Help desk

An item on PSAT 1:

They know it as colony collapse disorder (CCD), this phenomenon will have a detrimental impact on global agriculture if its causes and solutions are not determined.

A) NO CHANGE
B) Known as colony
C) It is known as colony
D) Colony

Choice A is wrong because it’s a comma splice.

Choice B is correct.

Choice C is wrong because it’s a comma splice, too.

Why is Choice D wrong?

I think it’s wrong because “colony” is a noun that lacks a noun “slot” (or function) in the sentence: it’s not a subject; it’s not an object; it’s not a complement. It’s nothing, really. At least, it’s nothing in terms of the sentence.

Is there a different way to see it?

ACT results

Sorry to have been MIA — I’ve begun tutoring the ACT and have been immersed in the test.

It’s been exciting, fun, and really satisfying.

Results for my first student:

 Timed practice tests 4/29/2017 5/31/2017
English (75 items) Missed 12 (Scaled score: 27)
85th percentile
Missed 4 (Scaled: 34)
98th percentile
Reading (40 items)
(I used Debbie Stier’s method)
Missed 13 (Scaled score: 23)
66th percentile
Missed 3 (Scaled: 32)
95th percentile

That second set of scores was actually a bit of a letdown because by the end of May, A. was routinely turning in perfect scores taking stand-alone timed sections (not the entire test).

No misses at all.

She took the real test yesterday morning, so now we wait–wait, and start work on math. She’s taking the September ACT, too, so the plan is to get her math score up by then.

I also have to make sure she doesn’t get rusty on English and Reading over the summer.

That brings up a question: in fact, I don’t actually know if it’s possible for her to get rusty over the summer. Once your unconscious learning system has learned something, it doesn’t forget.

I’ve got to find time to get back to Make It Stick and to Dan Willingham’s various articles to figure out how much practice she might (or might not) need. I’m just not sure.

But I’m happy!

Update: just realized I should include my email here since we don’t have a tutoring page up yet: hillisjohnson@gmail.com.

Punctuated developments

I’ve just come across the expression “punctuated developments” in an article sent me by Allison C:

What are board members good for? Well, according to Boivie et al., they provide “access to resources like advice, counsel, knowledge of external events and/or influence with external stakeholders.” They also play a crucial decision-making role during “punctuated events” — crises, basically — such as management transitions, accounting scandals and “other internal and external shocks that increase the uncertainty in which a firm operates.”

Keeper.

Uh oh

Just saw this in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Question: Now I am seeing “reticent” and “reluctant” confused with each other, a development that makes me shiver and remember when “impact” became a bad verb, which it still is. Do you think public shaming via, say, a raucous outpouring of tweets would stem the tide of ignorant folly before it overwhelms and drowns us all in a tsunami of inanity?

Answer: No.

My Boss Is Ungrammatical

I love that. Very funny.

Of course, now I’m wondering whether I myself perceive a difference between reticent and reluctant.

Answer: not really.

Fully agree that impact’s ascent to verb status was a bad development.

Punctuation isn’t grammar

From time to time, Katharine and I chat about the fact that most people don’t know what grammar actually is.

I certainly didn’t, not until I taught freshman writing and began reading grammar books.

Like virtually everyone else, I thought grammar was punctuation — punctuation and parts of speech. That was about as far as my K-12 education took me.1

These days I explain grammar to students this way:

If you learned every word in the French dictionary, you still wouldn’t know French because you wouldn’t know how to put the words together.

(I used to include an observation about dogs not having language, just words, but it looks like dogs may actually pick up some grammar, too.)

Putting French words together: that’s grammar.2

Putting an apostrophe between the ‘n’ and the ‘s’ in Gentlemen’s Outfitters: that’s punctuation.

A self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ has revealed that he has spent years changing offending shop signs in the dead of night.

Wielding an ‘apostrophiser’ – a broom handle laden with two sponges and a number of stickers – the man has corrected tens of missing and misplaced apostrophes on shop banners across Bristol over the past 13 years.

The pedant, who is yet to reveal his identity, claims his efforts are needed to bring an end to the improper use of English. But critics suggest he should start with his own name – as apostrophes are strictly a matter of punctuation rather than grammar.

“I’m a grammar vigilante,” he told the BBC. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing. I have felt extremely nervous. The heart has been thumping.”

[snip]

Jason Singh, 42, who owns the tailors Tux & Tails, claims that he potentially faces paying thousands of pounds for his sign to be corrected.

The issue, the omission of an apostrophe in “Gentlemens”, has been corrected with what appears to be two blobs of paint, or stickers, that do not sit well with the newly-fitted vinyl.

“I did take it lightly at first, but now I’m a little angry to be honest,” he said. “We think it’s paint, and this is vinyl, so if we have to replace it you’re looking at a few thousand pounds. I understand, but at the end of the day I’d have preferred him to come in and tell me.

“I think it could be considered rather rude. I think there might even be grounds for a police complaint, and if his name is revealed, I’ll be sending him an invoice for the damages.”

However, the vigilante has defended the legality of his work, telling reporters that some of the mistakes he redresses are “just wrong” and that “it’s more of a crime to have apostrophes wrong in the first place”.

Melania Branton, a poet from North Somerset, said that whoever the ‘grammar vigilante’ turns out to be “must be wincing at the misnomer, as punctuation isn’t grammar”.

Revealed: Self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ corrects badly punctuated shop signs in dead of night

1. I also learned the terms simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex — but, when I began teaching, I discovered that I didn’t actually know what those terms meant. 
2. It isn’t grammar, it’s syntax. Grammar includes the rules for putting morphemes together to form words. But same principle. (Comma splice intentional.) 

Good sentences and good writing

All good writing consists of good sentences properly joined.

– Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg Higher Lessons in English. A work on English grammar and composition, in which the science of the Language is made tributary to the art of expression. Revised edition, 1896