'visualizing' words, therefore helping them to recall them quickly and fluently. This can be invaluable to a writer, for as Cassiby has posted, "Spell-checkers on word processors are only so smart, and often cannot distinguish between verb tenses and other grammar mistakes." This can also extend into the spelling of words with several homonyms, such as there, their, they're, etc.

If ever in need of a site with helpful instruction in the way of homonyms, be sure to reference this site. Its extensive knowledge on the subject can be incredibly insightful.

Word Power

Michiko Kakutani's essay "The Word Police" provides a critical look at language and its ability to inspire certain feelings in a reader. She claims that, "the mood of political correctness has already made firm inroads into popular culture." This is so true. Much of the informative media that we process in such a materialistic culture is a product of the over-sensitive aspects of our popular culture. Most writing and "information" that comes from these spheres is centred around celebrities--movie stars, professional athletes, and internet sensations (a hint at our movement towards dependency on web media for information). As this type of journalistic trite is so readily available and consumed, so is the style of language used by the writers.
She also points out that, "no decent person can quarrel with the underlying impulse behind political correctness... but the methods and fervor of self-appointed language police can lead to rigid orthodoxy." Again, this is reflected in the same template-based articles of popculture writers. With little originality and incredible predictability, they spread the latest gossip (both good and bad), and simply outline the details of a celebrity's recent affairs, such as their professional work, the constant instances of relationship infidelity, and the latest nightclubs that were frequented by these people in a drunken and embarrassing state. How stimulating. I'm not a fan of this kind of writing, as I believe that it is only an attempt for a writer to fill words on a page in order to collect their paycheque. But I don't blame the writers for their creative crimes (they work for the Man too!), I blame a society that prides itself more on its elitist morons than its integral politicians (at least the ones that are still around) and innovative thinkers. Sure, publications that cater to everyone's interests exist, but how often do we hear in local news media about these people? Right now, the only things remotely political or science oriented that are talked about are the doomsday threat of global warming and President Obama's latest plane ride/photo op.
When we learn to accept the language for what it is, not what it can be, we might finally be able to shake this thin-skinned attitude towards certain words or expressions that are seen as unfavourable. Sarah Maludzinski also raises this point in one of her posts.

Word Power by Kayla Gaffney

Words have the power to change the way that people think. Politicians spin their words in speeches to make people want to vote for them. Bias-free language is a way to respect all cultures and ways of life while still maintaining the writers core subject. In "Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines" by Rosalie Maggio, Maggio explains that one of the objections to bias-free writing is that it will be used to a point of absurdities. Critics say that using bias-free language would lead to extreme changes in words, such as using personhole cover instead of manhole cover. Changing these words to keep bias out of writing would lead to the need for new dictionaries to be to be re-wrote. 

I agree with a post that Muriel Mapa made on the same subject. There are already multiple restrictions on how writers are supposed to write. Taking word choice away from writers would lead to books and articles being what they were not meant to be. A writer who wanted to write in a different time period would not be aloud to use terms that were popular in that day and age because people might find them offensive. I stand with Michiko Kakutani, who is the writer of "The Word Police." In this article, Kakutani agrees with the fact that writing should not discriminate, yet also believes that radical changes in certain words takes away the fundamental meaning of that word. Are we really going to take to extreme measures so that Pet Cemetery becomes Animal Companion Graves. 

Power to the Bias Free Language!

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute. ~Rebecca West, "Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice," The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982

In Rosalie Maggio’s “Bias Free Language” essay, she answers the question: “Isn’t is silly to get upset about language when there are so many more important issues that need our attention?” (444). Maggio’s answer is a resounding no, and she explains that one’s speech is interconnected with one’s thoughts and behaviour. I agree that it is important to consider our word choice, and the power that we have to influence, offend or hurt another person with the language we use. I know that there have been times in my life when I have been quick to speak, and in doing so have unintentionally hurt or offended someone. I also agree with Maggio’s statement “Language both reflects and shapes society” (443). I am sure that there are major historical catastrophes that could have been avoided if someone had taken the time to rethink his or her word choice and the effect that it could have on another person or people. When I consider the power that language has to manipulate or dehumanize, Hitler’s treatment of the Jewish people comes to mind; the language he used within his hate propaganda greatly contributed to the holocaust.

“The Word Police” by Michiko Kukutani is a sarcastic rebuttal to Maggio’s essay, and does make some good points about “the excesses of the word police”: “The ‘pseudogeneric he’ we learn from Ms. Maggio, is to be avoided like the plague, as is the use of the word ‘man’ to refer to humanity…The politically correct lion becomes the ‘monarch of the jungle,’ new-age children play ‘someone on top of the heap’, and the Mona Lisa goes down history as Leonardo’s “acme of perfection” (454-455). Humour aside, Kukutani’s main point is that “intolerance (in the name of tolerance) has disturbing implications” and distracts attention from “the real problems of prejudice and injustice that exist in society at large, turning them into mere questions of semantics” (455-456). Although I agree that we shouldn't let our perplexing over "questions of semantics" take our focus away from societal problems, I think what Kukatani fails to acknowledge is that language does lead to prejudice and injustice. Lauren discusses the importance of striking a balance between bias-free language and a ridiculous censorship of speech in her "Word Power" blog.

As a woman I am grateful that a more politically correct climate of language has been ushered in. I have cringed when I have heard some of the more blatant sexist stereotyping and language. I have been called “little lady,” “sweetheart,” or “honey” by men I don’t know. I have heard men curse under their breath at a “woman driver,” I have been asked by potential employers if I have children, and how will I handle this sort of job with a family, and because I do have a family I have been asked by acquaintances if I have ever heard of birth control. When I hear someone use the word hysterical to describe a woman, I am reminded that the origin of the word is connected to an ancient Greek belief that women were diseased “because blood from the grotesquely misshapen uterus somehow infected a woman’s brain.” I am grateful that Albertan women were given the right to vote in 1916, and in 2009 we should be given the right to a bias free language. I would hold up my demonstration sign with Nellie McClung any day!

Let's Talk Lexicography by Kayla Gaffney

One of our in-class exercises was to watch a video of Erin McKean. She added a new word to my internal dictionary, which was lexicography. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines lexicography as the editing or making of a dictionary. When McKean first introduced this word I had no clue to what it was. McKean brought to light that dictionaries are becoming a dying force. People are using online forms of dictionaries to fulfill what a simple paper-back version could. People are getting lazy when it comes to their education by taking the easy way out. Picking up a dictionary and actually learning what a word means, or how to spell it is the only way to properly learn. 

Shawna Blumenschein makes a similar statement in her own blog post. She states that "Learning from errors is the key to avoiding them in the future." Searching for the correct spelling of a word online makes it easier to forget the journey after you have found what your looking for. The speed of online dictionaries take away any actual learning ability. I realize I have contradicted myself because I used an online dictionary to define lexicography. While these dictionaries take away the journey of learning a word, they are extremely accessible. As I type away at this blog post, I can simply open up another tab and find a specific word extremely quickly. I may not remember the definition of lexicography a few days from now, but at least I know it for this blog post. 

The Last Post by Shayna Fehr

Over this last term, I feel I’ve grown so much in my writing. I believe this is because of my newly found knowledge in grammar. Unlike Jennifer Kerr, blogging is not a new phenomenon for me. I’ve started a few blogs before, but as soon as I found myself a little busy, I dropped my regular blogging regime. However, as this semester grew more and more hectic, I didn’t have the luxury of dropping this blog. I’m glad I didn’t. I enjoyed this project, for it made me use my new skills in grammar.

Most people who know me, know I’m not a great speller. I remember back to elementary, when I had to take a weekly spelling test. Every Friday my teacher would hand out the class’ tests. This brought with it an anxiety attack like none other for this sixth grader. Those feelings came rushing back when Jessica asked us to line up in the middle of our classroom to perform a similar testing. I remember wanting to hide under my desk. Not only has this class made me use grammar, but perfect my spelling. When I’m typing furiously, and make a spelling error; I don’t reach automatically for spell check instead I inspect the word. Maybe I could fix it on my own? Most times, you know I’m right. I can fix the word without any help from technology. This class has been a great help with both spelling and grammar.

My posts:

Introductory Blog Post

Grammar Detective

Importance of Punctuation

Add a little Spice

Learning is a process

Word Power

My comments:

Word Power by Shayna Fehr

Words are strong force that anyone can use. Their power lies in their ability to change minds, inspire, provoke emotion, enable us to communicate, and even deeply wound others. Words can be written, spoken, or signed. They are multicultural, they are used every minute of everyday, and they powerful. One word can crush the soul, or lift it to greater heights; when we use words we need to remember this principle.

Cassiby has a great point, “Not the definition of a word, but what the speaker or writer is actually referring to.” Words are only the vehicle a person uses to evoke a particular feeling inside his/her listener or reader. Therefore, as writers we need to take extra care when dealing with words. One word can have several meanings, and might even offend our readers. It is up to us to pick the right one in the context we need it to work. In “Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines,” Maggio touches on this, “So if we have to think a little, if we have to search for the unbiased word, the inclusive phrase, it is not any more effort than we expend on proper grammar, spelling, and style.” Maggio’s mission to make language bias-free; Kakutani’s arguments are very strong for leaving language the way it is. He says, “Calling the homeless ‘the underhoused’ doesn’t give them a place to live; calling the poor ‘the economically marginalized’ doesn’t help them pay the bills. Rather, by playing down their plight, such language might even make it easier to shrug off the seriousness of their situation.”

Perhaps the lesson to be learned by both writers is to be careful of the language/words you use. Be aware of your audience by using the type of language they would like to read. Honour the words you use, by choosing the write ones.

Lecture 13: Final Thoughts

As I read all your interesting blog-term-project posts I see a common theme emerging. Many of you find following grammatical *rules* and proofreading arduous work...however, you all recognise their importance.

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White is a classic to which those aiming for elegant prose continually turn.  Have a look at this video rendition by Maria Kalman. Her sentences are examples of what we have learnt (comparatives, pronoun/antecedent, etc...). 


It seems odd that unlike Brieanne Graham, I had never blogged before in my life, and it seems so simple to me now. Originally the concept of internal and external links, hyperlinking, and embedding photos and videos was completely foreign to me. Despite this inexperience that besieged me four months ago, I believe that I have managed to develop into a very competent blogger, although that is certainly not difficult, as after gaining some experience with blogging, I have come to realize that it is certainly not very difficult at all. It's certainly been a very good learning experience which I am certainly grateful for. Undoubtedly, blogging can be learned very easily, and there are tutorials available. Blogging is a very easy and useable form to express onesself to a public forum.
My Posts:
My Comments:

Fun With Words

One of the most interesting things about writing is the opportunity to create a mental image based on the words that you have chosen to print. It is a proverbial canvas for mental creativity, and it is often supplemented by a healthy amount of descriptive words. These words, which can bring immense amounts of life to a literary work, are often known as adjectives and adverbs. An adjective can help to add new dimensions to a noun, the standard person place or thing. A house is always easier to imagine when it is described as being a "big blue house."
Adverbs fulfil the same perpose for verbs. By mentioning that someone is walking "slowly," it is easier for a reader to mentally envision that person's actions. Though using too many can be complete overkill, as Jennifer Kerr mentions here, the use of at least some adjectives and adverbs is crucial to prominent writing.

Super Superlatives

Thanks to this PROW 100 course, I have recently discovered an interest in one particular grammatical tool, the superlative, though as Lauren mentioned in her post, they can be intimidating to learn at first. Superlatives can be used in a variety of ways, but most notably they are used to express excess in a sentence. Words like "most," "happiest," "fastest," etc. are all very good examples of superlatives. This makes sense, as the definition of the word superlative is "of the highest kind, quality, or order" (in the case of this sentence, the word "highest" is the superlative).
Perhaps it is society's desire for things to be bigger and more extravagant (or in the superlative sense, most extravagant) that causes me to find the words that exemplify the extremeties of the subjects that are being written about to be so interesting.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Better Writing

Over the course of the semester, I have learned a great deal about writing that I was unfamiliar with before. Much like Shayna Fehr mentioned, completing the verb was a small part of this. Though even beyond verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives, etc., I have learned how to properly form sentences and paragraphs in ways that I didn't know before. I had always thought that I was an exceptional writer, but until now, my writing, while very competent, was every so often subject to run on sentences and comma splices. Fortunately, I feel that thanks to this course, I am on my way to becoming a very competent writer.

Too Many Modifiers, Jennifer Kerr

Adverbs and adjectives are undoubtedly an important part of language. These words help to form clearer and more vivid images in a reader’s mind, and as Shayna Fehr points out in her “Add a Little Spice” post, they “allow writers to expand their imaginations.” However, less-than-desirable effects can be had when these descriptive words are overused.

Too many adjectives or adverbs can slow down reading and make a piece of writing confusing. When a writer uses long strings of adjectives to describe a noun, or of adverbs to describe a verb, the reader can become bored or confused by the time he or she reaches the word that is being modified. The actual word that is modified by the adjectives or adverbs can lose their significance if the writer feels the need to prop them up with too many descriptive words.

Additionally, some readers may find that by having every last detail filled in for them by the writer is an insult to their imaginations. It isn’t necessary to provide every detail of a tree, from the exact shade of its bark to the texture of its leaves, when most readers of the work are familiar with trees and could have formed the image in their minds without being told. Having to read about the details of the tree can merely be irritating, and distract from the true intent of the piece of writing.

Descriptive language such as adverbs and adjectives is important in any piece of writing, but writers should be careful not to overuse them. Most writers try to convey an idea or set of information with their work, but by bogging down their writing with excessive descriptive modifiers, they risk diluting their message, and boring their readers.


I began our Foundations of Composition class with a deep seeded fear of all things grammar, and the thought of blogging scared me just as much. As if my lack of grammatical skills weren’t enough of a burden, the fact that I would be publishing them for all the world to see seemed to be social suicide. Feelings of intimidation and fear set aside, I feel like I have grown up and matured as a writer in this class. I approached the introductory blog and our first grammar exam with little confidence, and I feel it was directly reflected in my work. However, as we draw closer to the end of the semester, I feel my confidence has increased exponentially.

Before this class things like dangling modifiers and superlatives sounded like a foreign language to me, and I was reluctant to learn it. But I figured if I was going to be in the Professional Writing Program it would be something I would have to learn in order to succeed. It was a bit of a bumpy ride at some points along the way, and some things did not go the way I would have liked them to, but it was a learning experience. Boy, I’ve learned a lot. I feel like grammar is starting to become somewhat of a second language to me, and I believe a lot of the class can agree. It is especially evident in our grammar detective blog posts where we have easily identified public displays of grammatical error.

However, I feel like this is just the beginning for my grammar journey. I have begun to develop only a basic understanding and comfort within the rules and regulations, and I believe it is something I can still improve on through my years. One can never be too correct. After all, I believe our grammar skills are a direct reflection of who we are. One can be careless within their writing and convey the same message about their character to their peers, or one can be responsible and edit their writing. I chose the latter, and I chose to keep learning to improve my skills!

Links to blog comments:

Grammar Detective

As Sheyna Fehr mentioned in her Grammar Detective blog post, the local newspaper seems to be a breeding ground for grammatical errors.Some days it can be a little hard to digest that those people who are responsible for relaying the day’s headlines to the public aren’t exactly communicating it correctly. However, I can empathize with newspaper journalists somewhat. It’s not like they’re given a few days to write up articles; most of the headlines are the product of only a few hours leeway. For example, the article I put under scrutiny was published at 1:49 pm this afternoon, and the events took place just 9 hours earlier at 4:00 am. The daily newspaper aims to be as current as possible, and in some cases time doesn’t seem to be an option, so of course there will be a few lose ends left untied.

That said I was able to look past the poor use of capitalization and reoccurring comma splices in the article. There were a few offensive mistakes made in the article that I felt shouldn’t have been missed. First of all, the title of the article read, “Edmonton cabbie assaulted by passenger.” Let’s forget the fact that the title is clearly missing a was or has been, because we all know that newspaper titles are rarely grammatically correct and function only to relay the message to readers with as few words as possible. What I was more concerned with was the liberal use of the word cabbie. I know this word has become common slang to most, but since when is a formal publication like the Edmonton Journal allowed to use an informal, somewhat biased, slang job description such as cabbie? The Edmonton Police Service was clearly defined as their formal title through the whole article. There was no mention of the word cops, the fuzz or any other street slang title for them anywhere. Shouldn’t the cab drivers of Edmonton have the same privilege? If that isn’t the least bit offensive, perhaps the double meaning of the word cabbie is. Urban Dictionary has defined the word as, not only the driver of a cab, but a blunt with cocaine sprinkled on it. I don’t think the city’s cab driver’s would like to be getting their profession confused with a highly illegal narcotic, would they?
Similarly to the misuse of cabbie, the article contains yet another confusing slang reference. The man accused of attacking the cab driver is described in one word; native. The article reads, “Edmonton Police say the taxi driver picked up a native man …” Native to where? While the picture accompanying the article clearly indicates he is a Native American, there is nowhere in the article that states it. Without the picture the man could just have easily been a native Scotsman or a native Russian instead of Aboriginal descent. Formal titles should be used; otherwise the newspaper is just reinforcing bias and slang terminology.

The Comma

The comma. It can be described in many words such as: elusive, abused, misunderstood and confusing just to name a few. The use of the comma may be one of the first grammar rules we learn, but it is more often the first rule we forget. When used properly it can signal breaks in a sentence and the pasting of two independent clauses together, but when used incorrectly it can cause mass chaos. One comma error that has caught much public, and has been included in many funny email montages, is the “Slow Children Crossing” road sign. While it is supposed to serve as an indication that decreasing your vehicle’s speed would be a good idea because of a nearby park or school, the absent comma implies that the children are mentally handicapped. Cleary, this offensive mistake could have been avoided with one thing; a comma.

It is in unfortunate, yet humorous, mistakes such as that one that we can see the colossal importance of one of the tiniest characters in the English language. Due to the obvious fact that the comma has been abused repeatedly over time with no remorse, many people have surfaced that have made it their own personal battle to re-establish respect for the comma. Perhaps one of the more public crusades is that of Lynn Truss; the author of the novel Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. The cover of Truss’ book playfully displays a panda, to which the first chunk of the title refers to, walking away with a gun while another panda on a ladder paints over the misplaced comma between Eats and Shoots. Yet another example of the sort of havoc a misplaced comma can cause; a panda that eats, shoots and leaves. It is a slightly scary, but logically unsound sentence. Truss also takes a shot at the plight of the apostrophe; an issue further discussed here by Brieanne Graham. Truss makes a point of re-educating the masses on previously relaxed punctuation rules. Similarly to Truss’s waging of war on ignorant punctuation, the Imperial College in London has launched a petition to save the comma and there are several Facebook groups dedicated to the same cause.

To avoid the wrath of these punctual dictators one would do well to review the rules of comma use. It may even help school grades and the overall perception of one’s writing capabilities. No one wants to include a “slow children playing” like error in a business report or a high school essay. You never know just who you might be offending.

Grammar Education

Recently in a lecture we had in class last month I was introduced to a topic that I wasn’t familiar with, and a set of rules I didn’t know existed. This rule was something that perplexed me so much that I brought it up on several different occasions with people from outside our Foundations of Composition class. What I found was that there was a staggering amount of people that, along with me, didn’t know that this grammatical rule existed. Apparently the rules of use behind superlative and comparative adjectives aren’t common knowledge, and thinking back on it this was definitely one rule I was guilty of breaking on several occasions. It’s instances like this that make me wish grammar wasn’t just briefly touched on in high school so that maybe in College and University the comma splice wouldn’t be such a scary thing.
Many people today think that grammar isn’t exactly on the top of the educational priorities list, and I found this blatantly evident in my transition from high school English class to College English class. I entered my first College English class with a very basic knowledge of the comma, and almost no idea what a semicolon was actually used for. Grammar was something that scared me and still does. I have this terrible feeling that maybe if the curriculum had allotted significant space for teaching the proper use of grammar in Jr. High through High School, it wouldn’t seem that intimidating. Instead it feels like we’re making up for lost time. I read an interesting blog the other night on this subject. It focused mainly on the lack of previous grammatical education students attending the University of Victoria had, and how it was effecting their present education. The blog opened up with a rather perturbing third person account of an English Professor asking his fourth year English class what the difference between a semicolon and a colon was, and their hesitant reply of, “But aren’t they the same thing?”. Later on the same English professor, among others including the head of the English Department at UVic, credited most of the University students, English majors included, “grammatically clueless.”
At this time one can only wonder what exactly happened to the curriculum to make it this way. Why are students being sent into their post secondary education ill prepared for one of our most basic and impressionable skills? We are given the notion our grammar is a direct reflection to our peers of our personality. University entrance essays have a hefty grammatical weight, and quarterly reports and proposals in the business world are constantly scrutinized. So why skimp on a life skill? According to the same blog, a quick read through the Ministry of Education’s English Language Arts Curriculum Guide for grades 8 to ten in British Columbia shows the mention of the word “grammar” only a few times. Through personal experience I can almost guarantee the Alberta curriculum would show chilling similarities. Oddly enough, the same curriculum in 1941 displayed an astounding 7 pages devoted to grammar. It’s funny how things change. Even comparisons of present day BC provincial exams and those from 30 years ago show a decline in grammatically geared English classes.

I know I can’t be the only one feeling the weight of a grammatically incorrect high school education on my shoulders. This is a skill that is highly valued by future employers and post secondary institutions alike, so it demands a little respect. If not, at least a spot in the High School curriculum.

Curtain Call by Shawna Blumenschein

I will admit that at the beginning of the term I dreaded this class. Grammar has always seemed incredibly boring to me and the prospect of long three hour lectures discussing the finer points of dangling modifiers or such was yawn inducing. Thankfully, this class ended up being far more interesting than I expected and definitely not boring.

On the whole I appreciated the opportunity to refresh, review, and clarify certain elements of grammar. The collaboration with classmates and the various exercises in the computer lab made the material more interesting and engaging. As a writer, this class has brought into focus a variety of things: when it is and is not appropriate to break the rules; the value of thinking about my own writing and why I make certain decisions; and that there is always something else to learn or improve upon.

The blog project was a welcome opportunity to do some actual writing and see my fellow classmates’ opinions on a variety of issues. In addition, the blog highlighted the immense power and role of the Internet in writing. Not just the ability to create a blog and have it read by people the world over, but the greater realization that by doing that we were all contributing to a larger discourse and global community of writers, teachers, editors, et cetera. A blog is invaluable as a tool to showcase a writer’s work as well as his or her familiarity and comfort with the online world. As such, this project was helpful for pushing all of us into that world, especially for those classmates of mine such as Kristen who had not previously experimented with blogs.

Given the growing importance of the Internet for corporations as well as freelance writers, I plan to stay on top of developments in the cyber world. Staying abreast of such trends as blogging, social networking, and whatever innovation emerges next will only aid me in the future. It is best to grow with these advances rather than play catch-up a few years down the road.



Sentence Structure

As tacky as it sounds, I like to think of a sentence like any good meal. Every good meal has a recipe and so does every good sentence. Although the specifics change, the basics are always the same. The subject and predicate can be considered the meat and potatoes of the sentence. There really isn’t much of a meal without protein or carbohydrates, so respectively there isn’t much of a sentence without both the subject and the predicate. Here’s a basic subject and predicate “meal”:

Bob and his sister ran to the store.
Subject /Predicate

Pretty boring isn’t it? No one really wants to eat the meat and potatoes just as they are, so that’s when we decide to spice things up a little bit. Those spices, such as adjectives and adverbs, help to add a little kick to an otherwise dull meal. That’s why adverbs and adjectives are called modifiers; they help us modify the basic recipe. But just as every chef is different, every chef’s choice in spices will be different also. Here’s what happens to our sentence after we’ve done some modifying:

Bob and his older sister ran quickly to the closest store.
Subject/ Predicate
adverb /adjective

Now things have started to get and little bit more interesting. We can continue to add things in to our sentence, like independent and dependant clauses, to make it's recipe more complex if we want to. That’s when we being creating compound and complex sentences.

Just as I had mentioned before, a sentence isn’t much of a sentence without its meat and potatoes. You can’t really get away with having just the subject or just the predicate; you need both to have a complete sentence. Forgetting to add one or the other creates an incomplete sentence otherwise known as a fragment. These fragments tend to sound awkward and aren't really appreciated by readers. You wouldn’t serve your guests a lone potato for supper, so your readers deserve the same kind of respect. As long as you remember your subject and predicate you’ll be able to serve up a grammatically correct meal!

Word Power

Language can be considered one of our most powerful characteristics. It has the ability to brand us as smart or stupid upon first impression, to offend entire nations, and may also have some influence over what career we end up in. Society loves to pass judgment on individual's speaking skills, which is evident in our willingness to throw celebrities, like professional athletes, under the bus after a lousy interview littered with grammatical and logical awkwardness. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when we aren’t laughing at celebrities unfortunate quotes, society also has a healthy appreciation for those who do have strong speaking skills as a result of an even stronger knowledge of language. Writing skills, along with public speaking, has become somewhat of a prerequisite for many occupations both elite and working class, so it is easy to see why proper language use can be a major advantage to its owner.

One of the most significant keys to discovering this advantage is the use, and more importantly the absence, of biased language. This one aspect seems to have the heaviest impact on how persuasive a speaker's or writer's work may be. We live in a time when things are constantly changing, and there is an ever present need to have the most current of everything. Times have changed and so has what is considered politically correct, so to date our language by using racial and sexist terminology seems thoughtless. Biased language is such a large issue ,due to the offense that it can create, that Rosalie Maggio has made it her own personal vendetta to right the many wrongs in biased language. She presents many of the obvious, and not so obvious, biased faux pas made in everyday language in her essay Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines. She strongly states that the use of biased language is, “…communication gone awry” with such arguments as, “Biased language communicates inaccurately about what it means to be male or female: black or white: young or old; straight, gay or bi …” Maggio makes a very valid point with her essay. Inaccurate communication has become the basis for creating offensive, misunderstanding and unrest in much of the public, and there is no better way to black list ones language skills than creating any of those environments via the use of biased language. One of the most memorable examples Maggio uses in her essay to illustrate this issue is President Bush Senior’s word choice in describing events that had taken place in Iraq during 1990. He had used the word hostage for the first time, and up to that point he had used the word detainee. As Maggio states, “The difference between two very similar words was of possible life-and-death proportions.” A simple word swap such as the President’s can cause public panic, and ultimately even cause mistrust. The public may have been led to believe that the President was purposely misinforming them about the seriousness of the situation by hiding behind a less somber word.

Though the use of bias free language appeals to the masses, there is always the chance that the over-use and improper application of it will also discredit ones skills. Michiko Katutani highlights these shortcomings in his essay The Word Police. Bias free language has the ability to create euphemisms, and when it comes to calling the homeless “the under housed” and the poor the “economically marginalized” Katutani points out that it, “… doesn’t help pay the bills. Rather, by playing down their plight, such language might even make it easier to shrug of the seriousness of their situation”; an argument that can be applied to many bias free terms. Katutani also brings to light the absurdities of adopting this language as the norm. He retorts against Maggio’s essay with arguments such as, “ It’s equally hard to imagine people wanting to flaunt their lack of prejudice by giving up such words and phrases as ‘bull market,’ ‘Kaiser roll,’ ‘lazy susan,’ and ‘charley horse,’ and “The dictionary includes such linguistic mutations as ‘womyn’ and ‘waitron’.” These instances can also be classified as inaccurate communication and the awkwardness of the terminology might lead the audience to question the author's /speaker's validity.

It is apparent that a balance in the use of unbiased writing and speaking must be found in order to create a persuasive argument within one's work. The relationship between Maggio’s and Katutani’s essays is further explored in the collaborative critical reading blog of Shawna and Jennifer . Both Maggio’s and Katutani’s essays create valid arguments, and highlight the reasons why the balance between both worlds is needed to create credible work.

Word Power by Shawna Blumenschein

Words are the most powerful tool available to humanity. Anyone can wield words whether they be physically weak or strong, male or female, young or old. Speech levels the playing field between all people because it is available to everyone. As such, it is vital to understand the power of words; they can move a country to war, foster peace, drive someone to suicide, and express even the most personal of human emotions.

Given this, it is little wonder that the political correctness movement has targeted language. The endeavour to use, promote, and spread awareness of bias-free language has its merits. As discussed in “Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines” by Rosalie Maggio, language “reflects and shapes society.” (443) Prejudiced terms such as “nigger” for African-Americans, “gooks” for Asians, and “savages” for Native Americans created a distance between those groups and the dominant, usually white society that killed, enslaved, and brutalized them. Distance made treating other humans in such a disgraceful way easier because it created a firm us versus them mentality; by virtue of such derogatory nicknames these racial groups became something less than human. The same trend can be seen in World War II when Germans were called “Krauts” and the Japanese “Japs.”

Besides eliminating such hurtful words, the bias-free language movement seeks to lessen the impact of labels. The people first rule is incredibly important in this respect. This rule states that people with a disease or disability should be referred to first, for example “a person with diabetes” rather than “a diabetic.” (451) Such phrasing prevents the person from being reduced to “a disease, a label, [or] a statistic.” (451)

Despite the merits of the movement there is the potential for it to be taken too far. As discussed in “The Word Police” by Michiko Kakutani, such a fanatical focus on words and phrases can “distract attention from the real problems of prejudice and injustice.” (455) Indeed, eliminating biased and derogatory words will not eliminate prejudice and discrimination but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Only by making people aware of what they are saying, the meaning in such terminology, and the power of those words will such people start to think about and re-examine their opinions and word choice. As Cassiby discusses, words themselves are not to blame, it is the intent with which they are used that matters. Awareness must come before change can happen and the bias-free language movement is the best way to highlight the stunning power of words.

Proofreading is Essential by Kayla Gaffney

Mistakes are common in all forms of writing. Our in-class proofreading exercise required us to watch a video of Erin McKean and transcribe what we could. After finishing our assignment, we were asked to review our work and correct our mistakes. After finishing my own assignment, I could not believe the range of mistakes that had made their way into my writing. From wrongly capitalized letters to incorrect paragraph indents, proofreading is essential to writing. Without perfecting proofreading skills, individual pieces of writing would be riddled with mistakes. 

Jennifer  Kerr makes a profound closing statement in her blog post regarding proofreading by stating that "It's a lot less frustrating to proofread when the task is rewarded abundantly by a large quantity of errors to be corrected." Jennifer may have come across another point without realizing it. Reward is a wonderful incentive to make anyone do more work than they want to. Creating a personal reward after proofreading will make proofreading an enjoyable activity, thus improving skill and releasing endorphins. Creating a "feel-good" effect will make a writer want to take part in proofreading more often. This will increase the grades of students and help editors screen for grammatical flaws.

Myths of the Comma

The comma is an important building block in the construction of grammatically correct writing; unfortunately, it is common for the comma to be misused. Before entering the Professional Writing Program at Grant MacEwan University, the comma was a complete mystery to me. I must have been sleeping when we learnt about commas in Elementary school, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when it came to the comma. I had many different ideas about how one might use a comma depending on the situation, but none were actually correct.

A favoured tactic of mine was to add a comma every time I imagined a breath or a pause in my writing. For instance, I would write sentences like this: "The third dog, is my favourite." The comma after "dog" is completely unnecessary and makes the sentence rather difficult to comprehend, but in my mind it made sense. Another common misuse of the comma is to place commas periodically in ones writing. This is a mistake that I would also occasionally make. I would read over my writing, decide a sentence was too long, and add a comma. This was because, in my mind, commas fixed everything, especially if there were lots of them.

Now that I've learnt to properly use a comma, reading over some of my past writing is almost painful. There are commas thrown in everywhere, almost all of them unnecessary or incorrectly placed. As Lauren Wozny said in her blog post on commas, "When used properly [the comma] can signal breaks in a sentence and the pasting of two independent clauses together, but when used incorrectly it can cause mass chaos." My writing was definitely an example of how commas could create mass chaos when improperly used, as I'm sure my Grade Twelve English teacher would attest to.

Now that I have developed a better grasp of grammar and grammar rules, I am glad to say that my writing is no longer an exercise in comma excess. The comma is one writing tool that I feel confident using, as should most writers. Those who are feeling a little wobbly in their comma usage can easily review comma rules at this grammar website. While small in size, the comma is aspect of grammar that can throw off even the most grammatically correct sentence.

The Last Word By Kristen Harris

Before I knew our class would be creating its own blog this semester I was always very curious about how blogs worked. I am not gifted in computer technology or design so the thought of actually beginning my own blog was a little intimidating. Luckily, I got to learn what blogging is all about in a friendly and supportive environment. This term we have covered a variety of composition parts that are necessary in professional writing. Creating posts that review what we have learned in class has been a great tool; it has allowed me to retain more than what I would have in just a pure lecture session.

Through this process I have learned some of my own limitations as a writer. I have also been able to experience new challenges that have made my writing stronger. Now I have the courage to begin using the internet as a platform for my future writing. I think the majority of my future work will find its way to the internet, after many hours of proofreading that is. If this does happen, I may use this website to know where to start! From here the world is my oyster, and I am a pearl peeking out of my shell. We have come a long way since our first project together. I look forward to reading everyone’s final posts and I wish everyone luck in their future endeavors.

My Posts:

1. Introductory Blog Post
2. Grammar Detective
3. Agreement of Pronoun and Antecedent
4. Dangling Modifiers
5. Word Power
6. The Dictionary

My Comments

1. Murriel Mapa
2. Cassiby
3. Brieanne Graham
4. Sarah and Rachel
5. Ramona Korpan
6. Jennifer Kerr
7. Jessica Lloyd