In today’s digital age of texting, autocorrect, spell-checking, and tweeting, traditional grammar rules seem to take a backseat. And while digital linguistic conveniences (think LOL, BRB and BFF) are just that – convenient! – traditional grammar is still important because it helps us understand how language works. Grammar is the glue that holds sentences and words together and is the safeguard for holding the English language to the highest standards.
Let’s think of grammar as having two garbs; the formal suit and the weekend outfit. Formal grammar is the way we communicate at work or school and adheres to Standard American English. Casual grammar is the language we use at home or at play; the slang and the jargon or even the texts that we send among friends. The trick is to understand when to switch between public/formal language and private/informal language. Language is constantly changing, but it is our job as parents and educators to teach our children how and when to make that distinction between formal and informal language. I was at the park last Sunday with my two-year old son. I was watching him from a bench as he started playing with another boy. When I went over to tell him that it was time to go home, the other boy’s father commented on how “well-spoken” my son is. When this stranger independently recognized a good quality like speech clarity in my son, it reminded me that all the verb-tense correcting and use of well versus good that I stress to my children isn’t in vain. If you are looking for a few simple ways to help your children be more mindful of grammar in their writing this National Grammar Day, try these tips: 1. Read it aloud: Have your child read aloud a draft of her/his writing project. Or better yet, read the draft aloud to her/him. Research tells us that hearing a written piece read aloud often triggers “flags” of grammatical errors when they may be missed by the author reading her/his own work silently.
2. Only capitalize proper nouns: Young writers often capitalize words to give them importance. Tell your child to think about the word he or she wants to capitalize. Ask if it is a specific and unique person, place or thing. If yes, capitalize away! Suggest other ways to bring attention to non-proper nouns such as bold-face, underline or italic instead.
3. Pay attention to commas: After the period, the comma is the most commonly misused punctuation mark. Ask your child to say the sentence out loud to recognize where the natural pauses are.
4. Spot common usage errors: Some of the most common mistakes students make in their writing are because they use the wrong word. Often this incorrect word is one that sounds the same or similar to intended word but has a different meaning. Remind your child to look for some of the most common usage mistakes. Here are some examples:
Tell us in the comments below: what are some of the most common grammar errors you come across?
Sara Buren is the Product Marketing Manager for K-12 ELA and Reading Intervention at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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